Athens, December 14, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
In late June, the Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias made the first visit of a Greek foreign minister in Skopje after 11 years. On December 17, his counterpart from FYROM, Nikola Poposki, reciprocates the visit. It is the first visit of a foreign minister from FYROM to Greece in recent years. It will be the fifth meeting between the two ministers in less than a year.
Behind the carefully planned rapprochement between the two countries there is specific strategic planning of the Greek foreign minister, based on values and simple logic:
- Greece, as an EU country and pillar of stability in turbulent times and the region, has every interest, commitment and ability to create an environment of security and cooperation in the Balkans. “We all want our neighbours to become EU members, have rule of law, to have economic development, because my own country also depends to a large extent on what happens in the Balkans as a whole”, Nikos Kotzias had stated during his visit in Skopje.
- The sure way to never resolve the differences that exist between neighbors is idleness. In international relations, as in physics, inertia and luck of action of a state creates opportunities to exploit from others.
- The gradual consolidation of trust and confidence among neighbours, starting even from very simple things, definitely creates a better climate for the solution of difficult problems and disputes than does inertia. In order to find good solutions there is need for confidence.
- Every problem has a solution and all disputes can be overcome with good faith. What’s important for a country is to create its own strategic framework of relations, and discussion to take place based on its own initiatives.
In this context, has unfolded since last January, the Greek initiative for the agreement of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between Athens and Skopje. An initiative which at the beginning was criticized and undermined by extremist circles in the leadership of FYROM, but was met with a frosty reception even by the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General, Matthew Nimetz.
The sincere and persistent stance of Greece however, overcame all obstacles, with the first 11 CBM publicly announced within FYROM by the two Foreign Ministers on June 24, silencing those who had already begun to ruminate on the fairytale “secret diplomacy”. Since then there have been held successive rounds of talks, the latest being held on Friday, December 11 in FYROM, with the visit of the political director of the foreign ministry, Ambassador Pettos Mavroidis.
In the meeting between Kotzias – Poposki in Athens, the two ministers are expected, inter alia, to:
- make an assessment of the discussions on CBMs that have taken place so far, and to explore the next steps of their deepening. The intention of the Greek side is clear: creation of cooperation networks between the two countries in as many areas as possible, such as trade, energy and transport, education, culture, justice and internal affairs. This intention refers to the whole of the Balkans, with the Greek side pushing for the notion of “Balkan Understanding”, so that countries in the region collectively gain greater gravitas at European level.
- To discuss the Euro-Atlantic perspective of the neighboring country. Greece has been leading for years in the realisation of Euro-Atlantic aspirations of all countries in the neighborhood of the Balkans. The same wishes for Skopje, but without any deviations from the Bucharest acquis (NATO) or of the Copenhagen criteria (EU). The Greek FM is expected to reiterate the readiness of Greece to provide expertise to Skopje on EU issues.
- To reiterate their support to resolving the name issue under the auspices of the Secretary General of the UN. Nikos Kotzias, during his visit in Skopje, had characterised the existence and stability of FYROM a “gift for the Balkans” and “good thing for Greece”, but did not hesitate to also criticise the irredentist aspirations, an “aggressive nationalism” that many in neighboring country conceal under the name issue. However, Athens insists there is room to reach a compromise on the name issue to the satisfaction of all sides “and all the neighbors”, N. Kotzias had stressed in Skopje. In this framework was the recent visit of the Greek negotiator on named Ambassador Mr Vassilakis in Bulgaria a week before the visit of Mr. Kotzias in Sofia last June.
Of course, the meeting Kotzias – Poposki in Athens will take place in the shadow of recent events in Idomeni and the domino of closed borders from Central European countries, which also led to the construction of the fence on the border with FYROM. The Greek side is expected to reiterate that to a problem of global proportions, solutions can come from the collective response rather than national entrenchment, while it will not leave untouched the practice of separation/select of refugees on the basis of nationality.
The Greek foreign minister had said in Skopje: “The history of the Balkans has two dangers. One is to become imprisoned by history and the other to produce more history than we can consume. Our history is essential. But history must be our school, not a prison, to learn, to teach ourselves. And what we have learned is that development, security and stability in the Balkans needs all of us and our cooperation”.
The story actually continues to play games in the Balkans. The carefully designed and multidimensional foreign values policy of Greece can give perspective in the region in very difficult times, especially for FYROM, which is in a difficult situation in the aftermath of demonstrations, while the implementation of the known commitments is proceeding with difficulties.