US Media on Greece
© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
PRESS & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
March 2005; Vol. 11 No. 3
(also available in PDF File)
1. FM MOLYVIATIS DISCUSSES STRATEGIC COOPERATION WITH THE U.S.
2. PRIME MINISTER KARAMANLIS REVIEWS A YEAR IN OFFICE
3. PM KARAMANLIS: DEMOCRACY WINS OVER TERRORISM
4. THE FUTURE OF KOSOVO: ATHENS’ VIEW
5. TARGETING TOURISM
6. “NOW IS THE TIME TO VISIT ATHENS”
7. PRESIDENT BUSH MARKS GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY
Secretary of State Rice: “We Have No Better Friend in the Balkans”
FM MOLYVIATIS DISCUSSES STRATEGIC COOPERATION WITH THE U.S.
In Washington on March 24 at the invitation of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for a working visit, Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis described the purpose of his visit as one “to reaffirm once more the very good—I would say exceptionally good—level of relations between our two countries, and in addition to attempt to expand this so-excellent relationship into a kind of strategic cooperation on various levels and areas. I believe that the purpose of this visit has been achieved—possibly more than we expected.”
Mr. Molyviatis characterized his meetings with Dr. Rice, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns as “very substantial, useful, constructive, cordial and pleasant.” In addition to bilateral and regional issues, “we discussed America’s initiative in the encouragement and spreading of democracy in the world. The Americans believe, and so I think do others, that it has led to a new movement in many parts of the world for a real expansion of democracy.” Mr. Molyviatis cited the examples of the Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Iraq—whatever the situation there—which held elections for the first time. “Greece,” he said, “is a country which always believes in the principles of democracy and freedom and we can only welcome the expansion of these principles throughout the world on condition that they are adopted by the people concerned and not imposed by foreign intervention.”
The foreign minister reported also that on the Cyprus issue there was a common aim to reunite the island, with negotiations based on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan. It was agreed that there should be efforts for progress to be made, but that great caution was needed to avoid any possibility of further failure.
Both sides agreed that the Balkans offered a wide field for cooperation between Greece, the US, and Europe in general. Dr. Rice expressed her sincere appreciation and asked for continuing cooperation in establishing stability and security in the region.
Mr. Molyviatis added that Greece’s relations with Turkey and the search for a mutually acceptable name for the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia were also discussed.
At a joint press conference following their meeting at the State Department, Secretary of State Rice described the topics discussed: NATO responsibilities; cooperation in the Balkans—“where we have no better friend in meeting the challenges in the region than Greece;” and shared interests in the Mediterranean area. Also discussed, she said, was what Greece might be able to do in the stabilization of Afghanistan and in support of Iraq’s new provisional government. Greece also has an important role with the US, Dr. Rice added, in helping the Palestinian people to develop state-building institutions. “We have a broad strategic course ahead of us.”
Echoing the same assessment for the strategic cooperation between the countries in several fields, Mr. Molyviatis added that President Bush has reasons to be happy these days about the spread of democracy and freedom in many parts of the world. The press conference ended on a light-hearted note when the Secretary and Foreign Minister reaffirmed their warm personal relationship.
FM Molyviatis in New York
After his talks in Washington, Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis went to New York, where he met with the UN Secretary-General’s special representative on the FYROM issue, Matthew Nimetz, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, since Greece is a member of the UN Security Council for 2005-2006 and will assume its rotating presidency in July.
The Cyprus issue, the situation in the Balkans, particularly Kosovo and FYROM, as well as Africa and the Middle East were the main topics in his discussions with Mr. Annan.
On the issue of Cyprus, both leaders confirmed the need for the island’s reunification. The Greek minister, however, emphasized that the right conditions must be established in order to avoid a repeat of failed negotiations last year.
As for FYROM, Mr. Molyviatis reiterated Greece’s position that a mutually accepted solution must be found to the name problem so that the international community, as well as FYROM and Greece, can concentrate on other regional problems which warrant serious attention.
The two leaders also agreed that the Syrian forces must withdraw from Lebanon.
PRIME MINISTER KARAMANLIS REVIEWS A YEAR IN OFFICE
On completion of a year in office since the electoral victory of his New Democracy party, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis reviewed on March 8 his government’s record.
The prime minister spoke initially of the efforts to create a new and secure economic environment with structural reforms and a determined effort to reduce the excessive fiscal deficit. The government, he said, took over many problems which imprisoned the country’s creative potential: the lack of an institutional framework to attract investment, encourage entrepreneurship, and improve competitive conditions; the small contribution of the public sector; and the reign of bureaucracy, corruption and intrigue. Describing Greece as “a small country with big problems but great potential,” Mr. Karamanlis said that his government will be open with the people and handle the economy of the state just as everyone handled the household budget—with care and the avoidance of waste. “We respect public funds because they are the funds of the Greek taxpayer.”
On the most conservative estimates, such as those of the EU, the government reduced public spending by over !3 billion in its very first budget.
The year 2005, the prime minister said, has been designated as the year of competition, “because we must become more competitive in Europe and in the world.” The new tax law will reduce tax rates on businesses by up to 10 percentage points over a three-year period. And a new development law provides financing of up to 55 percent for new and old businesses, with emphasis on regional development. New privatizations will bring in another !1.6 billion.
PM KARAMANLIS: DEMOCRACY WINS OVER TERRORISM
A year after the Madrid rail station attack which killed some 200 Spaniards, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressed an international conference on terrorism in that city, saying that it has become a major threat to international security, affecting all aspects of society and endangering the values of our civilization. However, he added, “wherever democracy takes root, terrorism cannot flourish because its main ideological basis is at odds with the core values of free and democratic countries.”
Mr. Karamanlis referred to Greece’s own past painful experience of terrorism and pledged cooperation “at the international level, in the framework of international legality and the safeguarding of human rights, to eradicate this scourge.” He noted that Greece has ratified 12 international anti-terrorist agreements and remains dedicated to the implementation of the UN resolutions on the issue.
The prime minister further spoke of the measures taken in Greece to have the relevant international agreements and directives incorporated into the Greek legal system, consistent with the protection of human life as a top priority. The recent Athens Olympics, he noted, exemplified the success of that effort. “The effective measures taken by Greece, as well as its cooperation with the international community, resulted in the Games being held in a safe environment with full respect for Olympic values and without any repercussions on the human rights and the political freedoms of either Greek or foreign citizens.”
Mr. Karamanlis conveyed a similar message in an interview with Madrid’s ABC newspaper where he said that “terrorism is a grey veil covering all levels of our democratic society. The struggle against terrorism must be carried out effectively but also within the framework of the law as suits modern democratic countries. There is a crucial balance between security and the protection of individual rights, in accordance with the fundamental principles of the European Union,” he concluded.
A Call For Coordinated Anti-Terrorism Measures
In view of Greece’s success in achieving complete security at last year’s Athens Olympics, Greek Minister of Public Order George Voulgarakis was invited to be the main speaker at a meeting in Warsaw on March 17 of his European colleagues to discuss the terrorist threat and policies to confront it.
Mr. Voulgarakis, who will be visiting Washington in mid-April, spoke of the “tragic dilemma” faced by the democracies in the effort to deal with the terrorist threat while preserving democratic standards. The effective defense against terrorists, the minister said, requires a combination of legal, political, and social measures.
Action taken by each country, Mr. Voulgarakis noted, should be directed both at the prevention of and the effective response to terrorist attacks, especially cutting off terrorist access to sources of funds; protection of critical infrastructure, such as transportation; and seeking the cooperation of an informed public. The withholding of information from the public, he said, usually leads to panic, whereas timely information limits the damage caused by a terror attack.
From the U.S. Press
THE FUTURE OF KOSOVO: ATHENS’ VIEW
Greece’s view on developments in the Balkans, and especially the Kosovo situation, were expounded by Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis in an article published in the Washington Times of March 25.
The year 2005 will see the Balkans return as one of the top issues in the international agenda. Calling the situation in Kosovo “uncertain,” Mr. Molyviatis writes that the real power there is wielded through the UN presence and the self-governing institutions run by the Kosovar Albanians. “The Serb minority continues to feel insecure and remains suspicious, withdrawn and, unfortunately, uninformed.” Fostering democracy and respect for human—and especially minority—rights will decide whether Kosovo develops security or remains “fragile and problematic . . . The international community’s initial goal of a stable, democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo has not yet been achieved.”
The foreign minister goes on to describe the weakness of Kosovo’s economy, with massive unemployment, a thriving black market in illegal trafficking and extensive corruption. Security for the return of Serb refugees and protection of religious sites remain major concerns. While the Kosovar Albanians and Pristina must strengthen democratization and good governance, the Kosovar Serbs and Belgrade must also recognize the risks to their own interests of non-involvement.
While not preempting the evaluation of “standards implementation” this summer, Mr. Molyviatis stresses that the final status plan must be viable and realistic to encourage the region’s stabilization. He suggests a number of guidelines to be followed in considering the future status of Kosovo. They included the need for dialogue and active participation of Belgrade; no return to the pre-1999 status; Kosovo must remain multi-ethnic since “partitioning, annexing or unifying it with any country in the region will be a source of dangerous instability;” there must be “a clear European perspective providing a powerful incentive for carrying out Western and European principles and values; strengthening what is so far the almost non-existent European perspective of Serbia and Montenegro which cannot remain the “black hole of Europe;” and a strictly monitored collection of small arms and ammunition in the area.
“Greece,” the foreign minister concludes, “has the potential to promote and make a constructive contribution to regional stability, peace and prosperity. . . It is viewed by all the immediately interested parties as a reliable, consistent, and effective interlocutor, as was reaffirmed in a recent visit to Belgrade and Pristina by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.”
A Cabinet meeting on March 16 discussed the future of the tourist industry, agreeing on a series of measures designed to encourage significant investment and the removal of bureaucratic disincentives. Following a decline in tourist development over the past few years, the direction of future policy will be to achieve closer cooperation between the public and private sectors.
After the meeting, Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos reported on the new regulations which will soon facilitate the use of land for tourist projects which will create new employment opportunities throughout the country. He referred also to the planned promotion of these tourism and the improved training of hotel and other tourist-related staff. Another important project under consideration is the building north of the Attica region of a Formula One race tract.
The Cabinet meeting followed closely on a visit by Mr. Avramopoulos to the United States, where he discussed with representatives of the travel and trade the promotion of Greece as a destination for American tourists who currently are a small percentage of visitors. That effort will be launched at a major conference of tourism industry representatives in the US within the next few weeks.
The encouragement of tourism to Greece from the US will be further promoted by the opening of new branches of the Greek National Tourism Organization in Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago and by the expansion of the existing New York office.
Greece for Film-Making
The visit of Mr. Avramopoulos to the US included a stop in Hollywood where he discussed the prospects for major movie production in Greece. His visit was reported in the March 3 edition of Hollywood’s leading newspaper Variety which quoted Mr. Avramopoulos as saying that Greece is seeking to build on a movie-making era that produced films such as “Boy on a Dolphin” and to exploit the attractions of beautiful Greek locations and multilingual film crews.
The report also mentions that plan to establish a Greek film commission and a Los Angeles office to facilitate film production. Incentives will include VAT reimbursement, assistance of the armed forces, discounted accommodations and transport costs, and simplified permit procedures.
Another facility, already taken into account for the production of two Hollywood movies later this year, is the permission for filming at archaeological sites. Greece, according to the Variety report, is also planning to build four sound stages and Europe’s largest water tank for film-making. Facilities build for last year’s Olympics will also be made available.
Mr. Avramopoulos is quoted finally as saying: “It’s a film-makers job to make films—our job is to help them. To do this, we will adapt our legislation to the needs of the film industry . . . We are determined to put Greece back on the minds of the film community as it was 30 years ago.
From the U.S. Press
“NOW IS THE TIME TO VISIT ATHENS”
The New York Times of March 13 surveyed the European scene for tourists and, in an extensive feature headlined “Rates in Athens Fall from Olympian Heights,” notes that, despite fears to the contrary, the Olympic Games “came off without a hitch, even to widespread praise.” However, the hoped-for boom in tourism to the much-upgraded Greek capital city failed to materialize in 2004.
“Now, however, might be the time to visit Athens. The city that Melina Mercouri once described as a tired old lady in need of some lipstick not only has a sparkling modern airport, a state-of-the-art subway system and a convenient new tramway network but also a crop of either refurbished or new hotels with rates that, according to tourist officials, are usually less than 30 percent of the prices charged during the Olympics.”
“About two-thirds of the city’s 70,000 hotel rooms were renovated for the Games, and 1,500 upscale and luxury hotel rooms were added. Trendy boutique hotels have opened in newly gentrified neighborhoods that fan out from the spruced-up Omonia Square; budget hotels possess new amenities and a new sheen; and dowdy downtown classics have been refurbished to their past glory.”
“The upgraded hotel stock has already helped bring in more business travelers . . . And the promotion of the city’s new nightclub and café scene plus its renovated museums could create a buzz for weekend visits by European fun-seekers.”
PRESIDENT BUSH MARKS GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY
Greek Independence Day was celebrated at a White House ceremony by President George W. Bush on March 28 in the presence of Greece’s Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, Archbishop Demetrios of America, the Ambassadors of Greece and Cyprus to the US, and Greek-American leaders. In his proclamation on Greece’s national day, President Bush said: “On Greek Independence Day we celebrate our special ties of friendship, history, and shared values. Our country has welcomed generations of Greek immigrants and we are grateful for their talents, wisdom and creativity . . . As we address the challenges of the 21st century, the United States and Greece remain committed partners in the vital work of advancing freedom and democracy.”
During the White House ceremony President Bush and Archbishop Demetrios spoke of the concept of liberty and democracy as an inspiration to the Greek nation and the importance of spreading freedom in today’s world. Mr. Molyviatis later called President Bush’s remarks “very inspirational” and thanked the President for his personal contribution in honoring Greek Independence Day.
A resolution introduced in the Senate designated Greek Independence Day, March 25, as “A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy.”
The resolution referred to “the political experience and philosophy of ancient Greece” in forming America’s representative democracy and to Greece’s “major role in affecting the outcome of World War II. Throughout the 20th century, Greece was one of only three nations in the world, beyond the British Empire, to be allied with the US in every major international conflict. The two countries now stand united in the fight against terrorism.” Other references in the resolution included: Greece’s stabilizing influence in the volatile Balkan region; its success in apprehending domestic terrorists and the “world-wide praise” earned for its “extraordinary hosting of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.”
IN BRIEF . . .
• A packed chamber of the Greek Parliament followed the ceremonial swearing-in on March 12 of former foreign minister Karolos Papoulias as the sixth President of the Hellenic Republic since Greece opted for a Presidential Republic in a popular referendum in December 1974. The new president’s first visit abroad is scheduled for May, when he will go to Moscow to attend the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
• Greece’s prime role in the monitoring and guiding of Balkan developments, enhanced by its current two-year membership of the UN Security Council, was ascertained in the course of a rapid tour of the western Balkan countries by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis early in March. The mission included discussions with the leadership in Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro and the province of Kosovo, where he met the more than 600 Greek troops stationed there.
• Turkey’s prospects for membership of the EU was one of the main topics discussed between the Greek and Turkish prime ministers at a dinner given by Mr. Costas Karamanlis for Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a Brussels restaurant on March 21. Mr. Karamanlis said afterwards that Turkey’s road to EU membership, which has Greece’s full support, is “long and difficult.” The EU, he said, as it demonstrated by its recent decision to postpone accession talks with Croatia, insists on certain principles and values, and Turkey has to do “many things in several sectors.” Mr. Karamanlis accepted Mr. Erdogan’s invitation to visit Ankara.
• In its annual report published by the US State Department on drug trafficking in 2004, cooperation between the US and Greek law enforcement officials is described as “exceptionally close and professional.” The government of Greece, the report further states, “is very responsive in its aggressive pursuit of processing US requests for legal assistance and several joint US-Greek counter-narcotics investigations in 2004 resulted in significant arrests and seizures.”
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece