Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis on Thursday opened the Greek Ambassadors’ Conference at the foreign ministry building in Athens, stressing that “we are amidst the most difficult battle our country has been called to give since the restoration of democracy”.
Speaking in the conference, which will be end with an address by Prime Minister George Papandreou later in the afternoon, Lambrinidis called on the senior diplomats attending to “spearhead efforts for the recovery of the Greek economy and the improvement of the country’s image abroad”.
Referring to the current financial conjuncture in which the Greek diplomatic corps is called to work, he pointed out that he is well aware of the existing difficulties and pledged to do everything in his power so that they will be able to do their work with dignity.
He underlined that “extroversion and initiatives are necessary”, adding that “success for Greece is a one-way street”.
He made a special reference to the values of responsibility and solidarity, stressing that lately they were let slide within the framework of the EU, pointing out that “certain ones in Europe have betrayed the vision of its founders”.
He observed that “the soul of Europe has not been lost” as proven by the decisions on Greece reached in the recent European Council meeting and referring to Greece’s stance, he said that by voting the medium-term fiscal strategy it was proved that it “respects the value of responsibility”.
FM Lambrinidis underlined that Europe has risen to the occasion and gave Greece a second chance.
He stressed that in this effort “the Foreign Ministry is now being called upon to actively support the recovery of the Greek economy and do battle on the front line. We have to put even greater emphasis on economic diplomacy and stand by our internationalized and productive forces.”
He added that “we are in a difficult neighborhood” and clarified that “foreign policy is not a sprint, it’s a marathon”, stressing that “the challenges we need to confront in our environs require vigilance, preparedness, composure and clear-sightedness”.
Lambrinidis referred to the efforts made by Greece for the European integration of the Balkan states and noted Greece’s intention to host a Summit meeting on the issue during the Greek EU Presidency in 2014.
He observed that there are open issues in the Balkans, such as the fYRoM name issue, and reminded that Greece wants a name with a geographic qualifier for all uses. He said that Greece’s proposal has been accepted by its partners and allies “proving who is responsible for the lack of progress in the issue”.
Lambrinidis referred to Albania, stressing that Greece is in favour of the normalization of the political situation in the country and supports its European prospect. He clarified, however, that this support depends on the behaviour of the Albanian side toward the ethnic Greek minority.
Referring to the Cyprus issue, Lambrinidis said that it is entering a difficult phase and commenting on the provocative statements made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he said that “we were not surprised”, underlining that “it is now obvious who is responsible for the lack of progress”.
He underlined that the solution of the Cyprus problem is a basic precondition for the normalization of the Greek-Turkish relations and made a special reference to the Greece-Turkey Supreme Council for Cooperation, adding that “our positions are based on international law”.
On the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly in Libya, he said that “since the first moment Greece was in favour of a political solution to the crisis, a position now adopted by the Contact Group on Libya”. He also referred to the traditionally good relations between Greece, the Palestinians and the Arab countries and to the upgraded relations with Israel that “make Greece a reliable interlocutor in the efforts for a solution to the Middle East issue”.