President of the Hellenic Republic

Speech made to the Assembly

Monday, 21 April 1997

Ladies and gentlemen members of the Assembly, it is with sincere feelings of high esteem that I appear in front of the Council of Europe, an organisation dedicated to protecting the great ideals of democracy – the individual and social rights, as well as the rights of peaceful co-existence and co-operation among countries. It is an organisation that boasts an impressive record of success in that field. Indeed, for the whole duration of the cold war the Council of Europe was a staunch supporter of democratic principles. Its very existence and action was vindicated in the most manifest way by the collapse of the communist regimes that sealed the final prevalence of those precious values.

The sensitivity to these great principles, to which everyone of you is firmly committed, is expressed both in your national parliaments and in this Assembly, which I have the honour to address. You are the most genuine spokesmen and spokeswomen of democratic ideas and the most sincere advocates of individual rights. Truth, justice and humanistic values are the criteria invoked by your Council when called to decide upon issues that fall under its jurisdiction. However, it happens sometimes that other influences prevail over your decisions – influences that oppose and hinder your manifest will. In fact, the decisions of governments – and let us not forget that those decisions are implemented – are very often dictated by geopolitical or economic interests. I do not want to underplay the importance of those interests, but I firmly believe, as you all do, that the great human values and principles must not give way and lose ground to those interests.

In addressing you, I recall the time when, almost thirty years ago, at the apogee of the cold war, the struggle against the expansion of communist totalitarianism prevailed over any other concern – even over those principles that the free world is meant to protect and serve. Yet during that time, the Council of Europe had the courage to defend its principles by expelling the Greek military regime from this sacred Assembly, which is dedicated to the respect of human rights – the human rights that constitute the basis and foundation of every true democratic form of government.

Such a brave decision must have represented the worst humiliation that the military regime ever suffered and has significantly contributed to strengthening further the will of the Greek people to resist dictatorship. It indeed reassured the Greek people that there are still international organisations firmly committed to honouring their commitments instead of yielding to the cynicism that at that time characterised most of the governments, who were ready to sacrifice respect for democratic principles in the service of their short-sighted interests.

Having prevailed in once separated worlds and proved its supremacy over opposing ideologies, democracy has no more visible enemies to confront. Nevertheless, our countries’ attachment to the ideas of democracy and to freedom must not prevent us from identifying certain deficiencies and shortcomings of democratic institutions. As we all know, ideal democracy is a vision at which we should aim by constantly ameliorating our record. That is why I believe that democratic nations should continuously re-examine their institutions in order to make them more efficient. They should search for new forms of institutions that correspond to rapidly changing social conditions – capable of coping properly with emerging challenges. The existence of independent constitutional or administrative courts undoubtedly significantly enhanced the proper function of the state. I hope that, at this point, the Assembly will allow me to express my deep respect for those courts and their mission.

In referring to the shortcomings of democracy I have in mind the genuine and truly free democratic forms of government which are embarrassed by the deficiencies and difficulties that occur, such as their failing to cope effectively with complex contemporary social relations. I am not referring to the “forged” or fake regimes, which are democratic in name only. Fortunately, there are few of them, which are tolerated for economic or other reasons. Such nominally democratic regimes make the Council of Europe’s mission extremely important. I am aware that the Assembly has never ceased to search for, and to point out, the shortcomings of such countries, which could benefit greatly by such remarks.

I express the wish that the Council of Europe follow every country, with no exception — including, of course, my country – with a vigilant eye. In its whole course of action the Council of Europe should contribute to maintaining Europe’s role as an international standard bearer of the great ideals of freedom, democracy, justice and equality, as proclaimed by the French and, before the French Revolution, during the American Revolution. The ideals originate from Greece and constitute perhaps its most valuable legacy to the modem world.

In supporting democratic institutions and methods, and especially following the recent accession of new members of the Council of Europe, I believe that the Parliamentary Assembly’s role should be strengthened. Thus, the actual implementation of democracy, for which we all strive, will become broadly common property.

Modem democratic Greece, in addition to its dedication to the principles of peace and co-operation among countries, is particularly attached to the principles of civil rights and firmly committed to the respect for human rights. Prevalent proof of such respect is given on the one hand by its political practice and on the other by its adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights – as well as by the support that it has already given to the decisions of the Vienna Summit concerning the control procedures of the European Convention on Human Rights pertaining to the protection of ethnic minorities and the struggle against racial discrimination, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

Only within a genuine democratic framework can appropriate solutions be found to problems related to minorities. At this point I should like to underline the attention paid by Greece to respecting the rights of the Muslim minority in western Thrace. That minority, consisting of people of Turkish origin, Pomaks and Gypsies, enjoys all the privileges of the Lausanne treaty. Such privileges, applying to the teaching of the Turkish language and the practice of Muslim religious worship, go beyond those recognised in relation to minorities in the various pertinent legal documents. It is worth mentioning, among other things, that the Muslim minority of western Thrace is the only Muslim group of people in Europe, including Turkey, which is ruled according to the holy law of Islam, the Shariah, concerning matters of family and hereditary law. The provisions of that law are applied by the religious leaders of the minority, the Muftis, who are consequently invested with judicial and administrative duties.

Greece would be only too happy had its neighbours shown the same respect for their respective obligations to the Greek minority. If that had been so, the number of its members in Constantinople would have been greater than the number of Muslims in Thrace – 115 000 to 120 000 instead of barely 2 000 mostly elderly people. Such terrible shrinkage is the result of both the repeated and violent persecution that the Greek minority suffered between 1955 and 1964 and the rule of terror under which they continue to live. That exasperating situation has been described more than once in the reports of the well-known organisation Helsinki Watch.

Moreover, the Greek population of the islands of Imvros and Tenedos would now total approximately 10 000 and be enjoying the special status of administrative autonomy under Article 14 of the Treaty of Lausanne, instead of having dwindled to 200 or 300 old people. Last but not least, had the Turkish authorities respected their international obligations, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the centre for orthodox Christians from all over the world, would not have been obliged to close down its printing house and its school of theology.

At the end of the last decade and during the beginning of the present one, we all witnessed unique historic events that reversed the political, military and ideological events that had characterised the European landscape for more than forty years. With the will of their peoples, countries of central and eastern Europe have adopted forms of democratic government and democratic structures of societies and economies. The co-operation of those countries and their eventual accession to European institutions emerged right from the beginning as an imperative political necessity in order to attain two objectives.

The first aim was to manifest the solidarity of all other European countries to peoples attempting the transition from authoritarian regimes to a more modern, pluralist and democratic form of government founded on respect for human rights, a free market economy, equal rights and the rule of law.

The second objective was to minimise the danger from the upheavals inherent in every transitional period of profound change.

The response of the Council of Europe to this challenge was highly successful. Within barely six years, seventeen new member states were added and five more have obtained special guest status until full membership becomes possible. The objective of this open-door policy has been to promote the unity of all European countries, based on a common vision and the values of Europe’s political and cultural legacy, summed up by respect for human dignity.

The fulfilment of this aim, however, has proved to be much more painful than thought at first. The harsh realities of increased unemployment and limited social solidarity frustrated these peoples’ expectations of rapid economic progress and prosperity, and gave rise to elements of state instability that could jeopardise not just democratic institutions but even peace itself.

These phenomena are even more striking in the Balkans, where they take the form of social unrest or bloody conflict, thus creating the danger of a spillover into a much broader area. As a Balkan country, Greece is naturally worried by these developments; she enthusiastically offers her support to every effort aimed at stabilising and consolidating democracy in neighbouring countries. Compared with other countries Greece is privileged to have a better understanding of the problems, possible developments and needs of the region.

Thus Greece deems it necessary that the Balkan countries receive enough economic aid from Europe to cope with their enormous economic problems. Here I refer not just to Albania, where economic difficulties and widespread disillusionment have given rise to extensive social disturbance. I refer also to countries such as Romania and Bulgaria which, to proceed from a centrally planned economy to the free market, need financial support in the form of European Union programmes, loans from international organisations, and investment by foreign businessmen. I hope that they will not be left alone, without help, and that Europe will realise its responsibility towards them.

Unfortunately, economic difficulties are not the only danger facing the Balkans. There are also directly expressed threats to peace that must be countered. The sole method of dealing with them – apart from respect for democratic principles – is unconditional respect for international law, customary as well as conventional, starting with observance of the UN charter.

Greece is firmly convinced that the Council of Europe, in its capacity as the depository of democratic principles and ideals based on the rule of law, will be called upon, with all other international organisations, to play a crucial role in securing peaceful coexistence between its member states. That peaceful coexistence is under threat in south-eastern Europe because of Turkey’s systematic refusal to accept the validity of international law and to comply with obligations deriving from it – going so far as to issue overt threats of war in her National Assembly.

The main cause of tension in the area was initially Turkey’s refusal to recognise the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as codified in 1982, according to which islands are entitled to their continental shelf in exactly the same way as a mainland country. In her efforts to have the Aegean continental shelf split in two, Turkey flouts the convention – as if there were no Greek islands scattered around the Aegean.

Other clear provisions of international law have also been disregarded since; Turkey has questioned Greece’s right – the right of every country – to expand its territorial waters to twelve miles. The climax came with the dispute, barely a year ago, over Greece’s sovereignty over the Imia rock islets, in the Dodecanese, and Turkey’s subsequent discovery of other areas of rock islets in the Aegean whose sovereignty was still unclear.

All this comes seventy-four years after the Treaty of Lausanne was signed. Turkish policy has imaginatively named these places the “grey areas”, even though she knows only too well that under the Lausanne treaty of 1923 Turkey gave up all previous rights over islands and islets beyond three nautical miles from her mainland coasts.

Another well known example of arbitrary behaviour by Turkey is the case of Cyprus, where Turkish troops continue to occupy the northern part of the Republic of Cyprus twenty years after the 1974 invasion, in defiance of Security Council decisions and UN General Assembly resolutions. Here, too, Turkey is preventing a just and viable solution.

Greece, for her part, sincerely wants to normalise relations with Turkey. The aim of her policy is not to enter into dispute with a neighbouring country – far from it. Greece, however, is not prepared to go so far as to give up sovereign rights to which she is entitled under international law. Greece would be happy if tension between the two countries ceased, since it is not Greece provoking the tension. On the contrary; Greece suffers from it, in the form of high expenditure on defence procurement, being compelled to shadow Turkey’s much bigger stockpile of armaments. This Greece has to do even though that expenditure endangers her efforts to achieve convergence with the economies of the more developed member states of the European Union.

Being unwilling to enter into dialogue over her sovereign rights, Greece has proposed to Turkey a step-by-step negotiating procedure, starting with recourse to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which could result in the normalisation of relations.

Although faced with unfounded claims and threats, Greece reacts with moderation, proposing the way of reason which is also, of course, the way of justice. As Turkey reckons that she is in the right over the continental shelf and the legal status of the Imia islets, she may well resort to the court in The Hague. Greece relies on that court’s judgment.

It is the duty of the international community, I believe, to point out to Turkey the need to respect international legal order and to use the legal procedures provided for by international law; that is the way to guarantee security and peace in Europe. It was the Helsinki Final Act which explicitly obliged all countries to respect the territorial status quo that was in force before the second world war or which ensued after its end.

My country, ladies and gentlemen and members of the Assembly, does not wish to stand in Turkey’s way to the west, and we have declared as much in the most formal way. Greece is aware that the mutual benefit of the two countries lies in peaceful coexistence and co-operation. Let Turkey listen to the voice of reason – that will mark the beginning of a new era in relations between the two countries, with positive effects not only for the two countries but for the whole of Europe, too.

Allow me to refer briefly to the European Union because I believe that its policies are of interest to all European countries, including those who are not members.

Our aged continent no longer suffers from the scourges that led to two world wars, but it still finds itself in the midst of events that continue to cause considerable pressure. Especially during the last five years, the European Union was often called on to make important decisions on the present and future of Europe. This led to European Union policies that were sometimes successful, as with German unification and the adjustment of the North Atlantic alliance to the new realities of European security, but which were sometimes awkward and hasty, as in the case of the former Yugoslavia.

The Maastricht Treaty created a European Union that oscillates between completion of its economic integration and the less accepted intergovernmental co-operation in foreign, defence and security policy. The latter has been severely criticised – for example, the stance taken in relation to the Yugoslav problem.

We all know that the political union of Europe is far from being a reality. However I believe that the European ideal, based on the consciousness of a common destiny and a shared culture, will finally prevail. Despite the difficulties, the European Union is, in the long run, a non-reversible reality. Now that the euphoria created by the end of the cold war yields to new anxieties, there is an urgent need for the development of a stable and effective foreign and defence policy for the European Union.

On the direction that we have to take in order to reinforce the Union’s external action, our view is, as one might expect, that the intergovernmental function of the European Union has probably reached its limits. Its inherent weaknesses have resulted in the Union’s limited presence and influence at crucial international developments over the past few years. Its political union can be completed successfully only if it transcends the ethnic state while fully respecting all the particular ethnic, religious and cultural characteristics of each member state.

Of course, it is not easy to describe this course of action in detail; in any case, it would not be necessary as we still have a long way to go. Yet from now on we have to intensify our efforts to consolidate stability throughout Europe and guarantee the protection of the territorial integrity of the Union as well as of its member states through the adoption of a clause and the relevant mechanisms of mutual assistance.

With reference to individual rights, I would like to remind you that in the past we meant by that term the political rights of the individual as they were codified in various constitutional laws dating back to the time of the American and French revolutions. Nowadays the concept of individual rights has broadened and has been linked to the concept of social rights, meaning the rights of the citizen to claim that the state take care of the problems with which they are preoccupied – for example, the securing of jobs, working conditions, unemployment benefits, free education, housing, the protection of people with special needs, public health and, of course, environmental issues.

Today, social problems are no longer examined on the basis of expediency, and no one disputes the need for a social policy on the part of the state. The problem lies in the subsequent economic cost and the inability of the state to meet it. A number of states which had managed to achieve considerable progress in this sphere by obtaining the necessary funds through high taxation of higher incomes are now compelled, in the face of newly emerging economic difficulties, to reduce social benefits. Others are simply unable to reach their social objectives. Unemployment and the failure to deal with it effectively, continuing economic hardship, the duty of the member states of the European Union to meet certain economic criteria accepted in the form of legal conventional obligations, progress in technology and much else besides cause difficulty and obstruct the achievement of acceptable solutions. The prolongation of this situation gives rise to intense social pressure, often resulting in social unrest. Ideological diversities may have lost steam, yet social pressure continues to exist – that is precisely the situation that confronts us.

Unfortunately, I have no solutions to propose. I will limit myself to saying that, although business activity is facilitated and a high return on invested capital is the main aim of the private sector, not much thought is given to the problems of the workers.

The Council of Europe was absolutely right, after the end of the cold war, to make economic and social problems a central theme through the adoption of the European Social Charter and its continuing respect for the rights of working people. The Council of Europe will thus be able effectively to help youth overcome its lack of confidence and its indifference to the ideals of European integration, something explained by the fact that young people do not seem to expect a direct answer to their problems from such integration. Young people may embrace anarchist movements or turn to narcotics.

I should not like to conclude my speech without referring to the scourge of racism. It is clearly unacceptable that people should suffer from discrimination because they may be different or belong to a different group – no matter what group. Respect for the particularity of “the other” constitutes a fundamental element of civilisation. In this world, where communication among peoples has intensified, the cultural network of Europe is inevitably subject to a continuous adaptation process through the assimilation of new elements. The European citizen must prove in deed what is usually declared in words – that is, respect for all that which is not simply the product of abstract theoretical thought but the issue of bloody conflict to which we owe the survival and further development of European civilisation.

In conclusion, I assure you once more that it is my pleasure to be here today. Please accept my thanks for your invitation as well as your patience and attention.

I shall be glad to take your questions now.


Thank you very much, Mr Stephanopoulos, for your interesting statement. Members of the Assembly have expressed a wish to put questions to you, but first I must take a point of order for which I have had a request from Mr Akçali.

Mr AKÇALI (Turkey) (interpretation)

on a point of order, said that no one addressing the Assembly had ever spoken in such a way before as had the Greek President. He particularly queried Mr Stephanopoulos’ remarks that the Muslim minority in Thrace were well treated.


Thank you. Members of the Assembly have expressed a wish to put questions to you, Mr Stephanopoulos. I remind them that their questions must be limited to thirty seconds.

Mr Stephanopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic

May I reply to the honourable parliamentarian?


Yes, of course.

Mr Stephanopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic (interpretation)

said that he wanted to improve Greek/Turkish relations, but that Turkey would not comply with international law and United Nations resolutions, especially on Cyprus. He was willing to discuss the situation in Thrace with Mr Akçali.


Thank you, Mr Stephanopoulos. We have grouped the questions. First, I give the floor to Mr Martinez Casan who wants to ask questions relating to the European Mediterranean conference.

Mr MARTINEZ CASAN (Spain) (interpretation)

said that the recent conference in Valletta had been a success, and that various disputes had moved towards a solution. He asked how Mr Stephanopoulos viewed the situation.

Mr BERG (Norway)

To the rest of Europe, the constant strife between Greece and Turkey is a matter of great concern. We sometimes wonder how much of the political oratory is mainly meant for domestic purposes. Recently, however, there have been certain promising signs of practical co-operation – for instance, better co-operation between non-governmental organisations, and improved communications.

Setting aside the oratory, Mr President, will you confirm that a new and more constructive dialogue and practical co-operation between your two countries are on the way? How do you plan to strengthen that development from your side?

Mrs ERR (Luxembourg) (translation)

Thank you, Mr President, for giving details about the rights of the Muslim minority in Thrace.

The EU recently proposed its mediation in an attempt to find a political solution to the problems dividing Greece and Turkey. According to my sources, Greece is said to have turned the offer down. Can you tell us the reasons for this?

Mr TANIK (Turkey) (interpretation)

said that the speech by Mr Stephanopoulos had been like a cold shower, and he stressed that Turkey had no territorial claims anywhere.

Mr Stephanopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic (interpretation)

said that Greece had many interests in the Mediterranean region. The main issue was the Middle Eastern conflict. The peace process had to continue. Greece believed that the European Union’s involvement would eventually bear fruit.

Referring to the Muslim minority in Thrace, he said that Greece did its best; however, the situation could be improved further and Greece was willing to accept any positive proposals. He was very sensitive about the rights of the Muslim minority. Greece was proud of the way this minority was treated, and this situation would continue.

With regard to the final question, he stressed that Greece wished for peace. Greece had no intention of threatening anyone; it was the victim of territorial claims by a country which refused to apply international law. No dialogue was possible.


We now come to questions on Albania. I do not see Mr Van der Linden, so I call Mr Selva who will be followed by Mrs Squarcialupi.

Mr SELVA (Italy) (translation)

Mr President, how do you think the Italian-led international mission in Albania, in which your country is participating, can contribute to rebuilding the structures of the Albanian state? What role does Greece intend to play here?

Mrs SQUARCIALUPI (Italy) (translation)

Sir, there’s no denying that your country is situated in a region of tension, one where certain democracies are in need of reinforcement.

Greece, like my own country, is a member both of the Council of Europe and the European Union. Yet in spite of the many detailed proposals put forward by the Council of Europe in areas such as the defence of human rights, security, drugs and the strengthening of democracy – proposals which were made on the occasion of the first Barcelona conference – they met with no reaction from the European Union. Virtually all the proposals made by the Council of Europe have gone unheeded.

Like my colleague Mr Selva, I too would like to know what links are to be established between the multinational protection force in Albania and international organisations such as the Council of Europe or the European Union, that are providing humanitarian, and also political, assistance in a variety of fields. Is there any link between the multinational force and other international organisations with a view to co-ordinating assistance to Albania?


Thank you. I remind the Assembly that in order to allow a number of delegations to ask questions, each speaker must take only thirty seconds to ask his or her question. I would not say anything if a speaker took one minute, but I would prefer all speakers to take thirty seconds.

Mr Stephanopoulos, would you care to reply to those questions?

Mr Stephanopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic (interpretation)

noted that there was a Greek minority in Albania and that the troops of the multinational force did not have a clear mission other than to handle humanitarian aid.

There was no mandate to interfere in political processes. He hoped that elections could take place in Albania as soon as possible. Greece was willing to concur with the decisions reached at the recent Barcelona conference.


Thank you. The following questions will be put by Mr Popovski, Mr Iwinski, Mr Biihler, Mr Zhirinovsky and Mr Kelam. Mr Popovski, your question please.

Mr POPOVSKI (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”)

Mr President, I am pleased that the situation between the Hellenic Republic and the Republic of Macedonia is improving. How can we develop a long-term strategy of co-operation between those two neighbouring countries?

Mr IWINSKI (Poland)

As you know, Mr President, it is almost certain that, in ten weeks, the Madrid summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will invite Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to join this body. What is the position of Greece on the enlargement of Nato to include some of the countries of central and eastern Europe?

Mr BÜHLER (Germany) (translation)

Mr President, the judgment of the Berlin High Court, which found the accused guilty of the murder of Iranian opposition politicians, makes express mention of the fact that high-ranking government bodies were involved in this offence. The European Union, the importance of which you stressed just now, has issued a statement sharply condemning this conduct. At the same time, it has called on its member states to recall their ambassadors from Iran.

Fourteen of the fifteen member states have complied with this request, thus providing an impressive example of European solidarity. Your country has not done so. I should therefore like to ask you, firstly, what were the reasons why Greece did not participate in this expression of solidarity? Secondly, is Greece in principle prepared to participate politically in international action to combat terrorism? Thank you.

Mr ZHIRINOVSKY (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

pointed out that Russia and Greece were both countries which followed the Orthodox faith. As they had many common enemies, he asked whether Mr Stephanopoulos would comment on the possibility of the two countries giving each other military assistance.

Mr KELAM (Estonia)

I have just received the good news that the Greek Parliament has ratified Estonia’s association treaty with the Western European Union.

My question concerns regional co-operation in Europe. Do you, Mr President, believe that there should be more specific forms of co-operation between the north and the south of Europe, especially between, for example, the Baltic Sea countries and the Mediterranean countries? Would you be prepared to contribute to such co-operation?

Mr Stephanopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic (interpretation)

spoke about the difficulties encountered in discussing the position of Macedonia. On the question of the enlargement of Nato and the accession of new countries, he said that it was the right of all to join the organisation. Russia’s concerns should be taken into account. The views of Nato and Russia had begun to converge and he welcomed this. In reply to Mr Zhirinovsky, he said that although the two countries had their Orthodox Christian religion in common, Greece was too small a country to assist Russia. Greece hoped that Russia would find a solution to her problems. He hoped that the Council of Europe would take action against terrorist activities by Iranian officials.


Thank you, Mr Stephanopoulos. I know that your timetable is rather tight, but do you think that you could take five more questions?

Mr KIRATLIOGLU (Turkey) (translation)

No, wait please. My name is Kiratlioglu. The president said that if there had been any attack on the Muslim or Turkish minority in western Trace the facts should be supplied.

I should like to mention two things if you will allow me to do so.


It would be difficult to give the floor to you, Mr Kiratlioglu, because I have a list of people waiting to ask questions. You did not submit your name, so you cannot ask a question now.

(Mr Kiratlioglu rose to speak.)

I cannot allow you to ask a question, Mr Kiratlioglu, because I have people waiting to ask their questions. I must give the floor first to Mr Giirel and then to Mr Vishnyakov, Mr Laakso, Mr Malachowski and Mr Szalay. I know that the President must leave in four minutes. Mr Giirel, your question please.

Mr GÜREL (Turkey)

I did not find several of the President’s remarks and allegories a fit style for a statesman. However, I will stick to the written question that I submitted, which refers to Article 19 of the Greek nationality code. Because of the limit on time, I shall read only the first sentence, which states: “A person of non-Greek ethnic origin who leaves Greece without intending to return may be declared to have lost Greek nationality.” That article affects Greek citizens of Macedonian and Turkish origin. Several international organisations have asked that that anachronistic article, which is based on ethnic discrimination, be abolished. How is it possible to justify the existence of such a provision in Greek legislation? Do you think it should be abolished?

Mr VISHNYAKOV (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

asked what lessons could be learnt from the situation in Albania.

Mr LAAKSO (Finland)

I have a non-political question. Hundreds of thousands of Finns visit your beautiful country every summer. There is only one complaint — it is that the drivers do not obey the traffic rules and the police do not seem able to control them. What will you do to improve the situation because the death toll from traffic accidents is one of the highest in Europe?

Mr MALACHOWSKI (Poland) (translation)

Mr President, you invoke the rules of democracy in respect of Greece, and you are right. But what about recognising the rights of the Aromanians? I quote:

“The Greek authorities do not recognise the Aromanians as a separate ethnic group. They are considered Vlach-speaking Greeks”.

Mr SZALAY (Hungary)

From time to time, political speculation emerges about supposed eventual Greek preconditions on the planned enlargement of the European Union. I read an article in the International Herald Tribune that stated: “Greek officials suggest that Athens could veto EU membership for... eastern European countries unless Cyprus gets in too”. Do you, Mr Stephanopoulos, regard that opinion only as the journalist’s nightmare or as a development that could threaten future enlargement of the European Union?

Mr Stephanopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic

Will you remind me of the first question?


It was from Mr Giirel, who asked about the Greek nationality code for people leaving Greece.

Mr Stephanopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic (interpretation)

said that Greece’s laws on nationality were a matter of concern and had led to some problems. Greece had modelled these laws on those of other states, but was committed to their revision. The procedure for doing so was codified in Greek law and required scrutiny by a parliamentary committee followed by a debate in Parliament. Expert advice was required as nationality was a scientific as well as a political issue.

On the question of the Balkans, Greece had initiated a conference and it was hoped this would lead to progress.

It was true that there were many traffic accidents in Greece. These were due not just to a failure to obey the rules of the road, but also to poor road construction, speeding and the temperament of Greek drivers. The government was keen to find a solution and a parliamentary committee had submitted proposals to that end. The European Union was providing funds to improve the road infrastructure, and changes to licensing procedures were also being considered.

The Vlachs were an important ethnic group in Greece. They regarded themselves as Greek and some had achieved prominent positions, including that of foreign minister.

Greece was aware that negotiations for the accession of Cyprus to the European Union would begin six months after the conclusion of the Intergovernmental Conference. Unlike the other candidate member states, Cyprus had a unique commitment to this time-scale resulting from a decision of the EU Council of Ministers. This did not offer Greece any opportunity to present an obstacle to Cyprus’ accession. Greece supported the principal of European Union enlargement to include the countries of central and eastern Europe, but believed that this expansion could proceed only on the basis of economic integration.


Thank you very much, Mr President. That was a long afternoon. I should like to thank you most warmly on behalf of the Assembly for your remarks and answers to the questions.

(Ms Andnor, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mrs Fischer.)

Mr Korakas, you have the floor.

Mr KORAKAS (Greece) (translation)

On a point of order, Madam President, I regret that Mrs Leni Fischer, the President of our Assembly, is no longer present. As the minutes will confirm, I drew attention to the fact that Mrs Fischer and Mr Baumel invoked their office of President and Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to lend greater weight to their proposal to exclude Belarus and reject the request of the Russian delegation to consider the question of Belarus once more in the IPU Council.

At no moment in my statement did I say that the debate was about the expulsion of Belarus.


I must interrupt you there. This is not a point of order. Indeed, we dealt with the subject earlier and that discussion is now over.

I give the floor to Mr Zhirinovsky.

Mr ZHIRINOVSKY (interpretation)

on a point of order, said that there had been a mistranslation of an earlier remark of his. He had asked whether Greece wanted help from Russia, not whether Greece would help Russia. He hoped that those responsible for this mistranslation would be suitably punished.

Mr KORAKAS (translation)

May I remind you that the President told me she was interrupting the debate since the President of Greece was due to speak, but that I would have the possibility afterwards of replying to Mr Bârsony, who made some disparaging remarks about me.


There is nothing I can do about that now – and it is not a point of order. You had the opportunity to say what you wanted to earlier.

I remind members who were on the list to speak in the debate on the progress report and who are still present in the chamber, having been unable to speak during that debate, that they may submit their speeches in writing in a final and legible form for publication in the official report.