Dimitris Rapidis

Mrs Photini Tomai is Director of the Service of Diplomatic and Historical Archives of the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Under her administration, and with close cooperation with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the work of documenting the properties of the Greek communities in Turkey has been efficiently finalized. Mrs Tomai has been National Delegate of Greece in three international organizations and written extensively for the restitution of the victims of Nazism and the Holocaust, amongst other crucial topics of Greek, European, and global concern. Mrs Tomai is candidate MEP with New Democracy (ND – EPP political group) in Greece.

1. What is your opinion on the current situation in Ukraine?

In situations like the one in Ukraine, it is certain that the solution must be found within the framework and in respect of international law and international agreements, like the one that was signed just before Easter in Geneva. The evolution of international law since the end of World War II gives us all necessary tools to face crises like this one with peaceful means. It is sad to see, however, that some countries still believe that violence and methods of the past can apply in order to resolve international or domestic problems. For the European Union, the situation in Ukraine is another opportunity to prove that it can have a common and firm foreign policy, which has the ability, in cooperation with other major world powers, to find solutions, preserve world peace and deter other powers from creating crises.

2. Regarding EU’s Enlargement Policy, which are the major impediments on the negotiation process with the Balkan states?

The impediments concerning the negotiation process with the remaining non-EU Balkan states are numerous and quite obvious I would say. Their economic situation, relations with their neighbours, the functioning of democracy, even the implementation of the rule of law in some cases, appear to be problematic. These are real obstacles that impede them from being able to adapt or even negotiate in a trustworthy manner their adaptation to the “acquis communautaire”.

On the other hand, the European Union seems less willing today to be more flexible as far as this adaptation is concerned. In the 1980s and 1990s, the big dilemma in the EU was deepening or enlargement. Should we wait until deeper integration is achieved before we allow access to new member-states, or should we proceed to enlargement fast? In the decade after 2000 EU seemed confident enough not only to proceed to enlargement without having achieved deeper integration first, but to welcome member-states which clearly were not ready enough to adapt to the “acquis communautaire”. I have the feeling that it now regrets this policy. I am not saying that I would rather prefer that the 13 new member-states that acceded to the Union since 2004 had not done so, but the situation in which some of them were when they entered the EU seems to impede it from developing further.

Therefore, I have the feeling that the Union will try to make sure that all candidates from now on will be ready enough to join before the accession is decided. That is why it now allows open-end negotiations as far as the time framework is concerned. Developments like the beginning of negotiations with Serbia in January are very positive, but these negotiations will not end necessarily very soon if the candidate does not show willingness to adapt. Let’s hope that this procedure with no deadline as far as the end is concerned will be an incentive for quicker adjustment to the European norms.

3. Regarding Turkey’s candidacy for EU membership, do you foresee any developments toward retriggering bilateral negotiations?

I am convinced that negotiations with Turkey depend largely, if not exclusively, on Ankara’s willingness to continue with them or not. The EU has been trying for many years to reach a final agreement on all chapters of the negotiations, but this has not proven possible yet. In my view, and besides individual issues that have to be dealt with in the various chapters that remain open, the main thing that needs to be done as far as these negotiations are concerned, is for Turkey to change her attitude towards them. The Turkish government gives me the impression that it thinks it negotiates a bilateral treaty of some kind, and not an accession agreement. I get the feeling that they forget that the aim of the negotiations is the accession to a Union where the “rules of the game”, in other words the Union’s law, is something already settled and that they do not negotiate which part of this law they will accept and which not. They have to accept the entire “acquis communautaire” as it is, whether they like it or not, if they want to become EU members. The context of the negotiations are merely the terms of the transition periods in different policy fields, and nothing further. If they do not understand this basic truth, then I see it difficult for the negotiations to continue for long.

For the time being, I cannot help noticing that Turkey does not accept fundamental facts of the “acquis”, like which are the member-states of the Union… Perhaps the opening of chapter 22 on regional policy and coordination of structural instruments last November was a good sign (it definitely showed good will from the part of the EU), but developments ever since are not encouraging.

4. Do you believe that the Geneva Accords on Iran’s nuclear program have proven to be accommodating for all parts involved?

I want to believe that the Geneva Accords are a positive development for stability and peace in the Middle East. The West sought an agreement that would make Iran stop its nuclear programme and Iran wanted an agreement that would relax international sanctions. For the time being both goals seem to have been achieved. The future will show if the application of the agreement will be a step to a more permanent solution or not. But I think that it was worth trying.

5. Through the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), the EU is expected to invest another 15bn euro between 2014-20 for a string of priorities, including democratic transition, economic and rural development, human rights and justice in North Africa, Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Given the failure of implementing such policies over the past years in almost all regions involved, do you believe that ENPI should be restructured in order to bring more efficient results with lower cost?

ENPI has already been restructured. ENI, as it is from now on called, the European Neighbourhood Instrument, which will indeed provide € 15.4 bn to EU’s neighbouring states, but never before has been so clearly and explicitly stated that the funding of the policy is directly connected with the achievement of targets like the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, principles of equality and the fight against discrimination in all its forms. There is even a close of “more for more”, which means more funding if more of the targets are achieved. Indicators that will be used to measure the achievement of the specific objectives shall be predefined, clear and transparent , so that the Union is certain of the progress of the neighbouring countries in these fields. So, you see the tool exists. It is now on the EU’s hands to use it right and to apply it the way it should be applied.

The European Parliament’s role in this respect could and should be very important and essential. Although it is the Commission that will apply the respective programmes, the Parliament can at any point strip the Commission of the powers to do so, if it considers that conditions set for funding through the ENI are not met. Do not forget that the European Parliament has always been the Union’s best promoter of human rights in the world, even in the 1980s when it started stopping association agreements with third countries on the grounds of not sufficient respect of human rights. The same role should continue to have now.

Finally, let me add that I am happy that the new Regulation with which the ENI was created, was concluded during the Greek Presidency of the Council (last March), symbolically at least showing the importance that Greece and the Greek government attaches to EU’s policy towards its neighbours and the way it sees the relations with them.

6. Do you believe that the Cyprus Issue has to be resolved with EU mediation or emphasis should be given to the bi-communal dialogue between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots?

One does not exclude the other. Bi-communal dialogue is the essential procedure in order to resolve the Cyprus Issue, but the good services of the EU, or anyone else could offer real and effective assistance, can also prove helpful. Nobody should forget though, that the Republic of Cyprus is an EU member-state and it has to be treated accordingly.

7. Can Greece, Cyprus and Israel establish the necessary conditions and environment in order to provide secure alternatives in energy supply for the EU?

The EU should constantly try to find alternative ways of energy supply and it should try to avoid depending on exclusively on one or two suppliers. Therefore, a potential, and much discussed, Greek-Cypriot-Israeli cooperation in this field is more than welcome. Especially since two of the cooperating states are EU members. The memorandum of understanding on energy issues signed by the three states in Nicosia last August was a good start, as not only did it foresee the connection of the electricity grids of the three countries via an underwater cable, but it also included the promise to work together to protect natural gas fields, a very important provision. That was a first step that should set the pace for the future. This process could of course raise protests from other states of the region, but these protests, or potential obstacles, should not deter the three countries from trying. Let’s hope that their efforts will be successful.

8. Regarding EU’s foreign policy, in which area (s) should EU focus or invest more in the next five years?

I will start with something which is common knowledge. In the next years EU’s foreign policy should at last become truly common, and also firm, well-articulated and credible. In other words, it should at last acquire all the characteristics that lacked until now. I do not want to underestimate Lady Ashton’s work in the previous years, but EU perhaps needs more dynamism in order to persuade the rest of the world of what it really is: a great power. Because it is a great power, although we tend to forget it due to internal conflicted interests that impede the adoption and expression of a really common foreign policy and due to an apparent lack of vigor.

As for in which fields it has to focus, in my opinion it should first of all try to be a credible and powerful mediator in crises that take place in its neighbourhood: in crises and conflicts in regions like the former Soviet republics and the Middle East, Europe should be the power that should have the ability to stop them. Moreover, EU should focus on the protection of human rights worldwide. Europe has always been a pioneer in this field and it is its duty to remain so, no matter if human right abuses are reported in Africa or Asia states or in non-EU European states. Additionally, I believe that the EU should focus on its relations with the globe’s emerging powers, without of course sacrificing its relations with its traditional partners, especially the US. Finally, I would add that the EU should also focus more on cooperation in energy issues and also on the policy for the protection of the environment, which is crucial for humanity’s future. In general, I strongly think that the EU is a superpower, but that it should now try to believe it and act like one.

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