US Media on Greece
© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
PRESS & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
April 2005; Vol. 11 No. 4
(also available in PDF File)
1. GREEK PARLIAMENT RATIFIES EU CONSTITUTION
2. PM KARAMANLIS INVITED TO THE WHITE HOUSE
3. GREECE’S STRATEGIC COOPERATION WITH THE U.S.
4. ATHENS A SECURITY TRAINING CENTER IN BALKANS
5. FOREIGN MINISTER MOLYVIATIS VISITS ANKARA
6. POLITICAL AGREEMENT ON NEW OIL PIPELINE
7. GREECE SUPPORTS FYROM NAME UN PROPOSAL
PM Karamanlis: “A Major Milestone for Our Common European Future”
GREEK PARLIAMENT RATIFIES EU CONSTITUTION
The Greek Parliament voted overwhelmingly on April 19 to ratify the EU Constitution—the fifth of the 25 European Union members to do so. With the support of both the government and main opposition parties, the European Constitutional Treaty was ratified by a large majority of 268 to 17 votes.
In the debate which preceded the vote, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis recalled that it was his uncle Constantine Karamanlis who in the late 1970s led the effort which opened the way to Greece’s entry into what was then the European Economic Community. While the new European Constitution, he said, does not provide immediate solutions to the problems Europe faces in its “long and painful effort to integrate, it is certainly a major milestone on the road towards our common European future.”
“Greece’s Devotion to European Principles”
Visiting Athens on the day before Parliament’s ratification of the European Constitution, EU Commission President Manuel Barroso anticipated the favorable vote and said that it would demonstrate “Greece’s devotion to the European ideal, European principles and values,” and its contribution, as a country of the eastern Mediterranean, to “development, progress and European integration.” Greece, Mr. Barroso said, “has contributed to Europe, just as Europe has contributed to Greece.”
The EU Commission president praised the Greek government for the recent series of cost-cutting and tax measures to bring Greece back below the Stability Pact ceiling for budget deficits. Prime Minister Karamanlis reaffirmed that Greece will support the Commission’s proposed allocation of Community Support Funds which, he said, are balanced and could successfully deal with the problems posed by the varying levels of development among member-states.
Both Mr. Barroso and Mr. Karamanlis spoke of Turkey’s course towards EU membership, following closely on renewed provocations in the Aegean by Turkish warplanes and the violation of Greek territorial waters—actions made the more disturbing by their coincidence with a working visit to Ankara by Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis (see separate story this page).
“Now is the time,” Mr. Karamanlis said, “for Turkey to prove that it wants to comply with Europe’s acquis communautaire and European values and to meet the criteria as set out at EU summits.”
Mr. Barroso made a similar statement, noting that the EU “has burdened Turkey with clear-cut conditions on respect for European values and principles as well as the Union’s acquis communautaire which are prerequisites for Turkey’s full membership in the EU.” Good neighborly relations with EU member and candidate states, he added, is one of the conditions. He further praised the position of the Greek government in promoting the inclusion of a democratic Turkey in the European family.
On his part, Mr. Karamanlis affirmed Greece’s support of the European prospects of all Balkan countries which met European criteria. He also said that he had briefed Mr. Barroso on the recent proposal offered by UN special representative Matthew Nimetz for a solution of the difficult issue of a commonly accepted name for Greece’s northern neighbor, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The Economist Conference—The Future of Europe
The future of Europe—“not just as an international power, but as an international political force”—was the theme of an address by Mr. Karamanlis on April 19 to a conference organized in Athens by the Economist magazine. Support for the European Union, the prime minister said, is essential: “The stronger, more democratic and more social that the EU becomes the stronger its peoples, societies and citizens will be.”
Mr. Karamanlis spoke of a “new era”—the age of globalization, the information society and the new economy. These changes call for reforms such as those of the Lisbon Strategy, to make the European economy more competitive and more dynamic. Greece, he said, is committed to confronting the problems of the past and to achieving the Lisbon Strategy goals. Among the priorities his government has set itself are: the cutting of costs in the public sector, dealing with graft and corruption as well as with illegal commerce and tax evasion; and developing public property.
Greece’s new Stability and Growth program, submitted to the EU, the prime minister said, has been well received by the European Commission. In addition to making 2005 a year to encourage the competitiveness of high-quality Greek products and services, the government looks forward to the benefits of a new tax law to encourage economic development, and plans to liberalize the electricity and natural gas markets. These reforms will now be followed by legislation to foster partnerships between the private and public sectors; a new immigration policy; and labor law reforms.
PM KARAMANLIS INVITED TO THE WHITE HOUSE
It was announced by the White House on April 25 that President George W. Bush will welcome Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to the White House on May 20. The announcement of the visit says: “Greece is a long-standing NATO ally and member of the European Union. The Prime Minister’s visit reflects the excellent state of our bilateral relations as well as the deepening partnership of the two countries in advancing democracy, prosperity, and security from southeastern Europe through the broader Middle East.”
This will be Mr. Karamanlis’ second trip to Washington, since he was elected Prime Minister in March, 2004. He was the guest of President Bush at the White House on May 20, 2004 for discussions which reaffirmed the close partnership between the two allies.
After Washington, Mr. Karamanlis will visit Boston to deliver the commencement address at Tufts University, where he received a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
GREECE’S STRATEGIC COOPERATION WITH THE U.S.
After a three-day visit, April 25-27, for discussions in Washington with administration officials and members of Congress, National Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos expressed his satisfaction with the results of his talks with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy National Security Advisor Jack Crouch, and Senators Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), John McCain (R-AZ), and Rick Santorum (R-PA). He also spoke about Greece’s lessons from the successful hosting of the Athens Olympics to the National Defense University.
“We have added one more particularly valuable page to the history of Greek-American relations on the basis of mutual understanding, sincerity and trust. All the meetings we had,” he said, “were held in a cordial climate, and we received thanks for Greece’s contribution to peacekeeping operations and on issues concerning the stability, security and peace in our broader region.”
Mr. Spiliotopoulos met at the White House with the Deputy National Security Advisor Crouch, who thanked him for Greece’s participation in peacekeeping missions in the Balkans and Afghanistan, “confirming once again Greece’s strategic cooperation with the US government.” A similarly useful review of Greece-US cooperation bilaterally and within the Atlantic Alliance was held in his meeting with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who recalled an earlier visit to Greece for a meeting of the Southeast Europe Defense Ministers and also in 1974, when he was Ambassador to NATO.
In his report of the talks in Washington, Mr. Spiliotopoulos also noted the congratulations he received for the safe conduct of last year’s Athens Olympics.
Greece’s Upgraded Role
The minister referred also to the establishment, in the context of the new NATO structure, of a NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Center at Souda in Crete and also of the Multinational Athens Sea Lift Coordination Center where, in cooperation with Greek shipowners, Greece’s fastest and most up-to-date cargo and passenger ships will be available to be chartered for the UN-sanctioned strategic needs of NATO and the EU.
“The general impression we took from the meetings,” he said, “is of the upgraded role of Greece, which was repeatedly stressed in all the discussions and which will surely be confirmed when Prime Minister Karamanlis makes his forthcoming visit to the US capital.”
Asked whether the issue of Iraq had come up in his talks with Secretary Rumsfeld, Mr. Spiliotopoulos said that it had and that, while Greece has not sent troops to Iraq, it has been involved in the reconstruction of Iraq and in training with its contribution of !300,000—one-tenth of the NATO budget for the Iraqi security forces training.
In a speech to the Hellenic American Heritage Council on Greek-US defense cooperation, Mr. Spiliotopoulos noted that contracts signed by Greece with the American defense industry in the 2000-2005 period amounted to $6.3 billion, “showing our trust in the quality of American weapons systems and expertise.”
Confronting New Threats to International Security
Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos also spoke at the conference and urged international cooperation to confront “the complex and frequently unpredictable” new threats to international security. Defense unification among the EU countries, he said, is the other aspect of political unification since sustained political authority assists the shaping of a common European security doctrine. The minister spoke of “complementarity and equality” as the key for cooperation between EU and NATO and also referred to the stability and prosperity of the Balkans as Greece’s “strategic choice.”
The conference was also addressed by Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis, who spoke of Greek-Turkish relations and the “unbearable” burden placed on the economies of both countries by large military spending.
Public Order Minister in Washington
ATHENS A SECURITY TRAINING CENTER IN BALKANS
In the course of a visit to Washington in mid-April, when he was “exceptionally pleased” with the warmth of his reception, Minister of Public Order George Voulgarakis discussed with high-ranking US officials the continuing close cooperation between the two countries in the global war against terrorism and other security issues, including illegal trafficking of people and improved border and passport controls. (The US side welcomed, especially, the Greek government’s intention to issue new passports, containing biometric data, by January, 2006).
Greece’s experience in conducting last year’s incident-free Olympic Games was discussed in the meetings between Mr. Voulgarakis and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, FBI Director Robert Mueller, CIA Director Porter Goss, and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns. In addition to the prospect of joint anti-terrorist and exchange programs, the currently successful bilateral cooperation on drug interdiction was also discussed. The experience of the US in combating human trafficking was a subject of special interest to the Greek side, bearing in mind the wave of migration which followed the collapse of communist regimes on Greece’s northern borders in the early 1990s.
A proposal aired by Mr. Voulgarakis during his visit, for the establishment in Athens of an inter-Balkan training center for members of the security services of countries in the region, was “heard with interest” by US officials, including President Bush’s Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend. The proposal is in line with the broader intention of Greece to play a major strategic role in promoting the security and economic development of the region.
Interviewed by the Washington Times on April 16, Mr. Voulgarakis said that his proposal, drawing on the experience gained by the successful conduct of the Athens Olympics, would make Athens a “major outpost of international cooperation in the war on terror and other transnational threats.” The proposed Athens facility, to be called the “Balkan and Mediterranean Center for Security Research and Training,” would train members of the security services of other countries in the region and organize strategic and tactical exercises in cooperation with the US and other European countries.
Address to the Center for Strategic and International Studies
The thoughts of Mr. Voulgarakis on the problem of confronting terrorism were conveyed on April 11 to a meeting in Washington of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), when he spoke of the “intense insecurity” which now confronts the world. “A stable security environment,” Mr. Voulgarakis said, “is an essential condition for stability and growth.”
He titled his address: “The Olympic Security Model as a Pattern of International Cooperation to Confront New Threats.” Organizing the 2004 Olympics in an environment of total security was, he said, a great challenge to Greece. No other country had ever had an integrated security plan for organizing events on such a scale.
The minister described in some detail the organizational measures to coordinate the various security forces and to equip them with the latest in anti-terrorist technology—at a total cost, met exclusively from national resources, of !1 billion ($1.3 billion).
Mr. Voulgarakis then spoke of the essential part played by international cooperation through the seven-nation Olympic Advisory Group, and the signing of 32 memoranda of understanding with numerous countries, especially those in the Balkans, south-east Europe and the Mediterranean.
In addition to the cooperation offered by the US within the international advisory group, Mr. Voulgarakis described the particular areas in which US advice and support provided bilaterally was an important element of Olympic security. These included the exchange of intelligence; personnel training (including that of 2,500 police officers in the US); readiness exercises; provision of equipment; and the planning of terrorist deterrence.
The cooperation of NATO was also important in the creation of a security umbrella in five Olympic cities, on the high seas, and in international airspace. All this, he added, within the context of maintaining individual freedoms and preserving the festive atmosphere of the Games.
In conclusion, while predicting future “unprecedented security challenges,” Mr. Voulgarakis urged a “security diplomacy” to confront those problems effectively. There is only one message: “Democracy will win—Terrorism will be defeated.”
FOREIGN MINISTER MOLYVIATIS VISITS ANKARA
The latest in the series of violations of Greek territorial waters by Turkish patrol vessels around the Imia islets in the Aegean, and of penetrations of Greek airspace by Turkish military aircraft, coincided with the visit to Ankara, April 13-14, of Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis for talks with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul.
By his decision to continue his mission rather than return to Athens by way of protest, Mr. Molyviatis succeeded in preserving a calm atmosphere and in achieving what he described as “good and productive” results.
In order to avoid undesirable events in the Aegean, the two foreign ministers agreed on the establishment of a direct telephone line between the national air force operations centers of both countries. They also stated their confidence that this move will build mutual trust and reduce tensions between the two countries. Mr. Molyviatis referred to “certain military activities in the Aegean which are having a negative effect on the climate between our countries;” and Mr. Gul gave an assurance that the tension-reducing measures would be supported by the Turkish military authorities.
The two foreign ministers agreed during the visit to three new confidence-building measures (in addition to the 11 such measures already in place). The new arrangements concern cooperation of the Greek and Turkish military in dealing with natural disasters, exchange of students in the two national military academies, and sports competitions between them.
During his two-day visit, Mr. Molyviatis also had discussions with a range of Turkish leaders on bilateral cooperation in areas such as tourism, transport, energy and trade. He also met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who conveyed an invitation to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to visit Turkey in the near future.
Before leaving Turkey, Mr. Molyviatis paid a visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos in Istanbul. They discussed Greek-Turkish relations and issues of concern to the Greek Orthodox minority in Turkey.
With an Investment of $750 Million
POLITICAL AGREEMENT ON NEW OIL PIPELINE
“A project of great significance for the economy and for the energy sector, not only for the countries involved but for the entire region.” That was the reaction of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to the signing on April 12 in Sofia of a political agreement between Greece, Bulgaria and Russia, for the construction of a cross-border oil pipeline. It will carry Russian oil from Burgas on the Black Sea in Bulgaria on a 285-mile journey to Alexandroupolis in northern Greece. The pipeline, with an investment of $750-800 million, will have an annual capacity of 35 million tons of oil.
Mr. Karamanlis further noted that the project will encourage increased cooperation among the three countries in numerous areas—political, economic, commercial and cultural.
Greeting the signing of the agreement after 13 years of inconclusive efforts, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said it will provide a new outlet for Russian oil and oil from the Caspian Sea to western markets in Europe and North America. Mr. Sioufas also noted the contribution of the previous Greek government to the long negotiations and, urging speedy progress, said that a working group of the Greek development and foreign ministries will be set up to handle the coordination of the project. Hellenic Petroleum, the Latsis oil, shipping and banking group, and the Kopelouzos energy group are among the Greek companies expected to be involved.
The new pipeline will be part of a widespread network of energy-related projects which will include a link between Greek, Turkish and Italian natural gas networks; a natural gas pipeline for the western Balkans; and a combined energy market for south-eastern Europe and the Black Sea.
The preliminary route planned for the pipeline takes account of environmental protection and is expected to provide a permanent source of development in the region of Thrace, creating new jobs and benefitting the Greek treasury to the extent of some $30-50 million annually.
In Letters to President Bush, EU and NATO Leaders
GREECE SUPPORTS FYROM NAME UN PROPOSAL
As UN special mediator Matthew Nimetz intensified his efforts to negotiate a mutually agreed name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)—one which will meet Greece’s insistence on avoiding confusion with its historically named northern province of Macedonia—the Greek government has stated its readiness to engage constructively in the latest efforts to reach a mutually acceptable solution.
The readiness of Greece was firmly stated in letters sent by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to President Bush and the EU and NATO leaders. “Greece,” Mr. Karamanlis wrote, “is ready to enter this final stage of negotiations with a positive and constructive position, to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution.”
The letter followed the drafting by Mr. Nimetz of a Security Council resolution in which he proposes the name “Republika Makedonija-Skopje” for official international use by the UN, other international organizations and states, while the name “Republika Makedonija” will continue to be used within FYROM itself. The proposal, Mr. Karamanlis wrote, “does not fully satisfy our positions, but we are prepared to accept it as a basis for a solution. For fifteen years,” Mr. Karamanlis continued, “various factors prevented a solution between the two countries. Personally, I am ready to support an agreement now, which will contribute to the stability of the entire region and lift a major obstacle in FYROM’s course towards integration with Euro-Atlantic structures. The proposal is a unique window of opportunity for both sides.”
The Nimetz proposal was greeted as a “constructive step” by the US State Department and by Mr. Javier Solana, Foreign and Security Policy chief of the EU, who characterized it as a good basis for a mutually acceptable solution.
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece