US Media on Greece
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PRESS & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
November 2006; Vol. 12 No. 11
(also available in PDF)
1. PM KARAMANLIS ON TURKEY'S COMMITMENTS TO EU
2. FOREIGN MINISTER BAKOYANNIS ON “CRITICAL” MIDDLE EAST SITUATION
3. THE ECONOMY: GROWTH UP; DEFICIT DOWN
4. ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE WELCOMES POPE
5. DEVELOPING RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA AND CHINA
6. FRAGMENT OF ACROPOLIS TEMPLE RETURNED
7. GREEK ISLANDS ARE FAVORITES
PM KARAMANLIS ON TURKEY'S COMMITMENTS TO EU
Speaking in the Parliament on November 2, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis spoke of Turkey’s refusal to open its ports and airports to Cyprus ships and planes in accordance with the Customs Union Protocol, calling it a “political paradox” for a country seeking EU membership to refuse recognition to an EU member-country. Compliance with the Protocol, Mr. Karamanlis said, is an explicit contractual commitment of Turkey towards the EU and all of its members. Europe, the prime minister said, “has put down the tracks and road signs leading to accession; Turkey is the train driver” and “the final outcome of its European course depends entirely on Ankara itself.”
As for Turkey’s progress in implementing the reforms required in the first stage of its accession process, Mr. Karamanlis said that, while some reforms have been made, they so far fall far short of Turkey’s commitments. Remarking on the contemplation by some EU members of a “special relationship” with Turkey (i.e., short of actual membership), Mr. Karamanlis noted Greece’s support for accession by Turkey—provided that EU criteria are met. However, efforts to improve the situation with regard to religious freedoms and minority rights have so far been unavailing, and Turkey has also failed in its obligations on the issues of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Halki Seminary, and minority properties.
The prime minister further expressed concern over Turkey’s continuing allegiance to its Parliament’s 1995 description of Greece’s potential exercise of its legal rights to extend its territorial waters in the Aegean as a casus belli, calling it an “unacceptable anachronism” which does not help good neighborly relations.
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis also spoke in Parliament saying “Greece’s position is clear: Turkey cannot progress on its European course without any repercussions or sanctions arising from an eventual failure to carry out its obligations.” Later in the month, she welcomed the European Commission’s report requiring Turkey’s compliance with the Ankara Protocol in its relation to Cyprus, saying that it “contains all the elements necessary to judge Turkey’s course towards the European Union.”
The Commission’s report noted the continuing positive course of Greek-Turkish relations, warning however that Turkey should refrain from action which could affect the peaceful settlement of border disputes and be “unequivocally committed to good neighborly relations.” The report also cites problems for Turkey’s accession relating to the reopening of the Halki School, the status of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the property rights of ethnic Greeks, and the regulations on charitable foundations and schools of the minority.
Visiting Athens at the end of October, European Parliament President Josep Borrell told a Greek parliamentary committee: “We cannot possibly accept the accession of a country that will not observe these conditions” (opening its ports and airports to Cypriot ships and aircraft, and observing the Copenhagen criteria). And in London, Britain’s Minister of State for Europe Geoffrey Hoon said that he had made it clear to Turkey that to join the EU it must accept the acquis—the legal basis of the Union. That, he said, means applying the Ankara Protocol providing for the free movement of the vessels of all member-states.
Turkish Defense Chief Visits Greece
The chief of Turkey’s National Defense General Staff, Yasar Buyukanit, paid an official three-day visit to Greece, November 1-3, entering in what he described as “constructive and positive” talks—a conclusion echoed by his Greek counterpart, Admiral Panayotis Hinofotis, who spoke of “a cordial climate” and “spirit of sincerity” in the discussions. The spokesman of the US State Department, agreeing with the spokesman of Greece’s foreign ministry, said the visit was a" good, positive step" towards resolving differences between the two countries.
The 10th Greece-Turkey Business Conference opened in Athens on November 24. The conference was addressed by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, and Deputy Economy Minister Antonis Bezas. Trade between the two countries has increased more than ten-fold in the last six years, from $200 million in 1999 to $2.2 billion last year, with the 2006 total expected to close at $2.6 billion.
FOREIGN MINISTER BAKOYANNIS ON “CRITICAL” MIDDLE EAST SITUATION
Addressing the international conference of the Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP)–an Athens- based think tank–on November 24, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis spoke of the “critical” situation in the Middle East which, she said, “breeds greater dangers for the future.” Greece, she pointed out, is for historical, cultural, political, and geographical reasons, closer than any other European country to the Middle East and the Mediterranean world, founding some of its major cities as far back as the 8th century BC.
Greece, the minister further noted, is at the crossroads of three continents, with a coastline embracing one third of all the Mediterranean shore. Greek-owned ships carry nearly 30 percent of all maritime commerce, and helped in the recent evacuation from Lebanon of the nationals of 28 countries.
As a new crisis in Lebanon looms, resolution of differences between Israel and the Palestinians has been slowed, despite cautious efforts by the US and Israel, by the delay in the formation by the Palestinian Authority of a national unity government. Further, Ms. Bakoyannis said, Greece can speak with long historic experience in saying that, while Iran’s nuclear program is a major concern, “no long-term stability in the wider region can be achieved without including Iran in the process.”
There is no way, the minister said, of resolving an issue permanently while ignoring others. “We need an integrated strategy for dealing with the Middle East as a whole,” involving “all the actors in the region, as well as the international community.”
Expanding on her analysis, Ms. Bakoyannis said that while UNSC Resolution 1701 has had some success, it is a temporary expedient which will not be a sustainable solution. “I hope,” she said, “that both Israel and the Hezbollah will understand the futility of going on with the war.” The Lebanese state and the government of Prime Minister Siniora should be strengthened and solely responsible for Lebanon’s territorial integrity.
The engagement of Syria in the peace process is also necessary, the minister said, citing the example of Libya which, after years of sanctions and isolation, has become “a trustworthy partner for the EU and the US.” The help of the more moderate Egypt and Jordan should also be engaged.
Turning to the situation in Iraq, Ms. Bakoyannis said that after 44 months there is little discernible progress. While there have been proposals to break up Iraq into three regions — Shiite in the south, Sunni in the middle, and the Kurds in the north — “Greece,” she said, “and the European Union, are committed to Iraq’s territorial integrity . . . Greece’s view is that all measures strengthening civil society and the understanding between Iraq’s different religious and ethnic entities are welcome. We consider an international conference on Iraq equally welcome.”
Solving any one of the interrelated core issues she discussed could, the minister said, create a positive domino effect on the others. “Greece has the longest history of contact with the Arab world, a profound understanding of the Muslim world. In the context of Europe, where we belong, we have much to say and even more to do.”
For the full text of the speech go to www.greekembassy.org
THE ECONOMY: GROWTH UP; DEFICIT DOWN
The governor of the Bank of Greece, Nikos Garganas, said on November 14 that the growth rate of the Greek economy will exceed expectations in 2006, reaching 4.1 percent. That, he said, is accompanied by an increase in employment and reduced unemployment. These conditions, he said in the Bank’s interim monetary policy report, will permit a larger and more rapid reduction of the deficit.
That development has already been noted in the autumn forecasts for the Greek economy published on November 6 by the European Commission. It foresees a fiscal deficit of 2.6 percent of GDP this year and next, falling to 2.4 percent in 2008. It is the first time that the Commission has forecast Greece’s fiscal deficit to fall below the Maastricht Treaty’s 3 percent limit for two consecutive years.
The Commission further forecast strong economic growth in the years ahead and a public debt (109.1 percent of GDP in the period 1992-2002 and 107.5 percent last year) to be reduced to 104.8 percent this year and down to 96.4 percent in 2008.
Commenting on the report, which covers every aspect of the economy (trade, infrastructure development, employment prospects, savings, domestic demand, taxation policy, and many other elements), Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis expressed his satisfaction. Recognition of the Greek economy’s development impetus and increase in investments is, he said, very positive. So also, he added, is the recognition of the Greek government’s effort in the fiscal sector and the reduction of the deficit below 3 percent of GDP.
Economy Minister in NYC
Mr. Alogoskoufis was in New York to speak on November 17 to a “Capital Link” gathering of American entrepreneurs on the achievements of the Greek economy and the opportunities for profitable investment in Greece and its region. “Greece,” the minister said, “from now on represents the steam-engine of growth of the broader region of more than 160 million inhabitants.” He referred also to “the rise of exports, the reduction of unemployment to 8.8 percent from 11.3 percent in 2004, the increase in tourism, the improvement by eight positions in the international ranking of competitiveness, and fiscal adjustment to EU regulations” as some of the achievements of the Greek economy. He spoke also of Greece’s program of privatizations, especially in the banking and transport sectors.
In New York, Mr. Alogoskoufis was on Wall Street on November 16 to take part in the formal closing of the Stock Exchange session after discussions with its president, John Thain. He met also with members of the Hellenic-American Business Council and with directors of large international investment banks.
At a press conference later that day, Mr. Alogskoufis spoke of the significance of the reforms which Greece has introduced also for Greek expatriates. “The Greek diaspora,” he said, “can now, if it wishes, be active with greater confidence in the Greek economy, contributing but also profiting from its investment.”
ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE WELCOMES POPE
During a four-day visit to Turkey, the first for 27 years by a Primate of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI was welcomed at the Phanar on November 29 by the spiritual head of Orthodox Christianity, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Receiving the Pope, shortly before a service at Saint George Cathedral, the Patriarch said “We welcome you with great joy, honor and love.”
Earlier in the day, the Pope had officiated at a service in Ephesus at the “Home of Mary,” the most frequented place of worship by Turkey's small Catholic population. A congregation of several hundred heard him make a new appeal for peace in the Middle East.
The two church leaders embraced at the gate before entering the Saint George Cathedral where the grandiose service, attended by the entourage of cardinals, was officiated by the Ecumenical Patriarch himself. The service was broadcast live on Greek television. The Greek government spokesman called the Pope's visit to Turkey “very significant” and “one which is being watched with great interest by governments and the public around the world.”
Archbishop Demetrios of America, who was among those who greeted the Pope on his arrival in Istanbul, named some of the topics likely to be discussed between the two church leaders. They included the Turkish government's refusal to recognize the status of the Patriarch, the re-opening of the Halki Orthodox Seminary, and confiscations of Church and ethnic Greeks' property in Turkey.
DEVELOPING RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA AND CHINA
Attending a meeting in Moscow on November 1st, Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis followed up on Greece’s proposal to the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) foreign ministers group for the construction of a circular road corridor from Greece’s northern port of Alexandroupolis to the oil-producing regions of Russia and the Balkans. The project, dubbed “Road of the Argonauts,” is to mark the BSEC’s 15th anniversary and its summit meeting in Istanbul by the voyage around the Black Sea coast of a replica of the “Argo,” the ancient ship that carried the Argonauts.
Later in the month, during a visit to Moscow, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis focused especially on plans for the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, a project of great importance to Greece, Russia and Bulgaria. Together with the Greece-Turkey natural gas pipeline and the undersea gas line planned between Greece and Italy, this project, Ms. Bakoyannis said, will turn Greece into “an energy hub for both the region and Europe.”
Closer economic relations with China were also reinforced during a visit to Beijing and Shanghai by Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, accompanied by a large group of officials and entrepreneurs. An important result of the mission was agreement on the inauguration within the next few months of direct Athens-Beijing flights. Discussions focused also on the entry for Chinese products to the Greek ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, and cooperation between the Athens Stock Exchange and the stock markets of Shanghai and Hong Kong. Greek exports to China increased by more than 20 percent, to !45.6 million, over last year’s January-August period.
An “Extremely Important Gesture”
FRAGMENT OF ACROPOLIS TEMPLE RETURNED
A small piece of the Erectheum, the Ionic temple on the ancient Acropolis of Athens, was returned to Greece after more than a century in a ceremony held on the Acropolis on November 10. The marble fragment, a missing piece of the Ionic temple’s elaborately carved architrave, was formally handed over to Culture Minister George Voulgarakis by Birgit Wiger Angner, a retired Swedish gymnastics teacher.
Ms. Angner inherited the fragment in 1972 from her father who received it as a gift from his brother, a naval officer who visited Athens in 1895. Showing emotion at the ceremony, Ms. Angner told of her decision to return the fragment after reading about a seminar held in Sweden in 2003 to mark the foundation of a Swedish committee for the Return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. She handed over the fragment in 2005 to the Stockholm Mediterranean Museum which made the arrangements for its return to Greece. At the ceremony, she urged museums which have remnants of the Parthenon—and particularly the British Museum which has significant surviving portions of the Parthenon’s frieze sculptures, and three of the 28 segments of the Erectheum architrave—to follow her example.
Minister Voulgarakis expressed the same sentiment in presenting Angner with an honorary plaque on behalf of the Greek state. “Your gesture,” he said, “offers international public opinion one more stimulus to be sensitive to the fate of a unique monument of international cultural heritage . . . a message to museums abroad to respond to their moral obligation for the cultural cohesion of a united Europe.”
Issue Brought to the U.N. General Assembly
Earlier in the month, the issue of returning art works to their country of origin was brought before the UN General Assembly in a draft resolution submitted by Greece. Noting the recently increased worldwide sensitivity to the issue, the proposed resolution referred to peoples’ deprivation of “a part of their historical past, while isolating the works from their natural, cultural, and geographical base.”
Coinciding with the tabling at the UN of the draft resolution, which was expected to receive the support of at least 80 countries, Mr. Voulgarakis was interviewed on Austria’s state-run TV network which broadcast a special feature on the return of cultural treasures to their countries of origin. He made mention of the part played by the late Melina Mercouri in awakening international attention to the issue, and emphasized its importance for the restoration of what he called “a certain moral order in civilization that concerns not only Greece but the whole world.”
GREEK ISLANDS ARE FAVORITES
In a report on worldwide vacation reader preferences, the November issue of the influential Conde Nast Traveler magazine lists the Greek Aegean islands of Mykonos and the Cyclades as first of the top ten European choices, with a rating of 77.4 percent. The island of Crete (71.6 percent) is in fifth place; Rhodes (69.1) in eighth place; and Corfu (67.9) in tenth place.
Among the top 75 European resort hotels, the Katikies on the island of Santorini occupies 21st place, with a rating of 92.3 percent, above such renowned hotels as Cipriani and Gritti Palace in Venice, the Ritz hotels in Paris and Madrid, and Capri’s Grand Hotel Quisisana.
At an awards ceremony in Athens on November 13, Tourism Minister Fani Palli-Petralia predicted an 11 percent increase in tourist arrivals this year, while, only slightly less optimistic, the president of the Hellenic Tourism Enterprises Association, Mr. Stavros Andreadis, expected an 8-10 percent increase, with a 10 percent boost in revenues to a total of !13.7 billion.
Mr. Andreadis warned against complacency in tourist development. Hotel projects, he noted, account for 40-50 percent of new investments in Greece. However, he urged the importance of concentrating on new five-star hotels, and the improvement of the country’s 7,000 existing hotel units. He noted also that his Association is developing cooperation with leading internet tour operators; Expedia’s turnover from Greek hotels is expected to reach !300 million in the next three years.
The biggest increase in the number of foreign tourists in Greece this year was a 50 percent jump in arrivals from Russia, following a 28 percent increase last year (to 183,000) over 2004. To further encourage this trend, tourism minister Petralia was in St. Petersburg at the end of October to launch a “Greek Week” and to open a “Days of Greece” exhibition.
Greece and Italy will sign an agreement for cooperation in combating the smuggling of antiquities. This was stated by Culture Minister George Voulgarakis at a meeting in Brussels on November 13 of the EU Council of Culture Ministers. Meanwhile, charges have been brought in Athens against persons linked to the cache of antiquities discovered by Greek authorities in a luxury villa on the Cyclades island of Schinoussa. Further, charges have been brought against four persons, two of them Greeks, involved in the sale in 1993 of an ancient gold wreath, illegally excavated in Macedonia, for $1,150,000, to the Getty Museum in California. Greece is now seeking the museum’s return of the wreath.
The new role of Greece as an energy hub, its worldwide shipping fleet, and its rapid economic growth were among the developments featured in an address by Greece's Secretary-General for Information, Panos Livadas, at the University of Florida on November 21 honoring Professor Keith R. Legg for his contribution to studies of modern Greece.
Deputy Foreign Minister Theodore Kassimis, in charge of expatriate affairs, completed on November 24 a tour lasting more than two weeks of US and Canadian cities which host large numbers of Americans and Canadians of Greek ancestry. Beginning in San Francisco on November 7, the tour included Houston, Tampa, Chicago, New York, Boston, Ottawa, and Montreal.
The Hellenic Investment Center reported the submission in the period January-October of this year of 103 large-scale business plans, benefiting from the new development law and involving 5,360 new jobs. In that period, 57 new companies, capitalized at !1,989 billion and providing 3,522 new employment positions, were formed. They were involved mainly in the areas of tourism, industry and manufacturing, energy, advanced technology, and broadband networks.
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece