Statement by H.E. George A. Papandreou
Minister for Foreign Affairs
57th Session of the UN General Assembly
New York, 15 September 2002
Mr. President, my dear friend, Jan Kavan,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The challenges we face at the beginning of the 21st century are immense. Terrible poverty, crises and wars, millions of refugees, the hideous face of terrorism, human, arms, and drug trafficking, regions decimated by diseases, as we continue to destroy the Earth's ecological balance.
There are no simple answers to any of these problems. But there is a place where we can all meet to find solutions: the United Nations. The world needs a strong United Nations.
I have just quoted my Swiss Colleague, first of all to celebrate his and East Timor's entry into the UN. And, secondly, because I fully agree with his statement.
In Kofi Annan's words:
'The more a country makes use of multilateral institutions - thereby respecting shared values, and accepting the obligations and restraints inherent in those values - the more others will trust and respect it, and the stronger its chance to exercise true leadership'.
Mr. President, my dear friend Jan Kavan, I know your personal commitment to this principle. Our two countries have worked closely in a common effort to promote peace, the rule of law, and shared values in South East Europe.
Today we can be proud that we also contributed in changing this region. It is no longer 'CNNable' as our colleague from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mr. Lagumdjia, said yesterday.
Yet this had not been an easy process.
Take my country, Greece. In the previous century, Greece went through two World Wars, two Balkan wars, and a major war with Turkey, which resulted in millions of refugees and painful population exchanges. We suffered under civil war, famine, and dictatorship. We witnessed the forced division of Cyprus through military invasion and occupation by Turkey, as well as the recent wars in the disintegrating former Yugoslavia in our back yard. Not far from us, conflict continues. We stand ready to support all efforts to ensure that Israel may be secure and the Palestinians may have a state they can call their own.
It is no wonder that we cherish the peace we have achieved. It is no wonder we cherish the fact that Greece today has its most stable democracy in modern history, that we are among the more prosperous countries in the world, and will soon be hosting one of the most demanding events mankind has created, the Olympics.
We have learned our lessons. We are where we are today, only because of our people's steadfast commitment to the shared values of democracy, peace, justice, and human rights.
We strive for an exchange among people proud of their respective cultures, yet respectful of their differences - we could call them cosmopolitan patriots. At the heart of this dialogue of cultures, this quest for a global community of values, we imagine individual citizens free from poverty and hunger, discrimination and violence. We see the blossoming of democracy in and between our societies and our global community.
It is no wonder that Greece has become a champion of the enlargement of the European Union, the biggest peace project for our region. The European Union has grown out of the united will of our citizens to live together in peace, following decades of war and authoritarianism. Our European identity is based on the shared principles of democracy, the search for common interests, grounded in equitable rules, which encourage consensus and dialogue. We are building a community not just of nations, but of values.
We have learned that no country can rid our planet of pollution single-handedly; nor achieve sustainable development in isolation. No single country can eradicate terrorism or human trafficking, disease, poverty, or hunger. These problems reach beyond borders, as do the resources necessary to resolve them.
We have learned that any problem in our neighbourhood affects us all. September 11th highlighted this on a horrendous and global scale.
We have learned that security is cooperative, as Joschka Fischer has called it. When the international community was divided in South East Europe, the region became 'Balkanized'. When we stood united, we created the foundations for peace and stability, creating a new vision where we can all share democratic values.
We have learned that regional cooperation means respect for our neighbours. We have learned that we can only resolve our problems through peaceful means. Otherwise our solutions will be painful, temporary and trigger a cycle of hatred that will blight generations to come.
We have learned that 'at the heart of these conflicts are human beings', as the Danish Prime Minister Mr. Rasmussen has said.
We have learned that democracy and human rights are fundamental for the life and dignity of all human beings.
Wherever our global principles are violated, they are usually done so by small groups of extreme individuals, whose myth is enriched in communities of violence and intolerance. Democracy will help us eradicate such phenomena.
Greece has suffered at the hands of a small terrorist organisation called November 17. Since June, Greek security forces have brought all the key members of November 17 to justice. This formidable achievement was supported by assistance from allied intelligence agencies, to whom we are indebted for their support. This experience is just one example of how close international cooperation can accomplish common goals and protect our common values. It is also a tribute to our lasting democratic institutions.
The Greek Presidency of the European Union, which begins in January 2003, will promote the values of democracy and peace in every element of its agenda. We will focus our efforts on reinforcing the transatlantic relationship. The US and the European Union share the same democratic values. Faced with the common threat of violence bred in authoritarianism, we must stand united in our efforts to promote peace within a multilateral framework.
The Greek Presidency will also be a tribute to the cultural diversity at the heart of our community of values. We will focus on reinvigorating democratic governance by renewing our efforts to build social inclusiveness and civil participation across borders - from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, from the Atlantic to the Caucasus, our new neighbourhood can become one of peace, democracy, and cooperation.
This brings me to a case in point. A few years ago, the notion of rapprochement between Greece and Turkey was unthinkable. Now, within the common context of a European vision, our governments are creating a framework to solve existing problems, and citizen's diplomacy is building a bridge of peace between our nations. Athens and Ankara have concluded a number of agreements - from energy to tourism, education to landmines - designed to ease the tensions that have kept us apart and strengthen our common interests. While fundamental differences remain on certain issues, in a short space of time, we have come a long way - and we can surely go further. I welcome the recent meeting here with my new Turkish counterpart, Mr. Gurel, and look forward to continuing this path of peace and cooperation.
Yet our shared values are being sorely tested on the issue of Cyprus. There is now a compelling deadline for a resolution to the continuing division of the island. Negotiations for the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union will be finalised in December. We hope that a free, united Cyprus will join a free, united Europe. Unification will undoubtedly bring greater security and prosperity to both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot population. But if a political settlement is not reached, the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus will join alone. Let us therefore break down the walls that keep these future European citizens apart.
With the exception of Turkey, the whole world shares a vision for Cyprus as a federal state with a single international personality and single citizenship, no foreign troops on its soil, and equal rights and security guarantees for both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. The vast majority of the Cypriot population agree that the two communities can and should live together, united by shared values, while preserving their individual cultural identities.
UN resolutions must be honoured, as my Maltese colleague just repeated.
Cyprus is also a critical factor for the stability and security of South Eastern Europe and the Middle East. A solution to the Cyprus problem will widen the area of stability and peace throughout the region.
The situation in Iraq is a challenge for us all. It challenges our respect for international law and our respect for international organizations. Greece vows to act in whichever way possible to safeguard these valued principles. In dealing with Iraq, our actions must be guided by hard evidence of a real threat to global security, and embedded in respect for the well-being of the Iraqi people. We must exhaust all diplomatic means available to ensure that Iraq complies with existing UN resolutions, immediately accepts the unconditional return of UN weapons inspections, and destroys all weapons of mass destruction. This will free the people of Iraq from the economic sanctions, which deprive them of their basic needs.
We welcome the statement by President Bush on the issue of Iraq. By returning the issue to the United Nations Security Council, he has both challenged it and empowered it to move forward more effectively and more credibly.
The value of democracy should not be taken for granted. But democracy must be reinforced to meet the new challenges and opportunities of our globalising world. In this spirit, Greece launched the first ever On-line Global Poll on Sustainable Development and the Environment in Johannesburg. E-democracy offers tremendous potential to strengthen civil participation and enhance global democratic legitimacy and transparency. We suggest that the United Nations establish a new global forum - an electronic demos, where citizens can articulate their views, mobilise around the issues that concern them, and shape political decision-making, both nationally and internationally.
Greece will make good on our commitment to sustainable development through concrete actions and specific targets.
This year, many countries celebrated the establishment of an institution based on the premise that good global governance must be built on sound global principles. The International Criminal Court is a commitment by our community of nations that no crime against humanity will go unpunished. Creating a watertight system of global justice, which requires all countries to uphold common rules, principles and rights, will be an important step towards building a real community of global values.
These same values lie at the heart of the Olympic Truce, an initiative endorsed by these United Nations in the Millennium Declaration. As the former South African President, Nelson Mandela, said when he signed the Olympic Truce declaration in June: "The Olympic Games represent one of the most evocative moments of celebrating our unity as human beings in pursuit of noble ideals. Paramount among those ideals is the quest for global peace."
We believe the voices that make a real difference in today's world are those that are true to the values we share as global citizens: the values of freedom, human rights, peace, and democracy.
As we prepare for our Presidency of the European Union and the Athens 2004 Games, we, in Greece, hope these voices are being heard further and further. For the values that we uphold can enrich us all. They can entice us and challenge us. They are values that can inspire change in one person, one community, one nation - but also in the world as a whole. These are the values upon which we must build our future and the future of our children.