US Media on Greece
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PRESS & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
November 2002; Vol. 8 No. 11
(also available in PDF File)
UN PLAN FOR CYPRUS: A BASIS FOR CONSTRUCTIVE NEGOTIATIONS
The November 11 submission of the United Nations plan that could serve as a basis for a comprehensive settlement of the 28-year-old problem of Cyprus (see page 4 for details), was the occasion for intensive study by the Greek government in consultation with the government of Cyprus, whose leader, President Glafcos Clerides, came to Athens on November 15 and held meetings with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and other political leaders.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan would like to see a framework agreement before December 12, when the EU summit in Copenhagen is expected to endorse the accession of ten new countries, including Cyprus. Details of the settlement would be worked out by next February, and the two communities in Cyprus would then hold separate referendums to approve the settlement by March 30, 2003 thus paving the way for a reunified Cyprus to become a full member of the EU in 2004.
A Basis for Intensive Negotiations
Overall, with Greece making it clear that the final word rests with the Cyprus government, the consensus is that, while the 136-page plan is unsatisfactory in a number of areas and, in the words of Mr. Simitis, contains some “difficult points,” it can lead through negotiations to a fair, durable, and workable solution compatible with EU laws and practices.
Mr. Simitis stressed that a “first evaluation of the proposal allows us to say that the plan is a starting point which allows for intensive negotiation which will be difficult and demanding patience.” It is, Mr. Simitis said, “a historic opportunity for a solution, requiring the cooperation of all concerned in the conduct of unhindered negotiations without time constraints.”
Pledging support for Mr. Clerides, Mr. Simitis said that the decisions rest with the Greek and Turkish communities of Cyprus, voting in separate referendums by March 30, 2003. He restated also his government’s continuing determination, irrespective of a political solution, to insist at next month’s EU summit in Copenhagen that Cyprus will be among the ten candidate countries at next April’s signing ceremony for EU membership in 2004.
The consensus on the Greek and Greek Cypriot side favoring the UN plan as a basis for further negotiations was reenforced by the majority vote of the Cyprus National Council on November 18. Announcing the decision, the Cyprus government spokesman said that it empowered President Clerides to tell the UN Secretary-General that he agrees to negotiate his proposal with a view to achieving a solution to the Cyprus problem.
Though Mr. Annan had asked both sides to convey their reactions to his plan by November 18, the Turkish Cypriot side failed to respond, prompting the Secretary-General to express his concern that further delays could jeopardize the opportunity offered for a solution.
The UN plan for Cyprus was submitted by the Greek government to the leaders of the parties represented in Parliament. Leader of the main opposition New Democracy party, Mr. Costas Karamanlis, expressed concerns about the “workability” of the plan and the compatibility of some of its provisions with the EU’s “acquis communautaire.” However, in his meeting with President Clerides in Athens on November 15, Mr. Karamanlis assured him of his support of the Cypriot people and leadership.
Other reactions endorsing the plan as a basis for a solution came from US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who called the initial response “encouraging,” the EU Council of Foreign Ministers, the European Parliament Speaker Pat Cox, and from European Commissioner for Enlargement Gunter Verheugen, who reaffirmed that the outcome will not affect the EU expansion decision concerning the membership of Cyprus at the December summit in Copenhagen. Also, on November 18 the US Senate unanimously approved a resolution endorsing the accession of Cyprus to the EU and calling for the reunification of the Republic of Cyprus, which has been forcibly divided by Turkey since 1974.
Bush-Simitis Telephone Conversation
In what the White House described as “a warm and constructive telephone call, reflecting the strength of the US-Greek partnership,” on November 15 President Bush discussed with Greek Prime Minister Simitis his support for the UN peace plan for Cyprus and for Turkey’s EU prospects. He also wished him continued success in the preparations for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Reporting on his conversation with the US President, Prime Minister Simitis said that he conveyed Greece’s desire for the EU’s door not to close on Turkey at the Copenhagen Summit and for a date for the beginning of accession negotiations to be set. He added, however, that this will also depend on Turkey’s moves on Cyprus and its fulfilment of the European Union criteria.
Foreign Minister Papandreou: “A Historic Moment”
In his own appraisal of the new development, which he called “a historic moment,” Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou called for a careful and rhetoric-free study of the UN plan at a time when the projected entry of Cyprus into the EU changes some important factors.
In setting out the arguments in favor of a solution, Mr. Papandreou, in addition to the benefits for Cyprus itself (an end to the problems of refugees, occupation, partition, and conflict), said that it would result in a “rapid and spectacular improvement in Greek-Turkish relations,” with substantial reductions of defense spending for both countries.
On the other hand, Mr. Papandreou continued, a failure to reach an agreement will open up very “gloomy” prospects, as it might not be possible to assist Turkey’s EU prospects, with adverse consequences for the internal situation in Turkey and possible friction with Greece. It would probably also lead to the prolongation of the de facto partition.
Mr. Papandreou will visit Washington, November 26-27, for talks with Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on bilateral and international issues, as Greece prepares to assume the presidency of the European Union in January.
Erdogan in Athens
The first reaction of the recently elected Turkish government was conveyed in a meeting in Athens on November 18 between Prime Minister Simitis and Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party, which won the November 3 elections.
Mr. Erdogan observed that, since his government would not receive a vote of confidence from the Turkish National Assembly until December 4, there will be no time to meet the UN Secretary-General’s deadline of December 12. He gave Mr. Simitis to understand, however, that the UN plan provides a basis for further negotiation.
Mr. Erdogan said that, in resolving the Cyprus problem, he preferred to think of the “glass as half-full, rather than half-empty.” Progress, however, is being slowed by the illness of Mr. Denktash and by the delay in forming a government in Turkey.
For his part, Mr. Simitis observed that “a solution of the Cyprus problem before the Copenhagen summit will improve the climate for a resolution of all our problems, which would please all our EU partners. This is something the Turkish side should consider.” The UN plan for Cyprus, Mr. Simitis told Mr. Erdogan, “is the starting point for negotiations which must be pursued constructively so as to eliminate the effects of the Cyprus problem on relations between our two countries.”
While Greece in principle supports Turkey’s bid to begin negotiations for eventual EU membership, Mr. Simitis pointed out to Mr. Erdogan that Turkey’s efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue will weigh heavily on the decision by the European Union. Turkey must make clear when it intends to implement the accession criteria and how it will contribute to the solution of the Cyprus problem, he added.
Mr. Simitis also stressed to Mr. Erdogan that Greece will insist at the December EU summit in Copenhagen that Cyprus must be part of the first expansion group of countries to be admitted in 2004.
IOC Inspection Team Concludes
”ATHENS IS NOW TAKING AN OLYMPIC SHAPE”
The ninth semi-annual inspection by the IOC Coordinating Committee of preparations for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games was carried out over a three-day period ending on November 8. The 16-member team, led by committee chairman Denis Oswald, was able to see progress on some 35 various operational areas of readiness for the Games.
Summing up the conclusions of his committee, Mr. Oswald said that the organizers had overcome difficulties which prevented the start on some construction work. “I am pleased to see,” he said, “that Athens is now taking an Olympic shape, thanks to particularly good progress in venue construction, road infrastructure, public transport and accommodation.” Mr. Oswald had praise also for the Athens Organizing Committee (ATHOC), under its president, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, calling its work on the organizational aspects of the Games “impressive.”
While repeating his usual warning that deadlines remain very tight and that progress on some projects needs to be carefully watched, Mr. Oswald was optimistic in saying: “The evidence shows that the people of Athens will inherit a new, dynamic city as a result of the Games.” Public transport, Mr. Oswald said, will be improved ten-fold beyond the point it would have reached without the Olympics. And, while there was much praise for Barcelona’s improved infrastructure for the Olympics, the improvements at the seashore area of Phaleron are “much more important, one of the most impressive examples of civic development in Europe,” giving Phaleron back to Athenians as a seaside resort.
“My general impression,” Mr. Oswald concluded, “is extremely positive. When we left here last time, we took with us a long list of things that needed to be watched . . . We did not know exactly what we would find this time but we are now definitely more certain than we were in the past of the success of the Athens Games in 2004.”
2003 “A Determining Year”
In her summary of progress, Ms. Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said that the operational planning for 24 of the Olympic events is now complete, and planning for the remaining 12 venues will be completed by the end of the year. Hospitality arrangements, she said, were now complete to house the Olympic Family, and good progress is being made on the choice of the eleven cruise ships which will be docked at Piraeus to serve as hotels. The selection of private homes to be used for Olympic accommodations is also nearing completion.
Other areas of good progress noted by the ATHOC president included the submission of some 45,000 applications for volunteer work at the Games. Company grants have already exceeded the target; more than 5,000 points of sale throughout Greece have been established for Olympic products; and plans for broadcasting, accreditation, security and food catering are all progressing smoothly.
“Early in 2003,” the ATHOC president concluded, “we will enter the final lap in preparing for the Olympics. Athenians will see the Olympic Flame, they will order their tickets, they will be called to train as volunteers and to work in the trial events. They will see stadiums being completed and new roads opening up. At this time, thousands of people throughout Greece are working hard to make the 2004 Games a success…2003 will be the determining year.”
In Other Olympics-Related Developments:
• The favorable IOC inspection was widely reported in the international press. The Washington Post’s Amy Shipley wrote of the encouragement to the Athens organizers derived from Mr. Oswald’s “very positive” general conclusion. The London Times reported that “the IOC’s inspectors in Athens had a very positive picture and impression of progress;” while the Guardian of London reported on the 1.9 billion euros spent for improvements in the health sector in view of the 2004 Games – the biggest investment ever made by Greece in this sector.
• In a meeting between Mr. Oswald and the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, there was discussion of the memorandum of cooperation signed between the Church of Greece and ATHOC. The Church is particularly active in the areas of volunteerism and hospitality, and the Archbishop proposed the participation of the Church in the opening ceremony with a choir composed of 2004 young people.
EU PREDICTS ACCELERATING ECONOMIC GROWTH
In its autumn report on economic indicators for the period 2002-2004, released on November 13, the European Commission foresees an acceleration of economic growth for Greece and improved conditions for employment. While warning of a future high rate of inflation, the report predicts a continuing decline in the public debt, although to levels higher than the EU average.
Predicted growth rates for 2002, 2003, and 2004 are 3.5, 3.9, and 3.7 percent respectively, compared with 0.8, 1.8, and 2.6 percent for the eurozone. Unemployment, higher than in the EU, is projected at 9.9 percent of the workforce in 2002, falling to 9.4 and 9.1 percent in the two subsequent years, compared with 8.2, 8.3, and 8.0 percent in the eurozone.
While inflation is forecast to reach 3.8 percent this year, it is expected to fall to 3.2 percent next and reach 3.3 percent in 2004 (eurozone: 2.3, 2.0, and 1.8 percent). The public debt, following stricter Eurostat rules, will reach 105.8 percent of the GDP this year, but will then ease to 102 and 98.5 percent in the subsequent two years. The commission report also forecast a fiscal deficit of 1.3 percent of GDP this year, and 1.1 percent in 2003 and 2004.
Greek Budget for 2003
The budget for 2003 which the government presented to the Greek Parliament on November 19, foresees growth of 3.8 percent, a rise of 5.1 percent each for public sector revenue and spending, and an increase by 12.9 percent in public investments. Presenting the budget, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said that the aim of the budget is to maintain conditions of stability in the economy, continue fiscal revitalization, and finance the social security and taxation overhaul. “It is one more step on the road to real convergence of the Greek economy with other economies of the European Union,” he added. (In 2003 per capita income in Greece would equal 71 percent of the EU average.)
The budget forecasts that the general government deficit in 2003 will drop to 0.9 percent of GDP following a revision of Greek data by Eurostat. The public debt next year is forecast to drop to 100.2 percent of GDP, unemployment to decline to 9.1 percent, and inflation to fall to 2.7 percent in December 2003.
An agreement was signed on November 14 between the Athens Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange providing for collaboration on market development and the exchange of information. The alliance, said NYSE chairman Dick Grasso, “further advances the globalization of equities and underscores the importance of cross-border, cross-market cooperation.”
THE UNITED NATIONS PEACE PLAN FOR CYPRUS
The UN plan for a settlement of the Cyprus problem, presented on November 11 to the Greek and Turkish-Cypriot leaders, with copies to the Greek, Turkish, and British governments as guarantor powers under the 1960 treaty which ended the island’s colonial status, is a complex and comprehensive document covering all aspects of the problem–constitutional, territorial, refugees, security, and nationality.
After a preamble which calls for Cyprus to sign the Treaty of Accession to the European Union, to “maintain special ties of friendship with Greece and Turkey” and to support Turkey’s accession to the EU, the broad outline of the plan is “modeled on the status and relationship of Switzerland, its federal government, and its cantons.” Among the plan’s features:
• It would establish Cyprus as an “independent state in the form of an indissoluble partnership with a ‘common state’ and two equal ‘component states,’ one Greek Cypriot and one Turkish Cypriot.” Cyprus, the plan declares, “has a single international legal personality and sovereignty and is a member of the United Nations. “
• After providing that the powers of the ‘common state’ government will give Cyprus a single voice in its international relations and the ability to “protect its integrity, borders, and ancient heritage,” the plan gives the ‘component states’ powers to act in other areas, including the conduct of commercial and cultural relations with the outside world.
• Other provisions of the plan call for a single Cypriot citizenship, with all citizens also enjoying an “internal ‘component state’ citizenship status,” with specified limits on the residence qualifications for that status.
• Legislative arrangements proposed in the plan include a “common state Parliament” with two 48-member Chambers: the Senate to have an equal number of Senators from each ‘component state;’ and the Chamber of Deputies elected in proportion to population (with each ‘component state’ entitled to at least one-quarter of the seats).
• The office of Head of State would be vested in a six-member Presidential Council, elected by the Senate in proportion to the population of the two ‘component states,’ with a minimum of one-third of its members from each of them. Decisions of the Council will be reached by a majority vote, including the vote of at least one ‘component state’ member. The offices of President and Vice-President of the council would rotate every ten months among the members, with no more than two consecutive Presidents from the same ‘component state.’
• On arrangements for the judiciary, the UN plan calls for a Supreme Court composed of nine judges, three from each ‘component state’ and three non-Cypriots.
• Under UN peacekeeping supervision, the plan calls for the demilitarization of Cyprus, with provision only for small Greek and Turkish contingents stationed in the respective ‘component states.’ “All Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot forces, including reserve units, shall be dissolved and their arms removed from the island, in phases synchronized with the redeployment and adjustment of Greek and Turkish forces.” Further: “All weapons except licensed sporting guns shall be prohibited” and “Cyprus shall not put its territory at the disposal of international military operations other than with the consent of Greece and Turkey.”
• The territorial boundaries of the ‘component states’ are defined in a map which would limit the Turkish-Cypriot administered territory to 28.5 percent of Cyprus, compared to the 37 percent now under Turkish occupation. Other parts of the plan include detailed provisions for reinstatement or compensation in the exercise of property rights and the return of up to 85,000 Greek Cypriot refugees.
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece