US Media on Greece
© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
PRESS & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
March 2006; Vol. 12 No. 4
(also available in PDF)
1. US SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE IN ATHENS
2. GREEK MINISTERS AT WASHINGTON GLOBAL TOURISM CONFERENCE
3. “A NEW SPHERE” FOR GREEK ECONOMY
4. THE INTEGRATION OF IMMIGRANTS IN GREECE
5. POWER FROM RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES
6. REUNIFICATION OF THE PARTHENON SCULPTURES
7. TAKING GREECE TO CHINA
“Relations Between Greece and the U.S. Are Now at Their Best for Many Years”
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE IN ATHENS
During a visit to Athens on April 25, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had a cordial and productive meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, continuing their recent discussions in Washington, on March 23. Ms. Rice also met with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. After the Greek capital, Ms. Rice visited Ankara and Sofia, where she attended the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting.
Summarizing the scope of her discussions with Ms. Rice, Ms. Bakoyannis said it covered areas of political cooperation between Greece and the US; stability in south-eastern Europe and the final status of Kosovo; developments in the Middle East; combating poverty; preventing the spread of nuclear weapons; dealing with natural disasters; stamping out international terrorism; and energy security.
The foreign minister said that relations between Greece and the US are now at their best for many years, a strategic relationship which builds on traditional ties of friendship and cooperation. “While, as to be expected of democratic countries, their approach to the achievement of common aims may not always coincide, we seek the best possible coordination and the development of our political and economic relations for our mutual benefit.”
The secretary of state said the Geece and the US are “strategic partners, but they are more than that, they share the desire to see a world in which the values of democracy and freedom triumph for those who are not yet able to enjoy the blessings of liberty.” Answering a question about Iran, Ms. Rice said that the US realizes the difference between Iran and Iraq, and that a diplomatic course is being followed, with no choice removed from the table. Ms. Bakoyannis urged the need for coordination between the EU and the decisions of the UN Security Council and, agreeing with Ms. Rice, said: “We are engaged in a diplomatic effort which still has the tools to be effective.”
Ms. Rice spoke of Turkey and its prospects for EU membership, saying that, while there are criteria which must be satisfied, “Turkey is a European country and should be eligible to join .” She again noted Washington’s satisfaction at Greece’s “constructive position” concerning Turkey’s European prospects. On the issue of Cyprus, Ms. Rice called for the goodwill and effort of both Turkey and the Cyprus Republic.
While also stating Greece’s support for Turkey’s European ambitions, Ms. Bakoyannis said that its full membership in the EU must come as a reward for its complete response to the requirements involved. She also referred to the need for the unimpeded functioning of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, and noted the courageous political and economic actions taken by Greece in regard to Turkey. “We await Turkey’s response, which has not yet been sufficient. On the contrary, we have unfortunately often been faced with provocations which are not consistent with a spirit of good neighborliness or with Turkey’s desire for EU membership.” As for the Cyprus problem, the foreign minister spoke of the “new dynamics” which, she said, should be exploited by all sides. There should, she added, be an effort which gives “a serious guarantee of success . . . Nobody can tolerate another failure.”
Responding to a question about energy supplies in Europe, Ms. Rice spoke of US support for energy security, diversification and alternative pipelines, while the Greek foreign minister spoke also of Greece’s oil and natural gas pipelines and its development as the hub of an energy network in southeastern Europe. She noted the Greek government’s support for the development of diverse energy sources, referring also to the important role of Greece’s modern shipping fleet capable of transporting oil and natural gas worldwide.
Rice Interview on Greek TV
In Athens Secretary Rice was interviewed by NET TV network about Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Cyprus. On the prospect of a new Cyprus initiative she said “We do need to explore what the foundation could be for moving forward on Cyprus. We need a resolution on Cyprus. It’s been too long and it should be resolved. We were very disappointed that the Annan plan was not adopted. And now I think it is important to go back and to see what elements could be changed to get to a new resolution of the Cyprus conflict. But it has been far too long and it is continuing to retard the development of what should be a very unified area, because as long as this issue is there it will retard development of this region.”
The US Secretary of State also gave interviews to the Athens News Agency and four Greek dailies.
Tourism “A Pillar of the Economy”
GREEK MINISTERS AT WASHINGTON GLOBAL TOURISM CONFERENCE
The minister in charge of the highly successful Athens Olympic Games in 2004, Mrs. Fanny Palli-Petralia, who now heads the ministry of tourism, was in Washington to attend the April 11-12 World Travel and Tourism Summit.
Answering questions at a panel discussion, the minister called tourism “one of the fundamental pillars of our economy,” attracting some 13 million visitors a year (more than the country’s total population of 11 million), contributing 18 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, and more than 10 percent to overall employment growth. It is, she said, an integral part of our entrepreneurial culture and a way of life for most regions and cities of the country.
The number of visitors to Greece increased by 13 percent last year and is expected to continue at the same pace this year.
The US market is among Greece’s highest priorities, seeking to build on last year’s 20 percent increase in American visitors. “We want Americans to see at first hand the changes my country underwent in preparation for the 2004 Olympics and how we combined our unique history and culture with a new array of tourism and leisure opportunities.” The Games were broadcast to a global audience of more than 4 billion people; they were attended by more than 20,000 journalists, 10,500 athletes, and hundreds of thousands of officials and spectators. It was, she claimed, “probably the most important rebranding exercise a European country has ever undergone. The Games re-positioned Greece in the eyes of the world—a 19-day advertisement for our competence, sophistication and security.”
A New Strategic Approach
A similar review of the achievements and the promise of tourism in Greece was provided by the minister in an address to students at Georgetown University. She spoke of tourism as leading the “post-Olympic development momentum of our country and one of the most important sources of revenue for our economy.”
Greece, Mrs. Petralia said, “has a rich history with a global essence, containing some of the most important landmarks of humanity. It has the longest and cleanest coastline in Europe, record periods of sunshine, beautiful mountainous regions, and a cultural landscape blending thousands of years of history — classical, Byzantine and European. Greece’s Mediterranean cuisine provides taste, diversity and health, while its tradition of hospitality seduces the modern traveler for its simplicity, openness and genuine nature.”
In the effort to develop Greece’s tourism economy, taking advantage of the experience in management and communications provided by the Athens Olympics, Greece will engage in a broad program which will include investment in tourist services and assets, attraction of foreign investment, and the creation of more and better jobs in the tourist industry. This, the minister said, will require a new strategic approach, breaking the barriers of “seasonality.” The way forward, she proposed, is for Greece “to invest in the organizational and marketing infrastructure that will lead our tourist economy in the age of city-tourism.”
This new strategic approach, she said, does not imply the abandonment of the “core element” of Greece’s tourist economy—“sea and sun” tourism. On the contrary “the government is committed to the upgrading of all the elements which ensure the unique experience of a Greek summer.”
At the same time, based on recent legislation, Greece is providing incentives for the development of new forms of tourism and the upgrading of the accommodations infrastructure. The plan for a new kind of tourist economy involves the creation of new city “theme parks” and bids to organize major international events and exhibitions which will foster the growth of urban tourism. Another part of this strategy is the improvement of Greece’s airport infrastructure in the major cities and the provision of direct flights to tourist destinations throughout the country.
Winding up her survey, Mrs. Petralia spoke of the many changes in the global tourist economy during the past two decades. The digital age, she said, has not only brought us all much closer but also, with access to the furthest regions of the planet, has made us all “citizens of a truly global village.” Traditional tourist destinations, she said, must therefore “adapt, innovate, diversify and enrich the range of products and services they provide.” In this context, the US market, she said, is one of Greece’s highest priorities.
Noting the near-20 percent increase in American visitors last year, and the role of the Greek-American community as “ambassadors of the beauty of Greece,” the minister looked forward to even more US visitors this year “to a country that is friendly and, most importantly, safe and secure.”
Minister of Health: “No Panic from Bird Flu”
Also attending the same conference in Washington, Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos spoke of the need for continuing international cooperation on the problem of bird flu. He urged, however, that the world should not be trapped into a mind set of fear or panic on the subject. Europe, he said, has made good progress in developing a specific plan of action which ensures the coordination of measures by all the EU governments in cooperation with international organizations. And Greece itself has a full-scale national plan which ensures that all bird flu incidents come under scientific control and monitoring.
“The international community,” Mr. Avramopoulos said, “is faced with a major problem. In Europe . . . we have taken steps forward. A very good and effective system aimed at dealing with the bird flu has been set up. However, the message that needs to be conveyed from this summit was a message of certainty and optimism, because the psychological factor, particularly for countries with high tourism activity, can play a negative role . . . There is no threat. The message here is that if we do what the World Health Organization has instructed us to do, we have no reason to worry.”
Both ministers met in Washington with Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, a friend from his days as US Ambassador in Athens.
“A NEW SPHERE” FOR GREEK ECONOMY
The growing role of Greece as the focal point of economic development in south-east Europe was described by Mr. Christos Folias, the country’s deputy minister of economy and finance, in addressing a meeting of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, on March 28.
Greece, Mr. Folias said, has assumed a leading role in the effort of the European Union to achieve major objectives in SE Europe, among them structural reforms and democratic consolidation. Greece is the EU’s guardian of a new vision for change in its own backyard, of transforming the Balkans from the powder-keg of Europe into a region of peace and prosperity, assisting the stabilization process which is now developing, especially in the energy sector.
Mr. Folias spoke of Greece’s confidence in its “pioneering role” in assisting countries of the region in their efforts to change. He referred to the persistent and sometimes difficult efforts which will make Bulgaria and Romania members of the EU next year, and promised Greece’s strong support for the efforts of the remaining Balkan countries to join. The candidate countries, including Turkey, bear the responsibility of compliance with the EU’s criteria for membership.
The European perspective, Mr. Folias said, is assisting the stability and prosperity of the region, as evidenced by the recent ratification of the SE Europe Energy Community Treaty. Signed in Athens last October by the EU and nine countries of the region (with Turkey expected to join later this year), the Treaty aims, inter alia, to improve overall energy conservation and efficiency and to adapt legislation of the signatory countries to the norms and practices of the EU. The Treaty is expected to assist the attraction of major investments in infrastructure projects and, overall, may become an example for the promotion of regional prosperity.
Also in the energy sector, Mr. Folias referred to the agreement between Greece, Russia and Bulgaria for the construction, at a cost of $750-800 million, of a cross-border oil pipeline carrying Russian oil on the 285-kilometer route from Burgas on the Black Sea to Alexandroupolis in northern Greece, with an annual capacity of 35 million tons of oil. He noted also the soon to be completed natural gas line between Turkey and Greece, and recent ratification of the agreement for an undersea gas pipeline between Greece and Italy.
“A new economic sphere emerges,” Mr. Folias said, which, with its heart in Greece, includes the countries of the Black Sea, the Balkans, the Near and Middle East, making Greece a “bidirectional investment gateway for ventures and enterprises seeking new opportunities in the Eastern as well as the Western markets.” As a member of the EU, and because of its strategic location, Greece, Mr. Folias said, plays a prominent role in the general effort to develop business opportunities in this wider region.
Greece, the minister said, is also the “stock market heart” of the region, a gateway for direct foreign investment, with almost 40 percent of the volume of shares and bonds traded on the Athens Stock Exchange belonging to foreign investors.
Mr. Folias also presented the new structural reforms and investment incentives introduced by the Greek government to make the economy more competitive and business friendly.
THE INTEGRATION OF IMMIGRANTS IN GREECE
The social integration of immigrants in the light of Greece’s experience was the subject of an address to the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington by Education Minister Marietta Giannakou on March 29. Ms. Giannakou was in Washington to attend a Greece-US business conference.
Cooperation within the EU, Ms. Giannakou said, is needed to deal with the extremism that results from social exclusion and cultural isolation. She also described Greece’s policy for the integration and education of immigrants. The policy conforms with EU decisions on equal opportunities and access to education and the job market. This, she said, reflects Europe’s evolution from a union of ethnically and culturally homogenous states to the present-day context of universal political rights.
The initial influx of Balkan migrants in the early 1990s was followed by other ethnic groups seeking a better life in Greece. Today 10% of Greece’s population are immigrants and some 130,000 immigrant children are currently enrolled at Greek schools, irrespective of whether their parents are legal or illegal immigrants.
Speaking of Greece’s experience with its Moslem minority in Greece’s northern province of Thrace, whose status is defined in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, Ms. Giannakou said that Greece, in a spirit of respect for their cultural, religious and language characteristics, is applying a series of affirmative action measures to benefit minority pupils, while also providing advisory support for their teachers and for their cultural activities.
The host country, Ms. Giannakou said, should be responsible for measures to assist the assimilation of immigrants. The immigrants, on their part, should seek to understand and respect the social values of the country where they live.
Replying to questions, Ms. Giannakou referred to the efforts of the Greek government in sending 2,000 teachers to meet the needs for Greek language teaching in schools throughout the world.
While in Washington, she also conferred with US officials, including Undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, and visited the Holocaust Museum, where she presented a new book published by the Education Ministry about the history of Jews in 25 Greek cities titled The Holocaust of Greek Jewry: Monuments and Memories.
POWER FROM RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES
Legislation is being drafted to speed licensing and otherwise reform the system for the production of electric power from renewable energy sources. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas described the law as creating a landmark in the production of electricity from geothermal sources, wind power parks, hydroelectric stations and other renewable sources.
The new law approved by the Cabinet simplifies licensing, provides for a five-fold increase in the guaranteed market price, clears the way for pending applications, and provides special incentives for municipalities which host the new energy producers. Households and businesses which use electric power from the renewable sources will enjoy tax advantages, as will users of natural gas.
REUNIFICATION OF THE PARTHENON SCULPTURES
As noted very briefly in our last issue, the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, in a joint declaration by 12 of its country organizations issued on March 25, called for the return to Greece of the Parthenon sculptures now exhibited in the British Museum in London.
The declaration recalls that the sculptures now in the British Museum were once an integral part of the Parthenon temple which “remains an unparalleled achievement in the fusion of engineering, architecture and art.” They are not separate works of art but “indivisible elements of the Parthenon.” More than 100 pieces of the sculpture and architectural elements were removed in the early 19th century by the British ambassador Lord Elgin and moved into the British Museum in 1816. “They are exhibited in London in a spurious configuration divorced from their architectural framework and proper context.”
The declaration goes on to observe that the British Museum’s determination to hold on to the sculptures is entirely at odds with the fast-growing atmosphere of international cooperation over the location of disputed museum objects. British and world public opinion, it notes, has shown overwhelming support for the reunification in Athens of the surviving Parthenon sculptures. There, in the new Acropolis Museum, they would give fuller meaning to the art and would be seen by the people of the world who visit the Acropolis and who outnumber visitors to the Duveen Gallery of the British Museum.
The declaration calls for government to government negotiations “to achieve early reunification in the new Acropolis Museum of the Parthenon sculptures now in London and Athens,” a development that would benefit the peoples of both countries and of all nations for generations to come.
Culture Minister Voulgarakis on Austrian TV
Interviewed on the Austrian TV network ORF on March 28, Minister of Culture George Voulgarakis said that the duty of restitution owed to the Parthenon is essentially the duty of humanity as a whole to global civilization. “The Greeks consider the return of the Parthenon sculptures an issue of top priority, not because of any ancestor worship attitude or nationalistic reflexes. A moral code is being breached by continuing to deprive the temple of its sculptures. Firmness and perseverance are needed on our part, and we will not falter until success crowns our effort. In a year’s time the new Acropolis museum will open with specially designed showcases that will remain empty, ready to house the sculptures when they are returned from Britain,” he concluded.
From the U.S. Press
TAKING GREECE TO CHINA
Could Senator Paul Sarbanes have been an oracle in a previous life? asks Nora Boustany in her “Diplomatic Dispatches” column in the Washington Post of April 14. In the item headed “Taking Greece to China,” the column recounts the tale of a visit by Sarbanes and his British-born wife Christine to the British Museum in London some years ago. Touring the Duveen Gallery where the homesick Parthenon Sculptures are displayed (see story at left), Senator Sarbanes, a son of Greek immigrants to the US, asked a guide about Greece’s bid to have the Sculptures sent back home. Backing up her view that they should stay in London, the guide argued that they would be seen there by many more people. Whereupon, Sarbanes suggested that it would then be logical to send the Parthenon Sculptures to Beijing.
The British still hold on to the Marbles. But many of Greece’s prize antiquities will indeed be on view in Beijing for six months to coincide with the 2008 Olympic Games. Greek Minister of Tourism Fanny Palli-Petralia told Nora Boustany she had signed an agreement with the Chinese government for the exhibit, and had even chosen the space where it will be mounted.
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece