US Media on Greece
© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
PRESS & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
August 2006; Vol. 12 No. 8
(also available in PDF)
1. GREECE CONTRIBUTES TO MIDDLE EAST EFFORTS
2. MINISTERS REVIEW FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC PRIORITIES
3. ECONOMIC COOPERATION WITH CHINA
4. TALKS WITH TURKEY ON MILITARY ISSUES
5. THE LURE OF MOUNT ATHOS
Leading Role in Providing Humanitarian Aid, Participation in Lebanon Peacekeeping Force
GREECE CONTRIBUTES TO MIDDLE EAST EFFORTS
Signaling Greece’s strong interest in peace and stability in the Middle East, especially since Greece will take over the presidency of the UN Security Council in September, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis made a tour of the Middle East between August 22-25, which took her to Cyprus, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel.
At the conclusion of her tour and before flying to Brussels for an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on August 25, Ms. Bakoyannis said that the recently-agreed truce in Lebanon was hanging by a thread and urged the international community to do everything in its power for the speedy implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 (see below) and the deployment of an expanded UN peacekeeping force to Lebanon, “to ensure that the government of Lebanon will have the ability to impose order with the Lebanese army and have sovereignty throughout the entire country.”
After the EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels she said that the EU responded with success to the urging of the UN Secretary-General for a larger peacekeeping force in Lebanon. The European contingent will number some 6,500 men in addition to the 2,000 already deployed, more than half of the 15,000 troops called for by UNSCR 1701. Naval and air support would also arrive at the scene as quickly as possible to lift Israel’s blockade of Lebanon. “I hope,” she said, “that today's decision, a most important step in this peace-seeking effort, will have the desired results.”
UNSC Resolution 1701
Addressing the UN Security Council on August 11, when Greece voted for the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, Foreign Minister Bakoyannis noted that from the beginning of the outbreak of hostilities in Lebanon, Greece had called for an immediate ceasefire. “The images of helpless children and mothers, wounded, sick and despondent victims on both sides of the conflict, untold destruction and unimaginable pain have haunted all of us.” She called for the full implementation of the Security Council resolutions which call for Lebanon’s independence and territorial integrity. Israel’s security concerns, she said, are well understood “and need to be properly addressed” and, “while preserving the right of self defense, it must respect its obligations under international law.”
With the end of hostilities in sight, Greece stands ready, Ms. Bakoyannis said, “together with the rest of the international community, and especially the countries of the region, to help in the enormous effort for the reconstruction of a shattered country, the immediate return of refugees back to their homes and, hopefully, the dawn of a new day over both Lebanon and Israel.”
The foreign minister spoke also of Greece’s immediate response to the humanitarian needs created by the conflict. The scope of this effort was described by Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis after a meeting of the Coordinating Committee for Humanitarian Aid to Lebanon on August 18. He recalled the contribution made by Greece to the relief effort following the recent tsunami disaster in south-east Asia and the earthquake in Pakistan.
In the Lebanese conflict, Greece was among the first on the scene in the evacuation of refugees and the shipment of humanitarian aid. It coordinated the evacuation of some 2,700 people: 691 Greek citizens, 420 Cypriots, and the remainder from 52 various countries. Using eight C-130 aircraft of the Hellenic Air Force, Greece, as of mid-August, had carried 97 tons of various supplies to Cyprus for shipment from there by Greek Navy ships to Lebanon. The Greek governmental response was later joined by numerous non-governmental organizations in a coordinated effort supervised by the foreign ministry’s Hellenic AID.
U.S. Thanks Cyprus and Greece
Both Cyprus and Greece received generous recognition for their rescue efforts from leaders around the world. President Bush himself thanked Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos for his country’s help to more than 13,000 Americans in “acts of kindness which underscored the strong ties between our peoples.”
More than 70 US Senators signed a letter to President Papadopoulos, thanking him for the “extraordinary support and kindness extended to US and other citizens leaving Lebanon” and assuring him that the Cyprus government’s leadership and the generosity of the Cypriot people “will not soon be forgotten by the US.”
Greece also came in for its share of praise. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent a letter of thanks to her Greek counterpart, Dora Bakoyannis, on August 9. It read: “Dear Dora, thank you for Greece’s assistance to American citizens departing from Lebanon. Please convey my appreciation to the Greek officials in Athens, Nicosia, Beirut and Washington, as well as the captain and crew of Greek vessels, whose efforts culminated in the safe and swift transport of American citizens from Lebanon . . . We will continue to work closely with you to bring a peaceful resolution to the situation in the Middle East.”
Contribution to U.N. Peacekeeping Force in Lebanon
A meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, decided on August 22 to make a Greek contribution to the peacekeeping operation in Lebanon. While ruling out for the time being the participation of land forces, Greece will provide the services of two navy ships and a Navy Seals unit to the peacekeeping operation.
It is prepared to send a frigate, with a helicopter and the Navy Seals unit to carry out ship inspections; and, if needed, a landing craft to carry humanitarian aid from Cyprus to Beirut. The Greek mission will also include administrative personnel and support supplies.
Consideration will be given, the government said, to the dispatch of further units in the future, on condition that the situation in the region has normalized.
Addressing Greek Ambassadors Meeting in Athens
MINISTERS REVIEW FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC PRIORITIES
On a new initiative introduced by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis as an annual event, Greek ambassadors to countries all over the world met for two days in Athens, July 31-August 1, and were briefed by many ministers on Greece’s foreign and domestic priorities.
Addressing the ambassadors, Foreign Minister Bakoyannis said that while Greece is a country with a relatively small population, it is the main factor for stability throughout its region. With the world’s largest merchant shipping fleet and with millions of Greeks around the world, Greece, she said, in its own region, is a power with a presence and influence.
Emphasizing Greece’s dedication to the unity of the EU and the deep rooting of its institutions, Ms. Bakoyannis called for progress in reaching a decision on the proposed European Constitution and pledged that, within the framework of an institutional review, Greece will be active at every level in support of the cohesive functioning of the European Union.
The foreign minister spoke also of the country’s important place in the NATO alliance, which is a basic element in European and international security and an important factor in the advancement of the Euro-Atlantic dialogue. Then in reference to the work of the United Nations, she spoke of Greece’s productive work as a member of the Security Council for the two-year period 2005-2006, giving evidence of its ability to deal with serious international issues. Greece’s assumption in September of the Security Council Presidency will occur when many major issues will come up for decision, she noted.
After reviewing Greece’s leading role in the political and economic developments in the Balkans, on what she called the “thorny issue of Kosovo,” the minister pledged Greece’s continuing effort in support of a balanced solution which, in the long term, will secure peace and stability in the region.
On relations with Turkey, Ms. Bakoyannis said that Greece’s policy is “multi-level and consistent.” Our priority, she said, is to take advantage of the EU’s mechanism for Turkey’s adaptation. Greece’s policy towards Turkey is threefold: it supports Turkey’s effort to join the EU on condition that it conforms with the required principles and conditions applicable to all candidate countries and that it fully complies with the Ankara Protocol, which requires Turkey to give access to its ports and airports by Cypriot ships and planes; secondly, the overall development of bilateral economic, energy-related, social and cultural relations, which have already made impressive progress in the past two years; and thirdly, the creation of conditions of tranquility, the avoidance of provocations, and engaging in the groundwork for the solution of bilateral problems.
On the subject of Cyprus, Ms. Bakoyannis re-affirmed Greece’s desire for an overall, just and viable solution based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, taking account of UN resolutions, the work accomplished thus far by the UN Secretary-General, and the new situation after the entry of the Cyprus Republic into the EU. The recent agreement between Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Talat is, she said, an encouraging development in the implementation of what was agreed in Paris earlier this year between President Papadopoulos and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The Lebanon crisis, she noted, demonstrated the importance of Cyprus as a part of the EU and as an oasis of calm, stability and effectiveness in the eastern Mediterranean.
Finally, the foreign minister said, in the Lebanese crisis both Greece and Cyprus responded successfully to the challenge. Greece was first to arrive on the scene to evacuate Greek and foreign nationals and to provide substantial quantities of aid.
Progress of the Greek Economy
Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis told the ambassadors that since March 2004 the government has responsibly and diligently pursued a program of reforms aimed to change Greece’s economy into “a strong, competitive, productive, and especially outward-oriented economy.” The policy, he added, aims to exploit the comparative advantages which Greece enjoys from its geopolitical position.
The minister laid out the government’s new developmental plan based on three principles: entrepreneurial activity; outlook beyond Greece’s borders; and competitiveness. As for the need for an outward-looking approach, the minister noted that Greece, 25 years after joining the EU, is in a great European market and as a country with a much higher level of development than all of its Balkan neighbors, can play a leading role at the center of a region which, after many years of political and economic isolation, is gradually developing into one of the fastest growing and most promising regions of Europe with 140 million consumers.
Detailing some of the government’s initiatives, the minister referred to the encouragement of foreign investment by taxation reforms which benefit small, medium and large-scale enterprises. A new investment law provides added incentives, especially for businesses established in the regions of the country. In the 16 months since the passage of the new law, 1,403 investment projects for a total of !2.2 billion have been approved and will directly create 7,166 new jobs, with many other indirect benefits.
The minister referred also to an important new initiative: cooperation between the public and private sectors. This has already resulted in the approval of the first pilot projects worth !270 million, and further projects valued at !800 million are being studied. He said Greece has had fruitful consultations with the British government which has successfully implemented a similar program.
Privatizations Bring 4.6 Billion Euro
The recent sale of 71.9 percent of “Emporiki” bank’s stock to the Paris-based “Credit Agricole” bank, will bring !1.7 billion to the Greek state, resulting in the generation of a total of !4.59 billion raised so far from privatizations of state-owned companies, and providing a substantial contribution to the reduction of the public debt. The deal was described by Mr. Alogoskoufis as “the biggest strategic privatization and largest direct investment ever made in Greece,” showing the confidence in Greece of a very large banking organization.
Turning to public finances, the minister observed that the government’s program of reforms has resulted in a budget deficit that will fall to 2.6 percent of GDP this year. Greece’s rapid rate of growth, Mr. Alogoskoufis said, is a distinguishing feature among the members of the EU. In 2005, growth in Greece reached 3.7 percent and 4.1 percent in the first half of 2006, double that of the eurozone as a whole.
The competitive power of the Greek economy, for many years its Achilles heel, is slowly beginning to improve, climbing eight places in the Institute for Management Development’s government and business efficiency index. Greece, he added, has also been closing the gap in the per capita GDP in units of purchasing power, at 77.3 percent of the average among the EU’s 15 members, and is expected to reach 80 percent next year.
Employment is on the increase. From a level of 11.3 percent in the first quarter of 2004, unemployment was down to 9.7 percent in the first quarter of this year. Exports also grew by 13.1 percent last year and by 17.4 percent in the first quarter of 2006.
* Other Greek ministers addressing the conference included Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, who stressed the importance of Greece as an international energy hub in SE Europe, and Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, who spoke of Greece’s defense priorities, and of the 1,200 Greek troops currently engaged in peacekeeping operations around the world at a cost of more than !250 million a year.
ECONOMIC COOPERATION WITH CHINA
The christening ceremony in the port of Piraeus of a new container ship, the “Cosco Hellas,” was the occasion for Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to speak of the expanding ties between Greece and China. The Greek-flagged vessel, owned by a Greek container-ship company which is one of the world’s largest, has been leased for 12 years to the state-owned China Ocean Shipping Company — hence the name “Cosco.”
“We are making steady and determined steps to encourage economic cooperation between our two countries, certain that this cooperation will yield important mutual benefits. The shipping cooperation agreement we signed in Beijing at the beginning of the year is being implemented rapidly . . . tangible proof of the new momentum of the Greek economy and the motivation for broader bilaterial cooperation,” said the prime minister.
Greece and China, Mr. Karamanlis added, are coordinating joint action in areas of their special interest and knowledge: shipping, trade, tourism, energy, agricultural produce, construction and infrastructure projects, and major sports and cultural events such as the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The Greek shipping industry, the prime minister noted, the largest in the world, is becoming the most important customer of the Chinese shipbuilding industry, with orders for some 100 large vessels in the past two years.
He spoke also of Greece’s attraction for profitable investments and joint ventures in SE Europe, pointing out its traditional and rapidly growing role as an important junction for global transit trade, especially via the sea, through Greece’s modern and fully-equipped ports, providing access to the surrounding region.
TALKS WITH TURKEY ON MILITARY ISSUES
Responding to an invitation by Turkey’s chief of its National Defense General Staff, General Hilmi Ozkok, his Greek counterpart, Admiral Panagiotis Hinofotis, was the first head of Greece’s armed forces to visit Turkey for some 30 years. Meeting in Ankara on July 26, the two military chiefs discussed regional developments and various military-related issues in the context of the continuing effort to arrange confidence-building measures between Greece and Turkey.
Among the topics discussed were: the prospect of mutual visits by the armed forces chiefs of the two countries; joint research projects; search and rescue operations in disaster situations; the enlargement of NATO; and developments in the Middle East.
During his three-day visit to Turkey, Admiral Hinofotis visited Istanbul where he met with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos.
Also on defense matters, the Greek Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense approved, on July 25, two medium-term armaments programs for the periods 2006-2010 and 2011-2015, budgeted at !11.39 and !15.0 billion respectively. In the first of the two periods, !8.5 billion will pay for previous procurements, and !2.9 billion will be spent on new arms acquisitions.
From the US Press
THE LURE OF MOUNT ATHOS
“Of Monks and Men” is the title of a long feature article in the Washington Post of August 6 by Neil Averitt about the monastic community on Mount Athos in northern Greece, where “women have been barred from the mountain for a thousand years.” Averitt also points out that visitors to Mount Athos will have to go without radio, TV and newspapers. Nor, he adds, are they likely to see paved roads, private cars or neon lights.
As a “surviving fragment of the Byzantine Empire,” the region is a “time-warped place” where clocks are set on Byzantine time (starting at sunset) and dates are based on the Julian calendar of the Roman Empire (13 days different from the one used around the world). A World Heritage site, Mount Athos “is arguably the world's greatest concentration of Byzantine art and architecture.”
Other features of Mount Athos noted by the writer include the absence of access except by boat and the scattering over its rugged landscape of “20 large monasteries, a dozen smaller communities, innumerable hermitages and about 2,500 monks.” As a “truly great travel destination,” the region offers “grand architecture, hiking trails along cliff tops or through virgin forests, guest rooms in monasteries, meals of fresh natural foods, and a chance to talk with wise and thoughtful men about the nature of the good life and the state of your soul.” No one, he adds, can complain about the price—“each monastery offers two meals and a night's lodging for free.” He adds, however, that Mount Athos discourages casual visitors and allows a limited number of pilgrims daily.
*Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis paid a three-day visit to Mount Athos at the end of July, attending religious services and admiring the wealth of Byzantine treasures. He walked on the mountain trails and planted a wild mulberry tree at a monastery gate. He also pledged funds to restore monuments, preserve relics and protect the environment “of the spiritual reference point for Orthodox Christians.”
Food and Wine Magazine of August featured an article by Lettie Teague in which she “explores the new vogue for obscure wines and attempts to pronounce words like Xinomavro and Zweigelt.” Producers, she writes, are concentrating on “native varieties such as Limnio and Xinomavro from Greece and Kekfrankos from Hungary.” The harder its name to pronounce, the best value it's likely to be: “a terrific Moschofilero from the Peloponnese in southern Greece rarely costs more than $16 a bottle.” Reporting on a tasting of wines from six different countries, Ms. Teague says the Greek and Italian wines were the best. “I could have stopped,” she writes, “with the Moschofileros and called the entire endeavor a triumph.”
Honoring a Sculptor of Ancient Greece
The New York Times of August 10 reported the projected opening next year of a museum devoted to the work of Lysippus, “one of ancient Greece's greatest sculptors,” in his native town of Sikyon, near Corinth. Lysippus, the report adds, “is believed to have created 1,500 bronze sculptures, including portraits of Alexander the Great and Hercules, and to have been the teacher of Chares of Lindos, creator of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.” While none of the original works of Lysippus have survived, the museum's collection will be made from molds of known copies donated from museums in Dresden, Munich, Turin, and from other parts of Greece.
The Los Angeles Times of August 23 reported that the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and Greek Ministry of Culture officials have settled details for returning to Greece by the end of August two antiquities illegally taken from the country and bought by the Getty Museum.
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece