US Media on Greece
© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
PRESS & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
March 2006; Vol. 12 No. 3
(also available in PDF)
1.FM BAKOYANNIS DISCUSSES GREECE'S STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP WITH THE US
2.EU SUMMIT: SPEEDING UP REFORMS IS IMPERATIVE
3.GREEK AND CYPRIOT LEADERS MEET IN ATHENS
4.ACTION AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING
5.EU SUPPORTS ACCESSION OF WESTERN BALKANS
6.FETA CHEESE AND GREEK TEXTILES
In Her First US Trip As Foreign Minister
FM BAKOYANNIS DISCUSSES GREECE’S STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP WITH THE US
One month after her appointment as Greece's foreign minister, Ms. Dora Bakoyannis arrived in Washington on March 22 for talks next day with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The exceptionally cordial and constructive atmosphere of the meeting was evident in the tone of the subsequent press briefing, when each referred to the other as "Condi" and "Dora."
Ms. Rice began by commending the Greek foreign minister for the work she did as Mayor of Athens—"a city that is near and dear to the hearts of most people around the world." It is delightful, she said, to have her in Washington. The meeting, she reported, was "a great opportunity to discuss our strategic partnership with Greece, which is a stalwart partner in the spread of democratic values.. . promoting stability and prosperity in the Balkans, fighting terrorism, and, of course, seeking the reunification of Cyprus on the basis of democratic values." Other issues discussed, she said, included the concerns of NATO in Afghanistan, the training mission in Iraq, and Sudan. "It has been a very good and broad discussion, and I look forward to many more with Dora over the years."
In her response, the Greek foreign minister spoke of "a very fruitful and constructive meeting and of the historic relationship" between the two countries. She referred to the strategic economic and political importance to Greece of the western Balkans, the future of which, it was agreed, lies within Europe. Ms. Bakoyannis, who recently concluded a tour of the region, said that the final status of Kosovo requires a negotiated solution acceptable to all the parties concerned and contributing to the stability of the region.
Ms. Bakoyannis also reaffirmed Greece's position in support of a united bicommunal Cyprus and in favor of Turkey's European aspirations, depending on "the application of European norms and practices both inside Turkey and in its relations with its neighbors, particularly Greece and Cyprus
She made reference also to Greece's 14 centuries-long relationship with the Islamic world and its ability, therefore, to assist a better understanding between Islam and the West.
Finally, Ms. Bakoyannis expressed her pleasure at Ms. Rice's acceptance of her invitation to visit Greece. And Secretary Rice, after offering her congratulations on the 1851 anniversary of Greek Independence (see page 2) said:"I also noticed, Dora, that when you said that I'd accepted the invitation to Greece, I had smiles among my press corps who are now looking forward to that trip to Athens." To which Ms. Bakoyannis responded, amid laughter, "You are all invited."
Answering a reporter's question to define the substance of the strategic partnership between Greece and the US, Secretary Rice spoke of the "common desire to work together to solve problems in the international system on the basis of shared values and common concerns." She added that Greece, with its long history of relations with the Muslim world, is "an anchor for any outreach to the Muslim world and for the efforts in support of those who want a democratic future."
"Old and Historic Relations"
A further account of her discussions with Secretary Rice was given by the Greek foreign minister at a press briefing. The "old and historic" relations between the two countries, she said, needed to be continually renewed and brought up to date. That, she added, was the purpose of her visit, following the important developments since last year's visit by the previous foreign minister, Petros Molyviatis.
The discussion with Secretary Rice, Ms. Bakoyannis said, began with the future of Kosovo and developments in Serbia and Montenegro, in the context of the European Union's decisions on the western Balkans as a whole (see EU Balkans report, page 3). There is also, she observed, a hopeful mobility on the issue of Cyprus after the meeting between Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on February 18 (see Cyprus report, page 3). Also discussed were the issues of Iraq and Iran, in light of Greece's excellent relations with the Islamic world.
Also emphasized to Ms. Rice was the primary importance to Greece of the stability and future of southeast Europe, where it has a major economic presence and close cooperation with the United States. Ms. Bakoyannis referred also to her discussion of Turkey's relations with Europe, and especially its obligations to all ten new EU members, including Cyprus.
In response to a question, Ms. Bakoyannis spoke of Greece's development as an "energy hub" in light of the Burgas— Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project and the natural gas pipeline passing from Turkey through Greece to Italy, a project which will not only supply energy to Europe as a whole but also bring financial benefits to Greece. She also noted the importance of Greece's leading presence as a merchant shipping power, giving Greece an important role in the field of energy.
The foreign minister referred also to her extensive discussion with Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, which preceded that with Secretary Rice, and which focused mainly on the western Balkans and the issue of Kosovo. She also noted her hope that, in due time and especially after the completion next year of the issuing of the latest type of passports, the requirement of visas for Greeks entering the US will be lifted. Observing finally that, in a mature relationship, there are areas of disagreement, she referred to the recognition by the US of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as "Macedonia" in November 2004.
President Bush Celebrates Greek Independence Day
Greek Independence Day (March 25) was honored at a large gathering at the White House on March 24, hosted by President George W. Bush and addressed by him and Archbishop Demetrios.
Responding to the Archbishop, who spoke of "the Greek nation's brilliant, most generous, universal contributions to the ideals of freedom, human dignity and democracy," President Bush spoke of
America as "a better country because of Greek-Americans," among whom he named John Negroponte, director of National Intelligence, his Homeland Security Adviser Frances Fragos Townsend, and Senator Paul Sarbanes, who were all present at the ceremony.
Turning to Ms. Bakoyannis, with whom he had a brief private meeting, the President said: "Madame Foreign Minister, we are thrilled to have you here ... It is a wise government that relies on the judgment and advice of a woman."
"Democracy," Mr. Bush said, is difficult at times. "But the Greek lesson, not only in Greece but also here in America, is that with time and persistence, liberty does take hold because of its universality. It is a lesson we honor on Greek Independence Day."
"It's reminiscent of what's taking place in the 21st century. Our two nations have continued to work together in freedom's cause. Greece was an ally of the United States in major international conflicts of the 20th century," he continued. "We're allies in the war on terror. In Afghanistan, Greece is a valuable contributor to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. And we thank your government for that. Greece provides security at the Kabul International Airport, and we thank your government for that."
"Greece has also been generous in the support for the Afghan people, and the Afghan people thank the Greek government for that, as well. Last month in London, for example, Greece pledged funds to support educational programs. The Greek government decided to support entrepreneurship with the full knowledge that education and entrepreneurship can lead to a prosperous and thriving economy so that the people can see the benefits of liberty."
President Bush concluded by noting that: "Our two nations remain committed to the security and counter-terrorism partnership we put in place during the Olympics in Athens in 2004. By the way, people still marvel at how well those Olympics were run. The government stood up—and in spite of all the criticism that was taking place—put on some great Games. It's a model for other countries to follow."
The US Senate also approved a resolution signed by 55 Senators designating March 25, 2006 as a "national day of celebration of Greek and American democracy."
Bakoyannis in New York
The Greek foreign minister was also present the following day at the celebration of Greece's national day in New York, where she took part in a UN Security Council discussion on Haiti and met with Matthew Nimetz, UN envoy on the FYROM name issue, and with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Her talks with Mr. Annan on March 27 focused mainly on efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem on which, she said, there is "a new momentum" after the recent meeting between the Secretary-General and the President of Cyprus. "It is the time now for the two sides to join in this effort and to move forward . . . We cannot afford another failure on the Cyprus issue. A well-prepared new effort, without suffocating time limits and pre-determined decisions, will bring the best solution," she said.
After her meeting with Mr. Nimetz on the FYROM name issue, she said that "Greece has adopted a constructive stance and we are awaiting the response of the other side."
EU SUMMIT: SPEEDING UP REFORMS IS IMPERATIVE
Following the informal spring EU Summit in Brussels on March 23-24, Prime Minister Costas Kara-manlis stressed the importance of timely implementation of national reforms that promote economic growth and an improved energy policy.
"New cooperation for growth and employment with special emphasis on the promotion of social cohesion and the protection of the environment, constitutes a point of reference in confronting common European challenges, which arise from globalization and the aging of the population," he said.
Regarding the priority of job
creation, especially for young people and women, he added that Greece "is promoting a series of integrated actions, aimed at facilitating easier access to the labor market and we are already seeing the first results with a drop of unemployment below 10 per cent in 2005."
Referring to reforms which are being implemented for the improvement of the business environment and the support of small and medium-size enterprises, Mr. Karamanlis said the EU leaders pledged to make greater investments in knowledge and innovation in order to advance Europe's global competitiveness.
Common EU Energy Policy
He also backed the common energy policy agreed by EU leaders, noting that recent developments in a fluid international environment made a common European strategy even more imperative.
Mr. Karamanlis said that the summit had given him an opportunity to stress the importance of creating regional energy markets, while he referred to the example implemented in the Balkans, with the treaty signed in Athens last October creating a unified electricity and natural gas market in southeast Europe.
GREEK AND CYPRIOT LEADERS MEET IN ATHENS
Practical steps to resolve the problem of Cyprus were discussed in Paris between Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on February 28. The Cypriot leader said after the talks: "I believe that an important step has been taken in achieving the fundamental aim, that before any talks begin, they must be well-prepared."
A joint communique referred to "moving forward on the process leading to the reunification of the island and to the agreement of both sides to engage in bi-communal discussions on a series of issues ... at the technical level." There was agreement that the atmosphere for further talks would be much improved if progress could be made on the demilitarization and complete de-mining of the island.
The results of the meeting between the Cypriot President and the UN Secretary-General were reviewed at a meeting in Athens on March 8 between Mr. Papadopoulos and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who said that discussions in Paris were "a positive development," while stressing the need for careful preparation of further efforts. 'We cannot," he said, "afford the luxury of a new failure." The solution, he added, should be based on UN resolutions and "the new European reality"—i.e. the status of Cyprus as a full member of the EU. In that connection, he added in reference to the implementation of the protocol extending customs union to all ten new EU members, including Cyprus, Turkey's obligations are "clear-cut."
On a visit to Athens, European Commissioner Oli Rehn said on March 9 that free movement is part of Europe's lawful order and that requires free access to Turkish ports and airports by Cypriot ships and aircraft.
Foreign Minister Bakoyannis is due to visit Cyprus on April 4-6.
ACTION AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING
A strong condemnation of human trafficking was voiced by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on the occasion of the 50th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. The foreign minister's message referred to human trafficking as "a modem type of slavery" and as fueling the economic exploitation of sexual and other demands.
Both the Greek government and "the society of citizens" in cooperation with international organizations and other governments, are implementing an action plan to combat human trafficking on all levels: prevention, protection and accountability. Greece, Ms. Bakoyannis said, contributed €3.1 million in 2004 to the campaign to stop human trafficking. The program provides support and shelters for victims; it includes public awareness activity, training of police and judiciary, and the provision of free legal advice to victims.
Action by Greece to protect and assist child victims of illegal trafficking and exploitation was further implemented in an agreement signed with Albania at the end of February. It establishes two government agencies and provides for temporary guardians of the children before and after their repatriation to Albania, ensuring their integration into Albanian society and preventing their return to Greece as victims of further exploitation.
EU SUPPORTS ACCESSION OF WESTERNS BALKANS
The informal meeting of the European Union foreign I ministers in Salzburg, Austria, on March 11 declared in its concluding communique the eligibility of the western Balkan states to join the EU in due course.
The decision was welcomed by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis as sending a clear message to all the western Balkans in favor of their European prospects, "a firm position of Greek foreign policy," despite reservations by some countries. Based on the principles of the Thessaloniki EU Summit of June, 2003, "the EU continues the effort to support the democratization, stable and good-neighborly relations, and the prospects for the Balkans in a large European family."
The foreign minister made reference also to the issue of Kosovo's future, after her recent tour of the region that took her to Sarajevo, Belgrade, and Pristina. While observing that there is general consensus on the criteria for a solution, she noted also the need, in future discussions, to safeguard the rights of the Serb population of the area.
In Other Balkan Developments:
• Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met his counterpart from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Vlado Buckovski in Brussels on March 24. Mr. Karamanlis repeated Greece's support for FYROM's European prospects, but said that this was linked with a fulfilment of specific criteria demanded by the EU, among them that of finding a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue. He pointed out that bilateral relations were already extremely close in the economic sector, with Greece being FYROM's top trade and investment partner.
• Greece's support for the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union on January 1st, 2007, was reaffirmed by Defense Minister Vangelis Meimarakis on working visits to Sofia and Bucharest, March 20-21.
• The European Commission has asked Greece to expand its already productive role in the formulation of EU policy and legislation on the issue of migration in the Mediterranean region and in the western Balkans.
• The five largest Greek banks have made investments of more than €2 billion in southeast Europe, establishing a network of some 950 branches employing 16,000 people and accounting for more than 16 percent of the banking activity in the region.
• The Foreign Ministry issued a statement following the death on March 11 of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic which, it said, "sealed a tragic era of tensions, crises and wars which plagued the Balkans for almost a decade." Milosevic, the statement added, "held a central position and responsibility at that time. While the Court at the Hague would not finally do so, history, as a strict judge, will judge him."
From the US Press
FETA CHEESE AND GREEK TEXTILES
The New York Times of March 8 reported the victorious end of a battle waged by Greece over the past ten years to protect its claim as the sole producer of genuine "feta" cheese. "If there were a culinary equivalent of the Elgin Marbles for the Greeks," writes Diane Kochilas, "that would surely be their white, tangy national cheese feta. But unlike the famous carvings from the Parthenon ... the country's national cheese was recently returned to Greece by the European Union."
• "It takes a skilled eye to read power struggles among superpowers in the delicate embroidery of a bedskirt. But a new exhibition at the Textile Museum in Washington, DC, offers just such a closeup of history," Linda Hales wrote in the Washington Post on March 19 reviewing the exhibition "Harpies, Mermaids, and Tulips: Embroidery of the Greek Islands and Epirus Region," which displays more than 65 examples from the museum's collection until September 3. "Stitch-craft flourished in rural villages influenced by traders crossing the Aegean and Ionian seas. Modern women have little time for needle and thread, but the struggle for cultural expression goes on — without the two-tailed mermaids, the florid tulips and the winged creatures with women's faces for which the show is named," she concluded.
In 2005 Greece spent €464 million, or .23 percent of GDP, either bilaterally or in support of efforts undertaken by international agencies to assist the developing countries. The foreign ministry's Hellenic Aid section, acting together with NGOs, gave assistance to development programs or to urgent humanitarian and food needs in 46 countries around the globe.
The Council of Economy and Finance Ministers of the European Union (ECOFIN) issued in mid-March a positive evaluation of Greece's updated stability and growth program for the period 2005-2008. The Council welcomed the Greek government's priority of decreasing the deficit by 2006, a view which was also echoed in a statement by Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia who spoke of the "clear progress resulting from the greater effort" of the Greek government. The ECOFIN opinion was welcomed by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis as confirming the credibility of his government's economic policies which, he said, are already beginning to show results. His government, he noted, inherited a deficit of 6.6 percent of GDP when it came into office in 2004. This was reduced to 4.3 percent in 2005 and is expected to fall below 3 percent at the end of this year.
Greece's political leadership gathered for the state funeral on March 16 of former Prime Minister George Rallis, who died aged 88. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis called Mr. Rallis, who served as Prime Minister of Greece from May, 1980 to October, 1981, "a consistent fighter for democracy and indefatigable server of public interests and of political wisdom, measure, and moderation."
A report by the US State Department released on March 1st, stated that "several notable joint U.S./Hellenic counter-narcotics investigations occurred during 2005 with significant arrests and seizures.
Organizations from 12 countries, including the United States, on March 25 issued a joint declaration calling for the Parthenon sculptures that are currently held in the British Museum to return to Greece. The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, which was formed in Athens last November, is an association of national committees from around the world that share the goal of reuniting the world's surviving Parthenon sculptures in the new Acropolis Museum in Athens, now set to open next year.
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece