Interview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias, on ANT1 TV’s ‘Good Morning Greece’ with journalist G. Papadakis
PAPADAKIS: We have Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Kotzias with us. It is a pleasure and an honour to have you with us, Mr. Minister
KOTZIAS: Good morning. Good morning. I find you younger than ever.
PAPADAKIS: We haven’t talked for a while. Not since the early years of the memorandums. Mr. Minister, I saw you were very happy when you were signing the agreement. I’ve never seen you that happy before.
KOTZIAS: We resolved one of our major foreign policy issues. And in spite of all the criticism, the majority of people understand that we didn’t create a problem, we solved one.
PAPADAKIS: Understand, Minister? I listened carefully when you said that the concerns and feelings of Greeks are understandable, and we shouldn’t lump them all together and call them an extremist element.
KOTZIAS: That’s how it is.
PAPADAKIS: They may also be your voters.
KOTZIAS: Every change creates insecurity and questions. Every change. When people get married, they ask whether they are doing the right thing, even though they are deeply in love and will die if they don’t get married. And still they wonder. And you know, as I said yesterday, we have a mania with names here in southern Europe. In other words, I’m saying a young woman falls in love with a man, they get older together, they remain dear to each other, they decide to get married, they have children, and the argument comes over what to name their son. One grandfather’s or the other’s? And if the two grandfathers have the same name, the problem is solved. If they don’t, there may even be a divorce. The solution they sometimes find is either a third name or a compound name. Now we come to our issue. A compound name. In other words, the names of both grandfathers. But each grandfather calls the grandchild by his own name. I want to say that names have a tradition in Greece, and not just for identity politics and historical heritage, like the name we are going to discuss, but names are much more important to us than they are in other parts of the world.
PAPADAKIS: You know, it isn’t just the name. It is the history, the culture. Life experiences. You know, we city-dwellers don’t share the outlook, attitude, experience and day-to-day lives of Greeks from the periphery. For example, we don’t love folk dances. We don’t love folk songs. These things are connected with the history of every area.
KOTZIAS: So the next time I see you, I will oblige you to dance to beautiful folk songs and island folk songs.
PAPADAKIS: Of course.
KOTZIAS: Which are happier.
PAPADAKIS: Of course. But these are people with life experiences, with roots.
KOTZIAS: That is true, but look, the solution we brought is better for those people, because for the first time, after 120 years of ‘Macedonism’ and after 70 years of the so-called ‘Republic of Macedonia’, they are acknowledging and putting their signatures to the fact that their history has nothing to do with ancient Greek history, ancient Greek civilization or the heritage of our country, which is focused in our region, in Greek Macedonia. They are signing to that effect. They changed the name of their airport from Alexander the Great to …
PAPADAKIS: They can change it again at any time.
KOTZIAS: International relations are not like that. It is not an issue. I, too, could argue that we can take Izmir at any time. That is not how it is. There are international agreements. There are international measures. That fairytale is over. Anyone who wants to bring it back to our neighbouring country is being ridiculous.
PAPADAKIS: You know, a lot of people were bothered by the fact that, at the signing ceremony…
KOTZIAS: The use of the word Macedonians.
PAPADAKIS: Zaev came out and didn’t say North Macedonians and Greeks.
KOTZIAS: But they aren’t North Macedonians. That is not what they are called.
PAPADAKIS: He didn’t even respect what the agreement says.
KOTZIAS: No, no.
PAPADAKIS: He makes a clear distinction. The Macedonians and the Greeks.
KOTZIAS: Mr. Papadakis, let me explain, because that is why I’m here. The history of Macedonia, of ancient Greek Macedonia, which we defended, has been confused with geography. They accepted this and irredentism is finished. In 1913 there was a large geographical area called Macedonia – much larger than Greek Macedonia. And in the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest, this Macedonia was divided into four parts. Albania got a very small part, in which they argued over whether they are Bulgarians or Slavomacedonians. Bulgaria got about 16%: what is called Pirin Macedonia. And three members of the Bulgarian government’s cabinet consider themselves Macedonians. In other words, they consider themselves to be from Pirin Macedonia, which, geographically, is called Macedonia. ‘North Macedonia’ got less than 1/3. And most of Macedonia, which, apart from Bitola, coincides to a great extent with ancient Macedonia, went to Greece. We recreated our Macedonia in 1913. In the Treaty of Bucharest, we were able to create what is today our Macedonia.
PAPADAKIS: They made their Macedonia too.
KOTZIAS: Yes. Do we accept the Treaty of Bucharest, or not? Because if we do accept it, then Macedonia has been divided into four parts, geographically, not historically.
PAPADAKIS: Yes, but then they created their Macedonia through a constitution and with irredentist inclinations.
KOTZIAS: We stopped that. That is over. We ended it.
PAPADAKIS: We haven’t ended it yet.
KOTZIAS: We finished the agreement. They admit that they bear no relation to …
PAPADAKIS: It will be finished.
KOTZIAS: No. No.
PAPADAKIS: They haven’t changed their constitution.
KOTZIAS: They will change it. They admit and accept that they bear no relation to ancient Greek civilization. And the least I would expect is for this achievement to be acknowledged. Because the ‘Macedonian’ ancient Greek trappings in Skopje – their spending €1 billion every year, with a GDP of €9 billion, or 10% of their GDP, on these Disneyland circuses of ‘ancient Greek culture’ – are finished. They are changing them.
PAPADAKIS: They will change them? I insist.
KOTZIAS: Yes. But they have made a commitment. Either we are with international law and international agreement, with Erdogan in the wrong, or we have another intention.
PAPADAKIS: What do the Turks say time and again?
KOTZIAS: But they are disputing international law. International law is our weapon. Now, due to ‘North Macedonia’, let’s not start disputing the fact that we are a country that accepts international law. The Bucharest Treaty of 1913 broke geographical Macedonia – I underscore geographical – into four pieces. It created Greek Macedonia. Anyone who disputes the results of 1913 and doesn’t like Bulgaria’s Pirin Macedonia – doesn’t like the fact that what the Skopjans have is a part of what was then geographical Macedonia – disputes the very creation of Greek Macedonia. We have to decide on this: either we are with international law or we are not.
PAPADAKIS: Minister, the country in a rush was our neighbour. They were in a hurry.
KOTZIAS: No, no.
PAPADAKIS: If you will allow me the question.
KOTZIAS: That is an error.
PAPADAKIS: Let me finish my question and you can respond.
KOTZIAS: Yes, they want to join NATO and the European Union and they were in a hurry.
PAPADAKIS: Right, they were anxious to join NATO. Maybe we are anxious for them to join too: you will say there are geopolitical reasons, there are the Balkans and the role Greece can play therein. But what are they doing there? They say they have a people with a problem. They are divided, and for that precise reason they are holding a referendum. You have a divided people here as well. Why don’t you hold a referendum so you can get the opinion of the Greek people?
KOTZIAS: The referendum is a commitment from the time this problem was created. We have no such issue.
PAPADAKIS: We did have an issue, Mr. Minister.
KOTZIAS: Allow me to explain …
PAPADAKIS: We went to play handball. They came out and said “Macedonia”, and the Handball Federation left the tournament.
KOTZIAS: I pulled the Federation out and they left. No one else pulled them out.
PAPADAKIS: Exactly. We were playing volleyball and football, and we left.
KOTZIAS: I pulled them out. No one else did.
PAPADAKIS: Yes, clearly.
KOTZIAS: Let me explain. Why are they holding a referendum? Because they need to facilitate their constitutional amendments. We aren’t changing our Constitution.
PAPADAKIS: We’re changing our books.
KOTZIAS: No, no, we aren’t changing our books. Let’s take things one by one, Mr. Papadakis! We aren’t changing our Constitution or our country’s name. They are changing the name of their country and their Constitution. In other words, if someone decides to change his name, your cousin, and he doesn’t want to be called Antonis anymore and wants to be called Nikos, do I go and get baptised and change my name to Antonis? It’s their issue. They have to change it. They are holding a referendum.
Here in Greece we have underestimated the great significance of this country’s changing its name. The only country to have changed its name during the 20th and 21st centuries is Austria, which changed its name because it lost a war and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up after the First World War. Here in Greece, Mr. Papadakis, some people are acting as if this region were our enemy, as if we should go to war, take the country and dictate what it should do. That is not how it is. We made an international agreement in which we bear in mind our interests and theirs, so that we can live together in peace.
PAPADAKIS: And the part of our society, Mr. Minister, that disagrees with the agreement? I don’t know whether it is a big or small part, but in opinion polls it appears to be big.
KOTZIAS: This is the opinion poll that came out three years ago, and they are bringing it out again now. They should leave this to me. I am well read on these matters. It is the same opinion poll with the same results.
PAPADAKIS: So you believe that …
KOTZIAS: I have current opinion polls too.
PAPADAKIS: You do? Have they been published?
PAPADAKIS: Can you share the results with us?
KOTZIAS: At first, those with doubts were ahead, and now those who agree with us are ahead by a small margin.
PAPADAKIS: So those who agree are over 50%?
KOTZIAS: 47% to 44%. But that isn’t the main thing. The main thing is the perception that Greece is a democratic country that elects a government to manage its affairs. Or it isn’t a democratic country and its government does not have the right to have an opinion on foreign policy? Because, what we have here is the amazing phenomenon of some people coming and saying, “we dispute your right to negotiate,” and the people saying this are …
PAPADAKIS: But if the people have a different opinion, do we change the people or the opinion.
KOTZIAS: If the people have a different opinion, they will express it in the ballot box and send us home.
PAPADAKIS: But after the agreement has been signed.
KOTZIAS: That is how it is with governments. Governments decide. For every decision they don’t …
PAPADAKIS: Yes, but this isn’t a decision on the Pensioners’ Social Solidarity Benefit …
KOTZIAS: Mr. Papadakis, will you allow me to finish what I was saying?
PAPADAKIS: Of course.
KOTZIAS: Because I didn’t come here to argue. I came to explain.
PAPADAKIS: No, have I made you feel we are arguing?
KOTZIAS: You won’t let me finish my sentence.
PAPADAKIS: Yes, I do have that shortcoming!
KOTZIAS: I’d like to address our first question, because we didn’t discuss that either. The world is changing. We have fires and wars around us. We have instability, a crazed Turkey. We have war in Libya, Syria and Iraq, and we need stability. If we don’t have stability, the instability in the region of this little state of Skopje will spill onto us, and, what’s more, if we don’t take measures, we will find ourselves surrounded by third powers that, like a pincer from the East and North, will close on us.
Anyone with a long-term perspective sees that our country needs friends in the region; friends who to a large degree depend on us economically and who will not provide footholds for third powers to manifest their aggressiveness. I just note the following: today’s elite, the leading forces of ‘North Macedonia’ and their Military Academy are being trained by Turkey. Anyone who likes that can tell me so. I don’t like it.
PAPADAKIS: They are with us. You know them well. Our political reporter, Stefania Mourelatou – you know her, because she also covers the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – my two good colleagues from our news show.
MOURELATOU: We have traveled together.
PAPADAKIS: You have travelled together a number of times.
KOTZIAS: And she brought us luck, because the trip went well.
PAPADAKIS: Stefania, a question for the Minister.
MOURELATOU: Minister, I will table the central argument of politicians and some citizens who don’t think this is a good agreement. And they say, “why is the adjectival reference not reflected in the citizenship, with the citizenship being plain ‘Macedonian’?”.
KOTZIAS: First of all, thank you, because you are one of the few people who ask the right question. In Parliament, those against the government confused citizenship and nationality. Two different things.
Second, I will repeat what I said in Parliament. If we have won a war and can take everything, someone should let me know about it. I didn’t notice we had won a war. I concluded an international agreement. What did I want to get from this international agreement? A name. It is no small thing, as I explained earlier, for a state to change its name.
Third, actual erga omnes, not fake erga omnes for international use. In other words, the same name for international organizations, the rest of the states and us, and inside the country, which has a very high cost for them. Consider that they are not just changing their name internally – the Ministry will be called ‘Ministry of North Macedonia’ – but they are obviously doing it under pressure from a third power; namely, us.
Fourth, this will lead to a change in their constitution.
Fifth, the irredentism, along with a number of other issues, is being stopped officially and bindingly. These are major gains. Weren’t they to get anything in the negotiations? What were they to get?
MOURELATOU: So this was something you conceded to them? For us to get something else? It was something that you believed they should have from the outset?
PAPADAKIS: And this is quite a ‘something’. Because this is what the other side is saying.
MOURELATOU: Because they are saying – I heard Mr. Mitsotakis say that the fact that they are not called ‘North Macedonians’ means we lost our bid to stop irredentism.
KOTZIAS: Mr. Mitsotakis also said in Parliament – without anyone responding to him so far – that he disputes the Treaties of 1913. This region was called ‘Macedonia’. Second, as a state, as the Socialist Republic of Macedonia in Yugoslavia, it was accepted by the Greek side. Still a young scientist at the time, I believed it was a mistake and that we would never be able to get away from this ‘Republic of Macedonia’, ‘Macedonians’ and so on. Third, New Democracy – despite what anyone says and whether they are lying or apparently don’t know – had in many phases of the negotiations accepted keeping the name ‘Macedonia’ for domestic use.
PAPADAKIS: These are the documents you presented?
KOTZIAS: And many more, but they will be brought into the debate on the agreement, in October or November. The plain name ‘Macedonia’ produces the name and citizenship ‘Macedonians’. They shouldn’t scream or act scandalized. Let’s go to the ‘Macedonia and Macedonians’ issue. This was the main issue they wanted to negotiate. In other words, they wanted to keep their self-determination, and not giving it to them is the key and most difficult part of negotiations. Because if you don’t give it to them, you are denying the highest right recognized by the UN and international law: the right to self-determination. In other words, the right to be called what they want to be called. Would we do this? We did it. There wouldn’t have been an agreement. What would they do then? They would ask to join NATO, as they had asked. What would we have done? Used our veto, because we have to know what we are deciding. We would have vetoed their membership. Where would they then take us? To the International Court in The Hague. What is our problem? That we already have a ruling against us. A ruling on the veto that was never used but that we wanted to sell for appearance’s sake. What would the Court say to us? This time they wouldn’t tell us what the Interim Accord and international law say. They would tell us what their own ruling says. In other words, they would consider us to have broken the law. And with this offence found by the International Court in The Hague, our friendly country would go to the UN. And what do you think would happen at the UN if they raised the issue that we deny them self-determination; article such and such of international conventions and the UN Charter? They would get the name they have today. Anyone who doesn’t think beyond their own views has a problem.
PAPADAKIS: But Minister, this is precisely what the Greek side’s problem was. This is what we were fighting against for so many years.
KOTZIAS: No, no.
PAPADAKIS: That they not be called ‘Macedonians”. What else?
KOTZIAS: No, Mr. Papadakis, that is not true. Take the trouble to look at resolutions 817 and 845, the two UN resolutions in the negotiations. They have only one subject: the name of the state. Nothing else.
PAPADAKIS: The name of the state with irredentist designs that are expressed in its Constitution.
KOTZIAS: The name of the state is …
PAPADAKIS: And these two things are linked.
KOTZIAS: The Constitution and these other things are not in the UN resolutions, and I didn’t create them. Other governments created them.
PAPADAKIS: No, I’m saying for us. What was the thorniest issue for us?
KOTZIAS: The name.
PAPADAKIS: The name, accompanied by the irredentist designs.
KOTZIAS: We are finished with the irredentism.
PAPADAKIS: We ‘will’ be.
KOTZIAS: There is no ‘will’.
PAPADAKIS: When they change their constitution.
KOTZIAS: No. They changed the name of their airport.
PAPADAKIS: But they have put a little sign on the statue, and what does it say? We are keeping the statue of Alexander the Great, which belongs …
KOTZIAS: Again, one issue at a time. The name of the airport was changed from ‘Alexander the Great’ to ‘Skopje International Airport’. For years, this was the first issue they raised in the negotiations.
PAPADAKIS: And what will we call our airport in Thessaloniki?
KOTZIAS: What we call it.
MOURELATOU: They, too, have raised this issue, Mr. Minister.
KOTZIAS: As we said, one issue at a time.
PAPADAKIS: Aren’t we showing irredentist inclinations when they are called ‘Macedonians’ and we have a ‘Macedonian airport’ a stone’s throw away?
KOTZIAS: No, not at all. Because this is the clear Macedonia of the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest. Second, they changed the name of the motorway linking our border with the city of Skopje from ‘Alexander of Macedonia’ to ‘Friendship’. If some people don’t like these things, I remind them that they happened under their governments and, in fact, illegally, after the Interim Accord. And we changed them. And regarding what you said about the statue. They have a number of statues associated with Ancient Greek history. They are going to take some of them down, and they are going to give some of them to us – they want to, but I don’t know if we will take them – and they will put signs on any that remain, saying that these are Greek heroes of Greek history and that they have these statues as an expression of friendship.
PAPADAKIS: VMRO will go and take it down.
KOTZIAS: Let’s see where VMRO’s is in a few years.
KOTTARIDIS: Will their coins with Alexander the Great be changed?
KOTZIAS: Everything will be changed. There is a specific chapter with three paragraphs in the agreement.
KOTTARIDIS: Minister, I would like to ask something practical and I would like you to tell me why the agreement didn’t go through Parliament now.
KOTZIAS: If we brought it, they would tell us that we have surrendered. That we are ratifying it before they make those changes.
KOTTARIDIS: Do you believe this agreement would be passed in Parliament?
KOTZIAS: Of course.
KOTTARIDIS: Because the changes are happening, let’s say that Skopje, in good will, goes ahead with the changes, it changes the Constitution, the necessary documents are sent to NATO, the European Union and their course begins. And in 2018, this agreement comes for ratification in the Hellenic Parliament and it does not pass. Because until now the numbers don’t add up.
KOTZIAS: Why don’t the numbers add up…
KOTTARIDIS: Mr. Kamenos has said that ANEL [Independent Greeks] will not vote for it.
KOTZIAS: Potami has said that it will vote for it.
KOTTARIDIS: No, Potami has not said that it will vote for it.
KOTZIAS: Now, Mr. Theodorakis, who is the Leader of Potami, that is what he says.
KOTTARIDIS: Mr. Theodorakis has not said that – it is not certain, it is not a given.
KOTZIAS: Mr. Theodorakis said, “I will support the agreement to the end, although I do have some critical thoughts”.
KOTTARIDIS: Fine. I tell you that there is also this scenario, the possibility that it does not pass in Parliament.
KOTZIAS: I agree with you, I believe this risk will pass.
KOTTARIDIS: I am asking you what we are going to do with Skopje.
KOTZIAS: It will pass. However, Skopje shows that it trusts us, I emphasise that. Because some people try to make it seem that we are taking the risk, that we will ratify it at some point. Skopje is taking the trust risk. Because they are going to ratify it on Thursday or Friday of this week, I think, they’re going to have a referendum and they will change the Constitution, and then we will ratify it. If we do not ratify, and I personally believe there is no such case, then they will have made all the effort without any response. Unrequited love, as we say! So, they are taking a risk by trusting us. And they trust us, because they are also listening the positions in Parliament very carefully and they know that there is a clear majority in Parliament.
KOTTARIDIS: Are you saying that there is a possibility of stopping Skopje’s progress, even if it does not pass through Parliament?
KOTZIAS: Skopje’s course will stop if they do not fulfil the conditions set for them. It will pass in Parliament. There is no way it will not pass.
MOURELATOU: But is it possible, Mr. Minister, that we are taking a risk too? In the sense that, as the opposition says that some accomplished facts will be created, an invitation will be sent, they will enter the ante-chamber of the European Union …
KOTZIAS: The accomplished facts, as your colleague rightly said, are for Skopje. Because they will make great changes.
MOURELATOU: If the constitutional revision does not pass.
KOTZIAS: It ends.
MOURELATOU: The deal ends. In a future negotiation, will any Greek Government would be faced with an accomplished fact? Will they be in the ante-chamber of the European Union? Will they first have an invitation from NATO?
KOTZIAS: They will get an invitation, with conditions. What is the condition? To have a positive result in the referendum which they are choosing to hold – we did not impose that on them – and to make constitutional changes that they agreed on with us. So, the risk is for those who will make all these changes and that the changes will not take place.
KOTTARIDIS: Did we not also take the risk by proceeding with the signing process?
KOTZIAS: Not at all. Agreements have to start somewhere. I mean, have you ever seen any agreement being implemented before it has been signed?
KOTTARIDIS: No, but you consider it to be a given that Skopje will do these things. You assume that Skopje will do everything that it has to do.
KOTZIAS: No, not at all. I believe that they will do so politically. If they do not do it, legally, then they lose the entire game. I want to explain this to you: NATO has the following procedure: It issues an invitation. What is this invitation? It is an invitation to a dialogue. What is the content of the dialogue? There is also a document – from the day before yesterday – Stoltenberg, I read it last night. What is the content of this dialogue? Fulfilling the requirements that have been set. Of the conditions which were set, what are the two conditions which we set and which were accepted by NATO? A referendum with a positive result and change of the Constitution. If they do not fulfil these two conditions, they cannot become a member of NATO. The fact that there is a dialogue on how to prepare for their membership and how the pre-conditions are fulfilled is in our favour. And, of course, they will also be helped.
KOTTARIDIS: I still say that you take it as a given that it will pass in the Hellenic Parliament.
KOTZIAS: May I tell you something? For this agreement not to pass in the Hellenic Parliament, it would require that no one from Potami, no one from PASOK would support this agreement and all of them, New Democracy, ANEL, Potami, PASOK, etc., to stay in the Parliament and vote NO.
MOURELATOU: So, you are gambling that ANEL will be absent?
PAPADAKIS: On those who will be present.
KOTZIAS: We are discussing something else. Firstly, there is no way that there will not be an absolute majority in the Parliament, in my political estimate, the second, if anyone had doubts about it, it can also be done otherwise.
PAPADAKIS: Accelerating the signing of the agreement in Psarades in Prespa …
KOTZIAS: That was not an acceleration, that was a delay.
PAPADAKIS: I’m telling you what they are accusing you of: It is for you to anticipate the developments for the Eurogroup on 21 June, where the debt, the course of the Greek economy will be discussed, which you gave in exchange for …
KOTZIAS: This presupposes that we gave something away. We did not. We made the best deal; we got things which had never been asked for: Constitution, erga omnes even domestically in their country.
PAPADAKIS: Do you know who said that?
KOTZIAS: I do not care.
PAPADAKIS: Mr. Dimitris Kammenos, that it was discussed in the Parliamentary Group of ANEL.
KOTZIAS: He is lying, that has been refuted.
PAPADAKIS: Panos Kammenos did not deny it.
KOTZIAS: All Members of the Parliamentary Group of ANEL have denied it.
PAPADAKIS: It was here that Mr Katsikis refuted that.
KOTZIAS: And others. Ms. Kountoura, who was in Crete, refuted him ten times yesterday.
PAPADAKIS: She was booed there.
KOTZIAS: Leave that alone, they booed, etc., the best Minister of Tourism the country has ever had.
PAPADAKIS: For god’s sake, I don’t doubt it.
KOTZIAS: Crete, has the most benefits from the development of tourism, thanks to Ms Kountoura, let’s be sensible now. For the last 6-7 years tourists were not coming to Athens. Or you did not know that? They’ve been reappearing, since last year. Let’s not discuss these things now.
PAPADAKIS: Under SYRIZA ….
KOTZIAS: Yes. Do you know how many tourists we had when we took over? 10 million less.
PAPADAKIS: We really do have an increase …
KOTZIAS: Do you know what 10 million tourists means?
PAPADAKIS: We really do have an increase, I will not dispute that.
MOURELATOS: But we had many episodes in the centre, but Athens was on fire week after week, where were the tourists supposed to go …
KOTZIAS: That means we have imposed order and there is also security.
PAPADAKIS: We will take a short break, and then we will go on some issues that are binding. We will see some points in the agreement, for example, what will happen with products stating place of origin. Macedonian halva, jams, tsipouro, wines, those which should change their name? And if they do not change name and remain Macedonian, with a different tax status in the neighbouring country …
KOTZIAS: Are you asking me to answer or to go to a commercial break?
PAPADAKIS: To think about these questions, though you do not seem to have a problem.
KOTZIAS: I have no problem. I thought about them during the negotiations.
PAPADAKIS: What will happen to the Committee on Books? Are there books in Greek?
KOTZIAS: I am surprised: In all of Europe states sit and discuss their books. Germany and Poland say “we will discuss how the Second World War is portrayed in books”. Do you think that the Polish books insulted or “unjustifiably” insulted Germany, or that the Poles felt that they did to the Germans what the Germans did to them? No. But the class says “Yes, sir, I want to change your books.” The other tells me “Can I see them?” See them, I have no problem. This is a state of fear. What are we afraid of, what kind of misery is this? We do not have anything to fear.
PAPADAKIS: If we have nothing to fear, it’s OK. If they put a veto and say that we have to delete things ….
KOTZIAS: The Committees do not work like that.
PAPADAKIS: But you hear Mr. Karanikas, the advisor …
KOTZIAS: Let’s not talk about all those other men, you and I are talking now, and I speak to you as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
PAPADAKIS: He is not just some man, he is the Prime Minister’s advisor.
KOTZIAS: I do not care.
PAPADAKIS: Talk about a lake of dried fish, about Pella.
KOTZIAS: Let’s leave these things. Before our own government, a committee was established with Albania for books. In that Committee, the Albanian Minister says, “Can we see your books?” So, what do you say, we will just look at your books, not ours?
PAPADAKIS: So, you are saying they will not change.
KOTZIAS: Sorry, look at it. How many comments did we have? 7 pages, around 140 comments. How many comments did they have? One. We will look at it, no objection. I mean, international relations – that is not a one-way street.
PAPADAKIS: But you say we will not change our books.
KOTZIAS: We have no such problems. And if there is a wrong formulation or a map which shows that today’s Macedonia includes all the other Macedonias, we can correct it. But I do not see such a thing happening.
PAPADAKIS: The exact opposite had happened on the opposite side.
KOTZIAS: Exactly. So, it must be they who have the problem, not us.
PAPADAKIS: We will take a short break now and then we will continue.
PAPADAKIS: Maya, what does the public have to say all this time that we are talking?
ANTONOPOULOU: The public has a lot of questions for the Minister and we will communicate them to him.
KOTZIAS: That is reasonable, isn’t it?
ANTONOPOULOU: They feel that you are ignoring them, because you do not take into account that many of them, and the majority of them, disagree with the agreement you made.
KOTZIAS: Disagreement is a right, but it does not mean that I do not answer those who disagree.
PAPADAKIS: And I should add to that: If you call them nationalists and extremists …
KOTZIAS: No, let me tell you, I also said this at Prespes, concerning the two, I would say, relatively small demonstrations of 4,000 protestors in Syntagma Square and, as I was told by the Police, a similar number, that I did not see, far from Prespes. Those are people expressing their anxiety, which must emotionally and necessarily be taken into account.
PAPADAKIS: But Minister, they were beaten up and tear gas was used.
KOTZIAS: Let’s answer these things one by one. There are people who do not want to agree, they have a different general view of life, and that is understandable, but in the first instance, you cannot convince them with a simple conversation. And there are those who are extreme right-wing people, who gathered there in Prespes and in Syntagma, as an assault team. Let me remind you of the President of Parliament’s allegations about the attempt they made to get into Parliament to make trouble. And as I said in my statement, only Franco’s people got into Parliament, two years after the collapse of the Franco regime in Spain. And I said that paradoxically in European history, King Juan Carlos was among those who defended and saved democracy in Spain. There are many different forces within these objections.
ANTONOPOULOU: However, there is a great proportion of those people who demonstrated peacefully and shouted peacefully, “do not give the name away”.
KOTZIAS: But we did not give the name away, we got it back. I asked, I do not know if you have them, to show two-second clips with the CNN and the BBC, which the Chinese international agency also had. What does that clip show?
PAPADAKIS: Please show it for us to see while the Minister is speaking. What does that say?
KOTZIAS: Show the whole thing, it doesn’t matter. FYROM, was simply “Macedonia” until the day we signed. From the day we signed, “Macedonia” went to Greece and fYROM said it was “North Macedonia”. We did not give it away, we got it back. See the previous map, there is no “Macedonia” for the international player. Only FYROM. Today it is “North Macedonia” and Macedonia is Greek.
PAPADAKIS: Anyway Mr. Minister, they will continue to call it “Macedonia”.
KOTZIAS: “North Macedonia”. See the BBC and CNN before the ratifications, because the agreement is that the ratification takes place first and then the name is used, it is already being used. And I’m a fan of its use.
PAPADAKIS: Mr. Minister, people will tell you, there is New Democracy, which disagrees …
KOTZIAS: It disagrees with its own past, that is not my fault.
PAPADAKIS: PASOK disagrees.
KOTZIAS: Then it too disagrees with its own past.
PAPADAKIS: The Union of Centrists disagrees.
KOTTARIDIS: They did not sign an agreement.
KOTZIAS: They submitted written proposals though.
KOTTARIDIS: They did not sign anything.
KOTZIAS: When a country submits written proposals, is it serious or is it not serious? Or should I accept Mr. Georgiadis’ point of view that we are playing games, we are a kindergarten and we play dice in the interests of the country, or should I accept the good version of Ms. Bakoyannis that they made serious proposals. So, in their proposals for negotiation, they did not obtain the gains that we got from the written agreement.
MOURELATOU: Yes, but Prime Minister Karamanlis cannot be a consistent Prime Minister and a consistent politician when his Ministers of Foreign Affairs are irresponsible and engage in a political sell-out.
KOTZIAS: If you would allow me? The argument is the other way around. That what Mr. Venizelos and Mr. Avramopoulos are saying is correct – and you ask Mr. Avramopoulos at some point, who is New Democracy and Commissioner, and Mr. Samaras came out and said in Parliament that they expressed their political, personal views rather than the government’s. So, do not ask me, ask the Prime Ministers of New Democracy why they did not agree with their ministers.
MOURELATOS: But there was a reaction. Yesterday, Mr. Koumoutsakos made a statement and said, “We never had just Macedonia, we never proposed it, never a double use.”
KOTZIAS: I said that Mr. Koumoutsakos has two variants: Either he is consciously lying, because he also gave a press conference at which he said that this name Macedonia-Skopia, which would be Macedonia internally, it was on the table and we discussed it, he said that himself, and now he is pretending that he didn’t know anything about that. So, either he is not telling the truth, or he said something else or he does not know. Because in Parliament I asked them, and if you have seen, they avoided it like the plague. I asked them, “What names have you proposed and what would you choose today?”. Why don’t they say the names? Let me tell you this, when my term of office as Minister of Foreign Affairs ends, do you think that I won’t know what name I proposed for Macedonia and that I would need to have the Ministry’s papers with me?
PAPADAKIS: Why, in your opinion, did New Democracy change its position? So, as you say, New Democracy has changed its position. Why?
KOTZIAS: Because Mr. Mitsotakis discovered that his father was not a worthy politician and that Mr. Samaras was extraordinarily worthy. And he joined the Samaras camp. I congratulate Mr. Antonis Samaras, a former Prime Minister, left his office as Leader of the Party and continues to guide the new Leader of the Party. That is, we have the surprising phenomenon that Mitsotakis’ two children have renounced their father. Now these are subjects for psychoanalysis.
PAPADAKIS: But you are also saying something else: that he is doing that in order not to lose anyone on the right of New Democracy.
KOTZIAS: I did not say anything like that. You asked me and I said that he is guiding it today ….
KOTTARIDIS: However, the image that the negotiations have progressed so far that, apart from the erga omnes of giving a name with a geographical qualifier, etc., it would also be possible for them to have the language “Macedonian” and to consider themselves “Macedonians”, it was not so clear.
KOTZIAS: You are insisting constantly. This agreement has an interesting point.
KOTTARIDIS: I insist because it is an issue that concerns the public.
KOTZIAS: I want to comment. This agreement has an interesting point. We’ve got great things. I recognize the difficulty for my partners on the other side, which we are going to get through. Someone said to me, what is the big deal if the “Alexander the Great” airport was renamed. I told him, “What is the big deal? In your negotiations, that was the first point you raised. We got it and now you say, what is the big deal.” And they are only considering these two issues [language and nationality]. No-one is telling me, even if we went to war and we dictated terms to them – they should still get something, shouldn’t they? Can anyone tell me what they should get. But let’s discuss the points one by one.
The language. The “Macedonian” language – in quotation marks, or without quotation marks – but let’s put it in quotation marks, as we do historically, was made a written language in 1948, when all the Eastern states were making written languages out of the oral ones. This language was recognised in 1954. Throughout the 1950s the National Radical Union, which was pre-dictatorship New Democracy and also consisted of the same people. That is, Karamanlis, Mitsotakis, the same names. In the 1950s, the NRU, Mr. Averoff said, “I recognise their language as “Macedonian””. Averoff did that, not me. Why did Mr. Averoff say that? Was he a fool? He said that because Greek diplomacy between the late 19th and 20th centuries defended that the language of these populations was Macedonian, because he wanted to separate them from the Bulgarians. We are now preoccupied with the following, calling it Bulgarian. Let’s call them Bulgarians. That is to say, we want Great Bulgaria above our head, because we have to understand what we are saying now.
PAPADAKIS: Slavic origin.
KOTZIAS: This language, Macedonian, was established in 1977 at the UN. Go see the tables, why they came out and I consider these things as terrible for Greece….
KOTTARIDIS: But Greece never recognised such a thing.
KOTZIAS: It was recognised in the UN. Greece did not object on the day that it was recognised …
KOTTARIDIS: That’s another thing.
KOTZIAS: It’s not just another thing. In diplomacy, that’s when you raise objections. Beyond what New Democracy is saying, the Yugoslavs brought a special resolution and it was accepted. This language has been officially recognized since 1977. It was recognized and we accepted that it exists. They were just hiding behind the Socialist Republic of Macedonia. But the language wasn’t called ‘Socialist Macedonian’.
MOURELATOU: Yes, but it hurts northern Greeks to hear ‘Macedonian language’, because it doesn’t exist. It is Greek.
KOTZIAS: Greek is Greek. The Macedonian dialect of Greek is the Macedonian dialect of Greek.
MOURELATOU: And now we added a Slavic dialect and the Macedonian on top of that.
KOTZIAS: No, we didn’t add Macedonian. The UN recognized it. May I ask you a question, Madam?
MOURELATOU: Shouldn’t we have corrected that error?
KOTZIAS: Are we with the UN or against the UN?
MOURELATOU: We are with the UN.
PAPADAKIS: Shouldn’t this have been corrected during the negotiations?
KOTZIAS: It was corrected in the negotiations. In paragraph 7.4 …
PAPADAKIS: It remains ‘Macedonian’.
KOTZIAS: Read what it says in paragraph 7.4. And I consider this a major personal success.
PAPADAKIS: “Within the group of South Slavic languages.”
KOTZIAS: I found the Macedonian language as an accomplished fact. Those who made it an accomplished fact are protesting, and after tough negotiation, I inserted the major legally binding clarification that this language, theirs, which is called ‘Macedonian’, is within the group of South Slavic languages and is not related to the ancient Hellenic civilization or heritage of Greece. In other words, how else …
PAPADAKIS: But tell me, Mr. Minister, if they ask one of our neighbours who is living in Spain, “What language do you speak?”, will he say, “I speak Macedonian, which is within the group of South Slavic languages and is not related in any way to Greek history.”? No. He’ll say, “I speak Macedonian.” They’ll ask another of our neighbours where he is from …
KOTZIAS: They are bound by this agreement. In other words, you don’t think this clarification is necessary? Should the clarification not have gone into the agreement?
PAPADAKIS: The clarification is good.
KOTZIAS: Good or bad?
PAPADAKIS: It was right to put it in. But I’m saying that, in practice …
KOTZIAS: Why is it good?
PAPADAKIS: In practice it will be removed.
KOTZIAS: In Switzerland, as this was the first language I spoke, there is Swiss German. If you ask them what language they speak, they will say German. If you ask the Irish, Welsh and Scots – even though Welsh is a very resilient language – what language they speak, they will tell you it is English. In other words, let’s not confuse the names of languages that derive from various reasons. And in our case it derives from the fact that it was accepted by the National Radical Union (ERE) in the 1950s, it was allowed to be established in the 1970s. It was accepted by all the negotiators. Let them bring me a document in which they do not accept it. Mrs. Bakoyannis read something in Parliament to defend herself. And I read from further down in the despatch – to which I did not want to refer – where it says yes to their language’s being called ‘Makedonski’. Do you know what ‘Makedonski’ means in Greek?
KOTZIAS: Are we kidding ourselves? The fact that we found accomplished facts and that we brought into perspective and explained these accomplished facts has its significance.
PAPADAKIS: Yes, but, because they were the ones who were in a rush, they were the country in a hurry, people demanded that …
KOTZIAS: Why were they so anxious to move ahead?
PAPADAKIS: Because they wanted to join NATO and the European Union.
KOTZIAS: And they will want that in the future. And?
PAPADAKIS: Because they’ll have a problem.
KOTZIAS: There is an error. There is a major error. The first question you asked me, as well – because you didn’t come back to it and I have to respond – which says the name is linked to economics. And what it says …
PAPADAKIS: Not as quid pro quo. We give the name in order to get …
KOTZIAS: They too were anxious to move ahead – beyond the fact that these are miserable lies and they know it – because they suspected for some time how well these things would go.
PAPADAKIS: Zaev says it to his people.
KOTZIAS: No, Zaev doesn’t …
PAPADAKIS: Zaev says that a prospect is opening up; a prospect that is in their interest.
KOTZIAS: Zaev doesn’t talk about the economics. Let’s not confuse things.
PAPADAKIS: With NATO and with the European Union. We are escaping misery, he says.
KOTZIAS: Of course he says it. He wants his country to join, and it is Zaev’s weapon in persuading his people to accept the change in his country’s name, to accept that this people had irredentism and no one else. To accept that their Constitution will change. You haven’t yet understood what huge changes this person has to make. You think it is an easy task and that the one thing he got in the agreement – their identity; to be called by their identity – was total concession. And I ask, in your opinion, Mr. Papadakis, when you carry out negotiations, does the other side have the right to get anything?
PAPADAKIS: Of course it does. As long as it isn’t …
KOTZIAS: What? What?
PAPADAKIS: As long as it expresses …
KOTZIAS: In your opinion, what did they deserve to get?
PAPADAKIS: It is difficult for me to answer you right now, because I wasn’t in the negotiations.
KOTZIAS: But in your opinion.
PAPADAKIS: In my opinion, in a show of sincere will to eliminate irredentist designs, there should be no issue of citizenship or the language.
KOTZIAS: So, let me tell you what you are saying. I have gone and concluded a contract to rent a house, and you make the following criticism: first of all, why are you paying rent? As the owner was in need and would at least cover his property taxes, shouldn’t you have paid rent?
PAPADAKIS: Greeks do this.
KOTZIAS: You didn’t have to pay the rent. They do it, but is it right? In other words, you are saying we should impose all the terms on them. Mr. Papadakis, Germany, which lost the war, World War I, had terms imposed on it that led to World War II. I continue to fail to see what all of you have seen: that I could have dictated terms to a loser in a war …
MOURELATOU: Not terms, Mr Minister.
KOTZIAS: Because the one thing I got from this country, and it really surprises me: that not one of the three of you has said a good word about this agreement so far.
PAPADAKIS: No, no. I’m not …
KOTZIAS: Let’s be frank.
PAPADAKIS: Wait. We didn’t come here to talk about the good aspects.
KOTZIAS: Why didn’t you ask me to explain how …
PAPADAKIS: We didn’t come here to praise the agreement.
KOTZIAS: No, that’s not how it is.
PAPADAKIS: We came to look at the …
KOTZIAS: If you make the same criticism for an hour – language, language, language – and you know that I found it as a UN-recognized language and that no government in Skopje could go to its people and say that we are conceding what we have had for 50 years now. We don’t want the one thing we have had since the beginning of our existence. The other side is there too. And that is not how it is. In other words, if you don’t understand this, that the tenant will pay rent – that, in an agreement, the other side has rights, too – you are mistaken about international relations. In international relations there is either international law – which says both sides have to win for there to be stability in a region – or there is the law of war. Are you asking us to go to war …
PAPADAKIS: Yes, but they’re telling you …
KOTZIAS: Forget what they’re telling me. Go to war, Mr. Papadakis, you and Mr. Mitsotakis, take Skopje, I’m not urging you …
PAPADAKIS: Don’t put me into it.
KOTZIAS: Take Skopje and dictate your terms.
PAPADAKIS: No, no. I’m posing a question, Mr. Minister.
KOTZIAS: And then you’ll see the resistance from the Slavomacedonians regarding their identity.
PAPADAKIS: I’m posing and conveying questions, Mr. Minister.
KOTZIAS: Yes, but you continue not to understand, because you keep asking the same question.
PAPADAKIS: The point is for people to understand. We’re asking so that people can understand.
KOTZIAS: You still don’t understand that geographical Macedonia was broken into four parts. Do the people who live in the other three parts have the right to call themselves Macedonians? I ask you. Tell me. Leave fYROM aside. Pirin Macedonia in Bulgaria. “I was born in Bulgarian Macedonia, I grew up in Bulgarian Macedonia, I went to high school in Bulgarian Macedonia.” Does Mr. Borisov’s Minister have the right to say that he comes from this region that is called Macedonia.
MOURELATOU: He says it, Mr. Minister.
KOTZIAS: Should we prohibit him from doing so? Should we have a nice war to prohibit them from calling themselves Macedonians?
MOURELATOU: Let me approach it another way. Clearly. We can’t get everything, but if there were a minimum of national consensus, people could understand some things …
KOTZIAS: What is the minimum national consensus?
MOURELATOU: For you to have reached an agreement with New Democracy. You went very …
KOTZIAS: Agreement on what?
MOURELATOU: You were very confrontational.
KOTZIAS: Why were we confrontational? Tell me?
MOURELATOU: That’s what New Democracy says. That you went at them, raised political …
KOTZIAS: Yes, but don’t constantly tell me – the three of you – what New Democracy says. You know, for you to ask me, “New Democracy says this. What do you say?” is journalistic.
PAPADAKIS: That is what we’re saying.
KOTZIAS: For you to present New Democracy’s views as your questions is very different.
MOURELATOU: I won’t take being called a mouthpiece for New Democracy as a compliment.
KOTTARIDIS: My dear Minister, let me put it differently.
KOTZIAS: Let me return to the point. What national consensus? The negotiations started in January with the meeting in Davos between Mr. Tsipras and Mr. Zaev. The next day, Mr. Tsipras Briefed all of the heads of the political parties, did he not? Over the next two days, after he returned from Davos. Yes or no?
KOTZIAS: Then we convene a session of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defense and Foreign Affairs, and various people leaked what we said to the press. Yes or no? Yes. Then, when the negotiations had proceeded for a month, did I undertake to brief the heads of the political parties? And Mr. Mitsotakis declined.
PAPADAKIS: Let me change the question so you can see that it is not a ‘New Democracy question’. Why don’t you push New Democracy and the other Parties into a corner through a meeting of the heads of the Parties, at which each of them would have to take responsibility.
KOTZIAS: A meeting of the heads of the Parties; how do you mean?
PAPADAKIS: Under the President of the Republic, of course. That “You know something, gentlemen? Let me hear your views.”
KOTZIAS: That is correct.
PAPADAKIS: Because there really was a change of views, including by New Democracy. New Democracy, too, changed its views.
KOTZIAS: That is correct, Mr. Papadakis, on one condition: that the Council of Party Leaders would be a circus.
PAPADAKIS: Let it be a circus.
KOTZIAS: Oh, like that?
PAPADAKIS: Let it be a circus. But let everyone take responsibility for their positions.
KOTZIAS: We should make a circus of the institutional system?
PAPADAKIS: But didn’t you see what happened?
KOTZIAS: Maybe it is better for foreign policy …
PAPADAKIS: New Democracy needs to take responsibility for its positions, Mr. Minister. New Democracy needs to take responsibility.
KOTZIAS: You said that. You said that four times. Do you have a question, or shall we move on?
PAPADAKIS: Of course I have a question, so you can see that I want New Democracy to be exposed.
KOTZIAS: Mr. Papadakis, do you want to narrate? I can leave. You want to ask me a question, and you want me to stay and answer it.
PAPADAKIS: No, because you said I am passing on questions from New Democracy.
KOTZIAS: Look, I know the journalistic things you three are doing. Let it go.
PAPADAKIS: No, because you said I am passing on questions from New Democracy.
KOTZIAS: Mr. Papadakis, allow me to answer.
PAPADAKIS: I’m am not conveying questions from New Democracy, Mr. Minister.
KOTZIAS: Is it nationally more correct for the discussion to be held one on one with each of the party heads, so that each one can express his views quietly and calmly, or is it correct to hold a Council of Party Leaders …
PAPADAKIS: We saw the results, Mr. Minister.
KOTZIAS: What are the results?
KOTZIAS: What fragmentation?
PAPADAKIS: Each one said whatever he liked. Some of them called you a traitor … Unjustifiably? Unjustifiably, in my opinion.
KOTZIAS: But they would have said that in any case.
PAPADAKIS: This is why I’m saying this.
KOTZIAS: But I briefed them and they came out and said I didn’t brief them. I briefed Mr. Koumoutsakos for three hours, and he came out and said, “they didn’t brief us.” When they have decided to use the Macedonia issue to bring down the government, you don’t need to look any further. When they have decided, we have the following amazing phenomenon with New Democracy: I am a politician, not a career politician. I have been a political animal since I was a child. I mean I started arguing over politics when I was an adolescent.
PAPADAKIS: That is well known.
KOTZIAS: I didn’t participate. I was elected for the first time in the latest elections, and it was the first time I had stood for election. When you are that kind of politician, you negotiate with your eye on the country’s future. I can tell you – your political camp wasn’t interested – why the future depends on the stability of the region and our leading role in the region. But you can also be a politician focused on the country’s domestic affairs, as many politicians are. And you can also be a politician focused on the internal affairs of your party, which is what Mr. Mitsotakis is. And can I also say something about Fofi Gennimatas? Because you said it was a circus. Six people sit on the Presidium of the Party she leads, Movement for Change. Five of them agreed with the agreement, with one observation or another. What is five out of six? The vast majority.
PAPADAKIS: That’s how it is.
KOTZIAS: And Mrs. Gennimata says, “Oh, democracy ends here. I’ll do whatever I like.” Do you think Mrs. Gennimata does whatever she likes because there was no meeting of the political leaders under the President of the Republic, or because she isn’t … bound by the decisions of her majority?
PAPADAKIS: Right, so last question.
KOTTARIDIS: Mr Kotzias, among those who you say wish to take advantage of the Skopje issue to topple the Government, do you include Mr Kammenos. Because Mr Kammenos will not vote for the agreement.
KOTZIAS: Of course Mr. Kammenos has another identity, for different reasons.
KOTTARIDIS: So the government may fall if it does not support the agreement.
KOTZIAS: The Government won’t fall. As early as December 2017, I had explained that there will be a majority in Parliament that will support this agreement, and this majority is politically evident. It’s not just SYRIZA, there are other parties which will support it. And this drives me a bit crazy. And can I tell you something? If there were an intraparty democracy in Greece, the Movement for Change would be the first to vote for the agreement, five to one. What I know is that five bears more weight in a democracy. Now some people are telling me that, since it didn’t happen…
MOURELATOU: This does reflect on the Parliamentary Groups, however. Ms Gennimata has a Parliamentary Group consisting of 19 parliament members, and Mr Theodorakis and the other three or four do not.
KOTZIAS: So why does this Party have the President they have? It’s not my problem. Let them do as they see fit.
MOURELATOU: Ok, Ms Gennimata has been elected. Doesn’t she have the right to disagree?
KOTZIAS: She does have the right to disagree, indeed, but to impose her view, one out of six… with the maths that apply to democracy which I am familiar with. If you apply different maths to democracy, then touché.
KOTTARIDIS: But here, too, there is a Government that does not have a majority, the Independent Greeks that are also in power.
KOTZIAS: How do you reckon that they don’t have a majority?
KOTTARIDIS: The party which is in power along with you doesn’t agree with this proposal.
KOTZIAS: On this point, let me tell you, first of all, in how many Governments does internal disagreement exist with regard to some issue or another? What is the main issue in the United Kingdom presently? Brexit. The Foreign Secretary, my counterpart, Boris Johnson, a very intelligent man and the former Mayor of London, does he agree with May? No. Has anyone challenged May, that she does not have a majority because Boris Johnson’s team share a different view? And she doesn’t have a majority without him. And it’s the same party. Nobody.
And can I tell you something else? There are many countries in Europe which at times – the Netherlands, Belgium, all the Nordic countries – have minority Governments and form majorities with different political forces depending on the issue at stake. Why this strange culture? The job of any Government is to have a majority and to organise this majority. If it manages to organise this majority, then very well done.
PAPADAKIS: Mr Minister, we have allowed you ample time to respond…see..! But, about something you said, we do not convey the questions of New Democracy.
KOTZIAS: No, I am saying that the questions, as they are submitted, it’s one thing for one to say “New Democracy says” and something completely different for one to say something spontaneously.
PAPADAKIS: This is what we were implying. However, some of the questions which I also posed, Stefania asked them as well.
KOTZIAS: People have the same questions, and it’s only logical.
PAPADAKIS: People have the same questions. And the people’s chief complaint is this: Geographically, can some areas be considered…
KOTZIAS: It’s about the International Treaty, it’s not about geography on a map.
PAPADAKIS: On the basis of international treaties. However, with regard to history, no one can…
KOTZIAS: That is what the agreement says. I agree with you.
PAPADAKIS: Nobody History, culture.
KOTZIAS: Read the agreement. All I ask is that you read it beforehand.
PAPADAKIS: So far, we have had forgery, so far we have had distortion.
KOTZIAS: That is certainly true, but Mr Papadakis let …
PAPADAKIS: And this nation grew up, pay attention, this nation grew up with forgery, has felt this forgery right down to the bone.
KOTZIAS: Very correct. But since when has the forgery stopped?
PAPADAKIS: I don’t know if it has stopped.
KOTZIAS: In other words, when we had a change in the airport, avenues, cities – did it not stop?
PAPADAKIS: Is that enough for you, a change in the airport? If the Constitution does not change…
KOTZIAS: You ask if it is enough for me, but I am asking you something else. Don’t get fanatical.
PAPADAKIS: It was an initial gesture of good will.
KOTZIAS: I asked you when it was that irredentism stopped increasing and began to decrease. In this negotiation.
KOTZIAS: And with its outcome, I hope for it to disappear.
PAPADAKIS: With Macedonian halva, for us to wrap this up in a more…. What is going to happen with Macedonian halva? People are anxious. In other words, in the context of the agreement will we have to…
KOTZIAS: Weren’t they anxious before? They are anxious now, with the agreement? Sorry, just so that I understand it, what was the halva called before, Skopje halva? North Macedonian halva? It was called Macedonian halva. Now what should I do? I say -and they did not like it at all- pay attention to the formalities that exist in the agreement – that we shall set up a joint Commission, the European Union -we are in the European Union, not them – and the UN, which shall check the names for 3,500 companies first. This cannot be done within the framework of a negotiation between two Foreign Ministers.
PAPADAKIS: Will you also change the tax scheme?
KOTZIAS: No, let me tell you…
PAPADAKIS: In that case, Macedonian products will be competitive.
KOTZIAS: Let me tell you.
PAPADAKIS: North Macedonian products.
KOTZIAS: Don’t you like it when I respond, Mr Papadakis? Allow me to finish.
PAPADAKIS: Of course.
KOTZIAS: Those 3,500 companies will seek to resolve their own name issue. How will they resolve it? On the basis of Articles 7 and 8. What do those say? That they have no claim on Greek history and Antiquity. It is important to explain to the people that, for the first time, an agreement between Greece and Skopje provides for an end to irredentism, definitively and irreversibly separates ancient Greek culture, Greek culture, our journey in Macedonia, from what they ….
PAPADAKIS: “Will they change their flag?” people are asking.
KOTZIAS: They shall never again use the Vergina sun, the agreement says this. Because the symbol of the Vergina sun, they still have it at entrances to cities.
PAPADAKIS: Why haven’t they changed it yet?
KOTZIAS: Ask the Governments. Now they will change it, in six months…
PAPADAKIS: Well… but we cannot.
KOTZIAS: But this is why we reached the agreement.
PAPADAKIS: We cannot say, “They changed the airport” while they have not changed the flag.
MOURELATOU: They made a commitment to change it.
PAPADAKIS: They have made a commitment. They did not change it. They changed the airport.
KOTZIAS: Mr Papadakis listen now, because you are creating the wrong impression.
PAPADAKIS: No, I am asking.
KOTZIAS: The airport was called “Alexander the Great,” they built it in 2005 and 2006 during a time when New Democracy was in power. We changed it.
PAPADAKIS: It’s unfortunate, very unfortunate indeed that we accepted it.
KOTZIAS: We changed it. These were instances of friendly behaviour on the part of the country to the North, which changed these things. They will change everything else because, thanks to us, they are legally bound to do so.
PAPADAKIS: It is a matter of obligation.
KOTZIAS: And you must understand – not you, I mean everyone who is listening to us – that International Law is tough Law, it is tougher than the Law of the tenant and the owner, and the seller. It is a type of Law whose violation entails serious consequences for your economy and your society. It’s not a type of Law that is a joke. When I spoke with Mr. Dimitrov, we didn’t just say, “Go ahead, change it,” and Mr. Dimitrov awoke the next day, angry with his daughter, and did not change it. He is saying that he is bound to do so with his signature. It will be ratified this week by his parliament. He committed himself to doing this.
KOTTARIDIS: Minister, very briefly: I note your confidence that this thing shall be passed by the Greek Parliament.
PAPADAKIS: It shall be passed.
KOTTARIDIS: Is there no going back? If the Skopjans, in the near future, in the next five or six months, fail to actualise all these things they have committed themselves to, do you believe that this can be changed?
KOTZIAS: There is no ratification on the part of Greece. But they will do it, they will fight hard.
KOTTARIDIS: But will the procedures have been implemented abroad though.
KOTZIAS: What procedures?
PAPADAKIS: But there will commitment to signing the agreement.
KOTTARIDIS: In the European Union and NATO.
KOTZIAS: Please tell me, in NATO, what procedure will be followed?
KOTTARIDIS: We send the letter, the procedure begins, the invitation etc.
KOTZIAS: What does the letter say?
KOTTARIDIS: With the prerequisites you mentioned earlier. I listened to you very carefully.
PAPADAKIS: If all that does not take place…
KOTZIAS: You’re saying that you’re going to rent my house, provided that you don’t bring dogs -too bad, I like dogs in the house, but we’re just saying- and you come the next day and say, “You know, I brought ten dogs that I found in the street.” You say, “Sorry, our agreement is not valid and you may not enter the house.”
KOTZIAS: You’re telling me: “Oh no, see what’s happened to us! We already told him that we can conclude a contract. Oh no, he has already taken my home. Oh no, he has already burned my home down.” No. These are called safeguards in International Law, and safeguards exist in order for this not to occur.
PAPADAKIS: In fact, already the Rainbow, that party, you know …
KOTZIAS: That is not a Party. It is just a group of friends.
PAPADAKIS: That movement.. They have already decided to do, they are requesting permission …
MOURELATOU: They are asking for a Macedonian minority to be recognised in Greece.
PAPADAKIS: That famous Rainbow!
KOTZIAS: You cannot say things like that, nor you, Madam. The agreement forbids it.
PAPADAKIS: I know.
KOTZIAS: The agreement includes an article…
PAPADAKIS: I am telling you what they are doing.
KOTZIAS: Yes, but you are telling me that, and you are not stating what the agreement says.
PAPADAKIS: So that you can say it.
KOTZIAS: The agreement says, in Article 49, that “North Macedonia” will amend its constitution and adapt to Article 118 of the Hellenic Constitution. What do articles 49 and 118 say? 49 says that this state defends all elements of its nationality outside FYROM. In other words the minorities in the surrounding countries. Article 118, ours, says that it defends Greeks living abroad. There is a big difference between “Greek living abroad” and for me to says that I defend FYROM…
PAPADAKIS: Right, Stefania and Dimitris, Mr. Minister, thank you..
KOTZIAS: Thank you.
PAPADAKIS: We have made an attempt, in our own way, which indeed you took offence to…
KOTZIAS: Not at all.
PAPADAKIS: To convey people’s questions, those of New Democracy and the opposition.
MOURELATOU: The Minister has no need for protection. His nature is such that he enjoys a lively debate. He has no need for flattery.
PAPADAKIS: A very dynamic man. Thank you very much for being with us.
KOTZIAS: And I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain the agreement, certain aspects of it. Thank you very much.
PAPADAKIS: Thank you very much. Thank you Stefania, thank you Dimitris.
The above interview was first reported on the Ministry of Foriegn Affairs website.