November 30, 2005
Giorgos Papandreou

Leader of Greece's Pasok party and a leading international figure as well as the architect behind the 'raporgement' between Turkey and Greece.

Ipek Cem: Our guest tonight is Giorgos Papandreou who is the leader of Greece's Pasok party. He is a leading international figure as well as the architect behind the 'raporgement' between Turkey and Greece. Welcome to the show. May I call you Giorgos?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: Yes, Ipek, and I can call you Ipek?

 

Ipek Cem: Yes, thank you very much.

 

Giorgos Papandreou: And let me wish you the best on your show also and it's very nice to have you here in Greece and in my house and very nice that fact that you have gotten into this new profession but of course your father also was at some time a journalist.

 

Ipek Cem: Yes, I guess the fruit drops from the tree.

 

Giorgos Papandreou: That's right. That's right.

 

Ipek Cem: Thank you. When I first met you I believe it was the year 2000 and it was early in your foreign ministry and you made a historic visit to Turkey I believe was 38 years after any foreign minister from Greece had visited Turkey . I want to ask you, how is the climate of Greek Turkish relations different now from when you first started out in your foreign minister position?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: Well 2000 was a difficult period and this was after many attempts of course but many crisis that we had gone through and my feeling then was that we needed to have a new beginning between our two countries and the new beginning began of course with your father, with Ismael and we sat together in New York in the UN. After a number of crisis we were able to sit down and talk about a letter he had sent me saying that he wanted to have a discussion about the then events, Ocalan events. I sent back and said why don't we have a discussion on these 6 areas from tourism to economy, to issues of terrorism and migration and so on.

So we decided there, we agreed on that. Which was a first big step in New York and this was also important because we both agreed that we'd begin by working in the areas where we could find common and mutual understanding and common solutions. So This I think was one of the basic things both Ismael and I agreed on and that made a difference because it meant that we did not have to begin with the more difficult issues. But with issues that could show that our two countries have common interests and can find solutions.

 

Ipek Cem: You got some criticism because you left out some of the big topics, right but it worked out, didn't it?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: Yes of course this whole beginning, from early on from many in Greece I had strong criticism. But what I said was that we have to make an attempt. We cannot let our history we cannot lose our history, our history is there, the wounds of the past are there. But if we live only with the wounds of the past, we will never move forward. We must learn from them so we don't have them again and we can  move forward into a very different and better relationship. So I said that for me, what I feel as a politician but also as foreign minister is to try to change things. Not leave things as they are and that is what I'll try to do. And that of course means you have to take  certain risk and you  must be bold enough  courageous enough to move forward but do it in a way which is as careful and as well thought out as possible.

 

Ipek Cem: Do you feel this is still a sensitivity that is still carried out with the Karamanlis administration.

 

Giorgos Papandreou: First of all obviously I and Ismael struck up a good friendship a good relationship and of course we still have this good relationship which has gone beyond politics and beyond the ministry and I cherish this relationship very much. I am always in contact with him as you know and try to meet him when I can  in Istanbul. So this was very helpful but what we said and what Ismael was saying when we were in the ministry is that the success of our policy would be seen if it carries on if we leave the posts of foreign ministry. So now we are both out of the posts of the foreign ministry's and I can say that we have been successful in that the policy is there.

Now there are things that I am critical about that because I feel that we need to be more engaged more active we need to take more initiatives. It's like a human relationship particularly in a new relationship and in a relationship which when it's new in a sense that it has a history of difficulties. You need to nurture it. You need to be on top, you continually take initiative you cannot simply let it sit. So my feeling is that we are not as active as we should be on the front of Greek-Turkish relations and I'm trying to solve some of the problems in the region at Cyprus and so on.

 

Ipek Cem: Is there a particular area where you could make a certain suggestion to better the relationships a dossier perhaps an approach, a specific approach on those issues?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: Yes, first of all I must say that we have been successful in many areas. First of all the fact that after 40 years as you mentioned we had our first agreements in 2000 when I came to Istanbul and Ankara and signed with your father. The first agreements we've had in mutual cooperation. And now we have 15 agreements after a number of years in many areas from energy to culture; to education, to tourism, to economy, double taxation which has opened up a new era for our cooperation.

For example, I think what has been the energy pipeline, the gas pipeline between Greece and Turkey, Iran-Greece-Turkey, and then going all the way to Italy, possibly. Is historically very important for our countries and makes us, I would say build in creating a very strong relationship. This is of course what France and Germany did after the 2nd world war. Their big industries started working together in such a way that they became mutually dependent in a positive way. So they became the steam engine if you like of Europe.

So I can see that this is what we should strive for, is to see that Greece and Turkey can become the steam engine for the region. The Balkans, the eastern Mediterranean, Black Ssea, Middle East and so on. And I would say even further. Now what I would have done I think, to say from my position would be to have taken more initiative and continued more actively. I think in 2004 which the Helsinki decisions had in concerning Turkey had mentioned we could have solved the continental shelf issue. I believe we could have solved this issue.

 

Ipek Cem: With the International Court of Justice?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: Yes, I think we needed to in the end work out , of course you need to have a common basis which we would have had to have worked out. But we could have done this which we then together could have gone to the the international court of Hague  to delineate the specifics of where our continental shelf is. And I think that this we could have done if we had been more active. Now I don't know how long this will take. We had quite a big difference how we deal with this issue because Turkey and a very different approach and Greece has a very specific point of view. We say that it is the continental shelf that is the only issue that is still open between us. Turkey, at times, has opened up other issues that it feels that are issues which we do not recognize.

 

Ipek Cem: Gray area?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: Yes. I have a number of statements on this and what I had said, of course with Ismael is that, we cannot open up a dialogue at this point on the final, if you like, solution with the continental shelf because we don't have a common basis, but let us begin exploratory talks.

And exploratory talks means much more informal talks, but we try to understand each other. Each others position. And I always said to Ismael and publicly also that If this is a question of making sure that Turkey does not feel boxed in and can have access to the high waters, the international waters this, of course, is something between two friendly neighbors, one can find a solution.

If however behind this, these positions Turkey is actually saying that it wants some Greek islands to be come Turkish then we will not find a solution. But that's why I said lets begin with exploratory talks to really understand where we both stand and if we can see that where we both stand we can find a way through to the problem, and to solving the problem. Then of course this would be positive. And my feeling from the exploratory talks that we're going in a direction which would allow us to come very close and hopefully to find a solution.

 

Ipek Cem: Now the talks are off?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: No, the talks continue. I don't have details abut them, but I believe they need any talks. Any talks will need political will to move forward at different stages I don't think the diplomats themselves alone will take on the responsibility to say we conclude. So, what I'm saying is that we need the political will on both sides to move forward and try to solve this issue.

 

Ipek Cem: The continental shelf issue seen is also very sensitive for Turkey and of course there are various suggestions and one of the suggestions is perhaps to do milages, different milages for different areas.  Do you think this could be a way to structure the negotiations, the talks?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: Yes. Well first of all, according to the international law of the sea, of course Turkey has not signed this treaty. It is the right of every country to make the decision on how far, what the sea limit is and what the international of the sea has said that each country can extend up to 12 miles. As I have said of course is that in a good neighborly relationship obviously we would like to make sure that there is access to the the international waters. So that would mean very possibly, that one would have to see possible outlets and differences  as far as the extension of these, of this mileage.

This would be of course a Greek decision on our side of course a Greek decision which would see what good neighborly relations mean. And that's why I'm saying that I think we could have gotten to a solution.

 

Ipek Cem: Sometimes it seems counter intuitive to me that the European Union is seen as the problem solver of some pending bilateral issues between Turkey and Greece. I know that the integration process has done great things for Greece and I hope that it will do good things for Turkey as well but is this a way of copping out from dealing with issues as two partners or is that process helpful as well in resolving let's say something as Cyprus as the continental shelf issue? What is your opinion on that?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: First of all I think the EU has put the whole, all these questions in a different context. For example, when the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots see, they feel that they are not simply two communities alone on one island, but they are part of a larger community and in fact a larger community which has, as its basis, the respect of different cultures, of different languages, of different ethnicities, of different religions   where a peaceful resolution of problems, the respect of human rights exist. Then each side, each individual will feel much safer.

So for example, I understood over the years that the Turkish Cypriots felt a fear they were a smaller numbers than the Greek Cypriots. But within the wider context of the European Union that everyone respects the rights of everyone else. This is something that they felt they could feel they did not have to have this fear. Of course this I think they have expressed in a different way.

Between Greece and Turkey as Turkey is moving toward the European Union, the respective borders is important but the same time borders become in fact become less important in our relationships. Because now for example in Greece we can get onto a plane and without a passport and go to Munich. Because we are in the Schengen area. So we do not feel this border as something which blocks us out. We are one and I think this is something which helps us see how we can have a different relationship. I would also say of course that, we all have in this European context we began to have a common basis of values.

That's what I think is important with Turkey also because, many have said because Turkey is in majority a Muslim country that it is difficult for Turkey to become part of a Christian club. I do not see the European Union as a Christian club first of all. It is a democratic club not a Christian club. It is a club with many different religions and many different peoples and therefore it is also important to show that a country such as Turkey is which has such a large Islamic population can be part of the EU and that these values are not specific to one religion.

As a Greek, having being the country which gave birth to the idea of democracy, I don't think that democracy is part of one culture only. And do not forget that when democracy did develop in ancient times it was, there were many different cultures in the whole area which were talking to each other, which had contact with each other, which had commerce with each other which I think helped develop many ideas which the Greeks created into the idea of democracy. So in fact democracy is something which is part of this corner of the world. 

 

Ipek Cem: I want to challenge you a little bit about the European Union and the reality of the European Union as opposed to the ideals of the European Union. One, the first part about borders.  It was decided we were an accession country now we are in the category of an accession country which of course is a step forward. But we felt that in the documents which were associated with that, there were many strings attached. For example having to do with free movement of people, having to do with the fact that the process is open ended, having to do with the fact that you need to do some referendums in countries like France or in Austria to make sure that the EU is in fact able to absorb Turkey or having to do with funds relating to do with development or agriculture. All these issues are very dear to our hearts and I'm sure every accession country's hearts. So basically do you find it realistic that with all these strings attached Turkey is indeed going to be joining the EU as a fair and equal partner as anyone else?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: We first of all I would agree with you that. There should not be when Turkey comes to the point of  the accession.

It is a decision of the European Union that Turkey now has the chance to become an equal partner in the European Union. So that is clear for me. Also for my experience in the European Union, I speak from working very many years inside and talking with people and seeing of course also what Greece's position and how we worked and how we fought in the European Union on different issues.

The European Union will respond as Turkey moves forward. So sometimes when many Turks say, “Is it worth it? Should we do all these sacrifices and in the end not become a part of the European Union?” There are two answers to this. First of all, if you make these changes you will create the momentum. People will see in Europe, will change their views. Truly they will say “Ah! There's Turkey, this European process is really helping Turkey, there is a change.” This is a pride both for Turkey, a pride for Europe it's a pride for all of us. That, in fact, that we can see a country moving forward in many areas.

And it will make people less critical, and even those who may for other reasons not want Turkey will not be able to have any real arguments against Turkey. And I think this the basic idea that;  One, that even if you are seen as somebody does not too much want you. They see that if you are making progress it is difficult for anyone to stop you. Secondly, some of these are seen as sacrifices. I think one has to turn this around and say “These are good for Turkey”.

We have to make changes in Greece. We have made many changes. Sometimes they were seen as sacrifices other countries had to make changes. They were seen as sacrifices and they were very positive for ourselves because they made us more secure, for the questions of minorities, of how our economy is working. The question of how we are in the international sphere. We should not see this as a sacrifice but as very positive things for the Turkish people.

Now on the specific issues I think it is important to say something. On the issue of migration and free movement; once Turkey reaches the point to enter the European Union most likely it will be a very different Turkey economically, and this is of course with other countries. We had a not permanent I think it was 7 years before we could have free movement in the European Union. Of course we are a smaller country. But once those 7 years were over, not many Greeks wanted to move to from Greece to Germany for example.

Because we're at a level we were not as high as Germany but we felt that now reached a point where we were quite satisfied. Many people could find work here or the quality of life was not so different so we said, let us stay in our place than live, go abroad. And I know because I have been a migrant myself during my younger years.

Secondly, in agriculture. In agriculture one is not sure what the agriculture policy will be. We are changing already in Europe concerning the agriculture policy. And we are changing in the World Trade Organization. So  the type of funding and the type of policy may be very different then. So I think it's too early to think about the agriculture policy when it could be very, very much changed in the next two or three years, four years we may have a very different policy. So I would say, as my advice, as a friend and neighbor is, follow a clear and dynamic path of internal change. Let's work also on our bilateral relations. Let's work and seeing on seeing how we can solve the Cyprus problem. Where we can make it a model. A model for not only for European countries, for regions of the world. And that is the best recipe for success.

 

Ipek Cem: Something terrible happened in France recently. It also had spillover effects in other countries in Europe. The riots I'm talking about. And I would like to ask you in the context also of the European Union and in the context of Muslim... Muslims, Christians, the migrant population within Europe and Turkey is one of them. And how in effect, This is kind of playing to the hands of those founding European's who are always saying, “Taking somebody in like Turkey dilutes the European process” and it's also a little bit connect with the way the world is shaken up after 9/11. What can we do to prevent this kind of polarization and how can countries cooperate on this?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: First of all the migrant issue is a complicated issue and it has not does not only to do with Paris now and with Islam. I give you my personal experience, I lived in Sweden, Canada, the United States, England. I remember when I lived in Sweden I was working as a student and I was working with other Greeks there and  cleaning floors as  to gain some money for my schooling. And coming home from work one evening I was attacked by some Swede and he said, “Get out of our country you blackheads” my hair was dark then, and I had hair, “because we don't want you your taking our work and our women.” So there was a very strong racist, of course, many other Swedes came and helped, nothing was really...

 

Ipek Cem: How old were you then?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: I was then twenty two, twenty three years old. Something around that age. And so this is something which you can find in different countries, but I think the idea of Europe is in fact we are different cultures we are different peoples, different ethnicities but we have some basic similar values. We are a community of values. And in the end we're all human beings and we share these values. So Europe itself is the answer to this question. When the Germans, and the French and the Greeks and the Italians , were fighting all in the Second World War people said, and the British of course, said let's get together and see if we can stop fighting about borders and stop fighting about our different ethnic problems and work together as a community.

So what we are saying is differences is our strength not our weakness. It's our strength. Now when you go to Paris. When you go to cities like Paris the question for these young generation is; do they have a future in Paris? Do they have a future in France?  This is what I think France and maybe other countries, too have not and I have been fighting for this in Greece for our migrants for the last ten years added one million for a country of 10 million that is a very large percentage. Ten percent of our population now is migrant population.

 

Ipek Cem: And which countries from?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: From Albania, is basically from Albania, we also have from Bulgaria, from Romania, from Iraq from Africa, from Poland, from Ukraine, many parts of the world. Philippines of course, very many from Philippines and even Afghanistan. So we are saying, if you give a future for this young generation, these young people will feel that they are part of France. They will have their special identity. But they must feel that they have a future.

If they, can you imagine now somebody who is second generation, does not feel that he or she does not have any other place to go. He has grown up in France he has not grown up in Algeria in Morocco. So even though he may feel this is his old home he does not feel that he belongs there, but at the same time he cannot find a future in France. Then he becomes desperate. And that is what I think we are seeing in, in Paris these days. So my feeling is we need to say to them, “You do have a future in France. You do have a future in Europe.”

Now how does that link up with Islam? I think that it is wrong for us to to try to say that the problems of the riots in Paris have something to do with Islam.  They could have been, from any other religion they could have been from any other part of the world and migrants have felt this. So I think the linking of this with Islam and trying to link this even more so with terrorism I think is only making things worse. And of course, that's what may extrem voices try to do. But 99.9 percent of these young people that I'm sure are not, do not have anything to do with terrorist activities. They're just saying “We want a future for ourselves in this country.”

 

Ipek Cem: They want a voice for themselves?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: They want a voice for themselves. So it's a very deep democratic desire and I think we should recognize that and separate this from the question of Islam.

 

Ipek Cem: You were just mentioning that you were working through your educational phase. You were also working to make money. This sounds very unusual for somebody who comes from such a politically prominent family. I think many people realize who you father is and that he was a very strong prime minister. But perhaps don't know that also you have a grandfather who was a prime minister which is a big legacy to carry. I want to ask you. You mentioned that you grew up in many different places and I know that you experienced exile and many different experiences because of your father and grandfather's political career. I wanted to ask you, did you always know that you would end up in politics? Because you started actually quite early. At age twenty nine you were elected in to the parliament.

 

Giorgos Papandreou: Yes, well I would say “No” as a matter of fact. First of all I grew up the first years of my life in the United States and I was an immigrant there although my mother also being American, did not feel it as much, but the name Papandreou did not sound very American of course, and people would tease me about the name. So I knew I was foreign. I was something different. And, at that time in the States to have a foreign name was a bit peculiar and people changed, usually changed their names to sound more like American names.  But what was positive about that is that I grew up with a very normal life in a sense of not being in the spotlights the first few years of my life.

So when I came to Greece people say I must get into politics. They used to say that when I was six or seven years old. And I said, “No, no I don't want to get into politics. My father has been in politics, my grandfather in politics.” But and so it was not my decision to be in politics, but I think my experiences in life made me very politicized. Greece of course today is a very normal democratic country, but we have gone through very difficult times. My grandfather had been jailed or exiled six times  in his life. Even at one point he was going to be executed. And so he fought as a democrat all his life and when he died he died during the dictatorship and this was quite a very emotional moment for me.

My father in his life was jailed twice and was tortured by the then dictatorship in the forties and I lived through the dictatorship, the dictatorship the last dictatorship in Greece which was in 1967 they arrested my father in the middle of the night. They put a gun to my head so, and then of course I lived in exile. So all of this made me highly political. So I was a political 'animal', if you like. One way or another I would been in politics. It could be a professor, but being, thinking in politics or working in a social area or something like this. But finally I made a decision when I was 29 years old we were also in a very, very positive political atmosphere for change in Greece and I felt then that I could help. And I then got into politics.

 

Ipek Cem: And then you quickly rose and at age 36 you were a minister of education and religion and then we know you worked in the foreign ministry and was a deputy foreign minister. Then in 1999 foreign minister but right now you are living the next chapter which looking at your lineage, one is not surprised that you are now leading the party as a political lineage both in terms of the ideology and your father inner shaped it. I want to ask you, what are your expectations from this period? How has your experience as the Pasok leadership shaped so far?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: Yes. Well first of all, of course the lineage when one gets into politics it is important in the initial stages but then you, as everyone in politics, particularly in democratic politics you must prove yourself everyday. So it's a fight every day. But I enjoy this fight, because what I'm now doing is restructuring the party and I'm not just restructuring Pasok which is the socialist party.

 

Ipek Cem: Looking at your lineage it is understandable where you are now and looking at your career so far, that you are now the leader of Pasok. This is a familiar experience but  it also probably a new experience you are the leader now and your moving the party. How is your experience so far? What are your expectations? What are your accomplishments so far, you feel?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: Of course being from a family of politicians is important when one initially gets into politics because one has recognition, but one has to be tested every day particularly in a democracy you are being asked , being questioned. So it is a fight but I am enjoying this fight in a challenge in reshaping the party. Reshaping the party not only for our party, but for politics in Greece.

I believe that  around the world there is a sense that citizens do not feel empowered they have a voice, they do not feel they have a possibility to participate. So what I'm trying to do, and we are doing this in the party. Is making it a very different party. A party much more open, much more participatory, and giving a voice to our citizens.

When I was elected I said I wanted to be elected by an open vote. Who ever wants to come can vote. Our party membership in Greece is maybe at that time was maybe 200,000. One million people came to vote for me which is an amazing number to have. This was followed by something which the Portuguese Prime minister did. Now he's prime minister but when he became head of the party. Romano Prodi in Italy just followed this similar type of open participatory policy election and he was elected by 4 million votes in Italy.

But this is not just in large scale voting, it is also in creating a party which is educational, helps the citizen be informed, which asks the citizen, which uses also as much as possible the new technology to, for democracy, for on line communication and we are bringing a new type of culture to Greece and to politics.

This is useful not only for Greece but also for our European experience. People in this globalizing world see many changes. We need to give them the power to take their own, if you like, fate their in their own hands. Feel that they have this possibility.

 

Ipek Cem: If you think of the voter as the customer, is this coming from demand for change, for renewal as you put it in your speeches and writings, coming from the Greek populous or is mutually shaping up? Do you feel this  need of people to change?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: It's a very strong need from the people. As a matter of fact, one of the slogans they say in Greek <Greek slogan> which in Greek means, in English, “George! Change it all!” They basically saying, you must go and change many things. It is not as if that we have done very much as Pasok and we have created a very different Greece. A Greece that hosted the Olympic games, a Greece that is in the Euro zone, a Greece which is very important in the Balkans and the infrastructure has in Greece has changed in the schools, hospitals.

But I think people want a new quality in politics which ah, makes them feel secure but also makes them, gives them a meaning in their life and in society. I think what we are, we are working on, and I believe this will be very important giving them, of course a very clear program for the next elections and that is, of course, my next challenge the next elections. Whenever they take place. To win, I think we can win and we will win. And of course to move our country in a dynamic way forward.

 

Ipek Cem:  Pasok was in power for about 20 years, close to 20 years with little interruption. I am, when a party is in power for so long it gets of course affiliated with a lot of power and is considered the establishment and any kind of vice or virtue that goes with it. Is it kind of difficult to deviate from this impression and are you finding it, its adding to your challenge?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: I think this is where we are changing in fact our slogan is “We are changing Pasok so that we can change Greece.” Pasok has always been a party very close to the people very close to the citizens very close to the issues, new ideas, and being in power for many years created a distance. And people as you said did see Pasok as the establishment and they were, and therefore the more new ideas the more, if you like, sensitive questions that were people, they felt we were somewhat too far away.

So what I have done in this changes bring Pasok again back close to the people and where we are serving the people. They do not see us as some ministers high above giving orders. We are there to help and serve. This is how I see a democratic party. We are offering the people changes. And also to try to change, we have done this previously now is very strong, one of my strong efforts is to change the clientèle relationship what we have common words in this. “Ruhsvet” and we are trying to, trying to, what does ruhsvet mean is that I give you something personally but that is something for you not your neighbour not for someone else.

We are saying as socialists, equal rights for everyone. Everybody should have the same access for information, for jobs, for schools, to hospitals, to whatever. Therefore it shouldn't be a personal thing but a right for all citizens and this is very also deeply, I think, social and democratic. Therefore this is something we need to change because also the idea of the “rushvet” is very, highly, escentially a corruption of power, political power. I'd buy your vote, I'd buy your right to think freely. You should feel free to judge me in any way you like because you should have your rights. And this is what I think you need to bring as in, the whole region here to the concept of politics.

 

Ipek Cem: When you are shaping or trying to reshape Greek politics, you are clearly also thinking about Greece's role in the world and I'm sure that with your years at the foreign ministry this is something you have given a lot of thought to. How do you see Greece's role in the world in terms of politics, in terms of culture, in terms of interaction with different cultures. What is the ideal that you feel Greece should strive towards?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: I believe that we Greeks have and you have met Greeks in the Greek theaspra during your studies in the United States and around the world. We Greeks when we are active in the world we do well. I think we enjoy that and it is a part of, if you like, our identity. So being Greeks but also being citizens of the world I think is what one of the basic things I'd like to see is helping all Greeks in the international world we have. To feel that they have the necessary tools to deal with the new globalizing world.

But secondly as a country, I like to see as a dynamic country which we have become much more with the changes and in the Balkans and in Europe of course with the Olympic games. But to represent values.

The values of democracy, the values of peace, the values of quality in production in our products, so that we can, I think, inspire our people because politics is not simply to say you have, we need to feed you and you need to have a house. Yes that is very important, that is a basis. But in the end we are human beings and we have emotions and we have deep humanity and we want to give meaning to our life. And I think meaning to Greece is to show that we are respecting values, are fighting for values, we are fighting for a different world and I see that this is what we should be doing as Greece and I want to open the way for this.

 

Ipek Cem: Perhaps, a different Greek opinion making let's say, I have heard that a new democracy MP Mr. Yati made a comment he was the previous defence minister as well. He's a Euro MP. Which is when Turkey is an accession country the monster is in the cage. Meaning Turkey now is kind of strapped by Europe it's in the cage it's maybe pascified I don't know. So this I just wanted to go back to that because you were talking about values, Turkish - Greek relations is it sometimes one step further two steps back or you feel this is  a fact or kind of a marginalized comment does it reflect the opinion of the people?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: Obiously, there is always a question and until we solve big issues which is the Cyprus issue until we have such good neighbourly relations where we don't have overflights in the Aegean and we don't have dogfights and so on. There will always be a caution and because with Cyprus particularly, it was the Turkish army that invaded with Imya we had the Turkish army with.

 

Ipek Cem: Of course we have different versions of truth: your truth or our truth.

 

Giorgos Papandreou: Yes, of course. I agree we have, there are different versions and of course, in any conflict you will have different versions. When one wants to, if one wants to solve this, these conflicts, one has to be able to understand the different versions and see what the problem is. Obviously in Cyprus it was a dictatorship and not the will of the Greek people.

The fact that the dictatorship wanted to overthrow Makarios and change the regime in Cyprus was very negative and our fault that we must own up to our responsibilities so I agree to that. But then again I do not think that the solution was that the Turkish army was to come into the Northern Cyprus. I would like to see that Cyprus does not have any foreign army's at all. And that we let the Cypriots, both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots live and make their own community together and I think that would be the best.

So I would say, no, Europe is not a cage it is to free our potential. It is to open up our potential. It is to give hope and and a new way of communicating and understanding each other. We are also in this box, too. If it is in a cage we are in it first! So I wouldn't call it a cage I would call it a new opportunity, a new platform, a new stepping stone for new opportunities for us and one of the biggest opportunities, of course, is that Greece and Turkey can see a common future together. Our people see a common future and this of course is what Ismael and I saw so much. Saw this potential but we did I think which was I think very important is we said, “Okay we are here and there are many problems but let us look what it can be. What it could be.” . And let us work towards that goal which is like the dream. But if we work towards that goal it can become a reality. So I think we need to continually see not only the problems of the past or the problems of today but what our future relationship can be the future of our relationship. I think that spirit and I'm sure Ismael will agree with and by keeping this alive we will be able to  get through the difficult paths that we have. But we will get there.

 

Ipek Cem: With that thought I would like to thank you very much for this candid interview and I brought you something from Turkey which I'd like to present to you.

 

Giorgos Papandreou: Thank you very much, thank you very much and please give all my love to your family. It was very nice to see you in Greece and we hope to see you more often.

 

Ipek Cem: I hope so. Thanks and same for you.

The patriarchy in Istanbul is always a hot topic and one that raises eyebrows in Greece or in Turkey. What are some of your concerns or suggestions about how to correspond about this issue?

 

Giorgos Papandreou: Well it is very important not only for the Greeks but I would say for the Orthodox world in general because ecumenical patriarchate is seen a little bit as the 'Mecca' for the Orthodox Christian world. The importance I think is that they must feel not that they are not only protected but also they have the rights of anyone else in using their property, in being able to function and regenerate the patriarch by bringing in possible Orthodox Christians from another part of the work for the leadership and of course for their education through seminary. What I am saying though without getting into the details with these issues is that Turkey should see this as a very important institution for Turkey.

First of all because, it links Turkey with a wider world, the Orthodox world. Secondly with Europe and it shows Europe and Europe can see. Europe now is dealing with Muslim minorities or Muslim migrants and this is a big discussion. Well Turkey well look we also have here a model of good cooperation with an Orthodox community here and I would also say that the patriarchate, the ecumenical patriarchate Bartholomew is a very important ambassador for Turkey. As a Turkish citizen himself, he can speak for the European prospects of Turkey and I think this is very important to many in Europe who use the argument about your being a Christian club. He can speak to them in a very, I think convincing way. But he needs the help and the protection of the Turkish government to apply the rules of the European, if you like, a key for all religious beliefs.

 

Ipek Cem: I think some of issues relating to this do not really stem from that fact that you know, patriarchy, Christianity, Orthodox religions as opposed to Islam but rather the fact that the Turkish republic itself was founded on a secular basis and one of the things that was done was to get rid of the Islamic califet. So I think we in Turkey also have to find a way to kind of address this issue within the system that we have and the laws that we have and I think it is a challenge for all parties. But I see in Greece there's a lot of coverage about the patriarchy and some demonstrations which I personally find very marginal.

 

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.