US Media on Greece
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PRESS & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
April 2004; Vol. 10 No. 4
(also available in PDF file)
After Greek Cypriots Vote “No” to Annan Plan
GREECE WILL SUPPORT EFFORTS FOR CYPRUS REUNIFICATION
As widely anticipated, the Greek Cypriots in a referendum on April 24, voted decisively, by a margin of 76 to 24 percent, to reject the proposals of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the settlement of the problem of Cyprus as the country joins the European Union on May 1st. In a separate and simultaneous referendum, the Turkish Cypriots living in the Turkish-occupied northern region, again as expected, voted 65 to 35 percent in favor of the Annan plan.
The Greek government, which had indicated support of the plan as containing more positive than negative elements which would become more prominent within the EU context, declared its respect for the decision of the Greek Cypriots. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said: “Today the people of Cyprus made their decision, which of course we will respect. In a few days a new period begins. Cyprus officially joins the European Union and begins its European course as a full-fledged member. Within the EU framework, it will be in everyone’s interest to continue rapprochement efforts between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots.
“The Greek government reiterates today that Greece will be where it always has been—by the side of Cyprus—offering its support. We will continue in keeping open the process of finding a definitive solution to Cyprus’ political problem.”
Solidarity with the Greek Cypriot position was also stated by the leader of the main opposition party (PASOK), George Papandreou. The vote of the Greek Cypriots, he said, is to be respected. “We call on the international community as well as our EU partners not to hastily adopt as obvious the interpretation that the result of the referendum constitutes the rejection of a vision for a reunited Cyprus. No Greek can accept that the Cyprus issue closes today. I believe that it can be resolved. The Turkish military occupation should end. Cyprus should be reunited in a bizonal, bicommunal federation within the framework of UN and EU resolutions.”
EU Foreign Ministers Review Results
The results of the Cyprus referenda were considered at a meeting on April 26 of the General Affairs Council of the EU when the Greek foreign minister, Mr. Petros Molyviatis, presented the position of the Greek government that the decision of the Greek Cypriots is to be honored, and that the EU should look to the future so as to create new conditions capable of leading to a solution.
The Greek government, Mr. Molyviatis said, desires the reunification of the island and records its satisfaction that the decisions of the Council in no way envisage the partition of the island or the recognition of a Turkish Cypriot “state.” He further noted with approval the acceptance of the proposals put forward by the Cyprus government for assistance to the Turkish Cypriots.
While expressing regret that the membership in the EU of a united Cyprus is not possible at present, the Council noted its desire to send a message to the Turkish Cypriot community that its future belongs to a united Cyprus in the European Union. The Council also praised the efforts of Greece and Turkey in the effort to reach a settlement.
The Council made special reference to the need to promote the economic growth of the northern area of the island and recommended that the 259 million euros set aside for the Turkish Cypriot area in the event of a solution should be made available now.
Assistance to Turkish Cypriots
The President of Cyprus, Mr. Tassos Papadopoulos, also pledged material assistance to the Turkish Cypriots with measures enabling them to enjoy the benefits of the island’s membership of the European Union. He stressed that the Greek Cypriots did not reject a solution to the Cyprus problem but the specific UN plan.
On the question of an eventual solution to reunite the island, the Cyprus president said that, while time was needed to consider and analyze what went wrong, “there will be a new initiative . . . We all want talks under UN auspices.” His wish, Mr. Papadopoulos said, is to “start negotiations on a limited number of issues which do not necessarily take away the rights of Turkish Cypriots.” The Annan plan, he added, would not disappear. His main objection to the plan as presented, he said, was not the number of remaining Turkish occupation troops, but the powers given to Turkey to intervene in both federal states created by the plan. UN guarantees, he pointed out, had not prevented the Turkish invasion of 1974.
Disappointment of UN, EU, and US
Through his envoy Alvaro de Soto, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, while voicing respect for the outcome of the referenda, noted that “a unique and historic chance to resolve the Cyprus problem has been missed.” The Secretary-General, de Soto said, “intends to give careful thought to the implications . . . Meanwhile, Cyprus will remain divided and militarized as it accedes to the European Union, and the benefits of a settlement will not be realized. He regrets that the Turkish Cypriots will not equally enjoy the benefits of EU membership as of May 1st.”
In Brussels, the European Commission expressed its deep regret over the rejection by the Greek Cypriots of the UN plan, but it added that it respected the democratic decision of the people.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the result of the referendum was a “setback to the hopes” of those in Cyprus who voted for a settlement and of the international community. He commended the work of the UN and added “we also welcome the support that the Turkish and Greek governments gave to the UN plan.”
PM KARAMANLIS TO MEET PRESIDENT BUSH ON MAY 20
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will visit the White House on May 20 for talks with President Bush and other Administration officials. The Greek prime minister, who will also visit New York, has already had several telephone conversations with President Bush during recent efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue.
According to a White House announcement “this visit will provide an opportunity to deepen our partnership with Greece in pursuit of democracy, prosperity, and peace in southeastern Europe and the Greater Middle East. The leaders will also discuss final preparations for a successful and safe Olympics in Athens.”
President Bush also referred to the forthcoming visit during a White House celebration on April 1st, on the occasion of Greek Independence Day, which was attended, among others, by Archbishop Demetrios, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Panagiotis Skandalakis and the Greek Ambassador to the US, George Savvaides.
Former President Bush to Attend Athens Olympics
LATEST IOC INSPECTION: “EVERYTHING WILL BE READY ON TIME”
Denis Oswald, chairman of the IOC Coordinating Commission, arrived in Athens on April 20 heading a team of inspectors for the latest review of progress on Olympic projects which, Oswald said, is now “under the microscope of international scrutiny.”
After visiting numerous sites for the Games, including the main 75,000-seat Olympic Stadium, the velodrome, tennis arena and aquatic center, Oswald said, “good progress has been made in a number of key areas since my last visit to Athens less than three weeks ago . . . With only 115 days to go to the opening ceremony, I am encouraged to see how much has been completed in such a short time.” While admitting that much work remains to be done, Oswald added: “There is still enough time to ensure that the core needs of the games are properly serviced, building on the huge amount of work that has already been carried out in Athens and throughout Greece.”
During the visit, Oswald met with numerous Greek officials involved in organizing the Games, including the new minister who oversees Olympic preparations—Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia—who said: “Everyone is working round the clock at all Olympic locations. We are trying very hard and we will be ready.”
Greek Public Order Minister to Visit Washington
The new Greek Minister of Public Order, George Voulgarakis, will be in Washington May 5-7 for meetings with US Administration officials which will focus on bilateral law enforcement cooperation in combating terrorism and organized crime, and security aspects of the Olympic Games in Athens (August 13-29).
In Washington, Mr. Voulgarakis will be meeting with Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, FBI Director Robert Mueller, CIA Director George Tenet, and other Administration officials. He will be accompanied by Greek Police Chief Lt. General Fotis Nasiakos and the National Intelligence Service Director Pavlos Apostolidis.
He is the second public order minister of Greece to visit Washington this year (the previous minister visited the US capital in January). Most recently, he participated in EU meetings to further strengthen European cooperation in combating international terrorism following the Madrid terrorist attacks, and on April 15 he met in Athens with a delegation of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, led by its chairman, Porter Goss (R-FL).
Security Doubts Rejected
In a letter to the London Times replying to an April 13 article which questioned the effectiveness of the security measures for the Athens Olympics, Mr. Voulgarakis wrote: “Since the Olympic Games were awarded to Greece in 1997, security has been our highest priority. We are confident that the Athens Games will be as safe and secure as possible.
“Besides our security budget, the highest in Olympic history, and our deployment of 40,000 trained personnel, our confidence stems from the international support that Greece continues to receive in its training and planning. The UK plays an important security role in the seven-member Olympic Advisory Group, advising the Greek state on how best to meet threats to the Olympic Games.
“We are also working closely with NATO and, through the OAG, with nations possessing extraordinary experience in the battle against terror: Australia, France, Germany, Israel, Spain and the US, in addition to the UK.
“Greek security forces are undergoing a series of rigorous training exercises. Our February chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear exercise was the largest of its kind ever held in Europe. In March, we joined US security personnel in an unprecedented 20-day simulation.
“We share the world’s security concerns; we understand that the world has become a very dangerous place. That is why security specialists who have spent years as an integral part of the venue design and construction process are determining how best to respond to changes in completion schedules and make the Games safe for athletes, visitors and the people of Athens.
“We hope that your report will neither cause sports fans to miss a joyous and historic celebration of sport, nor encourage malefactors to underestimate the determination of the Greek state to host a secure Olympic Games.”
Former President George Bush: “Barbara and I Can’t Wait”
Many well-known prospective visitors to the Games in August have expressed their confidence in Greece’s security effort. Former US President George Bush has written to the Athens Organizing Committee President, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki: “Barbara and I cannot wait for the Olympic Games and I am very excited that I will be there. I am 100 percent certain that your great country, you personally and the Organizing Committee are doing an impressive job.”
Among others also, NBA Commissioner David Stern said: “We have no qualms about coming to Athens. We know that great efforts are being made and we are confident that everything will go well.” The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics organizer Peter Ueberroth added his voice to those expressing confidence in the safety of the Games, which he intends to attend. The massive expenditure on security, he said in New York, sharply reduces the “element of surprise” on which terrorists depend.
In Athens, US Ambassador Thomas Miller said: “We are leaving the responsibility for security in the hands of the Greeks . . . We trust the Greek authorities absolutely.”
In New York, heading the annual Greek Independence Day parade, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called on everyone to go to Athens for the Games. “Greece,” he said, “together with New York, a candidate for hosting the 2012 Olympics, will serve as an example of Games organization.”
• Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyanni announced that, by the end of May, the facades of some 1,500 buildings in Athens will be renovated as part of a (4.5 million project to improve the appearance of the capital’s skyline. A program to keep the Athens streets clean, using new equipment and extra staff, will cost &26 million.
• A complex system of traffic control has been worked out to ensure easy access to the Olympic venues for participants and spectators. Two types of zones—Controlled Access and Traffic and Controlled Parking—will be in effect throughout August, with a varying radius for each zone. Persons living or working within the Controlled Zones will be able to obtain permits for access.
• Twenty-three new express bus routes using dedicated lanes have been created for the Athens Olympics. For those with accreditation and spectators holding tickets for events, the bus rides will be free of charge.
• Olympic organizers announced that the first phase of ticket sales, which ended on April 16, reached the 75 percent goal, bringing in %136 million euros out of the total budget of %183 million. The remaining tickets, after matching purchased tickets to numbered seats in the stadiums, will go on sale on June 1st. Sales so far are more than 20 percent higher than those for the Sydney Olympics at the corresponding time.
For more Olympic news go to: www.athens2004.com
From the US Press
ATHENS—”A STELLAR BACKDROP FOR THE GAMES”
Cindy Loose in the Travel section of the Washington Post of April 18 reviewed preparations for the Athens Olympics and, after a reference to some of the gloomier predictions, writes: “But one glance out my hotel window this month portends another way of looking at the situation: Athens will provide a stellar backdrop for the Games . . . From nearly every street I walk, there is a view of the Acropolis and the Parthenon, both of which are more imposing and beautiful than millions of pictures have ever portrayed. Low-rise buildings, many glimmering white in the Mediterranean sunshine, climb the mountainsides. Tall, graceful columns and other ancient ruins dot the city, which spreads to a deep blue sea where sailboats, yachts and cruise ships bob in view of seaside restaurants.
“Should the media coverage entice you to plan a trip to Athens after the Olympics, you’ll arrive to find a city transformed, where several years and billions of dollars have been spent improving infrastructure and tourist attractions . . . That best face (which Greece says it will show) is on display the minute an overseas traveler arrives at the airport, with its new glass and marble terminal . . . The notorious congestion on the road to Athens is gone—we breeze along a new highway and don’t hit gridlock until we turn onto downtown roads a mile or so from our hotel.”
After describing the “sparkling-new subway stations” and their displays of the antiquities unearthed during their construction, the reporter writes of “perhaps the best improvement in Athens”—the pedestrian walkways which link the city’s major archaeological sites. And further: “Entire neighborhoods in Athens have been rehabilitated—an area called Gazi where the old gasworks plants stood has been turned into a mecca of restaurants and nightclubs. A rundown working-class neighborhood called Psiri is now sparkling with shops and galleries.”
A NEW DEVELOPMENT POLICY
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has called for a new development policy which will attract new investments and create more jobs. It will be based “on a bold tax reform, a new framework for investment incentives, and an integrated regional development policy.”
The theme was taken up by the new Economy and Finance Minister, George Alogoskoufis, at a Cabinet meeting on April 20, when he warned that economic growth in 2004 would slow to 3.7 percent from 4.2 percent last year. The government’s first priority is to promote the most dynamic sectors of the economy such as construction, and to encourage sectors such as manufacturing, trade, energy production, telecommunications, transport, tourism and agriculture. These areas of the economy, Mr. Alogoskoufis said, will attract both domestic and foreign investment and create new opportunities for small and medium-size businesses.
The new economic policy, the minister added, will be funded by cuts in spending of up to 0.8-1.0 percent of GDP, and by effective policies to prevent tax evasion. By these and other measures, the government expects to save some !6.5-7.5 billion in the next four years to fund new growth policies.
EU Economic Forecasts for Greece
2003 2004 2005
Greece EU Greece EU Greece EU
GDP Growth (%) 4.2 0.8 4.0 2.0 3.3 2.4
Public Deficit (% GDP) -3.0 -2.6 -3.2 -2.6 -2.8 -2.4
Public Debt (% GDP) 103.0 64.0 102.8 64.2 101.7 64.2
Inflation (%) 3.4 2.0 3.4 1.8 3.5 1.7
Unemployment (%) 9.3 8.0 8.4 8.1 8.0 7.9
REGIONAL COOPERATION IN SE EUROPE
At a South-East Europe summit meeting in Sarajevo on April 21—the seventh of the SE Europe Cooperation Process—Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis urged cooperation based on common and current European values. The problems of the past, he said, should be left to the historians.
Mr. Karamanlis congratulated Bulgaria and Romania on their membership of NATO and welcomed the application of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to join the European Union. Greece, he said, will spare no effort to support the EU’s declared intention to keep the Balkans high on its agenda. The Balkan countries also, he said, must know that the path to Europe required their own efforts.
Despite recent progress, Mr. Karamanlis pointed out, the situation in the Balkan region leaves much to be achieved in many areas, such as dealing with organized crime, human trafficking, the safe return of refugees and the development of transport, energy, water supply, employment policies and the attraction of foreign investment.
The approach of the Balkan region to the rest of Europe, Mr. Karamanlis said, is linked with the reinforcement of regional cooperation. Cooperation in SE Europe, while it has matured, should have a more institutional character. A small and flexible permanent secretariat, which he suggested might be based in Thessaloniki, would establish the unity and continuity of the effort.
The Balkan summit provided the opportunity for a meeting between the new Greek prime minister and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said that he and Mr. Karamanlis had agreed to continue the recent improvement in bilateral relations. He announced that he will visit Athens in early May.
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece
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