Greece is geographically located at the crossroads of several civilisations and is an important East-West and North-South transport and communications hub. On account of its location, it has often found itself in an environment of tension and conflict, while it is the only country in the region that is a member of both the European Union and NATO.
Faced with the challenges of the era and fully aware of the responsibility to safeguard stability in a turbulent region, Greece aspires to promote peace, security, cooperation and development and serve as a model for democracy by being a factor for justice and a voice of reason in the Balkans and the Southeast Mediterranean.
The principles which govern Greece’s foreign policy include:
- belief in international legality and respect for the rules of international law in international relations
- renunciation of violence as a means of solving problems
- acceptance of the importance and role of international organisations, institutions and cooperation procedures
- support for procedures for the promotion of collective systems of security, cooperation and the peaceful settlement of international disputes
- the development of a well balanced and comprehensible regional policy founded on the principles of pluralism, humanitarianism and democratic values
- the combating of terrorism through international cooperation.
As for the means employed in order to attain these objectives and in keeping with global trends, Greece no longer relies solely on traditional diplomacy, as it has adopted the concept of citizens’ diplomacy in an effort to give citizens an active role in the shaping of foreign policy. Greek citizens are aware that they have an important role to play in relation to the citizens of other Balkan nations, as well as the people of Turkey and of Europe as a whole. The expression of sympathy and solidarity to the Turkish people in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes that rocked Turkey in 1999, opened the way for a process of reconciliation, since many realised that mutual interests should be placed above the hostility of the past. Moreover, during the crises in Kosovo and Afghanistan, Greek humanitarian non-governmental organisations spared no effort for the relief of refugees, with the active support of the Greek government.
In view of the above-mentioned objectives and principles, Greece has set the following foreign policy priorities:
- The establishment and maintenance of good bilateral relations with its neighbouring countries, based on mutual understanding, common interests and respect for international law and human rights.
Against this background, Greece has recently initiated a process of constructive dialogue with Turkey aimed at diffusing the longstanding tension. As a result, Greece and Turkey have signed a series of agreements and held a number of successful meetings between prominent figures on the political scene in the two countries. Athens believes that this process should culminate in the peaceful settlement of the Greek-Turkish dispute over the continental shelf, through recourse to a legal mechanism such as the International Court of Justice.
At the same time, Greece played an active role in the acceptance of Turkey’s candidate status at the Helsinki European Council (December 1999) and has continued to support Turkey's European orientation.
Nevertheless, Greece is bound by EU decisions which dictate that each candidate country must adopt European values and principles, ensure full democratisation, promote the necessary reforms for the respect of human rights and strengthen the civil society, in order to enable its gradual integration into Europe.
Regarding Turkey in particular, it is Greece's view (which was made official by the decision of the 15 Member States in Helsinki) that the path to full membership presupposes specific undertakings on the part of Ankara, which should include the recognition of the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice for the settlement of disputes, the renunciation of the use of force as a means for resolving differences and its constructive contribution to the attainment of a just and viable settlement of the Cyprus issue. Given Greece’s stance and the ensuing climate of reconciliation, Turkey is also expected to put an end to its policy of aggressively contesting Greek sovereign rights and seeking to alter the legal status quo in the Aegean, by systematically ignoring fundamental provisions of International Law, including international treaties in force.
- The restoration of stability in the Southeast Mediterranean through the attainment of a just and viable solution of the Cyprus problem on the basis of UN resolutions.
The Cyprus problem was caused by the Turkish invasion (1974) and subsequent occupation of the northern part of the island, which forcibly divided the population, in complete defiance of almost unanimous condemnation by the international community. Within this context, the continued occupation of 37% of Cyprus territory by Turkey is, in principle, an international issue and not a bilateral problem between Greece and Turkey. For this reason, the UN has already undertaken an initiative aimed at resolving the problem. Greece is positive towards the effort to achieving a workable and just solution which provides for the establishment of a federal, bizonal and bicommunal state with single sovereignty and international personality as well as single citizenship.
Lastly, because stability and peace in the Southeast Mediterranean is also inextricably linked to the resolution of the Middle East crisis, Greece has constantly worked, both at a governmental and non-governmental level, for the completion and now – in view of the recent dramatic events – for the restoration of the Middle East peace process. In doing so, it has mobilised its traditionally close cultural, economic and political ties with the Middle East countries.
- The preservation of the strategic partnership between Greece and the US
Greece and the US enjoy close and longstanding bonds of friendship and cooperation in a broad area of bilateral activities of an economic and commercial nature, as well as in the international organisations in which both countries participate. Furthermore, the presence of an economically robust Greek-American community numbering well over 2 million constitutes a further tie of friendship and cooperation between the two countries. Against this background, in addition to the active support offered by Greece within the framework of the international coalition against terrorism which was created after the tragic events of 11 September, many Greek organisations as well as the Greek State offered significant assistance to the families of the victims.