US Media on Greece
© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
PRESS & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
August 2002; Vol. 8 No. 8
(also available in PDF File)
President Bush Praises Greece on Anti-Terrorist Success
“NOVEMBER 17” TERRORISTS IN JAIL
With fifteen suspected (and in most cases self-confessed) terrorists of the "November 17" gang in custody awaiting trial, Greek police and security authorities continue intensive "mopping-up" operations. Their main goal now is to locate and arrest a key N17 member, Dimitris Koufodinas, who is believed to be in hiding somewhere in Attica and whose evidence could confirm the identity of other suspected members of the terrorist group.
Meanwhile, the major success of the Greek authorities in breaking the N17 ring has been warmly praised by friends and allies around the world. In addition to the congratulations offered to Greek Ambassador Savvaides when he presented his credentials at the White House (see details, page 2), President George W. Bush, in a personal letter sent to Prime Minister Costas Simitis on August 7, praised Greece's anti-terrorist breakthrough, welcoming its important contribution to the global war on terrorism and looking forward to future security cooperation between Greece and the US in advance of the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in his August 9 briefing, characterized the arrests of the N17 terrorists “as an important success of the Greek government . . . most encouraging and gratifying for the families of the victims.”
US Ambassador to Greece Thomas Miller also called the breakthrough “a great success” of Greece in his address to the 80th convention in New York of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) on July 20. “Our cooperation with Greece for their combating of international terrorism is excellent,” he said. "Greece has answered positively to requests we submitted following September 11. Not simply with the expression of condolences, but with active support which included the use of the Greek air base in Crete by US planes for the Afghanistan operations, and participation by the Greek navy in Arabian Sea patrols and by a Greek army contingent in the international security force deployed in Kabul.”
“Let us give congratulations where they are deserved,” Ambassador Miller continued. “Some years ago, this group (N17) was regarded by some as a romantic version of Robin Hood of the Left. Now it is seen for what it really is-a group of terrorists, common criminals and thieves . . . It is indeed a great success of Greece. And psychologically I have observed an incredible change: the Greeks now feel much better about themselves.”
Addressing the American Hellenic Institute in Washington two days later, Ambassador Miller said that Greece's law enforcement authorities were handling the issue “very effectively.” He especially praised the work of Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis. “We are helping,” he said, “but the Greek government is the one deserving credit for the success.” Mr. Miller conceded that luck (the explosion of a bomb in the hands of terrorist Savvas Xiros) contributed in some degree to the success. However, he added, “luck only helps when you have done the necessary preparation . . . Serious work has been done in past years, there is a very efficient public order minister, there is political resolve.”
Other world leaders added their congratulations. In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair said: “The vigor and determination which the Greek authorities have shown on the issue of terrorism is very welcome.” The same sentiment was conveyed by British Foreign Minister Jack Straw in a personal letter to his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou.
Others who joined in praising Greece's success included EU President Romano Prodi and all the foreign ministers attending the EU General Affairs Council in Brussels at the end of July.
Simitis: “Strong Democracy Stamps Out Terrorism”
Speaking at a July event marking the 28th anniversary of the restoration of democracy to Greece after the collapse of the seven-year dictatorship, Prime Minister Simitis described terrorism as the “stigma” and “shame” of the post-dictatorship years, but that the democracy which followed the junta's collapse is the best the Greek people have known. “We are proving this,” Mr. Simitis said, “because a strong democracy stamps out terrorism with the implementation of the Constitution and the laws of the state, with unwavering respect for human rights. We are leading terrorism to defeat because the arrests and charges reflect the affirmation and strengthening of our democratic institutions.”
On July 24 main opposition leader Costas Karamanlis in a speech to parliamentarians of Greek descent from around the world said the hour has finally arrived for the complete eradication of terrorism in Greece, the uncovering of all the culprits and their exemplary punishment.
First Olympic Test Two Years Before Opening
IOC PRESIDENT PREDICTS “VERY GOOD GAMES” IN ATHENS
Interviewed in the New York Times on July 28, Dr. Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, predicted that the world will see “very good Games" during the 16 days of the Athens Olympics in August 2004.
Noting some of the special difficulties to be overcome in Athens compared with the wide open spaces of Sydney-site of the 2000 Olympics-Dr. Rogge said: "Everywhere you dig, you find archaeological remains . . . Environmental rules are far stricter and so on. But I think the human factor will be very good. I have no concerns for media and broadcasters . . . The athletes will have good venues, good competitions."
On a visit to Athens in July, before attending a seminar sponsored by the Olympic Academy at Ancient Olympia in the Peloponnese, Dr. Rogge met with Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, coordinator of the 2004 preparations. “We discussed the entire course of Olympic preparations,” Dr. Rogge said, "and the problems we have to solve." He expressed confidence that the remaining difficulties will be overcome.
Dr. Rogge was especially pleased by the recent breakup of the N17 terrorist group which, he said, confirmed a promise made by Prime Minister Simitis to organize safe Olympics. “It was a very positive development and I am very happy,” Dr. Rogge said. The security budget for the Athens Olympics amounts to a record $650 million and involves the very latest surveillance and policing techniques, drawing also on the advice of many international security experts.
The head of the US State Department's Office of Counter-terrorism, Francis X. Taylor made a June visit to Athens and was quoted in a CNN/Sports Illustrated interview on August 16 as saying that he "came away feeling confident that the Greeks will have their act together.” Mr. Taylor added: "I think the Greeks are very much committed to this being a very successful Olympics and they are preparing across a broad range of areas. In the area of security they have the right infrastructure in place to make that happen successfully.”
Athens Organizing Committee president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki agreed and added “we must remain vigilant. The progress made towards eradicating this terrorist organization will improve the conditions for the safe staging of the Games.”
First Olympic Test Event
The first of a series of test events for the 2004 Olympics began on August 16 at the sailing center on the Athens beachfront at Aghios Kosmas. Some 550 athletes and 360 sailboats from 43 countries took part in the rehearsal. The event was designed to try out the system and give contestants experience of the conditions. ATHOC president Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said that the Regatta stirred enthusiasm all over Greece and predicted great success for the test event.
The first trial used temporary facilities which will be replaced by the new Olympic Sailing Center which is under construction and will be ready for a second trial event scheduled for August 2003.
EU Assists Greece's Olympic Preparations
On a visit to Athens at the end of July, the EU Regional Policy Commissioner, Michel Barnier, reported a "generally positive" result from his review of progress in Greece's implementation of the Third Community Support Framework funds, totaling 27 billion euros over the period 2000-2006. Mr. Barnier, who was president of the Winter Olympics in Albertville in 1992, spoke of the EU's assistance to Greece in preparing for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Many Olympics-related infrastructure projects being jointly financed by Greece and the EU include a tram network, the extension of the Athens Metro system, and the rail link between the Athens International Airport and downtown Athens. The combined cost of these joint projects totals 1.4 billion euros.
Good progress is being made in attracting volunteers for the Games. With applications arriving at the rate of some 5,000 each month, the number received by the beginning of August totaled 30,687. The eventual total of applications is expected to exceed the target of 120,000-150,000, from which 60,000 will be selected. Young women (16-30) account for 38 percent of all the volunteers; young men in that age group account for 24 percent; and about one in four applicants are foreigners.
On May 1, 2004, three months before the opening of the Athens Olympics, a replica of an ancient Greek ship found in waters off the coast of Cyprus will set sail for Greece carrying a cargo of bronze to be used in the manufacture of Olympic medals.
GREEK AMBASSADOR PRESENTS HIS CREDENTIALS TO BUSH
Greece's new Ambassador to the US, Mr. George V. Savvaides, presented his credentials to President George W. Bush at the White House on July 30, when he spoke of the “dynamic relationship between Greece and the US, based on the common ideals of peace, freedom, democracy, protection of human rights and respect of international law.”
These principles, Mr. Savvaides said, guided the efforts of both countries during two world wars and in other adverse situations during the 20th century. “At present their attachment to world peace, international order and stability leads them to participate actively, committing forces on the ground, in crisis management, and peacekeeping operations worldwide.”
Remarking on the “deep cultural, human, and social roots” which mark the relationship, the Greek Ambassador noted that both nations are the beneficiaries of the Western civilization which sprang from ancient Greece. The presence in the US of the “large and dynamic” Greek-American community, he added, makes a significant contribution to the progress and prosperity of American society and also provides “a constant influx of what contemporary Greece has to offer to American life.”
The 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Mr. Savvaides said, will be an opportunity for the athletes of Greece and the US to meet in peaceful competition "in a genuine form and expression of the Olympic ideals born in my country."
Greece, Mr. Savvaides concluded, "is deeply conscious of her specific role and responsibility within her geographical region. This could also provide America a very good platform serving both Greek and US interests in the Balkans, in the Mediterranean and the broader region.”
Bush: "Positive Developments" in Fighting Terror
In his response, President Bush expressed the gratitude of the US for Greece's support in the war on terrorism after 9/11; for its contributions to Operation Enduring Freedom and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. He said also that he was “pleased by the recent positive developments in your fight against Greece's domestic terrorist group, November 17. We will continue to work with Greece to defend against the scourge of terrorism.”
“We look forward,” Mr. Bush continued, “to cooperating closely on the Transatlantic Agenda with Greece as it assumes the European Union presidency in January 2003. We are eager for the Olympic Games to return to their birthplace in 2004. As images of Greece's ancient archaeological treasures are broadcast throughout the world, we will all be reminded of the importance of Greece's legacy.”
From the US Press
THE MARBLES AND WINES OF GREECE
The Washington Post of July 29 published a long article by Kirstin Downey Grimsley describing the work involved in building a new $100 million museum at the foot of the Acropolis, which is scheduled to be open in time for the 2004 Olympics and where it is hoped that the ancient marble sculptures carted away by Lord Elgin and now housed in the British Museum will eventually find their rightful home.
“Greek officials have spent years deliberating over the location and design of the museum, which will be built on stilts to avoid disturbing the remains underneath. Huge windows would allow visitors to catch glimpses of the Parthenon high overhead and the ruins below while they view exhibits.” At the Parthenon itself, “more than 80 engineers, architects and stone masons are working steadily to repair damage created by time, pollution, and previous restoration attempts . . . Restorers are using pioneering laser and microwave devices to clean off a dark crust caused by air pollution.”
Greek officials, the article notes, have defended their plan for the new Acropolis museum against allegations of damage to antiquities. All of them, the officials are quoted as saying, are being properly protected and catalogued, a view that was supported by outside experts consulted by the author. “My personal feeling,” said Stephen Miller, professor of classical archaeology at the University of California at Berkeley, “is that (the museum site) is the best possible solution to a difficult problem.” And James Wiseman, professor of archaeology at Boston University, agreed that Greece “faces unique difficulties because its long and rich history has deposited antiquities seemingly everywhere.”
(On the issue of the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, the London Daily Telegraph published a recent interview with a noted British conservationist, David Lee, who stated that the quality of the British Museum’s conservation work has declined and asks: “How much longer will the British Museum be able to maintain that it is the best place in the world to house major antiquities such as the Parthenon Marbles?”)
High Quality Wines
The Washington Post of August 14, in an article by Michael Franz, praises “Food-Friendly Greek Wines” as follows:
“Want to taste something different? Perhaps wines with real character and regional distinctiveness? How about wines that are refreshing and delicious on their own but also great with food? And could you go for some real bargains while we’re at it? Turn to Greece. With 250 indigenous grape varieties and an extraordinary range of growing conditions, Greece holds the potential to challenge the world’s greatest wine-producing countries. Very high quality is already an accomplished fact, yet open-minded consumers will find that Greek wines are often priced at half the cost of their quality equals from elsewhere.
OECD PREDICTS HIGH GROWTH RATE FOR GREEK ECONOMY
In its latest report on the Greek economy, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicted in late June that economic growth in Greece will exceed the average in its membership in the years 2002 and 2003, at 3.5 and 4.5 percent respectively. Strong corporate investment, boosting the economy's productive capacity, is paving the way for more rapid non-inflationary growth in the future.
At the same time, the OECD warned against the risk of inflationary pressures and recommended measures for a more flexible labor market, a tight incomes policy, and reforms of the taxation and social security systems.
The report further urges fiscal adjustments to reduce Greece's public debt to about 60 percent of GDP by 2010. This, the OECD said, will require greater efficiency in the spending of public money and better use of human resources in public administration. A less generous social security system and radical reform of the tax system, along the lines already proposed by the Greek government, are also urged.
Other OECD recommendations called for improvements in matching the educational system to the needs of the labor market. While urging acceleration of the deregulation process for Greece's industrial sector (and the strengthening of regulatory authority in some other areas), the report notes the improved growth prospects for the economy which have resulted from the rapid deregulation of banking.
By international standards, public spending on health and education is low in Greece, while spending on public administration and pensions remains relatively high.
Economy and Finance Ministry's Forecasts
The OECD's prediction of high growth rates in the years ahead was reaffirmed in the semi-annual report issued by Greece's Economy and Finance Ministry. The report foresees growth of 3.8 percent this year and 4.0 percent in 2003, with a rise in investments over the same period of at least 9.5 percent, while unemployment will fall to 10 percent of the workforce this year and to 9.2 percent in 2003.
The report ascribes these high growth rates to falling interest rates which have encouraged increased loans to enterprises. However, the stronger parity of the euro against the US dollar is expected to present a challenge for the competitiveness of Greek manufactured goods.
A higher than foreseen increase in the Consumer Price Index was attributed in the report to the exceptionally bad weather conditions in the winter of 2001-2002, but also to unjustified price increases during the euro transition. The inflation rate is expected to fall below 3.4 percent this year. It dropped in July to 3.3 percent
The relatively high jobless rate is related to a shift of workers from the agricultural to other sectors of the economy and to the very low proportion of part-time workers in Greece compared to the EU average. Unemployment in the second quarter of 2002 fell to 9.6 percent from 10.2 percent in the same period of 2001.
From the US Press
THE DEMISE OF “NOVEMBER 17”
The Christian Science Monitor, in an article by John K. Cooley on August 7, welcomed as “enormously good news” the penetration of the N17 terrorist gang which, it notes, “has largely met its demise.”
The article congratulates Greece for the “meticulous forensic and investigative police work, supervised by Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis and aided behind the scenes by friends, especially Scotland Yard.” The Greek experience, Cooley writes, shows that terrorist movements are often driven by the mixed motives of ordinary people who may begin by belief in a cause but become addicted to the personal profit derived from robberies. And he concludes:
“There is another lesson in this Greek drama: contrary to criticism, Greek socialist governments did not shelter N17, nor were their members involved, by all indications. Greece, as a European Union member and host of the 2004 Olympic Games, is proving worthy of its ancient democratic values and Western culture.”
• A Chicago Tribune editorial (August 3), titled “Darkness Falls on November 17,” describes the past criminal acts of the terrorist group and the events which have followed their “serious miscalculation” two years ago when their murder of the British military attache Stephen Saunders led to the intensification of Greek government efforts to destroy the terrorist network. “No one will ever eliminate terrorism from the face of the earth,” the newspaper writes, “but we are some 11 months into a changed climate, one of broad impatience with those who write their protests in other peoples’ blood. Like the now notorious Al Qaeda, many terror groups long thrived in relative obscurity, confident that governments lacked the will to hunt them down. For outlaw groups such as ‘November 17,’ though, this has become a much smaller world.”
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece