US Media on Greece
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PRESS & COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
July-August 2007; Vol. 13 No. 7-8
(also available in PDF)
1. GREECE’S LEADING ROLE IN SOUTHEAST EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENT
2. PM KARAMANLIS CALLS FOR FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
3. GREECE COMMITS TO BALANCED BUDGETS BY 2010
4. SPECIAL OLYMPICS EVENT AT WHITE HOUSE
5. CULTURAL NOTES
6. GREECE SUPPORTS EU REFORM TREATY
7. IN PRAISE OF GREEK WHITE WINE
“The Next Economic Miracle”
GREECE’S LEADING ROLE IN SOUTHEAST EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENT
The leading role of Greece in the economic development and integration of the southeast European region was discussed during a presentation in Athens, at the end of June, of the Black Sea Trade and Investment Promotion Program.
Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis told the conference that the economic integration of the region will be “the next economic miracle” and a development of particular importance to Greece which has invested heavily in the region in recent years. Those investments stand currently at some $20.7 billion and, directly or indirectly, have created 200,000 jobs in the region.
It was noted at the conference that Greece is the largest investor in Serbia and Albania, the second largest in Bulgaria, and the third largest in Romania, with considerable business interests also in Turkey. Its active involvement in the development of the region was affirmed by Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis in addressing a meeting in Athens, organized by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to discuss the alleviation of regional poverty. Mr. Stylianidis noted the assistance given by Greece for the accession to the EU of Bulgaria and Romania, and its support for the inclusion of the western Balkan countries in the EU’s Stabilization and Association Treaty.
The importance of the European orientation of the Balkan region was highlighted at the meeting in Athens on July 16 between Prime Minister Karamanlis and visiting Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader. The declaration signed at the conclusion of the meeting refers to “the great importance the two states attach to the European perspective of the countries of southeast Europe” and expressed the hope that cooperation between Greece and Croatia “will be a dynamic factor for broader cooperation in the region.”
EU Prospects for Western Balkans and Turkey Urged
Addressing a meeting of the Cabinet on July 16, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stated Greece’s opposition to any binding decision on EU enlargement that would rule out membership of Turkey or western Balkan countries. Current discussions of EU “enlargement fatigue” and Europe’s outer borders could not, she said, affect enlargement policies already agreed, such as those concerning Turkey and Croatia, and should not concern the countries of the western Balkans.
Ms. Bakoyannis referred also to the continuing impasse in efforts to find a mutually acceptable and internationally recognized name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). She noted the “strong and clear message, known to our partners and allies” ruling out any possibility that the country could join NATO as the “Republic of Macedonia.” The need for a solution is supported by the European Union, while at a meeting in Washington with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, FYROM Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki was urged to assist efforts to resolve the name issue.
Ms. Bakoyannis reaffirmed Greece’s support for Turkey’s efforts to join the EU on condition that it adheres to European standards. It is, she said, a fundamental element in bilateral relations, since differences between the two countries have largely become Euro-Turkish concerns, as illustrated by the EU decision last December to freeze eight chapters of the accession negotiations with Turkey so long as Turkey continued to close its ports and airports to the ships and planes of Cyprus, now a member of the EU. At the same time, Ms. Bakoyannis conceded that the climate in Europe is increasingly skeptical of Turkey’s EU candidacy. Greece, she said, will be opposed to the idea of substituting full EU membership with a “special relationship” status for Turkey.
Prime Minister Karamanlis was in Sarajevo on July 23 to inaugurate the Greece-Bosnia Herzegovina Friendship Building, to house government offices in the center of the city. It was the first big project to be completed with the use of funds from the Greek Plan for the Reconstruction of the Balkans. Of the $23.2 million spent on the project, $18.7 was contributed by Greece.
The prime ministers of Greece, Italy, and Turkey were congratulated, in a statement issued by the State Department on July 26, on their signing an agreement for the Turkey-Greece-Italy pipeline, which defines the commercial and legal framework for the transit of Caspian gas into the pipeline, clearing the way for accelerated construction. The agreement is a cornerstone of joint efforts by the three countries, with strong US and EU support, to help natural gas supplies reach Europe and promote economic development in the Caspian region.
Representatives of Bulgarian, Greek, and Russian companies, meeting in the Bulgarian capital on July 12, discussed the choice of the country of registration for the international company which will undertake the construction and operation of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline for the transportation of Russian oil to European markets.
In Washington, the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH) thanked, in the congressional newspaper The Hill, the 61 members of Congress to date who are cosponsors of House Resolution 356 that calls on the leaders of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to (1) “stop…violat[ing] provisions of the United Nations-brokered Interim Agreement . . . regarding ‘hostile activities or propaganda;’” and (2) “work with the United Nations and Greece to find a mutually-acceptable official name for the FYROM.”
Greece plans to increase its developmental aid to needful countries to 0.51 of GDP by 2010. In the past year, through the Hellenic Aid organization, Greece has provided aid to 90 countries and carried out 145 aid programs. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis expressed her satisfaction when Greek aid ships arrive on the scene of a crisis and Greek doctors and rescuers reach out to those in pain and in fear of their survival.
After Forest Fires in Record-Breaking Heat
PM KARAMANLIS CALLS FOR FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
Record-breaking heat, which reached 114 degrees Fahrenheit in the Athens area in the last days of June and early July, sparked an outbreak of devastating forest fires in numerous mountain regions of Greece, fanned by strong winds measuring 6-7 on the Beaufort scale. The country’s total fire-fighting force, including aircraft and hundreds of volunteers, was called into action to subdue the flames.
Authorities held emergency meetings to control the outbreak of fires and to make immediate plans for the complete reforestation of the destroyed areas. “Wherever there was forest,” said Prime Minister Karamanlis, “there will be forest again.” He linked the disastrous fires to global warming. “We are already living,” he added, “with the consequences of climate change.” Greece, he said, has no choice but to rise to the challenge of fighting “a difficult and uneven battle—the major battle of our generation,” a complex task which required “the often competing involvement of national and international organizations.” He spoke also of other environmental protection measures: the designation since 2004 of 10 areas of Greece as “protected;” preparation of a national zoning plan; increased “green” energy production; the increase from 14 percent in 2004 to 52 percent currently of EU funding for environmental protection; and the earmarking for the environment of $5.9 billion from the 4th Community Support Funds.
Strong Performance Forecast for Economy in 2007
GREECE COMMITS TO BALANCED BUDGETS BY 2010
Domestic demand and private consumption are giving the main impetus to stronger than forecast growth rates of the Greek economy, now expected to end the year at more than 4 percent, among the highest in the Eurozone. Inflation is forecast to end the year down to 2.7 percent.
This was recorded in the latest quarterly report of the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research which noted that this is being achieved despite rising interest rates. The report also records that Greek exports are increasing at a somewhat faster pace than imports. The report observes, however, that while government policies have produced this economic performance, there is need for structural policies to promote the production of internationally competitive goods and services rather than a reliance on domestic demand.
Growth rates of the economy were also described as “remarkable” by Greece’s economy and finance minister, George Alogoskoufis, following a meeting of European finance ministers in Brussels on July 10. He ascribed the success to an economic plan based on reducing tax factors and improving cooperation between the public and private sectors, leading to increased investment and lower unemployment. He noted also that the country’s fiscal deficit has been cut from 7.0 percent of GDP in 2004 to 2.4 percent this year. He reaffirmed the commitment to make the adjustments needed to achieve zero budget deficits by 2010.
Earlier in the month, speaking at the Constantine Karamanlis Institute, the minister stressed that Greece is now recovering ground lost. He noted the reduction of the fiscal deficit to 2.6 percent; the reduction of the public debt from 108.5 percent of GDP in 2004 to an expected 100 percent this year; a 4.6 percent development rate in the first quarter of this year; and per capita GDP increasing to 80 percent of the EU average.
In Other Economic News
Germany was the biggest market for Greek exports to the EU countries in the first four months of 2007, increasing by 38 percent over that period of last year, to a total of $5.1 billion. Overall, exports increased in that period by 14.2 percent to $8 billion. The main exports to Germany were of telecoms equipment, registering an increase of 164 percent. Exports to countries of the Far East also soared, by 104 percent to Japan and by 33 percent to China. While exports shrank in the 2000-2004 period from 10.6 to 7.4 percent of GDP, lost ground is now being regained, with exports expected to account for 9.8 percent of GDP this year.
Unemployment in Greece fell in April to 8.4 percent, compared with 9.9 percent in 2005 and 9.0 percent last year. While jobless men were 5 percent of the workforce, unemployed women represented 13.3 percent.
By raising over $1.5 billion, the sale of a 10.7 percent equity in the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) made a significant contribution to the reduction of the country’s public debt.
President and First Lady Welcome “Flame of Hope”
SPECIAL OLYMPICS EVENT AT WHITE HOUSE
The Flame of Hope for October’s Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai, lit on June 29 on the Pnyx sacred site in Athens, arrived in Washington on July 26 and was received by President and Mrs. Bush in a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House. The Torch was carried by runners from the South Lawn of the White House along the National Mall, to the Capitol and other sites. July 26 coincides with the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The twelfth Special Olympics will be held in Shanghai, October 2-11, with some 7,500 athletes, 3,500 trainers, 65,000 volunteers and their families.
Greece’s involvement in Shanghai’s Special Olympics follows its designation in June as the host of the Special Olympics Summer Games of 2011. The board of directors of the Games chose Athens, after 18 months of intensive consideration, over Cleveland, Ohio, and Rabat, Morocco. “Athens,” the Board said, “provides outstanding venues and demonstrates the knowledge, understanding and excitement around our athletes, the goals of the movement and the overall experience expected for a world games event.”
*The long-disused brewery of the Fix company in central Athens will be transformed and re-opened in about two years as a new National Museum of Contemporary Art.
*A new Museum of Culture, built at a cost of $12.4 million, has opened on the island of Rhodes.
*An exhibition of 85 works by the 20th century French artist Andre Masson— “Andre Masson and Ancient Greece”—has opened at the Modem Art Museum of the Goulandris Foundation on the island of Andros. A dominant theme of the exhibit, open until September 30, is the myth of the Labyrinth and the Minotaur.
*World-renowned Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis received Russia’s Medal of Friendship at a Russian embassy ceremony in Athens on July 2. Presenting the medal, Russian Culture Minister Alexander Sokolov called Theodorakis “the heir of the tradition of great Greek artists from antiquity until today” and his work “a magnificent and proud hymn to the ideals of freedom, independence, and human honor which were born on the land of Greece.”
*Women’s role in western and non-western societies was one theme of a two-day discussion at the European Cultural Center of Delphi on “The Tragic Heroine as a Symbol in Modern Society.”
*As reported in the New York Times of July 10, Greece is preparing new legislation to combat the multi-million dollar international traffic in stolen and bogus antiquities—“one of the most lucrative criminal activities in the world.”
*With the Olympic Games coming up in Beijing next year, the philologist Aidong Qu has produced a translation into Chinese of the book by Nikos and Maria Psilakis titled Civilization of the Olive and Olive Oil. Already translated into major European languages and Japanese, the book describes the link between the olive and Greece through the ages.
*"Discovering Greece” is the theme of the 2007 Wolf Trap Ball, September 15, a benefit for the Wolf Trap Foundation’s education programs, including its Institute for Early Learning through the Arts, a renowned program using performing arts disciplines to help teach literacy skills to disadvantaged children. For more info: http://tacticaltv.com/wolftrapball.cfm.
GREECE SUPPORTS EU REFORM TREATY
Addressing the Greek Parliament’s Foreign and European Affairs Committee on July 5, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis discussed the new European Union Reform Treaty which was decided at the EU summit meeting of June 21-22. Greece, she said, had played a leading role in gathering a group of EU countries which gave the German presidency the ability to construct a difficult but acceptable compromise.
The result, Ms. Bakoyannis said, was a new treaty which preserves the essence of the abandoned constitutional treaty. It may not have incorporated the charter of fundamental rights, but it ensured the binding power of its provisions. The title of “EU foreign minister” may have been lost, but the powers remain. Similarly, the reform treaty preserved the Constitution’s proposed provisions for coordinated action on issues such as those affecting island regions and tourism and affirmed Europe’s ground-breaking decisions on climate change while ensuring the cooperation of member-states on energy issues.
The foreign minister spoke also of Greece at the core of countries which favor “enhanced and unconditional cooperation” to achieve further political convergence within the EU. And she also referred favorably to the Reform Treaty’s provision for a more potent role for national parliaments.
From the U.S. Press
IN PRAISE OF GREEK WHITE WINE
A review of Europe’s best wines in the August issue of Food and Wine magazine reports: “There are a lot of good Greek whites around nowadays. Some that I liked best were from Santorini, the island that is the staple of travel photography (white buildings set against an azure sky). Santorini’s vineyards are equally photogenic: vines trained in basket-shaped coils on the ground (it’s not for the tourists; it’s for protection from the wind). The most important grape is the Assyrtiko, an ancient and noble variety grown in various regions of Greece; those from Santorini are particularly good. Boutari makes a classic example of this mineral-rich white that echoes the mineral notes of the soil. Other distinctive white grapes that the Greeks have been just as busy recovering from near-extinction include Moscophilero (an intensely aromatic white reminiscent of Gerwurztraminer) and Malagousia, which is now much prized in many places, though it’s particularly good in the Peloponnese, where it produces concentrated wines. The 2006 Moscophilero from Antonopoulos is a voluptuous wine, with penetrating citrus notes.”
BRIEFLY . . .
*Welcoming the safe return after 114 days of captivity in the Gaza Strip of BBC reporter Alan Johnson, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos spoke of the need to protect journalists in war and crisis zones, recalling that it was an initiative during Greece’s presidency of the Security Council, which last December resulted in passage of Resolution 1783 on the protection of journalists in war zones and areas of conflict.
*Aiming to make Greece a pioneer in research efforts in southeast Europe, thirteen Greek research organizations have combined to form the Greek Research Centers Forum. At the same time, new legislation to be introduced in Parliament shortly will provide a new institutional framework for research and technology. *Described as one of the most important reforms promoted by this government, the new law, said Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, allows for optimal engagement of the country’s technical and human resources.
*After an increase of 8.44 percent in tourist arrivals in 2006, arrivals were up by six percent in the first half of this year. Passenger traffic at Athens Airport was up by 10 percent in that period and is expected to break last year’s record of 15.1 million passengers at the end of this year.
*The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), the leading association for American citizens of Greek descent, on July 26 celebrated the 85th anniversary of the organization's founding in Atlanta, Georgia. “In 1922, America was far removed from the America of equality which we cherish today. Greeks were discriminated against and treated as second class citizens all across our nation,” Supreme President Ike Gulas observed, emphasizing the role which the organization has played throughout its history in ensuring equal rights and opportunities for all Americans.
*Greece’s contribution of $1 million to the fund for a feasibility study and environmental assessment of the Red Sea–Dead Sea water conveyance concept was presented by Ambassador Alexandros Mallias at a World Bank ceremony on July 18. The study is a joint project between Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority, in cooperation with the World Bank, while other donors include France, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States.
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece