US Media on Greece
© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
PRESS & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
March 2004; Vol. 10 No. 3
(also available in PDF file)
After New Democracy’s Decisive Victory in the March 7 Elections
PM KARAMANLIS SETS HIS GOVERNMENT'S PRIORITIES
After his victory in the national elections of March 7 (see details below), Greece’s new prime minister, leader of the New Democracy party Costas Karamanlis, appeared before the Parliament on March 20 to make the traditional statement of his government’s policies. It was approved after a three-day debate by all 165 majority MPs, with all 135 opposition Deputies voting against.
Asserting that he has no intention of asking for a “grace period,” Mr. Karamanlis gave an assurance that he will pursue a “productive dialogue” with the country’s political forces and with the Greek society as a whole. “We are” he said, “retaining everything positive that has been done and pushing forward with the needed improvements and adjustments.”
Making special reference to Cyprus (on which, as detailed below, he joined Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan for crucial talks in Switzerland on March 28), Mr. Karamanlis declared his government’s support, alongside the Greek Cypriots, of the UN plan. “The accession of a reunited Cyprus to the EU is our firm and unshakable objective, so that the two communities, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike, may enjoy the fruits of a new European reality, in conditions of security and stability.”
Other issues raised in the policy statement:
The Athens Olympics: “We are taking all necessary measures to organize the Games in conditions of maximum security and, despite some undoubted delays, we can hold completely successful Games.”
Security and Defense: After a grieving reference to the deadly March 11 terrorist attacks in Madrid, Mr. Karamanlis called for “global efforts” to deal with international terrorism and a “strong and reliable European security and defense policy,” with an effective provision of mutual assistance. “We want to feel as secure as the rest of European citizens.” The prime minister looked forward to Greece’s place in the new landscape of the Balkans and declared his government’s support for a “really European Turkey, free of territorial claims . . . (and) respect for the international legal order and human rights.”
In pursuit of a policy of arms reduction and increased investment in social programs, Mr. Karamanlis noted his government’s intention to introduce the gradual reduction to six months of military service; the utilization of border-area residents as reserve forces; and the upgrading of the defense industry with a view to participation in European and allied programs.
“The Greece of 2010”: Mr. Karamanlis named three basic policy areas in moving forward to the “Greece of 2010”: investment in culture and education; overhaul of the public sector; and an economic policy “guaranteeing the acceleration of growth and a fair distribution of wealth.” He promised an increase in state spending on education, with the creation of modern schools and universities and the reform of bureaucratic impediments that “frustrate and impede creative minds.”
Promising a smaller but more effective and non-partisan civil service, Mr. Karamanlis announced three new public offices: a health service ombudsman; a municipality ombudsman; and an independent panel for the review of contracts.
As to his government’s goal of a “truly welfare state,” Mr. Karamanlis said that his key priorities will be to combat high prices and reduce unemployment. They will also include the upgrading of health services, reforming the social insurance system, and providing assistance to large families and working mothers.
Other key objectives stated by Mr. Karamanlis included an effective privatization policy to attract investments; investment in new technology; simplification of the taxation system, with lower tax brackets and stronger anti-evasion measures; regional development, and integrated policies for the islands, agriculture and tourism.
March 7 Election Results
With a comfortable parliamentary majority, the national elections on March 7 gave the victory to the main opposition New Democracy party led by Mr. Costas Karamanlis, ending 11 years of government by the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) by a margin of nearly 5% and some 360,000 votes, out of a total of 7.6 million votes cast.
The final official result, in which voter turnout was 76.5%, showed that New Democracy received 3,360,424 votes or 45.36%, and PASOK, led by George Papandreou, 3,003,988 votes or 40.55%. The Greek Communist Party (KKE) was third with 5.89% and 436,818 votes. Only one other party, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYN), got enough votes over the 3% minimum to be represented in Parliament (3.26% and 241,714 votes).
The strength of the parties in the 300-member Parliament, which was sworn in on March 18, is as follows: New Democracy – 165 seats, PASOK – 117, KKE – 12 and SYN – 6. Forty women were elected from all parties.
March 2004 Election Results
Party Votes % of Votes Seats
ND 3,360,424 45.36 165
PASOK 3,003,998 40.55 117
KKE 436,818 5.89 12
SYN 241,714 3.26 6
April 2000 Election Results
Party Votes % of Votes Seats
PASOK 3,007,947 43.79 158
ND 2,935,242 42.73 125
KKE 379,517 5.53 11
SYN 219,918 3.20 6
The New Prime Minister
The new Prime Minister of Greece, a nephew of the late statesman Constantine Karamanlis, succeeded in his bid for the premiership on his second try after taking over as leader of the New Democracy party in 1997. He lost the April 2000 elections by only 70,000 votes. Born in Athens in September 1956, at 47 he is not only the youngest Greek prime minister ever, but the first to be born after the divisive Greek Civil War (1946-1949). After graduating from Athens University Law School in 1979, he earned Master’s and PhD degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston (1980-1984) and was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 1989.
The New Cabinet
The new government headed by Mr. Karamanlis was sworn in on March 10 by the President of the Republic, Mr. Kostis Stephanopoulos. In view of the urgent need to complete preparations for the Olympic Games in August, Mr. Karamanlis himself took over as Minister of Culture – in charge of overseeing and coordinating the Olympic effort.
The new 46-member government comprises 20 ministers and 26 deputy ministers. It includes two women, and another woman, Anna Psarouda-Benaki was elected the first-ever woman Speaker of the Parliament. Among the senior posts assigned: Foreign Minister, Petros Molyviatis; National Economy and Finance, George Alogoskoufis; National Defense, Spilios Spiliotopoulos; Development, Dimitris Sioufas; Environment, Town Planning and Public Works, George Souflias; Education, Marietta Yiannakou; Public Order, George Voulgarakis. Ms. Fani Palli-Petralia is named as Alternate Minister of Culture and Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos is the government spokesman.
In a statement after the formation of his cabinet, Mr. Karamanlis warned his ministers against discriminating along party lines. “I will not tolerate any discrimination and I am not interested in how each person voted. Operate on the basis of real worth and choose associates that are honest and capable.” He urged them to display moderation and honesty.
President Bush Invites Karamanlis to the White House
Among the many messages of congratulations and goodwill, a letter from President Bush to Mr. Karamanlis spoke of his victory “in the land which gave democracy to the world,” of the past cooperation of Greece and the US “to build an undivided Europe,” and the joint effort “to promote freedom and peace in the whole region of southeastern Europe and the Middle East.” Mr. Bush promised close cooperation in the effort to bring the two Cypriot communities together and to “reinforce our common effort to ensure that the return of the modern Olympics to the land of their birth will be safe and successful.”
President Bush will welcome the new Prime Minister to the White House on May 20. A White House announcement said that the visit “will provide an opportunity to deepen our partnership with Greece in pursuit of democracy, prosperity, and peace in southeastern Europe and the greater Middle East. The leaders will also discuss final preparations for a successful and safe Olympics in Athens, as the Summer Games return to the land of their birth.”
President Bush, who issued a proclamation on March 25, Greek Independence Day, will also host a celebration honoring Greece’s national day at the White House on April 1.
After the Lighting Ceremony in Ancient Olympia
THE OLYMPIC TORCH BEGINS ITS GLOBAL JOURNEY
The countdown to the Athens Olympic Games began on March 25 when, in the presence of President Kostis Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and IOC President Jacques Rogge, the Olympic Flame was lit in a solemn ceremony in ancient Olympia, where the Olympic Games began in 776 BC. The Flame, carried by 3,600 runners, will travel through 34 cities in all five continents, including Africa and Latin America for the first time, giving a total of 280 million people an opportunity to celebrate brotherhood, peace and the Olympic spirit.
Cities in the US which will see the Torch carried on its global journey, with the message “Pass the Flame – Unite the World,” include Los Angeles on June 16; St. Louis on June 17; Atlanta on June 18; and New York on June 19.
In Greece the Flame will be carried through the Peloponnese and the Saronic Gulf islands, arriving on March 31 in Athens at the Panathenian Stadium, where the first modern Games were revived in 1896. It will remain there until June 3 when it will begin its international journey, and it will return to Greece for a second leg through the entire country beginning on July 9 and culminating in its ceremonial entry to the Olympic Stadium to begin the Games on August 13.
The Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commission for Refugees, will run one of the closing legs of the Torch relay in Athens on August 12.
Olympics: Review by New Government and IOC President
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who has also taken direct charge of Olympics preparations as Minister of Culture, called a high-level meeting on March 13 to review the state of preparations for the Athens Olympic Games in August. In addition to the chief Greek officials involved – including Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki and Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni – the meeting was attended by IOC president Jacques Rogge and the chairman of the Coordinating Commission, Denis Oswald.
Mr. Rogge expressed his pleasure at the assumption of direct supervision by the new prime minister and said after the two-hour meeting that it has resolved problems in record time. A statement by the IOC said that it had “discussed the government’s overall commitment to the preparations of the Games; the construction works of the Olympic venues; transport, infrastructure and security issues.”
“This,” the statement continued, “was a very positive meeting… the experts have confirmed to us that while a lot remains to be done, there is time for the preparations to be successfully completed if all energies are mobilized and focused in the same direction…I realize how important the Games are to the Greek people and I am sure that they will rise to the challenges.”
Mr. Rogge gave an assurance that “everything possible is being done” – including an evaluation of the recent terrorist attack in Madrid – to ensure the safety of the Games. He was also satisfied with arrangements for the Marathon course for which a new construction company has been engaged. At a subsequent meeting on March 26 with key ministers in charge of various projects, the chairman of the IOC Coordinating Commission, Denis Oswald, expressed his satisfaction that the government resolved all the Olympic preparation issues the IOC had raised. “We now have a clear picture and a distinct time frame. We feel that the decisions that have been made will accelerate procedures. Everything will be finished on time,” Oswald said after the meeting. The completion of the Calatrava-designed roof over the Olympic Stadium is now slated for July 20.
Transport Minister Michalis Liapis said a section of the suburban rail line linking the airport to the main Olympic stadium and to the Athens subway system will be ready by mid-July at the latest.
NATO Assistance, “Hercules Shield 2004” Security Exercise
NATO has responded positively to the Greek government’s request for assistance in security plans for the Games. The Alliance has been asked especially for its help in air surveillance, sea patrols and technical support against chemical, biological and nuclear threats.
• The most elaborate and intensive Olympic security exercise ever mounted ended successfully on March 23. The two-week exercise, named “Hercules Shield 2004", the seventh in a series of Olympic exercises, involved some 1,500 Greek personnel of the police, coast guard, fire brigades and a host of government agencies.
In addition to the massive participation of Greek forces and authorities, the exercise was joined by some 500 personnel from other countries, mainly special forces of the United States, which is a member of the seven-nation Olympic Advisory Group. Security experts from the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel and Canada participated as observers. Representatives from China, Russia and Italy also watched the exercise.
The broad-range and internationally-cooperative exercise was based on an anti-terrorist scenario of asymmetric threats and the management of consequences and losses. The scenario included damage to security equipment, explosions of home-made devices, chemical attacks with large-scale losses, air piracy, epidemic crises, and other high-risk threats that tested security personnel and infrastructure.
The Ministry of Public Order reported that the exercise “served the training goals. The conclusions drawn will assist in making the necessary improvements and adjustments in the planning of Olympic security and in the procedures concerning international cooperation. The exercise, by general consent, was a success. Indeed, it showed that international collaboration is the most effective weapon against any threat which could disrupt the safe and normal conduct of the Olympic Games.”
• CIA Director George Tenet, in comments to a Greek newspaper published on March 22, said “that the Greek government and all those involved are working very hard to make these Olympic Games safe. As far as we are concerned, we are committed to helping as much as we can so that the Games are a proud moment for Greece and I am proud that the Games are returning to their homeland.”
Asked about international insecurity following the Madrid bombings, he replied: “Let’s not worry prematurely. Terrorism obviously concerns us a lot. Our aim is for the Games to go ahead in complete safety. We are working hard to ensure that becomes a fact.”
On the Greek government’s decision to ask NATO for assistance, he said: “I believe NATO’s aid will contribute to a secure Games. And the more aid there is, the safer the Games will be.”
• The Greek Public Order Minister, George Voulgarakis indicated to his EU partners that Greece looks forward to their assistance and intelligence sharing in strengthening Olympic security. He participated in an EU meeting to strengthen European cooperation in combating international terrorism following the terrorist attacks in Madrid.
For continuing Olympic updates go to www.athens2004.com
With One Month Ahead for Cyprus to Join EU
GREEK AND TURKISH LEADERS JOIN CYPRUS SOLUTION EFFORT
The prime ministers of Greece and Turkey, Costas Karamanlis and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan joined on March 28 the President of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, and representatives of the Turkish Cypriot community, who were engaged in intensive talks since March 24 at Burgenstock near Lucerne in Switzerland, seeking a solution of the Cyprus problem in time for a reunited republic, including the Turkish-occupied northern area of the island, to join the expanded European Union on May 1st.
After an EU summit in Brussels on March 25-26, Prime Minister Karamanlis expressed his genuine interest in a viable and functional settlement based on the UN resolutions and the EU’s acquis communautaire, pledging his full support to the government of the Cyprus Republic. He also expressed satisfaction with the summit’s final conclusion on Cyprus, which reaffirmed the EU’s strong preference for the accession of a united Cyprus and reiterated the EU’s readiness to accommodate the terms of such a settlement in line with the acquis communautaire and the basic principles on which the EU is founded. He described as a positive development the involvement of the European Commission in the UN-sponsored talks with the Enlargement Commissioner Guenther Verheugen.
Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis expressed hope that the Turkish side would display moderation and good intent so that “on May 1 a reunited Cyprus will be able to join the EU and Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike may enjoy all that EU membership has to offer. Unfortunately, during the first stage of this procedure, namely in the talks between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots held earlier in Nicosia, no substantial progress was made, chiefly due to the maximalistic demands and positions of the other (Turkish) side,” he told reporters before flying to Switzerland.
On March 29 the UN Secretary-General presented his revised plan to all parties, calling it a “win-win proposal.” (More details of the negotiations in next month’s issue.)
From the U.S. Press
“AN OLYMPIAN METAMORPHOSIS”
A feature article in the New York Times Magazine of March 7 by Michael Mewshaw describes the “Olympian Metamorphosis” of Athens which, the subtitle adds, “is rapidly becoming a fusion city, a bridge between Europe and the Middle East.”
“When the Games begin this August in front of tens of thousands of visitors and millions of television viewers, Greece will showcase its entrepreneurial spirit, contemporary arts and surprising culinary sophistication,” he noted.
“As the smallest country to host the Olympics since Finland in 1952, Greece will recapture its ancient glory with games on a human scale,” the author wrote. “To decide who’s right–the cynics or the optimists–one can do no better than take a pre-Olympic trip to Athens and sample its ambience, its food and street life. ”
• The cover of the April issue of the Conde Nast Traveler magazine, illustrated by an Olympic Flame-lighting beauty and a background of the Acropolis, introduces the feature article “Athens Moment – The Games Return to the City of the Gods.”
The article, by Bob Payne, has an illustrated lead page with the legend: “Athens is racing to a glorious finish…in a European capital that was too long neglected.” After describing the extensive program of new highways, metro, airport, etc., Payne writes: “The changes taking place in Athens are about more than transportation, of course. They are about making the city a more pleasant place to live in and to visit . . . Hotels are being renovated, restaurants are reaching world-class standards, and new walkways twine among the city’s parks and its great cultural sites.”
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