Interview of Deputy FM Kouvelis on ANT1 radio’s show “Against the current” (Kontra sto revma) with journalists D. Stamou and N. Vafeiadis.
Mr. D. Stamou: My question – for our listeners to understand – is a very simple one: What does “green diplomacy” mean, Mr. Kouvelis?
Mr. S. Kouvelis: Look, Greece is a country with possibilities and given that we have said we have the know-how, for example, on renewable energy sources, product quality issues, etc., it can develop cooperation with many neighbouring countries and also more distant areas, so as to become a country on the map that is part of this effort to play a role with regard to modern technologies, the new development phase, if you will, of this world.
If we don‘t take advantage of that, we are essentially missing another train, a new, economic and development revolution that requires a diplomacy with the same kind of content. For instance, the day before yesterday, I was in Baku, Azerbaijan where I had discussions on traditional cooperation, natural gas, etc., but a very clear proposal was put forward there and Azerbaijan showed its intention to cooperate so that Greece can become a country that exports its know-how, also in the construction sector and on issues of renewable sources of energy.
Mr. D. Stamou: Mr. Minister, do you think that ecology, the environment, this green development will be the only sector – apart from the economy – that will determine key economic parameters in individual states and international relations from now on?
Mr. S. Kouvelis: I wouldn‘t say it will be the only determining factor.
Mr. D. Stamou: Will it be a catalytic factor, then?
Mr. S. Kouvelis: It is decisive. It is one of the determining factors. Think that at a global level and due to climate change, we see that in about fifty days we will have the major conference in Copenhagen. Greece has the choice to either have a voice there and have a really strong presence or to be absent. There is no middle solution. So this puts our country on the international map as a country with claims, with a viewpoint, with resolve.
You also mentioned earlier the migration issue. You know that the issue of immigration incorporates to a very large extent the issue of environmental migrants or migrants due to climate change. People with no place in the sun – to put it simply – because the areas where they live have been devastated by climate change…
Mr. N. Vafeiadis: But we were saying, Mr. Minister, that even today Somali immigrants were on board the boat that sank, that had this tragic ending. It is a given fact that climate conditions affect Somalia, the country is hit in one way or another or the same goes for Afghanistan.
Mr. S. Kouvelis:Precisely, yes. You know that these tragic figures – and I truly agree with your comment on today’s incident, like all the previous ones and unfortunately all the ones that will follow – that these people truly have nothing to lose. It is terrible if we think about it, because if you don’t have a plot of land to grow food for your children, then you have nothing to lose and you are willing to take any risk.
On this, there are things to be done, because the Foreign Ministry – also through the development assistance it offers – may help these people build a better future in their homeland. Do you know the preventive force this has in terms of restricting migrant flows?
Grand-scale projects do not always solve the problem. That is, by helping these people learn to produce some things, acquire the know how, by offering them microcredit, small funds in order for them to be able to set up a small family business. This is what happened with Grameen Bank, the microcredit bank, which was not a Greek initiative and has produced remarkable results.
We must look to such smart solutions in order to really help these people have a future. If we don’t, these people will be miserable and then cross the borders that we call “EU external borders”, in their hope for a better tomorrow.
Mr. N. Vafeiadis: And of course that’s where the problems start.
Mr. S. Kouvelis: Precisely, that’s where the problems start…
Mr. D. Stamou: Because it has become – as Mr. Kouvelis has said – the international community’s obligation. Now, let’s not kid ourselves. We live in the year 2010. It is offensive for humanity to behave like this, if I may say so.
Mr. S. Kouvelis: I agree with you, I agree. It is inhumane, it is offensive and indeed when we are discussing – because we are humans more than anything, we have families, if we consider this aspect, i.e., that on a boat like the one that sank yesterday, there are children aboard, I've seen it with my own eyes, do you realize what the first experiences of these children are? That nobody wants them and they will end up drowned.
Mr. N. Vafeiadis: But the point of the matter is what happens with Turkey, because as pressures mount for Turkey to accept…
Mr. D. Stamou: Also on the level of the European Union.
Mr. N. Vafeiadis:Yes, also on the level of the European Union.On the other hand, the Swedish EU Presidency leniently both in paper and through its proposals, so the issue that starts to emerge also requires battles to be held on a European level.What is your stance, your view on this matter?
Mr. S. Kouvelis:Look, we’ve said that at the level of the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister said so himself, we will support Turkey’s European course, but we want to see real action and agreement on certain issues.
One of these is to remember that we used to have a readmission agreement with Turkey, there was an agreement stipulating how this whole situation will be controlled, but it was left to be forgotten.Our own initiative and view is that these agreements should be revived, they should be implemented and we want to see signs on the part of Turkey on what they really want to do, in order for us to be able to support the European course.
We want Turkey to follow a European course, we want it to be a country that is a good and cooperative neighbour; but you know it takes two to tango.