Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece


at the Center for Strategic and International Studies

Washington, D.C.

february 13, 2008


"Transforming South-East Europe: A Challenge to Smart Power"

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you Dr. Hamre and Brent Scowcroft — two men I deeply respect – for your kind introduction; special thanks to the Center for Strategic and International Studies for the kind invitation.

Today, I wish to speak of transformation and "smart power" – both to the service of South Eastern Europe. You may ask: why South Eastern Europe and smart power, and I admit it may appear odd to delve into South Eastern Europe when the focus of international attention is on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or on the ever-tumultuous Middle East.

Well yes, I plead guilty to a "certain" geographical bias. Being ‘closer to home', this is a region of utmost concern for Greece. But I assure you; it is much more than that. South Eastern Europe remains today a fragile post-conflict zone. There is always the picture drawn up by a recent New York Times opinion column: "The Balkans," and I quote, "have a dismal way of living up to their stereotype as a region of ancient, intertwined and irreconcilable feuds."

Since 1989, the region has witnessed extraordinary change — both positive and negative. Yet, despite all they have endured, the peoples of the Balkans are now building the springboard from which to jump towards their dreams of a better life.

It is disquietingly clear, however, that peace in the region is far from guaranteed. Stability and economic development are far from sustained. Ethnic tension, weak rule of law, organized crime, porous borders and sluggish economic performance, continue to haunt considerable areas of the wider Balkans.

Simply put: to complete the region's transformation, we still have a long way to go. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

One lesson we have learned: only integrated strategies can carry the day. A comprehensive approach is essential. We need – as coined by your own Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye – "smart power":  a potent blend of "hard" and "soft" power.

We are not the first to discover the merits of such a strategy. Thucydides faithfully records the famous words of Archidamus, the King of Sparta, who defined good allies, and I quote, "not as those who were forced, but rather persuaded… as those who will not welcome our friendship because of our power, but who will be disposed towards us as friends".

Smart power is much more than brains, if you will pardon the pun. Much of our success depends on the heart; on the force of our values. These common principles include respect of democracy, human rights, free trade, free enterprise, tolerance of cultural, linguistic and religious diversity.

Adhesion to these values forms the very roadmap, which determines the course of accession of aspirant countries to the Euro-Atlantic family.

In 2003, the European Union, during the Greek Presidency, outlined a European perspective for the region. Coupled with NATO enlargement, the EU prospect is an important driving force for these countries: it provides them with the impetus to make the necessary change and reform. The road to NATO and the EU fosters peace, breeds security and provides space for viable

and sustainable development.

In the words of Constantine Cavafy: "towards our Ithaca is a road well worth taking".

Now I must admit, I am not sure whether I would go as far as to call EU or NATO enlargement as paradigms of smart power, but I can definitely say it's smart politics. The fruits of these policies are more than evident.

Look no further than Slovenia, the current holder of the EU Presidency, a country of the region that was invited to NATO in 2002, and welcomed into the European Union only in 2004.

Croatia, amongst others a newly elected non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, is an exemplary candidate for both the EU and NATO, and one can safely assume will join both organizations very soon.

Albania's efforts in social and financial reform have been recognized with the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, the SAA, with the EU.

Montenegro, a new entrant in the world of nation-states, has managed in a very short time to endorse the SAA with the EU, and join NATO's Partnership for Peace Programme.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's Euro-Atlantic perspective gained new impetus when the SAA with the EU was authorized last December. Of course, twelve years after the Dayton Accords, much remains to be done, especially when it comes

to streamlining decision-making. Yet, it is significant that countless prophesies of doom never materialized.  

Turkey is well down the long and difficult road of reform. 2008 provides a window of opportunity for the Cyprus problem. Should Turkey be ready to comply with the European acquis, the EU must in turn honor its commitments

and grant full member status.


Our neighbor's EU membership will for Greece be a moment of great satisfaction. It will mean that years of negotiations and of laborious efforts have borne fruit.

Abiding by our set of values, ladies and gentlemen, we must honor our promises. Whatever internal turmoil we may be facing in the Union or in Alliance, we must ensure that our credibility remains unchallenged. This means sticking to our basic principle that full compliance means full membership.

This was tangibly demonstrated by Romania and Bulgaria, who joined NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007. These were historic events with profound regional significance.

Events that carried with them hope and optimism for the Balkans. But also sent a clear message: countries that meet requirements must and should, join the Euro-Atlantic family. And this must be remembered.

In the framework of multilateral initiatives, as well as on a bilateral level, Greece has and continues to contribute decisively to the implementation of necessary reforms.

As the region's oldest NATO and EU member, Greece feels a heightened sense of responsibility for our neighborhood; an obligation to be constructive, supportive and practical.

In socio-economic terms, a snapshot of the region often reveals poverty, inequality, displacement, unemployment, inflation and corruption – all significant barriers to foreign investment.

For Greece, economic development is an essential tool for political stability. This explains our dynamic presence in the region. We are at the forefront in terms of investment, with over 20 billion dollars invested. More than 3,500 Greek enterprises are active in the region. An estimated 200,000 new jobs have been created. Greece is the primary foreign investor in Albania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Serbia. The second foreign investor in Romania, and third in Bulgaria.

In the banking sector alone, nearly 2,000 branches of Greek banks operate across South Eastern Europe. At the same time, a five-year programme for Greek development assistance is well under way for the period 2004-2011.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

With regard to the region's "Road to Ithaca", serious political issues remain unsolved; they call for rigorous efforts and closer collaboration from all of us on both sides of the Atlantic, in NATO and the EU.  It is clear that all our labors will be futile if we fail to establish political stability in the region.

For the international press, as of late the Balkans have been synonymous with Kosovo.

Exponents of a more traditional hard power approach will be happy to hear that of the total 17,000 NATO-led troops deployed in the Western Balkans today, 16,000 are stationed in Kosovo, including a significant Greek commitment. Today Kosovo faces a series of complexities and qualms. It is one of Europe's poorest regions. More than half of its inhabitants live in deprivation. Over 50% of its population is under 30 years of age while unemployment is one of Europe's highest.

Moreover, it is a landlocked area with few competitive advantages, and a long history of economic mismanagement. Add to this, the tension between the region's ethnic Albanians and the remaining Serbs, making Kosovo – in the very least – volatile.

I understand there is a sense of urgency over Kosovo's final status. Frankly speaking however, we in Athens, like in several other capitals in the region, do not share this haste. Defining Kosovo's future status is a very complicated and fragile task. There is no easy solution, no easy way out. Many view independence as a magic wand of sorts, which, once waved, will produce jobs, running water, electricity, education, health and prosperity.

But let's be realistic, we all know that independence is no panacea.

Prime Minister Thaci made a parallel point from Pristina in an op-ed published

in the International Herald Tribune a few days ago, and I quote: "We need more than independence. We need economic, social and political development…. The way we live from here on will depend on how well we manage development."

Make no mistake, ladies and Gentlemen: at the heart of the European continent, Kosovo's stability concerns us all. Europe has a central role to play oth now and in the future, and it is imperative that the EU speak in a single voice.

Any solution reached must be in line with EU values. This provides the necessary safeguards for the region's stability. Kosovo must be democratic, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. It must display tolerance and ensure that the rights of all its inhabitants are protected, regardless of religion and ethnic origin. For a solution to be viable, it must foster stability and security.

One must admit that it is difficult to manage and control developments. Even the best laid plans can get out of hand at some point. However, whatever the outcome of "the day after," the international community in general, and Europe in particular, will need to remain committed to Kosovo.

Hence, the launching of the ESDP mission the soonest possible presents fewer legal and political hurdles than any other alternative. Needless to say that the ESDP mission will allow the EU to play a balancing and constructive role in Kosovo, to the benefit of all parties involved. Resolution 1244 offers the basis for such a move.

This very conclusion was also reached at the tripartite meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece, held in Athens, this past December, when coordinating a common regional approach.

Of course, no discussion can be complete without Serbia – one of the region's key states. Indeed, no Balkan equilibrium can ignore Serbia.

It is perhaps less known that Serbia's structural reform progress has been impressive, making it even more unfortunate that EU-Serbian relations have been at a stalemate for so long.

This particular unraveling of EU-Serbian relations is a setback for both Serbia and the region as a whole. We envision Serbia as an integral part of South Eastern Europe in our European neighborhood. It has a great deal to offer the EU, and likewise, the EU has a great deal to give in return. Serbia can no longer be haunted by its past, it must move forward in order to reach its full potential.

Europe recently demonstrated its flexibility by inviting Serbia to sign a political agreement of co-operation. This was a clear-cut and unequivocal political message: Serbia belongs to the Union and its people are an essential part of the European family.

Likewise, Serbia's invitation to NATO's Partnership for Peace Programme was catalytic. It is vital however that the PFP be not allowed to lay dormant.

President Tadic's re-election is good omen. He has a clear Euro-Atlantic perspective that must be encouraged by the international community.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Most often good news does not travel fast, but I am hopeful that South Eastern Europe will soon find its way into the international media in the weeks and months ahead for a different reason: NATO enlargement. 

In the coming NATO Bucharest summit, the Alliance is expected to decide on whether to extend invitations to three aspiring partner countries: Croatia, Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Having patiently heard me speak for so long, I am sure you will have concluded that on principle Greece wholeheartedly supports NATO's enlargement.

We believe that NATO enlargement can contribute significantly to enhanced stability and security for all countries in the Euro-Atlantic Area. Enlargement will reinforce the overall tendency toward closer integration and cooperation in Europe, strengthen the Alliance's ability to contribute to European and international security, and boost the transatlantic partnership.

As a 1995 study carried out by the Alliance concluded, enlargement would amongst others contribute, and I quote: "by fostering patterns and habits of cooperation, consultation and consensus-building characteristic of relations among members of the Alliance; and promoting good-neighborly relations".

Croatia and Albania, I am happy to say, have made considerable headway in the past few years, proving that they are in a position to further the principles

of the North Atlantic Treaty. However, it saddens me that I cannot speak the same of our neighbor, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

As many of you are aware, for over fifteen years our two countries have been involved in UN-sponsored negotiations regarding FYROM's name. Greece has real concerns over the issue.

What's in a name, you may ask. A great deal, I assure you. Geographically, Macedonia is a wider region, more than 50% of which belongs to Greece. There are today more than two point five million Greeks who consider themselves Macedonians. You may have met some of these proud Macedonians who live in the United States. Two point five million Greek Macedonians who feel that the very core of their identity is under siege. Why?

Because of Skopje's nationalistic, anachronistic policy of attempting to monopolize Macedonian identity. Our neighbors use the language of the 19th century and they hope to be understood in the 21st.


This is not a question of political psychology or mass sentiment. It is an issue of regional stability.

Greece has repeatedly demonstrated its goodwill and expressed its eagerness

to support FYROM both politically and economically. As the largest foreign investor and one of the biggest trade partners in FYROM, we have spared no effort in responding to the country's quest for economic growth and stability.

Under UN auspices, Greece has come to the table with a clear objective: a long-overdue mutually-acceptable, composite solution which includes the geographical term Macedonia and yet makes the mark.

This reflects the letter and spirit of the UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, and of the 1995 Interim Accord.

We have engaged in this process constructively and with an open mind. We have proven to be considerably flexible in our quest for a win-win solution.

However, our friends in Skopje must also cover some ground. They have not done so this far. They tend to define compromise rather elliptically as a state in which everyone agrees with them but they do not move an inch. Skopje has but one route to NATO and the European Union: respect for the principle

of good-neighbourly relations and this includes a mutually-acceptable solution.

Alliances and partnerships can only be fostered between countries if there is mutual trust and good neighborly relations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Concluding let me stress that we must not fall into the risk of focusing purely on the rubble which, unavoidably, is part of every ‘work in progress'. We must not overlook the resilience and commitment of the peoples, who with courage and optimism look to the future, or better said, to their European-Atlantic future.

We cannot ignore the involvement of the EU and its member states in the countries of South Eastern Europe. We must not neglect NATO's commitment

to consolidating stability and security in the region.

And we cannot overlook the important role and the influence the US exerts in the region. This is the "smart power" that is in demand today.

In this light, Greece is aware of its key role and responsibility, and is prepared to rise to the challenge.

Prominent French-Romanian playwright and dramatist Eugene Ionesco once wrote that "ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together". In an unstable world, common dreams alleviate our fears of an unpredictable tomorrow. We believe that our shared dream should be the birth of solid partnerships. Partners of the global community and for the global community.

This, for us, is our ultimate Ithaca.

Thank you very much.