OP/ED: The truth about the Prespa Agreement – Maximalist criticism or maximalist retreat?

OP/ED: The truth about the Prespa Agreement – Maximalist criticism or maximalist retreat?

By Nikos Kotzias*

In a series of articles, I criticized New Democracy’s (ND) foreign policy, especially regarding the EEZs with Italy and Egypt. For some reason only they know, a number of Syriza’s 53 Group and Syriza neo-Semites felt this criticism towards ND was directed towards them. They attacked me, not so much my views, but me personally. And of course I responded and I will continue to respond when needed, to those who defend Mitsotakism. Many of them did the same in 1989, when I was the first to oppose the left-wing – Father Mitsotakis government, the “dirty ’89” as we called it, together with Lefteris Papadopoulos, this unhistorical collaboration between left and right neoliberalism.

In my answers through my articles I did not refer to anyone by name. What I do is evaluate and characterize policies and talk about facts. I cited elements from the agreements themselves as well as International Law. I asked questions. Clear and honest. From the content of my texts there is no excuse for personal attacks, as has been the case in recent weeks in a series of articles, particularly in the “Newspaper of the Editors” and in the posts of some of Syriza’s 53 Group and neo-Semites executives. The left needs a dialogue on the essence and to the facts and not personal characterizations in order for some to subjugate it to “Mitsotakism”.

In addition to the personal attacks, there are two arguments in the series of these texts. The first is that I am a maximalist. That I did not understand the meaning and the spirit of the Prespa Agreement! In fact, according to some of the so-called 53, the agreement is a creation of their own policy alone. According to the neo-Semites, moreover, it was established only thanks to them. The truth is that after the Prespa Agreement matured, the “53” supported the agreement. A member of parliament from KINAL did the same. I note, finally, that the neo-Semites emerged only 8 months after the signing of the Prespa Agreement. After the big wave of threats and insults was over.

As for the Prespa Agreement, the aforementioned “alliance” “forces” me to note the following:

1. Is there a (not more) phrase in the Prespa Agreement or even a word that is a product of their own contribution? No. Not even once! They never contributed anything to the formulation and negotiation of the Agreement.

2. Was there in the three groups that did the negotiation (political, diplomatic and official) even one person that has to do with them and their views? Not one.

Both the so-called 53 and the neo-Semites were completely uninvolved in the writing and negotiation of the Agreement. I would say that is logical. But this requires a little more modesty when they pretend to be the bodies of the “spirit of Prespa” that I “did not understand”. Non-participants must participate in modesty.

3. When I was attacked by the president of ANEL because of the Prespa Agreement, was there a minister who defended me? No. In fact, in the cabinet, a leading official stated that he “likes his views and has excellent cooperation with him”.

4. When the current Minister of Foreign Affairs and the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a full-frontal attack in 2019 on the diplomatic team that made the MOE with Skopje and the negotiations for the Prespa Agreement, and uprooted them from their positions, there was even a moment when some of the above defended them? No. They were completely indifferent to the people who contributed to the Prespa Agreement. Logically, they dreamed of a metaphysical division: the insult to us and the glory to them.

5. When they tried to blackmail me and threaten the life of me and my family, was there even one of those who today say that they defended me “with their fingernails and teeth” who picked up the phone to say a good word to me in solidarity or sent a message of support? No. It is their right, certainly. But they should not lie afterwards.

6. When in the Council of Ministers we discussed the draft Agreement that I had written and submitted to it for reading and comments, two disagreed. One did not come because he did not want the term “Macedonia”. The other, a leading figure of the 53, did not “want” us to strive for a composite name, such as one with the term “North”. After he greeted positively the fact that there would be an agreement, because as he correctly found out it would be a “Game Changer” (it will change the game) he accused me of maximalism. He argued that there was no need to change the name of the then FYROM (to remain, that is, “Republic of Macedonia”) and therefore not to ask for changes in its Constitution. The accusation of maximalism on the occasion of the EEZ is not new. It was also used for the Prespa Agreement.

7. Let us not forget that executives from the same political space also accused me of nationalism and bigotry during the negotiations for the Prespa Agreement. In fact, A. Iraklidis claimed in Avgi that the Agreement is a product of the imposition of Greek extreme nationalism and chauvinism by me. Consequently, the current category of nationalism, without ever being defined, and of maximalism, is a continuation of the views of their executives even when I was fighting for the Prespa Agreement. Let us not forget that many who condemn the patriotism of the Greek left, in the name of “anti-nationalism”, show full understanding to Turkish chauvinism. Indeed, they were overtaken by Tsavousoglou who said that “Tsipras and Kotzias were nationalists in contrast to Mitsotakis”.

With the same argument that they faced the Prespa Agreement, of maximalism and some of nationalism, today they faced every criticism of the Mitsotakis Government and its foreign policy, especially for the EEZ. So let’s see, instead of their insults, the questions they leave unanswered or “answered” without explanation:

The first question I asked them was whether they consider it right that there are no “baseline points” in the EEZ Agreement with Egypt. Apparently they are currently looking to find out what these “points” are. I am still patiently waiting for an answer.

The second question was whether Greece can and should extend its coastal zone to SE Crete after closing bays and drawing baselines, or does she relinquish these rights given to her by the International Law of the Sea? Let me put it another way; Are we implementing or not those which we are undoubtedly entitled to under international law? In fact, when Turkey violates not only international law, but even the bad Madrid Agreement?

The third question was whether islands such as Gavdos and Koufonissi have influence and whether they agree with the Government of ND which essentially nullifies it in all of them. It is not at all accidental that on their part a) they called me not to deal with such “trivial issues”. And b), in order not to answer the question whether Mitsotakis did well to refuse to attribute influence to these islands (!), They answer to me, in order to defend him, “but they do not have 100% influence”. I ask if they accept the zero influence Mitsotakis has accepted and they answer that they do not have full influence…

The fourth question was whether Crete has full influence or not. They answer that it has not. They coincide with the view of Turkey and the ND Government. But they avoid explaining why.

To understand the significance of the 3rd and 4th question, I remind you that the island of Sassona, a small islet in front of Albania, with an area of ​​5.7 sq.m., without a permanent population, which used to belong to the Ionian Islands, received in the Albanian-Italian EEZ Agreement 100% influence. Is it therefore not logical to claim full influence for Crete, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean, with an area of ​​8,336 sq.m. (1463 times larger than Sassona); The Diapontia islands with an area of ​​17.65 sq.m. and 1340 inhabitants were attributed in the Agreement with Italy between 30% to 70% influence. Koufonisi with an area of ​​5.25 sq.m. (almost as much as Sassona) and economic activity received in the Agreement with Egypt O% (yes zero influence). I did not ask for 100% influence for the islands South of Crete, but I asked if they are even entitled to influence. And basically the answer is either they are not entitled to even 1% of influence, or that it does not matter if they have or do not have, as if it is a dowry from the chest of the grandmother of the ND government and “we give their influence wherever we want”.

I therefore assessed that the Agreement with Egypt, as well as with Italy, is not a compromise, because in the 5 + 4 (respectively) disputed issues, the other two countries got everything they claimed and Greece did not get anything it asked for. I pointed out, then, that good deals are not made that way. When all 9 issues under negotiation are delivered, then the critical wording is not maximalist, but the retreat is maximalist. A retreat that does not seem to bother some, as much as the revelation of the retreat itself, as well as the influence that this revelation has on the people. Finally, I argued that if a country is going through difficult times, this can not be a reason for constant retreat, abandonment of its rights and surrender to the other side and whatever that side claims. On the contrary.

PS.1. Because in 4 texts they repeat as an accusation that in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs I was a collaborator of G. Papandreou, let me remind them that I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an expert in 1992 after a public competition. The then leadership of the Foreign Ministry refused to apply the results of the competition to me. They hired most of the others! In successive trials, both against ND and PASOK, justice imposed the obvious: respect for the results and my recruitment at the Foreign Ministry. Let them all point out to me, even one first-rate politician, who resigned his views from the leadership of a party and then joined the public with a competition and an introductory grade.

PS.2. Inside the Ministry itself, my disagreements on several issues with the negotiation “line” at the time, and above all with the Annan plan and the Madrid agreement, were known. Because of this disagreement, many even tried to discipline me. So, they should not ask when they do not know. Gossip between them is not an argument.

PS.3. Extreme right-wingers and neo-Semites accuse me of having Ch. Rozakis as president of the Scientific Council during my ministry. It is wrong dogmatism to believe that by being pluralistic like me (one has only to see the Scientific Council of the Foreign Ministry as a whole, but also all the other choices/positions I made as Minister) is to agree with the opinions of all those with whom I cooperate. I was never afraid to work with people with different opinions. It is with subjugates and the ruling system that I did not want to work with./ibna

*Nikos Kotzias is the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Member of the left-wing patriotic movement PRATTO, Professor of International Relations-Foreign Policy and Author