US Media on Greece
© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
A NEWS REVIEW FROM THE EMBASSY OF GREECE
PRESS & INFORMATION OFFICE, Washington D.C.
March 2003; Vol. 9 No. 3
(also available in PDF file)
At Spring Summit Under Greek Presidency
EU Leaders Focus on Post-War Iraq, Economic Growth
The war in Iraq and the “Lisbon Strategy” for economic growth, employment, and social cohesion, dominated the European Union’s Spring summit convened by the Greek Presidency in Brussels on March 20-21.
After the failure of intensive efforts by the EU to promote a peaceful resolution of the Iraq crisis, EU efforts are now concentrated on ameliorating the effects of the war and seeking the postwar stability of the region.
Reporting on the results of the summit, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, current president of the EU Council, expressed satisfaction because the European Union, instead of dwelling again on the differences over the manner of and timetable for Iraq’s disarmament, felt it necessary to look to the future and agree on some principles on dealing with post-war Iraq.
With the beginning of the war in Iraq, Mr. Simitis said, a new situation has been created. Expressing his hope for a quick end to military action, with "the least possible casualties and misery," Mr. Simitis emphasized the EU's particular concern for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political stability of Iraq. All 15 EU member-states, he said, favored the complete disarmament of Iraq and urged that the United Nations must play a central role both during and after the crisis. They also supported the Secretary-General's proposal for the continued supply of food to Iraq in exchange for oil.
The EU was also united, Mr. Simitis added, in its desire to address the serious humanitarian problems that will arise from the crisis and to help neighboring countries faced with an expected wave of refugees. The leaders also expressed support for the "road map" proposed for a solution of the Middle East issue.
The summit meeting has also agreed, Mr. Simitis reported, on the need for the EU to strengthen its common foreign and defense policy to influence a multi-polar world. At the same time, he added, it declared the will to strengthen its "fundamentally important" transatlantic relationship. The development of a dialogue with the United States on the handling of major international problems and on cooperation against terrorism is also a priority.
The increased role of the EU as a military force was also noted by the EU's chief diplomat, Javier Solana, who referred to the agreement of the EU's 15 foreign ministers on the launching of the EU's first military mission, replacing the NATO peacekeeping force in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on March 31. "This," Mr. Solana said, "is a very significant day for the development of the Union's military capabilities." The European force, with a six month mandate, will consist of 350 soldiers.
Greece Backs UN Role
On behalf of the European Union, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou on March 23 briefed UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Iraq discussions at the summit. Mr. Papandreou emphasized EU support for the UN role, both during the war and in the relief and reconstruction tasks which will follow.
The Greek foreign minister told the Secretary-General that the Athens government, on behalf of the EU presidency, proposes to submit a draft resolution calling for UN involvement in the provision of humanitarian aid and in the reconstruction of Iraq.
A matter of particular concern to Greece, the movement of Turkish forces in the region of northern Iraq, was also discussed with Mr. Annan, who agreed that all countries neighboring Iraq, including Turkey, should be made aware of the UN's commitment to protecting Iraq's territorial integrity.
Mr. Papandreou further emphasized the important role of the UN in the course of a radio interview, when he spoke also of his continuing initiative to engage the leaders of the Arab world in dealing with the Iraq crisis. Greece, he added, had already consulted with diplomats and political leaders in the planning of humanitarian aid by non-governmental organizations. And Greece, he said, is also consulting with the European Commission, which plans to direct at least Í100 million in humanitarian relief for the victims of the Iraq war.
Rejecting the suggestion that recent events have threatened the role of the UN and caused a deep split within the EU, Mr. Papandreou said that, on the contrary, the Iraq situation has elevated the role of the UN in representing the increased international demand for "international governance founded on rules and values." He added that the governments and parliaments of the European countries would respond to the citizens' demand for a "strong and uniform voice internationally."
Increased Security Measures
At a parliamentary debate on March 27, Prime Minister Simitis expressed sadness at the loss of innocent lives and the hope that hostilities would end as quickly as possible. He stressed that the policy followed by Greece was based on respect for international legality together with honoring its bilateral agreements and alliance commitments, a policy that safeguards Greece’s national interests.
He said that Greece is not participating in the US-led military operations. Asked about the presence of a Greek navy frigate in Bahrain, he said that it was operating far from the war zone and was patrolling the Persian Gulf in connection with the “Enduring Freedom” coalition against international terrorism. He added that Greece will meet its bilateral and NATO treaty commitments. These would include the use of Greek airspace and of US and NATO facilities in Greece.
The Iraq war has prompted intensified security measures and a higher state of alert for Greece's armed forces and intelligence services. Security has been strengthened at airports, foreign embassies and border posts, with army patrols in northeastern Greece to prevent a possible wave of war zone refugees arriving through Turkey. Increased coast guard and navy patrols have also been operating to prevent the seaborne arrival of illegal refugees. A battalion of patriot anti-aircraft missiles was also transferred to Crete.
Implementing the “Lisbon Strategy” on Employment
Discussions of economic affairs at the EU summit were largely directed at the implementation of the “Lisbon Strategy” plan which was set three years ago and aims to make the EU the world's most competitive economy by the year 2010, capable of sustainable economic growth with more jobs and greater social cohesion.
Since the plan was launched, the economies of the EU countries have created five million new jobs, 500,000 of them last year, despite the economic slowdown. Unemployment during the period has fallen by two million.
Commenting on the conclusions of the summit on economic policy, Prime Minister Simitis said that the EU's prime target, to boost employment and achieve social cohesion, requires tax reforms and some changes in the labor market. Priorities, he said, will include the promotion of innovative business methods, increased spending on industrial and technological research, and simplification of procedures for establishing new enterprises.
A meeting of the EU Council of economy and finance ministers (ECOFIN) discussed the fallout of the Iraq war and the future contribution of the EU to Iraq's reconstruction.
To read the conclusions of the EU summit, go to the Greek Presidency site: www.eu2003.gr
“November 17” Terrorist Trial Opens in Athens
Nineteen members of the “November 17” terrorist group, accused of responsibility for or complicity in the assassination of 23 persons, including four American and one British official, since 1975, were brought to trial before a three-judge court in Athens after a series of arrests which began last June, ending 27 years of frustrating efforts to uncover and effectively destroy the terror operation.
The trial, which began on March 3, covers a total of 2000 charges, which in addition to the assassinations, include numerous bombings and bank robberies. It is expected to last at least five months and is being held in a specially protected maximum security courtroom in Greece’s largest prison facility where leaders of the 1967-1974 military junta were tried. Some 150 lawyers and 120 reporters, in addition to 120 members of the public, are present in the crowded courtroom where more than 300 witnesses are expected to give evidence.
The first two weeks were taken up by numerous procedural and jurisdictional issues raised by defense lawyers. The court rejected defense challenges to its competence, ruling that the crimes committed by N17 were not political. It also ruled against TV coverage, upholding the constitutionality of a law which bars TV coverage if any of the parties object.
Commenting on the trial government spokesman Christos Protopapas said the eradication of N17 is a major national success and it demonstrates that democracy can provide its own answers to violence, fanaticism, and the phenomena that breed terrorism. He advised patience until the end of the trial “which will provide all the answers.”
The US government praised the Greek government for its success in bringing the N17 group to justice.
From the US Press
“Laudable Success” in Arresting Terrorists
An editorial in the New York Times of March 7 congratulates Greece on rounding up the “November 17” terrorist group and bringing them to trial. This, the editorial notes, “will provide reassurance that Greece, the host country to the 2004 Olympic Games, can deal sternly and effectively with terrorists of any stripe. That is one reason this is being billed in Greece as the trial of all trials.”
“There is every reason to welcome the fact that a group responsible for killing 23 people, including four American officials and a British general, is finally being brought to justice . . . The government’s success in rounding up this many in the past year is laudable.”
After speculating on the reasons for failure to penetrate the terror group for so long, the editorial concludes: “If the trial is to be a turning point, it must demonstrate that Greece is prepared not only to bring the assassins to justice, but also to confront its ghosts. And in advance of the 2004 Olympics, at which security will be a central concern, the trial must also be tangible evidence that Greece can deal with assassins, home-grown or imported.”
Olympics: Changing the Face of Greece
In a wide-ranging review of progress towards a successful 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, deputy culture minister Nassos Alevras, overseeing the Olympic projects, said on March 22 that they will “change the face of the country.” In Attica, especially, new road works and new commuter facilities connecting coastal areas with central Athens will significantly improve life for the citizens of the Greek capital.
Mr. Alevras dismissed expressions of concern by a few IOC members over the readiness of some Olympic facilities. It is their duty, he said, to worry, as they do with all Olympic preparations. The progress achieved in preparing the Athens Olympics, he pointed out, has been acknowledged by the IOC leadership and by international sports federations.
“Greece and all of Attica,” Mr. Alevras said, “are a huge work site, with a series of large athletic and infrastructure projects progressing at a rapid pace.” The initial period, requiring the careful selection of sites and the conduct of studies, was, he conceded, very difficult. But now, “we are making up for lost time, and we have proved that we can do it” within the agreed timetables.
Time limits are pressing, Mr. Alevras said, on the Olympics Sports Complex, the unique and complex project of the aluminum dome designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava; and on the Hellenikon Olympic center, delayed by court proceedings initiated by construction companies. However these projects, Mr. Alevras believed, will be ready in time.
Olympic Torch Relay
On February 21, the executive committee of the IOC approved the first worldwide relay of the Olympic Torch in accord with the plan presented by the Athens Organizing Committee. The plan calls for the passage of the Flame through all five continents, including Africa and Latin America for the first time. Beginning in May 2004, with the lighting ceremony in ancient Olympia, the Flame will be carried throughout the world for 35 days before returning to Greece. There it will travel to all the prefectures of mainland Greece and the islands before arriving at the Athens Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony of the 2004 Games on August 13.
On its journey, the Flame will pass through 27 cities, including every city which has hosted the summer Olympics, since the first modern Games in 1896, and Beijing, host of the 2008 Olympics as well as Cairo, Capetown, New York, Lausanne and Nicosia.
Some 10,000 runners will relay the Flame—two-thirds of them on the Greek section and the remainder on the international route. The runners will be from all over the world, and each will cover a distance of 300-500 meters. The budget for the Torch relay is estimated at $42 million, of which at least half will be contributed by commercial sponsors who, however, will not be allowed to advertise on the clothing of the runners.
Olympic Security Contract Awarded
The Greek government awarded a W255 million security contract for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games to an international consortium headed by the US-based Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). Multinationals participating in the consortium include: General Dynamics, ITT Technologies, Honeywell, IBM, Nokia, Siemens, Rafel and Elbit, as well as the Greek firms Altec, the Pouliadis group and Diekat.
A four-day workshop in Athens in early March brought together Greek officials and US experts to discuss plans for Olympic security. US Ambassador Thomas Miller said it was “another example of commitment by the US government to the support of the Greek government in making the 2004 Olympic Games secure.” The workshop was the first of three which are planned with the participation of 24 officials from the US and 110 high-level Greek security officers. Earlier, a group of Greek public safety officials completed a month-long training program in Albuquerque with experts from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Greece’s National Council for the Prevention of Biological and Toxic Hazards met on March 14 to discuss plans for securing the Olympics against radioactive, biological and chemical threats.
In discussions with the Athens Municipality, the government has agreed to provide a matching sum of 59 million euro to fund projects for the beautification and promotion of Athens in time for the Olympics. In addition to cleaner streets and buildings, the projects include the repair of neo-classical structures, a stray animal shelter, more green spaces, improvements to assist the disabled, and publicity for the promotion of Athens.
For more Olympic news go to: www.athens2004.com
As Cyprus Negotiations Fail
Greece Is Disappointed but Efforts Will Continue
Blaming the Turkish-Cypriot leadership for the collapse of the UN-sponsored efforts to reunite Cyprus, the Greek government spokesman Christos Protopapas expressed its “disappointment and sadness” at the failure of the meeting convened by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the Hague on March 10 between Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. Mr. Annan had asked the two leaders to submit the latest UN plan for approval at separate referenda on March 30. Echoing Mr. Annan’s own words, the spokesman said “it was not the end of the road for efforts towards a solution.”
In Nicosia, the Cyprus president also said that his government “will continue the efforts for a solution before and after Cyprus joins the EU.” Writing in the Washington Times of March 10, Mr. Papadopoulos noted: “I want to assure the authorities of the European Union and the world community that our intention is not to sign the accession treaty of April 16 and then turn our back on the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem. Accession is not an end in itself. But the accession can, in fact, become a catalyst for the right solution.”
Washington: Deep Disappointment
In Washington, the US State Department also expressed “deep disappointment,” adding that the fact that Mr. Denktash did not allow the Turkish Cypriots to have the opportunity to determine their future by voting on such a fundamental issue was a sad thing.
In Brussels, Mr. Gunter Verheugen, European Commissioner in charge of the enlargement process, said: “The European Commission finds it hard to imagine that accession negotiations between the EU and Turkey could commence in the absence of a solution to the Cyprus issue by May 1, 2004, when the EU enlargement will be completed.” That was also the view of the Greek government whose spokesman said on March 11: “Greece wants a solution and will continue to work for one until the Turkish side’s stance changes . . . It is not possible for Turkey to hope that it will join the European Union without a Cyprus solution.”
In Brussels also, the EU leaders at their summit on March 21 expressed support for continuation of the UN-led effort to resolve the problem and urged “in particular the Turkish Cypriot leadership to reconsider its position.” The statement also reaffirmed the Copenhagen summit decisions last December as to the accession of Cyprus to the EU.
Writing in the Washington Post of March 13, Jim Hoagland was strongly critical of Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. It was “the defiance of one grumpy old man which derailed peace plans put forward by diplomats from the United Nations and the Europan Union.” Denktash, Hoagland writes, is a “stubborn, self-defeating unilateralist who captures the spirit of this moment of political history with his shortsighted pursuit of self-advantage.”
President Bush Greets Greek Independence Day
Greece’s role as current president of the European Union received special mention in the US president’s annual tribute to Greek-American relations on the occasion of Greek Independence Day, March 25.
After recognizing the influence of ancient Greece on America’s Constitution and the enrichment of American society by “the Greek-American heritage that continues to strengthen our communities,” President Bush in his proclamation recalled the alliance of both countries in every major 20th century war and the fact that “today, we remain united in the war against terror that threatens the future of every nation.”
“As the current president of the European Union, Greece is also playing a critical role in our efforts to confront many other global problems that affect our nations and the world . . . Embodying the independence and creativity that have made our country strong, their proud history is a source of inspiration for our nation and the world.”
At a White House ceremony on March 25, Chief of Staff Andrew Card expressed the regrets of President Bush for his absence because of the Iraq war. Archbishop Demetrios, CIA director George Tenet, and the ambassadors of Greece and Cyprus were among those attending.
Mr. Card spoke of the strong partnership of the two countries, expressed his government’s gratitude for the use of the Suda base by US forces and praised the contribution of the Greek American community to American society.
Archbishop Demetrios spoke of the critical phase in world affairs and of the importance of the ideals of freedom and independence that bind the two countries together.
Greek Independence Day was also celebrated at the State Department and on Capitol Hill The Senate passed a resolution designating March 25, 2003 as a “national day of celebration of Greek and American democracy.” Parades were also held in several American cities.
To read the full text of President Bush’s proclamation visit: www.whitehouse.gov