I would like to express my warm thanks for the hospitality you have extended to me and to the Greek delegation. Your warm words reflect our excellent relations and the bonds of friendship between our peoples.
Our relations go back a long way. Legends exist which take them back to the age of the Argonauts. According to tradition, it was Jason and the Argonauts who founded the capital of Slovenia.
In modern times, the city of Koper or Capodistria is linked to the first Governor of modern Greece, Ioannis Capodistrias. The Greek language and culture are taught at the School of Philosophy of the University of Ljubljana. Furthermore, the Slovenian-Greek Cultural Association is expected to give a new dynamism to the cultural relations and the cooperation between the two peoples.
Our countries have another common characteristic. The Mediterranean Sea which unites us offers great possibilities for cooperation and pushes us towards joint political, cultural, environmental and economic activities. It is very important to us that Slovenia hosts the seat of the Euro-Mediterranean University, an Intellectual Institution which strengthens even further the cooperation among the Universities of the wider region.
Our commercial and economic relations have grown. Another important step which strengthens our relations and brings our peoples closer to one another is the steady increase in the movement of tourists in both directions. The important increase in the volume of our trade during 2008 indicates that there can be a new impetus in our relations in this field. This is the objective of the Business Forum which will take place during this visit.
The global economic crisis which we are now going through in South-eastern Europe is mainly being felt by the more vulnerable economies and the most vulnerable groups of the population. It is a blow to employment levels and to the standard of living. It brings about unacceptable conditions of exploitation of the labour force. Economic and social inequalities are exacerbated. We must formulate clear proposals and offer solutions which will deal with the problems which have arisen. Over and above this, the European Union should set out and implement a specific policy of solidarity towards its weakest members, expressed in the form of institutional policies of assistance.
Your country is an example for new democracies for its full and swift implementation of the European acquis and its institutions. Greece fully supports the European aspirations of the countries of the Western Balkans and considers that important progress has been made since the Thessaloniki Agenda in 2003. The 100th anniversary of the end of World War I should be a day of celebrating peace for Europe, not just a day of remembrance for the victims of the Great War.
Maintaining good neighbourly relations is an inviolable principle for the consolidation of conditions of stability in the Balkans. Greece seeks to solve the problems based on the principles of International Law, on cooperation and international legality. On this basis, the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is not simply a disagreement of historic or symbolic nature. The problem is that Skopje is presenting the whole geographical area of Macedonia as the homeland of their nation.
Greece aims at solving this problem once and for all. We are in favour of a name with geographical qualification for all purposes. We seek a solution reflecting the reality in the area and not obsolete views. Let me make this very clear from Slovenia too: the integration of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into the Euro Atlantic institutions goes through Athens. To be more specific, the resolution of the issue of the name is a requirement.
The Cyprus issue remains an issue of invasion and occupation of a member state of the European Union and of the United Nations. It is an international issue. Greece is actively in favour of a viable and functional solution, fully compatible with the Community acquis, a solution which respects the fundamental democratic principles, human rights and the principle of the rule of law. There can be no permanent derogations, no occupation army, no servitudes and guarantors. It should not be possible for any community to create an impasse to the functioning and the activities of the state and through that to the functioning of the European Union.
Our position is clear. We cannot support Turkey’s European aspirations while they act as an occupation force in Cyprus. It is inconceivable for a country aspiring to become a full member not to recognize a country which already is a full member. Turkey must recognize the Republic of Cyprus. But not only do they not do that, they do not even implement the ‘Ankara Protocol’, which they have signed, for a customs association with the Republic of Cyprus.
In December the European Council will decide on Turkey’s course of accession. This evaluation will not be just a pretext. There are clear conditions and requirements. It is a course which will continue only if Turkey complies with its conventional obligations. This is not an issue which is just the concern of the Republic of Cyprus. It is an issue of credibility and prestige for the European Union itself.
In conclusion, I would like to note that our countries share the same concerns in relation to international security, the protection of human rights and the protection of the environment. In view of the forthcoming Copenhagen Conference, I would like to stress that the protection of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development have now become mainstream policies at a global level.
I believe that this visit will further promote our cooperation in every sector and strengthen the friendship between our states and our peoples. With these thoughts, I raise my glass to wish you and your wife health and happiness and growth and prosperity to the friendly people of Slovenia.-