PERMANENT MISSION OF GREECE TO THE UNITED NATIONS

STATEMENT BY

H. E. MR. GEORGE A. PAPANDREOU

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE HELLENIC REPUBLIC

New York, 26 September 2003
58th Session of the UN General Assembly

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Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mr. President, let me begin by congratulating you on your election. You assume your duties at a difficult juncture in international affairs. I am sure that, under your guidance, this Assembly will make a positive contribution to fostering peace and progress in the world.

Let me also extend my warmest thanks to your predecessor and good friend, Jan Kavan, for his exemplary commitment and diligence.

The Greek government fully subscribes to the statement delivered by Mr. Frattini, on behalf of the European Union, as well as the [Memorandum] of EU Priorities for this General Assembly.

During the recent Greek Presidency of the European Union, I had the honour our working closely with our Secretary General, Kofi Annan, at a very crucial time. Secretary Kofi Annan often has to wage an uphill battle in his efforts to safeguard the moral authority and carry out the mandate of the United Nations. His tireless efforts to promote peace and security world-wide deserve our fullest support and appreciation.

And indeed, this year, the United Nations has undergone one of the most testing periods in its history. During the Iraqi crisis, the world’s citizens put great faith in the power of the United Nations; faith in its power to respond to the potential threat of weapons of mass destruction, while at the same time preserving peace and the legitimacy of international law.

The leaders of the international community failed to unite around global public opinion - and a war ensued. As Kofi Annan told this assembly, a new doctrine of pre-emptive force and unilateralist actions has called into question our long tradition of global consensus on collective security.

Paradoxically – in spite of this crisis - our citizens today expect more, rather than less, from the United Nations. Whether we are dealing with poverty, inequality, human rights violations, terrorism, pollution, or weapons of mass destruction, the world looks to us for leadership.

We are expected to transform today’s insecurity into tomorrow’s opportunities. This may seem like a tall order. But it is possible.

It is possible today as we are witnessing a growing consciousness of the need to think seriously about global governance. This consciousness has to do with the magnitude and complexity of the issues humanity is grappling with. It has to do with the fact that, in an era of globalisation, a problem in another corner of the world can have major effects in our own neighbourhood – in our global village.

The legitimacy of the United Nations is at the heart of this debate. If we are to convince the more powerful in this world that unilateralism does not pay, we need to show that multilateralism is effective. We need to prove that organizations such as ours can deal effectively with threats to our peace and security. We need to rethink our institutions. They must be financially and politically viable. We must ensure that our institutions derive their legitimacy not only from the action we take, the just decisions we make but by the fact that they are truly democratic: that they are representative - as far as possible - of a global consensus.

All this is possible. But it requires courageous changes; certainly the courage to open up a sincere dialogue between citizens, countries, continents and civilizations. We therefore fully endorse the Secretary General’s proposal for the reform of the United Nations. By the time this Assembly meets next year, we need to have achieved realistic targets and tangible results, re-evaluate the role of the UN’s various bodies and their respective missions. The role of the Security Council is paramount, and its composition must be more representative in order to ensure full trust in its authority and legitimacy.

The United Nations can become central in safeguarding humankind’s security, peace and prosperity. Greece will secure this goal if we are honoured by you in being elected to the United Nations Security Council for the term from 2005.

From the corner of the world I come from, I can seriously state that the prospect of peace is possible.

In the last century, Greece lived through two World Wars, two Balkan wars, a major war with Turkey, a famine, a civil war, numerous dictatorships and confrontation with Turkey over Cyprus. We also became a major recipient of refugees from crises, ethnic cleansing and wars in our region of South Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Today, there is hope in the Balkans that peace can become permanent, that democracy can flourish and human beings can live together in dignity irrespective of their religious, political or ethnic affiliation.

Greece and Turkey have come out of a long period of tension and suspicion of over 40 years where little contact existed and no bilateral agreements were ever signed. Twice in the last decades we came to the brink of war. Today, I can stand before you and state that Greece and Turkey have ratified 14 agreements in areas from tourism to agriculture, education to security, we have agreed on 10 confidence building measures, and although fundamental differences remain on specific issues we are now working cooperatively to try and deal with some of the most contentious and controversial of questions that have divided us for decades.

Another testimony to this is the fact that, with my Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, we simultaneously submitted the ratification instruments of the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines yesterday, here in this building.

In Cyprus, an island divided after the Turkish invasion and occupation in 1974, we see a common desire for building a democratic, re-united Cyprus, where Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots can live together in peace. Last April, following the lifting of restrictions on free movement - thousands of Cypriots seized the opportunity to cross the so-called ‘Green Line, meet with each other, and demonstrate that it is possible for them to share a common future.

However, this easing of restrictions is not a substitute for a comprehensive settlement to the island’s political problem. Over the years, Greece has actively supported the efforts of the Secretary General for a comprehensive settlement, in conformity with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the principles on which the European Union is founded [acquis communitaire]. These resolutions must be implemented. We will not give up hope until all Cypriots can live together in harmony and security, in a federal state with a single citizenship, without foreign troops in its territory. On May 1, 2004, Cyprus will be a full member of the European Union. We hold out the hope that the Annan Plan will be used as a basis for negotiations and a solution is found, so that the Turkish Cypriot population will also enjoy the security and prosperity that European Union accession will bring. It is possible.

Yet these sustained efforts for peace in the region would not have been possible if it were not for the creation of a viable and stable, sustainable framework of shared values, shared principles, shared visions, shared interests, and deep commitment to the respect of our citizen’s rights.

This framework, this vision, these common values, can be summed up in one phrase: Our European Union.

Fifty years ago, Europe was shattered by two world wars and countless regional conflicts. Through our common values of respect for the rule of law, democracy, freedom, and solidarity, we have overcome wars, the Holocaust, the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today, the EU is a model of multilateralism: a system of collective governance that advances the shared interests and addresses the common problems of a coalition of nation states, who all aspire to peace and security. Europe may not have a magic wand that can solve all crises, but we have proved that it is possible to build a stable and democratic continent. It is this prospect that now unites us in the Balkans, gives hope to Greek Turkish relations and creates a common vision for Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

The United Nations can learn from our experience as it prepares to undertake the necessary reforms.

What the EU has provided is not a magic wand. We have simply said that the matters of war and peace are so important for humanity that they cannot be left simply to leaders, no matter how great they may be, they cannot be left to negotiators, no matter how skilful they may be, they cannot be left to earthquakes, apocalypses or inspirations however momentous they may be.

What is needed is a stable, sustainable, secure environment of common values, international law, accepted practice and purpose.

It is within this secure environment where we can work out road maps and benchmarks and milestones and target dates and goals that become both credible and powerful as tools for peaceful resolution of conflict and lasting institutions of stability and conviviality

This is why the United Nations has become so important for Iraq and its people. This is why the United Nations and the Quartet is so important for the application of the Road Map to solve the Palestinian and wider Middle East conflict.

If we differed on the means of dealing with Iraq, in Europe we remain united in our conviction that the UN has a vital role to play in the reconstruction and stabilisation process.

Indeed, I would argue that the current predicament in Iraq is a stark reminder that multilateral cooperation is an imperative for world peace and security. It is only possible to bring lasting peace to Iraq, if we all work together. In stating the importance of the United Nations’ role, we are simply stating the urgent need to create a stable international environment, within which solutions can be nurtured, can mature, and can stabilise the region.

The establishment of the interim Iraqi Governing Council and the appointment of a 25-member Iraqi Cabinet are important steps that will lead the people of Iraq to the rapid formation of a free, democratic and truly representative government. But this transition will not be easy. The second attack on the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad a few days ago – and the tragic loss of Sergio de Mello - is chilling evidence that we still have a long way to go before the peace is won. With its invaluable experience of conflict resolution and crisis management, there is no question that the United Nations should play a pivotal role.

It is within this context that it must be possible to see a Palestinian State by 2005 living side by side with a secure Israel.
It is within this context that we, as Presidency of the European Union, gave great emphasis to engaging in a meaningful dialogue of cultures, which can heal the deepening rifts in how different cultures view our changing world. During the Greek Presidency, we devoted considerable efforts to strengthening Europe’s relations with the Arab world. We hope this dialogue of cultures will be strengthened, thus furthering peace, democracy, and prosperity.

Iraq challenged Europe to think globally. We realised that in order to safeguard our citizens’ security, we must develop stronger foreign and defence policies. On an initiative of the Greek Presidency, the European Union launched the first European Security Strategy. We are creating more clearly defined defence policies, and greater military and crisis management capabilities. Last June, the European Union adopted its first Strategy against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, along with a Joint Action Plan. This was quickly followed by a framework agreement between the EU and US on weapons of mass destruction.

Similarly, problems such as terrorism, drug, arms, and people trafficking, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction all point to a world where conflict is not confined within national frontiers. It is only logical to conclude that they can only be properly addressed through multilateral actions and policies.

Sustainable development can bring sustainable peace. Sustainable peace also depends on the freedom of our citizens. Freedom of choice. Freedom to participate. Freedom from oppression. Freedom from fear and discrimination. Democracy bodes well for security, because security cannot be achieved without legitimacy. But democracy cannot be imposed; it must be nurtured. And the difficult task ahead concerns the establishment of trans-national, democratic processes. This is a global challenge we cannot afford to ignore. It must be possible. Otherwise, we will always be prey to extremist forces who resort to violence, often exploiting the sense of exclusion from prosperity and human rights felt by many citizens.
This year, extreme forces were responsible for the untimely deaths of three champions of democracy. Allow me to mention them - Zoran Djindjic, Sergio De Mello, and Anna Lindh. Their tragic deaths present a critical challenge for the very freedom and democracy they fought so hard to defend. We must not allow the threat of violence, intolerance, and fear to hold our democratic societies hostage. We must not let insecurity blind us to the simple truth that democracy holds the key to a world without violence.

Today, our challenge in our global village is to examine whether our current international system of governance is truly democratic. We must ask ourselves tough questions: How representative and accountable are our international institutions? Who decides on global rules and regulations? Who implements these decisions? Whose interests do they serve? Why do so many of our citizens feel moved to stage protests outside international summits? How can we address their grievances and include them in the decision-making process?

If we can find satisfactory answers to these questions, we will have come a long way towards replacing today’s insecurity with tomorrow’s opportunities.

Building on our long history of democracy, Greece is committed to supporting and developing new democratic practices. The Internet has created radical new possibilities to reinvigorate and enrich democratic dialogue. We created an online experiment during the Greek Presidency called e-Vote. Through this electronic demos, citizens could participate in ongoing debates. Three months from now, we will assemble in Geneva for the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society. There, Greece will host a special conference on ‘The Promise of e-Democracy’. I invite you all to attend.

Finally, in this global village, we need to have our global festivals to celebrate humanity and our common values. One such festival is the Olympic Games. Less than a year from now, Greece will have the privilege of celebrating the homecoming of the greatest peace gathering of our time. On the occasion of the 2004 Athens Olympics, Greece has introduced a new Resolution on "Building a Peaceful and Better World through Sport and the Olympic Ideal", for adoption by this General Assembly. We want to encourage the notion that it is possible to create lasting peace from a pause in hostilities.

The United Nations, and in particular our Secretary General, have long championed the value of peaceful cooperation through sport. Since 1993, this Assembly has unanimously adopted six Resolutions, calling for a Truce during the Olympic Games. This draft Resolution, like the ones before it, calls on all Member-States to observe the Olympic Truce - the longest peace accord in history. I urge you to support it.

Let us reaffirm our commitment to the spirit of peaceful cooperation upon which the Olympics were founded. Let us send a symbolic message from this international body of peace - for a peaceful Olympics, and, ultimately, for a more peaceful world. Let us prove that this is also possible.

Thank you.