Former Deputy Prime Minister and minister Theodoros Pangalos speaks exclusively to the International Balkan News Agency about the country’s foreign policy and internal affairs.
The FYROM name issue prevents Greece from playing a substantial role in the Balkans, says Mr. Pangalos and advocates a new Annan Plan for the Cyprus issue.
By Spiros Sideris
Q: Your parliamentary career begun simultaneously with the first PASOK government in 1981. You served in many government posts, with an active role in the government decision making, so you have an in-depth knowledge of the Greek political landscape. What went wrong in your opinion and Greece entered the “memorandum”-era? Do you feel you have a share of the responsibility?
The cause of the collapse of the Greek economy that occurred in 2012 is clientelism which undermined the role of parliament members in a parliamentary system.
Citizens by and large traded their votes against favors offered to them through party protection. The most important were: being appointed in the civil service, tax irresponsibility and the tolerance of laws being applied only occasionally. Everyone who was in power during that period has a share of the responsibility, which of course doesn’t begin in 1981 but in 1974.
The spine of the problem is the voting system. The source however is the citizen and he cannot be stripped of his own responsibility. Even after the crisis broke out, the choice of politicians and parties where characteristic of the cultural decline we face as a nation and a society.
Q: The government positions you held at the Foreign Ministry and the European Union signify a deep knowledge of the international environment and that of the EU in particular. Where is Europe headed? Is the continued dominance of Germany a factor of stablity or instability in the Union?
It is difficult to analyze the state of Europe in response to a journalist’s question. I have written four books and a multitude of articles on these topics. I would be very happy if you read them.
Germany is dominant objectively considering facts related to the size of its economy and especially productivity, exports and technological edge. A proper German policy for European Integration is a prerequisite for the stability and progress of Europe. Despite all the changes in our neighboring environment, with the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the entry of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU, but also the liberation of Turkey from military “oversight”, there haven’t been significant alterations in the problems Greek diplomacy faces.
Q:Allow me to examine the issues in order. The Skopje name issue is ongoing sice the 1990’s. What could have occurred that didn’t which could have solved the name issue? Is Greece to blame for the intransigence of Skopje? Will there be a solution?
It is unfortunate that the issue of the name of Skopje prevents Greece from playing a substantial role in the Balkans. With regard to relations with Turkey, allow me to remind you of the accession of Cyprus as a full member of the European Union, despite the continuing Turkish military occupation. This is the only indisputable victory of Greek diplomacy and it has very significant consequences. I’ve always had the view that Greece should do everything to avoid any problems in its relations with FYROM. The composite name that I believe would have been accepted by the late Gligorov is today unaccetable by Gruevski.
Q: The dominance of RecepTayyipErdogan over the last decade, on the one hand weakened the military establishment and guarantor Kemalist state, but on the other, strengthened the Islamic orientation of Turkey. Have these changes altered the foreign policy of Turkey in relations with Greece? What do you think we should expect from our neighbors?
Neo-ottomanism which stems from the collapse of the Kemalist military establishment and the rule of the islamists is a majority rule expressed by Erdogan. The decisions of the Turkish state oppress large groups of the population and is a factor of political instability in the Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East.
Q: Greece and Cyprus are at the moment under financial supervision, and many have raised the point of partial loss of national sovereignty. At the same time, mobility is being seen in the Cyprus issue negotiations lately and a new plan is seemingly emerging. Do you believe there will be pressure towards a solution for the Cyprus issue? How fair for the interests of Cyprus could such a solution be and what should the Greek – Cypriot side and the Greek side look out for?
I am – and remain – a supporter of the provisions of the Annan plan. As you know Cypriots rejected that plan and in Greece, I imagine the national socialist trends that currently prevail have the support of the majority. I don’t think a solution is likely that is not based on some version of the Annan plan. Everything else I consider unnecessary chatter. Catholics say “error is human. Perseverance is diabolical”.