28.12.2016"It is a very complex text which touches on all matters referring to Albania's EU accession prospect and Greek-Albanian relations," Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said on Wednesday, commenting on the conclusions adopted by the Slovak presidency's EU Council of General Affairs, which was held 10 days ago in Brussels.
In an interview with Athens-Macedonian News Agency, Kotzias expressed his satisfaction over the adoption of the Greek positions in relation to Albania and particularly on issues referring to the Greek minority and its property assets as well as on good neighborly relations. In the conclusions, "the need for the protection of the minorities' rights throughout Albania and not only in specific zones it was underlined," the minister said. "Moreover, the protection of the minorities' right was linked directly, for the first time, with the rights in property".
Albania's accession to EU
Asked on Albania's good neighbourly relations, which is an issue included in the conclusions and touches upon the recent nationalist rhetoric against Greece, the Greek foreign minister emphasised the "great clarity" with which it was stated.
Kotzias said Greece wishes Albania's accession to EU but not as a favour. "The criteria applied to other EU member-states should also be applied in the case of Albania," he said, adding that the dialogue on the solution of pending issues with Albania continues, following the visit of the deputy foreign minister of Albania to Athens a few days ago, during which he met with the general secretary of the Greek foreign ministry, Ambassador Dimitris Paraskevopoulos.
EU General Affairs Council conclusions
Asked about the role of the Confidence Building Measures (CBM) between Greece and FYROM in the context of the EU General Affairs Council conclusions text, Kotzias said that "history is not a jail but a school and this school should teach the right history". He added that Greece tried from the start to have good relations with everyone. "I have underlined that it is good that the neighbouring country exists. We want its stability and we are the only state that has never expressed any opinion on FYROM's domestic developments respecting its autonomy, independence and sovereignty.
Therefore I believe that it is right to recognise the positive role of the CBM in the EU's text," he added. "So the issue we have, which of course is linked with irredentism, is to find a solution to what we call 'the name issue'. And because some people believe that the name issue is secondary, I must remind them that it is a prerequisite for FYROM's accession to NATO and the EU. In fact, the interim agreement invoked by several sides, was made to allow time for name proposals. We have tabled our proposals on this matter and we are waiting to hear the other side's opinion".
More democratic and European Turkey
On the conclusions referring to Turkey and Austria's proposal to freeze EU-Turkey relations, Kotzias said that "Greece supports a more democratic and European Turkey."
"We supported the powers that resisted the coup attempted by a section of the army. We are against coups but from the viewpoint of the sound, efficient and democratic operation of the institutions. We believe that Turkey's EU accession course should not be closed", however, "it does not depend on us or the EU if Turkey will have a European course and perspective; it depends on its own choices and will. If it respects European and international law ... then Turkey will always be welcome in EU," Kotzias said.
"I want to state clearly that Greece wants to help in Turkey's European course. But it will be Turkey's choice."