Rhodes, September 7, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
On the initiative of the Foreign Minister, Mr. Nikos Kotzias, the first Conference on Security and Stability will take place in Rhodes on 8 and 9 September 2016.
Participating in the Rhodes conference are Foreign Ministers and high officials from Albania, Bulgaria, Italy, Croatia, Cyprus, Slovakia and Egypt, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya and Tunisia.
The aim of the conference is both to promote dialogue for the collective management of challenges that beset the crucial area of the eastern Mediterranean, such as war and terrorism, immigration and the refugee crisis as well as the development of cooperation in the fields of economy, transport, energy, education and culture.
In a fragile geopolitical region, Greece is overcoming the crisis and reinforcing its role as a “bridge builder”; highlighting its position in the region as an axis of stability, stressing the need to collectively address common challenges.
With an active foreign policy and carefully considered actions by the country’s foreign policy principles and values.
Since the first day Nikos Kotzias took the helm at the Foreign Ministry early 2015, a series of initiatives by the Foreign Ministry have led to substantial deepening and upgrading of the quality of tripartite cooperation schemes between Greece and Cyprus with Egypt and Israel which now cover all of the relevant ministries of these countries. The collaboration will now involve many sectors, from tourism and agriculture to transport.
New shapes for tripartite cooperation were formed for Greece and Cyprus with Jordan and Lebanon while in October 2015 the International Conference of Athens for religious pluralism in the Middle East took place, having a very positive impact for Greece as highlighted by the recent report of the State Department on Greece’s role in the fight against terrorism.
In April 2016, the four party meeting between Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and FYROM was held in Thessaloniki. It was decided that the meeting will be institutionalized and made permanent. In this context, the meeting will resume in October this year in Thessaloniki.
In early June, finally, on the initiative of the Greek side, an informal meeting was held for the first time in Sofia between the four Balkan EU member-states: Greece, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania.
In Rhodes, on 8 and 9 September, the Mediterranean basin will be the focus of Greek foreign policy, with the realization of the Conference on Security and Stability, an initiative of the Foreign Minister. Nikos Kotzias.
For the first time countries of South East Europe, Middle East, North Africa will meet to discuss the problems of the Eastern Mediterranean, a region of crucial geopolitical importance, which is being tested by wars and centuries-old conflicts. However, it should not be forgotten that this area over time teaches the importance of the right to multiculturalism and religious pluralism.
Because of their geographical continuity, these three regions are “communicating vessels”, as the outbreak of a crisis in one of these regions affects and burdens the others. In other words, a crisis automatically creates side effects and affects the stability and security of the entire region (war, refugees, poverty, economic migrants, trade, transport, energy, environment).
The initiative of the Greek Foreign Minister is founded on the belief that the fragile geopolitical Mediterranean area needs to be stabilized. This requires sustained initiatives for political, economic and cultural synergies between its two shores: the European and the Arabic.
In other words, the effective tackling of common challenges at all levels – from the refugee and migratory phenomenon to environmental challenges and tackling extremism – requires ever closer cooperation between South East European countries with key countries in the Middle East and North Africa, which in one way or another can play an important role in resolving crises afflicting the region.
Greece, a country located at the external borders of Europe, historically has excellent relations with the Middle East and North Africa. It is an EU member state but also a country with a Balkan and Mediterranean geographic identity, which is moving beyond the economic crisis, emerging as a factor of stability at a juncture of regional instability and embarking on partnership initiatives. Having restored its presence in the Balkans, Greece seeks to link the region of Southeast Europe with the Arab countries.
At the Conference on the island of Rhodes – a timeless crossroads of civilizations, religions, ideas and trade from ancient times to this day – a debate will be held for the first time on relations of Southeastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, without the focus of the debate being Israel, Palestine and Turkey.
According to information, in his opening speech at the Conference, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias will refer to the importance of these countries meeting and will explain their points of contact. The Greek Foreign Minister will speak about the crucial region of the Eastern Mediterranean, which is facing thorny problems that are constantly growing, and emphasize the need for collective and coordinated action as a unilateral solution cannot be achieved.
Nikos Kotzias will define the term “security in the Mediterranean” and the aspects it encompasses; he will stress the need to create the conditions to bring about constructive interaction and mutually beneficial interdependence between countries; and highlight the need to foster networks for communication, transport transactions, energy and educational exchange.
Finally, the Greek Foreign Minister, according to information, will refer to the importance of respecting multiculturalism and religious pluralism and develop the idea of institutionalizing a forum for dialogue between the countries of Eastern Europe and the Middle East.