Foreign Ministry building stable bridges of cooperation

Foreign Ministry building stable bridges of cooperation

Athens, August 12, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Spiros Sideris

Putting in practice a proactive and multidimensional foreign policy, the head of Greek diplomacy, Nikos Kotzias, is transferring the center of the Southeast Mediterranean to Rhodes where on 8-9 September, at his initiative, the Conference on Security and Stability is being organized with the slogan “Building solid bridges of cooperation”.

As N. Kotzias regularly mentions in his conversations, today the Southeast Europe region is trapped in an unstable triangle between three conflict areas: Ukraine, Libya and the Middle East, particularly Syria and Iraq. From the corners of the triangle come waves of destabilization. By working together in our region we have to reverse such trends. To ensure stability waves sent by us to all the sides of the triangle. To act positively.

Developments vindicate the above analysis of regional developments, which the Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias, established from the first day he took office as head of Greek diplomacy. The region is undergoing a period of liquidity, which significantly influences the foreign policy of many states.

Greece, however, goes beyond its own crisis and has turned the regional situation into an opportunity to showcase the country as a defense axis of international law and regional stability.

With an active foreign policy, with continuous and carefully studied initiatives, followed by Greece’s foreign policy principles and values, by bridging often conflicting interests.

The multidimensional foreign policy is implemented since the beginning of 2015, inter alia, through a number of Ministry initiatives. Specifically, within a very short time:

– There has been a substantial deepening and upgrading of the quality of tripartite cooperation schemes in Greece and Cyprus with Egypt and Israel, which now cover all of the ministries of the countries involved.

– New shapes of tripartite cooperation of Greece and Cyprus with Jordan and Lebanon were formed.

– In October 2015, the International Conference of Athens for religious pluralism in the Middle East took place, with 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, a meeting between Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and FYROM took place in Thessaloniki on cross-border cooperation; it was decided that it will acquire permanent and institutional features.

– In early June, finally, on the initiative of the Greek side, an informal meeting of four Balkan EU member states: Greece, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania was held in Sofia for the first time.

In the immediate future, the Mediterranean basin will be the focus of Greek foreign policy initiatives with the Conference on Security and Stability being lined up in Rhodes, on 8 and 9 September.

At the heart of the Greek Foreign Minister initiative is the belief that the fragile geopolitical Mediterranean area needs to be stabilized and this requires sustained initiatives for political, economic and cultural synergies between its two shores: the European and the Arabic.

The bridges of cooperation will benefit stability in the region and this consolidation will generate in turn a more entrenched security environment.

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 and key countries in the Middle East and North Africa; countries, which in one way or another can play an important role in resolving crises afflicting the region and participate in political, economic, energy or academic synergies aimed at stabilization of this geopolitical space.

Greece, a country located at an external border of Europe, historically has excellent relations with the Middle East and North Africa; it is an EU member state but also a country with Balkan and Mediterranean geographic identity. Its is overcoming the financial crisis and emerging as a factor of stability in a regional context of instability, being well placed to take cooperative initiatives.

The Conference on Security and Stability is in this exact context, reflecting the will of Greece to help stabilize the region in cooperation with countries that, if they can join forces, have a real influence in the wider political arena of the region.

At the Rhodes Conference it was initially planned that foreign ministers of 5 + 5 European and Arab countries would be invited. However, due to the large interest shown in participation, more foreign ministers were invited and therefore, so far 7+7 foreign ministers have booked a place so far (Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Italy, Croatia, Slovakia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia). Indicative of the new role of Greece is that interest for participation has been expressed by other countries, i.e. from the N. Africa region, and it is thus likely that 16 countries will eventually be represented at the Conference.

Athens firmly reinforces its role as a “bridge builder”, stressing the need to jointly address common challenges – a need now shared by all countries. This is also the driving force of the Conference: the common political vision of a stabilized and prosperous Mediterranean.

In a recent interview, Nikos Kotzias provided an overview of the spirit of the Greek initiatives, highlighting characteristically:

“We don’t have the same understanding of policy with all who come to Rhodes. We don’t have the same kind of political systems. But we have a common will: stability and security. And I think now these two are very important – and based on these we are progressing. “