US Media on Greece
© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
PRESS & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
June 2005; Vol. 11 No. 6
(also available in PDF File)
1. GREECE CALLS FOR A NEW EUROPEAN UNION CONSENSUS
2. THE NEED FOR STRUCTURAL REFORMS OF THE GREEK ECONOMY
3. FOREIGN MINISTER REVIEWS GREECE’S FOREIGN RELATIONS
4. GREECE AND THE FUTURE OF IRAQ
5. U.S. AMBASSADOR DEFINES STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP
6. GREECE’S NEW IMAGE
7. From the U.S. Press: THE ALLURE OF ANCIENT GREECE
After EU Summit Impasse Over Budget
GREECE CALLS FOR A NEW EUROPEAN UNION CONSENSUS
Following the breakdown of efforts during a summit meeting of the 25 EU leaders in Brussels on June 17 to reconcile the positions of Britain and France on the proposed 2007-2013 EU budget, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has called for renewed efforts to overcome the impasse. “I would like to believe that a new attempt toward reaching consensus will be undertaken soon,” he said.
Greece voted in favor of a compromise proposal suggested by Luxembourg, the current EU president, to reconcile differences between Britain and France on the annual British rebate and the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, but the deadlock proved unbreakable, despite a last-minute offer by the 10 new member-states to accept a cut in EU funding.
In a midnight report at the close of the meeting, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis described the “deep and serious differences” leading to the breakdown. The negotiating atmosphere, he said, was “difficult and complex.” Greece had insisted from the beginning on the need for a just and proportional allocation of the cost of EU enlargement among all the member states. The budget of an enlarged Europe, he also said, should be proportionally increased. “Unfortunately no agreement could be reached,” with Britain, Finland, Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands opposing the proposed budget—each on different grounds.
Greece, the prime minister said, voted in favor of the proposed budget in the belief that agreement would be in the overall interest of Europe. The initially proposed one percent of EU GDP would have secured about !12 billion for Greece—an amount which, after arduous negotiations, increased to more than !20 billion. Mr. Karamanlis noted, however, that this had no immediate value in the absence of an overall agreement.
Asked by a journalist what effect the collapse of the summit might have on Greece, the prime minister said that it was a greater problem for the EU as a whole than it was for Greece in particular—which is not to say, he added, that Greece does not share the concern over the problems facing the EU.
In response to further questioning, Mr. Karamanlis rejected any suggestion that difficulties within the EU could affect Greece’s “clear national strategy which has been followed by every government—with whatever variations—since the end of the military dictatorship in 1974.” As for the EU membership of Turkey, Mr. Karamanlis said he could not guarantee its unobstructed progress which, to a large extent, depends on Turkey itself.
The Future of the EU Constitution
A second major issue discussed at the summit was the future of the EU Constitution following its rejection in referenda by the people of France and the Netherlands. It was decided, Mr. Karamanlis reported, that the ratification process should continue, but that there should be a pause for reflection. It was generally agreed that following the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty by the two countries, it is not possible to go forward as though nothing happened. “We need some time for dialogue and analysis of those messages.” Consequently, he said, the November 2006 date for the effective operation of the European Constitution seems no longer realistic. Of the member-countries which have not yet ratified the Constitutional Treaty, each will itself decide its timetable, whether for the holding of a referendum or by the parliamentary route. (The Greek Parliament voted overwhelmingly on April 19 to ratify the proposed constitution by 268 to 17 votes.)
Mr. Karamanlis also referred in his report to the implementation of a number of decisions reached at the summit of the European Council last December. Guidelines were adopted for development and employment in the period of 2006-2008, as well as the action plan for the Hague Program to strengthen the European area’s freedom, security and justice assets, and for combating terrorism.
The summit’s conclusions also referred inter alia to the EU’s commitment to the future membership of the western Balkan countries which, however, will depend on each country’s progress. Regional cooperation and good-neighborly relations are basic components of this process.
THE NEED FOR STRUCTURAL REFORMS OF THE GREEK ECONOMY
The Greek Parliament on June 13 gave a vote of confidence to the government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis with 165 MPs voting for, 120 against and 12 Communist Party (KKE) deputies absent. Prime Minister Karamanlis said that he considered the result as a vote of confidence in the reforms that his government has initiated.
Opening the debate in Parliament Mr. Karamanlis called for reforms that will be of general benefit rather than favoring the privileged few. He emphasized the government’s desire for the broadest possible consensus on changes realistically directed at solving problems rather than driven by ideological conflict.
The government, he continued, had not concealed the truth about the economy or taken the people by surprise.
The prime minister referred to the example of Ireland, where government, political parties and trade unions worked together to raise levels of GDP growth above the EU average and reduce unemployment to very low levels. He emphasized the importance of education and increasing the competitiveness of the economy—all demanding a departure from established mentalities. Low labor costs, he said, must be accompanied by the high quality of Greek goods and services and by the exploitation of the country’s competitive advantages. A model to be followed, he added, is the agreement reached recently between management and unions at the overstaffed state OTE telecommunications company for a voluntary early retirement plan. The government, Mr. Karamanlis added, is also seeking the means to increase the competitive ability of state-controlled banks.
“The Golden Age of Greek Diplomacy”
FOREIGN MINISTER REVIEWS GREECE’S FOREIGN RELATIONS
Addressing a gathering of foreign correspondents in Athens on June 2, Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis said that, without exaggeration, this could be called the “golden age of Greek diplomacy.” For the first time in the country’s recent history, he said, “there is a widespread consensus as to the broad strategic goals of our foreign policy.” The great majority of the country’s political forces, and of the Greek people, “believe that Greece is now established as a European country which plays an active role in almost all of the big international organizations, and which bases its foreign policy and its global direction on fundamental principles and values, such as democracy, respect for human rights, international law and principles, good-neighborly relations and cooperation on equal terms between countries and peoples.”
Mr. Molyviatis went on to name the goals shared by the country’s political forces. They include the improvement of Greek-Turkish relations and the achievement of a just and lasting settlement of the Cyprus problem with negotiations based on the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan, the relevant UN resolutions, and of course, “taking account also the principles and values of the European Union to which Cyprus now belongs.”
Another basic common goal, the foreign minister added, “is the establishment of stability, peace and cooperation in the Balkans and Greece’s support of all the countries of the region in their gradual incorporation within the European family.”
EU Prospects for Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania
Replying to a question about the prospects for Turkey’s future membership in the EU, Mr. Molyviatis noted that the European Council’s decision of last December to start accession negotiations with Turkey in October “describes clearly and in detail the criteria and conditions which Turkey must fulfill in its progress towards EU membership.” He pointed out that Turkey’s accession course will require lengthy negotiations lasting very many years—“ten years at least.”
Responding to a question on the hesitation in some European quarters to go ahead with the induction into the EU of Bulgaria and Romania, Mr. Molyviatis said that both countries have already signed the membership treaty and that ratification awaits the completion of numerous technical details. “The firm all-party policy of Greece is to support the EU membership—of course by stages—of all the countries of the Balkans and of south-east Europe.” The goal, Mr. Molyviatis added, is to change the Balkans into a truly European region.
Greece’s Contributions to NATO Operations
At the meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on June 9, Greece’s contributions to the current operations of the alliance were described by Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos who met on the occasion with his US counterpart Donald Rumsfeld.
Mr. Spiliotopoulos reported that Greece will send a mobile medical unit to Afghanistan in August to take over from the Spanish unit currently there. Some 60 percent of the unit will be composed of Greek doctors and medical staff. The minister also noted that Greek forces are currently preparing for the assumption in December, for a four-month spell, of the administration of the Kabul airport.
As for the operations in Iraq, Mr. Spiliotopoulos noted Greece’s contribution of !300,000 for the training of Iraqi forces and the provision of specialized training of Iraqi military doctors in Greek hospitals. It is also planned, through the Sea Transport Center, based in Greece, to facilitate the shipment of tanks and armored vehicles to Iraq.
GREECE AND THE FUTURE OF IRAQ
Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis was among the representatives of some 80 countries and organizations who met in Brussels on June 22, at a conference called by the EU and the United States to discuss the future of Iraq. Observing that the transitional period in the replacement of the previous tyrannical regime by a democracy will not be without problems, Mr. Molyviatis said that the establishment of security is the first priority to which neighboring countries should contribute by effective control of their borders with Iraq.
Equally important, the foreign minister said, is the political process and the building of democratic institutions, to be achieved through a democratic constitution approved by representatives of all the Iraqis. Greece, Mr. Molyviatis concluded, in accord with the firm principles of its foreign policy, has from the very first act contributed to the extent of its capabilities to the efforts of the international community, and will continue to do so.
U.S. AMBASSADOR DEFINES STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP
In an article in the Athens newspaper Kathimerini on May 29, the US Ambassador to Greece, Charles Ries, reviewed the May 20 meeting in Washington between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis—their second since Mr. Karamanlis took office last year.
Noting that nothing dramatic occurred during the meeting, Ambassador Ries said: “Some might call this a disappointment. I call it an affirmation.” The meeting, “confirmed what Secretary of State Rice and Foreign Minister Molyviatis recognized two months ago: The status of the relationship between Greece and America is excellent. Our two countries are strategic partners with a global agenda.”
A strategic partner, the ambassador wrote, is one whose judgment is trusted. And Greece’s good judgment was demonstrated “as it directed the world safely through the first post-9/11 Olympic Games, guided the EU during a turbulent period in 2003 and discussed frankly its post-Olympic deficit with the EU.”
Stating the expectation that “as an ally and strategic partner” Greece will meet today’s challenges with the same good judgment, Ambassador Ries referred to the joint interest of the two countries in the stability and economic prosperity of the Balkans where, he noted, Greece is the leading investor. He went on to project the continuation of the bilateral cooperation on security during the Olympics in the global war on terrorism.
Explaining the strategic alignment between Greece and the US, he wrote: “Greece’s actions support freedom, safety and stability in the world. As a member of NATO, Greece is present in Afghanistan. In the coming months it will assume the critical role of directing the operations of the international airport in Kabul and will also provide a medical unit for NATO soldiers. It has provided money for the training of Iraqi soldiers who are working hard and risking their lives to assume control over the security of their nation, and it is encouraging development, investment and stability in the Balkans. It is leading important UN Security Council discussions on how to end the killing in Darfur. When President Bush says America and Greece have a strategic partnership, he sees Greece as a partner willing to look beyond its borders to take on an important role in the world.”
“Partnerships are not without problems. In the days and years ahead, our countries will undoubtedly approach some issues in different ways. As strong relationships are forged, so are they tested. Being strategic partners and key allies means these tests will be approached in a positive manner, with a willingness to listen and understand each other’s point of view,” he concluded.
GREECE’S NEW IMAGE
The important part played by journalists of Greek ancestry working abroad, in spreading the awareness of Greece’s concerns and achievements, was recognized by Mr. Panos Livadas, Secretary-General of Information, addressing the ninth annual meeting in Athens of the journalists’ group ending on June 4.
The main objective of Greece’s communications strategy abroad, Mr. Livadas said, is to build on the legacy of the Athens Olympics and other recent achievements which have had an international impact. The stereotype of Greece—hospitality, sea and sun—has been enriched, he suggested, “with attributes that include ‘creativity,’ ‘discipline,’ ‘security,’ ‘teamwork,’ ‘progress,’ and ‘high-quality services.’” These new attributes suggest “new horizons and a new range of opportunities for Greece, a country now recognized for its stable, peaceful and secure environment of collaborations, while its citizens are considered reliable interlocutors.”
Mr. Livadas spoke of the need “to project an image of Greece that goes beyond archaeological landscapes and tourist folklore, that is becoming established as a stable agent of modern development and international cooperation, in full comprehension of the requirements and challenges of globalization. Greece has been sending the message that it can meet large-scale challenges, it can make miracles happen, it can do wonders . . . We proceed with self-confidence, optimism, and extroversion.”
He also referred to the government’s economic reforms designed to penetrate foreign markets, attract foreign investment and enhance the role of the private sector in improved collaboration with the public sector of the economy. New legislation has been introduced to promote joint initiatives of the public and private sectors which in addition to taxation reform and the new development law, provides the third axis of an overall economic plan.
Greece as the East-West Economic Channel
Addressing the same group, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas spoke of Greece’s “strategic vision” for the year 2010 and beyond, with 25 years of EU membership, to become the entry point to Europe for enterprises based in the region and to its East. This would be similar to the success of Ireland in the 1980’s, becoming the entry point to Europe for enterprises of the American continent.
Another strategic objective is for Greece to be the center of operations for companies wishing to develop interests in the broader region of the Balkans, south-east Europe and the Black Sea. He also pointed out the importance to Greece of having the world’s biggest merchant fleet, with the biggest investment in new-vessel construction—much of it in China.
To attract investment in Greece’s economic development, Mr. Sioufas also noted a three-year plan for the reduction of tax rates to provide a stable taxation environment for investors. Further, a new development law provides funding of up to 55 percent of investment budgets, and other new measures facilitate the operation of business enterprises and joint ventures between the private and public sectors in the construction of public works.
From the U.S. Press
THE ALLURE OF ANCIENT GREECE
“The Enduring Allure of Ancient Greece” is the headline over an enthusiastic account of a first visit to Greece by a scholar who specializes in ancient Greek philosophy and medicine. Writing in the Baltimore Sun of June 13, Steven Speaks noted that, overcoming an aversion to travel, he decided to embark on visits to countries with a strong intellectual interest for him. “At the top of my list was Greece.”
On what he calls his “philosophical and medical pilgrimage” he planned to see “as much as possible related to Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Socrates and Plato.” He began at the Athens Agora where Socrates taught and the Academy of Plato, the world’s first university. From there he visited “beautiful Delphi, the holiest place for the ancients.” He recorded with enthusiasm his pilgrimage to Epidaurus; the island of Samos, “birthplace of Pythagoras, a mathematical, musical, medical and philosophical genius;” and the island of Kos, home of Hippocrates, “the founder of Western medicine.”
“Taking it all in,” he concluded, “I realized that one could still feel the health-giving powers present there…it vividly brought to life for me the objects of half a lifetime’s study. I shall never forget it.”
BRIEFLY . . .
Talks on the Cyprus problem were held on June 3 between Greek foreign ministry officials and UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Sir Kieran Prendergast on a mission to Cyprus, Greece and Turkey to assess the prospects for a solution. In New York, following the Security Council’s unanimous vote to extend the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus, Sir Kieran briefed the Security Council on the results of his mission and said that launching an intensive new process prematurely would be inadvisable and nothing positive could be served by a new effort that ended in failure.
Based in Athens, a new regional network named “Ariadne” has been established, to combat human trafficking in eastern and south-eastern Europe. The move follows a series of meetings, ending on June 10, between officials of the Greek foreign ministry and the Center for the Defense of Human Rights. The network consists of NGOs from the region, including Turkey and the Ukraine.
A market report from the National Bank of Greece on June 13 forecast a 7.5 percent increase in tourist arrivals in Greece in 2005—-more than 13.5 million this year, increasing to 14 million in 2006. Due to the newly-launched advertising campaign and the reflection of last year’s successful Olympics, the arrival of an additional 1.4 million tourists is expected to offset the effect of increased prices. Tourism to Greece, the report notes, provides 16 percent of the country’s GDP and 18 percent of employment.
After tests of 1,965 coastal locations, 97.6 percent of Greek beaches were found by an EU team to meet the strictest standards for safe and healthy swimming. The excellent EU report was matched, a week later, by the award to 383 Greek beaches and marinas of the “Blue Flag”—-three more than last year. The award is given annually by international environmental societies.
After two and a half years of work to repair the 1999 earthquake damage, the Gallery of the National Archeological Museum in Athens, containing frescoes from the excavations on the island of Santorini, has reopened to the public. The new gallery is described as the “showpiece” of the museum, exhibiting frescoes dating from the 16th century BC and preserved by their covering in ash from the massive volcanic explosion that destroyed the island’s flourishing civilization of the time. The repair and redesign of the gallery cost some !15 million.
Once again, former US president George Bush, with family and friends, enjoyed a vacation in Greece in mid-June.
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece