US Media on Greece
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A NEWS REVIEW FROM THE EMBASSY OF GREECE
PRESS & INFORMATION OFFICE
February 2002; Vo. 8 No. 2
Rogge: “All Will Be Ready”
Athens 2004: Valuable Experience From Salt Lake City Olympics
The Salt Lake City Winter Olympics provided a valuable opportunity for the Athens Organizing Committee officials to gain experience in preparing for the 2004 Olympic Games. The Salt Lake Games preparations were also observed by Greece's Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, both of whom had discussions with members of the International Olympic Committee about the Athens Games.
“Significant progress” in preparing for the 2004 Games was reported to the IOC Congress, held in Salt Lake City before the opening of the Winter Olympics, by the head of the Athens Organizing Committee, Gianna Angelopoulos Daskalaki. While noting that deadlines remain tight, Ms. Angelopoulos was able, in briefings for IOC members, to report positively on projects such as the Olympic Village, transportation and security.
Mr. Venizelos, who oversees within the Greek cabinet all Olympic preparations, also continued in Salt Lake City his regular consultations with IOC President Jacques Rogge during which, the minister said, some 100 issues are discussed, with problems inevitably arising in four or five areas. In Utah, his discussion with Mr. Rogge was especially focused on hospitality arrangements and road works in the Athens area. While in Salt Lake City, Mr. Venizelos visited the International Broadcasting and Press Centers where he observed the arrangements and had contacts with executives of the NBC TV network which has the broadcasting rights for the Athens Games. He also inaugurated a 2004 Cultural Olympiad Pavillion, set up by the Culture Ministry, at a central location.
Reporting on his contacts with IOC members, including former president Samaranch, Mr. Papandreou said that they were satisfied with the progress in Greece and anticipated “very good” Games in 2004.
IOC Inspection Tour of Athens
After a meeting with Greece's Deputy Public Order Minister, Evangelos Malesios, on February 20, Mr. Rogge commented favorably on the presence in Salt Lake City of three Greek police delegations which studied the order, security and traffic measures. Mr. Rogge praised Greece's concern for security at the 2004 Games. “The organization in Athens,” he said, “will be much greater than that of Salt Lake City but the particular interest which Greece is showing indicates that all will be ready and that the security measures will be those befitting the holding of the Olympic Games.”
The generally favorable assessment by IOC officials of the 2004 preparations reconfirms the conclusions of the IOC Coordinating Commission’s inspection group, which visited Athens in late January. The group reported an “overall positive” impression, noting that “we are satisfied that the cruising speed reached in November has been kept.” The report warned, however, that because of time lost earlier in the operation, there is no reserve of time for unexpected delays. Areas of particular concern included: shortage of hotel rooms; road projects leading from the center of Athens to the Olympic Sports Complex; and the construction of some sports venues.
Olympic Truce Idea Takes Stronger Hold
Foreign Minister George Papandreou, a leading figure in the campaign to promote a revival of the ancient Olympic Truce, pursued his efforts during his visit to Salt Lake City, when he discussed the project with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who made an appeal for the observance of the truce. Mr. Annan noted that, though limited in its duration and purpose, the Olympic Truce could open a window in time for dialogue and provide a brief relief to suffering populations.
Mr. Papandreou, who said that the Salt Lake Games provided a springboard for the effort, pledged that Greece will attempt over the next two and a half years to “cement this idea and have some results.” The Greek foreign minister is also gathering signatures to an international text promoting the Olympic Truce, and noted that the first of them were his own and that of Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, followed by the foreign ministers of several Balkan countries, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
At a meeting in Istanbul between delegates from European Union and Islamic countries on February 12, Mr. Papandreou used the Olympic Truce initiative as an example of constructive dialogue between cultures and religions.
The Truce idea received further backing when, during a meeting of the EU General Affairs Council and in the presence of Mr. Papandreou in Brussels on February 18, both the French and German foreign ministers signed the document supporting the project. Also, the president and prime minister of Poland and the president and foreign minister of Lithuania added their signatures to the document during visits by Mr. Papandreou in late February.
Athens Life Will Be Transformed
Other recent Olympics related developments included an inspection of highway and metro worksites by Prime Minister Costas Simitis. He was impressed with the progress which gave an assurance that all the projects are on schedule and will be completed in time for the success of the Athens Olympics. Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou said that the large scale projects, which include complex road junctions, flyovers, underpasses, tunnels and rail extensions, will "transform life in Athens," when completed.
The Athens air quality will also improve from the operation of 2,500 new buses and 300 trolley buses added to the system to accommodate the 600,000 spectators expected to travel daily to the various Olympic sites.
Athens 2004 Volunteers
Sixty thousand volunteers will be trained to work at the Athens 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games. More than 37,000 had already applied by the end of January. Anyone interested in making the Athens Olympic Games a success is welcome to become a volunteer. There are no restrictions based on sex, race, creed, physical ability, social standing or education. The only qualification is that the applicants must be 18 years old by 2004.
Those interested in applying must complete an official application form, attend an interview, commit to be available during the time period for which they will volunteer, and participate in a training program. For more information, applicants can visit the Athens 2004 new website: www.athens2004.gr
As Efforts Continue for Cyprus Settlement
“Cautious Optimism” on Exploratory Greek Turkish Dialogue
The recent meeting between the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey, George Papandreou and Ismail Cem, in Istanbul on February 12, examined the prospects of a dialogue to take place on the basis of international law, international treaties and the EU’s “acquis communautaire” to resolve issues that have long frayed relations between the two neighboring countries. The talks will be held without any concession by Greece of its sovereign rights. In addition to resolving the issue of the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf—the only one accepted by Greece as requiring a bilateral resolution—the dialogue could discuss “other matters that are relevant to good neighborly relations.” These, as Foreign Minister Papandreou suggested before his meeting with Mr. Cem, could include issues relating to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, violations by Turkish warplanes over the Aegean, and the so called “five points”—the system by which Turkey provides information about the identity and the position of its aircraft. The Greek spokesman in Athens recommended “cautious optimism” on the outcome of these exploratory talks that will start at foreign ministry political directors’ level.
In Istanbul, Mr. Papandreou said that the two sides were “proceeding step by step in a calm fashion . . . to build a strong foundation” for bilateral relations. “It is better,” he stressed, “to move slowly and steadily rather than go fast and not arrive where we want to go.” Mr. Papandreou added that “we should not be afraid (of a dialogue) based on the fact that we are securing our sovereign rights of which the European framework is an important guarantee.”
Mr. Papandreou also raised the Cyprus issue, which he had discussed with his Turkish colleague. “Turkey,” Mr. Papandreou said, “is confronted with a dilemma: either to help solve the Cyprus problem and have Cyprus join the EU, or see Cyprus as an EU member without a solution.”
After a meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who will visit the White House on March 5, Mr. Papandreou praised “the pioneering role of Orthodoxy in time of crisis.”
The improved political climate between Greece and Turkey has encouraged increased cooperation in other areas of bilateral interest, among them the expansion of economic relations. This was exemplified by the first meeting in Athens on February 12 of the Greek Turkish Ministerial Committee for Economic Relations which discussed cooperation in trade, energy, shipping and other areas covered by the nine bilateral agreements signed in recent years.
The delegations at the meeting were headed by Greece's new Deputy Foreign Minister, Andreas Loverdos, and Turkey's Deputy Foreign Trade Minister, Kursad Tuzmen. Opening the meeting, Mr. Loverdos described it as a milestone in the process initiated by the countries' two foreign ministers in 1999 for cooperation on “low impact” issues. Mr. Tuzmen said that the target was to increase the current one billion dollar level of bilateral trade to five billion in the next few years. He spoke also of joint activity by Greece and Turkey in projects for the development of the Balkan countries. Other areas of cooperation discussed included the transportation of natural gas to western Europe, and the joint organization of the 2008 European soccer championship.
Appreciation for improved Greek Turkish relations was implicit in a message sent by NATO Secretary General George Robertson to mark the 50th anniversary of the date, February 18, 1952, when Greece and Turkey together joined the NATO Alliance. Lord Robertson said that the two countries “have been devoted allies and contribute substantially to peace and stability in the Euro Atlantic zone . . . a great success and honor for those two countries.”
No Significant Progress in First Round of Cyprus Talks
Despite the continuing U.N. sponsored direct talks between President Clerides and the Turkish Cypriot leader Denktash (with 12 meetings held so far), a Cyprus settlement is not yet in sight.
During a visit to Athens on February 15, when he had discussions with Prime Minister Simitis and Foreign Minister Papandreou, the Speaker of the Cyprus House of Representatives, Dimitris Christofias, spoke pessimistically of the recent developments. “Unfortunately,” he told a press conference, “the situation cannot be described as good or auspicious . . . Denktash remains devoted to his partitionist philosophies.” The same view was voiced by the Cyprus government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou, who said during a visit to Athens on February 20 that the prospects for a solution had “not significantly improved” at the end of the first round of direct talks.
The same conclusion was reported by Prime Minister Simitis to the cabinet after a telephone conversation with President Clerides on February 21st. Mr. Simitis spoke of his disappointment that Mr. Denktash had not changed his position and was agreeable only to minimal shifts of minor importance. He said that the participation of Mr. Denktash in the talks so far was nothing but a “tactical ploy.”
Meanwhile, the Turkish government seems also to remain inflexible in its Cyprus policy which, as expressed in a recent letter to the EU from Foreign Minister Cem, continues to urge a settlement based on two independent entities, rather than a bi communal, bi zonal federation as called for by the UN, EU, and the US.
From the U.S. Press
Louder Calls: Return the Parthenon Marbles
The New York Times, in an editorial on February 2, joined the growing appeal for the return to Greece of the Parthenon Marbles, displayed since early in the 19th century in the British Museum after their purchase from Lord Elgin who tore the classic sculptures from the fabric of the Parthenon. International support for Greece's claim to the marbles has grown in view of planned construction of a new Acropolis Museum in time for the Athens Olympics.
The editorial recalls the contemporary view of the Elgin deal as “an act of cultural depredation if not outright theft.” The marbles, the editorial continues, have become “hostages of affections, of a profound love for the dynamism and grace, for the clarity of vision they embody. And hostages they remain.” It goes on to refute as “mere legalities” and “cultural imperialism” the old claim that Britain had the marbles in safe keeping which may have “sounded plausible in 1816” but “no one now argues that the Greeks are incapable of protecting their own artistic treasures.”
Noting that Greece has “modestly asked to borrow the Parthenon Marbles for the 2004 Athens Olympics,” the editorial urges the British Museum to ask Parliament for “the legal authority to return them outright . . . There can be few instances where the case for repatriation seems so reasonable as this one. The building from which these sculptures were stripped still stands. The people from whom they were taken can preserve them and display them with just as much care as the British Museum can, and with real, untainted honor.”
EU Approves Greece’s Economic Stability Plan
Economy and finance ministers of the European Union approved at the end of January the updated stability plan which Greece has prepared for the period 2002 2004.
The plan reflects policies aimed at restraining consumer oriented spending in the public sector, completing an overhaul of the tax system this year, and continuing the process of privatization which is expected to produce revenue of some 1.7 trillion drachmas ($4.5 billion) in the three year period.
Growth rates are set at 3.8 percent in 2002, rising to 4.0 percent in both 2003 and 2004 (the highest in the EU), with the possibility of an average 0.6 percent shortfall in adverse global conditions. Unemployment is expected to drop from 10.5 percent in 2002 to 9 percent in 2004.
Inflation is forecast at 2.8, 2.7, and 2.8 percent in the years 2002, 2003, and 2004 respectively, while the budget surplus is expected to increase from 0.8 to 1.0 and 1.2 percent of GDP in those years.
The EU economy and finance ministers, while approving the plan, warned against inflationary action, especially in the context of wage negotiations. They also urged the acceleration of structural reforms in the sectors of services, labor and pensions. Greece’s Economy and Finance Minister, Nikos Christodoulakis, commented that Greece needed to continue lowering its public debt and allocating more funds to social policies. Discussions between the government and the interested parties on reform of the social insurance system are to begin in March.
In endorsing the stability plan’s approval, the EU Commission noted that the program was based on a realistic macro economic scenario, with rapid growth rates reflecting the “significant public and private investments ahead of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, and lower interest rates in the wake of the country’s entry in the European Monetary Union.”
Greek Stability Plan 2002 - 2004
2002 2003 2004
Inflation 2.8% 2.7% 2.8%
Growth 3.8% 4.0% 4.0%
Budget Surplus 0.8% 1.0% 1.2%
Unemployment 10.5% 9.8% 9.0%
Greece in the Anti Terrorist Coalition
• Provided use of its airspace for U.S. aircraft and air bases for refueling of US aircraft. Offered the use of naval facilities at the Souda Bay naval base on Crete.
• Is cooperating in intelligence sharing and with investigation of suspect bank accounts, which may be linked to terrorists.
• Greek air crews serve in NATO AWACS planes transferred to the US.
• Is participating with a 134 man contingent, two C 130 planes with 45 airforce personnel and 84 vehicles and engineering equipment, in the international security force deployed to Afghanistan.
• In mid March will send a frigate with 210 sailors, a helicopter and a unit of navy seals to join a NATO force patrolling the Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean
• Offered to send 300 more troops to Kosovo, in addition to 1,527 already serving there, to relieve U.S. troops transferred to Afghanistan (more than 1,700 Greek troops serve in various peacekeeping missions in the Balkans).
• Pledged 5 million euros ($4.5 m) at the Tokyo Donors Conference for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, in 2002 2004.
• Gave $500,000 to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and a further $500,000 to non governmental organizations for relief efforts in and around Afghanistan.
• Sent two C 130 planes to Pakistan carrying relief supplies for Afghan refugees.
• Offered $500,000 for the reconstruction of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in New York destroyed in the collapse of the World Trade Center.
• Various Greek organizations have offered financial assistance to the families of the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks. They include the Onassis Foundation, the Niarchos Foundation, and the Greek Shipowners Union.
• Funds for victims were also raised in telethons in Greece.
• The Greek Parliament donated 300,000 euros ($270,000) to the families of Greek American victims of the September 11 attacks.
Measures Against Domestic Terrorism
• Signed an agreement with the US in September 2000 on combating organized crime and terrorism.
• Trains its anti terrorism officers in the US.
• The FBI has been operating an office in Athens for the past ten years.
• Cooperates with British and other European law enforcement agencies.
• Legislation passed in 2001 provides for non jury, all judge trials for terrorists; DNA testing; broader police powers of surveillance; and a witness protection program.
• A reward of more than $4 million has been offered for information leading to the arrest of terrorists.
• Confidential hotlines have been set up and a public information campaign has been launched. Public opinion fully supports measures to eradicate terrorism.
Security of 2004 Olympics
• A $600 million security plan has been designed for the 2004 Olympics in Athens and is constantly upgraded in cooperation with the IOC. It provides for the deployment of 50,000 police and army troops, the installation of hundreds of surveillance cameras, special training and equipment and intelligence sharing with allies.
• A seven country advisory group has been set up with security experts from the US, Israel, Britain, Spain, Australia, France and Germany, advising the Greek authorities.
• Greek police officers observed the security measures at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece