US Media on Greece
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PRESS & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
December 2004; Vol. 10 No. 12
(also available in PDF file)
• GREECE SATISFIED WITH EU-TURKEY PACT
• GOVERNMENT NAMES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE FROM OPPOSITION RANKS
• POLICE PEACEFULLY FOIL BUS HIJACKING
• THE LEGACY OF THE ATHENS OLYMPICS
• NEW US AMBASSADOR TO GREECE SWORN IN
EU Summit Agrees To Membership Talks with Turkey After Cyprus Compromise
GREECE SATISFIED WITH EU-TURKEY PACT
An arduous summit meeting in Brussels of the European Council, which included a night-time session, ended on December 17 with conditional agreement by the 25 EU leaders on the opening of talks with Turkey on October 3, 2005, for its eventual membership of the European Union. The negotiations are an open-ended process the outcome of which cannot be guaranteed beforehand.
Reporting at a press conference on the conclusions of the summit, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said: “We achieved all our goals. The first was to help make our part of the world ‘a European neighborhood.’ The second was to have account taken of all our sensitivities on the issue of relations between the EU and Turkey. These and all our other objectives were satisfied and a new chapter is opening in our region.”
Strenuous efforts were made to obtain from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan an undertaking to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, one of the ten new members of the EU, where Turkish troops have occupied nearly 40 percent of the territory since 1974. Mr. Erdogan refused. But he did agree, in a last-minute compromise, that Turkey will sign the protocol which will adapt the Ankara Agreement on customs union to take account of the new EU members.
On that basis (which was interpreted as an indirect, de facto Turkish recognition of the Republic of Cyprus) it was agreed that negotiations with Turkey for its future membership of the EU will begin on October 3 next year. That eventual membership, Mr. Karamanlis said, should not be taken for granted. “It will depend on the will and ability of Turkey to meet the obligations it will have in the long process of adaptation to European standards. The text (of the summit conclusions) makes it clear that Turkey cannot become a member of the EU before 2014.”
Asked why Mr. Erdogan had made a point of saying that his agreement to the expansion of the customs union does not imply recognition of Cyprus, Mr. Karamanlis said: “It is understandable why Mr. Erdogan feels the need to make such statements.”
In Athens, Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis said that Turkey’s promise to sign the protocol expanding the customs union of the Ankara Agreement to the ten new EU members, including Cyprus, is “absolutely positive.” It is, he said, “an important turning point” for the Turkish side and necessary for reversing Ankara’s 30-year policy on Cyprus.
Mr. Molyviatis also welcomed the section of the summit’s conclusions which, echoing even more strongly the criteria for Turkey’s membership cited by the late-1999 Helsinki summit meeting, made reference to the improvements in Turkey’s relations with its neighbors “and its readiness to continue to work with member states concerned (an oblique reference to Turkey’s claims in the Aegean) towards resolution of outstanding border disputes, peacefully and in accordance with the UN Charter,” adding that “disputes having repercussions on the accession process should, if necessary, be brought to the International Court of Justice for settlement” —a course long proposed by Greece but avoided by Turkey.
Five Clear Objectives Met
In his press conference after the summit, Mr. Karamanlis said that Greece had gone to the meeting with five clear objectives:
• First, to form a European framework for Turkey’s behavior towards Greece, leading on a steady path towards good Greek-Turkish relations, monitored for the first time on a permanent basis by the member-states of the EU. _
• Second, to ensure an effective mechanism for the continuous monitoring of Turkey’s European course and its fulfillment of European criteria, conditions and principles. This objective was achieved because every step, over at least ten years, of Turkey’s pre-membership negotiations will be taken with the unanimous decisions of all the member-states—i.e. including both Greece and Cyprus. Further, the whole negotiation may be suspended if, on the proposal of the European Commission, it is decided by one-third of the EU members.
• Third, to ensure safeguards and limitations on the application of the EU rules as to the free movement of persons. This objective was achieved by agreement on the possibility of permanent provisions for the suspension of the free movement of people.
• Fourth, to make sure that Turkey will respect human, religious and minority rights, with emphasis on the reopening of the Halki Theological School, closed since 1971; the question of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; and the state of the Greek community in Turkey, including its members on the islands of Imvros and Tenedos. This goal was achieved under paragraph 18 of the Conclusions which calls for Turkey’s unbreakable commitment to the process of reforms, especially with regard to fundamental freedoms and complete respect for human rights.
• Lastly, to ensure a connection between Turkey’s adaptation to European standards and its commitment on progress in its relations with the Republic of Cyprus. This objective was achieved because, after a particularly difficult and complicated negotiating effort, Turkey finally agreed to sign on to the extension of the customs union to Cyprus before the start of its EU membership negotiations on October 3. “It is,” Mr. Karamanlis said, “a particularly important concession by Turkey which would have been unthinkable in the past.”
In his report, Mr. Karamanlis made brief reference also to the summit’s decision to sign accession agreements next April with Bulgaria and Romania, with a view to their joining the EU in January, 2007. Membership negotiations with Croatia, he added, will begin next March if it has by then fully cooperated with the International Criminal Court on the former Yugoslavia.
These developments, Mr. Karamanlis concluded, are very positive for the security and stability of our region.
Main opposition leader George Papandreou reiterated his position favoring Turkey’s European prospects, but said that as a Greek he was not happy because the summit decisions did not safeguard the country’s interests and he expressed his strong concern regarding future developments.
Cyprus President: “Positive First Step”
In a post-summit statement, the President of Cyprus, Mr. Tassos Papadopoulos, said it had been “a very tiring day,” ending with the decision—which he supported—to name a date for the opening of EU membership negotiations with Turkey. “On the whole, I am satisfied by the result. We made a significant, positive first step.” Acknowledging that public opinion in Cyprus has been opposed to the setting of a date for EU negotiations with Turkey, President Papadopoulos said: “Our policy for a long time has been to support Turkey’s course towards EU membership on the understanding that it will satisfy its obligations towards the EU and towards Cyprus. I believe that today’s decision largely satisfies those requirements . . . December 17 is not the end but the beginning of a huge challenge and a course with possibilities and opportunities in which the Republic of Cyprus has a say and a role to play.” He added that his decision not to veto Turkey’s EU bid was based on the judgment that it would not promote a solution of the Cyprus problem, but would give Turkey the pretext to continue its policy to consolidate the results of the1974invasion and occupation of the island’s northern third.
Referring to Turkey’s agreement to sign the Ankara Agreement which includes Cyprus, Mr. Papadopoulos said that the decision gives the Republic of Cyprus the right, if Turkey does not sign by October 3, to exercise its veto power to prevent the opening of negotiations on Turkey’s EU membership.
The president of Cyprus concluded that the official record notes the ability of the EU, and of each member individually, to monitor Turkey’s compliance with its obligations with respect to human rights and its relations with neighboring countries. “This, I believe, includes Cyprus.”
The Ecumenical Patriarch is Pleased
Despite the Turkish government’s reluctance to address in a more positive way the problems of the Greek Orthodox community in Turkey, especially over the stalled re-opening of the Halki School of Theology, the EU summit decision was welcomed by the Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos who said that it “strengthens the position of the Patriarchate which has suffered so unjustly for these many past decades. A European Turkey, fully incorporated within the great European family, is a guarantee of respect for human rights, of respect for minority rights, for the upholding of religious freedoms—all of which mean a bright future for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its surrounding family which has suffered under such injustice for these last decades .”
“We all know,” the Ecumenical Patriarch added, “that difficulties have existed and will continue to exist. What we hope and wish is that the road ahead is now open.”
GOVERNMENT NAMES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE FROM OPPOSITION RANKS
In a surprise TV announcement on December 12, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis named Mr. Karolos Papoulias, former foreign minister in the government of PASOK, now the main opposition party, to succeed Kostis Stephanopoulos to the Presidency of Greece when the latter leaves office next March, after two 5-year terms.
Mr. Karamanlis said that his government’s choice of the presidential candidate placed priority on consensus which accorded with the spirit of the Constitution and would rally support from all parties. There were, Mr. Karamanlis said, many able and suitable candidates within the ranks of the ruling New Democracy party; however, rather than impose the government’s choices as the majority political power, “it is our duty to gain society’s widest possible acceptance for the person of the President of the Hellenic Republic.”
The prime minister further stated the need for the future president of Greece to bring to the office the experience, knowledge and skills acquired in the course of a long political career—“a prudent and consensual president who will continue the work of Kostis Stephanopoulos who has so ably served the institutions and Greece, above and beyond all parties and ideologies.”
Karolos Papoulias, 75, was born in the northwestern Greek city of Ioannina and, after graduating from the Athens University Law School, pursued postgraduate studies in Munich. He returned to Greece after the fall of the dictatorship in 1974 and became deputy foreign minister in October 1981 in the newly- elected PASOK government under Andreas Papandreou and foreign minister in 1985. He was re-appointed to the post in the new PASOK government of 1993-1996.
Mr. Papoulias received the nomination as a great honor and responsibility. “It is a great honor because the search for consensus dictated by the Constitution for the election of the President of the Republic is expressed in my person. And it is a great responsibility because the civic conduct of the person chosen to serve the institution of the presidency is a measure of our political culture.”
The choice of Mr. Papoulias was warmly welcomed by retiring President Stephanopoulos and by Mr. George Papandreou, leader of the main opposition PASOK party. The presidential candidate, Mr. Papandreou said, “had responsibly served democracy, had the necessary international prestige to represent the country, could express the unity of Greeks, and could act within the framework of the Constitution. He would be a worthy successor to Kostis Stephanopoulos, who had honored the institution of the presidency.”
The choice of Mr. Papoulias was also applauded by Greece’s foreign minister, Petros Molyviatis, who was a fellow university student, and congratulated his “old, good and close friend.”
Public opinion polls also showed widespread popular support for Mr. Papoulias’ nomination.
The election of Mr. Papoulias in the first round of voting is confidently predicted when Parliament convenes for the purpose, probably in early February. The combined votes of the governmental and main opposition parties—165 and 117—will easily achieve the required two-thirds majority of 200 in the 300-seat Parliament.
POLICE PEACEFULLY FOIL BUS HIJACKING
Techniques learned by police negotiators ahead of the Athens Olympics this year proved effective in preventing a violent end to a bus hijacking incident perpetrated by two Albanian gunmen near Athens in the early morning of December 15.
The ensuing events were closely followed by Prime Minister Karamanlis who delayed his departure for the EU summit meeting in Brussels and ordered that priority be given to the safety of the hostages on the bus. Specially trained police negotiators, assisted by a brother and sister of the hijackers, engaged in a 19-hour effort to achieve the release of all 26 hostages unharmed and the peaceful surrender of the gunmen whose plan was to extract a ransom of€1 million and return to Albania.
Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis, after reporting the prime minister’s pride in the “exemplary police operation” which concluded without injury or loss of life, noted that “the experience of the Olympic Games did not go to waste.” The C4I system, installed for the security of the Games at a cost of€250 million (out of a€1 billion total spent on Olympic security), was brought into use after the requisite legal authority (needed for the protection of privacy) was obtained. Mr. Voulgarakis recalled that the system had been used, with complete success, in three test drills ahead of the Olympics to deal with bus hijacking scenarios.
Mr. Voulgarakis further expressed admiration for the efforts of the police which had proved itself to be “one of the best-organized police forces in the world.” He also thanked the Greek media for their cooperative response to the request of the police for their assistance.
The operational and communications tactics of the Greek authorities were praised by the US State Department whose Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program played a part in the pre-Olympic training program which included drills to deal with a hijacked bus situation. ATA Director John Rendeiro, recalling that ATA had invested nearly $12 million to provide anti-terrorism training and equipment for Greece, said: “The hard work of the Hellenic National Police paid off not only in providing a secure and well organized Olympics, but in a vastly improved police capability overall. We are proud of our colleagues in Greek law enforcement.”
• In a letter to Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis, Mr. Gary M. Bald, assistant director for counter-terrorism and counterintelligence of the FBI, expressed admiration for the professionalism shown by Greece in meeting the challenge of safe Olympics, adding that cooperation on security of the Games between Greece and the US could serve as a model for other international events.
THE LEGACY OF THE ATHENS OLYMPICS
In a program to exploit what he called the “intangible legacy” of the 2004 Athens Olympics, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on December 7 underlined the social benefits to be derived from the use of facilities built for the Games, with the majority of them remaining under state ownership.
While the extent of that legacy, Mr. Karamanlis said, is difficult to assess, it certainly had a “multiplying effect” by upgrading the country’s image abroad and by helping to attract productive investments and tourism. “We are determined,” Mr. Karamanlis said in a joint press conference with Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, “to capitalize on this added value for the good of the social whole,” using developmental rather than strictly financial criteria in the use of the Olympic facilities.
Ms. Palli-Petralia then spoke of the post-Olympic plans in greater detail, noting that the government has earmarked€85 million for the maintenance of the Olympic facilities in 2005. Several of them will be developed as parks, sports and recreational areas. The Olympic Shooting Center will be available for the training of Greek security forces. And other facilities will become art centers housing academies for dance, drama, theatre and music. The International Broadcasting Center will house the Olympic Games Museum, and the Main Press Center will be occupied by the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works ministry.
Most important of all the main Olympic complex, designed to become a key post-Olympics attraction, will not only host sports activities but also provide an attraction for both Greeks and foreign tourists interested to see the Calatrava Dome, the Agora and Wall of Nations in a unique “Olympic Walk .”
Much of this information was also contained in an address by Ms. Palli-Petralia on December 8 at New York’s Columbia University. “The Olympic Games,” she said, “proved that we have both the capabilities and the human resources to place Greece among the group of the planet’s developed countries.”
Ms. Palli-Petralia said that the Athens Olympics, covered by more than 200 TV networks and watched by some 4 billion viewers during 3,800 hours of live coverage, were praised in opinion polls conducted in the US and in several European countries. The image of Athens has “drastically improved” and it will be the chosen destination of more travelers, especially high-income visitors, in the years ahead. Analysts predict that tourist arrivals may increase, by the end of the decade, from the current 13 million annually to 18-20 million. A major Greek bank, she added, estimates that for the period of 2000-2008 the Greek economy will grow by €25 billion, and may be expected to grow further as Greek businesses take advantage of the positive Olympic publicity and of the improved infrastructure assisting exports.
“The Olympic facilities,” Ms. Palli-Petralia concluded, “represent a significant state asset . . . The aim is to attract important foreign investors and make Athens a unique tourist destination and especially a place where international conferences and fairs can be held as well as a place for worldwide cultural, entertainment and sports events .”
NEW US AMBASSADOR TO GREECE SWORN IN
Secretary of State Colin Powell and Greek Ambassador to the US George Savvaides were among those who attended a State Department ceremony on December 13 for the swearing-in of Charles Ries as the new US Ambassador to Greece. He will succeed Ambassador Thomas Miller on January 10, 2005.
Both Secretary Powell and Ambassador Ries spoke of America’s centuries-old support of Greece and Hellenism and of the commitment of both countries to common democratic ideals. In addition to commending Greece’s foreign policy positions, including its support for Turkey’s European prospects, both Mr. Powell and Mr. Ries had words of praise for the successful hosting of the Athens Olympics and for Greece’s achievements as president of the EU Council in the first half of 2003.
There was mention also of Greece’s recent election to a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and of the robust presence in the US of the Greek-American community and its contribution both to American life and to Greek-American relations.
At an official dinner given by the Greek Ambassador on December 14 for Mr. Ries and his wife Marcie (who is the US Ambassador to neighboring Albania), Ambassador Savvaides spoke of the “parallel mission” he shared with Ambassador Ries. “The bilateral relationship needs enhanced and enduring dynamism, exploring and exploiting new facets of cooperation, coordination, and joint initiatives . . . The value of Greece vis-ΰ-vis the US clearly surpasses mere political or geostrategic considerations. Greece’s added value lies exactly where others may have less to offer, namely in its solid system of democratic governance, its strong economy, its open-minded society and its unique contribution to European history and civilization. Such elements render her a historic friend, partner, and ally of the US.”
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece