New Greek FM Kotzias promises to be household name like Tsipras

New Greek FM Kotzias promises to be household name like Tsipras

It has been a week since last Sunday’s electoral victory of the leftist Syriza in Greece. Yet the international media, including Turkey, are still trying to assess and analyze the policies and strategies of the new government. Greece’s economic problems are naturally at the center of everybody’s concern. 

Perhaps it would be helpful to have a look at another aspect of the new Greek government’s policies: its foreign policy. It’s an area that is highly important as it will determine the basis on which Greece will conduct its relations with its neighbor Turkey. 

The new Greek foreign minister, Nikos Kotzias, is not at all new in the field of Greek-Turkish affairs. Some of you might remember him as a frequent visitor to Turkey during the period of the catastrophic earthquakes in Turkey and Greece in 1999 and the resulting Greek-Turkish diplomatic spring – known since as “earthquake diplomacy.” Kotzias was then a special adviser to the then-foreign minister of Greece, George Papandreou, and it was widely accepted that he had played an important role in the planning of that period’s Greek-Turkish rapprochement as a new policy doctrine.

A leftist political animal since his school years, he, like the new Greek prime minister, was a member of the leftist youth organizations and had important party posts as a member of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) until he resigned in 1989. His involvement in political affairs took up a different dimension when he became an adviser in the Greek Foreign Ministry and eventually an acclaimed academic with dozens of books and publications. In his latest book, entitled “The Colony of Debt” (2013), he introduced a new theory that EU is developing into an empire based on the markets, the bureaucratic structure in Brussels and Germany, which is heading a two-tier region of a rich north and poor south. He is also known for believing strongly in national sovereignty as an important tool of foreign policy and that Greece, in spite of its current economic problems, could contribute to regional stability and balance.

Already we got a taste of his energetic approach when he objected to a new package of sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine during the EU foreign ministers’ meeting last week.  

So it is interesting to find out how he plans to conduct the policies of his country regarding Turkey, and whether his “friendship policies” of the 1990s will be different under a Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. 

Interestingly enough, just hours before taking up his new post, Kotzias took part in a panel debate organized by a publishing house in Athens on the “Geopolitical dimensions of the Greek crisis.” He spoke of a renewed confrontation unfolding between East and West where Greece once again finds itself on the borders between two worlds. He strongly argued that Greece is the stable point in a geopolitical “triangle of instability,” between the Middle East, Libya and Ukraine. 

“The issue is whether Greece will be able to produce its own policies of stability being at the center of this triangle, or allow its own position as a stable point to be destabilized on the pretext of its ‘debt problem?’” he argued and claimed that “a possible destabilization of Greece would create waves of instability in Europe, too.”
Kotzias believes that Greek governments have always postponed solving the country’s many foreign affairs problems. “Greece should prioritize these issues and find solutions.”  

Kotzias believes in democratic patriotism, in the defense of democratic and the social rights of a nation, in national sovereignty both on the domestic and international front. He attributes high importance to cultural identity and thinks that “if we refer everything to the economy we may end up in economism.”

Regarding Turkey and Greece he thinks that the balance of power has dramatically changed in recent years particularly in this current period of crisis in Greece.  

He thinks that Turkey is following policies aiming at “freezing” Greece’s rights as derived from international law. 

“So good relations with Turkey should be based on respect for international law and not on its challenge; and Europe should not protest over breaches of international law in third countries while allowing the breaching of international law on its own territory. This is hypocritical,” he says. 

He also believes that the EU’s membership negotiations with Turkey have lost their validity “because Europeans have made it clear that they will not give Turkey full membership.”

New Greek FM Kotzias promises to be household name like Tsipras