June 28, 2006
Dora Bakoyannis

Ipek Cem was in Athens to meet with the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis for ‘Global Leaders’ airing on NTV networks of Turkey. They discussed a wide range of issues, covering topics such as Turkish-Greek relations, the European Union, the challenges of the 2004 Olympics and her political career. Previously a very successful mayor of Athens, Bakoyannis has been exposed to politics all her life, coming from the powerful Mitsotakis family.

Ipek Cem: Our guest today needs no introduction. She is Dora Bakoyannis, Minister of Foreign Affairs, of Greece. Welcome to the show.


Dora Bakoyannis: And welcome to Athens. It is a pleasure to receive you here.


Ipek Cem: It's been a pleasure to be in Athens, and recently you were in Istanbul, visiting us for the first time during you new post.  Your visit was met with a lot of interest, a lot of enthusiasm. I would like to start by asking your impressions of how you were received in Turkey.


Dora Bakoyannis: Well I was very warmly received. I had the opportunity to talk to the Turkish journalists. There was, you know, a very big meeting, bringing together Greek and Turkish journalists. So they spoke about their experiences, their way of thinking, and I thought it was a very good meeting, because it brings people of the press together. And as you know, Foreign Policy issues can only go through the press, through the media. So it was very important that the media from both sides help the bringing together of the people; and help also the understanding of the different views which might exist between the people: of the different ways of thinking; the different approaches. And then I had a meeting with my colleague, Abdullah Gül, we had a very good meeting. We decided to proceed with some more confident building measures between Greece and Turkey. We had also at the Bosphorus, and what is always very interesting is the hospitality which one receives in Istanbul, and the people, they are very warm.


Ipek Cem: Since 1999, we have seen a more positive outlook for the relations between Greece and Turkey. Your new post is also welcome in Turkey because you are seen as a progressivist, as somebody who is willing to work towards more solutions and continue to build friendship between the countries. But when you look at the actuality of it, some people are saying, "OK, the people are friends, but the politicians are messing things up. They are playing for tactical gains than what the people want. " Do you see a discrepancy between the people and the politicians in terms of what is being accomplished, and the pace of it.


Dora Bakoyannis: Honestly? Yes. I believe that the people feel much more close. The people, both people, the Turkish people and the Greek people, want to have peace, want to have a good cooperation, want prosperity. They know they are neighbours, they know that they will live together, and they share a lot of things in common. But, unfortunately that's not exactly the way the Leadership sees it. So we have to work for it. There is very little understanding sometimes about decisions that are taken from the Leadership. There is very little explanation one can give when you have still dogmas like the casus belli, or this way of thinking. So now we must use the decision which was made by the Turkish leadership to go towards a European perspective. And as you know, Greece is supporting the European perspective of Turkey. Of course, under the preconditions, the criteria which every candidate state has to become a member of the European Union. I think this Europe can help to bring us together, much more. And that must be our goal.


Ipek Cem: On the one hand, we know that Greece has been supportive of Turkey's E.U. membership. On the other hand, the Cyprus issue remains a major problem and in the past several weeks, in Luxemburg and following that, we have seen more of an upheaval regarding this issue, and whether it's going to be a big obstacle for Turkey going forward. So recently, Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Lilikas was in Athens, and you met with him. After the meeting, you reiterated that the foreign policy of Greek Cypriots and Greece are in complete alliance. When this happens, then we are not really moving forward from the perspective of the Turks.


Dora Bakoyannis: Yes, I understand that there is a Turkish... problematic... on that issue. But let me try to explain as quickly as possible. Turkey wants to become a member of the European Union. So she took over some obligations towards the European Union. One obligation is, of course, that she honours the Ankara, the Protocol of Ankara which she signed. Turkey signed it. Now, what does that mean? It means that there is free circulation for the goods of all the European member states. Cyprus is a European member of state. She belongs to this Europe. There is no possibility to take one country out of the European Union. We are twenty-five, we will be twenty-seven, and probably we will take in Bulgaria at the end of the year. These twenty-seven countries make up this one European Union. And what I was always trying to say to all my Turkish friends is there cannot be a "Europe à la carte",  for anybody. It was not possible for Greece. When we made the effort to become members of the European Union, and when we made the effort afterwards to become members of the Monetary Union, well we had to make a lot of effort. We had to take over our responsibilities. So that's the same for Turkey today. It has nothing to do with a move against Turkey, but these are the rules. And this is the way the European Union works. So the question is will this king of decisions, which there will be many, which the Turkish leadership must make: it's not only the one, it's not only the Ankara Protocol, but there are many.  Will that be of a real help for the Turkish people? Well, in my opinion, yes.  It will be an extremely good evolution for the Turkish people themselves. So I think one should see it in the positive way. And not try to change the rules which are called the acquis communitaire... I keep calling are there, and which will not change.


Ipek Cem: I think the point is that Turkey - I mean the Ankara Agreement is there, the will is there to open the ports and the airports - but what is missing from our perspective is the reciprocity, because the northern part of Cyprus, the Turkish part of Cyprus is still in essence isolated. It is a divided island, and when the Annan Plan was voted it was voted on the Turkish side as a "Yes" and on the Greek side as a "No".


Dora Bakoyannis: Yes, but that's true, but that has nothing to do with the European Union. The European Union took in Cyprus as a member so this is a member of the European Union today but.  Believe me, this is not the opinion of only Greece and Cyprus, this is the opinion of all twenty-five. All twenty-five in Luxemburg, and in Brussels, sent a message which is very clear: it is a welcome message to Turkey, but they say – what they say to all the candidate states – you have to implement the criteria. This is... I think one should... the solution of the Cyprus problem is one issue. But it has nothing to do with the European Union today. There is no reciprocity there. The European Union has given Turkey the chance to become a member of the European Union.


Ipek Cem: But there is of course the battle of power of the side of Papadopoulos. He has used it on many occasions including blocking direct trade with the northern part. so basically what I'm trying to say is, I'm not for Turkey not honouring its obligations, but when you look at the perspective of Turkey and the people living in Cyprus, the perspective is that out of good will there should be some reciprocity and I see that there are different opinions on that... this is also between the Greek and the Turks...


Dora Bakoyannis: No.. No.. What I wanted to say is that the European Union rules, criteria, prerogatives or whatever you call it. They are common, they are for everybody.


Ipek Cem: Yes this I understand.


Dora Bakoyannis: So everybody... this is something... because if not we would not have a union. This union is one unique structure, because it has not become a union by somebody who gave a war, and you know, made the rules for somebody who lost the war. But it was by the own free will of the countries. They came together so they made the rules. So that's what I was saying. And believe me it's – I am repeating myself – it's not Greece and Cyprus who are doing... who are putting this kind of conditions. It's the way of thinking, and that's why whenever somebody from a European member state.... It's either a Foreign Minister, or a Commissioner, makes a statement, he says the same thing! He says the same thing I am saying. He says the same thing my German colleague is saying. So the only message I would like to bring through is that this is not... "made for Turkey". That's the way things are working. Now the Cyprus issue is another issue. Yes, I believe that the two communities want to find... to find... want to live together. That's what I believe. I believe that we have to try again. That the people accept this proposition, the next proposition, whenever it comes by the UN Secretary General. And I hope that the next proposition will answer all the fears, the insecurities, or whatever made people vote against the plan.


Ipek Cem: Do you have a positive outlook for the visit of U.N. Representative Mr Gamberi, which is expected in July?


Dora Bakoyannis: For the moment I don't have any expectations. So we will be waiting and I will meet him, but for the moment I don't know really.


Ipek Cem: And does Greece still hold the position of being against the four-way talks, including Greece and Turkey in the Cyprus talks?


Dora Bakoyannis: Yes we don't believe that four-way talks have any meaning. There is which is there, and where the representative is trying to continue to start the technical talks, the so-called technical talks. I believe that one should really not be afraid on the island to proceed on some kind of talks of essence about a solution. I hope that  we will see some steps forward.


Ipek Cem: But you do see see the political will of Papadopoulos in terms of going towards a resolution? Because I am reflecting to you the public opinion of my country so. So do you see... because we often times feel that it is not there.


Dora Bakoyannis: I believe that President Papadopoulos has decided to do everything that is possible for a viable and good solution on the Cyprus issue. I'm sure about that. He wants to do that. But look: one must always think that the Cypriots will live with whatever solution they will have. So it must have the best possible solution so that it can be accepted by the people. The people's vote is extremely important, and we respect their vote. Both – I respect both votes. From the Turkish Cypriots who voted "Yes", for the Greek Cypriots who voted "No". so we must find, I hope a new proposition so that they can vote "Yes", all of them.


Ipek Cem: We've been talking a lot about Europe and the European perspective, but within Europe, and of course within the EU, there is a trend against enlargement, as well in some countries more than others. And the European Union itself and the countries themselves have declared that – not only for Turkey, but maybe for others, to come – there will be, they will have to take into consideration...


Dora Bakoyannis: The absorption factor...


Ipek Cem: The absorption factor and the public opinion of their constituencies. Now is Europe kind of backing out, in your opinion?


Dora Bakoyannis: Well, this is a very good question. I think that enlargement, the last ten countries which came in and was very big... at one moment. So there was influence by some societies who were afraid of that. But my personal opinion is that an enlarged Europe is a stronger Europe. Of course we have to deal with our own structural problems, inside Europe before going there. But in the mean time, the countries which start the procedure can prepare themselves. So I know that there are a lot of people who say that they would not think that Turkey is part of the European Union. well, the Greek position is that if Turkey makes all the changes, which are necessary, so that she accepts the acquis communitaire. There, and if Turkey at a certain moment is ready, and has done all these changes, then she should have full membership... possibility... And that's our position. And we are very clear about that. Of course I believe that one should not slow down the reforms. That Turkey could send more positive messages to the European Union. I will give you an example. In Turkey, as you know in Istanbul, there is the Ecumenical Patriarch. The Ecumenical Patriarch is a patriarch who is head of millions of Orthodox Christians. The Muslim religion has not this kind of structures... you don't have one head.


Ipek Cem: Yes we had the chaliphate... or the institution...


Dora Bakoyannis: Yes, at one time. We, in the Christians, we have the Pope... We have, the Orthodox Christians have the Patriarchy. I believe that this is an asset for Turkey, that being there, that having his residence there in Turkey, is a very big asset for Turkey: to show that there is respect of religion, a respect of differences. Making problems to the Patriarch, or, you know, sending the wrong messages to him is of course interpreted in another way.


Ipek Cem: But if you look at... of course there is extreme views in some countries...


Dora Bakoyannis: Of course.


Ipek Cem: But I'm not talking of that. If you look at the Ottoman history, the Patriarchy was preserved even though, in Turkey, when we founded the Republic, we have been very keen to not give privileged rights to other groups. So I think in a way Turkey is...


Dora Bakoyannis: This is Turkish history, and in 1971, if I'm not wrong. Until 1971 the Seminary in Halki was working through decades of Turkish history. So, I think, we know our history. We know our problems. But one should look in the future. And what is the European Union? the European Union is... an institution where the first thing which she got, and on what she was built, was human rights, religious freedom, because we learned – we Europeans, all the Europeans -  learned from our mistakes. We learned from our mistakes going to the Second World War, and through the Second World War, and after the Second World War. So we know that we have to live together, that we respect to each other, we have to understand minority rights, that we have to respect minority rights, that one cannot be the winner – even if he wins the war, or he can be the loser at the end. So, that's the ideas. I know that, you know, every time one must make even the small change in the laws, there is always a reaction. But I believe that if the leadership is determined to go forwards, then the people will agree.


Ipek Cem: I believe there is sometimes a miscommunication or misconception as well for example in terms of the Patriarchy. The 1971 law was for any religious institution to be under state authority, and right now there is an initiative to do... for example... for the Armenian community, they have accepted to organize under a university arrangement, and the same has been proposed to the Patriarchy.


Dora Bakoyannis: You know, Mrs Cem, there is... each religion's institution works in its own way. And has its own roots. That's what makes each religion so unique, because it is very difficult to bring them under a common law, all of them. That's what is a religion. A religion you believe. So one has to be understanding about the functionality of each institution, and how it works. The truth is that changes are absolutely necessary if the Patriach, the Patriarchate is going to survive, in Turkey. But we have long discussions about that. But it is one European Union criteria. And it is one of the criteria, I told you, because all of us have decided that these are our values. These are the way we believe. These are the basis of the European Union's structure.


Ipek Cem: I know that you are for religious rights, and in fact you are one of the proponents of building the mosque in Athens, even during your mayorship...


Dora Bakoyannis: Yes, and we will build a mosque in Athens. We have, for years, you know, we have very very few Muslims in Athens. But in the last ten years we have a big Muslim community coming from around the world. We have great immigrants who came to Athens, and it's absolutely normal. And the decision was made by the Government, and now we are waiting for the exact new location so that it is closer to where they live, that we have a mosque. Of course! For me it is essential. One should have the possibility to pray in where he wants to pray.


Ipek Cem: What is the latest? At some point it was a location outside. At another point it was Monastiraki was suggested, and then now there is a new idea.


Dora Bakoyannis: Yes, there is a new location. I will... we will be ready to announce it in a few days which is closer to where most of this community lives. Because the other one was very far away. They would have to go, you know, outside of Athens. So this one is closer to where they live, so that they have the opportunity to, you know, be close by when they want to pray.


Ipek Cem: When you were in Istanbul, one of the things you did was to work on the Aegean issue in terms of confidence building measures. Some people argue that "confidence building" measures are nice, but they are kind of postponing the real discussion, even though I know there are explorative talks, and in fact it was maybe during you father's Prime Ministership there was a give and take period where we find that the issue was close to finding some sort of consensus basis. Do you see this Government working towards something like that?


Dora Bakoyannis: I think that we should work towards that. I don't agree with the people that say that confidence building measures is a postponement. Every confidence building measure which is applied is a step in the right... in the right... way. So we will see. The talks are going on, as you say. We have to work towards our goal. I know there are difficulties. I know it is not always easy for the political leadership. My country... my great people are very often very angry, very disappointed. They say "We are trying to give... to open the door for Turkey to join the European Union, but where is the reciprocity, why don't we have it?" Your people have probably some kind of other reaction. But the political leadership must be very clear about what we want to do. Now we want, at the end of the day, to find ways to solve problems. But we need to go step be step, and I think that every positive step is a good one.


Ipek Cem: So the establishment of, for example, the Red Line...


Dora Bakoyannis: The Red Line. The flying over the Aegean, which will not happen for three months. Things... There are measures... The new bridge we are building which will help the traffic between the people. The cooperation of our responsible people in the army. All these are good messages. They are not enough. But they are good messages, and we will continue.


Ipek Cem: Now, you are a very powerful woman. You were the Mayor of Athens, and very a successful one, by world standards, you got many awards for that. And also you were the Mayor during the Olympic Games. What were some of your challenges readying your city for the Olympic Games? Of course, it could take hours, but just give us a sense...


Dora Bakoyannis: It could take hours. But as it was very important that Athens would make it. Because, honestly, most people around the world didn't think that Greece, who which was the smallest country at that time ever to take over this kind of big responsibility, would be able to deliver. And for us it was also very important, because we invented the Olympic Games, so we wanted them, of course, to be a huge success. So the city had to be ready. The city had to look beautiful. The city had to be functional. The city had to be hospitable.  There were people around in Athens welcoming everybody with yellow T-Shirts, saying "City of Athens, May I help you?", in different languages. We managed to have the city really ready. The Government made a huge investment in infrastructure. The President of the organisation committee, who is also a woman by the way, you know, Mrs Angelopoulos, made sure that the games were from the organisational point of view, perfect. So everybody worked together, and that was a very good message for all of Greece. Because the Greeks are individuals, as you know. So we proved that we were able also to do good team-work, and the message got through, and it was a success.


Ipek Cem: Yes. And now in your new post, for example Ursula Plassnik is also in a similar post, and in Turkey we are always striving for more women in politics, more women in business. Do you feel that being a woman helps or, decision making, or...


Dora Bakoyannis: Well, honestly, when you are at the high level positions I think it is a priviledge to be a woman. Of course you have a long way getting there. And this long way you learn that there might be also some hard times. There are moments when people are... always remember that you are a woman, or try to show you that you are a woman, and have different opinion about women. And there are still people who say that women should best be left at home, and cook for the children. But I think that the younger generation who comes up, doesn't see any difference between a woman and a man in politics or in business. They look if you are a good politician, or if you are a bad politician. They look if you are a good businessman, or a bad businesswoman. But I don't think that they judge you just by your sex.


Ipek Cem: Yes, it's good news for all of us. I want to give you a scenario. I would like to get your opinion on that. The Turkish Prime Minister has declared we are not going to open our ports, or our airports unless there is some reciprocity. Let's say that the deadline comes at the end of the year, and Turkey holds on to this position. What do you think is the likely scenario from the E.U.?


Dora Bakoyannis: I think that will be a very very difficult moment. I don't want to go into scenarios, now, because I am still an optimist. And I believe that Prime Minister Erdoğan, and the Turkish leadership will understand that there are reforms, and decisions, that are necessary. But, at the end of the day, these reforms, and these decisions are worth it because they are good for the Turkish people.


Ipek Cem: We were expecting a visit from Prime Minister Karamanlis as well, in 2005.


Dora Bakoyannis: Yes,  we are working on it. We are working on it. Now I am expecting Abdullah Gül  - I don't know when he can make it – this is a visit which will also prepare the visit of Prime Minister Karamanlis .


Ipek Cem: Do you envisage in 2006 or 2007?


Dora Bakoyannis: It depends on their programme. Prime Ministers have a very heavy programme, and then you know, it's like Foreign Ministers, we are in one plane every day, but it depends on their programme.


Ipek Cem: So any idea to visit Istanbul any time soon? Even for pleasure? Have you any time for that?


Dora Bakoyannis: That was a wonderful thing to know that I was very often in Istanbul with my husband, privately.


Ipek Cem: And you met your husband in Istanbul.


Dora Bakoyannis: And I met my husband in Istanbul. So for us it is an important city. But I hope that I will have another opportunity to come over as quickly as possible.


Ipek Cem: Well, on this note I want to thank you very much for your time and hospitality.


Dora Bakoyannis: Thank you very much for coming over.


This transcript was typed from a transcription unit recording and not copied from an original script. Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, NTV networks and Ipek Cem cannot vouch for its accuracy.