December 17, 2004 Possibility of Early Elections Thwarted Through Consensus Nominee for President Washington, D.C. - Warding off the possibility of early parliamentary elections as early as March 2005, one year after the conservative New Democracy Party came to power, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis named former foreign minister Karolos Papoulias, a member of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), as a candidate for Greece's president, a largely ceremonial position. The move marked the end of months of speculation over who Karamanlis would nominate and the possibility that PASOK could prevent the candidate from receiving the number of votes in parliament required to elect a new president, forcing early elections. PASOK leader George Papandreou welcomed Karamanlis's decision, stating that Papoulias was "an excellent choice" and had PASOK's "universal approval." Karamanlis, who emphasized that achieving the "strongest possible consensus" was his goal in nominating Papoulias, is now expected to serve out his full four-year term, which ends in March 2008. The 75-year-old Papoulias was foreign minister from 1985 to 1989 and from 1993 to 1995 in successive administrations of Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, the founder of PASOK, and was a close associate of Papandreou, the father of the current PASOK leader. Papoulias, who is not a member of parliament at this time and is viewed as a political moderate by both parties, will replace Costis Stephanopoulos, a popular figure with both parties whose second five-year term ends in March. February 8 is seen as a likely date for electing the president. Papoulias is expected to be chosen in the first round of votes, in which a two-thirds majority of the deputies is required, or 200 out of 300. New Democracy has 164 seats, while PASOK has 115, suggesting that this majority will be achieved easily. If a two-thirds majority were not reached in the first round, the voting would be repeated two more times, when a three-fifths majority, or 180 votes, would be required. If the third round failed, the parliament would be dissolved within ten days and parliamentary elections would be held. In a new parliament, 180 votes would be required to elect a president in the first round. December 17, 2004 Hijacked Bus Incident Ends Peacefully Washington, D.C. - Two Albanian immigrants were charged with multiple counts of kidnapping and attempted murder following an 18-hour bus hijacking and hostage-taking that ended peacefully on the road from Marathon, east of Athens, to the Greek capital. Greek officials said the training that security forces had received in preparation for the August Olympics in Athens had played a role in enabling police to end the December 15-16 standoff without firing a shot. The hijackers, Gaz Resuli and Leonard Murati, are 24-year-old Albanian housepainters, who have lived in Greece for seven years. They are accused of using shotguns to hijack the bus with 26 people on board. The gunmen claimed to have explosives and threatened to blow up the bus if authorities did not pay a ransom of $1.3 million and provide them with passage to Russia. When the two surrendered peacefully, no explosives were found on them or on the bus. The hostages had gradually been released in groups of two and three during the ordeal, leaving six on board who walked to freedom just before the gunmen surrendered. At least 500,000 of the 1 million foreigners in Greece are Albanian immigrants. December 10, 2004 Karamanlis in Moscow, Putin Hails Greece as Russia's Closest European Partner Washington, D.C. - During a visit by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to Russia, Greece and Russia agreed to expand cooperation in the security, energy, and economic sectors. While Karamanlis stated that the positions of Greece and Russia were "similar or identical" on many international issues, Russian President Vladimir Putin described Greece as Russia's "closest colleague and partner" in Europe. A declaration was signed stating that the two countries would strengthen joint efforts against international terrorism and organized crime, noting "the need to respect international laws in the fight against terrorism." The document also said that "the United Nations must play a central and coordinating role in the global anti-terrorism fight." Through the cooperative efforts of the Greek and Russian security services, the two sides will work toward ensuring the security of transportation systems and preventing hostage-taking. In addition, Athens and Moscow will exchange visits of defense ministers and naval ships, while Russia will continue to supply military equipment to Greece. Since 1998, Greece has bought military equipment from Russia worth more than $2 billion, including anti-aircraft systems and Zubr landing craft. While Greece will purchase 2 billion cubic meters of Russian gas this year, or 80 percent of its gas needs, under an accord ending in 2016, it was agreed that Moscow would increase gas shipments to Greece. In addition, Karamanlis said Greece, Russia, and Bulgaria would soon sign a memorandum "to begin implementation" of a long-delayed 186-mile pipeline for the transport of Russian oil from the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas to the Greek Aegean port of Alexandroupolis, enabling Russian oil exports to bypass the congested Turkish straits. The two sides also discussed possibilities for further economic cooperation through investments, trade, and tourism. December 3, 2004 EU Takes Legal Action for Under-Reported Deficit Figures Washington, D.C. - The European Commission on December 1 said it would take legal action against Greece for providing false deficit figures between 1997 and 2003, which disguised the fact that the country was exceeding the EU's deficit cap of three percent of GDP during those years. The Commission said that, on the basis of the actual deficit figures, Greece, which joined the eurozone in January 2001, had not met the EU's standards for adopting the euro and would not have been permitted to join if these figures had been known. It said, however, that Greece would not be expelled from the eurozone. An investigation into the Greek government's accounts by Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency, indicated that Greece had understated the size of its budget deficit by an average of 2.1 percentage points since 1997. Deficits during the three crucial years used to assess its preparedness for adopting the euro, 1997 to 1999, were 6.6 percent, 4.3 percent, and 3.4 percent, respectively. Greece had said these deficits were 4 percent, 2.5 percent, and 1.8 percent during that period. A Commission spokesperson said the EU's executive body would start infringement procedures against the Greek government to make certain that it addresses a number of problems in the reporting and control of deficit-related data. Failure to improve its faulty bookkeeping could lead to fines imposed by the European Court of Justice. Brussels also said it would propose “concrete measures to ensure the credibility of the entire statistical system” throughout the EU by the end of the year. Greek Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis announced that Greece would introduce legislation to guarantee that the country never again under-reports its budget deficit. European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Joaquin Almunia said he was satisfied with the cooperation Eurostat is now getting from Athens and would allow Greece two months to take corrective action. It will then be given two years to bring its deficit in line with euro regulations. The New Democracy government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, which came to power in March 2004, put the blame for the inaccurate data on the previous Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) government of Costas Simitis. November 19, 2004 U.S. to Accept Outcome of Athens-Skopje Talks Washington, D.C. - In a November 16 letter to Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, President Bush said the United States would accept the name for Greece's northern neighbor reached through negotiations on the issue between Athens and Skopje under the auspices of the United Nations. The negotiations began in 1995, two years after the country was admitted to the U.N. under the provisional name "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)." Bush explained that the U.S. decision to recognize the name "Republic of Macedonia" on November 4 was aimed at helping to defeat a referendum in the country scheduled for November 7 that was designed to nullify a law granting ethnic Albanians greater representation at the municipal level. The referendum failed due to low turnout. "Our single goal was to bolster stability in Macedonia and its neighborhood at a crucial moment," the president wrote. "The United States had to act quickly and decisively, given the speed of events and the high stakes" surrounding the referendum, he said. "I realize our decision to recognize Macedonia by its constitutional name generated significant controversy in Greece," Bush wrote, adding that the U.S. "will embrace any solution that emerges" from the U.N.-led negotiations. "We hope that you will quickly reach an agreement so that our two countries can focus on our common goals in the Balkans and beyond." According to a list submitted by the Greek Foreign Ministry to the Greek parliament, 70 countries, in addition to the United States, have recognized the country by the name "Republic of Macedonia." Among them are Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro, Belarus, China, Cuba, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Nigeria, Sudan, and North Korea. All EU countries continue to use the name FYROM and are expected to do so until the conclusion of the Athens-Skopje negotiations. According to the guidelines set up under the U.N.-led negotiations, the U.N. would be expected to replace the temporary name FYROM with the new name arrived at through the negotiations, which will be mutually acceptable to both Athens and Skopje, and the international community would also be expected to adopt the new name as the official designation for the country. Given the relatively large number of countries that recognize the country as the Republic of Macedonia, it is unlikely that Skopje will agree to use the new name for recognition internationally with respect to any country other than Greece, since Greece is the only nation to cite a dispute with Skopje over its current self-designated name. In addition, nationalist elements in the country could be strengthened if Skopje were seen to be acquiescing to Greece by adopting the new name on an international level. Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis has written letters to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and the foreign ministers of the 24 other EU countries raising the significance of the name issue for Greece and the importance of finding a solution to the problem that is acceptable to both Athens and Skopje. In the letters, Molyviatis pointed out that "the European dimension of FYROM's future" was affected by the fact that the name issue had not been resolved. November 12, 2004 Athens Seeks Continued Talks to Resolve "Macedonia" Name Issue Washington, D.C. - As President Costis Stephanopoulos and Greece's ruling and main opposition parties called for calm and unity in the country in response to the U.S. decision to recognize the name "Republic of Macedonia," the Greek government expressed readiness to intensify its talks with Skopje under the auspices of the United Nations to find a mutually acceptable alternative to the name. "This is an opportunity, during these difficult days . . . to reflect on how important the unity of our people is," Stephanopoulos said, following the participation of up to 2,000 Greeks in a demonstration against Washington's decision organized by the ultra-conservative Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party in Thessaloniki, as well as the staging of a protest rally by some 100 members of extreme right-wing groups in the city. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos cited a statement by Ambassador Matthew Nimetz, Special Representative of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who mediates the talks between Skopje and Athens on the name issue, that Washington's decision "in no way affected the process currently in progress" concerning an alternative name for the country. Fred Eckhard, Annan's spokesman, also stated that the U.S. action would not influence long-term efforts by the U.N. to reach a solution. Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva said Skopje wished to continue the talks with Greece aimed at resolving the issue. "We are prepared, in the talks in the framework of the U.N., to reiterate our position that we are in favor of the use of the constitutional name of the ‘Republic of Macedonia' in international communication, and the need for finding a mutually acceptable formula in the bilateral communication with Greece," Mitreva said. Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, characterizing Washington's decision as "erroneous" and "off-target," said he was afraid that the move had rendered the name issue "more difficult," adding that Greece would do its best to negotiate a solution that was agreeable to both sides. He said, "The European Union's position was, and remains, that, in order to have any hope of joining the Union, FYROM [the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia] must first have agreed on a mutually acceptable solution." The government indicated that it could block Skopje from joining NATO and the EU if the bilateral name dispute is not resolved. "It is well known that the accession of a European country to the EU or NATO requires the unanimous agreement of all existing members," government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said. "Greece will not be part of such a decision unless a commonly acceptable solution is reached." Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski reiterated that the Skopje government extended "a hand of friendship [to Greece] and assures that we desire the continuation of our cooperation and good-neighbor relations." In addition, Prime Minister Hari Kostov called on Greece to support Skopje's integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, emphasizing that Athens was a major trading partner and investor in his country. He added that Skopje had no territorial aspirations against Greece, though Athens maintains that the use of the name "Republic of Macedonia" implies claims on Greece's northern province of Macedonia. Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, who blamed Skopje for the failure to reach an agreement on the name up to now, will send letters to the foreign ministers of EU and NATO member countries to explain Athens' position on the issue. George Papandreou, the leader of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), accused the ruling New Democracy Party of being unable to formulate a strategy on the name issue, noting that "the existence of a proposal from the government" must be a condition for responding to the government's appeal for a unified stance. He called for the convening of a council of political leaders under the chairmanship of President Stephanopoulos and a special discussion in parliament to draw up a joint strategy on the matter. Papandreou rejected the government's assertion that previous PASOK governments had failed to work toward resolution of the issue, stating that the adoption of the name "Macedonia" by Skopje had occurred when New Democracy was in power in the early 1990s and that PASOK had subsequently engaged in "great battles" over the issue. Referring to Washington's decision, the head of Greece's Orthodox Church, Archbishop Christodoulos, urged Greeks to "resist this [decision] with revolutionary might," noting that the U.S. is "trying to make us forget our history." EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten reaffirmed earlier statements by EU officials that the European Union would continue using the name "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)" to refer to the country. According to a poll conducted in the country, 53.4 percent of the people said they refused to adopt a name other than the "Republic of Macedonia" in order to gain EU membership. In a poll conducted in Athens, 85 percent of the respondents agreed that Greece should block the country's bid to enter the EU if it insisted on being internationally recognized under the name "Republic of Macedonia." October 22, 2004 Newest Member of U.N. Security Council Washington, D.C. - Greece was elected a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council for the period from January 1, 2005, until the end of 2006, along with Argentina, Denmark, Japan, and Tanzania. During the two-year period, Greece will assume the Council's presidency twice for one month at a time. The last, and only, time Greece held one of the 10 non-permanent seats was from January 1952 to December 1953. Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, stating that Greece's election to the U.N. body was "a special honor for the country," said Athens would focus its efforts on "regions of instability" but would also pursue issues concerning the nation's "wider region for which our country's particular interest is self-evident." The criteria for the election of a country to the Security Council include its contribution to world peace and stability, its participation in activities of the United Nations, and the geographical balance its presence on the Council will bring in relation to the other members. Turkey has submitted its candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the Council for the 2008-2009 period. October 15, 2004 President Calls on Turkey to Resolve Issues of Concern to Greece before Accession Washington, D.C. - Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos, whose position as head of state is largely ceremonial, stated that Turkey cannot join the European Union "if it does not normalize relations with Greece, recognize the Republic of Cyprus, and contribute to a solution to the Cyprus problem." Asserting that Greece wanted Turkey to become an EU member, Stephanopoulos also called on Ankara to recognize the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch as the spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians; carry out restitution for properties seized from members of Turkey's ethnic Greek minority; and reopen the Christian Orthodox seminary on the Turkish island of Heybeliada (Halki, in Greek), which has been closed since 1971, when the state nationalized all private institutions of higher learning. Ankara recognizes the Patriarch as the leader of Turkey's Greek Orthodox community, numbering between 2,000 and 3,000. October 15, 2004 Members of Greek Terrorist Group Sentenced Washington, D.C. - Four members of Greece's oldest extreme left-wing terrorist group, Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA), were each sentenced to 25 years in prison, the maximum number of years possible, for their involvement in the group'’s campaign of bombings, killings, and attempted murders in Greece against domestic and American targets. In the 20 years that the ELA was active, until it disbanded in January 1995, it was blamed for more than 30 attacks aimed at American targets, mostly in the early 1980s. They included the bombing of the U.S. ambassador's residence, U.S. Embassy vehicles, and branches of American banks and companies. Angeletos Kanas, Costas Agapiou, Irene Athanasaki, and Christos Tsigaridas were convicted on charges that included weapons possession and complicity in the murder of Greek police officer Apostolos Vellios, 48 murder attempts, and 42 bombings. Michalis Kassimis, a fifth suspect tried during the eight-month trial in Athens, was acquitted. The suspects were arrested in early 2003, seven months after police began a series of arrests that led to the conviction of 15 people for participation in the November 17 terrorist group. October 1, 2004 NATO Facility Closed as Alliance Command is Restructured Washington, D.C. - The NATO Joint Sub-Regional Command (JSRC) in Larissa, Greece, which was established in 1999, was deactivated in mid-September as part of the alliance's 2002 re-evaluation of its command structure in response to the changing global security environment. In the new structure, the geographical limitations of the command centers in northern and southern Europe have been eliminated, providing a leaner command and control organization that facilitates more effective deployment of NATO resources beyond the alliance's traditional boundaries, in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. The other three JSRCs in the Southern Region, in Izmir, Turkey; Verona, Italy; and Madrid Spain, have also been deactivated, opening the way for the new command structure comprised of the JFC (Joint Force Command) Naples, formerly known as Allied Forces South; CC (Component Command) Air Izmir; CC Mar (Maritime) Naples; and CC Land Madrid. In Izmir, the JSRC headquarters has been transformed into CC Air Izmir, to which the former Air South in Naples has been moved. While CC Air Izmir defends NATO's southern air space and CC Air Ramstein, in Germany, defends its northern air space, both facilities can be called upon to conduct air operations beyond the traditional boundaries of the alliance. They are the only CC Air installations in the alliance. The NATO Combined Air Operations Centers (CAOCs) in Larissa, Greece, and in Eskisehir, Turkey, have remained in place. They monitor potential threats to the region by air and report to CC Air Izmir. A Maritime Interdiction Operations Training Center is to be established in Greece at the alliance's facilities at Souda Bay in Crete to provide training to NATO personnel on conducting marine interdiction missions. The center, which will not be part of the alliance, will be the only training center of its kind and will be funded by Greece. It is expected to be ready to conduct training courses in 2006. Through a memorandum of understanding, the center will work closely with NATO's Allied Command Transformation (ACT) in Norfolk, Virginia, formerly known as Allied Command Atlantic (ACLANT). ACT is responsible for NATO's training, research, and development of new concepts to improve the military effectiveness of the alliance. September 17, 2004 Economic Challenges Following Olympics Washington, D.C. - In the aftermath of Greece’s estimated $8 billion to $12 billion outlay to host the most expensive Olympics in history, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis announced in a September 11 address on the state of the Greek economy that the country was facing “an acute fiscal problem” characterized by a deficit of 5.3 percent and an overall debt of 112 percent of GDP in 2004, which weighs in as the highest in the European Union. Greece’s deficit exceeds the 3 percent of GDP mandated by the eurozone’s Stability and Growth Pact for the 12 European Union nations that are covered by it. Its debt is nearly twice as high as the Pact’s ceiling of 60 percent, amounting to as much as$75,000 for each Greek household. The European Commission has given Athens a November 5 deadline to announce corrective measures to lower the deficit to below 3 percent by next year and has urged budget cuts of at least 1 percent of GDP, spread evenly over 2004 and 2005. Economy and Finance Minister Yiorgos Alogoskoufis said the Greek government had appealed to the European Union to view the excessive deficit within the definition of the “exceptional circumstances” provision in the Stability and Growth Pact, which would allow the country to surpass the deficit limit without penalties. He cited the fact that the expenses for the Olympics, which Greek officials estimate have accounted for about one-fourth of the deficit, constituted a temporary expenditure, including a $1.5 billion security bill and overruns on delayed construction projects. Alogoskoufis pledged that Greece would aim at bringing its deficit down to 2.8 percent of GDP in 2005 in order to comply with EU regulations. When Athens was awarded the 2004 Olympics in 1997, the cost of hosting the games was estimated at $2 billion. In March 2004, when the previous government of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) was voted out of office and Karamanlis became prime minister, the estimate stood at $5 billion. Karamanlis accused the PASOK government of deliberately under-reporting spending related to the Olympics, defense, and social welfare, having predicted a 1.2 percent deficit and a debt under 100 percent for 2004. Karamanlis said a $490 million cut in defense spending now and a larger reduction for the period from 2006 to 2010 would be one of the ways the government would deal with the fiscal problem. Three days after the prime minister’s address, Greek government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said that, in January 2003, Karamanlis, as leader of the opposition New Democracy Party, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current Turkish prime minister, who was at that time leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, made a verbal agreement to reduce defense spending in their respective countries when they both came to power. Roussopoulos stated that Athens and Ankara also discussed reducing defense spending at the NATO summit in Istanbul in June 2004. Both countries have made significant reductions in their military expenditures. In his address, Karamanlis also proposed raising $1.8 billion through the privatization of state assets, including Olympic Airways, and the floating of the Postal Savings Bank on the stock market; cooperating with private companies in major infrastructure projects and the use of Olympic venues; and passing legislation that enhances competitiveness, resulting in new jobs, increased investment, subsidies for businesses that hire the unemployed, and the development of provinces outside the major population centers in order to tackle unemployment, standing at 9.5 percent at the end of 2003, which he called “the biggest economic and social problem of the country.” The prime minister said other measures would include slowing the pace of government spending to a point below the growth rate, providing greater support to small- and medium-sized enterprises, and implementing tax reform, including the gradual reduction of personal income tax between 2005 and 2007 and a 5 to 10 percent decrease in company taxes. The IMF warned that the Greek economy might slow appreciably in 2005 due to the absence of Olympics-related activity, particularly construction. It called for new reform of Greece’s social insurance system, stating that the system might not be able to fulfill its obligations toward the insured; recommended relaxation of the country’s strict labor market regulations; and urged a reduction in hiring for the public sector and cutbacks in government spending. The organization said Greece’s social insurance reform in 2002 had not tackled the fundamental, long-term imbalances in the system and predicted that the significant increase in costs for healthcare and pensions by 2010 would exceed that of any other EU member. The National Bank of Greece said growth in 2005 would likely slow from an annual average of 4 percent over the last six years to 3 to 3.5 percent. Investment growth in 2005, however, was expected to remain about the same as 2004, with business investments financed by $24 billion in EU structural funds through 2007 offsetting the absence of Olympics-related projects, the Bank said. Wage increases were expected to be 3.5 percent in 2005, in contrast to increases of 7 to 9 percent in 2004. Standard and Poor’s (S and P), on September 13, downgraded its debt rating for Greece from stable to negative due to “a deepening deterioration of public finances and lack of progress in lowering the public debt ratio as a share of national output.” This is the lowest rating of the 12 eurozone countries. However, S and P retained its “A+” and “A-1” ratings on the country’s long-term and short-term sovereign credit ratings. September 17, 2004 Turkey’s EU Accession Decoupled from Aegean, Cyprus Solutions Washington, D.C. - Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said that Greece would continue to support Turkey’s EU accession process even if Greek-Turkish differences over the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf were not resolved by the end of 2004. Failure to reach an agreement on this issue should not lead Greece to “shut out Turkey’s European prospects,” the prime minister stated. In the presidency conclusions issued at the end of the December 1999 EU summit in Helsinki, where Turkey was named a candidate for European Union membership, the EU stated that one of the terms of Turkey’s candidacy would be “to make every effort to resolve any outstanding border disputes and other related issues.” The conclusions also said that the European Union “would review the situation relating to any outstanding disputes, in particular concerning the repercussions on the accession process and in order to promote their settlement through the International Court of Justice, at the latest by the end of 2004.” Since the Helsinki summit, representatives of the Greek and Turkish foreign ministries have met more than two dozen times to discuss Greek-Turkish disputes in the Aegean in an attempt to resolve them by the end of 2004. They are expected to continue these discussions well into 2005. Karamanlis also stated that Greece would not consider resolution of the Cyprus issue to be “a precondition for Turkey’s accession to the European Union,” noting that all Greeks “aim at a solution to the problem of Cyprus as soon as possible.” He said he believed “that a European Turkey is in everybody’s interest,” and he chose “as a matter of principle to support Turkey’s European perspective.” The prime minister said, however, that his government would have to review the European Commission’s report on Turkey’s readiness for membership, to be released on October 6, before deciding whether to vote at the December EU summit in the Netherlands in favor of setting a date for Ankara’s accession talks. He stated that the Turkish government had “made a most serious effort” in its process of reform in preparation for EU membership, “but there are also other things to be done.” “We look forward to the upgrading of bilateral cooperation [with Turkey] and the full restoration of Greek-Turkish relations,” Karamanlis said. September 17, 2004 Air Force Chief Sacked After Deaths of Prominent Clerics Washington, D.C. - The chief of the Hellenic Air Force General Staff, Lt. Gen. Panayiotis Papanikolaou, stepped down from his position at the request of Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos in response to a delay of more than two hours in beginning a rescue operation at the site of a September 11 army helicopter crash in the Aegean Sea that killed 17 people, including Petros, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Africa, and several other Orthodox primates. Maj. Gen. Giorgios Avlonitis, the previous commander of aviation training, was named the new air force chief. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said Spiliotopoulos had voluntarily submitted his own resignation, but it had not been accepted. Spiliotopoulos ordered an investigation, headed by the deputy navy chief of staff, into the reasons why it took military officials over an hour and a half to establish that the helicopter was missing and nearly two more hours to brief him. According to military officials, after the helicopter had disappeared from radar, communications problems caused the delay in the rescue operation. The health minister said he learned about the accident some 25 minutes before the defense minister did. Mechanical failure was considered the most likely cause of the crash. Spiliotopoulos ordered an investigation into why the army took delivery of the U.S.-built Boeing CH 47-D Chinook helicopter in December 2001 even though, according to reports, it presented operational problems upon delivery. Along with Patriarch Petros, who was based in Alexandria, Egypt, and was the leader of Africa’s 250,000 Orthodox Christians and the second-most-senior official in the church hierarchy after Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, based in Istanbul, the dead included Metropolitans Chrysostomos of Carthage and Irinaios of Pelasium; Nektarios, the bishop of Madagascar; and three other clerics. September 3, 2004 Athens Olympics Applauded as One of Most Successful Washington, D.C. - The Athens Olympics, concluding on August 29, were widely hailed as one of the most successful Olympic games in history in terms of organization, state-of-the-art sports venues, an effective transportation system, and a $1.5 billion security network that resulted in an absence of major security breaches. The most athletes, nearly 11,000, and the most national teams, 202, in Olympic history competed in Athens, the smallest nation ever to host the summer games. At the closing ceremony, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Jacques Rogge, stated that the Greeks had "magnificently achieved the difficult goal of hosting the games." He characterized the Athens Olympics as "unforgettable dream games" and praised the Greek government for leaving Athens with "an extraordinary urban and sport heritage." The chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee Board of Directors, Peter Ueberroth, said, "History will record that these games are among the greatest, if not the greatest, games of all time." In addition, Secretary of State Colin Powell congratulated Greece for its "successful and secure organization of the games." Hours after demonstrators staged a march in central Athens to protest Powell’s planned visit to Greece to attend the closing ceremony of the games, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the secretary had cancelled his trip due to the "press of business in Washington," such as events in Iraq and Sudan. Powell has proposed that he visit Greece in October. The positive outcome of this Olympiad contrasted starkly with the situation in 2000, when former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch warned Athens that the games might be moved elsewhere due to the city’s insufficient progress in the construction and remodeling of the venues for the athletic events since being named the site of the 2004 games in 1997. The estimated cost of staging the Athens games range from $9 to $12 billion, partially because of the need to allocate funds for extensive overtime pay to finish construction and other preparations on time. The initial budget for the Athens games in 1997 was about $5 billion. The turnaround in the pace of Olympic preparations was largely attributed to the takeover of the process by Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki in April 2000, three years after she had chaired the committee that initially won the bid for Athens to host the 2004 games, as well as four years of intensive scrutiny of these preparations by the IOC, allied western governments, and the international media. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis called on Greece to utilize the success of the games, which he called "a watershed of the new era" in the country, by promoting tourism and investments, as well as the profitable use of the sports venues created for the Olympics. From September 17-28, Athens will host the Paralympics (Special Olympics), in which some 4,000 physically disabled athletes representing a record 140 countries will compete. for more on the Olympics visit our Olympic Watch page August 13, 2004 Security Umbrella for Olympics in Full Operation Washington, D.C. - An unprecedented $1.5 billion security network went into full operation in Greece several days before the August 13 opening ceremony of the Olympics, as International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said the IOC had “full confidence” in the country’s plan for safeguarding the games and the 10,000 participating athletes against potential terrorist attacks. Rogge urged everyone involved in the Olympics to “cooperate fully and follow totally” the Greek government’s security instructions and not “engage in parallel activities, which are not coordinated or approved.” Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said, “Greece is ready for a successful Olympic games in conditions of the greatest possible security,” noting that Athens had spent four times the funds spent in Sydney for security for the 2000 summer games. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington was convinced that Greece had done everything in its power to ensure that the games would be safe. A total of six NATO Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft (AWACS) from Britain and Germany began their surveillance over the Greek capital for at least 18 hours a day at an altitude of 29,000 feet, passing information to ground authorities, while an alliance force of 400 soldiers remained on standby in Germany, ready to intervene in Greece if the need arose. Greek Mirage jetfighters began continuous patrols over Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Volos, and Iraklion, in Crete, where Olympic venues exist, as a specially formed Olympic division of the Greek Army, comprised of 11,000 troops, was deployed to guard Olympic installations and public utilities as part of a total security force of 70,000. A vast computer surveillance network, including thousands of hidden cameras and microphones, chemical sensors, and a web of underwater cables, was also fully in place, with the information gathered being fed into computers at 21 fixed and 5 mobile command centers. If a problem arises, a computer will automatically dispatch police or troops by sending a message over 30,000 radio handsets. At least 100 FBI and U.S. State Department security personnel will be in Greece during the 17-day games. Two days before the opening ceremony, NATO Commander for Southern Europe Admiral Gregory G. Johnson arrived in Athens to meet with the Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, General Georgios Antonakopoulos, to discuss Olympic security issues and attend the ceremony. International Maritime Organization (IMO) officials told Greek Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis that they were completely satisfied with security for the Olympic facilities along the coast and at the port of Piraeus, where cruise ships will be used as hotels during the games and where private yachts will dock. The IOC has taken out a $170 million insurance policy to cover damages stemming from cancellation of the games in the event of a terrorist attack. For more articles on the Olympics check out our Olympic Watch section. August 6, 2004 NATO Unit Combating Chemical Weapons Deployed for Olympic Security Washington, D.C. - To further expand the extensive security network in place for the August 13-29 Athens Olympics, NATO deployed a 200-member force trained in the detection of chemical, biological, and radiological weapons, as well as decontamination following the use of such weapons, in Greece. The bulk of the force, comprised of personnel from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Spain, will be based 53 miles north of Athens in Halkida, on the island of Evvia, along with a state-of-the-art mobile laboratory. Smaller units of the force will be on standby around the Greek capital. Although NATO has approved Greece's request that the alliance provide several hundred Special Operations Forces for rapid-reaction, counterterrorism measures, if necessary, during the games, the details concerning the positioning of the forces, expected to be from the United States, are still being negotiated with Greece. NATO is also providing AWACS surveillance planes, its Mediterranean fleet for maritime surveillance, and intelligence. Minesweepers from the Greek Navy have checked the Saronic Gulf, including the port of Piraeus, where cruise ships will serve as hotels during the Olympics, guarded by frogmen and listening devices. National leaders such as French President Jacques Chirac, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and former U.S. president George H.W. Bush are expected to stay on the cruise ships. In addition, some 35 Greek naval vessels will patrol the Aegean and Ionian seas. More than 53,000 Greek armed services personnel will be involved in ensuring the safety of the games, including the guarding of power stations, waterworks, tunnels, bridges, railroad stations, and the country's borders, comprising the largest operation by Greece's armed forces since World War II. Over 200 Greek naval commandos will be stationed at seaside Olympic venues. Some 1,300 surveillance cameras have been installed throughout Athens, while over 230 Greek military aircraft will monitor the 45-mile no-fly zone over the city. A Swiss blimp equipped with high-resolution cameras and equipment that detects chemical weapons, will patrol Athens from a height of 4,000 feet. Twenty-eight anti-aircraft missile batteries, including those for Patriot missiles, have been deployed. At Athens airport, arriving athletes and Olympic personnel will be kept separate from tourists and other individuals entering Greece through the airport, which will be guarded by an additional 1,000 police officers sent to support the security efforts of the airport's 700 guards. Albania and F.Y.R. Macedonia, on Greece's northern border, have tightened their security in keeping with Greece's safety concerns during the games. Bulgaria, a third northern neighbor, has declared its readiness to assist the Greek government, if necessary, with teams of disaster relief specialists. On August 4, a homemade bomb comprised of a cooking gas canister and a triggering fuse exploded in the bathroom of a road management company, near an electricity substation, six miles north of Athens. The explosion, which damaged the empty building but caused no injuries, occurred before dawn and was not close to an Olympic venue. Greek Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas said Greece's overall costs for the Olympics could be between $7.2 billion and $8.4 billion, well beyond the initial projected budget of $5.5 billion. This, he said, would lead to a budget deficit this year of more than 4 percent of GDP, which would exceed the 3 percent limit set by the European Union and could result in a downgrading of Greece's financial ratings. The inflated costs have been attributed partly to extensive overtime pay for workers to compensate for delays in construction. They also include $1.5 billion for security. July 30, 2004 Air Defense Missiles, Bomb-Detecting Scanners Round Out Olympic Security Shield Washington, D.C. - The Greek Air Force moved U.S.-made Patriot anti-aircraft missile batteries into place at three locations around Athens, as Greek security personnel completed training on the operation of two mobile scanners that will screen vehicles bound for Olympic venues and cargo at the port of Piraeus for explosives and weapons. The scanners are on loan from the U.S. Customs Service. Two Patriots have also been deployed in the northern city of Thessaloniki, while one has been placed on the Aegean island of Skyros. French and Russian air defense systems have been deployed in four additional cities hosting qualifiers of the Olympic soccer tournament, including the city of Herakleion on the island of Crete. Athens will begin imposing a no-fly zone over the city a week before the games begin on August 13 and has drawn up contingency plans to shoot down hijacked planes that could be used in a September 11-style attack. Nearly 300 closed-circuit cameras began conducting surveillance of main avenues and squares in Athens, while three police helicopters and a blimp, equipped with cameras, started monitoring roads near Olympic venues from the air, a process that will continue almost around the clock through the end of the games on August 29. Eleven surveillance vans will also patrol areas throughout the city, transmitting photographic images to a central command center. Six of them will be placed around the port of Piraeus, where seven cruise ships will be used as hotels during the games. In addition, the security network includes microphones that can pick up the sound of underwater swimmers in the port and iris scanners that verify the identities of employees at Athens Airport. July 23, 2004 Armed U.S. Forces Reportedly to Be Used for Olympic Security Washington, D.C. - Greek Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis denied a July 20 New York Times report asserting that the Greek government had agreed to permit 400 American Special Forces soldiers to be present in Greece under NATO auspices during the Olympics and to allow U.S., Israeli, and possibly British security officers protecting athletes to carry weapons. General Richard Meyers, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that the Greek government had asked NATO to consider dispatching a contingent of troops to Greece to help provide security for the games, noting that it was "possible" that U.S. troops could be included in the contingent. "NATO is evaluating that request . . . . And once that decision’s made, then we’ll look at the kinds of capabilities that might be required to help," Meyers said. The general and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld both made clear that any U.S. soldiers helping to provide Olympic security would do so only under the auspices of NATO. Voulgarakis reiterated earlier statements that Greece would be solely responsible for the security of all athletes at the Olympics and would not allow foreign security guards accompanying them to be armed. The Greek Constitution forbids foreign police or security forces to bear arms in Greece. U.S. Ambassador to Greece Thomas Miller also stated that there had been no change in Greece’s policy of taking complete responsibility for Olympic security. The United States is "looking to the Greek government to provide security," Miller said. The New York Times article said 100 American agents to be used as bodyguards for American athletes and dignitaries would also be armed, as would an FBI hostage rescue team and FBI evidence-gathering and analysis personnel who would act in case of an attack. The armed U.S. forces and guards would all be required to operate in the presence of Greek police officers. Voulgarakis said that the only foreign guards allowed to carry guns would be those in the security details of national leaders attending the Olympics. Former U.S. president George H.W. Bush will lead the U.S. presidential delegation to the games, which will include the daughters of President George W. Bush, Jenna and Barbara Bush. The Greek government is taking extra measures to ensure the safety of U.S., British, and Israeli athletes, thought to be at particular risk. Until now, the only country known to have armed its security personnel traveling with Olympic athletes has been Israel, since the attack on its athletes and officials at the 1972 Munich games. This has been done without the formal authorization of Olympic host countries, which generally have not enforced the authorization policy and have turned a blind eye to the Israeli guards. According to a July 17 New York Times report, the Greek government and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), the U.S. company providing a computerized security system for the Olympics, have agreed that a scaled-back version of the system originally envisioned for the games will be used. On July 16, one month before the opening of the games on August 13, the firm started giving Greek law enforcement and intelligence officials access to the system, which is comprised of thousands of cameras, sensors, vehicle locators, and other intelligence-collection devices that are connected to a control sensor. Because of the limited time available before the Olympics begin, the system will not be fully tested before opening day, the report said. While NATO AWACS will monitor the skies over Greece during the games, Greek fighter jets will also conduct 24-hour patrols in a state of readiness as if on war alert. In addition, a blimp carrying surveillance cameras, chemical detection systems, and a crew of anti-terrorism officers will be in the air over the city. Fiber optic surveillance cables have been laid at the bottom of the port of Piraeus in order to allow monitoring of the waters where luxury liners will be used to house officials, particularly those from France and the United States. Cameras and equipment that can detect explosives, metal, and narcotics have been set up in and around the harbor, while 4,000 coastguard employees will guard Piraeus on a 24-hour basis. Greek Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas said international demands to boost Olympic security had increased security costs from the recent estimate of $1.2 billion to at least $1.5 billion. He cited the $2.4 million being paid for the operation of the surveillance blimp as an example of new costs that have arisen. Following a briefing by Voulgarakis on Olympic security measures in Athens to a meeting of EU justice and interior ministers in Brussels, Interior Minister Johan Remkes of the Netherlands, which currently holds the EU presidency, stated that Greece had "an extremely professional" comprehensive security plan in place for the games, with particular attention focused on the threat of terrorism involving chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. In addition, Remkes said, Athens had conducted threat assessments and devised preventive measures for all of its territory, which includes thousands of islands and islets. July 23, 2004 NATO Naval Fleet to Contribute to Olympic Security Washington, D.C. - NATO's entire Mediterranean naval fleet will work alongside Greek maritime forces to monitor Greece's long coastline and hundreds of islands during the Olympics, said the fleet's commander, Rear Adm. Hans Jochen Witthauer. Command of the Standing Naval Force Mediterranean (STANAVFORMED) will be assumed on August 5 by Greek Commodore Yiannis Karaiskos. Greece asked for NATO's assistance in providing security for the games following the March terrorist bombings in Madrid. STANAVFORMED, which includes more than a dozen frigates, destroyers, and other ships, will operate outside Greece's territorial waters. It has been involved in anti-terrorism patrols throughout the Mediterranean as part of Operation Active Endeavor, instigated after the September 11 terrorist attacks to conduct regional counterterrorism and intelligence activities. July 16, 2004 U.S. Agents to Guard Olympic Athletes in Crete Training Camp Washington, D.C. - Armed agents from the United States will provide security for American athletes taking part in the Athens Olympics while they are in a training camp on the Greek island of Crete prior to the opening of the games on August 13. The agents will also take dogs trained to detect explosives to Crete. Greek security officials stated that at least 45 American agents would accompany some 200 athletes and their support staff to the training camp beginning in early August, while about 24 of them will be issued permits by Greek authorities to carry weapons. The officials said FBI agents had visited Crete to work out the logistics of the training period. During the Olympics, the U.S. team will be accompanied in Athens by some 120 agents from the State Department’s diplomatic security office and 30 FBI agents. In addition, a U.S. anti-terrorist unit of 300 to 500 armed men and women will be stationed at the Elefsina military airport, west of Athens, during the games. On July 1, the supreme allied commander of NATO, U.S. General James Jones, met with Greek officials in Athens to discuss NATO’s security role during the games, which includes providing AWACS surveillance planes; radiological, biological, and chemical response capability; intelligence; and maritime security. Greek Public Order Minister Yiorgos Voulgarakis visited Turkey on July 12-14 to discuss bilateral security cooperation in conjunction with preparations for the Olympics with Turkish Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu. The ministers signed a memorandum of understanding for joint efforts against terrorism, illegal migration, and drug smuggling. June 18, 2004 European Parliament Election Results Show Continuing Decline in Support for PASOK Washington, D.C. - The ruling conservative New Democracy Party's nine-point lead over the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) in the June 10-13 European Parliament elections reflected continued voter abandonment of the party that governed Greece for all but three of the 24 years that preceded the March parliamentary elections. While New Democracy received 43.03 percent of the vote in the Euroelections, compared to 45.3 percent in March, PASOK's electoral support declined from 40.5 percent in March to 34.01 percent in the Europe-wide elections. The People's Orthodox Rally (LAOS), a far-right party led by populist journalist Yiorgos Karatzaferis, garnered 4.1 percent of the vote, giving it one seat in the European Parliament, which will be filled by Karatzaferis, who has openly expressed anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and racist views. Representation of LAOS in the Parliament marks the first time a far-right Greek party will be represented in Strasbourg since the National Political Union (EPEN), a now-defunct party nostalgic for Greece's 1967-1974 military junta, won a seat in 1984. June 4, 2004 Cost Overruns, Delays in Preparations Mar Olympic Atmosphere Washington, D.C. - Greek Minister of National Economy and Finance Giorgios Alogoskoufis stated that Greece "would not have been so enthusiastic" in its bid to host the 2004 summer Olympics if it had known that the need for more stringent security measures in a post-September 11 environment and the delays in construction and other venue preparations would lead to high cost overruns and a lost opportunity "to exploit the games positively abroad." The government's overall budget for the games has ballooned from $3.1 billion to $5.6 billion, but PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said this estimate may still be too low as certain costs have not yet been included. PwC stated that hosting the Olympics would result in an estimated budget deficit of 3 percent of Greece's GDP. "Because issues were left until the last minute," Alogoskoufis said, the $1.3 billion budget for constructing and refurbishing sports facilities has already been exceeded by about $610 million. The minister's comments followed an assertion by Greek Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias that he "had to question whether [Greece] should have undertaken the organization of the games." The Public Works Ministry is in charge of construction for most of the Olympic venues. In 1997, when the International Olympic Committee awarded this year's games to Greece, the smallest country to host them since Finland in the summer of 1952, there was no hint that the global security environment would be the worst in decades, requiring a complex anti-terrorist strategy that would inflate the security budget from about $700 million to $1.2 billion. A recent string of low-level bombings in Greece has intensified the international spotlight on the country's security preparedness for hosting the games. Greek officials have attributed such attacks, which have, for years, periodically been directed at targets that include diplomatic cars, foreign and Greek banks, political party offices, and ministries, to domestic extremist groups that officials believe are not likely to threaten the Olympics. After a home-made bomb went off in a court building on the evening of May 29 in the central Greek town of Larissa, causing slight injuries to a pedestrian, Greek Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis said the incident gave "no cause for particular concern." Although no one claimed responsibility for the bombing, Greek media speculated that it could have been staged by supporters of the disbanded November 17 terrorist group, since 12 of the 14 convicted members of the group will reportedly be moved from an Athens prison to a penitentiary near Larissa. On May 5, three bombs damaged an Athens police station, causing no injuries. On May 13, a firebomb damaged a branch of a Greek bank, resulting in no injuries, while two similar explosive devices were found at a nearby branch of the London-based bank HSBC, but did not explode. On May 19, a small unexploded bomb was found outside a British car dealership in Athens, a few hundred yards from the Hellenikon Sports Complex, the second-largest Olympic venue after the main Olympic Stadium. A group called Popular Revolutionary Action claimed responsibility for planting the bomb. The first week in June, a group of 24 Greek soldiers from the naval, air, and ground forces underwent a seven-day course in the Czech Republic on dealing with the nerve agent sarin, mustard gas, and other toxic materials that could be used by terrorists in an attack against the Olympics. Another group of 24 soldiers will receive the instruction the second week in July. A security exercise planned in Greece for early June, with the participation of the police and armed forces, will concentrate on guarding the port of Piraeus, where cruise ships will serve as hotels for Olympic officials, dignitaries, and others during the games. Two months prior to the August 13 opening of the Olympics, only 1.8 million of an available 5.3 million tickets for the games have been sold, according to the Greek Olympic organizers. May 28, 2004 U.S. Provides Radiation Detectors for Olympic Security Washington, D.C. - The United States has provided Greece with dozens of portable radiation detectors for its ports, airports, and border crossings as part of a $1.2 billion security strategy the Greek government has undertaken in preparation for the Athens Olympics. The donation was part of an effort coordinated by the International Atomic Energy Agency. U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, who presented the devices to the Greek government during a ceremony in Athens, stated that the equipment, worth $25 million, would enhance the ability of first response personnel to protect themselves and the public from exposure to radioactive materials that are released either by accident or through criminal intent. The U.S. is one of seven nations comprising an advisory group that is offering training and intelligence to boost security in Greece during the games. The radiation detectors are being installed at 32 points of entry throughout the country, including 7 airports, 12 seaports, and 13 border checkpoints and customs offices, while security officials policing the games will also be issued detectors. Similar U.S. equipment is already in use at Athens international airport. The U.S. military base at Souda Bay on the Greek island of Crete has stockpiles of emergency medical equipment that can be used in case of biochemical or radiation attacks. May 21, 2004 Bush Praises Greece for Olympic Security Preparations During Karamanlis Visit Washington, D.C. - President Bush, in talks with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in Washington, thanked Greece for working closely with the United States to ensure that the Athens Olympics are carried out in "as secure an environment as possible." Bush stated that the Greek government had made "very good progress" toward this goal. The United States is part of an advisory group, also including Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Israel, and Spain, that is helping Greece with security planning for the Olympics. Karamanlis told the president that Athens was "doing everything humanly possible in terms of energy, resources, [and] professionals to secure really successful games, and I am confident that we will succeed." White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said the prime minister's visit to the White House had been an opportunity for Washington and Athens to "deepen our partnership in pursuit of democracy, prosperity, and peace in southeastern Europe and the greater Middle East." McClellan said the two leaders had discussed the war on terrorism, while Bush thanked Karamanlis for Greece's contribution of troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Bush also briefed Karamanlis on Washington's strategy in Iraq, including the training of Iraqi security forces. The president noted the importance of moving forward to secure a U.N. Security Council resolution that will legitimize the new interim Iraqi government to be installed on June 30 and will encourage broader international participation in the U.S.-led stabilization of the country. Karamanlis told reporters that Greece continued to support, and would actively participate in, international efforts to achieve a transition to a democratic Iraq, while calling for the broadest possible involvement of the United Nations as soon as possible. McClellan said Bush and Karamanlis also discussed the Middle East peace process, including U.S. efforts "to get the parties back to moving forward on the road map and achieving the president's two-state vision." Following his meetings with the president and with Vice President Richard Cheney, Karamanlis stated that, despite the outcome of the April 24 referenda in Cyprus on the Annan settlement plan, it was important to remain firmly committed to the goal of reunifying the country and "we must intensify our efforts in that direction." The prime minister said he supported economic assistance for the Turkish Cypriots, but it would be "far short of recognition or participation in the EU" and, therefore, reunification efforts must be renewed. The basis for these efforts, he said, should be the Annan plan. Karamanlis also said that, in his talks, he had mentioned that the improvement in Greek-Turkish relations, both on a bilateral level and within a European framework, "contributes to the consolidation of peace and stability in the region" and was of benefit to both the Turkish and Greek people. The Turkish government, he stated, has "unleashed forces of reform and moderation" and Greece is "at its side" as it pursues the constitutional, political, and economic requirements for EU membership. The prime minister said that a "new era in Greek-Turkish relations" was beginning. He also told the U.S. leadership that Greece's cooperation with Balkan countries, on political and economic levels, was playing a role in stabilizing the region. Included in the meetings at the White House were National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Elizabeth Jones. Karamanlis also met with Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Representative Henry Hyde (R-Illinois), chairman of the House Committee on International Relations; and other members of these committees. Karamanlis was accompanied by Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis and Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos. May 14, 2004 Greek Extremist Group Threatens Olympic Spectators Washington, D.C. - The Greek extremist group "Revolutionary Struggle," in a declaration published May 13 in a Greek weekly newspaper, claimed responsibility for a triple bomb attack on an Athens police station the week before and stated that business people connected to the Athens summer Olympics, as well as wealthy tourists who attend the event, are "undesirable." The same day the statement was published, a firebomb damaged a branch of a Greek bank causing minor damage and no casualties, while two similar explosive devices were found at a nearby branch of the London-based HSBC Bank, but did not explode. There has been no claim of responsibility for planting these bombs. Little is known about Revolutionary Struggle, which made its first appearance in September 2003 when it claimed responsibility for two bombs detonated at an Athens court complex, resulting in the injury of a policeman. In March, the group also claimed responsibility for a planned bomb attack on a Citibank branch, which was thwarted by police. With Greek authorities in the process of training 70,000 personnel to ensure the safety of the August Olympics as part of a $1.2 billion security plan, Revolutionary Struggle stated that its attack on the police station, causing limited damage but no injuries, was carried out to show the station's "vulnerability" and indicate that the "famous dogma of total security is meaningless." In addition, the group said, the attack was "a response to the participation of the Greek state in the ‘anti-terrorist' war and a warning for its impending, direct ‘humanitarian' involvement in the Iraq war." The group's declaration also said, "With regard to the Olympic games, we say that Greece's transformation into a fortress, NATO's involvement, the presence and activities of foreign intelligence units show clearly that [the Olympics] are not a festival like games organizers say, but it's a war." "All members of international capital (multinational companies, business executives), global mercenary killers, the state officials, and the wealthy Western tourists who plan on finding themselves at the games are undesirable," the statement added. The declaration was published as Athens security personnel began a four-day simulated Olympic counter-terrorism response exercise, "Olympic Guardian II," in cooperation with senior American officials and representatives of the six other countries that are advising the Greek government on security planning for the games. The exercise is the second phase of a drill that was conducted in November 2003 at the U.S. military's European command center in Stuttgart, Germany. Greek government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said the government was treating Revolutionary Struggle's declaration concerning the Olympics with "seriousness and responsibility" but it was "not worried" since "a plan has been drafted and implemented that guarantees the security" of the games. May 14, 2004 Erdogan Makes Rare Visit to Muslim Minority Community in Greece Washington, D.C. - Following his official visit to Athens to meet with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a private trip to the Thrace region of northern Greece to visit the 120,000-member Muslim minority, more than half of which is Turkish-speaking. (See Country Updates, "Greece, Turkey Pledge Strategic Partnership Despite Failure to Unify Cyprus," May 10, 2004.) The last Turkish head of government to visit Greece's Muslim community was Prime Minister Adnan Menderes in 1952. The community, which Greece says is composed of ethnic Turks, Pomaks, who speak a dialect similar to Bulgarian, and Roma, or Gypsies, has long been a source of friction between Greece and Turkey because the Greek government does not refer to it as a "Turkish" minority, as called for in the past by the Turkish government and several domestic Muslim organizations. Greece maintains that the community is a religious rather than an ethnic minority, according to the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, which refers to the minority as "Muslim." Under this treaty, Greece and Turkey carried out a population exchange, while allowing some 110,000 ethnic Greeks to remain in Istanbul and on two Turkish islands, and some 115,000 ethnic Turks to stay in Thrace. Erdogan told hundreds of Muslims gathered outside the Turkish Consulate in the town of Komotini, 42 miles from the Turkish border, "You will, without doubt, protect your special identity. Nobody is telling you to lose or give up your Turkish identity. But don't forget you are citizens of Greece." He added, "My presence here must be a lesson [of friendship] for all people." The prime minister noted that the inhabitants of Thrace were also citizens of the European Union. He said, "Do your utmost to make Greece a strong and dynamic country. I wholeheartedly believe that, with a strong Greece, you also will gain more benefits." He added that, "with the help of Greece, [Turkey] will succeed" in joining the EU. Leaders of Greece's Muslim community have demanded greater educational rights. Although primary school education is provided in Turkish, there is little secondary school instruction in the language. The Greek government appoints the community's Muslim religious leaders, or muftis, rather than permitting them to be elected. Greece's highest administrative court ruled in April 2003 that the appointment of muftis did not constitute a breach of religious rights, since these Muslim leaders also have powers similar to those of a senior civil servant or a judge. May 10, 2004 Greece, Turkey Pledge Strategic Partnership Despite Failure to Unify Cyprus Washington, D.C. - During a visit to Athens by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan less than two weeks after referenda failed to solve the Cyprus problem, a core issue between Greece and Turkey, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said his government would support Turkey's bid to join the European Union, which will decide in December whether to grant Ankara a date to begin accession talks. Erdogan's talks with Karamanlis, President Costis Stephanopoulos, Parliament Speaker Anna Psarouda-Benaki, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyiannis, and opposition leaders focused on bilateral relations, Greek-Turkish disputes in the Aegean, Turkey's EU aspirations, the future of Cyprus, and trade issues. His visit to Greece marked the first by a Turkish head of government in 16 years. At a joint news conference, the prime ministers made clear that the failure to reunify Cyprus would not impede the improvement of bilateral relations, as they spoke of establishing "a strategic partnership." Karamanlis noted that "the views of our two countries on the new road taken by Greek-Turkish relations coincide" and "we noted with satisfaction the progress made." He said mutual relations had entered a "new orbit," based on mutual trust. Erdogan stated that he wanted the two countries "to build the future together," noting that the Greek-Turkish rapprochement that began five years ago was continuing "very satisfactorily." He said relations had "acquired a directness, which is very important." During the visit, a dozen trade agreements concluded between Greece and Turkey since 1999 were reviewed. Trade between the two countries has jumped to $2 billion this year from $500 million two years ago. Erdogan was accompanied by a group of 100 business leaders. Erdogan's trip to Greece included a private visit to western Thrace in northeastern Greece, home to about 120,000 Turkish-speaking Muslims. Though Muslim groups have urged Greece to recognize them as a "Turkish minority," the government refers to them as a "Muslim minority." It is the first time a Turkish leader has visited the community since 1953. Greek and Turkish diplomats have held 24 rounds of negotiations concerning the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf and other Aegean issues. The presidency conclusions of the December 1999 Helsinki EU summit, where Turkey was named an EU candidate, stipulated that the differences between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean would be referred to the International Court of Justice in The Hague if they were not resolved bilaterally by the end of 2004. May 10, 2004 Leftists Suspected in Athens Police Station Attacks Washington, D.C. - Three bombs, which authorities believe were planted by one of Greece's local, radical left-wing groups, damaged an Athens police station on May 4, destroying cars and shattering windows in nearby apartment buildings. Although no group has claimed responsibility for the blasts, an anonymous caller informed a newspaper that the bombs had been placed outside the station, enabling authorities to evacuate the area before the pre-dawn explosions occurred. Greek police said the types of explosive devices used resembled those employed by the "Revolutionary Struggle" group in an attack on a courthouse complex in central Athens in September 2003 and an attempted bombing of a Citibank branch in the Greek capital in November. The explosions, occurring 100 days before the summer Olympics were scheduled to open, took place in the central Athens area of Kalithea, where several of the hotels to be used by Olympic officials during the games are located. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stated that the bombs constituted "an isolated incident which does not affect whatsoever the safety of the Olympic preparation." Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis, during a visit to Washington, asserted that the blasts constituted "an isolated minor incident that frequently happens in Europe without special meaning." He said the incident had been exaggerated in the Western press and had nothing to do with Olympic security. The bombings, the minister stated, were carried out by "local extremists which are everywhere," noting that the incident was "not a problem" and "nothing will disturb security for the games." Prior to the bomb explosions, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), for the first time, took out insurance worth $170 million against partial or full cancellation of the summer games due to war, terrorism, earthquakes, flooding, or landslides. The IOC also plans to insure the 2006 winter games in Turin, Italy. Although the November 17 terrorist group has been dismantled and members of Greece's oldest urban guerrilla group, the People's Revolutionary Struggle (ELA), are currently on trial, smaller groups have continued to carry out bombings and arson attacks in Athens and other Greek cities, primarily against cars and commercial targets, with injuries being rare. In April, the U.S. State Department's annual report on terrorism stated that the "low-level bombings against an array of perceived establishment and so-called imperialist targets . . . underscore the lingering nature of left-wing terrorism in Greece." Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer stated that Canberra wanted to send federal police officers to Athens to protect Australian athletes and was planning to keep two aircraft on stand-by during the games so that athletes can be evacuated in the event of a terrorist attack. The Greek government has stated that no country participating in the games will be allowed to provide their own armed security personnel to protect athletes. May 10, 2004 Greek Officials Discuss Olympic Security, Law Enforcement, Terrorism Issues in Washington Washington, D.C. - In a series of meetings in Washington, Greek Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis focused on security preparations for the Athens Olympics in talks with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and CIA Director George Tenet. Voulgarakis also discussed issues concerning terrorism and organized crime with these officials and with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg during their meeting in New York, which is bidding to host the 2012 summer Olympics. The minister was accompanied by the head of the Greek intelligence service, Pavlos Apostolidis, and the chief of police, Fotis Nasiakos. In planning its Olympic security strategy, Athens has been cooperating closely with the United States, one of seven nations comprising a security advisory group that is assisting the Greek government. At a press conference in Washington, Voulgarakis said 70,000 police, military, intelligence service, coast guard, and fire brigade personnel would be providing security for 17,000 athletes and official escorts, 2 million spectators, Olympic organizers, and media at 126 Olympic venues around the country. These personnel, he stated, have already undergone training to deal with 200 hypothetical scenarios that could disrupt the games. The minister said a security surveillance system provided by a U.S. company involved the installment of 1,400 cameras throughout Athens. The cameras are linked to computers that process information rapidly and refer it to a communication system that will act on the data, even during a disruption of power. He said 2,800 police have been trained to operate the system over the last three years. Voulgarakis said Greece would be spending about $1.2 billion for Olympic security, three times the amount allocated for the security budget at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Initially, he stated, Greece had planned to spend about $238 million for security, but it has increased the expenditure due to the environment prevailing after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the suicide bombings in Istanbul against synagogues and British targets in November 2003, and the Madrid train bombings in March. Greece, the minister said, is prepared to ensure the security of everyone at the Olympics and will conduct the "safest" games ever. Voulgarakis said Greece had asked NATO to provide assistance against attacks from the air through the deployment of AWACS surveillance planes, expertise against chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks, sea patrols, and help in gathering and processing security-related information. The minister said he had noted to U.S. officials that the training Greek personnel have undergone using state-of-the-art technological advancements have rendered Greece an expert on security matters. Greece, he stated, can share this expertise with other Balkan countries to enhance the regional security environment. He said he would be visiting neighboring countries to ensure that they are coordinating their security preparations and law enforcement policies at their borders with those of Greece, prior to and during the Olympics. Greek Deputy Defense Minister Vassilis Michaloliakos, whose visit to the United States overlapped with that of Voulgarakis, met with Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy Mira Ricardel in Washington within the framework of the 11th U.S.-Greece High Level Consultative Committee (HLCC). The topics discussed included stability in the Balkans and the Middle East, security preparations for the Olympics, terrorism, defense industry cooperation, modernization of the Greek armed forces, and security assistance issues. The HLCC meetings between officials of the department of defense and the ministry of defense are held annually, alternating between Athens and Washington, and are attended by delegations comprised of defense officials, military officers, and officials from the foreign ministry and department of state. April 23, 2004 Greek, Turkish Prime Ministers Pledge Continued Cooperation Washington, D.C. - Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meeting on April 21 on the sidelines of the Southeast Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit in Sarajevo, pledged to continue to strengthen bilateral relations, irrespective of the results of the referenda on the Annan plan in Cyprus on April 24. Karamanlis said Greece would continue to support Turkey's bid for EU membership no matter how the referenda turn out. He noted that a possible rejection of the Annan plan by the Greek Cypriots should not be viewed as "an obstacle for the development of friendly relations and confidence" between Greece and Turkey. He said Turkey would find Greece "supporting it in every effort which . . . brings it closer to Europe." Erdogan stated that he would visit Greece soon, no matter what the outcome is on April 24, although he did not announce a date for the trip. Press reports said it was likely to take place on May 6-7, when Erdogan has been invited to attend the international "Economist" conference in Athens. Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul also participated in the meeting of the prime ministers. March 12, 2004 Greece Moves to Right of Center with New Democracy Victory Washington, D.C. - With this year’s major challenges of resolving the Cyprus problem and hosting the summer Olympics looming, the Greek electorate gave the center-right main opposition New Democracy Party (ND) a 5 point victory over the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), interrupting PASOK’s dominance over the country’s politics for only the second time in 23 years. U.S.-educated Costas Karamanlis, ND’s leader for the last seven years, has become the first Greek prime minister born after World War II. Karamanlis, 47, has never previously held a cabinet post. New Democracy received 45.3 percent of the votes compared to 40.5 percent for PASOK. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), with 5.9 percent, and the Coalition of the Radical Left, an alliance of left-wing groups including former members of the Eurocommunist Party, with 3.2 percent, are the only other parties in parliament, where a party must receive at least 3 percent of the votes to qualify for representation. With only five months remaining before the August Olympics and more than half of the venues unfinished, including the main stadium, the aquatic center, and the marathon route, Karamanlis stated that preparations for the games would be one of the government’s top priorities. He appointed himself minister of culture, the cabinet member in charge of managing the games, as well as the construction and renovation of venues for the athletic events. The prime minister noted that he would not change any key personnel involved in organizing the Olympics or providing security for them. The country’s policies toward Cyprus and Turkey are not expected to change substantially. Both Karamanlis and PASOK leader George Papandreou refrained from discussing the Cyprus problem during their campaigns. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that the positive dialogue between Greece and Turkey would continue under Karamanlis’s administration. Erdogan said his government wanted “to cooperate harmoniously” with the new Greek government to help find a solution to the Cyprus problem. He also said he looked forward to holding talks with Greece concerning Aegean issues. Erdogan and Karamanlis have both stated that they would like to meet as soon as possible, but there has been no announcement regarding a location or date for the meeting. Karamanlis had promised to choose a cabinet that would consist of people of his generation. Eleven of the 19 ministerial posts went to people with no previous experience as cabinet members. Veteran politicians were appointed to head the key foreign, national defense, public order, and national economy and finance ministries. Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, 76, a career diplomat and expert on Greek-Turkish relations, was the director of the Political Office of Constantine Karamanlis, a prime minister in the 1970s who founded the New Democracy Party and was an uncle of the new prime minister. In addition, Molyviatis served as Secretary of the presidency of Constantine Karamanlis from 1980 to 1985 and from 1990 to 1995. He is expected to lead Greece in its negotiations with Turkey for a Cyprus settlement. National Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos, 58, was a close aide to President Karamanlis in the 1980s, serving as his liaison with the Defense Ministry. A retired military officer, he was also Deputy National Defense Minister in the New Democracy government of Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis, which governed Greece from 1990 to 1993. In addition, Spiliotopoulos handled defense issues for New Democracy while it was in the opposition. Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis, 45, whose ministry will be heavily involved in security preparations for the Olympics, is an economist who has been a long-time trusted confidant of the new prime minister. He was the Deputy Minister of Public Works in Mitsotakis’s government and served as president of New Democracy’s youth movement from 1987 to 1989. Minister of National Economy and Finance George Alogoskoufis, 49, an economics professor, was the architect of ND’s economic plan promising tax cuts, investment incentives, and market deregulation. He was also an advisor in Mitsotakis’s government. Karamanlis is expected to focus on improving the economy, including reform of the pension systems and the agricultural sector; lowering taxes to fuel growth; tackling the rising national debt, which is more than 100 percent of GDP; reducing the 9 percent unemployment rate and creating new jobs; promoting investments; putting more resources into education and training; addressing the issue of deteriorating health services; and speeding up privatization of state firms and deregulation of key markets, such as the power sector. In addition, he has said he will eliminate corruption, especially the acceptance of bribes by officials, and downsize the bloated and inefficient state bureaucracy, viewed by the electorate as problems that have contributed to the country’s being ranked as Europe’s least competitive economy and the least attractive destination in the EU for foreign investment. The New Democracy government is likely to encounter strikes and other resistance from Greece’s labor unions, traditionally supportive of PASOK, if bold economic measures are introduced. (See profile of the new Greek government.) March 12, 2004 U.S. Military Plays Key Role in Olympic Security Exercise Washington, D.C. - Some 300 U.S. troops are providing command and control assistance to 2,000 Greek security forces and military personnel staging a two-week security exercise in Athens and at various locations around Greece where athletic events for the summer Olympics will be held. Dozens of observers from Britain, Canada, Germany, and Israel are also present for the exercise, which will help the Greeks test their ability to react to emergency situations, including terrorist incidents, evacuations, earthquakes, and fires, and will provide training for the first responders involved. Although there is a news blackout on the operation, codenamed "Shield of Hercules," it is expected to involve mock scenarios that simulate an attack using weapons of mass destruction, the hijacking of a ship, and hostage taking. The maneuver also includes participation by Greece's police, coast guard, fire authorities, and secret services, as well as the Greek Atomic Energy Committee, the Civil Aviation Authority, and the National Meteorological Service. The United States is one of seven nations taking part in the Olympic Security Assistance Group (OSAG) for the games, along with Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Israel, and Spain. Russia and Turkey are also providing help concerning security preparations. The security budget for the Athens Olympics is $792 million, three times the amount spent to make the last summer Olympics in Sydney safe. The Greek government has formally asked NATO to assist with Olympic security, primarily with regard to aerial surveillance, the joint monitoring of the seas, and protection against a chemical, biological, or nuclear incident. March 5, 2004 Election Race Tight Going into March 7 Polls Washington, D.C. - As Greece geared up for the March 7 parliamentary elections, Greeks anticipated a very close race on the basis of the last opinion polls conducted two weeks before the election, prior to the ban on poll-taking leading into election day. Although these polls gave the conservative main opposition New Democracy Party (ND) a 3 to 4 point lead over the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), the gap was well within the margin of error, suggesting that the victor would not be given a strong mandate to govern. PASOK leader George Papandreou emphasized that he would promote massive changes within the party that would include measures eliminating corruption, particularly at administrative levels that directly impacted citizens, such as those applying for licenses to build homes. Papandreou and New Democracy Party leader Costas Karamanlis, who are both focusing on centrist voters, continued to stress that they would concentrate on upgrading Greece's social services, including the health care system and education, while also implementing marked increases in pensions. Just two weeks after an unusually heavy snowstorm blanketed Greece, both candidates campaigned in agricultural areas that were adversely affected by the harsh weather and promised to expand benefits to farmers. Papandreou pledged to double farmers' pensions, eliminate a 5 percent social security contribution by retirees, eliminate payment for medicines by people who take early retirement after 3,500 days of work, allow the registered unemployed to use public transport free of charge, and guarantee that one child from a family of four or more children would be given a job in the public sector. While also calling for significant increases in farmers' pensions, increased social security allowances, and bringing salary and pension levels up to the EU average within 10 years, Karamanlis accused Papandreou of resorting to populism in an attempt to close the gap between PASOK and ND in the polls. New Democracy spokesman Theodoris Roussopoulos said that PASOK, in the past, had turned down a ND proposal to eliminate the 5 percent contribution that pensioners pay. Karamanlis stated that his party "stands by the farmer, the small and medium-size enterprises, the working people and pensioners," while also looking out for the unemployed and "the youth who study without support and suitable means." While Papandreou stated that he would impose major cuts in military spending to finance reforms in social services, Karamanlis was more circumspect concerning how these reforms would be financed. Papandreou has pledged to reduce the corporate tax rate to 30 percent, and Karamanlis has promised to bring it down to 25 percent. February 27, 2004 Vote Intention Poll Washington, D.C. - Latest polling analysis conducted by American Research in Athens, Greece. Slide presentation of the findings.(power point show) February 20, 2004 Need for Reform of Higher Education a Campaign Issue Washington, D.C. - During the campaign leading up to the March 7 parliamentary elections, the leader of the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), George Papandreou, and the head of the main opposition New Democracy Party (ND), Costas Karamanlis, have both called for legalizing the creation of private, non-profit universities in the country, which the Greek constitution now prohibits. Article 16 of the constitution states that university education in Greece shall be provided exclusively by public institutions that do not charge fees, under the supervision of the state. A few private foreign universities do have branch campuses in the country. However, degrees issued by these institutions are not recognized in Greece. In mid-February, the European Parliament approved legislation proposed by two ND Europarliamentarians stipulating that an EU country must recognize degrees issued by branch campuses of universities in other EU nations that operate within that country. Under this legislation, which must be approved by the EU Council of Ministers in order to become law throughout the bloc, Greece would have to recognize degrees from European private universities operating in the country. In a statement, the Greek Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs said that, if the Council of Ministers approved the legislation, the Greek government would appeal the decision to the European Court. The rector of the University of Athens, Yiorgos Babiniotis, issued a statement calling the legislation "a shame and insult for Greek higher education." Critics of the Greek public education system say the lack of competition from private universities has resulted in a failure to develop new fields of study that are compatible with the needs of the job market and produce skilled professionals that would make Greece more competitive in the global economy. Students who enroll in Greek universities are not always placed in the majors they request. In addition, critics say, insufficient emphasis is placed on academic research among professors, who are civil servants and secure in their jobs. Although the Greek public university system provides education free of charge, a recent report released by the University of Ioannina in northern Greece indicated that 73 percent of the families of students enrolled in Greek universities had to pay for private tutorial classes to prepare these students for taking mandatory entrance exams. It is estimated that Greek families spend more than $1.3 billion annually for these tutorials in an attempt to ensure that their children will be among the limited number of students admitted to the universities. An EU report published in December 2001 stated that the average Greek household spent 2.4 percent of its total income for education compared to the EU average of 0.83 percent. The report also said that the Greek government's allocation for education, 3.5 percent of GDP, was the lowest of all EU member states, which spend 5.5 percent on average. Strong competition for places in Greece's state universities has led thousands of students to leave Greece to study abroad, necessitating fluency in a second language and large expenditures of money. Globally, Greece has the highest proportion of students enrolled abroad, 60,000, relative to its total population of 11 million. In terms of absolute numbers studying abroad, Greece ranks fourth despite being the 73rd most populous nation in the world. (For additional background information read our commentary "The Case for Ending Greece's Ban on Private Universities" by Richard Jackson and Kimis Krionas, September 2003) February 13, 2004 Need for Social Security Reform Highlighted in Campaign Washington, D.C. - The February 8 election of Foreign Minister George Papandreou as chairman of the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) dominated the Greek media as Papandreou continued to spar with main opposition New Democracy Party leader Costas Karamanlis over economic issues. In a departure from PASOK's usual procedure of electing its chairman through the votes of about 5,000 of the party's 146,000 registered members during a party congress, Papandreou, seeking the chairmanship unopposed, sought a popular mandate through a nationwide ballot for his stated goal of changing the direction of the party. Both registered grassroots party members and people outside of the party were permitted to vote for him. More than 1 million people, including Greeks in the United States and Australia, participated in the voting process, which required a change in the party's charter. The process was viewed as an effort by PASOK to boost the party's standing in the polls, in which New Democracy continued to maintain a lead of 3 to 5 points over PASOK, while Papandreou was still favored over Karamanlis as a potential prime minister by 3 to 4 points. The parliament was dissolved on February 11 to open the way for sustained campaigning in the run up to the March 7 elections. Particular attention has been given during the campaign to the need for social security reform. Revamping the nearly bankrupt, pay-as-you-go social security system into a viable system is one of the country's most urgent priorities. The European Union has emphasized that this reform is one of the structural changes that must be undertaken to make the Greek economy more competitive. Although neither PASOK nor New Democracy has stated exactly how it would proceed with this reform, the candidates have said that they recognized the urgency of tackling the problem. An effort by Prime Minister Costas Simitis to launch a comprehensive overhaul of the social security system in 2001 met with stiff resistance by labor unions and was abandoned. There are now 2.3 employees making social security contributions for every pensioner covered by Greece's largest social security and pension fund, which finances the retirement of all government employees and workers in the private sector who are not enrolled in a variety of smaller funds for various professions. This ratio is expected to drop to 1.3 employees for every retiree by 2035, when 5.1 million employees will be paying the pensions of 4 million people. Greece has one of the lowest birthrates in the EU, and people over 65 are expected to comprise 25 percent of the population in 2040 if the trend continues. Greece's public pension expenditure is expected to reach 19 percent of GDP by 2050. February 13, 2004 ELA Terrorism Trial Begins Washington, D.C. - Less than two months after 15 members of the November 17 terrorist group were convicted in Greece’s first major terrorism trial, the trial of five suspected members of the Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA), the country’s oldest urban guerrilla group, got underway. The defendants, four men and one woman, face charges dating back only to 1986, because of the 20-year statute of limitation laws, although ELA surfaced a few months before November 17 killed the first of its 23 victims in December 1975. ELA claimed responsibility for two murders, as well as numerous attempted murders and bomb attacks on Greek and foreign targets, ending with a bombing in Athens in 1995. It grew out of the radical left-wing opposition to the military dictatorship that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974, as did November 17. The five ELA suspects, arrested in January 2003, are Christos Tsigaridas, an architect; Costas Agapiou, a civil engineer; Angeletos Kanas, an electrician and the former mayor of the island of Kimolos; Irene Athanassaki, a travel agency employee; and Michalis Kassimis, a civil servant. They are charged with involvement in 83 terrorist acts, including the killing of Supreme Court Deputy Prosecutor Anastassios Vernardos in 1989, the murder of senior police officer Apostolos Velios in 1994, and the attempted murder of Giorgios Raftopoulos, then president of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), the country’s largest labor umbrella group, in 1987. Authorities believe that ELA had closer links to guerrilla groups in Germany and Italy than did November 17. It had offshoots within Greece such as Popular Struggle, Red Initiative, and May 1. February 6, 2004 Candidates Focus on Economic Issues as Campaign Accelerates Washington, D.C. - As opinion polls showed the New Democracy Party leading the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) by some four percentage points a month before the March 7 parliamentary elections, ND leader Costas Karamanlis and Foreign Minister George Papandreou focused heavily on economic issues in their campaign speeches. Papandreou is expected to be elected the leader of PASOK on February 8, replacing Prime Minister Costas Simitis as party head. Polls continued to show that Papandreou was preferred over Karamanlis as the respondents' choice for prime minister. A Eurobarometer report on Greece made public on February 2 indicated that the top five concerns of Greeks are unemployment, government spending, rising crime, inflation, and health care, in that order. The survey was carried out from October 1 to November 7, 2003. In addition, Eurostat data indicated that Greeks spend 6.3 percent of the GDP on health-related goods and services, more than the citizens of any other EU nation. Karamanlis unveiled New Democracy's economic platform, which offers higher pensions across the board, a key concern of voters, along with social insurance reform; reductions in corporate taxes, expected to stimulate the creation of jobs; and lower household taxes. Addressing the concerns of jobless youth, Karamanlis stated that young people who were registered with the state unemployment agency would be considered "protected members" of families for an additional two-years, reducing the taxes of the families affected. Special programs would be initiated for graduates unable to find work. In addition, he pledged to establish training and employment programs for unemployed women and young women in rural areas. Papandreou stated that his recommendations for combating youth unemployment would lead to a 3.2 percent decrease in the overall unemployment rate, which now stands at about 9 percent. Under his program, he said, a young person unemployed for more than six months would receive specialized training and employment support, while education loans for young and unemployed people would be subsidized. The candidates also targeted the farm sector, which has been hit by particularly bad weather, stiff competition with the agricultural sectors of other European Union countries, and difficulty in repaying bank loans. This sector is expected to be impacted further in May when the EU expands from 15 to 25 members, some of which have agricultural sectors that can market produce more cheaply, such as Poland. According to a January 2003 report, Greece's farmers comprise 18 percent of the country's total labor force, contribute 8 percent to the GDP, and are responsible for 30 percent of the country's exports. Karamanlis promised to raise the monthly pensions of farmers, considered to be especially low in comparison to those of other labor sectors, from $275, currently, to $413 by 2008. He also proposed a more hands-on approach by government agronomists to the process of assisting farmers in the field, while pledging to be more effective than PASOK has been in promoting the interests of Greek farmers in Brussels. Papandreou said he would initiate measures that would encourage young farmers to remain in the countryside. The exodus from the rural areas to Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki has been massive, with about half of the 10.9 million people of Greece residing in these two metropolitan areas. The foreign minister noted that the years of his administration would constitute a "period for the provinces," with significant capital from the EU's Community Support Framework (CFS) and from national funds being allotted to the rural areas for agricultural development. Papandreou proposed that the interest repayments on farmers' debts be capped at twice the principal and called for 25-year loans at 3 percent interest to help them pay these debts. He said he would support the restructuring of cooperatives and the creation of new ones, while promoting negotiations to secure stable prices for farm produce. Focusing on crime and drug trafficking, Karamanlis said ND would strengthen the role of border guards, while improving their training and upgrading their equipment. In addition, he said his party would place emphasis on the prevention of drug use and would promote therapy and rehabilitation for drug users. He would also implement an extensively subsidized professional training program for recovered users and establish incentives for businesses to hire them. Greece's Justice Ministry recently announced that the number of inmates in Greek prisons had doubled since 1989. Papandreou has presented himself as an agent of change, promising to insist on "ethical governance," which, he said, would involve restoring transparency, combating corruption, and streamlining the bureaucracy. The foreign minister is campaigning under the cloud of a scandal within PASOK that erupted in late January when it was revealed that Deputy Economy Minister Christos Pachtas had tried to push legislation through parliament that favored a specific property developer in his own constituency. Nine PASOK parliamentarians who were implicated in the process, allegedly involving the forged signatures of several of the deputies on the legislation, were removed from the party's ticket for the March 7 elections. An Athens prosecutor has ordered a preliminary investigation into the incident. The results of polls conducted prior to and after the eruption of the scandal suggest that it has not had a significant impact on voter support for PASOK. Parliament will be dissolved on February 11 to allow candidates to concentrate solely on their campaigns. January 23, 2004 New Democracy Lead over PASOK Narrows Washington, D.C. - In the run-up to the March 7 parliamentary elections, polls indicated that the 6 to 8 point lead enjoyed by the main opposition New Democracy Party over the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) throughout last year was narrowing, due primarily to the national attention focused on Foreign Minister George Papandreou's bid to succeed Prime Minister Costas Simitis as party chairman and prime minister. In two polls published on January 16, 40 percent of those polled favored New Democracy (ND), while 37 percent said they would vote for PASOK, compared to ND's lead of about 7 percentage points over the ruling party in polls released on December 21. Papandreou stated that a cut in Greece's military spending will become a priority of PASOK if he becomes prime minister in March. He proposed that Greece and Turkey begin negotiations after the elections to carry out gradual, matching reductions in their respective defense budgets. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul welcomed the proposal, but said it would be premature to consider holding such talks. He said Turkey had already begun cutting back on arms spending in 2003, and the country's preparations for EU membership and its eventual accession would strengthen efforts toward future reductions in defense spending. A spokesman for the New Democracy Party stated that Karamanlis had previously discussed the possibility of reducing arms spending in Greece and Turkey with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on two occasions in Ankara last year. The party said that Papandreou's proposal at this time was inconsistent with Greece's contractual defense expenditures of about $67 billion over the next decade. Papandreou proposed that unemployment among Greece's youth, a sector particularly hard hit by joblessness, could be alleviated if thousands of young people under 30 and their employers were exempted from paying social security taxes during the workers' first four years in the labor market. New Democracy responded that it would be costly to the social security system. To help families operating under financial constraints, Karamanlis proposed that households with at least three children should be considered “multi-child” families, a distinction that four-children families now enjoy, which allows them to receive benefits such as subsidies and tax-free cars. Karamanlis stated that ND would continue to emphasize proposing solutions for problems in the public health, education, and agricultural sectors, while also addressing issues such as poverty and corruption. On a campaign stop in Western Thrace, home to Greece's Muslim minority, Papandreou stated that, if elected, he would launch an in-depth program for teaching the Turkish language in the region's schools. He noted that "we have broken the walls between Christians and Muslims, and we are moving toward a multi-cultural Greece." January 16, 2004 U.S. Troops to Participate in Olympic Security Exercises Washington, D.C. - Greek Public Order Minister George Floridis met with U.S. officials in Washington in mid-January to discuss joint efforts to combat organized crime and to continue planning security preparations for the 2004 summer Olympics, including a series of at least six exercises to be staged by U.S. and Greek troops in Greece beginning in March. The 20-day March operation will involve ground maneuvers against simulated terrorist threats. Floridis, accompanied by Greece’s police and intelligence chiefs, held talks with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, CIA Director George Tenet, FBI Director Robert Mueller, State Department Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism Cofer Black, and Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Francis Taylor. On February 6-8, counter-terrorism officials from the United States will join those from Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Israel, and Spain, all part of the Olympic security advisory group, in monitoring a security readiness exercise in which the Greek police, army, navy, air force, and coast guard will participate. Code-named “Blue Odyssey 2004,” the maneuver will be supervised by the British and will deal with a theoretical terrorist attack involving a hostage situation at sea and the use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Greece’s health services, fire department, and other government agencies will also take part. Linton Brooks, administrator of the U.S.’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), stated that the NNSA and Greek authorities were installing fixed radiation detectors at seven locations in Greece that focused on border crossings, in order to help prevent a radiological attack during the games. Portable radiation detectors will be used elsewhere in the country. The NNSA is training Greek personnel to use and maintain the equipment. Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou stated that only Greek troops will be deployed during the August 13-29 Olympics, although all members of NATO will be on high alert and positioned for dispatch to Greece if a crisis develops in Athens. The Greek parliament has not yet decided whether it will grant a U.S. request to use American security guards to protect American athletes during the games. Papantoniou said the security network for the games will include 10,000 military personnel, 40,000 police, and a 200-member team trained by U.S. and British experts to react to biological, chemical, and nuclear attacks. The number of security personnel will be three times the number at the last summer Olympics in Sydney in 2000. The security price tag will be over $750 million, more than three and a half times the money spent in Sydney to ensure a safe Olympiad. (Read more articles and information on the Olympic Games at our Olympic Watch section). January 9, 2004 Simitis Steps Down from Party Leadership, March Elections Called Washington, D.C. - In an effort to ward off the possible defeat of the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) in this spring's parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Costas Simitis submitted his resignation as the leader of the party and opened the way for Foreign Minister George Papandreou, considered the country's most popular politician, to be elected the new leader prior to early elections called for March 7. Following Simitis's resignation, Papandreou, whom the prime minister had backed as his successor, announced his candidacy for party leader. He is expected to run unopposed for the position when PASOK elects its new head at a party congress on February 8. Simitis said he would stay on as prime minister until the elections, which will take place almost two months earlier than previously planned. Under the Greek parliamentary system, the leader of the winning party automatically becomes prime minister. The parliament will be disbanded one month before the elections to allow for campaigning. Throughout 2003, public opinion polls consistently gave the main opposition New Democracy Party (ND), led by Costas Karamanlis, a 6 to 8 point lead over PASOK. In two polls published on December 21, 2003, ND led by 7.3 points and 7.8 points, although the respondents in both polls said they preferred Simitis over Karamanlis for the job of prime minister. A poll published on January 4 gave Papandreou an approval rating of 72 percent among voters, compared with 51 percent for Simitis and 54 percent for Karamanlis. Public dissatisfaction with PASOK is attributed to factors that include a perceived loss of spending power since Greece adopted the euro in January 2002; persistent unemployment, which stands at about nine percent, one of the highest rates in the EU; the government's failure to adequately upgrade health care, the education system, and other services; and corruption and cronyism within the party. The Greeks' perception that their standard of living has declined is prevalent despite recent positive macroeconomic achievements such as a growth rate of 4 percent in 2003, one of the highest in the EU, and significant declines in the public sector deficit and inflation rate over the last several years. On January 18, Simitis will have been prime minister for eight years, winning re-election in 2000 by only one percentage point. PASOK, which was founded by George Papandreou's father, Andreas Papandreou, has governed the country since 1981, with the exception of 1990 to 1993, when ND's Constantine Mitsotakis was in power. Andreas Papandreou served as prime minister from October 1981 to July 1989 and from October 1993 to January 1996, while his father, George, was head of government in the 1960s. December 19, 2003 Multiple Life Sentences for Five November 17 Terrorists Washington, D.C. - A three-judge Greek court handed down 21 life terms to Alexandros Yiotopoulos, the leader of the November 17 terrorist organization, for committing 961 crimes and for his role in planning 19 of the group's 23 murders, including the killing of British Defense Attaché Brig. Stephen Saunders, the final victim, in June 2000. Yiotopoulos's sentence was the longest in Greek legal history, an outcome of the country's first trial under its new terrorism laws. The presiding judge noted that one of the life terms Yiotopoulos received was specifically for the assassination of Saunders. Dimitris Koufodinas, the group's chief of operations and chief assassin in the 1980s and 1990s, received 13 life terms, while Christodoulos Xeros received 10 life sentences; Savvas Xeros, 6; Vassilis Tzortzatos, 4; and Iraklis Kostaris, 1, for his participation in the 1989 killing of main opposition New Democracy parliamentarian Pavlos Bakoyiannis, the husband of the current mayor of Athens, Dora Bakoyianni. Another nine convicted terrorists received from 8 to 25 years in prison. The court suspended the 25-year sentence it gave to Costas Telios and ordered him released on bail pending appeal. He is prohibited from leaving the country and is required to make regular appearances at a police station. Telios, who is suffering from a nervous ailment, had provided testimony against other November 17 members. The public prosecutor stated that he would appeal the acquittals of two of the four defendants that were acquitted and released: Yiannis Serifis, believed to be a founding member of November 17, and Angeliki Sotiropoulou, who is Koufodinas's wife. In an opinion poll, 52.6 percent of the Greek public did not approve of the four acquittals. Tim Welch, the son of the group's first assassination victim, Athens CIA Station Chief Richard Welch, whose 1975 murder was not covered by the trial because of the 20-year statute of limitations, stated that his family and other relatives of the group's American victims were consulting with the U.S. Justice Department in the hope of gaining the extradition of November 17 members suspected of involvement in these killings. Under Greek law, persons given multiple life sentences may request parole after serving 20 years. Those sentenced to one life term may apply for parole after 16 years in prison. A convict who is serving less than a life term must complete three-fifths of the sentence before being eligible for a parole hearing. Greece, like all EU members, does not have the death penalty. The 19 November 17 defendants were tried for a total of 2,500 crimes. The 15 who were convicted are expected to appeal their cases to a higher court. (See Country Updates, Greece, December 12, 2003, "Fifteen of 19 November 17 Suspects Convicted.") December 19, 2003 Syrian President in Athens for Talks Washington, D.C. - During a mid-December visit by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Athens aimed at boosting bilateral ties and developing closer trade relations with the European Union, Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos stated that Greece and Syria had a common vision concerning the achievement of peace and stability in the region. Al-Assad noted that Greece has the trust of the Arab world and called on the Greek government to play a positive role for peace in the region. He characterized Greece as the Middle East’s "gate to Europe" and described Athens' positions on the Middle East as "just and objective." Stephanopoulos, who, in February 2002, was the first Greek head of state to visit Syria, said the draft resolution that Syria submitted to the U.N. Security Council in April 2003 to transform the Middle East into an area that is free of weapons of mass destruction was "very important due to the dangerous situation in the region." He said he believed the initiative would gain importance in the future. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis also expressed support for this proposal, noting the need "for the existence of an applicable, binding . . . means so that a country cannot claim that some other country possesses . . . weapons of mass destruction." The Greek president said Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 should be honored so that the Golan Heights are returned to Syria, emphasizing that the role of the U.N. must be central in this process. He also thanked Syria for the positive stances Damascus has taken concerning issues of interest to Greece and Cyprus in international organizations, particularly in the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Greek officials and the Syrian delegation, which included Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara and the ministers for commerce and tourism, discussed efforts to increase tourism between Greece and Syria and expand cooperation in the economic, commercial, maritime transport, and energy sectors, including drilling for oil and natural gas. Al-Assad addressed a conference in Athens aimed at promoting investment in tourism-related industries in Syria. Forty Syrian business people also accompanied the delegation and met with Greek counterparts at the Export Promotion Organization to examine possibilities for enhancing trade relations. During a December 6-7 visit to Damascus by Greek Development Minister Akis Tsohadzopoulos, al-Assad and the minister discussed the role the EU could play in achieving peace in the Middle East. In early December, Syrian and European Union negotiators reached an agreement in principle on an association accord, following five years of talks. It will be signed after approval is obtained from both sides. December 12, 2003 Fifteen of 19 November 17 Suspects Convicted Washington, D.C. - Three judges in a special prison courtroom in Athens convicted the leader, chief of operations and main gunman, and 13 other members of the November 17 terrorist organization for killings, bombings, and robberies that occurred between 1984 and 2002. Between 1975 and 2000, 23 people were killed by November 17, including four U.S. government and military officials, two Turkish diplomats, a British defense attaché, and prominent Greek political and business figures. Because of the 20-year statute of limitations and a lack of prosecutable evidence in certain instances, the group's first four assassinations were not covered by the trial. These are the murders of Athens CIA Station Chief Richard Welch in December 1975; U.S. Navy Captain George Tsantes, a military attaché, along with his driver, in November 1983; Evangelos Mallios, a Greek police officer during the 1967-1974 dictatorship, in December 1976; and Pantelis Petrou, the deputy head of the Greek riot police, along with his driver, in January 1980. Four of the 19 suspects, all arrested between June 2002 and January 2003, were acquitted. There was no jury since the nine-month trial was carried out under Greece's new anti-terrorism laws. The bench prosecutor, representing the state, called for 21 life sentences plus 2,440 years for the group's leader and mastermind, French-born academic Alexandros Yiotopoulos, who was the son of Greece's most prominent Trotskyite. The court found him guilty of 961 of the 963 charges he faced and of being the "moral instigator" of all the crimes committed by the group. The prosecutor recommended 13 life sentences plus 2,446 years for the chief of operations and main gunman in the 1980s and 1990s, beekeeper Dimitris Koufodinas. Yiotopoulos and Koufodinas were two of the four found guilty of the assassination of British Defense Attaché Brig. Stephen Saunders in June 2000, the group's last victim. The prosecutor also recommended multiple life terms for brothers Savvas Xeros and Christodoulos Xeros, as well as for Vassilis Tzortzatos, with a life sentence for Iraklis Kostaris. Sentences ranging from 10 to 371 years were recommended for the remaining nine who were convicted. Greece, as a member of the European Union, does not have the death penalty. The three judges of the court will review the recommendations and issue final sentences the week of December 15. Those acquitted were Koufodinas's wife, Angeliki Sotiropoulou; Trotskyite activist Theologos Psaradellis; Anestis Papanastasiou, the cousin of an alleged founding member of the organization, Nikos Papanastasiou; and Yiannis Serifis, believed to be a founding member. One of the defendants, in his pre-trial testimony, named Serifis as a participant in Welch's assassination. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher declined to comment when asked if the U.S. intends to request the extradition of defendants in the trial who are suspected of involvement in the killings of Americans. He said the United States welcomed the guilty verdicts, adding that Washington would have further comment on the outcome of the trial when the specific sentences have been announced. Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos said Greece would not, under any circumstances, extradite November 17 defendants to the United States or any other country. He stated that a bilateral agreement with the U.S., signed in 1931, prevents the extradition of suspects who have already been tried in Greece or whose alleged crimes fall under the statute of limitations. Although the convictions have eased security concerns ahead of the August 2004 Olympics, Public Order Minister George Floridis said that some people who had played a secondary role in November 17's activities may not have been arrested. He said investigations were ongoing to search for other possible members of the group. November 14, 2003 Greater Military Cooperation with Skopje, Tirana Washington, D.C. - In a three-way meeting in northern Greece, Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and his Macedonian and Albanian counterparts pledged to strengthen military cooperation against cross-border organized crime and illegal immigration through measures that included joint exercises and annual meetings to discuss regional security issues. During talks in the town of Kastoria, near the point where the three countries' borders meet, Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski and Albanian Defense Minister Pandeli Majko said they would provide Greece with intelligence data over the next nine months concerning any potential threats against the Athens 2004 Olympics. Majko also said Albania's secret service and armed forces would be available "for assistance" on any Olympics-related security matters. Papantoniou offered Albania and F.Y.R. Macedonia the expertise and personnel of the Greek military to assist them in the ongoing reorganization of their armed forces in order to conform to NATO standards. A military cooperation agreement was signed between Greece and Albania to accelerate Tirana's progress toward meeting NATO requirements through military training, seminars, and the sharing of know-how. Papantoniou briefed his counterparts on Greece's decision earlier this month to reduce the number of military forces originally posted during the Cold War along the border with Albania, F.Y.R. Macedonia, and Bulgaria, while changing their orientation from forces that are geared for warfare to units that can confront threats stemming from illegal immigration, organized crime, and international terrorism. The move was part of a reorganization of the structure of Greece's armed forces that also called for a redeployment of troops toward the Evros River border with Turkey and the Aegean Sea, where Papantoniou stated "the major threat" now exists. "The northern threat does not exist anymore," Papantoniou said. The restructuring also involves reducing the 178,500-strong Greek military to 142,000 soldiers by 2005 and creating more powerful, flexible, and mobile units that can deal with asymmetric threats and will be better trained to participate in international peacekeeping missions. In addition, Greece aims to decrease its defense spending from 3.5 percent of GDP in 2003 to 2.7 percent in 2004. The country spent 4.9 percent of its GDP on defense in 2000. November 7, 2003 FBI Director Reviews Security Preparations for Olympics Washington, D.C. - FBI Director Robert Mueller, on a November 6-7 visit to Athens, discussed security arrangements for the 2004 summer Olympics in the Greek capital, including the status of anti-terrorism measures, with Public Order Minister George Floridis, Police Chief Fotis Nasiakos, and the organizers of the games. The United States is one of seven nations advising the Greek government on its security strategy for the Olympics, along with Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Israel, and Spain. The FBI's counter-terrorism division is helping Greece to establish an intelligence-sharing system to be used by the law enforcement and security agencies involved in ensuring a safe Olympics. The Bureau is also assisting in the creation of a rapid communications system to be used if a terrorist attack occurs during the games. U.S. concerns include making certain that measures are in place to counter the presence of possible terrorist snipers on the hills surrounding Athens and determining whether Greece is prepared to deal with a biological or chemical attack. The U.S. is also concerned about the danger posed by the flow of illegal immigrants into Greece from Balkan countries to the north and by sea via Turkey. Prior to Mueller's visit to Athens, the U.S. military led senior Greek intelligence, police, and military officials in a three-day Olympics security exercise at the headquarters of the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany. Herman Frazier, who led a five-day visit by U.S. Olympic Committee members to Athens the week of Mueller's trip, stated that the 100 American security personnel accompanying the 650-member U.S. athletic team to the games will be unarmed, in accordance with Greece's demand that only its forces carry weapons. He stated that the Committee had “all the confidence in the world that these will be secure games.” In October, the Greek government announced that it would increase its security budget for the first summer Olympiad since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to about $750 million, making the Athens security operation the largest in the history of the games. Some 40,000 police officers will be on duty, double the number present for the 2000 summer games in Sydney. Security for the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, involving 15,000 security personnel, cost the U.S. government about $300 million. While he was in Athens, Mueller presented awards to police and judicial officials who headed the operation in 2002 to break up the November 17 terrorist group. Nineteen suspected members of the group are currently on trial in the Greek capital. More information on the Olympics on our Olympic Watch page. October 24, 2003 Papandreou, Gul Reiterate Commitment to Greek-Turkish Rapprochement Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, during the latter's first visit to Athens, reaffirmed their commitment to furthering rapprochement between their two countries, but did not report any progress on resolving Aegean Sea disputes or the Cyprus problem. Gul, accompanied by Turkish Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan, stated that Greece and Turkey were committed to improving relations and transforming the Aegean into "a sea of peace, cooperation, and development," while being aware that they have to resolve their disputes in peaceful ways and through dialogue. He said Greek-Turkish relations "are pervaded by trust . . . the era of tensions is over," while Papandreou noted that "our bilateral relations have now entered another framework," though "this does not mean that our problems are solved automatically." Referring to ongoing meetings between diplomats from Athens and Ankara on Greek-Turkish differences in the Aegean, Papandreou stated that "the climate is good, but we have not reached concrete results yet." He said the Cyprus problem and the Aegean issues would "become even more important next year also due to developments in the EU" concerning Turkey. Gul stated that Turkey accepts the settlement plan for Cyprus put forth by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan as a basis for negotiations as long as it is amended, a position at odds with that of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who has rejected the plan. Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis said talks with Gul in Athens indicated that "the Turkish government desires, in the framework of its European course, to contribute to a solution to Greek-Turkish problems, as well as to the Cyprus issue." The European Union will evaluate Ankara's progress toward meeting EU entry requirements in December 2004 to determine whether it is ready to begin accession talks in early 2005. Greece has indicated that it will support the launching of talks but has suggested that this support will be dependent on Turkey's efforts to help resolve the Cyprus issue and the Aegean disputes. According to the presidency conclusions of the EU's 1999 Helsinki summit, problems between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean must be resolved by the end of 2004 or be referred to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Papandreou and Gul announced that a bilateral agreement to eliminate double taxation for companies doing business in both countries had been concluded, following four years of negotiations, and would be signed in December during a visit by Greek National Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis to Ankara. The agreement is expected to boost bilateral trade from the current $1 billion annually. In addition, the two ministers said they had discussed the possibility of allowing foreign tourists in Turkey to make one-day trips to Greece without obtaining visas. They cited the September bilateral decision to clear land mines along the Greek-Turkish border and the October cancellation of military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean related to Cyprus as examples of steps toward improving strained relations. (See Country Updates, Turkey, "Turkey, Greece Sign Treaty Banning Land Mines," September 26, 2003, and Cyprus, "Athens, Ankara Cancel Cyprus-Related Military Exercises," October 10, 2003.) The two sides have signed nearly 20 accords on issues such as investment, tourism, the environment in the Aegean, and cooperation against organized crime and illegal immigration over the past several years. An agreement on the transfer of Central Asian and Caspian natural gas from Turkey to western Europe via Greece is being negotiated. Papandreou and Gul said Athens and Ankara would cooperate closely on issues concerning security and tourism with respect to the Athens Olympics in August 2004, noting that discussions would be held to arrange carrying the Olympic flame through Istanbul, which was not originally designated as one of the cities it will go through as part of its journey around the world. Gul said Turkey had assigned a special team to examine ways of working with Athens on matters related to the Olympics in the months leading up to and during the games. About 30 Turkish businessmen accompanied Gul to Athens and participated in a forum with Greek entrepreneurs organized by the Greek-Turkish Chamber of Commerce and the Council of Greek-Turkish Business Cooperation. Gul's visit to Athens was scheduled as part of regular contacts between the Greek and Turkish foreign ministries that began in 2000. October 3, 2003 Athens Defends Security Measures for Olympics Washington, D.C. - The Greek government denied claims in a Washington Post article that security planning for the 2004 Athens Olympics was “beset by problems” and that a number of lapses in security procedures had been discovered during tests in August. The September 27 article was based on intelligence reports “circulating within the U.S. government” and statements by U.S. administration officials. The lapses cited in the reports included one “that allowed a test agent disguised as a pregnant woman to carry a mock bomb through a checkpoint and another to plant a fake device on a ferry.” Also mentioned were “disorganized police forces, breakdowns in maritime patrols, and serious concerns over the slow pace of counter-terrorism planning.” Security personnel from countries involved in the procedures stated that the range of tests “revealed serious, if correctable, deficiencies.” Greek government spokesman Christos Protopappas stated that the “scenarios which appear in the reports are groundless,” while the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee described the assertions as “fantastic scenarios and hyperbole.” Protopappas said that Greece would hold “the most secure Olympic games ever,” using a security plan that is being drawn up with the cooperation of the United States, Britain, Israel, Germany, Australia, France, and Spain. He added that tests had been carried out by Greek police officers “with the best possible results.” The Organizing Committee issued a press release emphasizing that Greece’s efforts to organize a safe Olympics had been recognized “with positive comments” by Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC); U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell; and U.S. Ambassador to Greece Thomas Miller. Rogge stated that he believed “everything humanly possible has been done” with respect to security preparations. Greece has budgeted about $700 million for security during the games, but Foreign Minister George Papandreou stated that close to $1 billion would likely be spent, nearly double the expenditure in Sydney or Salt Lake City, adding that “security is on track” in Athens. A total of 58,000 people, four times the number on hand at the Salt Lake City games, will work on security in the Greek capital, including 45,000 security officers from the Greek police, army, and special forces. Countries participating in the Athens Olympics will also be able to bring their own security personnel to enhance the safety of their athletes, but the Greek government has stated that these personnel will be prohibited from carrying arms. U.S. officials have said that at least 100 security agents may accompany the U.S. team as part of a $2.7 million State Department security package for the event. The U.S. has established an interagency task force with members from the CIA, the State Department, the FBI, and the Pentagon to help deal with security problems related to the games. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stated that the United States believes “the Greeks have the will and the resources to hold a secure and successful Olympics, and we have every confidence that they will.” He said Washington was providing equipment, policy workshops, and security training to boost security at the games. Two days after the Greek government defended its counter-terrorism policies, a home-made bomb was thrown at the Athens home of a television journalist, followed the next morning by a string of firebomb attacks in the capital over a period of 20 minutes that targeted the home and cars of a parliamentarian, two offices of the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), an office of the main opposition New Democracy Party, and a building housing the apartment of a university professor. The attacks caused property damage but no injuries A new anarchist group, “The Post-Midnight Slalom,” claimed responsibility for the five morning attacks, describing itself as “a society of workers for a social uprising.” The government responded by saying that the attacks were the work of vandals, not terrorists. The group stated that it carried out the firebombing rampage to protest corporate influence over the Olympics, the continued detention of seven people arrested at the June demonstrations in Thessaloniki during the EU summit, and the trial of the nineteen November 17 terrorist group suspects, which began in March. In addition, it called on Spain to release five suspected members of a Barcelona anarchist cell held in connection with a parcel-bomb attack on the Greek Embassy in Madrid. The group’s firebombings coincided with the beginning of final arguments by defense attorneys at the November 17 trial. On September 25, shipowner Nikos Mazarakis was shot in the neck by two assailants who passed by him on a motorcycle after he parked his car at his home in a northern Athens suburb. No one took responsibility for the attack, which Mazarakis survived. The next day, firebombs were thrown at a National Bank branch and a McDonald’s restaurant in the capital, which resulted in no injuries. (For more info see the Centers Policy Forum featuring Amb. Thomas Miller and The Washington Post, September 27, 2003.) September 23, 2003 Agreement with Turkey Facilitates Aegean Commercial Air Travel Washington, D.C. - Greece and Turkey have signed an accord that will improve the commercial air traffic network over the Aegean Sea in order to ease the congestion that will result from an increase in flight activity in the region due to the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The provisions of the accord, which will increase airspace capacity, will go into effect on December 25. Since 1974, when tension between Greece and Turkey worsened because of the crisis in Cyprus, the use of some of the commercial air corridors over the Aegean has been disrupted. The decision to conclude the accord, through meetings held under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), is a positive step by both countries. However, the core issues dividing Greece and Turkey in the Aegean remain, including the delimitation of the continental shelf, sovereignty questions concerning some of the sea’s islands, and military issues such as differing views on the requirements for military aircraft to file flight plans when entering the region. Greek government spokesman Christos Protopapas stated that the improved air traffic network would benefit the region economically, while international connections with the airports on the Aegean islands would be facilitated. September 23, 2003 Papandreou Discusses International, Bilateral Issues in Washington Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou's talks in Washington with Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston, and members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee focused primarily on post-war Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and trans-Atlantic relations, as well as Cyprus, Turkey-EU relations, and the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens. Talks with Rice regarding Iraq covered efforts to bridge the gap in positions between the United States and Europe in order to reach a common approach for the transfer of power to the Iraqi people as soon as possible. Papandreou stated that he believed an agreement could be achieved between the U.S. and France and Germany on the terms of a U.N. Security Council resolution providing the United Nations with a substantive role in the reconstruction of the country. The foreign minister said that resolution of the Cyprus problem remained a key priority of Greece's foreign policy, and he stressed the need for resuming settlement negotiations based on the plan put forward by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. He noted that progress made toward a Cyprus solution would be one of the basic criteria for evaluating Turkey's preparedness in December 2004 for opening EU accession talks. Papandreou stated that his meetings with Turkish Cypriot opposition parties in Nicosia had indicated that “a new dynamic” was emerging in northern Cyprus as these parties made the participation of the Turkish Cypriot people in EU membership, through a unified Cyprus, a central element of their campaigns for the December 14 parliamentary elections in the north. Weston emphasized the importance of resuming the Cyprus negotiations in time to reach a settlement by May 1, 2004, when the country becomes a member of the European Union. He stated that the U.S. was working to achieve a return to talks and movement toward a referendum to approve any settlement that is agreed upon by that date. Papandreou said that Washington's insistence on a Cyprus solution within the framework of U.N. resolutions would substantially contribute to a settlement. Powell expressed satisfaction concerning security preparations by Greek authorities for the Olympics, as they cooperate closely with the United States in planning the security strategy. September 12, 2003 U.S. Sanctions Avoided Through Steps Against Human Trafficking Washington, D.C. - Greece has narrowly avoided significant U.S. sanctions that could have cost it some $3 billion in outstanding military contracts by taking critical steps during the late summer to combat human trafficking. Some 18,000 people were trafficked to Greece last year, primarily women and children for the purpose of sexual exploitation, while about 900,000 people were victims of trafficking worldwide. In the State Department’s 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report, which assessed the compliance of 116 countries with the U.S.’s Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, Greece was placed in “Tier 3,” the least-compliant category, along with 14 other countries. The June report, covering the period from April 2002 to March 2003, determined that the governments of the countries in Tier 3 did not fully comply with the minimum standards of the Act and were not making significant efforts to do so. As a result of the recent steps taken by Greece to address problems noted in the report, President Bush on September 10 notified Congress that Greece had been moved to Tier 2. The governments of the countries in this category do not fully comply with the Act’s minimum standards, but they are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. The steps taken by Greece included authorizing security, shelter, and schooling or vocational training for trafficking victims; implementing a campaign to raise public awareness of the dangers of trafficking, including public service announcements on radio and television, as well as magazine ads; increasing anti-trafficking cooperation with countries that are the source of exploited persons, such as Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, and Ukraine; accelerating cooperation between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and police to provide better victim assistance; and improving follow-through concerning arrests and prosecutions resulting from trafficking investigations. The government also provided $1.2 million to NGOs for programs that aid trafficking victims and protect their rights. This is the first year since the Act was passed that the countries in Tier 3 faced potential sanctions, effective October 1, if insufficient steps were taken to warrant advancing them to Tier 2. They involved the withholding of certain non-humanitarian, non-trade-related assistance by the United States, which would be subject to a possible waiver. In addition, the countries could face U.S. opposition to certain types of assistance from the IMF and multilateral development banks such as the World Bank. September 5, 2003 Significant Upgrade of Helicopter Fleet for Aegean Defense Washington, D.C. - The Greek Army has purchased 12 Apache AH-64D Longbow attack helicopters for $675 million, marking a significant upgrade of its attack helicopter fleet aimed primarily at the defense of the country's Aegean islands. Deliveries will begin in 2007. The purchase is among the final items acquired through a five-year arms build-up that was prompted by the crisis between Athens and Ankara over the Aegean islets of Imia/Kardak in 1996, when the two countries narrowly avoided going to war. Produced by Boeing, the Longbow, moving at a speed of up to 162 miles per hour, is the world's only fourth-generation attack helicopter and the only combat helicopter in service that can engage stationary or moving targets in all weather conditions during the day or at night. Its presence in the army's fleet, along with the four Zubr-type hovercraft it has already purchased from Russia and Ukraine, will significantly increase the country's ability to deploy firepower and troops quickly to the islands in times of crisis. The 187-foot Zubr, traveling at 60 miles per hour, can transport up to three medium tanks or 360 troops. The Greek Army already has 20 AH-64A Apaches, which entered service in 1995. Greece took an option to buy four additional Apache Longbows. In addition, the Greek Army has signed a $716 million agreement with Eurocopter, the helicopter division of European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. (EADS), for the purchase of 20 NH90 twin-engine transport helicopters, with an option to buy an additional 14. The NH90s will replace ageing UH-1 Huey helicopters, manufactured by Bell Helicopter Textron, increasing the army's ability to transport a larger number of forces. They will be delivered between 2006 and 2009. The construction of two 62m SuperVita Fast Attack Craft for the Greek Navy is also underway, with considerable offsets, at Greece's Elefsina shipyards under a $294.6 million deal concluded with Britain's Vosper Thornycroft. Delivery of the vessels is expected in 2006 and 2007. The contracts with Boeing and EADS will create jobs and orders for Greek companies, with offsets worth $996 million for the NH90 purchase and $845 million for the Longbow acquisition. Greece's defense spending constituted 5 percent of GDP two years ago, but the necessity to belt-tighten in order to finance the 2004 Athens Olympics has brought it below four percent of GDP. September 5, 2003 Bombs Set by New Terrorist Group Damage Court Complex Washington, D.C. - Two powerful time bombs exploded at Athens' main court complex, damaging a building and injuring one policeman. An unknown group called "Revolutionary Struggle" claimed responsibility for the blasts, which occurred about 3:00 a.m. when the courts were closed. Police said that they were concerned over the level of sophistication of the bombs, in contrast to the small gas canisters or petrol bombs used in attacks that take place from time to time in the city against targets such as diplomats' cars. Government spokesman Christos Protopapas and police stated that the bombings could have been staged by supporters of 19 suspected urban guerrillas of the November 17 terrorist group, who are on trial in a special court in a maximum-security prison elsewhere in Athens. The group is accused of carrying out 23 killings and dozens of attacks over 27 years before being broken up last year. The alleged founder of the group, Alexander Yiotopoulos, had given testimony the day before the bomb blasts. Since the trial began in March, groups using a variety of names have claimed responsibility for firebombings and other attacks in support of the suspects. August 1, 2003 Greek Lawyers Accuse British Officials of Crimes Against Humanity Washington, D.C. - The Athens Bar Association filed a lawsuit against British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other senior British officials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for what it termed breaches of international law associated with Britain's actions in Iraq during the U.S.-led invasion of the country. Among those accused along with Blair are Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, and Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, who recently retired from his position as Chief of the Defense Staff. The 22 crimes against humanity cited by the Association, which has 20,000 members, included the killing of Iraq's civilians, depriving the population of drinking water in certain cities, destroying food supplies, bombarding residential areas, and destroying the natural environment to a degree that was disproportionate to the military objectives of the invasion. The lawyers stated that the acts violated international treaties such as the Charter of the United Nations, the Geneva Conventions, and the ICC's Statute. Although an Athens Bar Association spokesman said the decision to bring charges against British officials was "an act of conscience on the part of the Greek legal profession," the Association's president, Dimitris Paxinos, is a longtime and outspoken supporter of Radovan Karadzic, the fugitive former Bosnian Serb leader who has been indicted by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. During the Yugoslav wars, Paxinos was known to have traveled often to Pale, the capital of the Bosnian Serb republic, to meet with Karadzic, former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, and others who were subsequently indicted for massacres and other war atrocities. The Athens Bar Association has not filed any ICC lawsuit related to those Yugoslav war crimes. The 47-page document will be reviewed by the chief prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo, who will decide whether the case falls under the jurisdiction of the Court. If he determines that it does, a panel of judges must also approve the case before action is taken on the lawsuit. The lawyers did not bring similar charges against President Bush since the United States is a signatory of the treaty that established the ICC but has not ratified it. The new court, which can act only in cases where national courts are unable or unwilling to investigate or prosecute alleged crimes, has not yet prosecuted any cases. It is separate from the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Neither Greece nor the United States has commented on the action taken by the independent, non-governmental organization. August 1, 2003 Warning from EU on Electronic Game Ban Washington, D.C. - The European Commission has warned Greece that a law that went into effect in July 2002 banning the use of electronic games, including computer games, in all public and private places was a violation of EU law concerning the free movement of goods and services and the freedom to establish enterprises. Although Greece stated, following passage of the law, that it only prohibited games related to gambling, which could result in "financial gain for players or third parties," the Commission said it was unsatisfied with that response and has requested more information from the government on the matter. The Commission also stated that Greece had been obligated to notify it concerning the provisions of the law as they were being drafted since the legislation deals with "information society services." Countries are required to give the Commission three months' notice before passing a law regarding such services. In addition, it said that the law is restricting business activity by causing problems for companies that sell and maintain electronic games equipment and programs. The European Commission also stated that Greece would be among 10 EU member states that would be referred to the European Court for failing to meet the July 22 deadline for incorporating directives relating to stricter checks on potentially hazardous vessels and safety standards for the prevention of sea pollution into national legislation. Greece joins Italy, Portugal, Finland, and Luxembourg in failing to adopt both directives. Greece is also among 10 EU nations that are slated to receive a warning from the Commission for missing a July 27 deadline for passing legislation on the deregulation of the electronic telecommunications market. July 28, 2003 Exchange of Military Students with Turkey Washington, D.C. - Three to five Turkish officers will be sent to a military training center in Kilkis, Greece, while a similar number of Greek officers will go to Ankara for training, according to an announcement by NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson. The move is among details worked out by the Greek and Turkish permanent representatives to NATO concerning new cooperation between the two countries’ national defense colleges and the exchange of personnel between their military training centers. Robertson stated that the bilateral cooperation within this framework would focus on issues concerning the NATO alliance, military doctrine, crisis management, peacekeeping, natural disasters, and environmental issues. This cooperation was envisioned as part of a package of confidence-building measures between Greece and Turkey announced in May by Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. (See Country Updates, Greece, “Greece and Turkey Agree to Direct Military Contacts,” May 30, 2003.) July 3, 2003 Athens Protests to U.S. Over Use of Term "Macedonia" Washington, D.C. - Foreign Minister George Papandreou lodged a complaint with Secretary of State Colin Powell over the use of the word "Macedonia" to refer to Greece’s northern neighbor in a bilateral agreement between Washington and Skopje concerning the latter’s decision to exempt Americans from prosecution by the International Criminal Court. Greece objects to the use of the name Macedonia largely for historical and cultural reasons. Since 1993, in deference to Greece’s objections, the United Nations and the U.S. State Department have used the appellation "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)" in all official documents and references concerning the country. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher stated that the term Macedonia in the exemption agreement was an "informal name," and its use did not signal a change in Washington’s "recognition policy" with respect to the Balkan country. Boucher said that the United States formally recognizes the country as the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and continues to support Skopje’s ongoing discussions with Athens, under the auspices of the United Nations, to reach a solution concerning the name that is acceptable to both sides. (See Country Updates, Macedonia, "Skopje, Athens Allow Interim Agreement on Name Issue to Remain in Force," September 20, 2002.) July 3, 2003 Ocalan Acquittal on 1999 Entry into Greece Washington, D.C. - A Greek court of three judges and four jurors acquitted Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan of entering Greece illegally in January 1999, while also acquitting 12 people who assisted his entry and brief stay in the country. Although the final outcome was acquittal, the three judges voted in favor of a guilty verdict for retired naval admiral Antonis Naxakis and two of Ocalan’s aides on felony charges of endangering Greece’s peaceful international relations. Naxakis was believed to have engineered the PKK leader’s arrival in the country by private plane. Nine Greek defendants were cleared of misdemeanor charges of assisting or sheltering Ocalan. They included airport personnel, police, representatives of the company that chartered the plane carrying Ocalan, and a mother and daughter who hosted him in their home in the Athens area overnight. Ocalan, serving a life sentence in a Turkish prison, was tried in absentia for his misdemeanor charge. (See Country Updates, Greece, "Ocalan-Related Trial Resumes in Athens," May 30, 2003.) June 27 2003 EU Reconciliation with Washington Promoted at U.S.-EU Summit Washington, D.C. - At the first U.S.-EU summit since the Iraq war, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, as current chairman of the EU’s Council of Ministers, European Commission President Romano Prodi, and President Bush expressed a desire in talks in Washington to overcome the trans-Atlantic rift over Iraq and emphasized common goals such as fighting global terrorism and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Simitis stated that Brussels and Washington should act on the assumption that what unites them will always outweigh any issue that divides them, noting that the U.N. should play the leading role in international crises. He stressed the importance of cooperation between the U.S. and Europe in the security and defense fields, as well as their economic interdependence, which he said was critical to economic growth and security. In a joint statement, Bush, Simitis, and Prodi pledged to use all means available to avert the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to strengthen the international system of treaties and regimes against the spread of WMD. The statement condemned North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and its failure to comply with the safeguards agreement of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It also expressed continuing concern over Iran’s nuclear program. Both the U.S. and the EU agreed that Iran must cooperate fully with IAEA inspections. During the summit, Greek Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos and Attorney General John Ashcroft signed agreements on mutual EU-U.S. legal assistance and the extradition of individuals accused of terrorist acts. The agreements involve forming joint investigative teams, sharing information on suspect bank accounts, and expanding the range of offenses that qualify a person for extradition. The agreements were the first of their kind to be signed between the EU and a country outside the bloc. Simitis dismissed U.S. concerns that a common European security and defense policy might undermine NATO, stating that both Europe and the United States have an interest in having a strong defense, and the EU should be able to deal with security problems at its borders or elsewhere in the world. The prime minister also pointed out the need to resume talks on negotiating a Cyprus settlement on the basis of the Annan plan, which he said required amendments to accommodate circumstances posed by next year’s scheduled accession of Cyprus to the EU. He added that pressure should be exerted on the Turkish side to promote resumption of the talks. He noted that Bush had already contacted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to urge Turkey to facilitate renewed negotiations. More information. June 27 2003 Balkan States Encouraged to Work Toward EU Membership Washington, D.C. - At the June summit, Greece’s presidency of the European Union was capped by the reaffirmation of the EU’s commitment to the eventual inclusion of the western Balkan nations in the bloc. No timetable was established for their accession, with the bloc emphasizing that their entry would depend on the pace of their reforms. EU leaders, meeting with the leaders of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro, stated that combating organized crime and corruption in the region should be a major priority if these countries wanted to move toward EU membership. (See Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2002 -2003.) They said that organized crime and corruption were sources of grave concern to the EU since they constituted a significant obstacle to democratic stability, the rule of law, economic development, and the development of civil society. The elimination of human trafficking, which involves adopting measures to prevent illegal immigration and improve border security, should be given particular attention, they said. The EU also urged the five nations to accelerate ethnic reconciliation and political, judicial, and economic reforms, bolster human rights, and improve cooperation with the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The bloc confirmed that $249 million of extra aid to the nations would be provided in addition to the $5.5 billion already committed by the EU for the period from 2000 to 2006. The EU leaders also agreed to spend $163 million to keep illegal immigrants outside the bloc’s borders, which will include parts of the Balkans and the former Soviet Union by May 2004. The EU stated that the Stabilization and Association Process (SAP), with its annual review mechanism for evaluating progress on implementing required reforms, would remain the framework for preparing western Balkan countries for membership. Of the five nations, only Croatia and Macedonia have concluded an SAP agreement, the first major step toward EU membership, and Albania is in the process of negotiating one. Croatia is the only country in this group that has submitted a formal application for EU membership, which is currently under consideration by the EU’s executive commission. Croatia, the most economically advanced of the five, is considered the only western Balkan country to have realistic prospects of entering the EU before 2010. June 27 2003 Greece Seizes Ship on Suspicion of Terrorist Aims Washington, D.C. - Greece impounded a ship in its territorial waters that was carrying 680 tons of explosives and thousands of detonators, after a NATO anti-terrorism task force monitoring vessels in the Mediterranean Sea notified Greek authorities that the ship had raised suspicions because of its meandering course over a period of 41 days. The authorities charged the crew, five Ukrainians and two Azerbaijanis, with entering Greek waters off the western coast of the country without announcing their hazardous cargo, a breach of maritime law. They will be held in Greece pending trial. The government of Sudan claimed that the industrial-grade ammonium nitrate on the Comoros-flagged “Baltic Sky” was ordered legally by a company in Khartoum for road construction and mining. A spokesman for the company said the shipment was due to arrive in Sudan on May 23 after being loaded legally on the ship in Tunisia on May 12, normally a four-day trip. Instead of heading for Sudan, the ship sailed to Istanbul and then zigzagged across the Aegean Sea and eastern Mediterranean. The captain of the ship stated that its Irish owner had instructed him to sail to the western coast of Greece instead of Sudan. The Sudanese foreign minister summoned Greece’s ambassador in Khartoum to express the country’s displeasure over the seizure of the ship. Sudan is on a U.S. list of countries that support terrorism. - June 20 2003 EU Summit Tackles Migration, New Constitution, Defense Doctrine Washington, D.C. - EU leaders convened on June 19-21 near Thessaloniki for a summit marking the end of Greece's six-month rotating presidency, to be handed over to Italy in July. Among the primary topics addressed at the summit were the future shape of the EU with the unveiling of the new draft constitution for the bloc, its attempt to forge a common foreign and security policy with the presentation of the first EU defense doctrine, its plans for handling migration, and its relationship with the United States. During its presidency, Greece has focused particularly on migration issues, including the integration of foreign workers into the EU and the safeguarding of the outer maritime borders of the bloc from the movement of illegal migrants. Related topics discussed at the summit were coordinating a policy for asylum seekers, improving border protection, and reaching agreements between the EU and third countries to allow the extradition of illegal migrants to their countries of origin. Greece, listed in this year's annual State Department Trafficking in Persons Report as a country that is not making significant efforts to fully comply with minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, faces considerable challenges securing its estimated 3,000 islands in the Aegean Sea along the trafficking routes from southwest Asia to Europe. The Greek government must also stem human smuggling by criminal enterprises in the Balkans and adjacent areas that take advantage of Greece's long northern border to bring people illegally into the country. Another priority of Greece's presidency has been an attempt to bring the countries of the western Balkans closer to the European Union. On the summit schedule was a meeting of the 15 EU leaders, the leaders of the 10 countries that will become members in May 2004, and the leaders of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro to discuss a plan to provide a more concrete roadmap for the accession of these Balkan countries to the bloc. The leadership of Kosovo also attended the meeting. EU foreign ministers decided in mid-June to provide an extra $249 million in aid to the Balkan region from 2004 to 2006, in addition to the $5.5 billion allocated for the period from 2000 to 2006. The leaders of EU candidates Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey, present at the summit venue, were briefed separately on the proceedings of the meetings by Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis. The target date for the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the bloc is 2007. Brussels will review Turkey's preparedness for accession talks in December 2004 and will begin the talks in early 2005 if the required criteria have been met. Trans-Atlantic relations will be discussed in depth at a U.S.-EU summit in Washington on June 25, where the EU will be represented by Simitis, as current chairman of the European Council, High Representative for EU Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and European Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten. The talks are also expected to cover combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the reconstruction of Iraq, Turkey's European aspirations, and the Cyprus issue. Some 16,000 security forces were deployed in and around Thessaloniki to prevent anyone from approaching the hotel complex where the summit was held by road, sea, or air, and to brace Thessaloniki for thousands of anti-globalization, anti-EU, and anti-U.S. demonstrators that converged on the city, which remained open for protestors. The Greek police stated that it was the largest security operation ever planned in the country, with the participation of all branches of the country's armed forces. (More information.) June 13 2003 Reconfigured NATO Command Presence as Alliance Restructures Washington, D.C. - At their meeting on June 12 in Brussels, NATO defense ministers agreed on the elements of the alliance’s new command structure, unveiling a streamlined and more flexible network of command centers to face new post-Cold War challenges, including international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The move marks the alliance’s most radical overhaul of its command structure in its 54-year history. The new structure includes plans to close the existing Joint Sub-Regional Command (JSRC) in Larissa, Greece, while retaining the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) in Larissa. A NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Center will also be established in Greece. This center will operate under the new Allied Command Transformation headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, which will oversee the testing and development of new concepts for military operations. June 13, 2003 Greek-Turkish Controversy Over Airspace Escalates Washington, D.C. - Greece said it would lodge a complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) following a report by the pilot of an Olympic Airways passenger plane that two Turkish F-16 fighter jets had flown six miles from the plane while it was in airspace that Greece claims as sovereign over the Aegean Sea, causing the crash avoidance system to activate. The pilot said he increased the plane’s altitude by 2,300 feet to avoid the jets. The flight from Athens to Istanbul landed safely in the Turkish city. While a Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman said the actions of the Turkish aircraft violated international aviation and airspace laws, Turkey’s General Staff stated that Turkish military planes flying 6 miles from a commercial flight did not legally constitute a violation or a form of harassment. Turkey does not recognize Greece’s decision to expand the airspace around its islands in the Aegean Sea from 6 to 10 miles, noting that the width of the country’s airspace must correspond to the 6-mile width of its territorial waters. The entry of Turkish fighter jets into what Ankara considers international airspace over the Aegean often leads to interceptions by Greek fighter planes, frequently resulting in mock dogfights between aircraft of the two militaries. The Greek government stated that it had informed NATO and the European Union of the incident involving the Olympic Airways plane. In May, Greece complained to both bodies over what it said was a marked increase in violations of Greek airspace by Turkish air force planes. It also warned Turkey that failure to end such activities in the Aegean could undermine Ankara’s attempts to launch accession negotiations with the EU, whose next summit takes place in Thessaloniki on June 20-21. The United States said it considered the dispute between Greece and Turkey regarding airspace over the Aegean to be a bilateral matter between the two countries and not an issue that concerns NATO or should be resolved within the framework of the alliance. Although the ICAO establishes standards for flights of civilian aircraft internationally, there is a mechanism within the organization for settling differences between states, under which Greece could lodge its complaint. Air travel within a country does not fall under ICAO standards. The organization recognizes each nation’s complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory. June 6, 2003 Athens Pushes to Keep NATO Command Washington, D.C. - Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou stated that Greece will strongly challenge the reorganization of NATO’s command structure if an alliance command center does not remain in Greece. A unanimous vote of all NATO members on the placement of command centers throughout Europe is required to carry out the reorganization, which is still under discussion, with information on the process remaining classified. The number of centers in Europe will reportedly be reduced from 26 to 11. The establishment of a new command structure was mandated at the NATO summit in Prague in November 2002 to adapt to security threats that have emerged in the post-Cold War era and following September 11. Maintaining the old structure would make the alliance less able to confront international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Greece currently has a Joint Sub-Regional Command (JSRC) at Larissa in northern Greece and wants to maintain a balance within the alliance with Turkey, which also hosts a JSRC at Izmir. The other two JSRCs are in Verona, Italy, and Madrid, Spain. NATO has reportedly suggested that all but one of these JSRCs will be closed. In addition to conducting alliance operations in their regions, the JSRCs are responsible for military planning and for overseeing NATO and Partnership for Peace exercises in these regions. May 30, 2003 Greece and Turkey Agree to Direct Military Contacts Washington, D.C. - Greece and Turkey have agreed to conduct regular visits between senior staff officers of their armies, navies, and air forces as part of a new package of three confidence-building measures to further rapprochement between the two countries’ militaries. Up to now, direct military contact between Greece and Turkey has been extremely limited and has usually been carried out under the auspices of NATO. Prior to this decision, Greek government officials were reluctant to approve direct military-to-military communication with Turkey because of the disparity of influence between the Hellenic National Defense General Staff and the Turkish General Staff on the formulation of the countries’ defense policies concerning the Aegean and Cyprus. Since many of the bilateral problems between Turkey and Greece are related to military issues, it is believed that this initiative offers a significant opportunity to lower tensions between the two countries. The other two confidence-building measures in the package are the launching of a regular exchange of students between the Greek and Turkish military academies and the establishment of an Internet-based, information-sharing system between Greek and Turkish military hospitals. The package was announced following talks between Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers from European Union and Mediterranean countries, held under Greece’s current EU presidency, on the Greek island of Crete. Since the rapprochement process between Greece and Turkey began in 1999, confidence-building measures have been primarily restricted to lower-level, non-military issues, such as tourism, the environment, and natural disasters. The political directors of the Greek and Turkish foreign ministries meet regularly to discuss bilateral issues. Greek Economy and Finance Minister Nicolaos Christodoulakis stated that the Greek government was promoting new initiatives to strengthen economic relations between Greece and Turkey. (For related information please review Eastern Mediterranean Security Conference I, Eastern Mediterranean Security Conference II, and Eastern Mediterranean Security Conference III.) May 30, 2003 Ocalan-Related Trial Resumes in Athens Washington, D.C. - The trial of 12 people accused of illegally smuggling Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan into Greece in January 1999 and endangering Greece’s relations with other states resumed in Athens following a break of more than four months. The 13th defendant is Ocalan, who is being tried in absentia for illegal entry into the country. He is serving a life sentence in Turkey for treason for leading the 15-year armed struggle for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey. Those on trial include a retired admiral in the Greek Navy, Antonis Naxakis, believed to have spearheaded the effort to bring Ocalan into Greece; two aides of the Kurdish leader; a pilot; airport police officers; airline employees; and a writer who put up Ocalan for the night. Among those providing testimony are three senior Greek cabinet members serving in the government at the time who were asked to resign after it was discovered that Ocalan had been given refuge in the Greek ambassador’s residence in Nairobi, Kenya, after he left Greece. They are former foreign minister Theodore Pangalos, former interior minister Alekos Papadopoulos, and former public order minister Philippos Petsalnikos, Greece’s current justice minister. Ocalan was captured by Turkish agents in the Kenyan capital in February 1999 and taken to Turkey. May 23, 2003 Government Lobbies to Keep NATO Headquarters Washington, D.C. - Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou have outlined to NATO the reasons the government believes that Greece should continue to have a NATO regional command center on its territory. The alliance decided in November that three of its four Joint Sub-Regional Commands (JSRCs) in southern Europe should close. The restructuring of NATO’s command structure in 1999 resulted in the establishment of JSRCs in Larissa, Greece; Izmir, Turkey; Verona, Italy; and Madrid, Spain. The alliance has not yet specified which JSRCs will be shut down. The reasons the Greek government cited to back its argument that a regional command center should continue to operate in Greece were the support Greece has provided in anti-terrorism operations since September 11, including granting the U.S. military overflight rights and the use of the naval support facility at Souda Bay, Crete; the country’s geostrategic position; the leading role it has played in helping to bring Bulgaria and Romania into NATO; its central role in promoting the integration of Albania, Macedonia, Croatia, and Serbia and Montenegro into Euro-Atlantic structures; and its contribution to increased stability in NATO’s southern flank. If the Larissa command center is closed, Greece would like to have it replaced with the air command center for NATO’s southern region (AIRSOUTH) or the naval command center (NAVSOUTH), which are now based in Italy. May 23, 2003 Another November 17 Suspect Arrested Washington, D.C. - Police have arrested a twentieth suspected member of the November 17 terrorist group, blamed for 23 killings, dozens of attacks, and numerous bank robberies since it first appeared in 1975. Kostas Avramidis, a 42-year-old graphic artist, is believed to have served in an auxiliary role in the organization, perhaps recruiting members. After his arrest during violence at a recent demonstration in Athens, he was linked to November 17 through his fingerprints, which matched those that appeared in a book on urban guerrilla warfare found in a hideout used by the group. Avramidis has long been a close friend of Dimitris Koufodinas, believed to be November 17’s chief of operations. Koufodinas is one of the other 19 suspected members of the group, who went on trial March 3. The trial is expected to last several more months. May 16, 2003 Foreign Minister Represents EU in Talks with Israeli, Palestinian Officials Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, in his capacity as chairman of the European Union's Council of Foreign Ministers under Greece's current EU presidency, met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to promote their support for the “road map” peace plan for the Middle East unveiled on April 30 by the quartet of Mideast mediators -- the United States, the EU, Russia, and the United Nations. Rejecting a joint decision by Israeli and U.S. officials not to meet with Yasser Arafat in consultations concerning the peace plan, Papandreou met with both Arafat and the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, in the West Bank town of Ramallah. His visits took place the day after Secretary of State Colin Powell met only with Abbas as the representative of the Palestinian people. Papandreou stated that Arafat remained a player in the Middle East peace process and a debate over his future should not derail the road map. In a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Papandreou urged Israel to help the new Palestinian leadership implement the peace plan, while insisting on the necessity for a secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state. Papandreou stated that the European Union was prepared to contribute to the peace process, noting that next year's accession of Cyprus to the EU and Turkey's EU candidacy have brought the bloc closer to the Middle East. He said the EU was working closely with Powell on the peace plan. May 9, 2003 EU Foreign Ministers Discuss Security Strategy, Relations with U.S., Iraq Washington, D.C. - At the initiative of Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, under Greece’s current European Union presidency, the foreign ministers of the 15 EU member states and the 10 countries that will become members in 2004 met in Greece to discuss overcoming divisions within the bloc stemming from the Iraq crisis, mending strained relations with the United States over Iraq, and determining the involvement of the EU in rebuilding Iraq. During informal meetings of the ministers on the islands of Rhodes and Kastellorizo, Papandreou stated that the EU must ensure that its partnership with the United States is "reshaped" and adapted to the current international situation. "The war in Iraq demonstrated clearly that our longstanding trans-Atlantic relationship can no longer be taken for granted," Papandreou stated. "We must learn to understand the United States better, particularly the fears and motives that drive U.S. foreign policy," he said. If the EU wants to have a substantive dialogue with the United States, Papandreou stated, it must identify its own priorities as a union. He said Washington would not take Europe seriously as long as it refused to identify these priorities, lacked military strength, and had no clear stance on weapons of mass destruction. With respect to the control of weapons of mass destruction by "irresponsible nations," the minister said the EU should not be afraid to use force, though force should not be the bloc’s first option. Papandreou stated that Europeans could not allow "a narrow ideology espoused by a minority in the U.S. that ‘you are either with us or against us’ to prevail." Without the EU, the United States "will not be effective" in maintaining global security, he said. Papandreou won the support of the other ministers for the establishment of a common European security strategy to avoid diplomatic rifts within the bloc. It was agreed that EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana would draft the new strategy, which would address collective ways of handling issues ranging from weapons of mass destruction and terrorism to refugee flows and regional crises. The strategy will be discussed at the June 21 EU summit in Thessaloniki, Greece, and at a U.S.-EU summit in Washington on June 25, when Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, as European Council president, will meet with President Bush. Simitis said that the priority of Greece’s EU presidency would be to bridge the chasm that has opened between some European countries and Washington, noting that extensive talks and joint efforts are needed "to overcome the difficulties." In Greece, the foreign ministers also discussed an April 29 proposal by NATO members France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg, who opposed the war in Iraq, to set up a European planning and command staff for military operations separately from NATO and to boost the EU’s self-reliance in defense. The United States and Britain, in particular, oppose such a proposal, viewing it as a threat to the future of NATO. Papandreou noted that the proposal reinforced the efforts of Greece’s EU presidency toward a common European defense strategy, one that would enable the EU to develop its own external relations strategy as an equal partner with the United States. Proposals for the EU’s participation in Iraq’s reconstruction process, drawn up by Greece and the European Commission, included humanitarian aid, a likely dispatch of an EU delegation to the region to enhance stability, dialogue with international financial institutions to settle Iraq’s debts, and the return of the diplomatic missions of EU members to Baghdad. In addition, the proposals addressed the Middle East peace process, calling for the promotion of a dialogue between Turkey and the EU on the region, given the good relations between Ankara and Israel, and for the involvement of Ankara in EU efforts to end the Arab-Israeli dispute. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul of Turkey, an EU candidate, hosted a reception in the Turkish coastal town of Kas for all of the participants in the EU Council of Foreign Ministers meetings. The foreign ministers of Bulgaria and Romania, the two other EU candidate countries, joined the group in Kas, where they, along with Gul, were briefed on the proceedings of the meetings on Rhodes and Kastellorizo. April 18, 2003 EU's Iraq Differences Smoothed Over in Athens Washington, D.C. - Meeting in Athens at an informal European Council summit on the sidelines of the signing of the EU treaty of accession by 10 prospective new members, European Union leaders put their differences over the war in Iraq aside and issued a declaration calling on the United Nations to play a central role in post-conflict Iraq, including the process of establishing Iraqi self-government. The declaration reaffirmed the EU's commitment to play a significant role in the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq. It also stated that the U.S.-led coalition executing the war had a responsibility to ensure the establishment of a secure environment in Iraq that would allow the provision of humanitarian assistance and the protection of the country's cultural heritage and museums. The statement was drafted by Britain and Spain, who had supported the Iraq war, and by France and Germany, who had strongly opposed it. Prior to the summit, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, as president of the European Council under Greece's EU presidency through June 30, had urged European leaders to find ground for unity, stating that the EU must reinforce the trans-Atlantic relationship and avoid any worsening of relations between some European nations and the United States. During the summit, Simitis stated that he would continue his efforts to ensure that the U.N. is given a central role in humanitarian aid efforts in Iraq and in the country's economic and political reconstruction, adding that only the U.N. can provide an appropriate legal framework for Iraq in the post-Saddam era. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan was invited by Simitis to hold bilateral meetings in Athens during the summit with key members of the Security Council on a future role for the U.N. in Iraq. Annan also addressed the meeting of the European Conference, at which EU leaders discussed plans for implementing wide-ranging institutional reforms to reshape the governing structure of an expanded EU and progress made in drafting a new constitution for the bloc. At the request of the United States, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark, which had supported the war, sounded out other EU leaders on a plan to create a 3,000-member peacekeeping force for Iraq. Denmark, the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Spain, and Italy stated that they were considering participating in the force. Italy has announced plans to send military police to Iraq. The bloc also proposed launching an airlift to fly wounded Iraqi civilians to European hospitals. April 11, 2003 Greece Warns Turkey: No EU Accession Without Cyprus Settlement Washington, D.C. - Prime Minister Costas Simitis of Greece, which currently holds the European Union presidency, warned Turkey that it could not enter the EU as long as Cyprus remained divided, noting that “the line dividing Nicosia also separates Turkey from the European Union.” He rejected attempts by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and the Turkish government to restart negotiations for a Cyprus settlement outside the framework of the United Nations. In addition, Simitis stated that there were preconditions for Turkey's entry into the EU, such as the settlement of Turkey's outstanding issues with its neighbors according to international law and EU principles. This was an apparent reference to the December 1999 presidency conclusions of the EU Helsinki summit in which the bloc calls on Turkey and Greece to make every effort to resolve outstanding border disputes and, in the absence of their resolution, states that the disputes should be brought to the International Court of Justice by 2004. Simitis and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a discussion on the sidelines of a Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP) meeting in Belgrade on April 9, agreed that both countries would make an effort to move the Cyprus settlement process forward. Simitis reiterated Greece's position that the settlement plan proposed by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan should constitute the basis for further Cyprus talks, while Erdogan agreed that the plan could form the foundation for the discussions once certain amendments were made. April 11, 2003 Olympic Security Plans Continue to Take Shape Washington, D.C. - Greece's Ministry of Defense, in conjunction with its Merchant Marine Ministry, has signed a contract with Eurocopter for the delivery of five AS 365 N3 Dauphin 2 helicopters for use in providing security during the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens. Eurocopter is a division of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), the largest partner in the Eurofighter consortium. The helicopters, purchased for about $50 million, will perform surveillance missions along the coast of Athens and Piraeus for the harbor police of the Merchant Marine Ministry through the use of radar, infrared cameras, and other equipment. Corporate sponsors and dignitaries attending the Olympics will be lodged on cruise ships in Piraeus harbor. Greece will spend over $600 million for security infrastructure and equipment during the games, more than double the security budget of any previous Olympics. $310 million were spent on security at the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City, and security arrangements for the 2000 games in Sydney cost $210 million. The number of security personnel in Athens, 45,000, will be four times the average number deployed at previous games, for some 600 games-related sites and the Athens airport. Greece is conferring with anti-terrorism experts from the United States, Britain, Spain, France, Germany, Israel, and Australia concerning security tactics. The State Department has asked Congress for $4.5 million, as part of its more than $8 billion budget request for fiscal 2004, to provide what it referred to as "an unprecedented level of security protection and assistance" for the 600 U.S. athletes expected to compete in Athens and 200 coaches. Of the $4.5 million, $2.6 million has been earmarked to fund the deployment of 150 special agents from the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security to guard the U.S. team. The department said that this protection was beyond the level it normally provides for such events, based on "an assessment of available security resources and other factors related to the size and site of the event." April 4, 2003 U.S.-Europe Talks on U.N. Post-War Role Washington, D.C. - Following Secretary of State Colin Powell's talks with European Union and NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, joined NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson in stating that a consensus was emerging between the EUNATO, and the United States on a U.N. role in the rebuilding of post-war Iraq. Powell stated that the U.N. would definitely have a role to play in the reconstruction of the country but the nature of that role had not yet been determined. He said the U.S. and Britain should lead the transition from a military administration to an Iraqi-run government, but they would work in partnership with other entities. In addition, he stated that NATO member states had been receptive to the idea of alliance peacekeepers in Iraq, but no definite proposals had been made in this regard. According to Papandreou, the EU hopes that a consensus can be reached in the U.N. Security Council concerning the role of the United Nations in the reconstruction of Iraq. Powell's visit to Brussels was intended to help mend fences with the European Union over the lack of support of many of its members for the U.S.-led campaign to disarm the Iraqi regime by force. The visit included a meeting with Papandreou in his capacity as chairman of the EU Council of Ministers, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and European Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten. Papandreou has said in the past that new initiatives should be taken to improve relations between the U.S. and the EU following disagreements over how to handle the Iraq crisis. April 4, 2003 Defense Minister Meets with U.S. Officials on Iraq War, Regional Issues Washington, D.C. - During talks in Washington with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in his capacity as chairman of the Council of EU Defense Ministers under Greece's presidency of the bloc, Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou conveyed the desire of Greece and the entire European Union for the war in Iraq to end soon and the loss of life to be limited. Papantoniou emphasized the need for the United Nations to be involved in the post-war reconstruction of Iraq and in the flow of humanitarian aid to the country, adding that a U.N. presence will confer international legality to these processes. Although Papantoniou criticized Turkey's assertion that it reserves the right to send troops into northern Iraq under certain circumstances, he stressed that Ankara should be engaged diplomatically on both the international and European levels in order to promote long-term improvement in Greek-Turkish relations and to prevent problems between Turkey and Greece in the Aegean, where the two countries are in dispute over a series of sovereignty-related issues. He praised Secretary of State Colin Powell's trip to Ankara as a positive step in minimizing Turkey's isolation. The two officials also discussed the March 31 takeover of the NATO peacekeeping force in Macedonia by the European Union rapid reaction force and the future status of NATO headquarters in the eastern Mediterranean. Greece wants to ensure that there is equity between its role and that of Turkey regarding the two countries' participation in the alliance's command and control activities in the region. Papantoniou also discussed the Iraq war, EU-U.S. relations, and the Cyprus issue with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Papantoniou flew to Fort Worth, Texas, to attend a ceremony marking the delivery of the first six of 60 F-16 Block 52+ fighter aircraft purchased by Greece from Lockheed Martin. The delivery of the remaining aircraft will be completed by early 2004. March 28, 2003 Greece Reiterates Opposition to Iraq War Washington, D.C. - Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, chairman of the European Council under Greece's current EU presidency, reiterated that the Greek government opposed the Iraq war. He expressed regret that Greece's efforts, through its EU presidency, to prevent the conflict had not succeeded. Simitis called on the United Nations to play a decisive role in the peace and reconstruction efforts in Iraq when the conflict is over. Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, who is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in Washington the week of March 31stated that the war in Iraq would have a negative effect on Greece's security over the long term. Papantoniou emphasized that Greece was not participating in any way, either directly or indirectly, in the war. He noted that the activities at Souda Bay in Crete, Greece's contribution of ships to patrol operations by NATO's Standing Naval Force Mediterranean in the eastern Mediterranean, and the mission of a Greek frigate in the Gulf had no relation to the Iraq war. Both the ships in the eastern Mediterranean and the frigate were deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S.-led war against international terrorism, he noted. A Greek government spokesman stated that the frigatepart of a multinational naval squadron that included French and Canadian ships, was outside the Iraq war zone and, in the event the zone were expanded, the vessel would return to Greece. Papantoniou stated that use of the port and the Hellenic Air Force airfield at Souda Bay by the U.S. military had been mandated by longstanding agreements between Greece and the United States. After the Iraq war began, Greece expelled a senior Iraqi diplomat but said it did not intend to close Iraq's embassy in Athens. A Foreign Ministry spokesman stated that the diplomat had taken part in actions that went beyond his diplomatic duties. The decision was not in response to Washington's urging that countries around the world expel Iraqi diplomats and shut down Iraq's embassies until new leadership is in place in Baghdad, he said. March 21, 2003 Use of Airspace by U.S. for Iraq War, No Greek Participation Washington, D.C. - Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis stated that Greece is not taking part in the war against Iraq and will not be involved in the war in the future. He said, however, that the Greek government would honor the obligations it has under international treaties and agreements. Among these accords is the mutual defense cooperation agreement between Greece and the United States allowing the U.S. Navy to operate a support facility at Souda Bay on the island of Crete, which includes the use of the deep water porta key supply harbor for NATO ships under an agreement with the alliance, and the Hellenic Air Force airfield. The U.S. has sent naval reservists to Souda Bay to augment its contingent there. Greece also approved a U.S. request for overflights, which are not covered by any of the existing treaties or agreements between Athens and Washington. Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou ruled out the possibility that Patriot missile batteries would be sent to Turkey from Greece during the war. Government spokesman Telemachos Hitiris stated that Greece, which currently holds the EU presidency, was against the war, adding that the Greek government expressed its disappointment because a war that could have been averted was underway. The National Intelligence Service (EYP) has stepped up activity to avert the smuggling of migrants into Greece, estimating that at least 200,000 Iraqis fleeing the war may attempt to cross into the country from Turkey over the next two months. EYP and the Greek police are also closely watching some 200 Arabs who are permanent residents of Greece and are suspected of possible links with terrorist networks. March 14, 2003 Purchase of Israeli Patrol Boats for Olympic Security Washington, D.C. - In its first sale to the navy of a European Union country, Israel has concluded an agreement to supply three fast patrol vessels to Greece at an estimated cost of $100 million by the time the summer 2004 Olympics games begin in Athens. Israel Shipyards will produce the Saar-4 class boats, based on a model that has long been used by the Israeli Navy. They will be used by the Hellenic Coast Guard to ensure coastal security during the games. March 7, 2003 Trial of November 17 Terrorist Suspects Begins Washington, D.C. - The trial of 19 suspected members of the November 17 terrorist group began March 3 in Athens some nine months after a chain of arrests was set off by the capture of a man who bungled a bomb attack planned by the organization in the Athenian port of Piraeus. The heavily-guarded trial, where over 150 lawyers are working for the prosecution and defense teams, is being described as the most significant in Greece since the leaders of the country's 1967-1974 military dictatorship went on trial in 1975. It is being conducted in the same courtroom in the country's largest maximum-security prison where the junta colonels were tried. The 18 men and one woman have been charged with the killings of 23 people since 1975, including American, British, and Turkish diplomats, and Greek business, political, and law enforcement figures, in addition to attempted murders and the staging of 100 bombings and numerous armed robberies. Six suspects have admitted belonging to the organization, while the remainder have denied all charges against them. Prosecutors spent more than six hours reading the 2,000 charges against the accused to a special three-judge court established under Greece's new anti-terrorism laws. The non-jury trial is expected to last at least five months. The trial has been characterized as "political" by the alleged leader of November 17, French-born academic Alexandros Giotopoulos; by alleged chief hit man Dimitris Koufodinas, a bee keeper charged with 16 slayings, including two of the four Americans killed; and by Savas Xiros, an icon painter whose June 2002 bungled bomb attack initiated the series of arrests. Giotopoulos said the charges against him, which he denied, constituted "an Anglo-American fabrication." He stated that the United States wanted him to be on trial because he came from a well-known left-wing family. Koufodinas stated that he accepted "political responsibility" for November 17's actions, while also denying the accusations. The opening day of the trial was disrupted by a debate over whether the $3.9 million bulletproof glass paneling protecting the defendants should remain in place. The judges ordered its removal after the defendants complained that it breached their legal rights. Another disruption resulted from a dispute over whether live television and radio coverage of the trial should be permitted. The dispute began when lawyers for the defendants challenged the existing ban on television and radio crews in the courtroom, expressing the suspects' view that live coverage would ensure that the trial is fair. The government, prosecutors, and most of the lawyers representing relatives of the group's victims wanted the ban upheld for fear of generating a carnival-like atmosphere. The judges ruled against introducing live coverage. Journalists can watch the trial in the courtroom or on nearby video monitors. Tape recorders are allowed inside the courtroom, but the recordings may not be broadcast. The court upheld Greece's 20-year statute of limitations. Therefore, some of November 17's actions through 1982 will go unpunished, such as the killing of CIA station chief in Athens, Richard Welch, in December 1975. Welch was the group's first victim. The name of the November 17 group is derived from the date of a 1973 student uprising that helped bring down the dictatorship. Its ideology initially combined Marxism, nationalism, and anti-American sentiments, and later added opposition to globalization and multinational organizations. February 27, 2003 Foreign Minister Heads EU Delegation to Washington to Discuss Iraq Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, as chairman of the European Union's Council of Ministers under Greece's current EU presidency, was scheduled to hold talks in Washington on February 27along with the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and European Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten, to discuss the Iraq crisis, North Korea, Cyprus, and trans-Atlantic issues. The talks were to be held within the framework of regularly-scheduled, semi-annual meetings between the United States and the EU. The officials planned meetings with Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. The discussions were scheduled less than two weeks after Greece organized an emergency EU summit in Brussels, where the 15 members of the bloc issued a statement calling for the peaceful disarmament of Iraq, with war considered a last resort. February 21, 2003 EU Summit Statement Presents Unified Iraq Stance Washington, D.C. - At a February 17 emergency summit of European Union leaders in Brussels called by Greece as the current EU president, Prime Minister Costas Simitis was successful in achieving the presidency's goal of a common EU position advocating a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis, despite the deepening divisions that remain within the bloc on the issue. Greece has treaded carefully as France, Germany, and Belgium have resisted U.S. pressure to take military action against Baghdad, while Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Denmark have expressed support for Washington's position. In a statement issued at the end of the summit, chaired by Simitis, the EU leaders called for the peaceful disarmament of Iraq, maintaining that it was "clear that this is what the people of Europe want." They also said that war was not inevitable and force should only be used as a last resort. The statement said it was up to the regime in Iraq to end the current crisis by disarming immediately and fully in compliance with the demands of the U.N. Security Council, which, according to the EU statement, holds the primary responsibility for dealing with Iraqi disarmament. Reiterating full support for the work of the U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq, it said that these inspectors must be given the time and resources the Security Council believes they need. It added that the inspections cannot continue indefinitely in the absence of full Iraqi cooperation. The statement also asserted that the EU was committed to working with all of its partners, especially the United States, for the disarmament of Iraq and for peace and stability in the region. It credited the U.S. military build-up in the Gulf with forcing Iraq to readmit the weapons inspectors. The day after the summit, the statement was endorsed by the leaders of the 10 countries that have been invited to join the EU in 2004 and the three candidate countries, including Turkey, at a meeting with Simitis in Brussels, during which he briefed them on the proceedings of the summit. European Commission President Romano Prodi and EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solanaalso participated in the meeting. Greece had planned to include these leaders in the summit but changed its mind after protests from France and Germany, who apparently feared that additional support for the U.S. position toward Iraq would tip the balance away from an EU call for avoiding war. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who had protested their exclusion prior to the summit, sent a letter to the 13 leaders expressing regret that they had not been invited. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a telephone conversation with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, described the EU summit as a success. The European Commission praised the Greek presidency for organizing the gathering and for achieving a unified statement concerning Iraq. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and the president of the European Parliament, Pat Cox, attended the summit. At the Brussels summit, the Greek presidency also asked the EU leaders to examine the repercussions of the Iraq crisis on the Middle East peace process. At a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo the day before the summit, Papandreou, as current president of the EU's Council of Ministers, urged Arab states to work with the European Union to persuade Iraq to comply with U.N. resolutions on disarmament in order to avoid a war. In talks with Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri on the sidelines of the Arab League meeting, Papandreou said that the EU was attempting to achieve a peaceful settlement of the crisis. February 14, 2003 Greece Seeks EU Consensus on Iraq at Summit Washington, D.C. - Greece, which currently holds the European Union presidency, warned that the EU's failure to agree on a common Iraq policy at an emergency summit of the bloc's leaders on the evening of February 17 in Brussels would throw the EU into a significant crisis. Greece scheduled the summit to provide a forum for the bloc to collectively evaluate the February 14 report by U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq to the Security Council and to urge the EU nations to overcome their disagreements concerning Baghdad by arriving at a common strategy. The Greek Foreign Ministry stated that the summit was viewed as the last chance for the EU to achieve unity on the approach to disarming Saddam Hussein's regime. All of the EU leaders have agreed to attend the summit, which will be preceded on the morning of February 17 by a meeting of the EU foreign ministers who will focus on reaching a consensus on a text to be presented for adoption at the summit. The 10 countries that have been asked to join the EU in 2004 and the three candidate countries, including Turkey, will not take part in the summit. Although Greece had originally invited them to the meeting, the invitation was withdrawn following objections by France, Germany, and Belgium, which stated that their attendance would be inappropriate. In a letter to Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, British Prime Minister Tony Blair urged Greece to include the 13 countries in the summit, given the fact that their interests were also at stake in this debate. There would be more support for the U.S. policy toward Iraq at the summit if these countries were included. While France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, and Luxembourg want to give the weapons inspectors more time to carry out their work, a stance Greece supports, Britain, Italy, Denmark, Portugal, and Spain back the U.S. policy. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, and European Parliament President Pat Cox had urged Athens to organize a summit on Iraq. A European Commission spokesman said that any move toward establishing a common European strategy would be welcomed. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, chairman of the EU's Council of Ministers under the EU presidency, was scheduled to go to Cairo on February 16, at the invitation of Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussato attend a meeting of the organization and discuss with Arab foreign ministers regional efforts toward achieving the peaceful disarmament of Iraq. February 14, 2003 Sending Troops to Turkey, Iraq for War Effort Ruled Out Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis said Greece would not send troops or weapons systems to Turkey to defend it against a possible attack by Iraq during a war against Baghdad, neither under a bilateral agreement nor as a result of a NATO decision. Beglitis also ruled out sending Greek troops to Iraq. Greece is, however, expected to grant the U.S. overflight rights and the use of the NATO naval facility at Souda Bay in Crete in conjunction with an Iraq campaign February 7, 2003 Athens Pursues Common EU Policy Against Iraq War Washington, D.C. - Greece, which supports the attempts of Germany and France to avoid war in Iraqis pushing for an emergency European Union summit by February 14 to discuss the issue and forge a common anti-war stance among EU members, which are deeply divided on the matter. On February 14, U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq will submit their next report on the status of the inspections to the U.N. Security Council. The proposed summit would bring together the foreign ministers of the 15 EU nations, the 10 nations that are joining the bloc in May 2004, EU candidates Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey, and Iraq's neighbors: Iran, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Both France and Germany have welcomed the proposal. However, Greece stands alone among Balkan nations in its anti-war stance. The foreign ministers of Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, F.Y.R. Macedonia, Romania, and Slovenia joined those of Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in issuing a February 5 statement expressing their countries' support for any U.S. effort to disarm Saddam Hussein. The ministers, noting that they had lived under communism and understood tyranny, said democracies must unite to face "the clear and present danger" posed by his regime. They also stated that their countries were prepared to contribute to an international coalition to enforce the disarmament of Iraq. Greece's summit initiative followed a decision by five EU member states -- Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Denmark -- and three countries that have been invited to join the bloc next year -- Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic -- to issue an open letter on January 30 calling on Europe to support Washington's policy on Iraq. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Foreign Minister George Papandreou, chairman of the European Union's Council of Ministers under the current EU presidency, criticized the five countries for releasing the letter outside the framework of the EU, and without first informing Greece as the current president, and said their action was a hindrance to Athens' efforts to work toward a common EU stance on the Iraq crisis. Athens had lauded the January 27 joint statement by the 15 EU foreign ministers asserting that all avenues for peaceful resolution of the crisis should be explored and calling for U.N. arms inspectors in Iraq to be given more time to conduct their search. Papandreou visited Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon to convince Iraq's neighbors to persuade Saddam Hussein to comply fully with U.N. demands concerning weapons inspections. He also reportedly raised the issue of the Iraqi leader being given asylum by an Arab nation to ward off a conflict, as well as the possibility of an EU-Arab peace mission to Baghdad. Papandreou briefed Secretary of State Colin Powell on his tour by telephone. Papandreou said he would be cooperating closely with Turkey on efforts to achieve a peaceful joint EU solution to the issue of Iraq's disarmament. He told Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis that Greece had welcomed Turkey's attempt to pursue a non-violent solution by calling a meeting of the foreign ministers of five nations in the region in late January. February 7, 2003 Police Arrest First Suspects of Left-Wing Terrorist Group ELA Washington, D.C. - Greek authorities have arrested four suspected members of the radical left-wing terrorist group Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA), whose members have, until now, eluded capture since the organization first became active in 1975. Until 1995, when it disbanded, the group carried out over 100 bomb attacks in Athens and Piraeus against U.S. military facilities and businesses as well as Greek government and economic targets. The group killed two police officers and injured four dozen other people, primarily policemen. ELA is believed to have been closely linked to the November 17 terrorist group, which was broken up in 2002 with the arrest of 19 suspects. These suspects are scheduled to go on trial on March 3 under Greece's new anti-terrorism law, mandating trial by a three-judge criminal court rather than by jury for terrorist suspects. November 17 killed 23 people, including four American officials, and carried out numerous bomb and rocket attacks between 1975 and 2002. The two groups, which are not believed to have links to Al-Qaeda, are considered the deadliest of the terrorist organizations in Greece. Arrested on charges of participating in ELA were Angeletos Kanas, 52, the mayor of Kimolos, a small Cycladic island with about 700 inhabitants, which is 95 miles southwest of Athens near Milos; and Athens residents Constantinos Agapiou, a 56-year-old civil engineer; Christos Tsigarides, a 65-year-old architect; and Irini Athanassaki, a 49-year-old travel agency employee. Tsigarides is suspected of being the last leader of the organization. Both Kanas and Agapiou are believed to have cooperated with international left-wing terrorist Carlos "The Jackal," whose activities in Greece included a bomb attack against the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Athens in 1983 and the bombing of a bar frequented by U.S. servicemen in an Athens seaside suburb. ELA has also reportedly been listed in documents of the former East German intelligence agency Stasi." January 17, 2003 EU Presidency Targets Stronger Relations with Balkans Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, in his capacity as chairman of the EU Council of Ministers under Greece's EU presidency, conducted a three-day tour of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, F.Y.R. Macedonia, and Yugoslavia aimed at increasing cooperation between Balkan countries and the European Union to boost their prospects for eventually acceding to the bloc. While Greece is at the rotating helm of the EU during the first half of 2003, one of its stated priorities is to foster greater economic and political cooperation between the Balkans and Brussels. The EU's concerns in the region are eliminating corruption and organized crime, promoting ethnic harmony and greater human rights, facilitating the establishment of strong administrative and judicial systems that will implement the rule of law, and ensuring that the transition from communism to a market economy is achieved through economic reform. In Bosnia, Papandreou attended a ceremony at which EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana launched the European Union's takeover of training for the country's 16,000 police force, as part of the EU's European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). Under the European Union's Police Mission (EUPM), the EU's first foreign security operation, about 500 personnel from all 15 member states and 18 non-EU countries will replace the United Nations International Police Task Force, established in Bosnia in 1995 to oversee law enforcement as part of the Dayton peace accords. Until 2005, EUPM will work alongside the NATO-led, 15,000 SFOR peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and will focus on investigating terrorism, corruption, organized crime, and drug and human trafficking, while also harmonizing customs regulations with EU standards. The EU may also take over the command of SFOR early next year. In F.Y.R. Macedonia, the first country in the region to sign an EU Stabilization and Association Agreement, a first step toward membership in the bloc, Papandreou's discussions with Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski and other government leaders included ways to combat unemployment in the country, which is approaching 40 percent. The EU is preparing to launch its first peacekeeping mission by taking over the 450-member NATO force in F.Y.R. Macedonia, possibly by March 1, 2003. Papandreou visited Tirana with his Danish and Italian counterparts, as well as Solana and External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten, as part of the EU troika's visit to Albania for talks with Prime Minister Fatos Nano and other officials. The EU delegation assured Albania that its negotiations for concluding a Stabilization and Association Agreement would open soon. In Zagrebin talks with Foreign Minister Tonino Picula, Papandreou stated that Croatia had made more progress than the other countries in the Balkans toward preparations for EU accession. Croatia, which has signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement, plans to submit its application for EU accession in February 2003. During the trip to Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, for meetings with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, and Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, both Papandreou and the Yugoslav officials agreed that Kosovo was a major problem that should be solved on the basis of European criteria, principles, and values. Papandreou said that Belgrade should begin negotiations with the EU for concluding a Stabilization and Association Agreement. Greece plans to hold a meeting between EU member countries and the Balkan states in Thessaloniki in tandem with the June EU summit in Greece's second-largest city. January 17, 2003 No Troops to Participate in Iraq War Washington, D.C. - Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou stated that Greece would not send soldiers to fight in Iraq under any circumstances, if a decision is made to go ahead with a U.S.-led war to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Papantoniou's statement paralleled those of the leadership of Germany, which has pledged not to send troops to Iraq, even if a U.N. Security Council resolution supporting war is approved. Papantoniou said, however, that, if a war is approved by the U.N., Greece will offer the same type of assistance it granted during the campaign in Afghanistan, such as the use of the NATO facility at Souda Bay and other ports. A Greek frigate is currently participating in "Operation Enduring Freedom." the U.S.-led military response to the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Washington has not asked Greece to provide a naval vessel to take part in the military buildup off southwestern Asia in preparation for a possible war against Iraq. Papantoniou said that the possibility that Greece would send a ship for this purpose was highly hypothetical." Greece continues to maintain that a peaceful solution to the situation in Iraq can be achieved through negotiations. January 17, 2003 Banker Charged with Membership in November 17 Washington, D.C. - A Greek banker was arrested and charged with membership in the November 17 terrorist group on January 9, bringing to 19 the number of suspects indicted since June 2002 for participation in the group. Seventeen of the suspects are in prison, while one, veteran union leader Yiannis Serifis, is out on bail. Their trial by a three-judge criminal court is scheduled to begin on March 3 in a specially built prison courtroom and is expected to last four or five months. The fingerprints and handwriting of Anestis Papanastasiou, a 40-year-old head of the loan department at a branch of HSBC Bank in Thessaloniki, were found on a map of an army camp allegedly drawn by him and on notes concerning urban guerrilla warfare and bombmaking dating from 1993 to 1997. The map and notes were found in one of two November 17 hideouts in Athens, which were discovered by Greek authorities in summer 2002. Anestis is the cousin of Nikos Papanastasiou, 50, an Athens shopkeeper charged with participating in three of the group's 23 killings that took place between December 1975 and June 2002, when a botched bomb attack in the Athenian port of Piraeus led to the first arrests of members of the group in 27 years. Nikos, charged with complicity in the 1983 assassination of U.S. Navy officer George Tsantes, has been named by other suspects as a founding member of the organization. Most of the accused face multiple counts of murder and other charges linked to the organization's campaign of assassinations, bombings, drive-by shootings, and bank robberies. An Athens prosecutor has begun an inquiry into press reports that Grigoris Michalopoulos, the publisher of an extreme right-wing newspaper, Eleftheri Ora, extorted money from businessmen by claiming that he could intervene with November 17 to remove their names from the group's hit list. The probe was triggered by a 1985 entry in a diary written by Dimitris Angelopoulos, an industrialist who was killed by the organization in 1986, in which he stated that he had been approached by Michalopoulos for this purpose. Michalopoulos denied the allegations. The government confirmed that the diary had been given to Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis by Angelopoulos's family in summer 2002. Simitis turned it over to Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, who passed it on to his team of prosecutors. January 10, 2003 EU Peace Mission on Iraq to Be Carried Out Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, in his capacity as chairman of the European Union Council of Ministers under Greece's EU presidency, announced that he would lead an EU mission to Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority in early February to enlist their help in persuading Iraq to abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions concerning weapons of mass destruction in order to avoid a U.S.-led war against Iraq. The trip will also be seen as a way for the EU to assess the position that each country in the Middle East will take if a war is launched. EU officials in Brussels said they were given no warning of the announcement, which took other EU members by surprise. The attitudes of other EU members toward an attack on Iraq vary widely, ranging from strong British support for Washington's policy toward Baghdad to Germany's refusal to participate in any military action against Iraq. Papandreou's trip will be undertaken after January 27, when U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq will report their findings to the U.N. Security Council, a key moment in determining the timing of any U.S.-led action against Iraq. The Iraq crisis was among the topics Papandreou covered with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who arrived in Athens on January 9 to discuss ways to expand Iran's ties with the EU and bilateral issues. December 20, 2002 Athens Outlines Goals of Its EU Presidency Washington, D.C. - Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said Greece's priorities as president of the European Union from January 1 to June 30, 2003would be enlargement, European foreign policy, economic issues, and migration. The prime minister stated that Greece would adhere to the enlargement timetable agreed upon at the December EU summit in Copenhagen so that the treaty of accession concerning the 10 new member states could be signed in Athens on April 16, 2003. In addition, he said, the presidency would move forward with the pre-accession strategy for Bulgaria and Romania that would enable them to become EU members in 2007while also making further progress concerning "a new partnership" with Turkey, including promotion of its accession to the EU. Europe's common foreign affairs and defense policy would be strengthened to allow the EU to play a more important role internationally, with special attention paid to cooperation and stability in the Balkans and support for the international coalition against terrorism. Economic competitiveness, employment, social cohesion, and sustainable development would also be targeted, while dealing with the control of migration and illegal immigration. November 22, 2002 Erdogan, Seeking Support for Turkey's EU Accession, Meets with Simitis in Athens Washington, D.C. - In talks between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Turkey's AKP party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as part of the latter's tour of eight European capitals to persuade EU leaders to grant Turkey a starting date at the bloc's Copenhagen summit for accession talks, Simitis told Erdogan that Greece was in favor of setting a date for the talks, in principle. Simitis noted, however, that Turkey must set a clear agenda for implementing the required reforms. In addition, he said, the new Turkish government must clarify its stance on the Cyprus problem and matters decided upon at the December 1999 EU summit in Helsinki, an apparent reference to the summit's presidency conclusions, which stated that outstanding disputes between Greece and Turkey should be referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague by the end of 2004, if the issues, such as the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf, are not resolved through negotiations by then. Turkey was named an EU candidate at the Helsinki summit. At a cabinet meeting the day after Erdogan's visit, Simitis stated that Greece and Turkey were looking into the possibility of signing an agreement to refer the continental shelf issue to the ICJ. Simitis also told his cabinet that Erdogan's agenda of greater religious freedom included the reopening of the Christian Orthodox seminary on the Turkish island of Halki, closed in 1971. Its closure has long been a source of friction between Greece and Turkey. In his talks with the Greek prime minister, Erdogan referred to Greece as Turkey's closest neighbor and strategic partner, and pledged that his party would work hard to enact the democratic reforms required for Turkey to join the European Union. Erdogan emphasized the AKP government's desire to have good relations with Greece and said he looked forward to "the days when the problems will be solved." He added that Greece should not be "treated as an adversary." Erdogan stated that he wanted to see the two countries follow the path forged by the founder of the Turkish republic, Kemal Ataturk, and Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venezelos, considered to be a period of cordial relations between Greece and Turkey. He also told Simitis that he did not believe that there were any serious problems with respect to the launching of the European Union's rapid reaction force under the umbrella of the European Defense and Security Policy (ESDP). Following Erdogan's visit, the new Turkish prime minister, Abdullah Gul, said his cabinet would promote the resolution of Greek-Turkish differences. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who was the architect, along with former Turkish foreign minister Ismail Cem, of rapprochement between Greece and Turkey beginning in 1999, called the meeting between Simitis and Erdogan "historic noting that the cooperation between the two countries that began with difficulty three years ago has taken a turn for the better." Erdogan also met with main opposition New Democracy Party leader Costas Caramanlis and the outgoing mayor of Athens, Dimitris Avramopoulos, who will visit Turkey at the invitation of the AKP leader. Erdogan's visit to Athens was followed by trips to Madrid, Berlin, Dublin, London, Brussels, and Strasbourg, the site of the European Parliament, to lobby for a date for Turkey's accession talks. He had also made an earlier trip to Rome. November 8, 2002 Leader of Turkey's Future Ruling Party To Make Greece First Stop of European Tour Washington, D.C. - Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, the first foreign leader to telephone Justice and Development Party (AKP) head Recep Tayyip Erdogan to congratulate him on his party's victory in the November 3 Turkish elections, extended an invitation to him during the call to visit Athens. Demonstrating his intention to make Turkey's EU accession process the top priority of his party, Erdogan is scheduled to travel to Athens on November 18 as the first stop of a tour of Europe to lobby EU countries to set a date at the EU Copenhagen summit in December for the start of Ankara's long-awaited accession talks. Although Erdogan is neither a head of state nor a head of government, two Greek Foreign Ministry officials traveled to Ankara to prepare for his visit to the Greek capital. The Greek government has indicated that it will push for the designation of a timetable at the Copenhagen summit for the launching of Turkey's accession talks. Greece assumes the rotating six-month presidency of the EU on January 1. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou stated that Greece was ready to cooperate with Turkey's new government in order to continue the policy of rapprochement and the effort to "make a leap forward" in bilateral relations, particularly with respect to attempts to solve the Cyprus problem. He said Erdogan had told Simitis that he would like to see "even more productive cooperation" between the two countries. After the elections, Erdogan's initial statement that an AKP government would look at the Belgian model as a way of approaching a resolution to the division of Cyprus was welcomed by the Greek government. However, Erdogan retreated from his statement as a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman and AKP deputy leader Yasar Yakis, who may be the foreign minister in the new government, clarified that AKP essentially supports the same position on Cyprus as that espoused by recent Turkish governments and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. Erdogan is scheduled to visit northern Cyprus on November 15the anniversary of the unilateral declaration of independence establishing the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" in 1983. October 25, 2002 Public Order Minister Discusses Olympic Security, Counter-Terrorism with U.S. Officials Washington, D.C. - The three-day visit by Greek Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoides and top anti-terrorism officials to Washington focused heavily on cooperation with the United States in organizing security arrangements for the summer 2004 Olympics in Athens. The U.S. has offered Greece all the experts and training it needs to carry out its $1 billion security plan for the games. It is one of seven countries that are providing advice to the Greek government, along with Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Israel, and Spain. Washington will offer specialists in dealing with chemical and biological weapons as Greece prepares to train 50,000 police and other security personnel. Chrysochoides' discussions with CIA Director George Tenet, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, White House terrorism specialist John Gordon, Francis Taylor, the head of the State Department's counter-terrorism office, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge also covered Greece's role in achieving stability in the Balkans, its contribution to the war against international terrorism and organized crime, and regional initiatives concerning illegal immigration to be taken during Greece's EU presidency, which begins on January 1. U.S. officials expressed appreciation to the Greek government for the recent dismantling of the November 17 terrorist group as a contribution to the overall war on terrorism. Washington will continue to cooperate with Athens in the ongoing investigation into the organization. October 22, 2002 Opposition Prevails in Majority of Local Elections Washington, D.C. - Although the conservative main opposition New Democracy Party (ND) retained its lead nationwide in the second and final round of the country's municipal and prefectural elections on October 20its achievement was tempered by the victory of the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) in the Athens-Piraeus prefecture, a race won by ND in 1998. ND candidates assumed the position of prefect in 31 of Greece's 57 prefectures, while PASOK was victorious in 24 of these races. ND also won the majority of the mayoral races in the country's major cities, including Athens, Piraeus, and Thessaloniki, the three largest. ND candidate Dora Bakoyianni became Athens' first woman mayor as the city enters the final stretch of its preparations for the summer 2004 Olympic games. A PASOK victory for the position of prefect in the Athens-Piraeus metropolitan area, home to about one-fourth of the country's population of 10.9 million, was significant in elections that were viewed as a referendum on the administration of Prime Minister Costas Simitis and nearly two decades of Socialist rule, while also being a scene-setter for the spring 2004 parliamentary elections. It will help the ruling party to ward off New Democracy pressure for early parliamentary elections, which an across-the-board PASOK defeat would have brought on. The surprise element in the first round of the elections on October 13 was the unexpected emergence of the far right in the Athens-Piraeus prefecture, where ultra-nationalist Giorgios Karadzaferis won 13.6 percent of the vote in the race for prefect, coming in third after the PASOK candidate, with about 40 percent, and the ND candidate, with about 28 percent. It was the highest level of support for a far-right candidate in Greece since the early 1980s. Karadzaferis, who owns a television station, was elected to parliament in April 2001 on a ND ticket but was expelled from the party a month later because of his extreme views. Over the years, he has made racist, neo-Nazi, and anti-Semitic statements. A similar percentage of votes for candidates of Karadzaferis's newly-formed party, the Popular Orthodox Alarm (LAOS), in the 2004 parliamentary elections would give the extreme right representation in parliament for the first time since the collapse of the seven-year military dictatorship in 1974. In their campaigns, ND candidates capitalized on voter discontent over rising inflation and a loss of purchasing power following the introduction of the euro in January 2002. Unemployment stands at nearly 10 percent. These elections introduced new quotas to increase the number of women in politics, requiring one-third of all candidates for seats in mayoral and prefectural assemblies to be women. Voting is compulsory in Greece. October 18, 2002 Opposition Prevails in Majority of Local Elections Washington, D.C. - Although the conservative main opposition New Democracy Party (ND) took the lead nationwide in the first round of the country's municipal and prefectural elections on October 13its achievement was tempered by the projected victory of the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) in the Athens-Piraeus prefecture, a race won by ND in 1998, in the second round on October 20. ND won the mayoral race in Thessaloniki in the first round and was projected to win this race in Greece's two other largest cities, Athens and Piraeus, in the second round. ND mayoral candidate Dora Bakoyianni, if elected, would become Athens' first woman mayor as the city enters the final stretch of its preparations for the summer 2004 Olympic games. A PASOK victory for the position of prefect in the Athens-Piraeus metropolitan area, home to about one-fourth of the country's population of 10.9 million, will be significant in elections that are being viewed as a referendum on the administration of Prime Minister Costas Simitis and nearly two decades of Socialist rule, while also being a scene-setter for the spring 2004 parliamentary elections. It will help the ruling party to ward off New Democracy pressure for early parliamentary elections, which an across-the-board PASOK defeat would bring on. The surprise element in the first round of the elections was the unexpected emergence of the far right in the Athens-Piraeus prefecture, where ultra-nationalist Giorgios Karadzaferis won 13.6 percent of the vote in the race for prefect, coming in third after the PASOK candidate, with about 40 percent, and the ND candidate, with about 28 percent. It was the highest level of support for a far-right candidate in Greece since the early 1980s. Karadzaferis, who owns a television station, was elected to parliament in April 2001 on a ND ticket but was expelled from the party a month later because of his extreme views. Over the years, he has made racist, neo-Nazi, and anti-Semitic statements. A similar percentage of votes for candidates of Karadzaferis's newly-formed party, the Popular Orthodox Alarm (LAOS), in the 2004 parliamentary elections would give the extreme right representation in parliament for the first time since the collapse of the seven-year military dictatorship in 1974. In their campaigns, ND candidates capitalized on voter discontent over rising inflation and a loss of purchasing power following the introduction of the euro in January 2002. Unemployment stands at nearly 10 percent. These elections introduced new quotas to increase the number of women in politics, requiring one-third of all candidates for seats in mayoral and prefectural assemblies to be women. Voting is compulsory in Greece. October 18, 2002 Muslim Cleric's Religious Rights Violated Washington, D.C. - The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found Greece guilty of violating the religious freedom of a Muslim cleric, the second such ruling against Greece by the court. The ECHR stated that Greece breached Article Nine of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning religious freedom when it tried, in 1991, to appoint a religious leader, or mufti, of the Muslim community in the town of Xanthi, in the northeastern part of the country, after Mehmet Emin Aga had been democratically elected as mufti. Greece was not ordered to pay compensation. A past ruling of the court also found Greece guilty of the same offence with regard to the mufti of the town of Komotini, Ibrahim Serif, in the same region of the country. October 4, 2002 Opposition Party Gains New Momentum as Local Elections Approach Washington, D.C. - An opinion poll released at the end of September indicated that the main opposition New Democracy Party (ND) has made inroads into some of the support for the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Party (PASOK) gained from the dismantling of the November 17 terrorist group through the arrests of seventeen suspected operatives of the organization over the summer. The poll conducted from September 16 to 25a few weeks before the October 13 municipal and prefectural elections, showed that 40.9 percent of the respondents thought that ND leader Costas Karamanlis was better suited to be prime minister, while 38 percent supported Prime Minister Costas Simitis. These results were in contrast to those of an early September poll in which Simitis was favored over Karamanlis 36.7 percent to 35.7 percent. In the late September poll, ND’s lead over PASOK expanded from 5.2 percent to 7.2 percent, in comparison to the earlier poll. September 27, 2002 PASOK Narrows Gap in Polls as Local Elections Approach Washington, D.C. - The dismantling of the November 17 terrorist group through the arrests of its core members has boosted the poll numbers of the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Party (PASOK) as the October 13 municipal and prefectural elections approach. An early September public opinion poll indicated that 36.7 percent of the respondents favored the main opposition New Democracy Party (ND), while 31.5 percent supported PASOK. This poll indicated that the gap between the two parties, in ND's favor, has narrowed since two surveys, conducted just prior to the June 29 apprehension of the first of seventeen November 17 suspects, showed that ND was up to 9.4 percent ahead of PASOK. Prime Minister Costas Simitis outpolled by 36.7 percent to 35.7 percent New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis, as the person considered most qualified to serve as prime minister. In April, Karamanlis began pulling ahead of Simitis in this category for the first time, a trend that was still the case when the arrests of the terrorist suspects began. PASOK's previously declining poll numbers signaled a yearning for change in government among Greece's electorate, which has kept the party in power for 18 of the last 21 years. Squabbling within the party, disputes with labor unions over Simitis's proposals for social security reform, and the effects of Greece's entry into the Eurozone on Greeks' pocketbooks have contributed to the decline. In the April 2000 parliamentary elections, PASOK's margin of victory over New Democracy was only 1 percent. September 20, 2002 Airspace Dispute with Turkey Leads to Cancellation of Part of NATO Exercise Washington, D.C. - Greece cancelled a portion of an October multi-national NATO exercise, which was to occur on its territory, because of a disagreement with Turkey over whether alliance military jets have to submit flight plans before flying through international airspace in the Aegean Sea within the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR). Turkey was scheduled to send eight fighter jets to western Greece to take part in flight maneuvers in the area during the October 5-18 "Destined Glory 2002" exercise. The parts of the exercise that will be held in the central Mediterranean Sea region and in Italy were not cancelled. Greece's position is that all military aircraft entering the Athens FIR must file flight plans even if they are flying only in international airspace. Turkey's position is that Greece is attempting to claim sovereignty over all of the area within the Athens FIR, even though much of it is international airspace. According to international practice, military aircraft do not have to file flight plans if they stay within international airspace, but they often do file them for safety reasons. Greece's withdrawal from part of the NATO exercise was a reminder that unresolved security issues concerning Greece and Turkey in the Aegean seriously impact the smooth functioning of the alliance's operations in the eastern Mediterranean region. Greece pulled out of NATO's "Destined Glory 2000" exercise two years ago because of a dispute with Turkey concerning overflights by Greek military jets above the Greek islands of Limnos and Ikaria in the eastern Aegean, which Turkey maintains are in demilitarized zones. September 13, 2002 New Consulate Sought in Turkey to Promote Economic Relations Washington, D.C. - Greece has applied to the Turkish Foreign Ministry to open a consulate in the south central Turkish city of Adana in order to expand the scope of Greek-Turkish economic relations. Greece currently has consulates in Istanbul, the Aegean coastal city of Izmir, and Edirne, a city near the Bulgarian border. During a visit to Turkey's southern region, Greek Ambassador to Turkey Ioannis Corantis told Adana's deputy mayor, Cahit Kavak; the chairman of the Gaziantep Chamber of Commerce, Mehmet Aslan; and Deputy Governor Kaan Peker of the province of Sanliurfa that Greece would like to open a new consulate in the country's fourth-largest city. Adana is about 8 miles west of Incirlik Air Base, where U.S. and British planes patrolling the northern no-fly zone in Iraq are based, and about 30 miles west of Ceyhan, the end point of the proposed Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which will start in Baku, Azerbaijan. Adana is also the gateway to the region covering eight provinces where the $32 billion Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) is underway to further the development of irrigation, hydroelectric power generation, and infrastructure. When GAP is completed in 2010, 22 dams and 19 power plants on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and their tributaries, will produce about 22 percent of Turkey's projected electricity requirements. The economy of Adana is driven by both agriculture, including the cultivation of cotton, which is encouraged by the government to support the country's textile sector, and industry. Gaziantep, about 100 miles to the east, produces about one-half of the GAP region's industrial output. Aslan told Corantis that goods produced in the region, particularly textiles, could reach new markets through Greek business ventures. September 6, 2002 Top November 17 Suspect Surrenders to Police Washington, D.C. - The search for the last member of the November 17 terrorist organization's core of operatives ended on September 5 when Dimitris Koufodinas, believed to be the group's second in command, surrendered voluntarily to police in Athens. Fifteen other suspected members of the group have been arrested and charged since the end of June and are in custody. After turning himself in at police headquarters, the 44-year-old beekeeper stated that November 17 no longer existed and that conditions did not exist "for armed action to continue." He said that he would take "political responsibility" for the actions carried out by the organization. On the basis of testimony provided by several of the other suspects in custody, Koufodinas is accused of involvement in 17 of the group's 23 murders over the last 27 years, as well as 8 attempted assassinations and other crimes. The suspects, who refer to Koufodinas as "Poison Hand," have described him as the right-hand man of the group's alleged leader, Alexandros Yiotopoulos, arrested in July. They have said that he served as the treasurer and chief of operations of the organization, playing a central role in recruiting members, planning attacks, and distributing weapons and disguises. A manhunt for Koufodinas has been underway since shortly after June 29, when a bomb exploded in the hands of November 17 operative Savvas Xiros in Piraeus, setting off a chain of arrests that dismantled the organization. Koufodinas had accompanied Xiros to the port and had fled when the bomb went off. August 30, 2002 Support for Turkey's EU Accession Talks in Return for Progress on Cyprus and Aegean Issues Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou told Turkish Foreign Minister Sina Sukru Gurel that Greece will recommend that the EU set a date at the bloc's December summit in Copenhagen for the launching of Turkey's accession negotiations, provided that Ankara will take steps to resolve the Cyprus problem and move toward the resolution of critical Greek-Turkish differences such as the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf. In early August, after the Turkish parliament passed two reforms that are essential to EU membership -- the abolition of the death penalty in times of peace and the legalization of broadcasting and education in the Kurdish language -- Ankara once again called on the EU to designate a date for accession talks in Copenhagen. Turkey was named an EU candidate in December 1999 at the bloc's summit in Helsinki, but the EU has not initiated accession talks yet due to Turkey's delays in legislating key political, economic, and social reforms required for membership and the lack of progress on resolving the Cyprus issue. Papandreou has referred to the Copenhagen summit as a "second Helsinki" since Greece will urge the EU to move to the next critical step in Turkey's accession process in exchange for decisive steps by Ankara toward fulfilling the obligations it faces in preparation for membership. At the summit in Helsinki, the presidency conclusions outlined the steps Turkey was expected to take when it accepted the European Union's invitation to become an EU candidate. These steps included promoting a settlement in Cyprus and working with Greece to resolve outstanding border disputes, with the stipulation that the disputes will be referred to the International Court of Justice at The Hague by the end of 2004 if they have not been resolved. The conclusions also stated that a settlement in Cyprus would not, in itself, be a precondition for the country's accession to the EU. The EU is expected to invite Cyprus to join the bloc at the Copenhagen summit. The designation of a date for Turkey's accession talks could prevent a Turkish reaction to Cyprus's accession. Turkey has warned of severe reactions on its part if Cyprus is admitted to the EU prior to a political settlement. August 16,2002 Key November 17 Operative Details Organization's Operations Washington, D.C. - Savvas Xiros, the November 17 operative whose bungled bombing attempt in Piraeus in late June led to the arrest of a total of 15 suspected members of the organization, has confessed to assassinating British Defense Attaché Brigadier Stephen Saunders, the group's latest victim, in June 2000. It was Saunders' assassination that caused the Greek government to move counter-terrorism to the top of Greece's domestic agenda and brought agents from Scotland Yard to the country to collaborate with Greek and U.S. agents in intensifying the investigation into November 17. Xiros also admitted that he detonated the bomb that killed U.S. Defense Attaché Captain William Nordeen in 1988 and that he killed Greek shipowner Costas Peratikos in 1997, as well as 7 of the other 20 murder victims of November 17. He is facing charges of participation in about 80 of the organization's attacks, including 6 attempted murders, 11 bomb and rocket attacks, and numerous bank robberies. He said that, while riding on a motorcycle with November 17 suspect Dimitris Koufodinas, he fired four shots from a rifle at Saunders who was driving his car on a busy Athens street, after a pistol aimed at the British diplomat by Koufodinas jammed. Xiros's brother Vassilis had previously admitted that he was also involved in Saunders' murder. Xiros said that Koufodinas, the only identified November 17 member still at large, killed New Democracy parliamentarian Pavlos Bakoyiannis in 1989 and launched the rocket that missed the car of Finance Minister Ioannis Palaiokrassas in 1992. Greece has requested help from Interpol to apprehend Koufodinas, who may have fled the country. Police believe that he is a high-ranking member of the group. Xiros also stated that Dimitris Yiotopoulos, who is in custody but has denied any affiliation with November 17 despite fingerprint and handwriting evidence implicating him, was the group's ideological and operational leader. Yiotopoulos chose the group's targets, drew up its proclamations, and handled the group's finances, he stated. Xiros also said Yiotopoulos observed Saunders' murder and the murders of a number of other November 17 victims from nearby locations. On the basis of Xiros's testimony, Yiotopoulos has also been charged with involvement in about 80 attacks. Xiros told police that his failed bomb attack in Piraeus was to have been the launching of a new wave of attacks targeting tourists on passenger ferries and at ticket terminals. Such attacks would have escalated the activity of November 17 to a new level since tourists had never before been targeted by the group. Xiros also said the organization had considered attacks against NATO military forces heading for Kosovo through Greece. The stepped-up terrorist attacks would have occurred as Greece was preparing to assume the six-month rotating EU presidency from January 1 to June 30, 2003, and as the international spotlight on preparations for the 2004 Olympics in Athens intensified. As a result of Xiros's extensive testimony, prosecutors will delay further depositions of the other 14 arrested suspects and will first call witnesses to testify in conjunction with his testimony. Under a highly touted counter-terrorism law passed last year stipulating that convicted terrorists may receive lighter sentences if they cooperate with the police and courts, Xiros could receive a reduced sentence. There is no death penalty in Greece or the rest of the European Union. The latest November 17 suspect to be arrested, Sotirios Kondylis, admitted to participating in the 1994 murder of Turkish diplomat Omer Sipahioglu and the unsuccessful launching of a rocket into the U.S. Embassy in 1996. President George W. Bush sent a letter to Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis congratulating Greece on its arrests of November 17 suspects. Bush said that Greece's progress in combating terrorism would have a favorable impact on security for the Athens Olympics. The Greek Army recently reported that three HK11 light machine guns, three G3A3 semi-automatic rifles, and seventeen .45-caliber pistols had been stolen from an army facility on the island of Kos. Police also found explosives and weapons buried near a sports stadium in central Athens that is scheduled to be used during the Olympics. In addition, an assault rifle and bullets were found wrapped in a plastic bag a block away from Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos's residence in a suburb of Athens. The weapon does not belong to the army, and there is no record of its previous use in a crime. July 29, 2002 More November 17 Arrests Signal Group's Disintegration Washigton, D.C. - Greek Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoides stated that the arrests of suspected members of the November 17 terrorist organization had dealt the group a powerful blow, as those in custody were believed to comprise a significant portion of the organization. The 13 arrests have indicated that close family ties and friendships between the members could have contributed to the difficulty authorities have had in apprehending those belonging to the group over the past 27 years since the first of its 23 victims, CIA station chief in Athens Richard Welch, was killed. Following the mid-July arrest of Alexandros Giotopoulos, 58, considered a senior member of the organization, police captured a second high-level member in late July, 46, Pavlos Serifisa telephone operator at a children's hospital who may be the group's second in command. Police believe that he was involved in the 1975 murder of Welch. Others arrested in late Julywhose depositions revealed that they were part of the group's hit squadare bus driver Thomas Serifis36who is a cousin of Pavlos Serifisand real estate agent Iraklis Kostaris36Pavlos Serifis was raised by the family of Kostariswho is his distant cousin. The three are related to Yiannis Serifisan extreme left-wing activist acquitted of involvement in terrorist activity in 1977. Kostaris, who has been charged with participating in four attempted murders, is a close family friend and business associate of real estate agent Costas Karatsolis, another person in custody, who shared an apartment in Athens with Thomas Serifis. In addition, schoolteacher Constantinos Tellios, 37, surrendered to police and confessed to being a member of November 17. Tellios, who is from the same town as Thomas Serifis, Kostaris, and Karatsolis, has been charged with participating in a murder, two attempted murders, theft, and armed robbery. Tellios admitted to involvement in a range of crimes, including stealing weaponry from a Greek Army camp in 1989 and to taking part in the attempted murders of public prosecutor Constantinos Androulidakis in 1989 and then finance minister Ioannis Paleokrassas in 1992. The rocket used in the attack against Paleokrassas killed a passerby. Police also arrested Patroklos Tselentis, 42, who was involved in the murder of Greek publisher Nikos Momferatos and is believed to be one of the group's most experienced killers; Vassilis Tzortzatos, who confessed to involvement in nine murders; and Theologos Psaradellis, who admitted to taking part in a robbery. Tzortzatos stated that November 17 had been examining the possibility of carrying out a future attack against NATO military forces disembarking in Thessaloniki for deployment in Kosovo. Other suspects in custody, captured earlier in July, are the three Xiros brothers -- Savvas, 40, Christodoulos, 44, and Vassilis, 30-- sons of a Greek Orthodox priest, and their family friend Dionysis Georgiadis, 26. Giotopoulos pleaded innocent to multiple murder charges. He denied involvement in the group and said he did not know any of the men arrested. Police stated that other November 17 suspects identified the Paris-born Giotopoulos, who was part of the leftist movement that instigated France's May 1968 student revolt, as the group's leader. His fingerprints were found in an apartment in Athens used by the group as a hideout, while handwriting examinations also linked him to the group's proclamations. Authorities are still searching for beekeeper Dimitris Koufodinas, 44, who lived with the former wife of Savvas Xiros and is believed to be a senior November 17 operative. He took flight when Savvas was injured in Piraeus on June 29 by a bomb he was carrying and was taken into custody, giving police the first major lead in its investigation of the organization in 27 years. Its victims have included four American officials, two Turkish diplomats, a British diplomat, Greek businessmen and politicians, and a Greek national working at the U.S. Embassy in Athens. Greek authorities are planning to carry out further investigations in Athens and Thessaloniki, and on the island of Aegina, concerning several other terrorist organizations in Greece, believing that their members may be connected to November 17. These organizations include the Revolutionary People's Struggle (ELA), May 1stand Revolutionary Nucleii. The charge d'affaires of the Greek Embassy in Ankara was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry concerning allegations in the Greek press that the leader of the Turkish terrorist organization, the Revolutionary People's Liberation Front (DHKP-C), had been in Greece during most of this year. The ministry asked that Greek authorities confirm or deny the allegations and arrest and extradite Dursun Karatas to Turkey if he was indeed in Greece. Turkish Foreign Minister Sukru Sina Gurel said he would raise the issue in an upcoming meeting with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou. Press reports also alleged that Karatas might have left Greece and gone to France, Belgium, or the Netherlands. Analysis Greece Finally Sees Success Against Terror Group by (July 252002 Summary After a rapid crackdown that began in late June, Greek authorities have claimed victory over one of Europe's most notorious terrorist groups, November 17. What remains of the organization is unlikely to resume any kind of terrorist activity in the near term, if ever. Analysis Athens police July 24 arrested a second suspected leader of the anti-capitalist November 17 militant group, which has claimed responsibility for 22 assassinations -- including of British, American and Turkish diplomats -- over the course of nearly 30 years. A heightened crackdown by Greek police since late June has netted a total of 12 suspected members, including the group's alleged founder and ideologue, Alexandros Giotopoulos. With several top leaders and perhaps more than half of its core members in custody, November 17 will have a very hard time reconstituting itself, especially considering the organization's tightly-knit, familial structure. Its operational capacity has been so severely compromised that even a near-term reprisal is unlikely. Though Greece may still experience occasional violence from small-scale gangs of random anarchists, driving a stake through the heart of November 17 will improve the country's reputation for security and reduce fears of a major terrorist attack at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The recent police roundup -- which benefited from the support of British and U.S. law enforcement agencies -- also should bolster arguments in favor of international cooperation against localized terrorist organizations. The break-up of one of Europe's most notorious terrorist organizations has been swift and impressive, especially when contrasted with Greece's previous failure to arrest a single member of November 17 since it emerged 27 years ago. Despite its past success in carrying out attacks and avoiding capture, the group is actually believed to be quite small. The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism estimates the core of the organization may be no larger than 20 people, and it now appears that it was also very tightly knitted together primarily through family connections. These characteristics, which helped to make the group so elusive, also contributed to its rapid collapse. The break that Greek police were looking for finally came June 29, when a 40-year-old suspected November 17 member was seriously injured during a botched bombing. Evidence on the scene led authorities to several of the group's safe houses and a weapons cache, and the suspect's deposition resulted in the arrest of his two brothers and eight others. From there, the numerous connections within the group among families and friends allowed authorities to track down and arrest other members. Authorities were even able to confiscate the organization's infamous "signature" weapona .45-caliber Colt 1911 used in at least seven assassinations, including the most recent murder of British military attache Stephen Saunders in June 2000. If authorities are correct in their assessments of the crackdown, November 17 is very unlikely to launch any retaliatory attacks. Greek police say they have confiscated almost all of its operational equipment and weaponry, and that the 12 people in custody represent its core group of operatives. Currently, authorities have named only one wanted suspect still outstanding: a 44 year-old beekeeper who is believed to be one of the group's main assassins. The size and structure of the organization also will make reconstitution difficult. Unlike ethnically backed insurgencies such as Palestinian militant groups, the remaining November 17 members do not have an easily accessible pool of potential members to reorganize, and its radical anti-imperialist ideology will play to only a very narrow population. Finally, its isolated and highly secretive nature makes it unlikely to have broader international connections or support. July 19, 2002 Major Breakthroughs in Arrests of November 17 Members Washington, D.C. - Greek police have arrested and charged three men with murder, bomb attacks, and bank robberies as members of the November 17 terrorist group, the first arrests of operatives of the group in its 27-year history, and have detained a fourth man, who is suspected of being a senior member of the group and the writer of its proclamations. The three charged men are Dionysis Georgiakis, 26, and two brothers, Christodoulos Xiros, 44, and Vassilis Xiros, 30, who have admitted to committing a total of 42 crimes. The Xiros brothers are siblings of Savvas Xiros, who was hospitalized, but not arrested or charged, after a bomb he was carrying in the port of Piraeus exploded in his hand on June 29. The capture and questioning of Savvas Xiros, an icon painter who remains hospitalized, led authorities to two November 17 safe houses in Athens and to the arrests. The three men are scheduled to testify before a magistrate on July 21. They confessed to taking part in numerous bomb attacks and bank robberies, while Christodoulos Xiros confessed to participating in five killings from 1984 to 1992, including the deaths of two U.S. military officials -- the 1988 assassination of U.S. Defense Attaché Captain William Nordeen and the 1991 bombing death of Air Force Sergeant Ronald Stewart. He also admitted to attempting to kill two other American officials and to bombing two buses carrying U.S. servicemen. Vassilis Xiros confessed to taking part in the 1997 killing of Greek-British shipowner Constantinos Peratikos, the 2000 assassination of British Defense Attaché Brigadier Stephen Saunders, and the 1999 rocket attack on the German ambassador's residence. The fourth man, Alexandros Giotopoulos, about 60, a professor living under the assumed name of Michalis Economou, was captured on the Greek island of Lipsi on suspicion of being a senior member of November 17. Although his fingerprints were found in one of the November 17 safe houses, he has not confessed to participation in the terrorist organization. The Paris-born Giotopoulos has been living both in France and in Greece, and is married to a French woman, Marie-Therese Pinot, who is being questioned by police concerning her husband's activities. His father was Dimitris Giotopoulosa well-known 1930s communist theoretician and follower of Leon Trotsky. Alexandros Giotopoulos was active in the Paris-based student opposition to the military dictatorship that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974. The anti-American, radical leftist November 17 group, which emerged in 1975 with the murder of Athens CIA station chief Richard Welch and has killed a total of 23 people, was named after a student uprising on that date in 1973 against the military regime, which was being supported by the United States. In addition, in one of the November 17 safe houses, Greek police found the .45 caliber pistol used to kill Saunders, Greek parliamentarian Pavlos Bakoyiannis in 1989, Greek publisher Nikos Momferatos in 1985, and four others, a key find on top of the earlier discovery of the .38 caliber revolver used to kill at least three of the group's victims, including Peratikos. Police are searching for another suspect, Dimitris Koufodinas, 44, who rented one of the apartments used as November 17 hideouts and who had lived with Savvas Xiros's former wife in recent years. July 12, 2002 November 17 Uncovered Washington, D.C. - The detention of Savvas Xiros, the first suspected operative of November 17 to be captured, has led to a series of other critical breakthroughs in the 27-year search for clues leading to the identity of members of the November 17 terrorist group, including the identification of two central Athens apartments used by the organization as safe houses. Xiros40a church mural and icon painter, and the son of a retired Orthodox priest, was captured and hospitalized on June 29 after a bomb he was carrying exploded as he was walking near a dock in the port of Piraeus. A prosecutor is taking his testimony as he recovers in the hospital. The two apartments, one of which was rented eight years ago by Xiros under an assumed name, revealed bomb-making equipment; automatic weapons and other weaponry; the group's flag and stamp; disguises, including police uniforms and wigs; a typewriter used to prepare the group's proclamations; and anti-tank rockets believed to have been stolen from a Greek Army base in 1989. The organization has used rockets in a number of attacks in Athens, including those on the German ambassador's residence, the U.S. Embassy, and British, French, and U.S. banks. The hideouts also yielded numerous documents, including November 17 proclamations, providing details of the group's activities since 1975, when it surfaced. Significant breakthroughs were the match found between Xiros's fingerprints and fingerprints on a vehicle used in the 1997 killing of Greek-British shipowner Costas Peratikos in Piraeus, as well as the match between the DNA of Xiros's blood and that of blood samples gathered outside the German ambassador's residence after the group's attack on the home. In addition, a .38 caliber handgun found with a second bomb near Xiros at the time of his capture was stolen from a policeman killed by November 17 and was used in the assassination of Peratikos and the killing of Greek prosecutor Costas Androulidakas in 1989. DNA testing and ballistics tests on weapons have been conducted on the material gathered at the safe houses in an effort to link suspects already questioned to November 17's activities. U.S. and British agents have been assisting Greek authorities in carrying out the investigation into November 17which has killed 23 people since 1975, including U.S., British, and Turkish diplomats. It is also believed to have carried out robberies totaling some $3 million. When the group first emerged, it espoused Marxist-Leninist dogma. It later took positions supporting nationalism and anti-globalization, and has consistently been anti-American. Authorities were looking into the possibility that Xiros might have had connections with Muslim fundamentalists in Sudan, where he has traveled several times over the past two years and has been part owner of a business. The bombs Xiros took to Piraeus resembled those of the Revolutionary Cells movement, which was responsible for a bombing at the Intercontinental Hotel in Athens in 1999, killing one person. Revolutionary Cells is believed to be an ally of November 17. A bomb also exploded in Piraeus on July 9 in the area where Xiros was captured, causing damage to a building, but no injuries. No one claimed responsibility for the attack. July 3, 2002 Suspect's Arrest May Lead Police to November 17 Members Washington, D.C. - In a significant breakthrough in Greece's 27-year effort to track down members of the country's November 17 terrorist group, Greek police have arrested a suspect that may be linked to the group through a handgun found near the site where a bomb exploded in the suspect's hands in the port of Piraeus. The handgun, found in a bag along with two grenades, was stolen from a Greek police officer, Christos Matis, killed by November 17 during a robbery in 1984. The gun that was used to kill Matis was also used by November 17 in six attacks between 1983 and the 1997 killing of Greek ship owner Costas Peratikos. Savvas Xirosa 40-year-old painter of Christian Orthodox church murals and icons, was arrested after the bomb he was carrying exploded near the ticket office of the Flying Dolphin hydrofoil company that runs passenger vessels to Greek islands. The blast caused minor damage to the building housing the office, but injured no bystanders. Xiros was hospitalized with critical injuries. A second bomb found in the area was neutralized by authorities. More than 100 people have been brought in for questioning, primarily friends of the suspect and family members. Authorities are focusing their investigation on a central Athens warehouse that served as Xiros's studio. They are also looking into his links with Sudan, where he had a stake in an ice-making factory. November 17 has killed 23 people since 1975, including five U.S. Embassy personnel, without any of its members having been arrested. The group's most recent victim was Brigadier Stephen Saunders, Britain's defense attaché, in Athens in June 2000. On June 17, 2002, a grenade damaged the Piraeus office of a retired basketball star, who is now a member of the Greek parliament. A group calling itself Popular Resistance claimed responsibility for the attack. It has also taken credit for bomb attacks on the Interamerican insurance company and a Citibank branch in or near Piraeus. June 24, 2002 Hague Report Raises Questions Concerning Greece's Cooperation with Tribunal Washington, D.C. - A report prepared by investigators for the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague states that the court has not been given access to critical account transaction information at an Athens-based branch of a Cypriot bank that could shed light on eight front companies used by Slobodan Milosevic to buy military equipment for Serbia's wars in Bosnia and Kosovo in contravention of international sanctions. Although the Greek justice ministry has said that it sent the requested information on the accounts to the tribunal, the court has said that the information never arrived. Questions have also arisen concerning what was viewed as insufficient action on the part of Greece's central bank in investigating the information sought by The Hague, raising suspicions that a cover-up could be underway to prevent the information from reaching The Hague. The European Popular Bank of Cyprus (renamed the European Popular Bank), the Athens subsidiary of the Popular Bank of Cyprus, held the accounts of eight companies that also had accounts at the Popular Bank of Cyprus and Hellenic Bank in Cyprus. Payments were made from the Cypriot accounts of these companies, which were all registered as Cyprus-based offshore businesses, to U.S., Russian, and Israeli military defense industries. More than $742 million was siphoned out of the Yugoslav customs authorities to these accounts in Cyprus between 1992 and 2000. The tribunal's chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte asked the Greek justice ministry last year to assist the court in investigating accounts at Greek- and Cypriot-owned banks and at the Athens branch of Citibank. After the Greek central bank provided some information, which did not include transaction information concerning the eight companies, the justice ministry did not ask the central bank to participate in a follow-up investigation requested by The Hague last fall. However, officials at the central bank and the European Popular Bank of Cyprus said they provided information on the eight companies' accounts to the justice ministry. In February, the justice ministry sent documents to The Hague concerning 250 accounts held by Yugoslav companies at Greek banks at the tribunal's request, but did not investigate the companies' activities in Greece. The Greek government stated on June 20 that all of the requests made to Greece by the war crimes tribunal had been met, with information being handed over by the banks to the justice ministry, which then sent it to the tribunal. The government asked the central bank to examine the report prepared for the tribunal. May 31, 2002 U.S., EU Press Greece to Accept ESDP Agreement Washington, D.C.-During Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou's late May visit to Washington, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other officials made it clear that they wanted Greece to accept the "Ankara text," which allows NATO-member Turkey a say in the use of alliance assets by the European Union rapid reaction force, in order to break the impasse that is delaying plans for possible deployment of the force in F.Y.R. Macedonia this fall. Papandreou stated that Greece is firm in its decision not to approve the text, which includes Turkey, a non-EU member, in the decision-making process concerning the deployment of the force in areas that Greece considers important to its own national interests, such as the Aegean and Cyprus. The text, approved by the other 14 EU member states, was drawn up by the U.S., Britain, and Turkey late last year outside the framework of the European Union and also applies to Norway and Iceland, two other non-EU countries that are members of NATO. The minister noted that Greece was cooperating closely with the Spanish presidency of the European Union to find a compromise formula to resolve the issue before the EU summit in Seville in June. In mid-May, Greece rejected a Spanish proposal that would have left the Ankara text intact and entailed drafting a document, as a supplement to the text, guaranteeing the territorial integrity of the 15 EU member states. The document would have been included in the conclusions of the Seville summit. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis emphasized that Greece would not accept any solution that did not make changes to safeguard Greece's interests in the Ankara text itself. Both Washington and the Spanish presidency oppose renegotiating the arrangement reached with Turkey in the Ankara text. Papandreou's talks in Washington related to the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) were particularly timely since Greece assumes the chairmanship of the European Union defense portfolio on July 1, 2002, under the Danish EU presidency. Denmark has opted not to chair the portfolio since it does not participate in the formulation of European defense policy. Greece will hold the chair through June 31, 2003, since it succeeds Denmark as EU president on January 1, 2003. The minister and U.S. officials also discussed the critical phase the Cyprus issue is entering as Nicosia moves toward expected EU membership, the new relationship between Russia and NATO, issues concerning the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Middle East, NATO enlargement, and the war on terrorism. May 31, 2002 U.S. Anti-Terror Inspections of Commercial Ships in Aegean Rejected Washington, D.C. - Greece has rejected a request by the United States to allow U.S. naval ships to stop and search commercial ships with both Greek and foreign flags in Greek territorial waters if U.S. officials suspect that the vessels are involved in terrorist acts. The Greek government stated that Greece was prepared to carry out inspections of such vessels following consultations with U.S. authorities and the evaluation of information concerning the ships. Washington's request to Greece reflected U.S. concern that shipping containers could be used by terrorists to smuggle weapons of mass destruction through Balkan countries and the Aegean Sea. A request to allow the U.S. Navy to stop and search suspect commercial ships has also been made to other NATO countries as part of U.S. efforts to fight international terrorism. The United States has announced a new inspection program called the “Container Security Initiative,” which includes measures to identify and screen high-risk shipping containers. Both the U.S. and countries that operate the 10 largest ports in western Europe and Asia are implementing this initiative. Ninety percent of the world's trade is transported in shipping containers. Owners of some of the largest Greek shipping lines recently met with U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Customs representatives in Washington to discuss making maritime commerce more secure against use by terrorists. Some 165,000 shipping containers moved through the port of Thessaloniki in northern Greece last year. Many of these containers originated in F.Y.R. Macedonia, Yugoslavia, and other Balkan countries, where there is a potential for the shipment of high-risk containers, and were transported to major trans-shipment hubs in western Europe before crossing the Atlantic. May 17, 2002 New NATO Headquarters to Be Established Washington, D.C.-A new multi-national NATO, headquarters is being established in Thessaloniki on the base of Greece's Third Army Corps as part of an alliance force structure review that took place several years ago. It will be a "low readiness" headquarters, requiring up to six months or more to prepare for a mission, in contrast to the "high readiness" NATO headquarters in Germany, the Ace Rapid Reaction Corps, which can be prepared to deploy troops and equipment in a few weeks or months. Four other "high readiness" headquarters have been established in Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain, but they are, not yet at full operational readiness. With the new headquarters, to be staffed by about 250 personnel from various countries in the alliance, Greece could be tapped to undertake the command and control of NATO-led missions in the Balkans and elsewhere. The United States has stated that it will not be represented at the new headquarters. Although the headquarters could be used by the European Union rapid reaction force, once an agreement is reached between the EU and NATO concerning the force's use of alliance assets, the overriding function of the headquarters will be to support NATO operations in the region. Greek Deputy Defense Minister Loukas Apostolidis stated that the procedures for setting up the headquarters will be completed by June 2002, while staffing will begin in September 2002. The target date for it to be fully operational will be June 2003, he said. Greece also hosts NATO's Joint Sub-Regional Command Center at Larissa. May 2002 Lack of ESDP Resolution Leaves Regional Security Plans in Limbo Washington, D.C. - Greece has rejected European Union and NATO pressure to accept by September an accord giving Ankara a say in the use of NATO assets by the EU rapid reaction force in order to open the way for the first peacekeeping assignment of the force in F.Y.R. Macedonia. Greek diplomats stated that a final agreement on the relationship between the EU force and NATO as part of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) is not a prerequisite for the planned deployment of the force in September, when the mandate for the NATO-led force in F.Y.R. Macedonia ends. They asserted that the EU force deployment could take place on the basis of a temporary agreement until a final accord on relations between the force and NATO is reached. The EU has declared that it will not take over the peacekeeping force unless the NATO assets question is resolved. At the December European Union summit at Laeken, Belgium, Greece blocked the EU's consideration of an unofficial compromise accord, the "Ankara text" negotiated by the U.S., Britain, and Turkey. The accord would have ended Ankara's two-year refusal to allow NATO to authorize the use of its assets by the rapid reaction force unless a clearly established consultative relationship between NATO member Turkey and the EU on the matter was formulated. All other EU members support the accord. Greece objects to the fact that the accord, outlining the relations between Turkey and the force, stipulated that the European Union would consult the Turkish government on a case-by-case basis concerning potential operations of the force in areas near Turkey's borders that Ankara regards as strategic to its national interests, including the Aegean Sea. Greece considers the accord to be detrimental to its own national interests, leaving it defenseless in the event of a crisis with Turkey in the Aegean or Cyprus, and to the autonomy of the European Union. It maintains that the agreement gives NATO members that are not part of the European Union an inordinate say in the operations of the force. Prime Minister Costas Simitis said that Greece would veto any proposal that gives Turkey a say in the deployment of the EU force. Turkey said it would block any use of alliance assets by the force if it does not have a say in how they are used. Greece is calling for the drafting of another accord that will eliminate the elements in the Ankara text that it views as contrary to its national interests. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Elizabeth Jones, on a visit to Athens, stated that Washington attached great importance to Greece's achieving an agreement on the ESDP issue and encouraged Athens to work with the EU presidency to resolve the issue. Denmark, which assumes the six-month rotating European Union presidency on July 1, 2002, is the only EU nation that has not yet agreed to participate in the rapid reaction force. It has opted not to chair the bloc's defense portfolio during its presidency. Greece, which takes over the European Union presidency on January 1, 2003, will, therefore, assume the chairmanship of the defense portfolio on July 1, 2002, and will hold it until June 30, 2003. May 2002 EU Cites Urgency of Social, Financial Reforms Washington, D.C. - A key economic report released by the European Commission warned Greece that it would face serious fiscal problems in 2003 if it failed to reform the country's pay-as-you-go social security system by the end of the year. It advised the government to urge older workers not to seek immediate retirement. Spending on pension payments in Greece accounts for 12.7 percent of GDP, comparable to the average for the 15 EU countries. Greece, at 51.4 percent, ranks second after Italy in pension payment spending as a percentage of total social spending. It is expected to experience the highest increase in pension expenditures, relative to GDP, in the next half century, owing partly to the fact that the country has the lowest birth rate in the European Union. The government and labor unions continued to be locked in a fierce debate over reforming the social security system, with the unionists staging a strike in April to protest new government proposals, which include issuing 15-year bonds to finance a projected deficit in pension expenditures over the next 30 years. Last year, the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) shelved plans to carry out social security reform, as a result of polls indicating that the main opposition New Democracy Party had moved ahead of PASOK in popularity for the first time. Recent polls placed New Democracy ahead of PASOK by about 8 percentage points and indicated that New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis has moved ahead of Prime Minister Costas Simitis as the person considered most suitable for the job of prime minister, partly as a result of the unpopular moves of the ruling party with regard to social security reform. It is clear, however, that the urgency of having to deal with the social security issue will be a government priority no matter which party finds itself in power after the next parliamentary elections in the spring of 2004. A PASOK drubbing in the October 2002 municipal elections could place Simitis's survival as prime minister in jeopardy. The European Commission report, the Spring 2002 Economic Forecasts and Policy Guidelines, noted that Greece is expected to enjoy the highest rate of growth among the 12 euro-zone countries during the next two years, projected at 3.7 percent in 2002, more than double the projected 1.5 percent European Union average, and 4.2 percent in 2003. The growth is attributed largely to investments in modernizing infrastructure with the help of grants from EU structural funds and to preparations for the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens. These two factors have also contributed to a drop in unemployment from 11.1 percent in 2000 to 10.5 percent in 2001, with the rate projected at 9.3 percent in 2003. But the report cautioned against creating inflationary pressure in the 2002 and 2003 budgets, predicting a 3.6 percent inflation rate this year, falling to 3.2 percent next year. Inflation rose to 4.4 percent in March, up from 3.8 percent in February, the second-highest rate in the EU behind Ireland. The European Commission report also called on Greece to focus on reducing the public debt, which stood at 99.6 percent of GDP in 2001 and is expected to be 98 percent this year, while carrying out urgent structural reforms in all sectors of the economy. May 2002 Mideast Trip Draws Domestic Political Fire Washington, D.C. - The joint visit of Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem to the Middle East to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was viewed as a largely symbolic gesture, aimed at indicating that traditional rivals Athens and Ankara, despite their differences, had not only discovered a way to carry on a dialogue with each other, but could also work together to promote peace in the region. The two ministers pointed out that the effects of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis on the economy and security of the region were of concern to Greece and Turkey. They hoped to contribute to international efforts to end the impasse in the conflict and propose ways of restarting the peace process, a goal bolstered by the positive ties each country has with both Israelis and Palestinians. In addition, they sought backing for a peace proposal involving the participation of countries in the region, the European Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the United States, and Russia. Papandreou's role in the visit was criticized by senior officials of Greece's ruling party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). PASOK Secretary General Costas Laliotis stated that Cem's participation in the initiative was not credible since Turkey has not applied U.N. resolutions in Cyprus for over 25 years and, therefore, could not call for adherence to U.N. resolutions in the Middle East. The Greek government sent emergency humanitarian aid worth close to $500,000 to the Palestinians, including $100,000 in medicine that was to be distributed in the refugee settlement of Jenin. Greece also sent aid to Ramallah and Bethlehem. In addition, Greece has been involved in helping to create jobs for young Palestinians, establishing partnerships between Greek and Palestinian hospitals, and helping to reconstruct the Palestinian territories. May 2002 Sole NATO Procurement of Russian Arms Washington, D.C. - Greece, the only NATO country to have procured Russian armaments, has taken delivery of four more Russian Tor-M1 medium-range surface-to-air batteries, completing the shipment of a total of 31 of the systems, along with eight Russian-made Ranzhir battery command and control post vehicles. The contract is valued at $300 million. Greece has made it a policy to distribute its arms expenditures among the United States, the European Union, and Russia, with the greater share going to the U.S. and EU countries. Russia's inclusion in Greece's weapons procurement can be attributed to the two countries' shared economic, religious, and cultural ties, as well as the fact that Russia remains Greece's primary source of natural gas. Tor-M1s are known to have been deployed on Greece's eastern islands. April 2002 Turkey Pipeline Link from Iran Expands European Grid Washington, D.C. - During a late March visit to Ankara by Greek Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, Greece and Turkey signed an agreement that provides for the delivery of natural gas from Iran to western Europe through Turkey and Greece. When the project is completed, possibly by 2006, Greece is expected to become a significant hub for the supply of natural gas to Europe through Italy and the southern Balkans. Under the agreement, a 390-mile pipeline will be built from the town of Komotini in the northeastern region of Greece to Ankara to serve as an extension of an existing 1,598-mile pipeline that begins in Tabriz, Iran, and ends in the Turkish capital. Natural gas from Iran, which has the world’s second-largest natural gas reserves after Russia, began to flow to Ankara in December. Greece’s Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) and the state-owned Turkish company BOTAS are in the process of carrying out financial and technical studies on the execution of the $300 million project, in the works for three years. Greece has already earmarked European Union funds to finance an extension of the pipeline from Greece to Italy. Athens is converting most of its power generation from coal and oil to natural gas as part of the European Union’s efforts to meet the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. It is estimated that Greece’s domestic natural gas market will exceed 7.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) annually during the next decade and will reach 10 bcm by 2017. Greece currently purchases about 6.0 bcm of natural gas each year from Russia and obtains lesser amounts from Algeria. The gas delivered through the Komotini-Ankara pipeline would make up for Greece’s anticipated gas shortfall by providing an additional 1.5 bcm to cover its domestic needs. Tsohadzopoulos also proposed that the nearly completed 16 bcm Blue Stream pipeline, which will transport Russian gas to Turkey under the Black Sea, could be connected to the new gas pipeline running to Greece. Tsohatzopoulos and Turkish Energy Minister Zeki Cakan said they wanted to reach an agreement by 2006 on connecting Greek and Turkish power grids to allow the two countries to trade electricity. Turkey already imports electricity from Bulgaria. On a visit to Washington earlier in March, Tsohadzopoulos expressed Greece’s readiness to cooperate closely with Turkey in the transport of natural gas from Iran to Europe in a meeting with Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham. Greek and Turkish imports of Iranian gas are at odds with the policy of the U.S., which has placed an embargo on trade with Iran. April 2002 Iranian Cooperation on Energy, Customs, Exchange Programs Washington, D.C. - Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, visiting Athens on his first trip to a European Union country since his re-election in June 2001expressed support for the proposed plan to deliver Iranian natural gas to Greece through Turkey. Greece’s plan to export the gas to European countries is significant for Iran since it gives Tehran an entrée into the European energy market. Europe procures its natural gas primarily from the North Sea, which will be largely tapped out in 25 years, and Russia. Iran currently exports negligible amounts of gas. Greece and Iran will jointly study the potential transport of liquid natural gas from Iran to Greece by sea. Greece may also evaluate the possibility of investing in a liquefied natural gas station in Iran. Further talks on these issues are anticipated when Greek Development Minister Tsohadzopoulos visits Iran in mid-April. The current volume of trade between the two countries is $500 million annually96percent of which represents Greece’s oil imports from Iran. During Khatami’s visit to Athens, in reciprocation for a visit to Tehran in October 1999 by Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos, agreements were signed concerning cooperation on customs issues; the promotion and safeguarding of investments; and cultural, research, and educational exchange programs. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis told President Khatami that Greece intended to advance rapprochement between the European Union and Iran during Athens’ six-month presidency of the bloc during the first half of 2003. Simitis accepted an invitation to visit Iran along with a delegation of Greek businessmen who will promote wider economic cooperation between the two countries. April 2002 Dialogue on Aegean Continental Shelf Underway Washington, D.C. - High-level diplomats from the Greek and Turkish foreign ministries met in Ankara in mid-March for their first session of open-ended exploratory talks on the unresolved issue of the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf, which Greece considers to be the only legal difference between the two countries. The exchange of views on the issue, considered a new phase in the rapprochement process between Greece and Turkey, will continue in Athens in April. The aim of the talks, held under a news blackout, is to find “points of convergence” that will lead to a structured dialogue on drafting an agreement for referring the issue to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Resolution of the issue is critical for determining commercial exploitation rights to any minerals or oil found in the Aegean Sea. The Turkish government had long refused to consider Greece’s proposal that the continental shelf issue be sent to the International Court of Justice, maintaining that the matter should be resolved through bilateral dialogue. Greece had long declined to discuss the matter through bilateral talks. The talks, which are being held without an agenda or the recording of minutes, are being conducted by delegations headed by the Greek Foreign Ministry’s political director, Anastasis Skopelitis, and Turkish Foreign Ministry Secretary General Ugur Ziyal. April 2002 Multi-Front Rapprochement with Turkey Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Ministry Political Director Skopelitis and Turkish Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Baki Ilkin met in Athens within the framework of regular biannual political consultations between the two foreign ministries to discuss regional and international issues. The discussion covered the situation in the Balkans, the Middle East, and Afghanistan, as well as the war against global terrorism and the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In addition, after 14 months of inactivity, the bilateral talks on confidence-building measures between the Greek and Turkish permanent representatives to NATO resumed in Brussels. The two delegations decided to hold a joint reception in the Belgian city to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Greece and Turkey’s entry into NATO. In an effort to further reciprocal business ventures in Greece and Turkey by entrepreneurs from both countries, the Greek-Turkish Chamber of Commerce will also launch a series of seminars in 10 Greek cities. A series of similar seminars have been held in Turkey and were arranged by the Greek-Turkish Chamber of Commerce, the commercial section of the Greek Consulate in Istanbul, and Turkey’s Council for External Economic Relations. April 2002 Major Tank Purchase from Germany Washington, D.C. - Greece’s $1.9 billion purchase of 170 tanks, a variant of the German Leopard 2A5 main battle tank, is the country’s first major military acquisition in two years. The tanks, expected to replace U.S.-made M48 and M60 tanks, will be used to upgrade one of the country’s five front-line armored brigades or two of its front-line mechanized infantry brigades in preparation for possible future emergencies on the Greek-Turkish border or deployment overseas in a NATO or European Union peacekeeping mission. The acquisition represents the first time Greece has bought a new state-of-the-art main battle tank. Over the last 30 years, the Greek Army has relied primarily on the United States and, to a lesser extent, Germany for the acquisition of older model, upgradeable tanks—M-48s and M-60s, and German Leopard 1s—that comprise the current inventory. During the manufacturing phase of the contract, the German Army will lease 123 of its older Leopard 2s to Greece until the new tanks are delivered over the next few years. This arrangement will provide Greek tank forces with a small qualitative edge over Turkey’s current inventory of M48, M60, and Leopard 1 tanks. The advantage of Greece’s new tanks will be mitigated, however, by the pending upgrade of 170 of Turkey’s M-60 tanks by Israel and the much larger size of the Turkish tank forces. The Leopard 2 tanks are considered as effective as the M1A2 tank made by the U.S.-based company General Dynamics Land Systems, the other major contender for the Greek tank order. Greece also considered bids from British, French, Russian, and Ukrainian arms manufacturers. Greece’s tank inventory currently consists of about 545 German-made Leopard 1 tanks, 670 U.S.-made M60 A1s and A3s, and 700 M48 and M48A5 series tanks. About 1,000 of Greece’s tanks are deployed for active duty and about 900, mostly M48 tanks, are in reserve. Turkey has approximately 2,700 M48A2s and A5s, 800 M60A1s and A3s, and 400 Leopard 1 tanks. April 2002 U.S. Bids Major Naval Upgrade Washington, D.C. - The United States Navy has reportedly offered to donate its two remaining active-service Spruance-class destroyers to Greece. If the Greek Navy accepts the offer, the ships, with their more reliable gas-turbine engines, will constitute a significant improvement in seaworthiness over that of Greece’s four older U.S.-made Adams-class destroyers, which once belonged to the U.S. Navy. In addition, the Spruance’s more advanced vertical launch systems (VLS) will significantly upgrade the Greek Navy’s ability to protect the Aegean against any air threat. The 9,100-ton, 563 foot-long Spruance ships, considered by some to be large for the Aegean, carry gun and missile systems that include the Standard (SM-1) surface-to-air missile. The ships can be upgraded to carry the more advanced SM-2 surface-to-air missile. The transfer of the Spruance destroyers would be important for maintaining the longstanding relationship between the U.S. and Greek navies. Over the last 15 years, the trend within the Greek Navy has been to acquire its major vessels from the Netherlands and Germany. The pending retirement of the Adams-class destroyers and the one remaining U.S.-made Knox-class frigate in the Greek inventory could, without the acquisition of U.S. replacements, leave the Greek Navy without any U.S.-made ships in its inventory and weaken the service’s strong ties to the U.S. Navy that date back to the end of World War II. April 2002 Japan Seeks Partnership for Balkan Ventures Washington, D.C. - During Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s official six-day visit to Japan, the first ever by a Greek head of government in the 102 years of diplomatic relations, the Japanese government said it would work with Greece to seek investment partners in the Balkans. Simitis, accompanied by a large delegation of businessmen and bankers, stated that Greece would like to attract more Japanese investment and would be able to serve as a bridge for Japanese entrepreneurs to both the Balkans and the Middle East. Simitis and his Japanese counterpart, Junichiro Koizumi, signed a Japan-Greece Joint Action Plan establishing a committee that will promote joint investments in the Balkans and on the Korean peninsula, as well as strengthened bilateral relations in the political, economic, cultural, and tourism sectors. The plan aims at furthering the already strong naval ties between the two countries, involving Greece’s orders for ships in Japanese shipyards worth $979 million last year, a figure expected to reach $1.5 billion in 2002. Greece wants to improve the bilateral trade balance, which is now 11 to 1 in Japan’s favor, by increasing agricultural exports to Japan. Imports from Japan stand at $823 million, while exports to Japan are at $72 million. The two countries also discussed re-establishing direct flights between Athens and Tokyo. Simitis sought Japan’s participation in the organization of the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens, given Japan’s successful experience hosting the 1998 winter Olympic games in Nagano. March 2002 Support for Peacekeeping, Reconstruction in Afghanistan Washington, D.C. - A Greek military contingent of 177 troops arrived in Afghanistan to participate in the 4,500-member International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is providing security in and around Kabul. The contingent includes two C-130 aircraft with 45 air force personnel, 84 vehicles, and engineering equipment, and will be deployed about six miles outside Kabul at a base shared with British, Italian, and Spanish troops. The deployment of Greece’s peacekeeping troops is being financed by the Greek government. In addition, in mid-March, Greece will send a frigate to the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf, and Indian Ocean in support of the U.S.-led military operation in Afghanistan. It will be deployed chiefly for patrol and escort duties. Greece pledged $4.5 million for the reconstruction of Afghanistan at the January international donor conference in Tokyo sponsored by the United States, the European Union, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. The funds being committed are in addition to the $500,000 the Greek government gave to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for its assistance to Afghan refugees, the $500,000 it gave to non-governmental organizations for refugee relief efforts in and around Afghanistan, and the two C-130 planeloads of refugee supplies sent to Pakistan. In addition, the Greek government informed UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) that it was prepared to spend $250,000 for the preservation of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage. March 2002 Warning of Possible Al Qaeda Attack Against Greece Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou announced in late January that Greece had been placed on alert after members of Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda terrorist network who were captured in Lebanon stated that they had been planning an attack against Greece. Papandreou said Lebanese authorities and Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency had conveyed the information to Athens, although he did not specify what had been targeted within the country. It was the first official mention of the possibility that Al Qaeda had planned to strike Greece. March 2002 Dialogue with Turkey Launched on Aegean Differences Washington, D.C. - In a significant step forward in tackling major differences between Greece and Turkey, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem agreed that the political directors of the two countries’ foreign ministries will launch exploratory talks on arriving at a compromise formula for referring the issue of the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague. Papandreou indicated that other issues related to territorial disputes in the Aegean would not be discussed in the groundbreaking dialogue, such as questions raised by Ankara over the sovereignty of certain Aegean islands and islets. He said that problems faced by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul and the issue of reopening the Christian Orthodox Halki Theological Seminary in Istanbul, which has been closed since 1971, would be addressed. The decision concerning the talks marked the first time Papandreou and Cem, who initiated a process of rapprochement in 1999, have officially upgraded the bilateral agenda from secondary policy issues to disputes over the Aegean, which along with the Cyprus issue, are considered the most contentious issues between the two countries. In 1973 and 1987, Greece and Turkey came to the brink of war over the right to conduct exploration for oil and mineral deposits in the Aegean. In 1996, through U.S. diplomacy, war was narrowly avoided over the sovereignty of the uninhabited Imia/Kardak Aegean islets. In the past, Greece has consistently said that the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf, which governs the designation of seabed oil and mineral exploration rights, is its only legitimate bilateral dispute with Turkey. Greece asserts that this is a legal issue, falling within the framework of international treaties, and should be referred to the International Court of Justice. Turkey has consistently maintained that this issue is a political dispute that should be resolved through bilateral dialogue, not through the ICJ, but Cem recently indicated that Turkey would be prepared to refer the dispute to the court, if necessary. Turkey asserts that there are a number of bilateral differences with Greece in the Aegean and is expected to raise these issues during the talks. Greece claims that the airspace around its islands is 10 miles, while Turkey argues that the airspace should extend no more than 6 miles to be consistent with the extent of the country’s territorial waters. In addition, Turkey challenges Greece’s claim that it has a right, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to extend its territorial waters from 6 to 12 miles and disputes Greece’s assertion that each Greek island has its own continental shelf. Turkey, which is not a signatory of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, argues that the Aegean is a special case that does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Convention. It, therefore, maintains that the territorial waters issue should be resolved through dialogue. A decision by Athens to extend the territorial waters, Turkey says, would be a cause for war. Turkey also maintains that Greek sovereignty over certain islands and islets in the Aegean has not been established by international treaties. When the European Union invited Turkey to be a candidate for EU membership at its 1999 summit in Helsinki, it called on Athens and Ankara to make every effort to resolve any outstanding border disputes and, in the absence of a resolution, refer the disputes to the ICJ by the end of 2004. Papandreou and Cem prepared the groundwork for the opening of the dialogue on the Aegean Sea at February meetings on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in New York and an inter-religious conference in Istanbul organized by the European Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which Papandreou attended. March 2002 Economic Cooperation with Turkey Furthered through Interministerial Talks Washington, D.C. - The first conference of the Greek-Turkish Joint Ministerial Committee for Economic Cooperation was held in Athens to find ways to expand on measures promoting bilateral economic and commercial relations in the nine agreements concluded between the two countries. The agreements focused on issues such as trade, energy, industry, the environment, medium-sized enterprises, agriculture, transport, shipping, tourism, and improving the road networks between the two countries. At the conference, the participants agreed to work toward expanding the institutional frameworks in both countries to facilitate the implementation of the agreements; encouraging both Greek and Turkish businessmen, as well as foreign entrepreneurs, to invest in projects resulting from the agreements; and resolving problems in bilateral economic relations. Suggestions for bilateral cooperation included joint construction projects in Balkan countries, the participation of Turkish contractors in projects for the 2004 Olympic games in Athens, and collaboration on the transport of natural gas from Central Asia to western European countries. The two sides said they would work to promote an increase in the volume of bilateral trade from the current volume of $1 billion to $5 billion over the next few years. The two delegations at the conference were comprised of senior officials of the foreign, transportation, economy, agriculture, and development ministries of the two countries. The Committee will meet again in a few months, most likely in Istanbul. In a related development, representatives of the commercial section of the Greek Consulate in Istanbul have planned to tour several cities in Turkey to brief local business leaders on Greek firms and markets, while examining the possibility of joint ventures between Greek and Turkish firms. The tour is being co-organized by Turkey’s Council for Foreign Economic Relations (DEIK). March 2002 Support for Romania’s European Union, NATO Bids Washington, D.C. - Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, during a visit to Bucharest, reaffirmed Greece’s support for Romania’s bids to join the European Union and NATO as prospects that would contribute to the stability and growth of the region. In meetings with Romanian President Ion Iliescu and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, Simitis stated that, during its presidency of the European Union during the first half of 2003Greece would promote progress in Romania’s EU negotiations and would take more decisive steps to incorporate the country into the Euro-Atlantic family. He stressed the need for greater, more permanent cooperation among southeastern European states that would evolve into a regional organization aimed at adopting a common stance in international organizations on issues of concern to the area. The two sides also discussed Balkan issues, including the participation of Romania in the peacekeeping operations in both Afghanistan and Kosovo. Simitis unveiled a Greek-Romanian investment package worth $70 million, within the framework of Athens’ Balkan reconstruction plan. He said that the fact that 70 percent of Romania’s exports were being sent to the European Union indicated that the country’s institutional framework was steadily being transformed to conform to EU standards. Simitis noted that some 1,000 Greek firms that had invested in Romania had created 70,000 jobs, although bilateral trade was not yet at the desired level. Prime Minister Nastase proposed greater bilateral cooperation at the level of the foreign and interior ministries to curb the illegal immigration of Romanian nationals into Greece. March 2002 Iranian Cooperation to Deliver Energy to Europe Washington, D.C. - In talks with Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos and Development Minister Akis Tsohadzopoulos in Athens, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh signaled Iran’s readiness to provide Europe with a major part of its natural gas needs through Greece. Zanganeh, in the Greek capital to attend an energy conference, stated that Tehran sought Turkey’s permission to use it as a gateway for a natural gas pipeline to Greece and other European countries, following the launching of gas exports to Turkey in December through a new pipeline from Iran to Ankara. Iran’s supply arrangement with the Turkish government is the country’s largest gas export contract to date, with the initial 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year expected to rise to 13 bcm by 2007. Iran’s gas deposits, accounting for 18 percent of total world reserves, are the second largest after those of Russia. The Iranian government plans to increase the production of natural gas to more than 182 bcm annually in 2005 from its current production of 110 bcm. Athens has stated that it intends to promote the inclusion of the Balkans in the EU’s energy networks while it holds the six-month EU presidency during the first half of 2003. March 2002 Bank Accounts Linked to Milosevic Revealed Washington, D.C. - The Greek Justice Ministry lifted bank secrecy laws with respect to about 250 bank accounts of companies suspected of being linked to former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, opening the way for war crimes investigators at The Hague to examine details of the accounts. The information was sent to The Hague a few days before Milosevic’s trial on war crimes charges began in mid-February at the international war crimes tribunal. The decision to lift the laws followed a request by Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the tribunal, for access to the accounts in order to continue the global search for Serb public funds, estimated at $100 million, that Milosevic is believed to have obtained illegally while president and laundered by sending them to banks around the world. Most of the accounts being examined concerned transactions made from 1992 to 1996, when Greece and Cyprus were accused of breaking international sanctions by allowing Greek companies and offshore companies based in Cyprus to supply fuel to Yugoslavia. The majority of the accounts were at Greek branches of the Bank of Cyprus; the European Popular Bank, which is a Greek subsidiary of the Popular Bank of Cyprus; Citibank; and three Greek banks, Commercial Bank, Ionian Bank, and Egnatia Bank. March 2002 Parliamentary Efforts Further Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue Washington, D.C. - In an initiative organized by Greek Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis on the sidelines of an Athens summit for regional parliamentary speakers, the speaker of the Israeli parliament, Avraham Burgand the chairman of the Palestinian National Council, Salim Al-Zaanoun, agreed in principle to exchange visits to their respective legislative bodies to encourage the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Under the agreement, Burg would address the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah, and Al-Zaanoun would speak before the Knesset in Jerusalem. The initiative grew out of the efforts of the parliament speakers of the current European Union Troika, comprised of Spain, currently holding the EU presidency; Sweden, which held it during the second half of 2001; and Greece, which will be at the helm the first half of 2003. Kaklamanis said that he and the Spanish and Swedish parliament speakers would accompany Burg to Ramallah if the visit takes place. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou stated that Greece intended to implement new initiatives to promote the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians when it assumes the EU presidency next year. January/February 2002 Prime Minister in Washington for Broad High-Level Talks Washington, D.C. - During Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s January 10-11 visit to Washington, he discussed a broad range of bilateral and global issues with U.S. officials, including international and domestic terrorism, Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus issue, the Athens 2004 Olympics, the European Union’s efforts to create a rapid reaction force, and efforts to stabilize the Balkans. Simitis, accompanied by Foreign Minister George Papandreou, met with President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He also spoke to Vice President Dick Cheney by secured telephone. Bush commended Greece’s strong position on combating international terrorism, stating that Washington and Athens were jointly concerned over the global threat. Regarding domestic terrorism, Simitis stated that some gains were being made in Greece’s campaign against the Greek terrorist group November 17, whose 42 victims over the past 26 years have included five U.S. Embassy employees. He noted that the collaboration between the FBI and CIA and the Greek police since the early 1980s had contributed to these gains. Bush expressed satisfaction over Greece’s rapprochement with Turkey, which had led to improved relations between the two countries. He also expressed confidence that Greece would organize an excellent Olympiad, while Simitis assured U.S. officials that everything would be done to make the games safe. The two leaders also discussed the roles played by both the United States and Greece in contributing to the stability of the Balkans. Simitis stated that his meeting with Bush confirmed that bilateral relations were “exceptionally good.” January/February 2002 Peacekeepers En Route to Afghanistan Washington, D.C. - A contingent of 150 Greek troops is slated to travel to Afghanistan by the end of January for a three-month tour of duty in the 4,500 British-led international peacekeeping force that is maintaining stability in Kabul and its vicinity for the new six-month interim government. Seventeen nations are expected to contribute troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Greece’s troop contingent will be comprised of a medical unit with mobile facilities and 30 to 40 personnel, who will provide services to the Afghan people; an engineering component of 50 to 60 engineers, who will assist with mine clearing and road construction; and a platoon of 30 special forces who will provide security for the contingent. In addition, the force will include crews for three C-130 military transport planes, which have already conducted flights to deliver humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. In early January, two Greek military officers participated in a 12-country, 24 group of reconnaissance experts that arrived in Kabul to survey five sites identified as potential bases for ISAF and assess the needs of the force’s troops. A Greek frigate continues to patrol the eastern Mediterranean as part of NATO’s Standing Naval Force Mediterranean to boost the alliance’s presence in the region. In addition, Greece has placed a frigate on standby for deployment to the Persian Gulf if called upon to do so by the U.S. Central Command, which is overseeing the Afghanistan campaign. A Greek special forces brigadier general has been sent to the Command as part of a group of military personnel from countries contributing troops for operations in Afghanistan. The Greek Foreign Ministry has provided $140,000 for food and water supplies for two camps in the area over a period of five months. In addition, it has donated $500,000 to the efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the area and has provided financial support to four Greek non-governmental organizations that are distributing humanitarian relief in the region. Greece’s announcement that it would send troops to Afghanistan followed a decision by representatives of European Union nations at the December EU summit in Laeken, Belgium, that all 15 EU countries would offer up to a total of 40troops for operations in the country, with some nations providing support such as field hospitals and technical assistance. Up through late November, Greek government officials had ruled out the possibility that Greece would send troops to Afghanistan, even for peacekeeping purposes. The government had been considering contributing troops to any NATO mission that emerged for the purpose of delivering humanitarian aid. January/February 2002 Broader Counter-Terrorism, Campaign Under EU-Wide Program Washington, D.C. - Three extreme leftist Greek groups have been included in an expanded list of 42 organizations and individuals regarded as engaged in terrorist activity by the EU. The list was released at the end of December as part of the bloc’s new push to combat terrorism, which includes the adoption of a common definition of terrorist acts and a Europe-wide arrest warrant. The groups are November 17which has been blamed for the assassinations of 42 people since 1975, including five U.S. Embassy personnel; Revolutionary Cells, which has staged bomb attacks against U.S. firms in Greece; and Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA). Every EU member state is required to freeze any assets of the organizations or individuals on the EU list within its borders. Any individual whose name appears on membership lists of the organizations may be arrested and jailed anywhere in the EU under the new Europe-wide definition of terrorist acts. The common arrest warrant, which must be passed by the legislatures of all 15 EU member countries, is not expected to go into effect until January 2004. Greece, Austria, Denmark, and Luxembourg have said they could have problems adopting the warrant since their constitutions prohibit the extradition of foreign nationals to other EU countries. January/February 2002 Euro Brings New Hope for Continued Growth Washington, D.C. - The January 1 introduction of the euro as physical currency in Greece, the fastest-growing economy in the European Union, marked a milestone for which the Greek government has been preparing for several years through fiscal discipline. Greece reduced its inflation rate from 20 percent in 1986 to about 3 percent in 2001, while also slashing its interest rates, budget deficit, and public-sector debt. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicted that Greece will continue to lead all OECD members, including all EU nations, in economic growth in 2002 with a projected growth rate of 4 percent of the country’s GDP. This has been attributed to increased investment and spending linked to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, sizeable European Union structural funds, and declining interest rates. Greece’s 2002 growth rate will be more than double the euro-zone’s average economic growth of 1.3 to 1.5 percent this year. In 2002, investments in Greece are expected to rise by 8.7 percent in comparison to an average rate of investment growth in the euro-zone of 0.7 percent. Inflation is expected to be 2.8 percent in 2002, which will exceed the euro-zone average of about 1.7 percent. Unemployment remained high at 11.2 percent in 2001, compared to 7.7 percent in the euro-zone. Tax measures aimed at creating incentives to boost employment, increase competitiveness, and achieve a more equitable distribution of income are going into effect this year. Greece also plans to speed up privatization and structural reform of the economy with additional measures that will enhance the country’s competitiveness, now hampered by high unit labor costs compared to other euro-zone countries, and help improve its standard of living as a euro-zone member. Greece’s standard of living stands at 70 percent of the euro-zone average. Pension reform is also a top priority, with pension expenditures reaching 12.6 percent of GDP last year. The euro and the drachma will be used simultaneously through February 28, when Greece’s national currency will be taken out of circulation. The euro is especially welcome in Greece, where the drachma has lost 90 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar since 1970. January/February 2002 Expanded Cooperation with Russia Seen in Energy, Defense Sectors Washington, D.C. - A key focus of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s December visit to Athens was exploring ways to promote bilateral cooperation in the Greek and Balkan energy sectors. Greece is deregulating its energy market, and Russia is proposing that it expand its export of natural gas to Greece for re-export to other countries in Europe through the Balkan peninsula. Russia, Greece’s chief supplier of natural gas, provides 1.8 billion cubic meters (bcms) a year by pipeline through Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, and Bulgaria. Greece would like to import an additional 1 billion bcms annually. Officials from state and private firms on both sides discussed possible investments in the construction of new natural gas distribution networks and underground natural gas reservoirs in Greece; the participation of Russian companies in building electrical power plants in Greece, which could export power; and long-delayed plans for the construction of a new oil pipeline linking Bulgaria’s Black Sea port of Burgas and Greece’s Aegean port of Alexandroupolis for the transport of Russian oil. Proposals were also submitted for joint ventures to extend the natural gas networks in Greece throughout the Balkans. In addition to a fuel and energy pact, bilateral cooperation agreements were also signed between the two countries’ justice and cultural ministries, police, and shipping and air transport sectors. Current Greek-Russian investment and trade are at low levels. Prime Minister Costas Simitis said that Greece had long supported the need for closer cooperation between NATO and Russia, and called for the creation of a new body for NATO-Russian cooperation, allowing Moscow to participate in shaping decisions on security issues. President Costis Stephanopoulos, who visited Russia in June 2000, stated that he would help bring Russia closer to the EU during Greece’s six-month presidency of the European Union during the first half of 2003. Putin stated that he considered Greece to be a bridge between Russia and the EU. Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, who met with Putin to discuss the possibility that Greece could purchase additional Russian arms, stated that the current cooperation between the two countries in the defense sector would continue if Russian weapons were competitive. Although Greece’s military equipment is almost exclusively American, Greece is one of NATO’s largest purchasers of Russian weapons systems, primarily anti-aircraft systems. Russia would also like to supply Greece with transport helicopters and main battle tanks. January/February 2002 Growing Problems with Illegal Immigration, Human Smuggling Washington, D.C. - At the December European Union summit in Laeken, Belgium, the EU adopted Greece’s proposals that the bloc create a police force to guard its external borders against illegal immigration; establish a mechanism and fund for the return of illegal migrants, as well as a common asylum policy; and establish a European watchdog to keep track of the illegal migrant problem, with Athens suggested as its base. Greece, with some 3,000 islands and an extensive coastline, is a major entry point for illegal migrants into the European Union from Asia, the Middle East, and eastern Europe through Turkey and the Balkans. In 2001, about 250,000 illegal migrants were arrested in Greece. Prime Minister Simitis has pledged to crack down on illegal immigration into Greece and has warned that the high volume of illegal entries posed an internal threat to a country of 11 million inhabitants. He has named illegal immigration and terrorism, particularly in conjunction with security preparations for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, as Greece’s primary security concerns for the immediate future. The prime minister has also hiked funding for the public order ministry by 20 percent. Simitis stated that the Greek armed forces would reinforce the efforts of the Greek police and border guard force to curb illegal entries, and he proposed imposing stricter sentences on those convicted of migrant trafficking. Some 2,500 guards are expected to be added to the present 4,500-member Greek border guard force in 2002. The government also intends to speed up the processing of political asylum and citizenship applications. In the last six years, Greece has accepted only 5.8 percent of the asylum applications it received. The EU average for 1999 was less than 8 percent. The Greek government has also announced legislation that lists sexual exploitation of, and trafficking in, women as forms of organized crime. The laws, if passed, will impose tougher penalties for people engaging in these activities. Up to 20,000 foreign women, primarily from the former Soviet bloc, have been brought into Greece illegally by trafficking networks and forced into prostitution. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and Amnesty International have criticized the November agreement between Greece and Turkey because of the automatic return to their country of departure of illegal immigrants caught crossing the Greek-Turkish border. They state that the agreement does not conform to provisions of the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees, which guarantees against forcible returns without due process, including the right to apply for asylum. January/February 2002 Israel to Provide Equipment for Greek F-16s Washington, D.C. - An Israeli company is to sell its electronic warfare equipment to Greece for the Greek air force’s new U.S.-made F-16 fighters, following a decision by the United States government to lift its two-year objection to the transaction. The sale by Israel’s Elisra Electronics Systems marks the first time the United States has allowed a non-American contractor to install its equipment on F-16s in production for a NATO ally. In the past, Washington has generally opposed the installation of non-U.S.-made electronic equipment on planes manufactured in the U.S. Israel argued that U.S. defense contractors had not produced a system similar to that produced by Elisra and noted that the U.S. had approved installation of the system on the F-15s in Israel’s air force. The system provides pilots with maximum protection against long-range missiles and with jamming equipment. The Greek government’s purchase of the equipment from Elisra Electronics Systems is expected to cost up to about $180 million. In March 2000, Greece ordered 50 F-16s from the U.S.-based Lockheed Martin Corp. in a contract valued at $2.1 billion, with the first deliveries scheduled for this year. January/February 2002 Accomplices in Ocalan’s Entry into Greece to Be Tried Washington, D.C. - Thirteen people, including Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is imprisoned in Turkey, will be put on trial in Greece for charges relating to the PKK leader’s illegal entry into Greece in early 1999 prior to his being sheltered in the Greek Embassy compound in Nairobi and his subsequent arrest in the Kenyan capital. The decision to go ahead with the trial followed a council of appeals court judges’ rejection of an appeal by retired Greek naval officer Antonis Naxakis, who privately arranged air transport for Ocalan into Greece, and two of Ocalan’s aides against their indictments on felony charges for endangering Greece’s peace. Those charged as accomplices include the police and secret service officers on duty at Athens airport when Ocalan entered Greece, the pilot of his plane, and two Greeks who provided housing accommodations for the PKK leader. November/December 2001 More Troops in Balkans if U.S. Forces Go to Afghanistan Washington, D.C. - The Greek government has ruled out the possibility of sending troops for a military mission in Afghanistan but is not opposed to contributing troops for a NATO mission that would provide humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. Two Greek C-130 transport planes will be delivering humanitarian aid to the Afghans via countries neighboring Afghanistan. In addition, Greece will reinforce its 1,676 peacekeeping contingent, in Kosovo by 300 troops if U.S. soldiers from the peacekeeping mission in the province are moved to the war front. November/December 2001 New Emphasis on Asymmetric Threats in 15-Year Defense Strategy Washington, D.C. - Greece’s new national defense strategy for 2001-2015 places unprecedented emphasis on asymmetric threats stemming from terrorism, in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks and in view of the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The Defense Ministry is considering restructuring and expanding the intelligence branch of the armed forces in order to confront these threats. The strategy continues to rank readiness for a war with Turkey as Greece’s first defense priority. Instability in the eastern Mediterranean, Balkans, and Caucasus are also seen as potential sources of challenge to Greek security. The strategy also cites organized crime, illegal immigration, and cyber terrorism as threats to Greece’s security. Under the new guidelines, army camps will be moved away from urban centers and a total of 25,000 new professional soldiers will be appointed in the next three years. As a precaution against asymmetric threats, the Greek government has stepped up security at airports, ports, the Athens subway system, power plants, dams, buildings and installations related to transportation and utilities, foreign companies and banks, and embassies. Flights by small private planes have been suspended. Civil aviation authorities have been instructed to alert the Greek air force if any aircraft veer off course in Greek airspace. November/December 2001 U.S. AWACS Patrols, Eastern Mediterranean Deployment with NATO Force Washington, D.C. - Both Greek and Turkish military officers have joined NATO crews, including Belgians, Canadians, Germans, Italians, and Portuguese, aboard five AWACS aircraft sent by the alliance to patrol the United States in order to free up American surveillance aircraft for use in operations in Afghanistan. The AWACS deployment at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, marks the first time that planes other than those of the U.S. military have been used to patrol the homeland. The AWACS are bolstering the patrols of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which is responsible for the defense of U.S. and Canadian airspace. In addition, Greek and Turkish ships are part of NATO’s Standing Naval Force Mediterranean, which has been sent to the eastern Mediterranean to boost the alliance’s presence in the region under the activation of Article 5. The primary mission of the force, comprised of ships from eight countries, is to deploy rapidly to an area of tension and form the nucleus of a larger naval force if required. Greece will also provide a frigate to a NATO flotilla that may be called upon to sail to the Persian Gulf to reinforce the alliance’s naval presence in the region. November/December 2001 Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean Airspace Open for U.S. Air Campaign Washington, D.C. - Both Greece and Turkey postponed separate annual military exercises scheduled for October and November in the eastern Mediterranean involving aircraft in order to keep air corridors in the region open for U.S. military aircraft taking part in the campaign in Afghanistan. Both countries have opened up their airspace and bases to U.S. military planes involved in the campaign. For the first time in five years, Greece put off its participation in the annual “Nikiforos-Toxotis” military exercise conducted jointly with Cyprus over and around the island republic as part of a 1993 military defense pact between the two countries. Following a joint decision by Athens and Nicosiathe Cypriot National Guard went ahead with the “Nikiforos 2001” component of the exercise, limited to naval activity, on its own. Greece said it would reschedule its “Toxotis” component of the maneuver. Greece did conduct its air, sea, and land maneuver, “Parmenion 2001” in Thrace, in northeastern Greece, at the end of September. Turkey postponed its “Barbaros 2001” air and sea exercise off the coast of northern Cyprus, while going ahead with its participation in the annual “Toros2001exercise in northern Cyprus, involving only ground troops. November/December 2001 Official Talks in Pakistan, India to Shore Up Anti-Terror Coalition Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou visited Islamabad at the end of October for talks with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar to express the West’s appreciation for Pakistan’s critical support for the anti-terrorism coalition. Papandreou’s trip also advanced the European Union’s recent initiative to step up political dialogue with the Pakistani government. Both Pakistan and Greece agreed that a broad-based, multi-tribal government should emerge in Afghanistan. Papandreou acknowledged the difficulties posed by the 3 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan and reiterated Greece’s intention to assist the refugees by providing $1 million in humanitarian aid. Papandreou flew from Pakistan to India, where he met with Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh to discuss the war in Afghanistan. November/December 2001 Anti-Terrorism Links with Iran, Syria Washington, D.C. - Papandreou’s trip to Iran and Syria in October and November focused on gaining the support of both countries for the campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. He also conveyed the message that the EU would like to strengthen ties with both Middle Eastern countries. Since the war against terrorism began, Greece has sought to project its role as a link between the West and the Muslim world, with which it has traditionally had good relations. During Papandreou’s talks with Iranian President Mohammed Khatami and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, the officials proposed the creation of a transitional government in Kabul representing all ethnic elements, but excluding the Taliban, which the Iranian government opposes. Kharrazi stated that Greece could play an important role in relations between the European Union and Iran, while Khatami said the Iranian government would welcome initiatives by EU member states to invest in Iran or enter into joint ventures with Iranian enterprises. Khatami also said that Iran and the EU could work together to end crises in the Middle East. He also called for expanded Greek-Iranian ties in the political, cultural, and economic sectors. During Papandreou’s discussions in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara, the Syrian president emphasized the importance of fighting terrorism within the framework of the United Nations. He called for building cultural bridges and maintaining dialogue to prevent violence, while stressing the importance of not linking terrorism to Islam. Both Papandreou and the Syrian officials cited the importance of the European role in the Middle East peace process. Papandreou noted that it was difficult to build an anti-terrorism coalition in the region at a time of heightened tension between Israelis and Palestinians. A lasting anti-terrorism coalition requires progress in the Middle East peace process, he said, adding that the international community expects Syria, recently elected as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, to contribute to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Papandreou visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority the week after the September 11 terrorist attacks occurred and met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. November/December 2001 Money Laundering Targeted in Domestic Anti-Taliban Campaign Washington, D.C. - Greece announced that it would investigate bank accounts within its borders as part of an effort to track the money-laundering trail of the Taliban and bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network. The government issued a presidential decree to freeze any bank accounts suspected of being connected with terrorism, following a decision by the EU’s council of finance ministers authorizing this move. The government confirmed that four bank accounts in Greek banks were held by, foreign nationals whose names were the same as those of four Afghans found on an, international list of suspected terrorists sent to the Greek government by the, European Central Bank. Athens said that Greek officials were cooperating with, their foreign counterparts on the matter, including the FBI. November/December 2001 Promoting Mediterranean Solidarity Against Terrorism Washington, D.C. - Foreign Minister Papandreou joined foreign ministers from 10 other countries on the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean Seaincluding 5 predominantly Muslim nations, in Agadir, Morocco, for an emergency summit held within the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Forum to discuss international anti-terrorism efforts following the September 11 attacks on the U.S. The Forum, which is currently being chaired by Greece, was established in 1994 by Algeria, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, and Turkey as an informal framework for consultation and dialogue among these countries around the Mediterranean. The ministers adopted Papandreou’s proposal to organize an international conference bringing together various religious, political, and intellectual leaders within the world’s major religions for a dialogue under the auspices of the European Union, an idea that he intends to submit to the United Nations. The goal of the conference would be to defuse the strained international climate in the wake of the terrorist attacks and promote cooperation among different religions and cultures. Such a conference had originally been proposed in 1995 as a U.N.-led initiative by former Greek prime minister Andreas Papandreou and former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad. November/December 2001 Preparations Begin for Bioterrorism Threat Washington, D.C. - Greece has set up a government task force of security experts and scientists that will work under the authority of the Interior Ministry’s General Secretariat for Civil Defense to handle terrorist threats against the country involving biological and chemical weapons. The task force, which will draft new plans for emergencies concerning these weapons, will include representatives of the armed forces, coast guard, police, fire department, Hellenic Atomic Energy Board, and National First Aid Center. The Greek military will also begin training a newly established special unit to deal with biological, chemical, and nuclear attacks, which will be commanded by officers trained at the U.S. Army Chemical School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Teams of the special unit will be set up in both Athens and Thessaloniki. The government established a center to coordinate the handling of possible anthrax cases. The only incidents relating to bioterrorism in Greece have been an increasing number of hoaxes concerning anthrax contamination, including letters sent to the U.S. Embassy in Athens and the U.S. naval support facility at Souda Bay on the island of Crete. The Ministry of Health is launching a tender for the supply of vaccines that, could be used in the event of a biological warfare attack, with delivery, expected by the end of this year or the beginning of 2002. Under normal, conditions, Greece imports few vaccines for anthrax and smallpox. November/December 2001 Agreement with Turkey to Stem Illegal Immigration Washington, D.C. - Greece and Turkey have concluded a landmark agreement under which Greek authorities will send illegal immigrants back to Turkey within 14 days of their arrival, if the government provides proof that the migrants embarked from Turkey. Athens will also honor requests by Turkey to return illegal immigrants that head east from Greece, although the flow of migrants is primarily moving west toward Europe. The agreement was signed during the November visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem to Athens for talks with Foreign Minister Papandreou, as part of a regular biannual series of meetings between the two officials. Papandreou met with Cem in Ankara in April 2001. Under the immigration agreement, which does not cover internationally recognized refugees or individuals who are eligible for political asylum, the Greek and Turkish governments will share intelligence on immigrant smuggling networks. Three Greek naval vessels and surveillance planes have reinforced stepped-up coast guard patrols throughout the Aegean in an effort to ward off the movement of increased numbers of migrants into Greece from Turkey. Papandreou cited the need for cooperation between the EU and the U.S. in helping Turkey cope with any Afghan refugee crisis and discussed the possibility of cooperation with Ankara in providing humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. The tens of thousands of illegal immigrants inundating Greece from the east over the last several years have been a source of tension between the Greek and Turkish governments. In 2000, most of the 250,000 illegal immigrants that came from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia to Greece, a country of 11 million people, did so through Turkey, which has detained 152,000 illegal immigrants who have crossed its own borders over the last year and a half. November/December 2001 Measures for Cooperation with Turkey Advance Rapprochement Washington, D.C. - During Foreign Minister Cem’s November visit to Athens, he and Papandreou also announced three new confidence-building measures and three lower-level bilateral protocols to further rapprochement between their countries. The confidence-building measures will launch an exchange of military observers for major military exercises held in Greece or Turkey, the implementation of contact between the two countries’ joint chiefs of staff for the purpose of discussing international issues, and bilateral environmental cooperation along the Evros River, which marks the European land boundary between the two countries. The protocols established a joint natural disaster response unit, set up an exchange program between the two countries’ diplomatic academies, made Turkey the first country to support Greece’s initiative calling for an Olympic truce ahead of the 2004 games in Athens, and outlined cooperation in the education sector. During Cem’s visit, an exhibition of travel photographs taken by the Turkish foreign minister, co-sponsored by the Athens and Istanbul stock exchanges, was also inaugurated in the Greek capital. Last year, nine bilateral agreements were signed by Cem and Papandreou in Athens and Ankara on economic cooperation, investment promotion, maritime transport, tourism, scientific and technical cooperation, environmental cooperation, cultural affairs, and security issues. In November, Greek Agriculture Minister George Drys and his Turkish counterpart, Husnu Yusuf Gokalp signed two bilateral agreements concerning animal health and the protection of plants. During the fourth Greek-Turkish Business Forum in Athens the same month, Greek and Turkish businessmen proposed that they join with former diplomats and, media representatives to deal with bilateral or international emergencies, affecting business and commercial relations between Greece and Turkey. November/December 2001 Cabinet Reshuffle Focuses on Economy, Olympic Preparedness Washington, D.C. - The composition of Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s new cabinet following an October reshuffle consolidated his political control and was dictated by the urgency of moving stalled economic reforms forward and accelerating preparations for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. These preparations have been delayed partly by dissension within the ruling party, amid several warnings by the International Olympic Committee that deadlines were not being met on the construction of competition venues, roads, and housing accommodations for the Olympiad. The reshuffle followed the prime minister’s re-election, with an overwhelming majority, as leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) at a party convention. This provided him with a firm mandate to implement his policies as head of the party’s modernizing faction and to quiet the dissenting voices of its traditionalist wing led by outgoing defense minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, who became development minister in the new cabinet. Tsohadzopoulos had criticized the prime minister for neglecting social policies in order to pursue Greece’s further integration into the EU through streamlining the public sector and selling state enterprises. He was replaced as defense minister by outgoing economy and finance minister Yiannos Papantoniou, the architect of Greece’s euro-zone entry. In the reshuffle, the prime minister transferred senior officials to other ministries, promoted new ones that had performed well, and revived the use of deputy ministers, removing party dissenters from crucial posts. He gave high-profile positions to several close reformist allies, such as outgoing development minister Nikos Christodoulakis, who became minister of economy and finance, now considered the top ministry as Greece meets the complex demands associated with the adoption of the euro on January 1, 2002. Foreign Minister Papandreouwho has spearheaded better relations with Turkey and Balkan countries, and Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, in charge of counter-terrorism policies, retained their cabinet posts. In the government, composed of 48 ministers and deputy ministers, one of the largest in Greek history, Simitis created six new deputy ministerial positions in the ministries of defense, development, education, health, culture, and public order specifically to accelerate preparations for the Olympics, including one post that will be devoted exclusively to handling security measures for the games. Vasso Papandreou, the new public works minister, doubted publicly that some of the construction projects planned for the Olympics would be finished on time and suggested that alternate plans be considered for the projects. About 70 percent of the construction has been completed on competition venues. October 2001 Official Support for U.S.-NATO Anti-Terrorism Campaign Washington, D.C. - Declaring Greece's solidarity with the American people following the attacks on the U.S., Prime Minister Costas Simitis said the Greek government would cooperate with its NATO allies to put an end to terrorist violence. He stated that the Greek government would provide full moral, political, and practical support to the United States, and would take part in anti-terrorist actions decided upon by the U.S. and NATO. Compromise with terrorists, he said, was inconceivable, but civilian casualties must be avoided. Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos stated that the decision of the NATO Council to invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty following the terrorist attacks, as it pledged support for the U.S., was an expression of political solidarity and a wish to create a unified security policy against terrorism. Tsohatzopoulos said that this move did not constitute a blank check for any and all actions and that Greece would maneuver within the framework agreed to by the rest of the European Union and within NATO. At the request of the U.S. government, Greece is allowing the use of its airspace and is providing landing rights for U.S. military aircraft during Washington's ongoing buildup of forces in preparation for anti-terrorism operations. The NATO naval facility and U.S. naval air station at Souda Bay in northwestern Crete are expected to play a key role in regional intelligence gathering and logistical support for ships and transit aircraft during any operation. The naval facility can be used for ammunition storage and the refueling of ships by any alliance member. In addition, the Greek air force is expected to support more missions of NATO's Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) from a base at Aktion in northern Greece. October 2001 Foreign Minister in Washington for Talks on Counter-Terrorism, Ongoing Issues Washington, D.C. - Foreign Minister George Papandreou, during a visit to Washington in early October, expressed Greece's pledge to work with the United States in every practical way to isolate and eliminate terrorism in meetings with Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and other officials. The U.S. officials asked that Greece contribute, through tighter security, to preventing terrorist attacks and locating terrorist suspects. Papandreou said that Athens and Washington were exchanging information concerning the search for suspects. Powell stated that the U.S. was reassured by the efforts that are being made by the Greek government to ensure that the 2004 Olympics in Athens are held safely. Powell noted that he and Papandreou had discussed the unique relations that Greece has with a number of nations in the Arab world. Papandreou offered to assist the United States if it needed additional contacts or channels of communication with these nations. Papandreou also discussed issues concerning the Balkans, the Middle East, Cyprus, and Greek-Turkish relations with U.S. officials. He briefed them on his talks with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Moscow and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in Berlin on international cooperation against terrorism. - October 2001 Heightened Security Measures to Meet New Threats Washington, D.C. - Following the attacks on the U.S., Greek authorities imposed stringent security measures at some 200 sites representing U.S. interests in Greece, including the military facilities at Souda Bay and Aktion, and the U.S. pavilion at the Thessaloniki International Fair. Security was also increased at the embassies of Israel, Britain, Germany, France, and Italy. Greece implemented tighter security measures at public buildings and airports, as well as aboard and around aircraft, including intensified night patrols of planes on the ground, more thorough checks of airport and airline personnel, greater scrutiny of luggage, and the locking of cockpit doors from the inside. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) forwarded a list of demands to the Greek Civil Aviation Authority (EPA) concerning security checks on flights heading for the U.S. Last December, the FAA criticized the inadequate security checks in Greece and downgraded the country to a category of nations not in compliance with requirements established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). A committee formed by the National Economy Ministry, the Bank of Greece, and the Athens Stock Exchange will intensify its investigation into possible cases of money laundering through bank accounts to assist in the international effort to track the terrorist money trail. Steps will also be taken to accelerate the issuing of a new type of passport that will be more difficult to forge. October 2001 Security at Olympics Takes Center Stage Washington, D.C. - The government reiterated that security would be Greece's first priority in preparations for hosting the 2004 Olympics in Athens as it upgraded the $600 million security plan to include guarding against the possibility of aerial attacks, as well as the threat of biological and chemical warfare. International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Roggeduring a visit to Athens, stated that the IOC had been satisfied with the security plan for the games, which will be re-evaluated in light of the attacks on the U.S. Prime Minister Simitis called for the creation of a Crisis Management Council, comprised of the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, interior, public order, and merchant marine, to contribute to the planning of the security strategy for the Olympics. The Council will operate under the direction of the prime minister and the Government Council on Foreign Affairs and Defense. A military unit will also be set up to deal with the threat of biological and chemical attacks. Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis stated that Greece is cooperating with the U.S., Britain, Israel, France, Spain, and Australia on counter-terrorism strategy. The U.S. is in charge of coordination and technology in this effort, while Britain is responsible for training. About 50,000 police and soldiers will provide security, aided by hundreds of closed circuit monitors for the surveillance of Olympic facilities. The minister proposed that visas be required for athletes and IOC officials, a departure from past practice when only IOC accreditation was required. The Greek armed forces are expected to take on a more active role in combating terrorist threats. In addition, the Greek police force will re-activate two departments that once gathered and analyzed intelligence on international terrorism to supplement an operation that has already been launched for this purpose in preparation for the Olympics. October 2001 Stringent EU Laws to Affect Greek Anti-Terrorism Plans Washington, D.C. - Greece, as a member of the European Union, will be affected by sweeping changes in European law enforcement proposed by the European Commission following the terrorist attacks on the U.S., the arrest of suspected Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in Belgium and the Netherlands, and the discovery that the suspected pilots of the planes used in the attacks had lived in Germany. If the changes are approved at a December 7 European Commission meeting, the parliaments of all EU countries will be required to bring their legal systems into conformity with the new laws by January 1, 2002. Under the new measures, judges will be able to issue arrest and search warrants that will be enforced across the continent, eliminating extradition procedures. In addition, all EU member states will adopt the same definition of terrorist crimes, while imposing higher penalties and uniform sentences for these crimes, with life imprisonment being the maximum. Prime Minister Simitis stated that any new measures to fight terrorism in Greece would have to be based on the constitution and safeguard the individual rights of citizens. Public Order Minister Chrysochoidis stated that Greece would not enact measures that were contrary to existing Greek legislation. October 2001 Government Quashes Religious ID Referendum Effort Washington, D.C. - A year-long standoff between the government and the Greek Orthodox Church over the question of whether citizens should have the option of declaring their religion on compulsory police-issued identity cards ended with Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos's rejection of a Church-sponsored petition for a referendum. In Greece, it is unusual for the president, as head of state, to take a stand on issues debated in the political arena. Stephanopoulos stated that the holding of a referendum, based on the Church's collection of more than 3 million signatures over the last year supporting such a move, would violate Greece's constitution and laws. His statement removed the issue from the political sphere, where it had been a subject of vigorous debate between the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and the main opposition New Democracy Party, which backed the Church on this issue. In mid-2000, the government announced that it would remove religious affiliation from identity cards to conform to EU standards concerning the protection of privacy. In June 2001, the Council of State, Greece's highest court, ruled that disclosing a religious affiliation on a citizen's identity card would be unconstitutional, even on an optional basis. It stated that the information was personal and confidential. More than 90 percent of Greece's 11 million people are Orthodox Christians and the Greek constitution recognizes Orthodox Christianity as the country's official religion. Archbishop Christodoulos, who spearheaded the nationwide collection of signatures in favor of a referendum, hinted that he might appeal the Council of State's ruling before the European Court of Justice. October 2001 Talks with Turkey to Stem Illegal Immigration Washington, D.C. - Negotiations are underway with Ankara on joint efforts to combat an escalating wave of illegal migration from Turkey that has severely burdened Greece's immigration and social services. Athens has appealed to Ankara to crack down on human smuggling rings operating in Turkey. Smuggling people from Asia and the Middle East to European destinations through Turkey has become a rapidly growing and profitable business. Security forces in Greece arrested more than 259,000 illegal immigrants in 2000, a 39 percent increase over 1999. Turkish authorities detained 94,000 illegal immigrants in 2000, nearly double the 48,000 arrested in 1999. The flow of Afghans toward Greece through Turkey is expected to increase with the exodus of a possible 1.5 million citizens from Afghanistan due to U.S. military action in the country. October 2001 New Social Spending and Economic Reform Plan Proposed Washington, D.C. - Prime Minister Simitis unveiled a four-year program aimed at strengthening the government's social policies and furthering economic reform, while also ensuring tight fiscal discipline and stability. The additional spending in the social sector will be possible due to a reduction in the public debt, widening surpluses in the state budget, and a delay in procurement in the defense sector, where spending is to be kept below 4 percent of GDP. Simitis said that social spending would increase by 40 percent from 2001 to 2004while accumulated inflation during this period would total 11 percent. The spending includes increases in pensions, support for people experiencing long-term unemployment, assistance to families in low-income areas, allowances for single-parent families, and improved health care. The Interior Ministry will create 1,000 regional offices where citizens can obtain information and receive prompt handling of state services. The government will also seek to reform the country's tax system for the first time since 1950 to achieve a more equitable distribution of the tax burden. The program, to be completed by the time the next parliamentary elections are held in the spring of 2004, was announced just five weeks before the October 11-14 convention of the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Party (PASOK), where delegates are voting whether to retain Simitis as party leader, and, by extension, as prime minister. The new measures appeared designed to deflect intra-party criticism by Defense Minister Tsohadzopoulos and other PASOK traditionalists that the prime minister has neglected social programs for the sake of Greece's membership in the EU's Economic and Monetary Union. Greece adopts the single European currency, the euro, on January 1, 2002, with the third-highest growth rate in the bloc. The prime minister stated that Greece's annual growth rate during the four years covered by the program was expected to be 4.5 to 5.0 percent, exceeding the average EU rates by two points. Growth rates in Greece have been higher than the EU average for six consecutive years, reaching 5.5 percent in the first half of 2001. By 2006, Greece's per capita income is expected to rise from its current rate of 70 percent of the EU average to 80 percent. The increased social spending was cautiously welcomed by Greece's largest trade union umbrella group, which had clashed in March with Simitis over his proposals to reform Greece's pension system to bring it in line with EU standards. Among OECD countries, Greece has the highest spending on pensions as a percentage of GDP. About 2.5 million of the 11 million Greeks live below the poverty line, while unemployment stands at about 11 percent, the highest in the EU. August/September 2001 Prime Minister, Defense Minister Vie to Lead Ruling Party Washington, D.C. - The policies of Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who leads the modernizing wing of the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), are being increasingly challenged publicly by Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, the head of the party's historic populist wing, leading up to PASOK's convention in October. Simitis is pursuing greater integration with Europe, entailing stringent fiscal policies and a more liberalized economy. Tsohatzopoulos, who supports Greece's euro-zone membership, is pushing a safety net approach to modernization based on the policies of party founder and former prime minister Andreas Papandreou in the 1980s. The defense minister's challenges come in the wake of contradictory polls since late spring, most of which placed the popularity of PASOK below that of the main opposition New Democracy Party for the first time in Simitis's five years in office. PASOK's poor showing led Simitis to move the party's convention, where the party's leader is elected, from March 2002 to October 2001 in an attempt to renew his mandate to govern, despite the fact that he was re-elected prime minister in April 2000. Simitis is struggling to balance Greece's obligation, as a euro member since January, to reduce the public debt, privatize state assets, and pursue pro-market policies with the demands of those in his party who complain that social programs are being neglected. As a result, he is calling for a limitedthree-year$3.3 billion package designed to combat the country's high unemployment rate, expected to be 10 percent this year; raise the lowest wages and pensions; upgrade health coverage for those with lower incomes; and improve education in economically disadvantaged areas. Simitis's earlier proposals to overhaul the bloated pension system, under pressure from Brussels, alienated labor unions, traditionally a PASOK power base and formerly the prime minister's strongest backers. The proposals, which included raising the retirement age, have been put on hold following union protests against them. Though unpopular with many, Simitis's fiscal policies have led to low inflation, faster growth than the EU average, and an acceptably low budget deficit. PASOK has been in power in Greece for all but three of the past 20 years. Elections are not scheduled until 2004. August/September 2001 Preparations to Destroy F.Y.R. Macedonia Rebel Arms Washington, D.C. - Greece accepted a NATO request to allow the weapons collected by the alliance from members of the National Liberation Army (NLA) in F.Y.R. Macedonia during "Operation Essential Harvest" to be transported to Greece for destruction. (See F.Y.R. Macedonia section.) A group of about 400 Greek soldiers is taking part in the 4,20 0disarmament operation. Six Greek officers were part of the 400-member NATO battalion that arrived in F.Y.R. Macedonia in mid-August to lay the groundwork for the deployment of the complete alliance force. One officer is participating in a council of 15 military consultants headed by Peter Feith, NATO's envoy to the region. August/September 2001 Scheduled EU Presidency to Promote Russia Ties Washington, D.C. - After meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Greek Prime Minister Simitis said Greece would foster closer ties between Europe and Russia when Athens assumes the rotating presidency of the EU in January 2003. Simitis said that problems in the Balkans, and those in F.Y.R. Macedonia in particular, could not be tackled without close cooperation between the EU and Moscow. Accompanying Simitis, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said that Greece supports Russia's proposal for an international conference focusing on Balkan security issues, similar to conferences held by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Simitis was in Moscow to attend a meeting of the International Olympic Committee General Assembly. Putin will visit Greece in December 2001 at the invitation of Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos, who traveled to Russia last year. It will be the first visit to Greece by a Russian head of state since former president Boris Yeltsin's trip in 1993. August/September 2001 Aegean Earthquake Research with Turkey, Italy, U.S. Washington, D.C. - Greek and Turkish scientists joined specialists from the U.S. and Italy in Thessaloniki in August to begin preparing an underwater research plan to chart and examine the Northern Anatolia fault extending from Turkey's Sea of Marmara to Greece's northern Aegean region. The plan will be completed during a second meeting of the scientists in Istanbul in mid-November. It will then be submitted to the governments of Greece and Turkey, who will give final approval for the project. Work is expected to begin by February 2002. The research will include assessing the potential magnitude of earthquakes that could be caused by the fault as the countries attempt to work toward reducing the impact of major temblors. The fault caused major earthquakes in 1999 in Turkey and Greece. August/September 2001 Heavy-Lift Helicopters to Increase Rapid Response Capability Washington, D.C. - Greece's acquisition of seven U.S.-made Chinook CH-47D transport helicopters by November will almost double the heavy-lift helicopter capability of the Greek army. It will supplement Greece's existing fleet of 9 CH-47 Chinooks and enhance its ability to rapidly move troops and supplies to regions within a 250-mile radius, such as the Balkans, for combat purposes or to provide humanitarian assistance. After the Imia/Kardak crisis with Turkey in 1996, Greece decided to acquire systems that would augment the military's rapid reaction capability and enable it to move units to remote areas more quickly. The total cost of the helicopters, three of which arrived in late July, is over $200 million. The purchase is part of a five-year armament modernization program. July 2001 Decision-Making Frozen as New Governing Mandate Sought Washington, D.C. - Prime Minister Costas Simitis moved the ruling socialist party's congress from March 2002 to October 2001 in a bid to renew his mandate to govern after several polls placed the approval rating of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) behind that of the main opposition New Democracy Party (ND) for the first time since he took office in 1996. A poll conducted between June 26 and July 6 gave ND a lead of more than 11 percent over PASOK, while over 40 percent of the respondents said New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis was best suited to govern the country, compared to over 30 percent who named Simitis. The prime minister threatened to resign if the PASOK executive committee had not approved an earlier congress, where an election for party leader, currently Simitis, will be held. If another party member is elected leader, Simitis said he will step down as prime minister. Simitis's decision has effectively placed a moratorium on decision-making concerning significant economic and social policy issues until after the congress, when a cabinet shuffle is expected to occur, even if Simitis remains prime minister. In addition, Simitis cancelled an official visit to China, scheduled for late June, for the second time in 20 months as a result of the crisis. PASOK has long been plagued by dissent within the party between its traditionalist faction, which follows the line of former prime minister and party founder Andreas Papandreou, and its reformist faction, led by Simitis and Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Andreas's son. George Papandreou and Defense Minister Akis Tsohadzopoulos, a member of the traditionalist wing who was defeated by Simitis for the party leadership in 1996, are considered potential successors to Simitis. July 2001 Troop Participation in NATO Force to Disarm Albanians Washington, D.C. - Greece will contribute from 300 to 600 troops from a mechanized infantry battalion stationed in Polykastro in northern Greece to the 30NATO force to be sent to F.Y.R. Macedonia to supervise the disarmament of ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the National Liberation Army if a lasting ceasefire and a political settlement are achieved. Most of the Greek troops, who have completed training for the mission, have already served in NATO-led peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and Kosovo. Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski has rejected a proposal put forth by Greece for an international conference with the participation of the U.S., the EU, and Russia aimed at accelerating the process of finding a solution to the crisis in F.Y.R. Macedonia. Trajkovski said Skopje preferred to negotiate a settlement by engaging in a dialogue with the country's democratically elected officials. An international conference is favored by the ethnic Albanians. July 2001 Opposition Party Leads Passage of Anti-Terrorism Legislation Washington, D.C. - A bill granting police tougher powers to investigate and prosecute terrorist and criminal suspects was passed in early June after months of debate over its potential to infringe on civil liberties. The new law introduced non-jury trials, the use of DNA testing without suspects' consent, a limited right of appeal, broader police powers of surveillance and infiltration, witness protection and amnesty programs, and suspended sentences for those who assist authorities by providing critical information that leads to the apprehension of terrorists. While the main opposition New Democracy Party fully supported the bill in parliamentary debate, there was strong opposition to the bill among many members of the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), which included the participation of PASOK parliamentarians in protests against the bill. July 2001 Step-By-Step Progress in Turkey Rapprochement Washington, D.C. - In meetings on the Greek eastern Aegean island of Samos and in the Turkish coastal town of Kusadasi, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem agreed to pursue bilateral cooperation in five new areas. To facilitate direct communication and avoid the escalation of bilateral tension in times of crisis, the ministers agreed to establish a telephone hotline for urgent matters as well as regular communication. The countries will also promote enhanced cooperation at their common land and sea frontiers to ensure greater cross-border movement of people and goods as a boost to bilateral economic activity, particularly between Turkish coastal areas and the Greek islands. The two governments are discussing the possibility of opening a second crossing in the border in Thrace. Papandreou has also negotiated an agreement with the European Union that offers Turkish visitors to Greece's Aegean islands on one-day cruises the option of obtaining 48-hour visas upon their arrival on cruise ships. As non-EU citizens, Turks would normally have to apply for visas in advance as required in EU countries such as Greece that fall under the Schengen agreement. In addition, Greece and Turkey will cooperate on scientific research on Mediterranean anemia, or thalassemia, a congenital blood disease; designate a role for Turkey to play in the organization of cultural events accompanying the 2004 Olympic games in Athens; and establish bilateral mechanisms to deal with natural disasters, including the establishment of a joint rapid response unit and the launching of joint research on earthquake potential in the Aegean. Greek and Turkish researchers will begin working with U.S. and Italian scientists in August to assess earthquake risk along the North Anatolian fault, extending from Turkey to continental Greece. On Samos, Cem and Papandreou attended the third joint conference of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Greece and Turkey. In a related development, the leaders of the respective Thrace associations in Greece and Turkey visited Brussels to be briefed on EU programs that will further cooperation between the Greek and Turkish towns represented by the organizations. July 2001 Defense Minister Plans Ankara Visit, Closer Ties Washington, D.C. - Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohadzopoulos and Turkish Defense Minister Sabahatt, in Cakmakoglu, meeting on the sidelines of the Southeastern European Defense Ministerial (SEDM) in Thessaloniki, stated that no tension between Greece and Turkey should stem from the activities of their respective armed forces in the Aegean. The ministers agreed to set up a telephone hotline to enable direct communication when issues that could lead to bilateral tension arise. They also discussed the possibility of increasing the number of confidence-building measures in the Aegean, limited until now to the mutual notification of the time and location of each country's national military exercises. The ministers agreed that Greece and Turkey would hold joint military exercises within the framework of the Partnership for Peace, with Athens commanding the maneuvers along the Adriatic coast and in the Ionian Sea to the west of Greece, and with Ankara commanding the maneuvers in the Black Sea, to its north. Tsohadzopoulos accepted his Turkish counterpart's invitation to visit Turkey in September to take part in the International Defense Industry Fair. The Greek minister will take a wide range of proposals to Turkey for improved bilateral relations including additional ideas for confidence-building measures. It is expected that he will take steps during his visit to expand the level of negotiations between the Greek and Turkish defense ministries to that which has been achieved between the two countries' foreign ministries under Papandreou and Cem. July 2001 U.S. Defense Chief in Meeting on Brief Visit Washington, D.C. - Defense Minister Tsohadzopoulos met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the Southeastern European Defense Ministerial (SEDM) in Thessaloniki. The officials discussed a broad range of regional issuesincluding the situation in F.Y.R. Macedonia and missile defense. Rumsfeld also expressed satisfaction with recent improvements in Greek-Turkish relations. July 2001 Direct Communication Defuses Near-Crisis with Turkey Washington, D.C. - A potentially volatile situation involving the Piri Reisa Turkish oceanographic vessel that conducts scientific research in the Aegean, was defused rapidly through improved communication between the Greek and Turkish foreign ministries. The incident highlighted the Greek government's sensitivity concerning the unresolved issue of the delineation of the continental shelf in the Aegean. Initial Greek press reports suggested that a bilateral crisis was developing as a result of Ankara's announcement that the vessel would be carrying out research in the Aegean in June. The Greek government denied the reports following discussions between officials of the two countries' foreign ministries, including direct talks between foreign ministers Cem and Papandreou on the sidelines of the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Budapest. The discussions clarified the fact that the research concerned marine pollution and fishing, and would be conducted by the vessel in Turkish territorial waters. Greek press reports had claimed that the research involved exploration for oil deposits around the continental shelves of Greece's Aegean islands. After the tension was defused, Turkey announced that the mission of the vessel, which belongs to Izmir University's Oceanographic Institute, would be postponed until September and would be carried out in collaboration with Canadian universities. The possibility that the Piri Reis could be used for oil exploration in the Aegean, in the absence of a delineation of the sea's continental shelf, has, in the past, caused tension between Greece and Turkey and almost triggered a war between them in 1987. Turkish authorities maintain that the vessel is not equipped to search for undersea oil deposits. May / June 2001 Balkan Stability, Cyprus Settlement Top U.S.-Greece Agenda Washington, D.C. - In talks with U.S. officials in Washington, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou emphasized that creating conditions for a gradual withdrawal of international peacekeepers from the Balkans requires the development of democratic institutions backed up by economic assistance. Meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Papandreou said Greece was ready to play a leading role in the process of helping to build multi-ethnic democracies in the region, which would contribute to long-term stability. He asked for Washington's support for efforts to prevent a further dismembering of the Balkan nations. Both countries agreed that they should support efforts in Skopje to build a broad-based unity government that would work toward defusing the crisis in the country. Papandreou recommended that the U.S. reduce pressure on Belgrade to extradite Slobodan Milosevic to the international war crimes tribunal. He noted that Washington and the EU should firmly convey to Montenegro that they oppose the republic's independence movement. The Greek minister called on Washington to support the accession of Cyprus to the EU with or without a prior political settlement and to encourage Ankara to persuade Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to return to U.N.-sponsored proximity talks. With regard to security issues accompanying Greece's hosting of the 2004 Olympic games, U.S. officials expressed the view that more could be done in terms of cooperation between Greece and its international partners to ensure a secure environment for the games, while acknowledging the Greek government's accelerated efforts to combat terrorism. Papandreou and CIA Director George Tenet discussed the progress made by an international advisory committee on security matters in preparation for the games. May / June 2001 U.S. Commends Counter-Terrorism Progress Washington, D.C. - Secretary of State Powell said the potential for terrorist attacks existed at the 2004 Olympic games in Athens as it did anywhere in the world, including the United States, where a bomb exploded during the 1996 summer Olympiad in Atlanta. Testifying before a congressional budget subcommittee, Powell said he believed that the Greek government would address any terrorist threats properly. He said he had confidence in the Greek authorities and knew they were committed to carrying out a safe Olympics. He added that U.S. officials would examine security preparations for the Athens games closely. The "Patterns of Global Terrorism-2000" report, released by the State Department in April, stated that the Greek government undertook "some meaningful steps" last year to combat terrorism, particularly following the assassination of British Defense Attache Brigadier Stephen Saunders in June by the November 17 group. These steps included efforts to persuade the public that terrorism had damaged Greece's interests and international reputation, the strengthening of the police counter-terrorism unit, the implementation of a multimillion-dollar reward program for information leading to the arrest of suspects, and the drafting of legislation to provide a legal basis for more vigorous counter-terrorism efforts. The report noted that, despite these and other promising initiatives, as well as closer U.S.-Greek cooperation concerning terrorist threats, Athens had not yet resolved any outstanding terrorist incidents and had arrested no terrorist suspects in 2000. A variety of anarchist groups claimed responsibility for an average of two arson or bomb attacks per week on offices, shops, and vehicles, most of which belonged to foreign diplomats, foreign companies, Greek officials, and Greek public-sector executives. May / June 2001 Turkish Officials Train in Thessaloniki for EU Preparations Washington, D.C. - A delegation of Turkish jurists and officials involved in public administration arrived at Thessaloniki's Center for International and European Economic Law to participate in training seminars on the harmonization of Turkish laws with those of the EU to advance Ankara's preparations for EU membership. Greek finance and customs officials have also conducted seminars for their Turkish counterparts, while Greek experts on the EU's agricultural, industrial, and police policies have held training sessions with Turkish officials from these sectors. May / June 2001 Aegean Islands "Demilitarization" Issue Resurfaces Washington, D.C. - The commander of Greece's navy, Vice Admiral Georgios Theodoroulakis, boycotted a NATO ceremony at the Aksaz Naval Base in Turkey after the Turkish government rejected the flight plan of his military helicopter to Turkey because it included a refueling stop on the Greek island of Rhodes, which Ankara considers to be demilitarized. The commander was scheduled to attend the ceremony, held to transfer the command of NATO's Mediterranean anti-mine warfare force from Greece to Turkey, two of the countries participating in the force on a permanent basis, along with Germany, Italy, and Spain. The U.S., Britain, Belgium, and the Netherlands participate in the force periodically. Turkey maintains that Rhodes, as part of the Dodecanese Islands, was to remain demilitarized under the 1947 Treaty of Paris, making the landing of the admiral's helicopter on the island a violation of the treaty. Under the Treaty of Paris, Italy ceded the Dodecanese Islands in the southeastern Aegean to Greece as one of the victorious countries of World War II. Turkey has long cited the Treaty of Paris provision stating that the Dodecanese "shall remain demilitarized." Greece maintains that, under the United Nations Charter, it has a right to fortify these islands to defend its sovereign rights, its people, and its security. Turkey is not a signatory of the Treaty of Paris. The incident was reminiscent of Turkey's opposition to the flights of Greek fighter jets over the Greek islands of Limnos and Ikaria in the eastern Aegean last October during the NATO exercise "Dynamic Mix," maintaining that the islands were to remain demilitarized under international treaties. Turkey's objections caused Greece to pull its forces out of the exercise. May / June 2001 General Strikes Against IMF-Backed Pension Reform Washington, D.C. - Air, rail, and bus transport, shipping, schools, banks, hospital services, broadcasts, and state agencies ground to a halt several times in April and May as unions called a series of general strikes to protest the government's plan to implement sweeping reform of the country's pension system. Such reform is a priority in its efforts to reduce growing deficits and bring the economy in line with the requirements of euro-zone membership. The government has retreated from its initial proposal to raise the retirement age from 55 to 65 for both men and women and sharply cut the number of pension funds. It has called on unions and employers to join government representatives in a dialogue to work out a plan for reforming the pension system. A study has indicated that the present pay-as-you-go system cannot be sustained beyond 2010, prompting the government to work toward the creation of a social revenue fund for long-term support of the system. The IMF has urged Greece to proceed with fundamental pension reform to curb pension fund deficits that are expected to cost the state 3.3 percent of GDP this year. Without reform, the cost of the pension system would rise to 10 percent of GDP by 2015. May / June 2001 Papal Visit Helps Bridge East-West Religious Divide Washington, D.C. - Despite the initial opposition of the Greek Orthodox Church, Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos invited Pope John Paul II to Greece as the first step of a six-day pilgrimage that also took him to Syria and Malta. The visit was the first by a Roman Catholic pope since the Great Schism that formally split the Christian church into the Catholic and Orthodox worlds in 1054. Despite several protests by ultraconservative Orthodox priests and their followers, the pope's apology for the historic misdeeds of the Catholic Church against the Orthodox was well received by Archbishop Christodoulos, the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, and was seen as a step toward reconciliation between the Vatican and Greece's church hierarchy. The pope's inclusion of the sacking of Constantinople, now Istanbul, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, by the armies of the Crusader knights in 1204 in the apology was considered particularly significant. In addition to meeting with President Stephanopoulos, Pope John Paul II also met with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis, and main opposition New Democracy Party leader Costas Karamanlis. He was greeted at the airport by Foreign Minister George Papandreou in the absence of Orthodox church officials. There are 63,000 Roman Catholics in Greece, a country of nearly 11 million that is 90 percent Orthodox Christian. May / June 2001 Human Rights Issues Cited in Prison System Washington, D.C. - A Greek human rights delegation presented a report in May before the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva citing severely overcrowded conditions in Greek prisons and lengthy incarceration of illegal immigrants awaiting deportation in both prisons and detention centers. The report stated that there were 8,300 inmates in prisons built to house about 5,000. It also noted that large numbers of illegal aliens were being held in police stations because insufficient funds for police escorts had delayed their physical expulsion from the country. There had also been complaints concerning alleged ill-treatment by police among those detained. A Human Rights Watch report said that 85 percent of the foreigners being detained for violating immigration laws were being held beyond the length of their original sentences, noting that conditions at detention centers included the lack of adequate sleeping accommodations, no access to exercise or fresh air, inadequate amounts of food, an unsanitary environment, and limited access to medical care. Greek government records indicate that over 259,000 illegal immigrants were arrested in Greece last year, a 39 percent increase over 1999. Greek Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said the number of illegal immigrants was increasing daily, making it difficult for the government to cope with the problem. In April, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of British national Donald Peers, imprisoned for drug-related crimes in Greece, who had charged that the country maintained correctional system conditions that violated the European Convention on Human Rights. The court found that the Greek state was guilty of degrading treatment of Peers and ordered it to pay him about $13 million in non-pecuniary damages. The judges noted that conditions at Korydallos prison, near Athens, were unacceptable, with numerous prisoners occupying cells with no ventilation, windows, or toilets that permitted privacy. April 2001 Sizeable Arms Savings Redirected to Social Programs, Olympics Washington, D.C. - The Greek government announced that it would cut defense spending by about $5 billion over the next four years in order to channel funds into social programs and the staging of the 2004 Olympic games in Athens. Prime Minister Costas Simitis said the programs would be aimed at fighting poverty, creating jobs, and upgrading the country's health care and education systems. The government is believed to have been influenced by the IMF's pressure on a financially stricken Turkey to cut defense spending in order to qualify for international loans and by a need to overcome the opposition New Democracy Party's lead in recent polls. Two weeks after the Greek military procurement decision, the Turkish General Staff announced defense cuts of $19.5 billion, about four times larger than those of Greece. The Greek government has decided to put off the purchase of 60 Typhoon jets, manufactured by the Eurofighter consortium, until after 2004. Athens signed a preliminary agreement for the $4.4 billion purchase of the fourth-generation jets, with the option of buying 30 additional aircraft later. The agreement includes the participation of Greek firms in certain phases of the aircraft's production. The decision is a blow to the European companies manufacturing the aircraft, which just entered production. They had counted on Greece for their first export order. Greece's entry into the euro-zone in January 2001 placed additional demands on the country's economy at a time when the government had slated over $10 billion for defense spending between 2001 and 2004 and was launching intensive preparations for the Olympic games, expected to cost over $5 billion. The European Union has also called on Greece to accelerate structural reforms, particularly with regard to the labor market and pension system, while also tightening fiscal policy, attaining price stability, reducing unemployment, and boosting productivity in order to maintain growth and curb renewed inflationary pressures. The average percentage of GDP spent on defense in Greece in the 1990s was 4.6 percent, higher than any other country in the European Union or NATO. Based on 1998 data, the latest available, Greece has the lowest per capita income in the European Union, with 2.5 million of a population of about 11 million, or nearly 23 percent, living under the poverty line. Five of the 10 poorest regions in the EU are in Greece, with the northwestern region of Epirus continuing to rank as the poorest in all the 15 member states. Greece's unemployment rate last year was 11.4 percent, the second-highest in the EU. April 2001 Mutual Landmine Clearance Along Turkish Border Washington, D.C. - Greece and Turkey have agreed to clear the landmines on their common border over the next 10 years. The two countries will also simultaneously become signatories of the 1997 Ottawa Conventiona U.N. agreement that requires nations to destroy their existing landmines and prohibit future landmine use and production. Each yearlandmines along the border kill dozens of illegal immigrants trying to cross from Turkey into Greece. An announcement on the landmine decision was made by Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem at a joint press conference in Ankara during a visit by Papandreou. In response to Papandreou's statement that Greece had decided to cut military spending "in a clear message of peace and cooperation toward the Turkish side Cem said there was a limit to the compromises on defense spending that Turkey could make considering the complex military needs dictated by its strategic geographic position as a neighbor of Syria, Iran, Iraq, and countries in the Caucasus. Cem's statement was reaffirmed by Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohadzopoulos, who noted that Turkey needed to deploy armaments against various security threats along its southern and eastern borders and that any defense procurement cutbacks in Turkey were unrelated to those of Greece. April 2001 Normalizing Turkish Relations Furthers EU Support Washington, D.C. - Foreign Minister Papandreou also met with Turkish Economy Minister Kemal Dervis, who briefed him on Turkey's economic crisis and on Ankara's request for $10 billion to $12 billion in financial aid from the international community. At the April 9 European Union Council of Ministers meeting, Papandreou suggested that the EU monitor developments in Turkey more closely to ensure that reforms undertaken to resolve the crisis are consistent with Ankara's EU accession program. Papandreou and Cem also discussed expanding cooperation in the transfer of oil and gas from the Caspian region and Central Asia to Europe, a joint candidacy for hosting the European soccer championship games in 2008, the participation of Turkish firms in infrastructural projects for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and the possibility of extending the Via Egnatia highway, being built in northern Greece, as far east as Istanbul. The two ministers have agreed to meet approximately every six months, with Cem scheduled to visit Athens in October. In June, they will also meet with representatives of nongovernmental organizations in Kusadasi, Turkey, and on the Greek island of Samos. Seven of the nine cooperation agreements signed between the two countries last year have been ratified. They deal with customs issues, sea transport, tourism, science and technology, investment protection, and environmental protection. Athens and Ankara are still negotiating the agreements concerning the energy and agriculture sectors, as well as the avoidance of double taxation. April 2001 Reduced Tension Brings Troop Reduction Washington, D.C. - On the sidelines of a meeting of Balkan defense ministers in Skopje, Greek Defense Minister Tsohatzopoulos briefed Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglou on Athens' intention to reduce defense spending by creating a more flexible military with next-generation equipment. The Greek minister also said that Athens would reduce the size of the Greek army from 140,000 troops to between 80,000 and 90,000, and he expressed the hope that Greece's neighbors would follow its decision to restructure its armed forces. Tsohadzopoulos stated that cooperation between Athens and Ankara represented a force for stability in the Balkans. He said that Greece and Turkey had a responsibility to promote regional security, a goal that was being advanced through their prominent roles in the multinational Southeast European Brigade (SEEBRIG), a seven-nation force of 3,000 troops established in 1998 for regional peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts. A motion has been introduced in the Greek parliament to lift Greece's official state of mobilization for war with Turkey, which parliament implemented in 1974 after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. This state of mobilization gave the military broader powers to mobilize manpower against a perceived Turkish threat. Although the Greek military long ago reverted to normal practices regarding procedures for the draft and the duration of military service, the mobilization order has remained on the books. April 2001 Broad Cross-Border Cooperation with Turkish Cities, Towns Washington, D.C. - Several dozen mayors of municipalities on both sides of Greece and Turkey's common land border signed a major agreement promoting cross-border cooperation in the sectors of trade, tourism, education, agriculture, ecology, communications, and culture. The mayors represented 16 towns in Greece and 22 in Turkey. The signing ceremony in the town of Sapes, 25 miles southeast of Komotini in the Western Thrace region of Greece, was attended by Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Minister of State for Privatization Yuksel Yalova. Greece's 120,000-member Muslim minority, comprised of Turks, Gypsies, and Pomacs of Bulgarian origin, is concentrated in the region of Komotini and that of Xanthi to its west. This minority has frequently been a source of tension between Athens and Ankara. The cross-border initiative, the result of three years' work, is expected to boost the economy of Western Thrace and of Eastern Thrace in Turkey. Through the agreement, Greece, as a member of the European Union, will explore prospects for the participation of the municipalities in cross-border cooperation programs financed by the EU or promoted by European organizations. The agreement will also further cooperation among nongovernmental organizations and unions in the regions. Following the signing ceremony, the Turkish delegation met with municipal and business leaders in the northern Greek city of Kavala to discuss prospects for increasing the flow of Turkish tourists to the area. More than 10,000 Turks vacationed in the greater Kavala region last year. April 2001 Anti-Crime Bill with Counter-Terrorism Focus Set for Consideration Washington, D.C. - The Ministry of Justice in March unveiled long-awaited legislation on combating terrorism, organized crime, money-laundering, and corruption. The bill, due to be approved by parliament in April, was drawn up to help bring the government's anti-terrorism legislation in line with other Western countries and upgrade techniques used in its attempts to identify members of the November 17 terrorist organization following the assassination of British Defense Attach? Brigadier Stephen Saunders last June. A key provision of the bill is the introduction of DNA testing of criminal suspects. It also introduces a witness protection program, which includes anonymous testimony and witness relocation; offers amnesty for members of terrorist groups or organized crime gangs who turn evidence over to the state; and lifts confidentiality on telephone use and bank accounts. The bill outlines new parameters for conducting wiretaps and police surveillance of suspects and provides for trial by judges, which will have no jurors. The legislation is expected to face strong opposition from civil liberties groups in Greece. Addressing the concerns of these groups, Greek Justice Minister Michalis Stathopoulos said he was considering significant changes in the bill, including limiting DNA testing to cases in which there were strong indications that the individuals slated for testing were involved in a crime, not just suspected of being involved; lifting witnesses' anonymity at the request of the accused; and imposing specific limits on electronic surveillance of suspects. April 2001 Crackdown on Piracy of U.S. Television Programs, Software Washington, D.C. - Greece has taken strict measures to curb unauthorized television broadcasts of U.S. copyrighted works in Greece, resulting in the settlement of a case the United States brought against the Greek government and the European Commission at the World Trade Organization in May 1998. Greece has passed new legislation providing for the immediate closure of television stations that do not conform to protections for intellectual property rights. Under this law, the government has closed down four television stations for illegally broadcasting U.S. programs. In addition, Greece has issued its first criminal convictions for television piracy. For years, Greece has had the highest rate of television and software piracy in Europe. Illegal broadcasts and software sales in Greece have cost American companies about $500 million since 1995. A trilateral agreement between the U.S. Trade Representative, the Greek government, and the European Commission states that television piracy is no longer a serious problem in Greece. However, a recent report by the International Intellectual Property Alliance warns that Greece has not aggressively entered binding closure orders against television stations that continue to pirate. The report also says that Greece's overall enforcement system remains weak, allowing high rates of piracy to flourish in other product areas. For example, 78 percent of the entertainment software and 65 percent of the business software sold in Greece are illegal, the highest rates in Europe. April 2001 Tighter Bank Scrutiny in Wake of Yugoslav Money-Laundering Washington, D.C. - Greece's central bank has stepped up measures to counter money-laundering as part of its effort to cooperate with an investigation by authorities in Belgrade into the illegal transfer of funds abroad during the rule of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. A State Department report published in February cited Greece's weak enforcement of money-laundering laws. International concern over the role of the country's banks in the money-laundering of Yugoslav funds prompted the Bank of Greece to examine records at three banks suspected of doing business with Milosevic and his close associates, after the banks failed to reply to earlier requests for information about accounts held by Yugoslavs or provided incomplete data. Another three banks are due to be investigated. April 2001 Beefed-Up Skopje Aid Against Insurgency, Irredentism Washington, D.C. - During a visit to Skopje in late March as the fighting between ethnic Albanian insurgents and the Macedonian forces was winding down, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou pledged Greece's support to the government in Skopje in its efforts to protect its territorial integrity and resolve its crisis peacefully. Papandreou expressed Athens' firm opposition to any changes in the region's borders. Greece has allocated an estimated $83 million to F.Y.R. Macedonia under its $572 million plan for the economic reconstruction of the Balkans, a package of investment aid that also includes Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, and Yugoslavia. Some 150 Greek investments in F.Y.R. Macedonia in recent years have totaled $300 million. Papandreou said the European Union, in its support for the development of multiethnic societies, was ready to help Skopje carry out reforms with respect to the future of the Albanian-language university in Tetovo, the development of Albanian-language television and radio programs, and the ethnic composition of the security forces. During his visit, Papandreou met with the leader of the Democratic Party of Albanians, Arben Xhaferi, assuring him that Greek support for Skopje was aimed at aiding comprehensive development within F.Y.R. Macedonia and was in no way targeted against the Albanian community. April 2001 IMF, EU Press for Accelerated Economic Reforms Washington, D.C. - The IMF called on Greece to accelerate its structural reforms in order to take full advantage of its membership in the euro-zone, particularly in the tax, public expenditure, labor, and product market sectors. The organization forecasted that Greece's economy would expand by 4 percent in 2001, marking eight consecutive years of economic growth, while the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicted that the Greek economy would be the fastest-growing of all EU economies in 2001 and 2002. The IMF expressed concern over the rise in inflation and the widening of the external current account deficit. Last year, Greece reported one of the highest external account deficits among developed nations, at 7 percent. EU harmonized inflation stood at 3.0 percent in March. A tighter fiscal policy is imperative since Greece's membership in the euro-zone does not permit it to increase interest rates to avoid an overheating of the economy. The IMF recommended such a policy to curb inflation, greater deregulation of the electricity, gas, and transportation sectors, and increased spending for education and job training, which remains the lowest in the EU. March 2001 Olympics Committee Green-Lights Security Plans Washington, D.C. - In view of an assassination attempt in late January against New Democracy Deputy Vassilis Michaloliakos in the port of Piraeus, International Olympic Committee (IOC) coordinator Jacques Rogge held a special meeting at the Greek Public Order Ministry to address security concerns during a scheduled visit to Athens to assess progress in preparations for the 2004 Olympics. After the meeting, Rogge stated that the Greek government was doing all that could possibly be done to provide security for the games. He praised its $600 million security plan, the integration of the country's law enforcement agencies to implement the plan, and the arrangements worked out with foreign governments to serve in an advisory capacity on security issues. Athens has signed an agreement launching the largest security operation in the country's history. It includes the deployment of 50,000 police, army, coast guard, and commando units, which will be coordinated by 11 special command centers, and the use of 1,000 video cameras for surveillance at key locations throughout the city. The U.S. and other countries have formed a committee of consultants that is working closely with the Greek government to ensure a safe Olympics. In January, security officials from the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Australia, and Israel met with Greek Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis in Athens to discuss security matters. They will continue to advise the Greek government regularly. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that he was confident that Greek authorities would take all appropriate measures to assure that the Olympics were conducted safely. In response to questions from members of the U.S. Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence concerning the safety of American athletes and tourists at the games, CIA Director George Tenet said he had urged the Greek government to take the terrorist threat "far more seriously than it's been taken in the past" and said that there was "a lot of work that needs to be done" in this regard. March 2001 Failed Assassination Attempt on Lawmaker Sparks New Terrorism Fears Washington, D.C. - A terrorist bomb nearly killed a member of the main opposition party of the Greek parliament. New Democracy Deputy Vassilis Michaloliakos narrowly escaped assassination when a bomb planted on a motorcycle parked outside the building housing his apartment in Piraeus was detonated by remote control as he got out of his car to enter the building. Although no group claimed responsibility for the attack, authorities said the assassination attempt, which slightly injured Michaloliakos, bore the hallmarks of previous attacks by the November 17 terrorist group, the only group in Greece known to have attacked members of parliament. Police also said the methods used in the attack were similar to those used by another urban terrorist gang that has operated in the Athens area, the Popular Revolutionary Struggle (ELA). The ELA has been blamed by authorities for the killings of a public prosecutor, three police officers, and two security guards. Police suspect possible links between the ELA and November 17. March 2001 Counter-Terrorism Measures Part of Major Anti-Crime Bill Washington, D.C. - Greek Justice Minister Michalis Stathopoulos said new measures concerning the apprehension and prosecution of terrorist suspects would be included in pending legislation dealing with organized crime, expected to be introduced in parliament in March. Following months of anticipation that Greece would enact a special law aimed specifically at combating terrorism, in view of last year's assassination of British Defense Attache Brigadier Stephen Saunders in Athens, the minister said there was no need for a special, narrowly-focused anti-terrorism law. Instead, he stressed the need for sweeping laws to combat organized crime, which the government has said is of growing concern to Greece. The new legislation will include the establishment of special courts to handle cases of organized crime and terrorism. Some terrorism trials may be held in private with a judge rather than in an open court for security reasons, and judges and witnesses will remain anonymous. The legislation will also introduce a witness protection program and an amnesty clause for criminals turning over evidence leading to the arrests of terrorist suspects. It is expected that police will be provided wider access to personal data, such as telephone numbers and private telephone conversations, during anti-terrorism investigations. Stathopoulos expressed concern about dangers posed to the privacy of citizens by electronic surveillance, the use of DNA testing, and house searches. A government spokesman said that the new legislation, which would be similar to laws combating organized crime in other European Union member states, should not violate civil liberties. One setback in Greece's counter-terrorism program occurred when a court in the northern Greek town of Kilkis handed down a five-month suspended sentence and three-year probation period to a woman who planted 15 gas-canister bombs in a bag outside the U.S. Consulate in Thessaloniki in April 1999. Only one of the bombs exploded, causing minor damage but no injuries. U.S. officials believe that as many as half a dozen individuals inside the consulate could have been killed if all the bombs had exploded as planned. A Thessaloniki appellate prosecutor has challenged the sentence and ordered a retrial of the case. March 2001 Joint Energy Project with Turkey Expands European Grid Washington, D.C. - Greece and Turkey are embarking on a joint project that will facilitate the transport of natural gas from the Caspian region, Russia, and the Middle East to European Union countries and the Balkans through their territory. For this purpose, Greece's state natural gas company DEPA (Public Natural Gas Enterprise) and its Turkish counterpart BOTAS (Petroleum Pipelines Transport Corporation) signed an agreement in late January for the construction of a pipeline between the two countries, which will be linked to a pipeline to be built from the western Greek coastal town of Preveza to Otranto in Italy. The project is part of the Interstate Oil and Gas Transport to Europe (INOGATE) Umbrella Agreement, a European Commission initiative that seeks to ensure continual energy supplies to European Union states by promoting interstate cooperation in the energy transport sector between the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia and those of central and eastern Europe. Eighteen nations, including Bulgaria, have joined the INOGATE program. Joint studies concerning the Greek-Turkish pipeline will be submitted to the European Investment Bank and other European institutions by May for approval and funding. The cost of the project has not yet been determined. Future bilateral commercial initiatives will be facilitated by the Greek-Turkish Chamber of Commerce, which opened in Athens in February. The establishment of the chamber was a result of a joint effort by Greek and Turkish businessmen. March 2001 Ocalan, Associates Indicted for Starting Foreign Policy Crisis Washington, D.C. - Ten people are to stand trial in Athens on criminal charges for endangering Greece's relations with Turkey when they allegedly organized and helped execute the illegal entry of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan into Greece prior to his departure for Nairobi on February 2, 1999. He was given refuge in the Greek Embassy compound in the Kenyan capital before being arrested by Turkish special agents on February 15. The individuals' actions plunged Greece and Turkey into an immediate, though short-lived, diplomatic crisis and led to the resignation of three Greek cabinet ministers. Ocalan and two aides who were with him when he entered Greece have also been indicted and will be tried in absentia. A Turkish court sentenced Ocalan to death for treason for his role in the PKK war against the Turkish Army. He remains imprisoned in Turkey pending the outcome of the hearing of his case by the European Court of Human Rights. Those indicted include a retired Greek admiral who chartered the plane that brought Ocalan to Greece, the pilot of the plane, representatives of the company that supplied the plane, the head of the public relations department at Athens airport, a passport control officer, a police sergeant working for the National Intelligence Service, and two women who hid Ocalan in their home in an Athens suburb. March 2001 New Russian Missiles to Diversify Arms Supplies Washington, D.C. - The Greek Army is preparing to purchase 270 Russian Kornet-E anti-tank guided missile systems for its fleet of light armored vehicles. The army examined five other anti-tank systems, including one produced by the U.S. firm Raytheon, before choosing the Kornet-E. The purchase of these systems will not contribute to the interoperability of Greece's weapons systems with those of other NATO countries. The selection of the Kornet-E is consistent with Greece's policy over the last decade, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, of balancing its purchases of weapons among the U.S., the EU, and Russia, which constitute the three most important geopolitical players with respect to Greek foreign policy. The cost of the systems is expected to be $170 million. The Greek Army has about 130 light armored vehicles in service but plans to purchase over 2,000 in the near future. Russia will complete its delivery of 31 TOR-M1 anti-aircraft missile systems to Greece in 2002. Greece has already received 27, and will take delivery of two more this year and two next year. The missiles have a range of about 7 miles. January / February 2001 Euro-Zone Entry, Continued Reforms Washington, D.C. - On January 1, 2001, Greece became the twelfth member of Europe's Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), following years of strict fiscal discipline to bring inflation and other economic indicators in line with those of the EU. Greece has struggled to approach economic parity with its fellow EU members since it became a member of the bloc in 1981. In preparation for euro-zone membership, it brought inflation down to about 4 percent; reduced its benchmark interest rate to 4.75 percent; projected a budget surplus in 2001, the first in over 30 years; and reduced the public debt at a faster pace than expected, with further reduction a priority. Greece's economy still faces major hurdles. Prime Minister Costas Simitis pledged to increase per capita income from 62 percent to 70 percent of the EU average in the next four years. Greece's unemployment rate, which has been rising steadily, is approaching 12 percent, the bloc's second-highest rate. Simitis must embark on long-postponed structural reforms, which are strongly opposed by powerful interest groups, such as public sector unions. Privatization, key to inflation-rate reduction, has been restricted to floating minority stakes in state corporations on the Athens Stock Exchange. Greece has not offered majority stakes in state companies or management control of them to strategic investors, both major disincentives in international capital markets. Although international trading in drachmas ended January 1the drachma will continue to be used for everyday transactions until March 1, 2002. The euro will be used alongside the drachma for these transactions in January and February 2002. January / February 2001 Rapid Cooperation with Belgrade Sought on Economic, Security Fronts Washington, D.C. - Discussions between Greek leaders and Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica during his mid-January visit to Athens ranged from the future of Kosovo to cooperation in cracking down on organized crime in the Balkans. Greece, eager to stem instability on its northern borders, is looking to the new reformist government in Belgrade for signs that it is serious about addressing security issues and fighting the corruption and criminal activity that was rampant in Yugoslavia under former president Slobodan Milosevic. The Greek government has begun to cooperate with Belgrade on combating organized crime, following a visit to the Yugoslav capital in December by Greek Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis. Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos also visited Belgrade to discuss cooperation in the military sector, such as training Yugoslav officers in Greece for participation in international peacekeeping missions. Athens has allocated $250 million to Yugoslavia under its plan for the reconstruction of the Balkans. It would also like to promote international investment in Yugoslavia, as well as the country's links with the EU, to help shore up its devastated economy, crippled by nearly a decade of economic sanctions. A bilateral committee, chaired by the foreign ministers of the two countries, is being established to examine avenues for cooperation in the economic, cultural, and educational sectors. Prime Minister Costas Simitis stated that possibilities for joint efforts existed in the fields of energy, construction, and telecommunications. January / February 2001 Military Cooperation in Aegean Exercises Washington, D.C. - Greece and Turkey have agreed to notify each other annually regarding the schedules and locations of their national military exercises in the Aegean. The agreement was the first confidence-building measure in the military sector concluded by Greek and Turkish permanent representatives to NATO since discussions between them began in November in Brussels under the auspices of the secretary general of the alliance, George Robertson. The notification covers all exercises for the upcoming year. It occurred for the first time in December at the alliance's annual Southern Region Exercise Conference in Naples, attended by all NATO countries in the region, and will take place at subsequent conferences in the Italian city. In the event of changes in the scheduling of exercises, the two countries will inform each other of these changes through diplomatic channels. In the past, one month before an exercise was to occur, the country scheduling the maneuver filed a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) or Notice to Mariners with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to alert all countries in the region that an exercise was on the calendar. Greece and Turkey will continue to file these notices to inform other countries of their exercise plans, but the advance bilateral notification concerning exercise schedules will allow the two countries to avoid problems that could be caused by an overlap of their exercises in the region. If there are overlaps, the new notification process opens the door for coordinating the dates and locations of the exercises through cooperation to minimize any potential friction. January / February 2001 Turkish Rapprochement in Social, Legal, Commercial Fields Washington, D.C. - A Greek Foreign Ministry delegation met with Turkish Foreign Ministry representatives for the fifth time to continue Greece's assistance in helping Turkey prepare for EU membership. During the meeting in the Turkish town of Antalya, the delegations decided to arrange the training of Turkish civil servants in economic, customs, and banking issues. Such meetings are held every three months in either Greece or Turkey. In December, in conjunction with celebrations accompanying the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, Turkey's Ambassador to Greece Ali Tuygan visited villages in Western Thrace that are inhabited by Greece's Muslim minority, which had not been visited by a Turkish official in 30 years. In January, a joint operation between Greek and Turkish police on either side of the Greek-Turkish border resulted in the arrest of a 13-member gang trying to smuggle heroin into Greece. American engineers joined engineers and architects from Greece and Turkey at conferences in both Athens and Istanbul to discuss ways of handling damage to buildings in the 1999 earthquakes in both countries. The Greek parliament also passed regulations authorizing Greek ships to enter Turkish ports immediately after they have called into ports in Cyprus. January / February 2001 New Party to Threaten Political Balance Washington, D.C. - Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos, considered in national polls to be Greece's most popular political leader, announced in December that he would establish a new political party. The move could upset the present political balance between the ruling left-center Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and the main opposition right-center New Democracy Party (ND). The mayor, whose second term in office expires in October 2002, said he would announce the party's name and orientation in the summer of 2001, although he has already set up an office to lay plans for the party. Although the mayor was a well-regarded New Democracy parliamentarian in 1993, he has distanced himself from party politics in recent years. He would be capable of drawing support from both PASOK, which has moved to the center under Prime Minister Costas Simitis, and longstanding ND supporters in parliamentary elections scheduled for 2004, if he decided to run. A December poll indicated that over 42 percent of voters would have supported Avramopoulos if parliamentary elections had been held at that time. In the April 1999 parliamentary elections, Simitis won by a slim plurality of about 44 percent. Avramopoulos is playing a prominent role in preparations for the Athens summer Olympics in 2004. January / February 2001 Terrorists Taunt Government Anew Washington, D.C. - In December, the November 17 terrorist group, in a six-page statement published by Greece's largest-circulation newspaper, said that its assassination of British Military Attache Brigadier Stephen Saunders in June 2000 in Athens was its most important act of violence since the group emerged in 1975. It was unusual for the group to release this statement six months after its initial statement taking responsibility for the murder immediately after it occurred. Counter-terrorism experts cited possible concern within the group's ranks over broad sympathy for the victim's widow, Heather Saunders, among the Greek public. The December statement denied links between November 17 and Middle Eastern factions, and criticized and taunted both Greek and British authorities for not preventing the murder. It dismissed the possibility of prosecution of the group's members, claiming that Greek citizens would never become informers against them. The Greek government has never arrested any suspects in conjunction with the 23 deaths at the hands of November 17 since 1975, despite a stepped-up investigation since the Briton's murder and rewards of over $7 million for information resulting in a conviction. Athens has set up confidential hotlines for reporting information anonymously, reorganized Greece's counter-terrorism unit, recruited British experts from Scotland Yard to work closely with Greek authorities and Athens-based FBI officials, and signed a law enforcement memorandum with the U.S. to broaden cooperation with the FBI. However, stringent counter-terrorism legislation, including a witness-protection program, non-jury trials, and DNA testing of suspects, may not be introduced in parliament until February 2001. Heather Saunders is spearheading a movement to bring relatives of other November 17 victims together as vocal, public reminders to Greek citizens that the group's assassinations remain unsolved and to encourage the Greek government to intensify its investigation of the group. Her effort is unprecedented since these relatives have, until now, remained out of the public eye. Those pledging support for the effort include Kristina Welch, the widow of Richard Welch, the CIA's station chief in Athens, who was November 17's first victim in 1975. U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns has publicly stated that Washington's top issue concerning Greece is terrorism. In addition to Welch, three other American officials have been killed by November 17. January / February 2001 Flight Safety Standards Still at Issue Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced in late December that civil aviation authorities in Greece were not following international safety standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in overseeing the country's air carrier operations. Among the standards cited for improvement was establishing adequate procedures for periodic inspections of flight crews. An equivalent European body is also reportedly planning to cite Greece for failing to meet international aviation safety standards. The FAA requires that countries with airlines flying to the U.S. meet ICAO standards. The flights of Greece's Olympic Airways to the U.S. will therefore come under increased FAA surveillance. The airline will not be able to expand its operations to the U.S. unless Greece arranges to have the flights conducted by an air carrier from a country meeting international aviation safety standards. The Greek government is in the process of introducing legislation in parliament to address the issues cited by the FAA. Two years ago, the FAA warned Greece that it would have to bring its flight safety standards in line with ICAO requirements. The agency is expected to reassess Greece's standards in March. November / December 2000 Turkish Visit, Talks at Highest Level Washington, D.C. - Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis met with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit at the summit of Balkan leaders in Skopje and discussed the issues that had arisen during the "Destined Glory 2000" NATO exercise. (See below.) During the meeting in late October, Ecevit once again called on Greece to enter into a dialogue with Turkey on disputes between the two countries in the Aegean. Simitis reiterated Greece's position that it considers the delimitation of the continental shelf the only outstanding issue between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean, to be resolved before the International Court of Justice, not through bilateral dialogue. Ten days later, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz visited Athens to hold talks with the Greek government leadership and to address the Greek-Turkish Business Cooperation Conference. Although the visit was not official, Yilmaz was the highest-ranking Turkish official to visit Greece in 12 years. After meeting with Prime Minister Simitis, President Costis Stephanopoulos, Foreign Minister George Papandreou, and opposition leaders, Yilmaz, who is responsible for Turkey's efforts to join the EU, stated that Turkey actively sought an improvement in relations with Greece and that efforts toward bilateral rapprochement should be strengthened. Speaking to over 350 businessmen from both countries at the Business Cooperation Conference, Yilmaz said Greek-Turkish cooperation could span the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus, and the Middle East. The overall volume of Greek-Turkish trade is expected to reach $1.1 billion by the end of 2000 and is targeted to reach $5 billion annually by 2005. Bilateral business cooperation is focusing on sectors such as banking, insurance, stock exchange markets, energy, technology, construction, tourism, commerce, industry, and the environment. Greek and Turkish delegations met in the Greek town of Komotini in Western Thrace, the region inhabited by Greece's Muslim minority, including ethnic Turks and Pomacs of Bulgarian origin, to discuss aspects of cross-border cooperation. About 20 senior officials from Turkey's ministries of agriculture, industry, commerce, and forestry also attended a seminar on the island of Crete organized by the Greek Foreign Ministry to promote efforts at bilateral cooperation in agriculture. Before the Destined Glory exercise, Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu participated in the opening ceremony of the defense fair "Defendory 2000" in Athens, at the invitation of Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohadzopoulos. The ministers agreed on the necessity of reducing their respective defense acquisitions. November / December 2000 Aegean Military Forces Under Microscope Again Washington, D.C. - Greece withdrew from a 17-day NATO exercise involving the landing of Greek aircraft and troops on Turkish soil after a longstanding military and territorial dispute between Ankara and Athens resurfaced during the exercise. The two countries disagreed over the right of Greek warplanes to fly over the Greek islands of Limnos and Ikaria in the Aegean Sea, about 20 miles off the Turkish coast, while carrying out maneuvers as part of the Destined Glory 2000 exercise. Turkey has long maintained that the islands are supposed to be demilitarized in accordance with the 1923 Lausanne Treaty and should not be part of any NATO flight plans. Greece, which maintains a strong military presence on Limnos, says that the 1936 Montreux Treaty, permitting Turkey to station forces at the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits, lifted the Lausanne Treaty's restrictions. Greece also cites Article 51 of the U.N. Charter regarding the right of self-defense. NATO initially included the islands in Destined Glory flight plans agreed upon in advance among alliance members. A Turkish general who became the acting commander of the exercise, in the absence of the U.S. commander in charge, later ordered these flights to be stopped and excluded the air corridors over the islands from the exercise. When Greek jets continued to fly over the islands, Turkey closed its airspace to Greek planes and Turkish fighter aircraft intercepted several of the jets and escorted them back to their bases. In addition, Turkey banned Greek ships from entering Turkish territorial waters. Athens was unsuccessful in persuading NATO to suspend the exercise, stating that the exclusion of the islands from the exercise constituted a violation of Greece's sovereign rights. NATO ruled that there was no legal obstacle to flights by military aircraft over the islands but took no action. A State Department spokesman said it was regrettable that Greece had felt compelled to withdraw from the exercise. The events precipitating Greece's withdrawal from the exercise, a few days before it ended on October 25, highlighted continuing problems between Greece and Turkey generated by the lack of direct communication between their general staffs and particularly between the two countries' air forces. The Greek-Turkish dispute over which islands in the Aegean should be militarized has been a point of contention between the two countries for decades, particularly since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Earlier in the NATO exercise, the arrival of Greek military aircraft in Turkey for the first time in 28 years and the landing of Greek troops on Turkish soil for the first time in 78 years had heralded what was believed would be a new history-making chapter in improved bilateral relations that began in mid-1999. In June 2000, Turkish marines came ashore and Turkish warplanes landed in Greece as part of the NATO exercise "Dynamic Mix 2000." November / December 2000 Political, Military Confidence Building in the Works Washington, D.C. - Despite the controversy between Greece and Turkey over the NATO exercise, the two governments signalled that they would press ahead with attempts to improve ties. Ten days after Greece's withdrawal from the Destined Glory exercise, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, meeting on the sidelines of the Atlantic Treaty Association conference in Budapest, approved the conclusions of talks held in early October between high-level foreign ministry representatives concerning bilateral confidence-building measures (CBMs). The two ministers agreed on a process of developing and implementing 17 measures to be put into action as soon as possible. Five measures concerning military matters will be discussed within the framework of NATO, while 12 issues will be discussed on a bilateral foreign ministry level. Measures that are expected to be discussed by the Greek and Turkish permanent representatives to NATO, in the presence of NATO Secretary General George Robertson, include a reduction in the number and scope of national military exercises on both sides; possible use of codes identifying whether an aircraft is a friend or foe; exchanges of information between the NATO joint sub-regional command centers in Greece and Turkey; disarming warplanes over the Aegean, a proposal that has already been rejected by Greek military planners; and annual mutual briefings concerning military exercises planned by each country. These representatives, along with Robertson, held their first meeting in Brussels in mid-November to lay the groundwork for discussions on the CBMs. They are meeting again in mid-December. Issues to be discussed bilaterally include an exchange of port calls by warships of each country; implementing direct communication lines between coast guard and harbor patrol authorities in each country; cooperating jointly throughout the Mediterranean under the auspices of the NATO Partnership for Peace initiative; allowing observers to each other's military maneuvers; ratifying four protocols pending since 1971 for the delineation of the Evros River that separates the two countries in Thrace; and implementing a 1963 protocol for the management of joint water resources. November / December 2000 Greek-Turkish Anti-Terrorism Cooperation Pending Washington, D.C. - A bill concerning a Greek-Turkish agreement on cooperation in combatting terrorism, crime, and the illegal trafficking of narcotics and illegal immigration has been submitted to the Greek and Turkish parliaments for ratification. The agreement includes measures for preventing terrorist acts and for jointly evaluating terrorist threats, including the exchange of intelligence on individuals or groups that are linked to terrorist activities. It also provides for the periodic exchange of information and technical know-how regarding the safety of road, air, sea, and rail transport. The agreement was one of nine bilateral cooperation accords signed by Papandreou and Cem at the beginning of 2000. The accords were the result of talks in Athens and Ankara between senior foreign ministry representatives from both countries in 1999. November / December 2000 Rapid Yugoslav Integration a Key Policy Objective Washington, D.C. - Greece pledged to provide oil and electricity to Yugoslavia to alleviate a severe energy shortage stemming primarily from poor maintenance of the power system over the last decade and extensive damage to the network in last year's NATO bombing. Greek Development Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, meeting with Yugoslav officials in Belgrade in early November, said that Greece would purchase the electricity from Bulgaria and Romania, which are Serbia's traditional power suppliers, and from Ukraine. The oil and electricity will be paid for through international aid for Yugoslavia or will be returned to Greece during the summer when energy needs diminish. During his visit, Christodoulakis also discussed prospects for bilateral cooperation in the technology, industry, trade, and tourism sectors, as well as an expanded role for Greek companies in the reconstruction of the Yugoslav economy. Of the $572 million that Greece has committed to Balkan reconstruction over the next five years$250 million will be invested in Yugoslavia for projects in the energy, health, education, housing, transport, communications, industry, and trade sectors. Greece has also granted $15 million in emergency aid to Belgrade. Greek National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou visited Belgrade in mid-November to discuss specific reconstruction projects slated for Greek participation. The agenda also included the implementation of Athens' commitment to provide $100 million in export credit to Yugoslavia to purchase Greek products and services. Greek Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis was scheduled to visit Yugoslavia to explore possibilities for bilateral cooperation on tackling the regional problems of organized crime, illegal trafficking, and money laundering. Greece also hosted the first Balkan business conference following the lifting of sanctions against Yugoslavia to bring companies in Balkan countries in contact with companies in EU countries. Representatives of some 20 Yugoslavian companies attended the conference. Foreign Minister Papandreou was the first foreign minister from either a NATO or EU country to meet with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica in Belgrade following Milosevic's decision to concede the election to the new president. Papandreou, who met with Kostunica the day he was inaugurated, extended an invitation to him to visit Athens. The visit, now scheduled for early December, will be Kostunica's first visit as president to a NATO or EU capital. Prime Minister Simitis also met with Kostunica at an informal European Union summit in Biarritz, France, in mid-October. November / December 2000 Illegal Migration Creates Growing Criminal Concerns Washington, D.C. - Athens plans to sign police cooperation agreements with Russia, Ukraine, and other countries of the former East bloc to stem the illegal influx of nationals from this region into Greece. The Greek government seeks to gather evidence on the activities of foreign criminal groups in Greece, including an increasing number of Russian organized crime enterprises that are providing false Greek citizenship documents to nationals from the former East bloc nations. November /December 2000 Correctional Facilities Under European Scrutiny Washington, D.C. - The European Court of Human Rights has heard a case accusing Greece of maintaining correctional system conditions that violate the European Convention on Human Rights. A judgment is not expected until early 2001. The case is based on a complaint by Donald Peers, a British national who is serving a jail term in Greece on drug-related charges. Among the alleged human rights violations Peers cites are claims that he has been jailed in cramped, unhygienic conditions with little natural light and no ventilation. The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has said that Greece still needs to improve living conditions in some of its prisons. October 2000 Agreement with U.S. Consolidates Joint Counter-Terrorism Plans Washington, D.C. - Attorney General Janet Reno said Greece and the United States were entering a new period of joint action to fight terrorism and organized crime with the signing in Washington of a memorandum of understanding on law enforcement cooperation. The signing of the memorandum by Reno and Greek Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis occurred in the wake of the June killing of Britain’s military attache in Athens, Brigadier Stephen Saunders, by the November 17 terrorist group. The murder prompted renewed accusations that Greece had been taking insufficient measures to deal with terrorism. The assassination came under particular scrutiny by the International Olympic Committee as Greece elevates its security profile in preparation for hosting the 2004 Olympic games. Chrysochoidis said that Greece’s new level of cooperation with the United States on law enforcement was part of a top priority effort by the Greek government to eliminate November 17. Through the memorandum, he said, Greece and the U.S. were putting an end to a period of bilateral mistrust and misunderstandings concerning law enforcement issues. He added that U.S. criticism of Greece for failing to arrest members of the November 17 group had been “unjust and unfair” since the group appeared to be small and difficult to track down and had made no effort to broaden its base of support. Five U.S. Embassy employees have been among the 23 people killed by the group since it emerged in 1975. U.S. officials note that Greek efforts to apprehend the group’s members have improved following the launching of a high-level investigation, in cooperation with Scotland Yard, into Saunders’ murder. Chrysochoidis said the assassination sparked an unprecedented public awareness in Greece that terrorism was compromising the country’s national interests and seriously damaging its external image. Though the memorandum is similar to agreements that Greece has signed with 34 other countries, it required two years of negotiations with Washington to finalize. It will significantly broaden cooperation between FBI agents and the Greek police, who have worked together for eight years. The cooperation will include the exchange of information for the prevention and suppression of international criminal activity, particularly terrorist acts, organized crime, illicit trafficking of weapons and radioactive materials, and illegal immigration. The two sides will cooperate in criminal investigations, including those concerning illegal economic activity and money laundering as well as counterfeiting and the forgery of credit cards and other documents. Chrysochoidis said the Greek Ministry of Justice had prepared legislation, to be submitted to parliament in October, which harmonizes Greek laws concerning the arrest and prosecution of terrorists with those of other European countries, especially Britain, Germany, and Italy. It imposes sweeping changes, including authorizing courts to try terrorists in the presence of judges rather than juries, implementing a witness protection program, allowing authorities to better exploit new evidence-gathering techniques, and creating undercover police squads. With regard to security measures for the 2004 Olympics, the minister said there would be 50,000 police on duty in Athens during the games. Greece is consulting the U.S., Australia, England, Israel, and Spain on security measures for the games. October 2000 Relations with Turkey Proceed Bumpily Washington, D.C. - Greece and Turkey will pursue new confidence-building measures to help overcome the perceived lag in the improvement of bilateral relations. The lack of an anticipated Turkish gesture on the Cyprus issue and Aegean disputes, since Turkey was named a candidate for EU membership at the Helsinki summit, and the Turkish military’s restrictions on the movements of some U.N. peacekeepers in Cyprus have been cited in Greece as serious obstacles to fuller rapprochement. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem agreed during September talks in New York, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting, that the two countries would work together on implementing joint measures such as increased visits by naval ships to each other’s ports, closer border protection cooperation between maritime authorities, and environmental efforts to clean up the area surrounding the Evros River, which constitutes the only land border between Greece and Turkey. In early October, the political directors of the Greek and Turkish foreign ministries, Anastasios Skopelitis and Gihit Albogan, met to discuss the implementation of additional measures and determine which would be discussed bilaterally and which would be taken up within the framework of NATO. Measures discussed reportedly included reducing the number of national military exercises in the Aegean Sea carried out by both countries, conducting joint military exercises, inviting military observers to each other’s exercises, carrying out joint observation of air force training flights, and flying military jets unarmed over the Aegean, a proposal that has already been rejected by Greek military planners. Cem and Papandreou reaffirmed Greece’s assistance to Turkey on matters concerning preparations for EU membership negotiations and decided to direct their soccer federations to explore the possibility of submitting a joint bid to host the 2008 European Soccer Championship. They also discussed measures proposed by Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria to establish cooperation among the three countries’ businesses and local authorities, and agreed to organize a bilateral youth exchange program. The two ministers are expected to meet on the Greek island of Rhodes and in the southwestern Turkish city of Marmaris in mid-October, in conjunction with conferences attended by Greek and Turkish municipal officials. They will discuss bilateral relations, particularly tourism issues, with the officials and with travel agents, following a sharp increase in tourism in both directions. In October, the Greek parliament is expected to ratify the nine bilateral agreements signed by Cem and Papandreou in January and February on tourism, foreign investment, fighting money laundering, protecting the Aegean environment, law enforcement, regional terrorism, shipping, economic cooperation, education, and science and technology. A Greek-Turkish Directive Committee has been created to monitor the timetable for the implementation of the agreements and to coordinate the activities of six joint committees working on bilateral relations. In early October, Greek F-16 fighter planes landed in Turkey to participate in the NATO exercise “Destined Glory 2000” just four months after Turkish marines came ashore and Turkish warplanes landed in Greece as part of the NATO exercise "Dynamic Mix 2000." It was the first time Greek fighter jets had landed in Turkey since the 1960s. October 2000 Strategic Shift in Serbia Policy Washington, D.C. - Foreign Minister Papandreou met with then Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade several weeks before the September 24 Yugoslav elections to urge him to hold free and fair elections and allow foreign observers to monitor the polling to ensure its legitimacy. Papandreou’s visit marked the only time a senior official of a NATO government had visited Belgrade and had met with the indicted war criminal since the alliance’s bombing of Yugoslavia last year. He also met with Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic, Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, and members of the opposition. Papandreou said he was visiting the region, following consultations with his EU counterparts, to convey the message that an open, democratic society in Serbia would be welcomed into the wider European family. He said the visit was part of Athens’ attempts to build stability in the Balkans, stressing that Greece had suffered more than any other EU country from the consequences of Balkan instability. The minister’s trip to Belgrade sent a clear message to Washington and Europe that Athens was distancing itself from the perception, during the bombing, that it was sympathetic to Milosevic. Greece was also bolstering the strength of the Serbian opposition by classifying Milosevic as a destabilizing force in the Balkans. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis had recently referred to Yugoslavia as a regional troublemaker. In an apparent communications snafu within the Clinton administration, a State Department official said that it was unfortunate that a European leader of Papandreou’s stature would meet with Milosevic, an indicted war criminal. Immediately afterward, U.S. Ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns acknowledged that the U.S. government had, in fact, supported Papandreou’s visit. During his meeting with Papandreou, Milosevic slammed the West’s “shameful policies of pressure and blackmail” and said that “perpetrators of policies of force and neocolonialism are the chief sources of tension” in the region. Jovanovic told Papandreou that the Yugoslav elections were an internal matter and that no one had a right to interfere in them, while Milutinovic criticized Papandreou’s “crude meddling in Yugoslavia’s internal matters.” Greece long favored the lifting of sanctions against the Belgrade government, arguing that they primarily hurt the Yugoslav people. Papandreou said that threatening to try Milosevic at the war crimes tribunal for crimes against humanity was unproductive since it left no incentive for him to negotiate with the West on relinquishing power and departing from Yugoslavia. October 2000 Israeli Ties Expand in Defense, Telecommunications Washington, D.C. - Israel’s quest for further cooperation with Greece in the defense sector was a major point of discussion when Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh met with Greek defense officials in Athens in early October. Sneh was in Greece to participate in “Defendory” an annual military exhibition. Israel also seeks to assist Greece in planning for the 2004 Olympics in Athens in areas such as security, surface transportation, and hotel modernization. In late September, Director General of the Israeli Communications Ministry Daniel Rosen met in Athens with his counterpart in the Greek Ministry of Transport and Communications, Constantine Rovlias. The two also attended a conference on joint opportunities in the telecommunications sector, which was organized within the framework of a bilateral ministerial committee for telecommunications established in January. A bilateral agreement on telecommunications cooperation will be signed by Greek Transport and Telecommunications Minister Christos Verelis during his visit to Israel in November to participate in a telecommunications exhibition. Greek and Israeli trade relations continue to expand, and Israel is expressing a desire to collaborate with Greece on new business ventures in the Balkans. Greece ranks eighth among EU countries receiving Israeli exports, and Israel is the leading market for Greek exports to the Middle East. October 2000 Missile Acquisition in Ongoing Defense Modernization Washington, D.C. - The Greek Air Force will acquire its first cruise missiles, 56 Scalp long-range, air-to-ground missiles, produced by the Anglo-French company Matra-BAe Dynamics in London, as part of a $1.78 billion acquisition of combat aircraft and weapons systems. The Scalp, with stealth characteristics, night and adverse weather capability, and a range in excess of 150 miles, provides the ability to attack high-value, fixed targets such as command-and-control centers and airfields. It is a “fire-and-forget” system, or precision-guided munition, which most NATO forces lack, compelling the United States to conduct most of the bombing in Yugoslavia in 1999. Greece is also purchasing 15 new Mirage 2000-5 jet fighters, manufactured by the French company Dassault Aviation, to be equipped with the new Scalp missiles. The missile purchase will not go unnoticed by Turkey, where Ankara is pursuing its own program to acquire Israeli Popeye II air-to-ground missiles. At least 40 Popeye I missiles were delivered to Turkey in 1997, followed by an additional 60 in 1998. In 1997, Turkey and Israel agreed to co-produce the Popeye II, also known as the Have Lite, with a range of 85 miles. Initial deliveries to the Turkish Air Force should begin this year. The estimated value of Turkey’s overall Popeye I and Popeye II missile program is $500 million. Like the Scalp, the Popeye II is a conventionally armed stand off missile, but it has a shorter range than the Scalp. Nevertheless, it gives Turkey the capability to destroy high-value targets such as command-and-control facilities, airfields, ports, bridges, and ammunition storage areas. For its navy, Greece will buy three Exocet MM40 Block 2 anti-ship missile systems from the French company Aerospatiale Matra. These systems, which each carry nine missiles with a range of more than 40 miles, will be put on three new fast attack ships under construction in Greece. The Exocet MM40 is a “fire-and-forget” system that is difficult to defend against and is expected to add a significant anti-ship capability to the Greek naval fleet. Turkey’s standard anti-ship missile is the U.S.-made Harpoon with a range in excess of 67 miles. Modernization of the Greek and Turkish arsenals with precision-guided munitions, such as the Popeye II, ScalpExocet MM40, and Harpoon, is considered necessary to maintaining NATO readiness and operational capability. October 2000 Church Churns Opposition on Religious Identification Washington, D.C. - Greece’s Orthodox Christian Church faced off against the government once again, launching a nationwide petition drive to persuade the ruling Socialist party to reconsider its decision to eliminate religious affiliation from mandatory state identity cards. The goal of the Church is to collect, by Greece’s Independence Day on March 25, nearly 5 million signatures, those of about half the country’s population, in support of a national referendum on making the declaration of one’s religion on the cards optional. The government strongly criticized the Church’s decision to announce its call for a signature drive in Athens’ main cathedral, where crowds flocked to view a piece of the cross Orthodox Christians believe was used to crucify Jesus Christ. The government had warned the Church not to exploit the relic, which, until then, had not been removed from Jerusalem since the sixth century, to promote unrest over the identity card issue. The leader of Greece’s main opposition New Democracy Party later endorsed the Church’s campaign by signing the petition. The Greek constitution states that “the prevailing religion in Greece is that of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ” and it is written in the name of the Holy Trinity. About 97 percent of Greece’s native-born population of 10.6 million is baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church. Greek Orthodox clerics receive state salaries. Member nations of the European Union are not required to establish separation of church and state. October 2000 Drug Trafficking Poses Greatest Crime Problem Washington, D.C. - According to a Greek Public Order Ministry report on criminal activity in 1999, the steady increase in drug trafficking is the country’s major crime problem. Internationally linked criminal enterprises in Albania, Russia, and Turkey currently pose the greatest threat. Iraqi criminal gangs and Italian mafia groups also cause significant concern. Yugoslavia, particularly due to the unstable situation in Kosovo and Serbia proper, and Albania are especially vulnerable to the spread of Italian mafia activity in collaboration with local criminal groups. This factor increases the possibility of a spillover of organized crime into Greece. September 2000 Public Awareness Campaign to Fight Terrorism Washington, D.C. - The Greek government is stepping up its efforts to apprehend members of the November 17 terrorist group by waging an unprecedented public awareness campaign concerning the terrorist threat to the country. In addition, since he took office in February 1999Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis has been determined to enact new legislation giving the police and judiciary wider counter-terrorism powers. The multiple television appearances of the widow of Brigadier Stephen Saunders, Britain's military attache in Athens who was killed by the group in June, has generated widespread and sustained media coverage of the case and sympathy for the Saunders family. Prior terrorist assassinations were usually reported, then forgotten. Two toll-free telephone hotlines have been provided for citizens to relay information relating to Saunders' murder and other terrorist attacks to the government. The hotlines, staffed on a 24-hour basis, are the first of their kind in Greece. They will connect callers with the National Security Service and will protect their anonymity. The proposal to set up the hotlines was reportedly made by officers from Britain's Scotland Yard, who are working closely with Greek authorities to track down members of November 17. Britain has said its investigators will not leave Greece until concrete results are achieved. In August, the Greek government raised its reward for information leading to the arrest of November 17 members to $4 million from $2.8 million. The U.S. government is offering a separate $4 million reward for information leading to the arrest of the group's members. A nationwide minute of silence was also observed by civil servants and parliamentarians in remembrance of the victims of terrorist attacks in Greece. Simultaneously, private and state-run radio and television stations broadcast, for the first time, a public service message stating that counter-terrorism was a top priority for the government. During an official visit to Britain, Greece's Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff Gen. Manoussos Parayioudakis publicly stated that the Greek government would spare no efforts to find Saunders' killers, as he laid a wreath at his grave. The moves reflect Greece's renewed determination to heighten public awareness of the need to eradicate terrorism as it prepares for the summer Olympic games in Athens in 2004. International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Juan Antonio Samaranch said in July that Greece was taking the right measures to combat terrorism. In August, IOC Coordinating Commission President Jacques Rogge said he was pleased with the progress Greece had made in overall Olympic preparations since May, when the IOC gave the government three months to overcome major organizational problems and delays that it said could endanger the success of the games. Rogge said, however, that the IOC would not allow further delays and that Greece must continue to work quickly to make up for earlier failures to meet timetables. September 2000 Conflicting Statements Reveal Anti-Terrorism Fissures Washington, D.C. - Public Order Minister Chrysochoidis continues to face resistance to boosting counter-terrorism measures from high levels within the government and his own party. Official contradictions have resulted in mixed signals regarding the level of the government's political will and commitment to crack down on terrorism. A government spokesman dismissed anti-terrorism measures that are reportedly being considered, such as a witness protection program and non-jury trials for terrorist suspects, stating that the existing penal code is satisfactory. President Costis Stephanopoulos also declared that the existing legal framework for prosecuting terrorist suspects is sufficiently strict and cautioned against making changes in legislation that would abridge civil liberties. The Athens Bar Association publicly stated its opposition to any attempt to replace juries with judges at terrorist trials, a process that proved highly effective against Italy's Red Brigades. Chrysochoidis and Attorney General Janet Reno are meeting in Washington in September to sign a long-delayed, non-binding Police Cooperation Memorandum between Greece's Public Order Ministry and the U.S. Justice Department. September 2000 Rapprochement with Turkey Shifts into Low Gear Washington, D.C. - The pace of improved relations between Greece and Turkey has been slowed down by Greece's dashed expectations that substantive progress would begin on the countries' longstanding bilateral issues concerning the Aegean and Cyprus. Greece had expected a significant gesture from Turkey regarding one or both of these matters after Athens lifted its veto on Turkey's EU candidacy last December. Ankara's position has been that Turkey made a significant gesture toward Greece in February 1999 by not undertaking a campaign to brand Greece a state sponsor of terrorism for providing shelter for Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in Kenya prior to his arrest by Turkish agents. Turkey also believes that improved bilateral relations should not be dependent solely on an exchange of gestures. While Greece continues to view progress on the Aegean and Cyprus as the true barometer of the degree of improved bilateral relations, Turkey holds that the two countries should consolidate the gains made through the signing of nine bilateral agreements in January and February 2000. Turkey has given no indication that progress on the Aegean and Cyprus is imminent. Turkish initiatives to meet requirements for EU accession on a range of issues have been low on the Turkish legislative agenda, dominated instead by inter-party bickering and corruption scandals earlier in the year and, most recently, a national debate over constitutional powers. Greek frustration has been exacerbated by the June incursion of Turkish troops into the Green Line in Cyprus to set up a military checkpoint, as well as recent statements by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem criticizing Greece's policy toward minorities. In addition, the third round of Cyprus talks in Geneva failed to produce any breakthroughs, an outcome increasingly attributed to Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's refusal to hold direct talks with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides. September 2000 Pentagon Praise as Regional Power in Southeastern Europe Washington, D.C. - During the ninth annual meeting of the U.S.-Greece High-Level Consultative Committee in Washington on bilateral defense cooperation, U.S. and Greek defense officials exchanged views on the security situation in the Balkans and the surrounding area, the future of military and peacekeeping missions in the region, and the status of security assistance and joint training projects. U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Franklin Kramer emphasized that the U.S. is seeking increased opportunities to work with Greece, which it recognizes as a regional power and economic leader in southeastern Europe following its entry into Europe's Economic and Monetary Union. Kramer also conveyed to his Greek counterpart, Deputy Defense Minister Dimitris Apostolakis, that the U.S. regards Greece's free-market economy as a force for stability in the region, where the Greek business community has had a positive impact in Albania, Bulgaria, and F.Y.R. Macedonia. September 2000 Intelligence Role of Military Enhanced in Defense Reorganization Washington, D.C. - With troops assigned to hazardous-duty areas outside its borders, including Kosovo, Athens is taking steps to provide accurate and timely military intelligence to civilian officials and commanders in the field. Issues concerning the Aegean, Cyprus, North Africa, and the Balkans, as well as trans-national issues such as ballistic missile defense, are examples of security matters faced by Greece. As a result, Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos has approved sweeping changes in the organization of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (HNDGS) to re-establish the Greek military's role in national security policy formulation and intelligence. This role was dramatically reduced following the 1967-1974 dictatorship as a response to the repression of civil liberties by the colonels. A Military Intelligence Service will be created, and the responsibilities of the chief of the HNDGS will be patterned after those of the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. In the future, Tsohatzopoulos is also expected to strengthen the power and prerogatives of the chief of the HNDGS so that he can more effectively serve as the senior advisor to the government on security and defense issues. The Chief of the Turkish General Staff (TGS) has long held more power than his Greek counterpart. The Greeks will not use the TGS as a model for change. They are expected to look at other NATO countries such as the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, and Italy to see how their general staffs are structured and how the chiefs of defense relate to and advise their respective governments. September 2000 Defense Modernization Races Ahead Washington, D.C. - For the five-year period from 2001 to 2005, Greece plans to spend nearly $14 billion to procure new weapons systems and upgrade existing ones. At 4.6 percent of its GDP, Greece spends a higher percentage of its national budget on defense than any other member of NATO, followed by Turkey (4.3 percent) and the United States (3.6 percent). The Greek Army is currently focusing on acquiring a new main battle tank, one of the highlights of its military modernization program. The four main contenders vying for the $1.5 billion contract to provide 250 tanks and 12 tank recovery vehicles are Germany (Leopard II), France (Leclerc), Britain (Challenger 2), and the United States (Abrams M1A2). The French and British firms are especially concerned about keeping their respective lines of production open. General Dynamics, the producer of the Abrams M1A2 hopes to convince Athens that, by selecting the M1A2 rather than its leading contender, the Leopard IImore money and jobs will stay in Greece. Regardless of which tank is chosen, Greece's new armored systems will be more lethal, survivable, and adaptable to bad weather and night operations than its current systems. Following the Imia/Kardak crisis with Turkey in January 1996, the Greek Army undertook a modernization program designed to speed up the deployment of ground forces. Systems entering the Greek armed forces inventory, such as the U.S. Apache attack helicopter, the U.S. Chinook heavy lift helicopter, the U.S. Multiple Launch Rocket System, the U.S. Army Tactical Missile System, and Russian hovercraft designed to swiftly carry armored vehicles and troops throughout the Aegean region, attest to the seriousness and scope of the defense modernization program. September 2000 Minority Rights Charges from Ankara Stoke Stern Reaction Washington, D.C. - Turkish Foreign Minister Cem accused Greece of oppressing the 120,000 Muslim minority living in the western Thrace region of Greece, which includes ethnic Turks, Gypsies, and Pomacs of Bulgarian origin. In addition, he said Athens' policies toward Greek citizens who consider themselves ethnic Albanians, ethnic Macedonians, and Vlachs were "sources of uneasiness." Cem called on Greece to take steps with regard to its minorities that would comply with European values. Greece immediately asserted that the Greek government guarantees the constitutional, economic, and social rights of all citizens in Greece regardless of ethnicity. Athens said the Turkish government's record concerning the protection of the rights of minorities in Turkey justifies concern among EU member states. Turkey's ethnic Greek minority has dwindled from 100,000 to just 2,500 in the past 45 years. September 2000 Environmental Violations Bring EU Action Washington, D.C. - The European Commission will take Greece to the European Court of Justice over the country's failure to conform to EU standards in its disposal of waste in landfills. The Commission said the decision stemmed from the Greek government's lack of action concerning the problem, despite earlier warnings that it should be rectified. Greenpeace estimates that there are 5,000 illegal landfills in Greece, which account for the release of a high level of dioxins into the atmosphere. Environment Minister Costas Laliotis criticized local governments in Crete and in the eastern region of Attica prefecture, in particular, for the existence of illegal landfills. In July, the Court ruled that Greece would pay $190a day until it closed a waste dump in Crete that was posing health and environmental dangers. July / August 2000 Terrorist Assassination Raises New Doubts on Security, 2004 Olympics Washington, D.C. - The assassination of British Defense Attache Brigadier Steven Saunders on an Athens street in early June by the November 17 terrorist group triggered a national re-examination of Greece’s counter-terrorism policies, which have come under criticism from the State Department, Congress, and international organizations. It also heightened concerns over the ability of Greek authorities to prevent terrorist incidents during the 2004 Olympics in Athens and protect the personnel and property of corporate sponsors of the games. Of the 146 attacks on individual Americans or American interests in Greece by various groups over the past 25 years, including local offices of Olympic sponsors, the Greek authorities have closed only one case. During the last two years, 24 American businesses have been attacked in Athens with the use of firebombs, gas canisters, and other explosive devices. Greece is already under intense scrutiny by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for critical delays in preparing for the Olympics. Saunders’ death rekindled fears that the games could be moved to another country if the terrorist threat in Athens, which IOC officials regard as greater than in previous host cities, is not diminished, and raised questions regarding the willingness of governments to send athletes and delegations to the games. IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch said he was confident that the terrorist problem would be resolved and that it would not affect the games. The killing occurred three days after the National Commission on Terrorism, appointed by Congress, issued a report calling the Greek government “disturbingly passive” in its counter-terrorism efforts and recommending that the State Department designate Greece as “not fully cooperating” in the fight against terrorism. The report suggested that sanctions be imposed on the country, such as denying its citizens visa-free U.S. entry and blocking arms sales. Immediately after the report was released, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated that the Clinton administration opposed such sanctions. The British government has carried out subtle, behind-the-scenes diplomacy to press Greek authorities to apprehend suspects. But, a month after the killing, with no public indication of progress in the investigation, assisted by officers from Britain’s Scotland Yard and U.S. investigators, British parliamentarians became vocal concerning the danger facing British diplomatic staff in Athens, stating that Athens was known as a high-risk post, especially after NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia last year. Saunders’ widow has played a high-profile role by returning to Greece after her husband’s funeral to meet with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and continuing to urge the public to come forward with information about suspects. Saunders was November 17’s twenty-third victim, including five U.S. Embassy employees, since the group emerged in 1975 with the murder of the CIA station chief in Athens. Thirty U.S. military have also been injured in attacks by November 17. The Athens embassy was also the target of a rocket-propelled grenade fired by the group four years ago. The U.S. spends more money on security at its embassy in Athens than it spends in any other capital in the world. Most of the group’s victims have been Greek, including police, newspaper publishers, and industrialists. No members of the group, who appear to follow a mix of Marxist and ultranationalist ideologies, have ever been arrested. A November 17 declaration, carried by a daily newspaper, said the group killed Saunders in retaliation for Britain’s leading role in NATO’s action against Yugoslavia. Greece has doubled its reward to anyone providing police with information leading to the arrest of November 17’s members to $2.8 million. The U.S. reward is $5 million. Athens said the Greek anti-terrorism police would undergo a major restructuring. Greece will also propose that Athens and London jointly sponsor an EU initiative to fight terrorism. A similar agreement for increased police cooperation with the U.S. has already been drafted, and a signing ceremony is being planned for the fall. July / August 2000 EU Declares Greece in Euro-Zone in 2001 Washington, D.C. - Following six years of tight economic policies to reduce its stubbornly high inflation rate, interest rates, budget deficit, and public debt, Greece was formally declared the twelfth member of Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) at the EU’s June summit in Portugal and will join the single European currency on January 1, 2001. The drachma will be phased out and replaced by the euro in 2002. Greece must reduce its interest rate of 8.25 percent later this year to converge with the European Central Bank’s main lending rate, a factor that will require the government to control inflationary pressures in 2001 and 2002. Inflation is down to about 2 percent, just above the euro-zone’s 1.7 percent, from a 1993 rate of 14 percent. National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said the main objectives of Greece’s economic policy as an EMU member would be to slash public debt from over 103 percent to 60 percent of GDP; to maintain growth rates of at least 5 percent in order to achieve parity in living standards with the rest of Europe and create conditions for full employment; to promote competition by restructuring the economy and bureaucracy and limiting the public sector to education, health, welfare, culture, defense, and the environment, and to public safety services; and to create social cohesion and stability. A May semi-annual report on the Greek economy issued by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said that robust consumerism, higher investment, and good export prospects should produce a growth rate of 3.8 percent in 2000, rising to 3.9 percent in 2001. It predicted a decline in unemployment from 10.7 percent in 1999 to 9.8 percent in 2001. Greece is considered the poorest country in the EU, with a standard of living that is 70 percent of the EU average. July / August 2000 Moscow Ties to Advance on Economic, Security Fronts Washington, D.C. - During an official visit to Russia, the first by a Greek head of state, President Costis Stephanopoulos and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed prospects for the expansion of economic relations between the two countries, economic cooperation in the Black Sea region, and Greek investments in Russia. Deputy National Economy Minister Yiannis Zaphiropoulos and some 80 Greek businessmen accompanied Stephanopoulos to Moscow, where a Greek-Russian business forum was held. The two sides examined the potential for further cooperation in the energy sector, such as the construction of electrical power plants in Greece. It was agreed that Russia would deliver larger amounts of natural gas to Greece at a more rapid pace. Bilateral trade now stands at about $1 billion annually. Russia confirmed its interest in constructing the proposed oil pipeline from the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas to the Greek Aegean port of Alexandroupolis. Greece hopes to convene with Bulgarian and Russian officials by the end of July to continue working out details concerning plans for the pipeline, which will carry up to 60,000 barrels of Russian crude oil to the Aegean daily. In 1994, the three countries signed an initial agreement for the construction of the 180-mile pipeline. Greece imports about 1 million tons of Russian oil per year. Shortly after Stephanopoulos’s visit, Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos held talks in Moscow with Putin and other officials to discuss bilateral military cooperation and European security. Tsohatzopoulos visited defense factories, including the manufacturing site for the Tor-M1 anti-aircraft missile systems. Russia is to complete delivery of 21 systems to Greece by the end of August. Greece is also to receive military hovercraft from Russia. July / August 2000 Modernized Rapid Deployment Capability in Aegean Washington, D.C. - Greece will acquire four air cushion landing vessels, or hovercraft, by 2002, providing the Greek armed forces with a new capability in the Aegean that will facilitate the rapid dispatch of forces and armored vehicles to the sea’s islands. The decision to purchase vessels with this capability was made in 1997 as a response to the crisis over the Imia/Kardak islets in January 1996which brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war. Turkish troops landed on the uninhabited rocky islets, asserted a claim over their sovereignty, and later questioned Greek sovereignty over hundreds of small islands and islets in the Aegean. The Zubr class hovercraft, built in Russia and Ukraine, is 155 feet long and carries 80 tons, allowing the transport of 4 light tanks and 50 troops or 2 medium tanks and 200 troops. Its speed is 70 knots, or about 75 miles an hour. A Russian company is expected to deliver one refurbished vessel in January 2001 and a new ship in June 2001. July / August 2000 Church-State Clash Over Religious Identity Issue Washington, D.C. - The Orthodox Church of Greece and the ruling socialist government clashed over the decision by Prime Minister Costas Simitis to remove citizens’ religious affiliation from the country’s mandatory state-issued identity cards as part of his drive to enforce EU standards on privacy and freedom from discrimination in Greece. Greece is the only EU nation that has required citizens to declare their religious beliefs and one of the few with state identity cards. Fingerprints, profession, and spouse’s name will also be removed from the cards. In June2000Greek citizens demonstrated at rallies organized by the Church to protest the government’s decision. The head of the Church, Archbishop Christodoulos, denounced the government for acting without consulting the Church and called on the prime minister to hold a national referendum on the issue. Simitis rejected the archbishop’s demand, claiming that the decision is the responsibility solely of the state. The Church fears that the identity card change signals possible steps toward a separation of church and state in a country where the constitution stipulates that the Orthodox Christian religion is dominant. Over 97 percent of the population is Orthodox, and the Church sees itself as the guardian of Hellenic identity and traditions. Human rights groups welcomed the decision to omit the religion entry on the cards, maintaining that it will help safeguard the rights of a small minority of Muslims, Jews, and non-Orthodox Christian denominations. A June report by the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance called on Greece to remove the religion entry, stating that non-Orthodox religions in Greece are subject to administrative difficulties and legal restrictions, including problems in obtaining and executing building permits for places of worship. July / August 2000 Europe Finds Minority Rights Lacking Washington, D.C. - The Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance claimed that minorities in Greece are subjected to racism, discrimination, and intolerance, despite positive steps taken by the Greek government to combat racism against immigrants that now comprise up to 10 percent of the population. The steps include the establishment of the National Human Rights Committee in 1998, the founding of an Ombudsman’s Office for Citizens’ Rights in 1998, and the legalization of the presence of more than 400,000 mostly Albanian migrants, who have arrived in the country illegally over the past decade. The Commission said that these problems particularly affect Albanians, Roma (Gypsies), numbering from 150,000 to 200,000 and the 120,000 Muslim minority in Western Thrace in the northeastern region, which is protected under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and is the only minority Greece officially recognizes. According to the Commission, the problems are related to a generally low level of recognition within Greek society of its multiculturalism. It noted that Jewish communities and those calling themselves “Macedonian” were particularly vulnerable to the problems. The Commission noted that the Muslims of Western Thrace experience some restrictions on their freedom of expression, such as the right to call themselves “Turks” and on the administration of private charitable foundations. It said that Greek authorities recently accepted a number of Turkish-language schoolbooks for use by Muslim students in Thrace and intended to gradually introduce Turkish-language classes and the teaching of the Koran in pilot secondary public schools. July / August 2000 First Athens Mosque Since Ottoman Era Approved Washington, D.C. - The parliament approved the building of the first large-scale Islamic cultural center and mosque in the Athens area since the early nineteenth century, when the territory that comprises modern Greece was ruled by the Ottoman Turks. The new mosque is to be constructed in Paiania about nine miles from the center of Athens. A small mosque exists in an Athens hotel primarily for travelers frequenting the hotel. The only mosque in Athens remaining from the Ottoman era has been turned into a museum. The Muslim community in the capital generally gathers on soccer fields. Albanian immigrants, many of whom are Muslim, account for about 5 percent of Greece’s nearly 10.5 million people. Other Muslims in Athens are immigrants from Asia and Africa. Dozens of mosques currently operate in Western Thrace, where the Muslim minority lives. July / August 2000 Fines Imposed for Environmental Problems Washington, D.C. - The European Court of Justice fined Greece for non-compliance with a 1992 judgment ordering the Greek government to close a waste dump in Crete that it said posed health and environmental dangers. It was the first time the EU’s supreme court, which ensures member states’ compliance with EU laws, fined a member government since it was given the power to do so in 1993. Greece was ordered to pay a penalty of $190a day, beginning on July 4, for failing to stop the discharge of toxic and dangerous waste from military bases, hospitals, and industrial plants into the Kouroupitos River in the Chani, a region of the island. The fine will continue until the clean-up of the site is completed. The Greek government said it would pay the fine and was working on the construction of proper waste disposal facilities. It said delays in closing the dump had resulted from local opposition to the site for the new facilities. The Court is currently hearing a case against France concerning night work for women and another against Greece dealing with recognition of diplomas issued in other EU nations. May / June 2000 Euro-Zone Entry Clears Hurdles Washington, D.C. - Giving the first official stamp of approval for Athens' bid to replace the drachma with the euro on January 12001the European Commission in May proposed that Greece should join the single currency, concluding that the country had fulfilled the necessary conditions. The European Parliament later endorsed the recommendation, making final approval of the bid by heads of government at the June 19-20 EU summit in Portugal little more than a formality. Greece applied to become the euro-zone's twelfth member in March 2000. The EU commissioner for economic and monetary affairs said Greece had made striking progress in bringing its inflation rate, long-term interest rates, budgetary situation, and exchange rate stability into line with the requirements of the single currency. Athens was urged to continue its tight budget policy and moderate wage increases to minimize the risk of rising inflation. May / June 2000 Domestic Reforms, Privatization, Deregulation to Accelerate Washington, D.C. - Prime Minister Costas Simitis will push forward with economic and social reforms in preparation for entry into the euro-zone, including the privatization of state-owned utilities and the deregulation of the telecommunications and energy sectors; the overhaul of the public pension system; and the revamping of inefficient, debt-ridden state companies such as Olympic Airways and the railways. Foreign investment in Greece remains low. Reducing unemployment and improving the educational and health services will be priorities. Unemployment stood at 11.7 percent in 1999. Although Greece's GDP growth rates have exceeded the EU average for the last four years, with a 3.5 percent rate last year, economists predict that it will take at least 15 years before GDP per person in Greece, now 70 percent of the EU average, achieves full EU harmonization. May / June 2000 Turkish Military in Greece for NATO Exercise Washington, D.C. - In a significant step in Greek-Turkish military cooperation within the context of NATO, Turkish soldiers are setting foot on Greek soil and Turkish fighter jets are landing in Greece as part of the largest alliance exercise in Greece to date, Dynamic Mix 2000.The last time Turkish warplanes went to Greece was during a 1972 NATO maneuver. During the May 20 to June 10 exercise, 150 Turkish marines are coming ashore at Kyparissi, a beach on the west coast of the Peloponnese, along with Spanish and U.S. marines. A dozen Turkish F-16 warplanes are arriving at a military airfield near Volos in central Greece to participate in battle formations with other aircraft, including Greek fighter jets. This year, the 15-year-old annual maneuver involves 15,000 troops, 293 aircraft, 30 tanks, and 65 ships from 12 countries and takes place chiefly in Greece, with supplementary exercises in Italy and Turkey. It is being directed for the first time from the recently established NATO Joint Sub-Regional Command Center in Larissa in northern Greece and is a litmus test for the operational coexistence of the Greek and Turkish air forces in the Aegean under the new structure of the alliance in southeastern Europe. Greece and Turkey first participated at the same time in this annual exercise in 1998but this is the first time that troops and aircraft from Turkey are entering Greek territory during the exercise. Greek soldiers are not scheduled to be in Turkish territory during this exercise. However, during the "Distant Glory" NATO exercise taking place in September, Greek marines and Greek F-16s will operate in Turkish territory. May / June 2000 Turkish Warplanes Transit Greek Airspace Washington, D.C. - In an unprecedented move prior to the Dynamic Mix exercise, Greece permitted four Turkish F-16 fighter jets to fly through Greek airspace on their way to Germany to take part in a German Air Force exercise, Elite 2000, which included aircraft from other NATO countries. It was the first time that Greece had allowed Turkish warplanes to traverse its airspace for several decades, a policy based on a Greek-Turkish dispute over the extent of Greece's national airspace in the Aegean. The policy has been an irritant between the Greek and Turkish militaries, causing Turkish military aircraft to fly long, circuitous routes to countries in Western Europe. During the Kosovo crisis, Greece did permit Turkish military transport planes to fly through Greek airspace to deliver humanitarian aid to ethnic Albanian refugees who had fled the Serbian province. May / June 2000 Escalating Trade, Tourism Cooperation Across the Aegean Washington, D.C. - A 210-member delegation of the Ankara Chamber of Commerce traveled to Athens to attend the first fair of Turkish products to be held in Greece. The Greek-Turkish Friendship and Cooperation Fair, with its 99 Turkish exhibitors, was inaugurated by the Turkish Minister of Industry and Trade, Ahmet Kenan Tanrikulu. A similar trade fair of Greek products is scheduled to take place in Istanbul in April 2001. At a Greek-Turkish Business Forum, held in conjunction with the fair, business leaders discussed joint investment opportunities in tourism, small- and medium-sized enterprises, shipbuilding, energy, construction, telecommunications, and environmental protection. They reviewed prospects for partnerships that would undertake projects in the Balkans, Central Asia, and the Black Sea region. An alliance of Greek and Turkish business consultants will operate through an Istanbul-based entity named Eurogroup, which will be represented by companies in Brussels, Prague, Sofia, Skopje, Thessaloniki, and Washington. These consultants will take part in joint ventures in Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, and Asia. Eurogroup will offer information to organizations, enterprises, and local governments in an effort to further Turkey's preparations for joining the EU. The Hellenic Telecommunications Organization announced that partnership plans with Turk Telekom were underway. The Athens Chamber of Commerce and the chambers in Ankara and Izmir discussed the establishment of closer ties, while the Izmir and Piraeus chambers proposed closer cooperation between the two cities' harbors. Turkish firms may also participate in the construction of facilities required for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. More than 20 mayors from towns in the prefectures of Evros in Greece and Edirne in Turkey, which lie on either side of the Greek-Turkish border defined by the Evros River, met in the Greek frontier town of Feres to discuss cross-border cooperation concerning trade, cultural exchanges, and the resolution of environmental problems. A similar meeting was held in Ypsala on the Turkish side of the border. During a Greek-Turkish tourism conference on the Greek island of Kos, representatives discussed ways to promote tourism between the two countries, including mechanisms to ease visa procedures for Greek and Turkish tourists. Joint ventures for taking Greek and Turkish tourists to North America, Asia, and Australia were also proposed. May / June 2000 China Seeks EU Ties Through Athens Washington, D.C. - An important element of the visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin to Greece, the first by a Chinese head of state, was an attempt to build stronger relations between Beijing and the European Union. Greece was the only EU country visited by Zemin during a late-April tour that also included Turkey, Israel, Egypt, and South Africa. Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos said opportunities existed for cooperation between Athens and Beijing in conjunction with Greece's role in the wider Balkan region and its position in the EU. Officials discussed strengthening bilateral ties in the trade, economic, technological, educational, cultural, and tourism sectors. Agreements were signed to reduce Greece's 1998 trade deficit of $474 million with China, with Beijing purchasing only $16.5 million worth of Greek goods while exporting $490.4 million worth of goods to Greece. Greek-Chinese relations have expanded considerably over the past year since Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou visited China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, in May 1999 to promote a Greek initiative for a political solution to NATO's air war against Yugoslavia. A Chinese delegation also visited Greece in February 2000 to discuss Athens' experience in financing the agricultural sector. The delegation was interested in studying EU support mechanisms for farmers in conjunction with China's efforts to comply with World Trade Organization directives. In March, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoris Niotis was also in Beijing to sign a protocol on bilateral political ties. Prime Minister Simitis is expected to visit China later this year. Chinese officials have expressed their support for a Greek proposal to establish an "Asia Forum," with headquarters in Thessaloniki, as a permanent institution focusing on the development of economic ties between Europe and Asia in the Balkan, Middle East, and Black Sea regions. May / June 2000 Historic Visit to Israel Invigorates Relations Washington, D.C. - The May visit to Israel by President Stephanopoulos marked the first visit to the country by a Greek head of state and signaled increasingly close bilateral ties in the political, economic, and military sectors, which have been developing over the last year. Accompanied by 50 Greek businessmen, Stephanopoulos addressed a Greek-Israeli business forum in Tel Aviv, calling for joint ventures between Greek and Israeli companies in the Balkans within the framework of Athens' plan for the reconstruction of the region. Israel is Greece's largest trading partner in the Middle East, and joint ventures are expanding in tourism, energy, and technology. Israeli President Ezer Weizman said that Greece constituted an important market for Israel and called for wider economic cooperation. Stephanopoulos also addressed the Israeli parliament. The Israelis expressed an interest in promoting cooperative efforts regarding security technology for the Athens 2004 Olympics. Israel would also like to provide Athens with electronic systems for F-16 fighter jets. The Greek president also met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority and spoke before the Palestinian National Assembly. Greece has hosted a series of meetings between Israelis and Palestinians, known as the Athens Dialogue, to provide a forum for the discussion of the Middle East peace process. May / June 2000 U.S. Criticism of Counter-Terrorism Efforts Rejected Washington, D.C. - The Greek government rejected accusations in the State Department's annual report on global terrorism for 1999 that portrayed Athens as being weak on fighting terrorism. Greece said the report neglected to mention the country's cooperation with other nations, including the U.S., and international bodies to combat terrorism. The report, Patterns of Global Terrorism 1999 released in April 2000, did note, however, that the Greek public order minister met with the U.S. coordinator for counter-terrorism in Washington in July to discuss improving counter-terrorist cooperation. In October, the minister outlined plans to modernize the Greek counter-terrorist police, but no steps had been taken by the end of the year. Greece and the U.S. are currently preparing a bilateral agreement on police cooperation, including counter-terrorism activities, which was discussed during the minister's visit to Washington. The Greek justice and public order ministries are also working on a bill that will alter legislation to allow the replacement of citizen juries with judges at trials of terrorist suspects, police infiltration of terrorist groups, and better witness protection. The State Department report said Greece ranked first in Europe in the number of anti-U.S. terrorist attacks and second globally to Colombia. It stated that Greek terrorists committed 20 acts of violence against U.S. government and U.S. private interests in Greece, and dramatically increased their attacks against Greek and third-country targets. The document said Western interests suffered some 40 attacks from March to May as a result of anti-U.S. and anti-NATO sentiment triggered by the alliance's war against Yugoslavia. In April, the U.S. government issued a public announcement advising U.S. citizens and travelers of the security conditions in Greece. President Clinton's visit to Athens in November also precipitated attacks against U.S., Greek, and third-country targets. The report said the absence of strong public government leadership and initiatives to improve police capabilities and morale contributed to the general lack of breakthroughs against terrorists, with only one arrest by Greek authorities for a terrorist act committed during the year. However, it did cite the arrest of a suspect in six murders and one attempted murder in the 1980s, who was believed to be linked to the Revolutionary People's Struggle and other groups. The report stated that November 17, Greece's most notorious terrorist organization, was suspected of conducting seven rocket attacks and bombings against U.S., Greek, and third-country interests. It noted that, despite gathering excellent forensic evidence following a rocket attack on the German ambassador's residence, the Greek police did not follow up aggressively on the evidence and made no arrests. Since the PKK is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., the report mentioned the involvement of Greek government officials in securing refuge for Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), in the Greek ambassador's residence in Nairobi. Greece extended political asylum to two of Ocalan's associates after he was captured by Turkish authorities and taken to Turkey. May / June 2000 Olympics Committee Slams Slow Organization for 2004 Washington, D.C. - Following a warning by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that the success of the Athens 2004 Olympics would be in jeopardy if organizational problems and major delays in planning were not overcome, Prime Minister Simitis said he would personally head a committee overseeing preparations for the games and would make them the country's top priority. Simitis also replaced the head of the Athens 2004 Coordinating Committee with the lawyer widely credited with winning Athens' bid to stage the games, Yianna Angelopoulou-Daskalaki. The Olympic Preparation Coordinating Committee, a new committee chaired by Simitis, is comprised of Angelopoulou-Daskalaki, the ministers of national economy and finance, culture, foreign affairs, public works, transport, and development, as well as the undersecretaries for sports and the press. Culture Minister Theodore Pangalos will also chair a project management group. Before the changes were made, IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch said the status of Greece's preparations for the Olympics represented the worst organizational crisis faced by an Olympic host city in the last 20 years and called for drastic changes to accelerate decision-making and improve coordination between the agencies involved. After the organizational shake-up, the IOC gave Athens a mid-August deadline for getting preparations back on track and said it would send officials to Greece at that time to re-evaluate the situation. Seoul, South Korea, the site of the 1988 summer Olympiad, has been mentioned as a possible replacement host if the IOC is not satisfied with Athens' progress. Areas in which delays have been cited include construction of sports venues and an Olympic village, hotel accommodations, media facilities and television rights, transportation, attracting sponsors, and security. March / April 2000 Socialists Win Re-Election, Policy Continuity Expected Washington, D.C. - The ruling socialist party of Prime Minister Costas Simitis was re-elected on April 9 by a 1 percent margin, the narrowest lead in the history of parliamentary elections in modern Greece. The victory of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) over the opposition center-right New Democracy Party, led by Costas Karamanlis, was achieved despite a sharp fall in the Athens Stock Exchange in March that nearly derailed Simitis’s push to attract votes on the basis of the country’s economic successes going into negotiations to join the euro-zone. The market decline became a major election issue as tens of thousands of small investors lost money that they had poured into the bourse, which had climbed nearly 500 percent in the previous four years. The overall growth rate in the stock market for 1999 was 102 percent. Simitis openly linked the government’s policies with the exchange’s success last year, a stance that worked against him when the exchange began its descent. Since shares peaked in September, the value of many companies has dropped more than 60 percent. New Democracy accused the government of misleading investors, as hundreds of panicked stock-holders besieged the exchange building in downtown Athens. The government responded by intervening, through increased public sector investment, to shore up the market. Voters also focused on concerns over crime, an unemployment rate of more than 10 percent, health care, the state pension system, and the educational system, which had been overshadowed by a feeling of well-being resulting from tremendous gains in the market. The standard of living in Greece, previously considered one of Western Europe’s poorest countries, has climbed to 70 percent of the average EU level. PASOK polled 43.8 percent to New Democracy’s 42.8 percent, giving the socialists 158 seats in parliament, down from 162. New Democracy’s share of parliamentary seats rose to 125 from 108. Within the PASOK parliamentary group, there was a shift away from the old-school socialism associated with the anti-capitalist and anti-Western rhetoric of the party’s founder, Andreas Papandreou, toward deputies who will provide support for Simitis’s emphasis on the continued Europeanization of Greek policies. There was no major difference in the campaign issues promoted by PASOK and New Democracy. Both parties back similar policies of fiscal restraint, privatization, and liberalization, and both favor Greece’s entry into the euro-zone and better relations with Turkey. New Democracy offered new faces for voters who opposed the entrenchment of PASOK as the ruling party for 16 of the last 19 years, but the leadership ability of Costas Karamanlisa deputy who has never been a government official, remained untested. Greece’s main Communist party, rooted in Stalinist ideology and more strident and anti-Western than traditional euro-Communist parties of recent decades, maintains an electoral base of 5 to 6 percent. Several left-wing parties fell below the 3 percent threshold required for representation in parliament. With the re-election of Simitis and the continued tenure of Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who has been the decisive figure in revamping foreign policy toward Turkey, the government is expected to continue promoting better relations with Turkey and to pursue its goal of leading the Balkan countries in their transitions to free-market economies. March / April 2000 State Intervention in Stock Exchange Delays Upgrade Washington, D.C. - Government measures to stem the plunging Athens Stock Exchange caused Morgan Stanley to put a freeze until November on its plans to upgrade the exchange from emerging to developed market status, which would help Greek equities attract foreign funds. The government responded to the declining market by easing margin borrowing for stock purchases, asking state banks and companies to purchase more of their own stock, and taking steps toward investing 20 percent of the public’s pension funds in the Athens stock market. Upgrading the status of the exchange involves approval of the state’s efforts to liberalize the market. The level of government intervention caused concern that the required degree of liberalization had not been achieved. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is advising the government concerning its efforts to liberalize and regulate the stock market. The stock exchange is expected to continue serving as the government’s main tool in privatizing state firms and sustaining economic convergence after the country is invited to join Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), a decision that is expected in June. March / April 2000 Greece Awaits EU Approval for Euro-Zone Entry Washington, D.C. - Greece in March submitted its application to join the EMU on January 1, 2001, having achieved all the convergence criteria required for adopting the euro. The application will be reviewed by the European Commission and the European Central Bank, and is almost certain to be approved at the EU summit in Portugal in June. Greece missed joining the first wave of EMU countries in January 1999, failing to meet any of the Maastricht Treaty’s fiscal convergence criteria. In February, the country’s 12-month average EU-harmonized inflation rate slowed to 2.1 percent from 2.2 percent in January, bringing Greece within the required margin. But inflationary pressure is expected to persist throughout the year. Although Greece revalued the drachma in January by 3.5 percent, the Greek currency must depreciate another 2 percent to reach its expected convergence rate on January 1, 2001. The bulk of the required cuts in short-term interest rates are expected in the second half of the year. March / April 2000 Bilateral Task Force Prepares Turkey for EU Accession Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Ministry representatives flew to Ankara to begin talks with the Turkish Foreign Ministry aimed at helping Turkey prepare for European Union membership. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou’s initiative will allow Athens to share with Turkish officials the experience it gained preparing for its 1981 entry into the EU. During the meeting of the Greek-Turkish European Working Group, Greek diplomats began briefing their Turkish counterparts on the procedures for reorganizing Turkey’s state structures to conform to EU standards in areas such as the environment, the judicial system, agriculture, and customs regulations. They also discussed steps to be taken to gain Turkish participation in EU programs and secure access to EU funds. In the futurethe talks may also expand to cover issues concerning the EU-Turkey customs union, the creation of domestic institutions patterned after European models, and the Schengen pact, which impacts illegal immigration and border control matters. In addition, the dialogue between Greek and Turkish foreign ministry officials, which began last June and culminated in the signing of 10 bilateral agreements on a variety of issues earlier this year, resumed in March, with initial meetings in Ankara. March / April 2000 Business Relations with Turkey Continue to Advance Washington, D.C. - During a meeting of its working groups in Istanbul, the Greek-Turkish Business Council decided to establish a Greek-Turkish Chamber of Commerce based in Athens, with the aim of attracting U.S. and European capital for investments in the Balkan and Black Sea regions. The Chamber, to be launched by September, will be governed by a nine-member board comprised of seven Greeks and two Turks. More than 120 Greek business executives from a variety of sectors, including construction, textiles, health care, and financial services, joined their Turkish counterparts for the meeting. The Council’s first Greek-Turkish business forum will be held in Athens in late April. The four-day event will host an exhibition of products from some 70 Turkish firms. A similar event is scheduled to be held in Istanbul in April 2001. Thirty-two Greek businesses are now active in Turkey, and 43 Turkish companies are active in Greece. Bilateral trade is currently estimated at $710 million and could increase to $5 billion annually in five years, according to leading business figures on both sides. Athens was the first stop for officials of Turkey’s Privatization Organization as they sought prospective buyers of a 15 percent stake in Turkey’s state oil refining company, Tupras. A Greek company has purchased a perlite mine in Turkey and will process the raw material in Greece for export to Europe and South Africa. Perlite is used in fire-resistant insulation and in soil for potted plants. A Turkish business delegation of nearly 150 executives and entrepreneurs, parliamentarians, and officials of local administrations also visited Thessaloniki for meetings with representatives of the northern Greek business community, which has more actively supported increased trade with Turkey than counterparts elsewhere in Greece. March / April 2000 Transport Links to Turkey Broaden Regional Network Washington, D.C. - Regular flights by Turkish Airlines have begun between Thessaloniki and Istanbul, and are expected to enhance business activity and tourism between Greece and Turkey. The route was previously served only by Greece’s national carrier, Olympic Airways. In addition, by late spring, a railway link between Istanbul and Thessaloniki and a shipping link between the Turkish port of Padirma and the Greek port of Volos will be operational, facilitating the transport of Turkish goods to Europe. Cruises between the southern Turkish port of Antalya and the Greek island of Rhodes will begin within the framework of a new tourism cooperation plan between Greece and Turkey. March / April 2000 Humanitarian and Cultural Cooperation with Turkey Grows Washington, D.C. - Members of the Turkish emergency rescue squad joined their Greek counterparts in Athens to take part in a Greek Red Cross training program on coordinating rescue methods. The Turkish rescue squad rushed to Athens in September 1999 to assist survivors of an earthquake that killed 150 people and left thousands homeless. The one-year program is being financed by the Greek Foreign Ministry. A protocol of cooperation has also been signed between Greek and Turkish non-governmental organizations to promote cooperation in humanitarian activities between Greece and Turkey and in third countries. A group of 44 students, half from Greece and half from Turkey, representing the regional chapters of the European Students’ Forum, will meet in Athens and Ankara to discuss bilateral cultural issues in conjunction with the declaration of the year 2000 as the “Year of the Culture of Peace” by UNESCO. A group of 25 students from Greece’s University of the Aegean visited Izmir to meet with a delegation of students from the Turkish Aegean University and the September 9th University. The group decided to initiate a regular student exchange program and to cooperate on scientific projects. March / April 2000 Serb-Italian Telecom Partnership Awaits Sanctions’ End Washington, D.C. - Greece’s telecommunications company, OTE, is reactivating its partnership with Telecom Serbia, the Serbian state operator. The partnership has been on hold since NATO’s air campaign against Yugoslavia. The Greek government has given OTE officials permission to restore the partnership, but the company will not make any new investments in the consortium, which also includes Italian participation, until the international sanctions against Serbia are lifted. Despite the effects of the war on Yugoslavia’s infrastructure, Telecom Serbia earned estimated profits of $90 million last year. OTE acquired a 20 percent stake in Telecom Serbia in 1997 while Telecom Italia took 29 percent that year, a combined purchase worth $785 million. The Serbian government retains a majority 51 percent stake. February 2000 Turkish Foreign Minister on Landmark Visit Washington, D.C. - Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem’s three-day visit to Athens in February marked the first state visit of a Turkish foreign minister to Greece in 40 years. During his visit, he and Foreign Minister George Papandreou signed five bilateral cooperation agreements and continued a dialogue that began last June. Cem’s trip mirrored Papandreou’s January visit to Turkey, where the two ministers signed the first five of a total of ten bilateral agreements resulting from four rounds of ministerial talks during the second half of 1999. (See Turkey section.) The accords signed in Athens covered economic cooperation, science and technology, culture, education, shipping, and the avoidance of customs violations. As they did in Ankara, Papandreou and Cem publicly recognized that the core issues of Aegean territorial disputes and Cyprus needed to be resolved, though they were barely referenced during the talks. Cem laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens in apparent reciprocation for Papandreou’s laying of a wreath at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Ankara. Since each site evokes memories of wars in which Greeks and Turks have fought each other, the gestures were symbolic of the steady diplomatic efforts underway in both countries to build close ties and establish a climate of trust between the allies. Cem met with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and President Costis Stephanopoulos. While in Athens, he announced that Simitis had accepted Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit’s invitation to visit Turkey. The date for the visit will be set after the Greek parliamentary elections on April 9. Simitis’s visit will be the first official visit of a Greek prime minister to Turkey since the late 1950s. Turkish President Turgut Ozal visited Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou in Athens in 1987. During their talks, the foreign ministers continued a discussion of consular issues brought up in Ankara, including the possible opening of a Greek consulate in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, which would bring the number of Greek consulates in Turkey to four, the number that Ankara maintains in Greece. They also discussed possible cooperation in the energy sector and the linking of natural gas networks, as well as the scheduling of joint trade and economic cooperation seminars over the next two months in both Greece and Turkey. Expressing solidarity with Greece concerning a diplomatic dispute between London and Athens, Cem said he fully supported the Greek government’s efforts to secure the return of the Elgin Marbles, classical sculptures that once adorned the Parthenon, from the British Museum. Britain’s Lord Elgin removed the sculptures from the temple in the early nineteenth century while Greece was under Ottoman rule. February 2000 Joint Ventures with Turkey in Energy Market Washington, D.C. - The Turkish construction company Gama will be one of two partners constructing a $500 million natural gas-fired power plant near the Turkish border in northeastern Greece, which will supply Turkey and Balkan countries with electricity. The other partner is Enelco, a joint venture between Italy’s Enel and Greece’s Copelouzos Group. The parties signed an agreement in Athens in January to conduct a feasibility study for completing the project in three years. Prometheus Gasa partnership between Russia’s Gazprom and the Copelouzos Group, will supply Russian gas for the plant through a spur pipeline under construction from the northern Greek port of Thessaloniki to Komotini in Thrace. An Exxon-Mobil subsidiary will provide fuel management services for the plant, which will be capable of generating 400 to 600 megawatts of power. The plant, the first in Greece to be privately owned and managed, will operate under new legislation deregulating the country’s electricity sector as of February 2001. It will be able to supply power to domestic distributors under a liberalized market. Last September, the state-owned Turkish Electricity Generation and Transmission Corporation (TEAS) signed an agreement with the Public Power Corporation (PPC) of Greece to study the possibility of constructing a high-voltage transmission line between the two countries, which would also serve Bulgaria. The project would be partly financed by EU grants. Greece is also planning to sell natural gas to Turkey this year. In addition, talks between Rokas, S.A. of Greece and Gucbirligi Holding of Turkey are being readied to discuss the Greek firm’s proposal that the two companies create a joint venture for the production of wind power for distribution in both Turkey and Greece. February 2000 Agricultural, Labor, Trade Cooperation with Turkey on Track Washington, D.C. - During a visit by Turkish Agricultural Minister Husnu Yusuf Gokalp to Thessaloniki at the invitation of his Greek counterpart George Anomeritis, the two ministers agreed to conclude a bilateral cooperation agreement on crop and livestock production, livestock health, and aquaculture. The agreement will be signed during an upcoming visit by Anomeritis to Ankara. The officials attended a meeting of Balkan agricultural ministers in Thessaloniki, the first of its kind, which also drew the participation of Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, F.Y.R. Macedonia, and Yugoslavia. The meeting focused on establishing a joint policy to protect the region’s ecosystem. The Balkan ministers will meet three times a year, with the next session to be held in Istanbul. In addition, Greek Labor Minister Miltiades Papaioannou and his Turkish counterpart Yiasar Uguyian met on the sidelines of a conference in Thessaloniki on the goals of the Balkan Stability Pact and agreed to hold talks in both Athens and Ankara to promote bilateral cooperation in the labor sector. In April, the first fair in Greece to promote Turkish exports, the Turkish-Greek Friendship and Cooperation Fair, will take place in the Athenian port of Piraeus under the auspices of the Turkish-Greek Business Council. A similar exhibition to promote Greek exports is expected to be held in Turkey next year, with the events alternating between the two countries annually. The current trade volume between Greece and Turkey is about $1 billion, double the level in 1996 when Turkey’s customs union with the EU was launched. February 2000 Balkan Reconstruction Hub in Thessaloniki Washington, D.C. - The Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI), a United States project supporting business activity in the region, has opened an office in Thessaloniki, one of three to be established in the broader area. The Federation of Northern Greek Industries (SBBE), whose headquarters houses the SECI office, is providing initial funding for the office’s programs, which are designed to encourage private sector participation in the financial and social development of southeastern European nations. The initiative’s other offices will be in Istanbul, to be funded by the Istanbul Stock Exchange, and Venice, where Venice’s Export Trade Center will pick up the tab. There will be close cooperation between the three offices in promoting Balkan business ventures. Greece is also promoting the conclusion of bilateral agreements with other countries to assist enterprises interested in participating in the economic reconstruction of southeastern Europe. A pact signed with the Czech Republic will open the way for close cooperation in regional projects launched by Greek and Czech firms within the framework of opportunities provided by the Balkan Stability Pact and the European Agency for Reconstruction. A joint Greek-Czech board will be based in Thessaloniki to coordinate the projects. To further promote Thessaloniki’s leading role as a center for business activity in southeastern Europe, the city hosted a conference of trade and finance ministers from some 30 countries in Asia, the European Union, the Black Sea region, the eastern Mediterranean, and the Middle East. Labor ministers from Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, F.Y.R. Macedonia, Hungary, Romania, Russia, and Turkey also met in Thessaloniki to discuss Stability Pact initiatives. In November, some 200 companies from Greece, other European Union countries, and Balkan nations will attend the privately organized Balkan Partnership 2000 forum in the city to boost cooperation between EU and Balkan companies dealing with construction, foodstuffs, and pharmaceutical and medical supplies. SBBE and the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce organized a trip to Kosovo for 50 northern Greek entrepreneurs to explore participation in the reconstruction of the province. The business people met with Bernard Kouchner, the head of the U.N. interim administration in Kosovo, and other international officials for briefings on reconstruction plans. February 2000 Modernized Transport Links to Facilitate Regional Trade Washington, D.C. - The government has embarked on the significant expansion of the facilities at the port of Thessaloniki to establish it as the “maritime gateway” to southeastern Europe. The $5 million project, to be completed in four years, will upgrade the port’s ability to handle additional cargo and larger vessels. The Thessaloniki Port Authority will be listed on the Athens Stock Exchange in the second half of 2000. An improved domestic rail network extending into the Balkans from the port will also facilitate Greece’s economic links to the wider region. In addition, the east-west Egnatia highway under construction across northern Greece, linking Turkey to the Ionian Sea, will promote the participation of northern Greek companies in the Balkan reconstruction process. February 2000 Greece Expected to Be Asked to Enter Euro-Zone Washington, D.C. - Greece’s application to join Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in January 2001 will be submitted to the European Union in early March, and it is widely expected to be accepted. A formal decision on the request will be made at the EU summit in Portugal in June. The government’s economic austerity program succeeded in reducing the 1998 inflation rate of 3.7 percent to 2.4 percent in 1999. In January, the central bank reduced short-term interest rates, which must fall from over 10 percent to the euro-zone’s benchmark of 3 percent by the end of the year without triggering a rise in inflation. The interest-rate cut followed the EU’s 3.5 percent revaluation of the drachma’s central parity against the euro, which will help contain inflation and improve investor confidence. The Athens Stock Exchange was one of the EU’s best performers last year. Greece has already achieved EMU requirements concerning the budget deficit and long-term interest rates. Its public debt, though still too high, is on the decline. A growth rate of 3.7 percent is forecasted for the Greek economy in 2000, up from 3.3 percent in 1999. However, the country suffers from the second-highest unemployment rate in the EU at 11.3 percent. Although the EU has endorsed Athens’ convergence program, it has recommended further structural changes in the Greek economy and continued fiscal discipline in state spending. The country’s high inflation and budget deficit prevented it from joining the first wave of 11 nations to use the euro in January 1999. February 2000 April Elections Heat Up National Campaign Washington, D.C. - Prime Minister Costas Simitis moved the date for parliamentary elections from September 2000 to April 9, citing the need to eliminate electoral uncertainty and establish a new government mandate during final negotiations with other EU members on Greece’s entry into the euro-zone. The months of April and May constitute a critical period in Greece’s bid to join the European single currency since its application for entry in January 2001 will be submitted in early March and the EU will announce its decision in June. Simitis appears to be banking on the Greek public’s support for unprecedented economic progress in preparation for joining the EMU and their desire to ensure the continuity of the euro-zone negotiations to carry him to victory. The prime minister’s party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), leads in most public opinion polls in Athens, but the opposition New Democracy Party, whose leader is Costas Karamanlis, fares better in the remainder of the country. Simitis has been in office since January 1996. In early February, President Costis Stephanopoulos was re-elected by parliament in a process that requires no direct popular vote. He will be sworn in on March 11 and will be asked by Simitis to dissolve parliament so national elections can be held. February 2000 Athens Metro Opening Marks Major Public Works Achievement Washington, D.C. - The inauguration of Athens’ underground mass transit system in January holds special significance for Greece and the other EU members as the first large-scale, EU-financed infrastructure project within the bloc to reach completion. The 4.5-mile line will be expanded to 11 miles by the end of the year. Once the $2.18 billion metro project is fully operational, transit authorities estimate that the nearly 2 million vehicles that clog Athenian streets daily will be reduced by 250,000 lowering atmospheric pollution levels in one of Europe’s most polluted cities. Ten years ago, the EU began financing up to 80 percent of a package of infrastructure upgrades in Greece covering urban transport, highways, natural gas distribution networks, and a new international airport for Athens. January 2000 Greece Welcomes Turkey’s EU Candidacy Washington, D.C. - Greece approved of the EU’s offer of candidacy to Turkey conditioned upon possible international arbitration of Greek-Turkish disputes in the Aegean and the assurance that a Cyprus settlement would not be a precondition for Nicosia’s EU accession. The linkage was achieved after intense negotiations the day before the mid-December EU summit by Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, as the representative of Finland’s EU presidency, and Javier Solana, the EU’s new foreign policy chief. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou also played an important role in the negotiations leading to EU agreement on the linkage. (See page 14.) In addition, Greece sought the wording in the conclusions accompanying the offer indicating that Turkey’s candidacy will be handled on the basis of the criteria applied to other candidate states. In the past, Turkey has asserted that it faced special conditions, such as the Kurdish problem and the threat of Islamist activism, which threatened the country’s stability and, therefore, it would require a special pre-accession strategy as an EU candidate. In welcoming Turkey’s acceptance of the European Union’s offer, President Clinton commended Simitis for his efforts to improve relations between Greece and Turkey, considered to be instrumental in Turkey’s decision to accept the candidacy offer. The close working relationship that has developed between Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem was also crucial to promoting Turkish acceptance of the terms of the candidacy offer. President Clinton and Vice President Gore played key behind-the-scenes roles to make the terms of the offer acceptable to Turkey while meeting Greece’s demands for lifting its longstanding veto over Ankara’s candidacy. Simitis said he hoped Turkey’s EU candidacy signaled the beginning of a new era in relations between Greece and Turkey and would help them resolve many of their chronic disputes. He called the candidacy offer a historic decision for peace and security in the region and said that, for the first time in many years, he could see the prospect of true cooperation between Athens and Ankara, though there would still be difficulties along the way. Polls showed that the Greek public strongly favored Turkey’s candidacy, resulting in a boost to Simitis and his governing Panhellenic Socialist Movement. Athens’ lifting of its veto has not only furthered Greece’s rapprochement with Turkey, but it has also strengthened Greece’s relationship with Brussels only a few months before the Greek government will be applying for admission to Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in January 2001, as it struggles to bring its inflation rate under control. January 2000 EU Initiative to Help Resolve Aegean Differences with Turkey Washington, D.C. - In the conclusions accompanying the EU candidacy offer, the European Council "urges candidate states to make every effort to resolve any outstanding border disputes and other related issues. Failing this, they should within a reasonable time bring the dispute to the International Court of Justice [ICJ]." After Turkey accepted the offer, Greece emphasized that the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf between the two countries was the only issue it would consider adjudicating at the ICJ. Greece’s position has long been that Athens will recognize the jurisdiction of the ICJ over the continental shelf matter if Turkey wishes to refer it to the Court. The wording of the conclusions places the burden on Turkey as a candidate state to make every effort to resolve this and other disputes with Greece in the Aegean without the aid of the ICJ and implies that the disputes should be referred to the Court only as a final recourse. Following the confrontation between Greece and Turkey in January 1996 over ownership of the Imia/Kardak islets in the Aegean, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said Athens would recognize the jurisdiction of the ICJ over the matter if Turkey wished to refer it to the Court. The conclusions also say that the European Council "will review the situation relating to any outstanding disputes, in particular concerning the repercussions on the accession process and in order to promote their settlement through the International Court of Justice, at the latest by the end of 2004." Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit stated that Turkey, as a European Union candidate, would work to resolve its Aegean disputes with Greece before 2004. Ecevit said he hoped to resolve the disputes through dialogue, without resorting to the ICJ, a longstanding Turkish position that Athens has consistently rejected in the past. He acknowledged, however, that European Union candidacy could obligate Turkey to refer the issues to the ICJ, a departure from past statements by Turkish officials who have consistently opposed international arbitration of the disputes. Turkey also challenges Greece’s decision to extend the airspace around its islands from 6 to 10 miles and its position that it has the right to extend its territorial waters from 6 to 12 miles according to the Convention on the Law of the Sea. January 2000 NATO Exercise Brings Turkish Forces into Greek Territory Washington, D.C. - Greek and Turkish forces have both declared their participation in the NATO exercise "Dynamic Mix" in May, which will be heavily centered in Greek territory. Both countries also took part in the last "Dynamic Mix" exercise held in October 1998 in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. The fact that both nations are participating in the eastern Mediterranean exercise simultaneously for the second time in a row after failing to do so from the early 1980s until 1998 reflects the continuing warming of relations between the two countries. The Greek Ministry of Defense has approved scenarios to be carried out in northern Greece and in Crete’s Souda Bay during the exercise involving the participation of the Turkish Air Force and the Turkish Navy. Allowing the operation of Turkish combat aircraft in Greek territory is a significant departure for the Greek Ministry of Defense, which has long forbidden Turkish fighter planes to fly in its airspace for any reason. Greece has also reportedly discussed the possibility of allowing Turkish F-16s to refuel at military airports in Greece as part of the NATO maneuver. In the 1998 "Dynamic Mix," neither Greek nor Turkish armed forces took part in exercises in the territory of the other country. January 2000 Expanded Cooperation with Turkey Across Bilateral Spectrum Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, accompanied by a delegation of Greek businessmen, will visit Turkey during the second half of January to sign half of ten Greek-Turkish cooperation agreements involving cultural ties, environmental protection, tourism, science and technology, shipping, the economy, citizens’ security, investment protection, mutual assistance between customs authorities, and the avoidance of double taxation. The accords have emerged following four rounds of talks in Athens and Ankara between senior foreign ministry representatives from both countries, which began in July and continued until the end of the year. Officials from other ministries, such as those dealing with justice, the environment, and the interior, were also present at the talks. In February, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem will visit Athens to sign the remaining accords. While he is in Athens, Cem will join Papandreou in giving the opening addresses at a Greek-Turkish conference of journalists and media executives, including over 40 participants from Turkey. Following Papandreou’s recommendation, Cem has been nominated by a Greek-Turkish friendship group to receive the Abdi Ipekci Award, given in recognition of efforts to promote Greek-Turkish friendship and cooperation. Through the efforts of a Greek-Turkish transport committee, Athens and Ankara have also stepped up cooperation in the transport sector, with more streamlined customs procedures between the two countries and expanded bus and rail links, as well as better road networks, planned between Istanbul and Greek cities. The thaw in Greek-Turkish relations has had a noticeable impact on the tourism sector with over 170,000 Greeks visiting Turkey and some 50,000 Turks traveling to Greece in the last four months of 1999. Associations dealing with tourism in both countries have decided to organize a Greek-Turkish Tourism Week involving joint cultural events. In addition, Athens and Ankara have reached an agreement permitting the free movement of Greek and Turkish yachts in the Aegean in both Greek and Turkish territorial waters, following a meeting of the Greek and Turkish Joint Tourism Commission in Bodrum, Turkey. Prior to the agreement, there were restrictions on the number of harbors Greek and Turkish yachts could visit. January 2000 Heightened Business, Industry, Labor Ties with Turkish Counterparts Washington, D.C. - The first industrial joint venture between Greece and Turkey has been concluded with the signing of a protocol in Istanbul between the Turkish firm Yapi Merkezi and Greece’s METON-ETEP Group for the production of plastic irrigation pipes. The engineering companies will initially invest $15 million in a Greek production plant employing technology used at Yapi Merkezi’s factories in Turkey. Output is expected to begin in 2001. The firms’ aim is to provide services to Balkan countries and eventually take on joint construction projects in other countries. Spurred on by the enhanced business climate resulting from Turkey’s EU candidacy, Seafarm Ionian, a Greek fish farming company, is acquiring a 51 percent state in Ilknak, one of the most advanced fish farming units in Turkey. Addressing a conference in Ankara organized by the largest Turkish workers’ confederation, TURK-IS, the president of the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) called for strengthening joint initiatives undertaken by Greek and Turkish workers’ unions to advance cooperation among Balkan laborers. He also said Greek unions would help Turkish unions prepare for Ankara’s entry into the EU. In addition, the presidium of the Federation of Turkish Industrialists (TUSIAD) held talks with the leadership of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) in Athens to discuss the development of business ties between Greece and Turkey as a contribution to improved relations between the two countries. Another sign of the Greek-Turkish business rapprochement was the twinning of the chambers of commerce of the northwestern Turkish town of Bursa and Thessaloniki, with 40 officials from the Bursa chamber present at the signing ceremony in the northern Greek city. January 2000 Religious Freedom at Issue for Muslim Minority Washington, D.C. - The European Court of Human Rights ordered the Greek government to pay damages of $8,500 to Ibraim Serif, a Muslim resident of Rodopi in western Thrace, after ruling that Greece had violated Article 9, dealing with freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, of the European Convention on Human Rights. Serif applied to the European Commission on Human Rights in September 1997, alleging that the Greek government in 1990 had violated the legal right of Muslim communities to elect their own muftis, or religious leaders, by appointing a replacement for the Mufti of Rodopi when he died. After two Muslim members of parliament asked the state to organize an election to replace the mufti, the law was changed to provide for the appointment of muftis by Greece’s president. Serif was nonetheless elected by the Muslim community of Rodopi and assumed the duties of a mufti. He was arrested and later sentenced to eight months in prison under the Greek criminal code for usurping the functions of the region’s mufti. The sentence was commuted to a fine of $2,200. The Court ruled that punishing a person for acting as a religious leader of a group that willingly followed him could not be considered compatible with the demands of religious pluralism in a democratic society. This year’s Human Rights Watch Report, which assesses the human rights situation in Greece in 1999, cited Greece for persistent discrimination against religious minorities and Roma (Gypsies), which undermined the government’s previously stated commitments to religious tolerance and the integration of Roma into Greek society." January 2000 Terrorist Suspect Captured After 17 Years Washington, D.C. - Greek security forces in December apprehended one of Greece’s most sought-after terrorist suspects, Avraam Lesperoglou, who was wanted in connection with the killings of a public prosecutor, three police officers, and two security guards over the last 17 years. Police suspect that he was a member of Anti-State Struggle, a left-wing terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the 1985 killing of the public prosecutor and was essentially eliminated that year. Since 1982, examining magistrates in Athens have issued four warrants for his arrest. Lesperoglou was arrested at Athens airport and was later sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for entering the country illegally on a forged passport. He is believed to be the closest associate of convicted terrorist and Anti-State Struggle member, George Balafas. In November 1986police found Balafas’s fingerprints on the keys to a car allegedly used by the November 17 terrorist group in three murders, including that of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Station Chief in Athens in December 1975. Police believe that Balafas is linked with Kyriakos Mazokopos, who was arrested in February 1990 and sentenced to 17 years in prison for transporting, possessing, and concealing weapons, ammunition, and explosives. Mazokopos was arrested after a homemade bomb exploded in his hands in a rented storehouse in the Athens district of Exarchia, resulting in the loss of his right eye and right hand. According to a police announcement in November 1990, Balafas’s fingerprints were found in the storehouse and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Balafas is also suspected of participating in the February 1990 murder of prison psychiatrist Marios Maratos and bomb attacks against banks. January 2000 Greece, Italy to Hold Security Summit Washington, D.C. - Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema will jointly organize a summit in Ancona, Italy, in May to discuss crime and security issues in the Adriatic. The announcement was made during D’Alema’s two-day official visit to Greece. The leaders said other European countries will be invited to attend the summit, which will address the issue of illegal immigration around the Adriatic. Simitis said that Greece and Italy comprise a strong pole in the southeastern Mediterranean region, reinforced by the ideological and political ties between the two countries. December 1999 Clinton Praises Regional Leadership, Outreach to Turkey Washington, D.C. - During President Clinton's visit to Athens, only the third by a U.S. head of state since 1959, the president praised the strong leadership role Greece was exercising in the Balkans and southeastern Europe, with its troops in Bosnia and Kosovo, its support for economic development and reconstruction, and its private sector investment. He said that Greece, with one of the fastest growth rates in Europe, was carrying a heavier burden in the region in this regard than almost any other country. Clinton called for an expansion of U.S.-Greece economic ties, doubling bilateral trade in the next five years. Clinton commended the Greek government for its role in the continuing bilateral talks between Greece and Turkey among senior foreign ministry officials, stating that it was in Athens' interest to end tensions with Ankara. He said the future of Greek-Turkish relations hinged on resolution of the Cyprus problem, which he would make every effort to help achieve. The president said it was in the interest of Greece and the world to bring Turkey closer to Europe, a factor that would promote a Cyprus solution. Clinton also stated that Turkey could not become a member of the European Union unless it settled its disputes with EU member Greece. He backed Greece's proposal that the Greek-Turkish territorial disputes concerning the Aegean Sea be referred to the International Court of Justice at The Hague or to another mutually agreed upon international dispute resolution mechanism. Turkey has rejected calls for international arbitration of the issue and, instead, insists on dialogue with Athens on the matter. During Clinton's visit, it was announced that the State Department and the Greek Foreign Ministry had agreed to hold annual high-level talks on matters that included European regional issues, counter-terrorism, and economic cooperation to enhance communication between the two governments. Clinton and Prime Minister Costas Simitis also launched a program to bring U.S. and Greek scientists and business leaders together to apply their technical and scientific knowledge to the reconstruction of the Balkans, with U.S. efforts being channeled through Thessaloniki in northern Greece. Clinton said the United States government would move rapidly to resolve its World Trade Organization case against the Greek government for violating television copyright laws. He stated that strong action by the Greek government had reduced the $120 million loss to U.S. industries as a result of the infringements by more than half. In addition, the U.S. Embassy and the Greek National Tourist Organization agreed to jointly facilitate tourism and tourism-related business between the United States and Greece. December 1999 Presidential Visit Marred by Protests, Violent Extremists Washington, D.C. - A violent street protest erupted in Athens as Clinton was beginning his 23-hour visit to Greece, a visit already cut short and delayed a week because of the fear of demonstrations that might pose a security risk. The Greek government permitted anti-American demonstrations in downtown Athens within police-controlled parameters several blocks from sites visited by Clinton and deployed 7,000 police, the country's largest-ever police operation, to contain the crowds. About 5,000 communist, anarchist, and leftist protestors assembled near the parliament building, a few blocks from the presidential palace, where Clinton was to attend a state dinner. They condemned the president for his role in leading the NATO air war against Yugoslavia. About 100 demonstrators went on a rampage through a mile-long government and business district, hurling stones and firebombs at police and at business windows. Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators, who caused an estimated $2.5 million worth of damage to 86 shops, 13 banks, and dozens of cars. At least 16 people were injured and some 40 were arrested. In response to the protests, Clinton insisted that the United States had made the right decision in bombing Yugoslavia to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. The president also acknowledged that the United States had improperly supported Greece's 1967-1974 military junta, saying that Washington had allowed Cold War geopolitics to prevail over its obligation to support democracy in the region. Clinton arrived in Athens on November 19, following his five-day visit to Turkey. While arrangements were being made for the original November 13-15 visit, the Greek government reneged on security assurances to Washington, reversing its initial decision to regulate the locations of protests. Prime Minister Simitis apparently yielded to the hard-left faction of the ruling Socialist party, fearing a loss of support in parliamentary elections expected in March 2000. The State Department warned U.S. visitors and residents to exercise caution in the face of possible terrorist bombings and other attacks against American targets during demonstrations prior to Clinton's visit, commemorating a 1973 student uprising against the junta, and during his visit. A spate of small bomb attacks against American interests during the first two weeks of November had led to increased security as the visit approached. December 1999 Aegean, EU, Cyprus on Prime Ministerial Agenda Washington, D.C. - During a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit on the sidelines of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Istanbul, Simitis told Ecevit that Athens had made a series of goodwill gestures to improve relations with Turkey and that there should be a response from Ankara if the process is to continue. He said that Athens supported Turkey's European vocation, believing that EU-Turkish cooperation would benefit both the EU and Ankara, but he stopped short of pledging that Athens would back Ankara's European Union candidacy at the December EU summit. The two leaders discussed problems concerning Cyprus and the Aegean Sea, raising the issue of the continental shelf. After the meeting, Simitis told reporters that the Greek government proposed that talks take place between Athens and Ankara within a specified timeframe to discuss joint submission of the continental shelf issue to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Athens has long contended that the delimitation of the continental shelf is a legal issue that can only be addressed by a judicial body on the basis of international law, while Ankara maintains that the issue should be resolved through a bilateral dialogue. Ecevit told reporters that Turkey had no territorial designs against Greece, adding that he believed there was no serious conflict of interests between Athens and Ankara. December 1999 Continued Progress on Turkey Relations Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem met in Thessaloniki on the sidelines of a gathering of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation initiative to evaluate the progress made in the third round of talks between ministerial delegations from both countries in Athens and Ankara in October. The two ministers agreed that the talks were helping to break down tensions between the two countries. In the third round of bilateral talks, discussions between senior foreign ministry delegations were expanded to include high-level officials from other ministries dealing with issues such as trade, energy, transportation, the environment, and combatting drug trafficking. Working groups were established to arrange the details of draft agreements on the issues being discussed in preparation for the fourth round of talks scheduled for December. Cem said positive signals were continuing to emerge in the wake of the solidarity between the people of Greece and Turkey during the earthquakes in both countries. There has been a significant increase in the number of Turkish tourists visiting Greece, and a record number of Greek companies have contacted the Turkish Embassy in Athens in search of Turkish partners for joint ventures in Turkey. Other steps have included a meeting of representatives of Greek and Turkish Aegean municipalities in Turkey, the decision of Greece's soccer federation to jointly bid with the Turkish federation to host the "Euro 2008" soccer championship, and a proposal by the Greek parliament that a delegation of Turkish parliamentarians visit Athens. An exhibit on modern Turkish history was brought to Thessaloniki and Athens aboard the personal railway car of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state. The arrival of the so-called "Friendship Train," carrying journalists, railway workers, and emergency rescue personnel, coincided with events at the Turkish Consulate in Thessaloniki marking the 61st anniversary of the death of Ataturk, who was born in the northern Greek city in the late 19th century when it was under Ottoman rule. The Turkish Embassy said the arrival of the train was aimed at bolstering the positive dialogue that has emerged between the media of the two countries. December 1999 High-Level Israel Defense Cooperation Expanded Washington, D.C. - Defense Minister Akis Tsohadzopoulos's October visit to Israel represented a significant step toward closer military cooperation between Greece and Israel, helping Athens overcome earlier apprehension over the signing of a Turkish-Israeli military cooperation agreement in 1996. Tsohadzopoulos was the first senior Greek official to visit Israel since then, capping a year in which Greek-Israeli diplomatic contacts have increased dramatically. In talks between Tsohatzopoulos and Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the two countries decided to revise and expand a Greek-Israeli defense cooperation agreement that was signed in 1994 but never implemented. It includes cooperating on industrial defense projects; expanding bilateral relations on security matters in the wider region; and conducting joint naval maneuvers. Barak called on Greece to step up its cooperation with Israel in the fight against terrorism. Tsohadzopoulos, who visited military industries during his visit, said Greece's goal was to promote a collective security policy with the participation of all eastern Mediterranean countries. He conveyed an invitation by Prime Minister Simitis to Barak to visit Greece, and the invitation was accepted. In November, Tsohadzopoulos met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, to discuss the Middle East peace process. That month, Greek Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis and his counterpart from the Palestinian Authority, Hikmat Zed, signed agreements in Athens to strengthen cooperation in the agricultural sector, including joint research programs in water management. For the first time, Greek forces participated this fall in the U.S.-led Bright Star" military exercise in the eastern Mediterranean involving 75,000 forces from 11 nations in North America, Europe, and the Middle East, including Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait. The exercise involves air, land, and sea operations, including an amphibious landing on the Egyptian coast. Neither Turkey nor Israel participates in the biennial exercise, which began as a U.S.-Egyptian maneuver in 1981. December 1999 Increasingly Active Role in Rebuilding Balkans Bodo Hombach, the German coordinator of the Southeast European Stability Pact, praised Greece for being the first country to present a detailed action plan for the reconstruction of the Balkans, backed by its $318 million, five-year financing program to go into effect in 2000. The beneficiaries of the program will be Albania, Bulgaria, F.Y.R. Macedonia, Romania, and Kosovo. The aid program will be increased to $572 million to cover Yugoslavia if Belgrade institutes reforms that comply with the terms of the Stability Pact. Speaking at an international business conference in Thessaloniki on the reconstruction of southeastern Europe, Hombach said Greece had set an example of steady economic growth for other countries in the region and was involved in development programs with several countries. In November, the EU gave its final approval to Thessaloniki as the location for the bloc's Balkan Reconstruction Organization, where Hombach will spend much of his time. The agency is expected to open by January. U.S. Ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns said Greece's private sector would be crucial to the economic development of the region. In mid-December, the United States will open a commercial section in its consulate in Thessaloniki to facilitate the involvement of American companies in the reconstruction effort in Albania, F.Y.R. Macedonia, and Kosovo. The U.S. commercial officer will serve as the principal link between Washington and the Balkan Reconstruction Organization, and will help bring American firms and other third-country firms together to develop business partnerships in the region. The Stability Pact, spearheaded by the European Union and adopted by 40 countries in July, relies mainly on international institutions and individual countries to foster trade and investment projects. The European Commission is planning a $5.7 billion framework program covering 2000 to 2006 for Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, F.Y.R. Macedonia, and Kosovo in response to criticism that European aid to the region has been slow and fragmented. Yugoslavia will be included if it becomes democratic. The EU has spent about $523 million in Kosovo this year, mostly on humanitarian assistance, and has pledged $42 million in humanitarian aid to the Serbian people. December 1999 Cozy Serbia Ties Trigger Medical Group Expulsion Washington, D.C. - The 1999 Nobel Prize-winning Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) expelled the Greek branch from the organization for breaking MSF's rules when Greek members went to Kosovo and Belgrade during NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia. The rules broken were MSF's requirements that doctors must maintain their neutrality by not working under the auspices of any government and that the doctors must have unrestricted movement to assess needs and set up medical sites. Greece's MSF doctors went to Serbia as part of a mission resulting from negotiations between the governments in Athens and Belgrade. The doctors also unilaterally agreed to adhere to the Yugoslav authorities' refusal to grant them permission for unrestricted travel in Kosovo and the rest of Serbia, the factor that had led the governing body of the international medical group to rule out a mission to Kosovo. October 1999 - November 1999 Post-Earthquake Atmosphere Builds Stronger Turkey Ties Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem announced to the U.N. General Assembly their intention to establish a joint Greek-Turkish Stand-By Disaster Response Unit (SDRU) to reinforce the United Nation's ability to deal with disaster relief. The two countries have drafted a resolution asking the U.N. to make plans for its agencies to utilize the SDRU, comprised of both governmental and non-governmental contingents. The creation of the unit by the two ministers reflects an accelerated process of cooperation between Greece and Turkey that emerged after each country helped the other to recover survivors of devastating earthquakes occurring in both countries within three weeks of each other. The Greek government immediately dispatched rescue teams and humanitarian aid to northwest Turkey to search for people under the rubble resulting from the August 17 earthquake. Turkey provided a 20-member rescue team, the first foreign unit to arrive, to assist in recovery efforts after a quake hit the greater Athens area on September 7. The earthquakes have done more to improve relations between the two countries than years of diplomatic efforts, as popular sympathy for the other country's victims surfaced at the grassroots level in both nations. There was also an unprecedented outpouring of affection in each country's media toward the other country. The situation has given new momentum to bilateral discussion committees set up by Papandreou and Cem in June to address concerns such as trade, tourism, and joint efforts to combat counter-terrorism. The two ministers' cordial working relationship developed during frequent contact in early 1999 over the coordination of humanitarian relief efforts during the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia. The ministers continue to meet whenever they are attending the same international forums, such as the United Nations General Assembly and the September European Union Council meeting in Brussels, indicating their energetic commitment to improving relations. Papandreou met with Cem in Turkey in early October after delivering a speech marking the opening of the academic year at Istanbul University, where he pledged to work for peace between the Greek and Turkish people. The ministers communicate frequently, in sharp contrast to the past when Greek and Turkish foreign ministers often went months without any communication. Cem has publicly reiterated that Papandreou was the first foreign official to telephone him the morning of the Turkish earthquake and offer support to help with recovery efforts. It is not clear whether the death of Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis, Papandreou's deputy and close associate, in a plane accident in September will slow the pace of Greek-Turkish rapprochement. Kranidiotis, a native Cypriot, had played a leading role in encouraging better relations between Greece and Turkey. In addition, his efforts were considered crucial to easing tensions among Turkey, Cyprus, and the European Union. He has been replaced by parliamentarian and former cabinet minister Christos Rokofyllos. October 1999 - November 1999 Rapid Greek-Turkish Cooperation Expands Across Spectrum Washington, D.C. - The commander of the Greek Navy, Vice-Adm. Georgios Ioannidis, was invited to Ankara by his Turkish counterpart, Salim Dervisoglu. He toured quake-damaged towns and, while he was there, a Greek naval vessel called at a Turkish port for the first time in more than 25 years. Greece also announced that it would reduce naval exercises in the Aegean Sea by 25 percent with attendant savings redirected toward earthquake relief and reconstruction. Turkish Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu hinted that Turkey might follow suit and decrease the number of its military exercises in the Aegean. A week after the Turkish earthquake, Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos went to Istanbul to meet with Mayor Ali Mufit Gurduna, tour the areas most affected by the quake, and coordinate the distribution of humanitarian aid collected through an initiative undertaken by Greece's five largest municipalities. The initiative, dubbed "Operation Solidarity," included donations of food, clothing, medicine, and tents by people throughout Greece. During their meeting, the mayors announced their decision to jointly establish a camp providing shelter for 10,000 of the 600,000 people left homeless by the Turkish quake. Gurduna returned the Greek mayor's visit by traveling to Athens to tour neighborhoods damaged by the Greek temblor. He and Avramopoulos signed a cooperation agreement between Athens and Istanbul in the sectors of culture, trade and business ties, tourism, and technical support. The Turkish section of the Greek-Turkish Business Cooperation Council decided to resume a dialogue with its Greek counterpart, which Turkish industrialists broke off last February following the sheltering of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in the Greek Embassy in Nairobi. In addition, Turks observed the anniversary of their 1922 military triumph over Greece in Izmir in restrained fashion, foregoing the staged bayoneting of Greek soldiers and battlefield re-enactments of previous annual commemorations. For the first time, a meeting was held between delegations of Greece's ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and Turkey's left-leaning Republican Party on the sidelines of a Brussels meeting of the European Socialist Party, of which both parties are members. In addition, the General Confederation of Workers of Greece and Turkish trade unions organized concerts in Athens and Istanbul to assist victims of each country's earthquake. The universities of Thessaloniki and Izmir also concluded a cooperation agreement concerning ecological and environmental matters in the Aegean Sea. The agreement, signed on the sidelines of the Pan-European Ecological Conference in Greece, foresees joint seminars, joint research programs financed by the EU, and the creation of information campaigns promoting environmental protection. October 1999 - November 1999 New NATO Command Center Builds Military Cooperation with Ankara Washington, D.C. - NATO has opened a new Joint Sub-Regional Command Center in Larissa, Greece, which will share command responsibilities for parts of southeastern Europe with a similar center in Izmir, Turkey. These types of centers were also opened in Madrid, Spain, and Verona, Italy. The Larissa facility, 120 miles northwest of Athens, will have a Greek commander and a Turkish chief of staff, while the Izmir facility will have a Turkish commander and a Greek chief of staff. Both centers, which will report to NATO's main southern command headquarters in Naples, Italy, will have American deputy commanders. The 453 military personnel at the Larissa center will also include representatives from Britain, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain. In August 1974, Greece pulled out of the integrated military structure of NATO after Turkey's invasion of Cyprus in response to a Greek-inspired coup. At that time, Greece withdrew its military personnel from a NATO command center in Izmir. Although Athens rejoined the alliance's military structure in October 1980, Greek military staff did not return to the Izmir center, and alliance command structure questions remained a source of tension between Greece and Turkey. Greece continued to be without a major NATO headquarters until the Larissa center was opened. The activation of the facility opens a new chapter of strengthened relations between Greece and Turkey within NATO by giving them equal status within the southern command structure and presenting key channels of communication between their militaries. October 1999 - November 1999 Minimal Long-Term Impact from Athens Quake Washington, D.C. - The September quake, which primarily affected working class and immigrant suburbs 12 miles northwest of central Athens, was the worst to hit Greece in over 40 years at 5.9 on the Richter scale. The temblor killed 143 people, left 60,000 homeless, and caused $700 million in damages. Nearly 13,000 homes will have to be demolished, while over 61,000 require repairs before residents can return to them. About 35,000 businesses were directly or indirectly affected by the quake. The government plans to spread the burden of the quake's impact on the budget over three years and forecasts only a minimal effect on inflation and economic growth. Growth is projected to be 3.5 percent this year and 3.7 next year. National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou assured business leaders that Greece's plan to adopt the euro by the beginning of 2001 was still on track. Prime Minister Costas Simitis said those rendered homeless by the quake, who are currently living in tent cities, cruise ships, and hotels, would be housed in 5,000 pre-fabricated dwellings and trailers by the end of November. The government will also provide grants and interest-free loans to repair or rebuild homes, as well as subsidized loans to repair small industries and businesses. Prosecutors began examinations of damaged buildings as part of a criminal investigation to determine if contractors bypassed building codes. October 1999 - November 1999 Bilateral Dialogue Proceeds in Athens, Ankara Washington, D.C. - The second round of a series of Greek-Turkish talks that began in July between senior foreign ministry officials to ease bilateral tensions proceeded in September two days after the Athens earthquake brought the immediate assistance of a Turkish rescue team. In response to the spirit of solidarity between the two countries, joint disaster relief and energy resource development were added to the topics covered by the talks, which include tourism, environmental protection, economic and commercial relations, cultural issues, and measures to combat organized crime, illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and terrorism. The Turkish side withdrew a previous statement that the signing of an agreement on joint action against terrorism would be a precondition for bilateral cooperation in this area. As in July, the talks were held in both Athens and Ankara and continued to avoid the Cyprus problem and sensitive territorial issues concerning the Aegean Sea, although Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said he hoped the dialogue would lead to concrete results at the more advanced stages." Papandreou said that a climate had been created that could potentially allow for a breakthrough on the more difficult bilateral issues. The delegations conducting the third round of talks the second half of October in both capitals will be expanded to include participants from other ministries with responsibilities in the areas covered. Papandreou urged regional business and banking representatives to contribute to the development of economic cooperation with Turkey, either on a bilateral or regional level. Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos said the reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure damaged by the Turkish earthquake must be included in international plans for rebuilding the Balkans after the Kosovo crisis. October 1999 - November 1999 Sustained Balkan Engagement Seen in Aid Package Washington, D.C. - The Greek government has approved a five-year$318 million aid program for economic reconstruction in the Balkans, which is scheduled to go into effect in January. It will cover Kosovo, which will receive most of the funds provided next year, as well as Albania, F.Y.R. Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Romania. About 60 percent of the funds will be available as grants and will finance infrastructure projects, including telecommunications and energy production, health and educational services, and boosts to trade. The rest will be disbursed through loans. If the international embargo against reconstruction aid to Serbia is lifted, the aid program will be increased to $572 million. National Economy Minister Papantoniou said Serbia should be included in the international reconstruction effort immediately since its exclusion could delay the rebuilding process in other countries of the region. In Kosovo, rebuilding schools and providing mobile medical centers will be the priority. A Greek aid team has already begun repairing school buildings damaged in the NATO air campaign. Greece will also fund hospital modernization in the designated Balkan countries and promote further investment by Greek businesses in the region. It will use grants from European Union structural funds to improve roads between Greece and other Balkan countries. October 1999 - November 1999 Middle East Peace Process Enhanced in Athens Dialogue Washington, D.C. - In September, the Greek Foreign Ministry sponsored the fourth dialogue in Greece between Israeli and Palestinian delegations, one of a series of meetings that began in 1997 to foster a climate of confidence between the two sides. The Israeli group included former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres, Minister to the Prime Minister's office Chaim Ramon, and Israeli Knesset members. Faisal al-Husseini, responsible for issues concerning Palestinians in Jerusalem, and Palestinian Authority Undersecretary of Cooperation and Planning Anis al-Kak were part of the Palestinian delegation. During the meeting, officials from the two sides called for closer cooperation in the fight against terrorism and formed Israeli-Palestinian committees to deal with economic issues and conflict resolution in daily interactions. Greece will also join the two sides in committees to protect cultural heritage and preserve the environment, including water resource management. August 1999 - September 1999 Bilateral Cooperation With Turkey High On Agenda Washington, D.C. - Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem met for the second time in a month to offer their positive assessments of four-day talks in July between senior foreign ministry officials from both countries. By avoiding contentious topics concerning territorial issues in the Aegean Sea and the Cyprus problem, which are at the core of the longstanding strains in relations between Greece and Turkey, the discussions between foreign ministry officials aimed at defusing Greek-Turkish tension, considered potentially destabilizing to NATO's southeastern flank. Instead, the talks focused on the environment, tourism, culture, trade and economic cooperation, regional development, and combatting narcotics trafficking, cross-border crime, terrorism, and illegal immigration. The first two days of talks were held in Ankara, while the last two took place in Athens. Analysts viewed renewed bilateral discussions on uncontroversial policy issues as less remarkable than the fact that a process appears to be under way for regular dialogue between both countries. The commitment of the two sides to the process was apparent in its continuation despite Athens' complaint that Turkish warplanes had harassed a civilian plane carrying the Greek transport minister from Cyprus to Greece the week before. Turkey denied that the warplanes had harassed the aircraft, saying they were on a routine reconnaissance flight. Both sides agreed to hold another round of talks in September, when ideas put forward on each topic will be transformed into practical proposals for cooperation. A third phase of the dialogue will involve creating implementation committees of representatives from the respective ministries. Papandreou and Cem agreed to launch the series of discussions, building upon bilateral efforts under NATO to cooperate during the air war against Yugoslavia. The foreign ministers are due to meet again in New York in mid-September. August 1999 - September 1999 Cohen Visit Reaffirms Strong U.S. Ties Washington, D.C. - The visit of Defense Secretary William Cohen to Greece in July was seen as an attempt to smooth out strains that developed in U.S.-Greek relations over widespread popular opposition to NATO's air campaign in Yugoslavia. Although NATO-member Greece voted with all of its allies to escalate the bombing and expand the target lists, Greek aircraft did not take part in the campaign, and Greece prohibited the use of its air bases by NATO fighter planes. While Washington publicly praised the Greek government for upholding its NATO commitments, it privately was concerned about criticism of the campaign by some Greek government officials, pervasive anti-NATO media reports about the war, and widespread demonstrations in the country reflecting the opposition of 90 percent of the Greek public to the bombing. Cohen visited Thessaloniki, the northern Greek port being used as a major hub for thousands of NATO peacekeepers heading for Kosovo. Cohen thanked Greece for its important contribution to the humanitarian effort in Kosovo and for providing 550 troops to the peacekeeping force in the province. He also stressed the desire of the U.S. to work closely with Greece to create stability in the Balkans, as Thessaloniki becomes the headquarters for EU reconstruction efforts in Kosovo and the U.S. prepares to open a commercial office in the city to encourage American investment in the reconstruction. The defense secretary discussed U.S.-Greek cooperation in combatting terrorism and details of some $4 billion in arms purchases Greece has concluded over the past year or is now concluding from U.S. weapons manufacturers, including six Patriot missile batteries and up to 60 F-16 fighters. August 1999 - September 1999 Revitalized Military, Economic Ties With Isreal Washington, D.C. - A flurry of high-level exchanges by Greek and Israeli officials marks what many view as a turning point in relations between the two eastern Mediterranean countries. The growing realization in both Athens and Jerusalem that strengthened bilateral ties will advance their respective and collective interests is encouraging to U.S. and Western officials concerned that the Turkish-Israeli relationship will create a strategic imbalance in the region. Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis met with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy and Minister to the Prime Minister's Office Chaim Ramon in Jerusalem to discuss prospects for bilateral military cooperation and joint business ventures. The two countries agreed to set up joint committees to study possibilities for working together in the trade and economic sector and for providing technical assistance to Balkan countries. The Israeli officials briefed Kranidiotis on the status of the Middle East peace talks, and Levy accepted Greece's invitation to attend the fourth meeting of the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue in Athens in early September, one of a series of conferences in Greece that promote reconciliation between the parties involved in the peace process. During Kranidiotis's visit with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, he promised to bring up the issue of the delay in the peace process with the European Union. In addition, Greek officials and representatives of Israel's trade ministry, foreign ministry, and exports institute met in Thessaloniki to discuss expanding trade links, as well as joint ventures in the Balkans concerning advanced technology, environmental issues, farm technology, and water resource management. The emergence of closer cooperation in the military sector is also indicated by Israeli navy chief Adm. Alex Tal's trip to Athens in August and the scheduled visit of Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos to Jerusalem in September. August 1999 - September 1999 Minority Issues Revisted In Swirl Of Debate Washington, D.C. - Three Muslim parliamentary deputies from the northern Greek region of western Thrace have called on the country's leaders to grant legal recognition to what they refer to as Turkish and Macedonian minorities in Greece. Although it recognizes a religious minority of 120,000 Muslims in western Thrace near the frontier with Turkey, the Greek government does not recognize the existence of any ethnic minority within its borders. About half of the Muslims consider themselves ethnic Turks, a legacy of the Ottoman Empire, while the other half consists of gypsies and Pomaks, Bulgaria's Slavic Muslims. While Ankara refers to an ethnic Turk minority in western Thrace, Greece cites the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, dealing with the aftermath of the 1919-1922 Greek-Turkish war, which refers to the minority as Muslim. Turkey has accused the Greek government of violating the rights of ethnic Turks in Greece. However, several Muslim local officials and religious leaders from western Thrace said in a letter to Greece's president that the Muslim minority enjoys freedom of speech, respect for human rights, and other freedoms outlined in the international conventions Greece has signed. Foreign Minister Papandreou was widely criticized when he conceded publicly that there are many Muslims of Turkish origin in western Thrace. His statement was lauded in the Turkish press, triggering a hostile backlash in the Greek media, which emboldened rival politicians. Greece is concerned that Turkey could use the minority issue in western Thrace to generate a territorial claim in the region. The Greek government, in turn, points to a once-thriving, now nearly-diminished Greek minority in Turkey. In a population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923 and 1924, 370,000 Muslims living in Greece were exchanged for 350,000 Greeks in Turkey. In negotiations leading up to the Lausanne Treaty, the Turkish government proposed that all Greeks leave Turkey, including the 300,000 in Istanbul, and that there be a plebiscite in western Thrace, where about 100,000 Turks lived, to determine if the region should become part of Turkey or have autonomous status. Greece rejected the idea of a plebiscite but agreed to allow the Turks to remain in western Thrace if the Greeks living in Istanbul were allowed to remain along with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. Following further talks, Turkey only allowed 120,000 Greeks to remain in Istanbul. The figure grew to 250,000 before World War II but, after government-inspired mob attacks in 1955, the Greek minority began fleeing en masse. There are about 4,000 Greeks in Turkey today. The Greek government says the issue of a Macedonian minority in Greece was artificially created before the break-up of Yugoslavia by nationalist circles in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, who had territorial ambitions on Greece's northern Macedonia region. Greece's longstanding position on ethnic minorities has been solidified by post-Kosovo fears that legal recognition of ethnic minorities might open the door to separatist sentiments. August 1999 - September 1999 Illegal Immigration Provokes Anti-Crime Backlash Washington, D.C. - In an effort to ease public fears about rising crime, the Greek government has carried out an unprecedented police operation to conduct systematic checks on immigrants living in Greece, primarily ethnic Albanians, to determine which ones are in the country illegally and to expel those without legal status. Although statistics indicate that foreigners are responsible for only about 5 percent of a growing crime wave in Greece, sensationalist media and many Greek citizens place most of the blame on ethnic Albanians, who make up at least 500,000 of the 700,000 illegal immigrants in Greece. The hijackings of two public buses by ethnic Albanians since May involved hostages and resulted in the death of a Greek citizen, reinforcing this perception. Greece also hired 1,500more border police to boost patrols on all frontiers in an effort to deter illegal entries into the country, as the Public Order Ministry warned of a possible new wave of illegal immigration toward Greece from Serbia. In addition, the government put 1,000 more police officers on the streets to curb criminal activity, and began drafting legislation to introduce a more comprehensive immigration policy. About 200,000 of the 380,000 immigrants that applied for legal status through a government legalization process for refugees already in the country in 1997 have met the requirements for remaining in Greece. The government said it would deport the remaining 500,000 who either declined to apply for legal status by the June 1998 deadline to register or who have entered illegally since November 1997. Although relations between Tirana and Athens were temporarily strained by the bus hijackings and Greece's targeting of ethnic Albanians without papers for deportation, the two countries quickly defused the tension after agreeing to strengthen cooperation to deal with criminal activity and illegal immigration along their common border. Greece has provided Albania with a $67 million loan and a $1.5 million grant to support Tirana's budget. June 1999 - July 1999 Improved Outlook For Cooperation With Turkey Washington, D.C. - Greece and Turkey are taking advantage of the positive climate that emerged from bilateral cooperation during the Kosovo conflict by moving toward cooperation in tackling international terrorism, drug smuggling, and organized crime, as well as promoting joint efforts to boost trade, tourism, and environmental protection. Cooperation between the Greek and Turkish business communities in reconstructing Kosovo will also be explored. At a June 30 meeting in New York on the sidelines of a U.N. conference on Kosovo reconstruction, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem agreed that five meetings between senior Greek and Turkish foreign ministry officials would take place in July to explore the feasibility of cooperating in these areas. If the bilateral climate improves, Papandreou said he hoped the two countries might be able to deal with security issues that have divided them for years, such as Aegean disputes and the Cyprus question. The New York meeting, at the invitation of Papandreou, was follow up to an exchange of letters between Cem and Papandreou in which both expressed a desire to improve bilateral relations. On May 24, Cem sent a letter to Papandreou proposing that the two countries sign a bilateral agreement to combat terrorism and address Turkish perceptions that Greece has links with terrorist organizations. Turkey accuses Greece of training Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas, which the Greek government strongly denies. Athens has repeatedly invited investigations to prove that PKK training camps do not exist in Greece. A Kurdish refugee camp near Athens, run by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, shelters hundreds of Iraqi and Turkish Kurds who have entered Greece illegally. In June, U.S. Ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns said that the U.S. had no evidence that Greece was lending any support to the PKK. In Papandreou’s June 25 reply to Cem’s letter, he proposed that the two governments explore avenues for cooperation in combating terrorism within a multilateral framework on the basis of relevant international agreements of which both countries are signatories. June 1999 - July 1999 Peacekeeping Forces Move Into Kosovo Washington, D.C. - Greece is contributing about 1200troops to the peacekeeping force in Kosovo, including engineering and medical battalions. The Greek contingent, equipped with helicopters, armored personnel carrier, sand armored vehicles, will be deployed in the southeastern sector of the province controlled by U.S. peacekeepers. Many of the Greek troops have served in peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and Albania. Greece did not participate in NATO’s aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia, which was opposed by some 95 percent of the Greek people, but was eager to participate in a multinational peacekeeping force after a peace agreement was reached and a U.N. resolution authorizing deployment of the force was adopted. The Greek government had repeatedly stated that the peacekeeping force should be U.N.-led, rather than NATO-led. June 1999 - July 1999 Active Diplomacy To Secure Peaceful Kosovo Solution Washington, D.C. - With its open lines of communication to Belgrade and its embassy continuing to operate in the city, Greece participated actively in diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the Kosovo crisis and was considered instrumental in communicating the positions of the United States and NATO to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Athens expressed its opposition to the indictment of Milosevic for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague, saying that it could impede the peace process. In a meeting in Washington with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in late May, Papandreou presented a Greek-Czech initiative for a 48-hour pause in the allied bombing of Yugoslavia to give Milosevic time to respond to NATO’s proposed peace plan and enhance prospects for the adoption of a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing a multinational peacekeeping force and interim administration for Kosovo. The initiative, echoed by Italy, was signed by Papandreou and his Czech counterpart Jan Kavan in Athens. Albright rejected the initiative, insisting that the bombing be continued until Milosevic acceded to NATO demands. Papandreou’s efforts to promote the peace process included meetings with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, and Russian Balkans envoy Victor Chernomyrdin, who were the key negotiators in the peace process. He also met with the leadership of China, whose vote would be crucial to the adoption of the Security Council resolution on Kosovo. June 1999 - July 1999 Milosevic Urged To End International Isolation Washington, D.C. - On a visit to Belgrade two days after the allied bombing ended, Foreign Minister Papandreou urged Milosevic and other officials to implement reforms that would end Yugoslavia’s international isolation and allow its integration into European structures. Papandreou was the first representative of a NATO or EU member country to visit Belgrade following the conclusion of the Kosovo peace agreement in early June. Greece opposes the view of most western countries that Yugoslavia should be excluded from international financial aid to rebuild the region while Milosevic remains in power. June 1999 - July 1999 Balkan Reconstruction Based in Thessaloniki Washington, D.C. - The U.S. is establishing a special commercial office in Thessaloniki to promote American participation in the reconstruction of the Balkans, primarily through partnerships with Greek firms. The European Union’s agency for Balkan reconstruction will also be based in Thessaloniki. The Greek government said the decision reflected the role that Greece, as the only European Union member in the Balkans, is playing in promoting closer links between the EU and the region. NATO is establishing an administrative headquarters in Thessaloniki, where the city’s port and airport constitute a major supply hub for the international peacekeeping force in Kosovo. Some 400 troops will set up camp near the harbor and in other areas in the broader region to provide technical support to the supply convoys as they move from the city, through F.Y.R. Macedonia, and into Kosovo. Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, is only a four-hour drive from Thessaloniki, a quicker, safer route than those passing through Albania and Montenegro. The transformation of the city into a military supply center highlights the importance of Greece in the planning for the post-war security system in southeastern Europe. The process is expected to benefit the northern Greek economy, and the region’s beaches are anticipated to be the primary destination for peacekeepers’ rest and recreation. June 1999 - July 1999 Transit Denied To Turkish Planes In Kosovo Campaign Washington, D.C. - Greece in May turned down a request by Ankara to allow Turkish military planes to travel through Greek airspace on their way to Italy in support of NATO’s air offensive against Yugoslavia. The aircraft were to transport personnel and spare parts required for the operation of Turkish F-16 fighter jets taking part in the bombing. Ankara’s request was denied because Greece was not participating in the military operation against Yugoslavia and did not provide facilities to countries taking part in it. In April, Athens allowed Turkish transport planes carrying humanitarian aid to Kosovar refugees to cross Greek airspace. The move was a significant departure from a longstanding ban on the passage of all Turkish military aircraft through Greek airspace. June 1999 - July 1999 Counter-Terrorism Emerging As National Priority Washington, D.C. - Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis said in late May that counter-terrorism had become a top priority for Greece. Athens will send its counter-terrorism experts to Britain and the U.S. to be retrained in surveillance techniques and bombing analysis, in an effort to enhance the effectiveness of its 300-member anti-terrorism force. Greece and the U.S. have also signed a mutual legal assistance treaty, which enables their law enforcement agencies to cooperate more closely to fight all aspects of crime, including terrorism. The threat from domestic terrorist organizations in Greece is a major concern. The majority of international terrorist incidents in Europe in 1998 occurred in Athens, according to the State Department. The November 17 group claimed responsibility for six attacks on U.S. businesses. During talks in the U.S. with Foreign Minister George Papandreou in late May, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen expressed concern over the level of terrorist activity in Greece. June 1999 - July 1999 Trilateral Ties With Iran, Armenia Continue Washington, D.C. - On the first visit to Tehran by an EU defense minister since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos met in June with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, Defense Minister Vice-Adm. Ali Shamkhani, and other officials to discuss trilateral economic, political, and cultural ties among Greece, Iran, and Armenia. Officials from the three countries will meet in Athens in mid-July to further these ties, which began in 1997 with talks on communications, tourism, energy, and other issues. Western officials were concerned about Tzohatzopoulos’s visit to Tehran and his agreeing to a high-level Greek-Iranian meeting in Athens the day before Secretary of Defense William Cohen is scheduled to visit Greece on July 13. Greek observers noted that Italy has made significant diplomatic overtures to Tehran; Britain and Iran are exchanging ambassadors for the first time since 1979; and Turkey enjoys a military cooperation agreement with Iran. June 1999 - July 1999 Opposition Gains In European Parliament Elections Washington, D.C. - The opposition right-of-center New Democracy Party (ND) took the lead in elections for the European Parliament in mid-June, finishing 3 points ahead of the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). Each of the two parties was given 9 seats in Greece’s 25-seat grouping in the 626-seat parliament. The outcome of the elections was closely watched as a prelude to next year’s general elections, but analysts believed the gap between ND’s 35.99 percent and PASOK’s 32.85 percent was not great enough to warrant predictions of a New Democracy upset in 2000. Political observers warned that a margin of more than 5 points could have led to early elections and would have been a serious threat to the governing socialist party. The socialists’ decline was partly attributed to popular opposition to the Greek government’s determination to meet its NATO obligations concerning the war in Yugoslavia while declining to participate in the alliance’s air campaign. Austerity measures imposed to help Greece meet requirements for entry into the European Economic and Monetary Union in 2001 also caused electoral discontent. April 1999 - May 1999 Pro-NATO, Anti-Bombing Tightrope Washington, D.C. - The Greek government has been an active part of the NATO decision-making process concerning the airstrikes in Yugoslavia while not participating in the strikes, in an attempt to balance its alliance obligations with its traditional ties to Yugoslavia. The government has galvanized itself against overwhelming domestic opposition to the strikes, as high as 90 percent, spearheaded by the Communist Party, religious leaders, trade unions, and the media. Greece is not expected to veto any escalation of the conflict or any new NATO operations in Yugoslavia. The government has said that its decision not to take part in the bombardment of Yugoslavia stems from the importance it places on avoiding war with fellow Balkan countries. It has said it will not send ground combat troops to Yugoslavia should the alliance determine that a ground offensive is necessary to expel Serb military forces from Kosovo in a “non-permissive” environment. A Greek destroyer is taking part in NATO’s Standing Naval Force Mediterranean, currently deployed in the Adriatic Sea, which increases the alliance’s presence in the region, but it is not directly involved in the air attacks. Prime Minister Costas Simitis has maintained that only the United Nations can authorize the use of force in the region and should also authorize the mission of an international peacekeeping force in Kosovo once the war ends. While condemning the policy of ethnic cleansing in the province carried out by the forces of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Simitis has continued to press for a return to diplomacy to resolve the Kosovo conflict. Greece has sought the enhanced involvement of the U.N., the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and Russia in efforts to resolve the crisis through diplomacy, and will intensify efforts at the Balkan level to facilitate a political settlement. While Greece supports autonomy for the Kosovar Albanians, it is opposed to independence for the province or any change of borders in the Balkans. Simitis has warned against arming the Kosovo Liberation Army, whose separatist designs include the absorption of northern Greek territory into a Greater Albania. April 1999 - May 1999 Critical Reinforcements For Peacekeeping Mission Washington, D.C. - Greece intends to participate in a peacekeeping force in Kosovo when a settlement is reached. In addition, the Greek government has provided crucial logistical support for the formation of such a force by permitting 16,000 NATO troops and their military equipment, part of a potential peacekeeping mission, to enter Greece through the northern Aegean port city of Thessaloniki and travel overland to F.Y.R. Macedonia. The optimum terrain for access into Kosovo is the route starting in Thessaloniki and continuing north along the Axios/Vardar River, which runs through the Vardar Valley to Skopje, F.Y.R. Macedonia, and on to the Kosovo region. This route avoids crossing other parts of Serbia or mountain ranges, and has access to good roads, rail lines, and port facilities. The availability of this route through Greece and F.Y.R. Macedonia will continue to be critical to the introduction of an eventual peacekeeping force of up to 600troops into Kosovo and to the task of resupplying them, as it would be if ground combat troops were to go into the Serbian province. The cooperation of Athens and Skopje will be crucial to the process of transporting the millions of tons of equipment, supplies, and food needed to care for the returning ethnic Albanian refugees, the staff of numerous non-governmental organizations, and civilian contractors, and to the rebuilding of the economy of a province that had a population of about 2 million people before the war. This situation will present enormous opportunities for regional construction companies, transportation firms, and the agricultural sector, especially in Greece. April 1999 - May 1999 First Humanitarian Aid Into Kosovo Washington, D.C. - Greece, beginning in mid-April, was the first country to provide humanitarian relief directly inside Kosovo after the NATO air campaign began, serving both ethnic Albanians and Serbs. In addition, Greece provided help elsewhere in Serbia where medical and food supplies were short. The Greek government has begun cooperating with Switzerland and Russia in an effort to organize large-scale humanitarian assistance, including the possibility of air drops, for some 590,000 displaced persons within Kosovo, many of whom are believed to be near starvation. In late April, a Greek government truck convoy transported 100 tons of food and medical supplies from Thessaloniki to Pristina University Hospital in Kosovo’s capital. They were escorted from the Kosovo-F.Y.R. Macedonia border by Greece’s ambassador to Belgrade. The Athens branch of Doctors of the World also sent several convoys carrying medical equipment and pharmaceutical supplies to Pristina, accompanied by Greek doctors intending to help both Serbs and ethnic Albanians displaced in Kosovo. The Thessaloniki Medical Association organized a group of some 15 doctors and nurses to help victims of NATO bombings in Yugoslavia, while the Athens Medical Center has sent some 40 physicians to help children in Pristina and in the camps in F.Y.R. Macedonia. April 1999 - May 1999 Refugee Support in F.Y.R. Macedonia, Albania Camps Washington, D.C. - The Greek government has provided more than $10 million in humanitarian aid for Kosovar Albanian refugees in Albania and F.Y.R. Macedonia, and has offered to assume overall coordination of the EU member states’ assistance to countries affected by the Kosovo crisis. Greece has built camps in both countries and has sent food, medicine, ambulances, tents, and pre-fabricated homes to the region. The government has also established centers in the northern Greek cities of Ioannina, near Albania, and Thessaloniki, near F.Y.R. Macedonia, to coordinate the activities of agencies handling aid. The 400-member Greek troop contingent already in Albania to help with the country’s military restructuring has been taking part in the NATO effort to build camps and distribute aid to refugees. Greek army troops have also been sent to F.Y.R. Macedonia, along with representatives of Greek non-governmental organizations, to set up camps. In addition, Athens contributed two transport planes at Skopje’s request to transfer refugees to countries outside the Balkan region. At least 20,000 refugees were bussed to Thessaloniki from F.Y.R. Macedonia and flown to countries offering them refuge until the war ends. April 1999 - May 1999 Past Absorption Limits New Refugees Washington, D.C. - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees asked Greece to accept 20,000 ethnic Albanian refugees from F.Y.R. Macedonia, but the Greek government declined. Athens cited the fact that Greece had already absorbed some 500,000 to 800,000 Albanians over the last decade, up to 8 percent of its population. More than 300,000 of these immigrants are working legally in Greece. Greece has not taken in any Kosovar refugees but has said it could take up to 5,000 as part of a coordinated effort by EU countries to absorb the refugees. The government has stressed the importance of ensuring that most of the refugees remain as close to Kosovo as possible so they can be repatriated rapidly once the war ends. Greece has stepped up security along its northern borders with Albania and F.Y.R. Macedonia to ensure that refugees do not enter the country illegally. April 1999 - May 1999 NATO Umbrealla Brings Closer Turksish Cooperation Washington, D.C. - Contrary to suggestions by Western leaders that tensions between Greece and Turkey might escalate over the Kosovo crisis, the two countries have been working together to coordinate aspects of providing humanitarian relief to Kosovar Albanians. They also have made mutual goodwill gestures to indicate their willingness to cooperate on a diplomatic level in resolving the crisis. Cooperation between Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem has facilitated the movement of refugees through northeastern Greece on their way from F.Y.R. Macedonia to Turkey. Following a request by Cem to Papandreou, Greece allowed Turkish military transport planes carrying aid to Albania and F.Y.R. Macedonia to pass through Greek airspace. Greece normally bans Turkish military flights through its airspace because of a dispute between Athens and Ankara concerning the extent of Greek airspace and differences on several bilateral issues. Greece has stated that it will make no exception for Turkish fighter jets in conjunction with the NATO air campaign in Yugoslavia. It has also ruled out the transport of Turkish troops through its territory. Cem, in a public statement, proposed that the six-nation Contact Group overseeing attempts to resolve the Kosovo crisis be expanded to include both Greece and Turkey. The nations in the group are the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia. Papandreou has suggested that Turkey be included in cooperative regional efforts for the social and economic restructuring of the Balkans. Turkish foreign ministry officials have been invited to Athens, along with representatives of other Balkan countries, to discuss Balkan reconstruction possibilities. April 1999 - May 1999 Balkan Initiative To Stabalize, Reconstruct Region Washington, D.C. - Prime Minister Costas Simitis in April announced a proposal for a Balkan Stabilization and Development Plan that would promote the strengthening of the social and economic fabric of the Balkans following the war in Yugoslavia. The plan proposes that the economic development of the Balkans be achieved through a regional program similar to the U.S.-sponsored Marshall Plan, which helped European countries rebuild their infrastructures after World War II. In addition, it calls for the consolidation of democratic institutions and the reinforcement of individual and minority rights; the establishment of a conflict-resolution mechanism, with guarantees for the inviolability of borders; intensification of inter-regional cooperation as a step toward full integration of the area into the European institutional system; and recognition of the eligibility of the region’s countries to join the European Union if they fulfill the necessary political and economic prerequisites. Greek construction companies are expected to take a leading role in Yugoslavia’s post-war reconstruction. In May, the Greek government and local business groups agreed to set up a task force to coordinate investment initiatives and facilitate the participation of Greek firms in infrastructure projects to be funded by the EU, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and other entities. The reconstruction program is expected to cost from $10 to $20 billion. April 1999 - May 1999 Tighter Security Follows Terrorism, Anti-U.S. Demonstrations Washington, D.C. - Police in the Greek capital tightened security around hotels, embassies of NATO members, and foreign businesses following an April bomb attack on a hotel that killed one Greek and injured another. A terrorist group called the Revolutionary Cells said it staged the blast at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Athens to protest NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia. It said the hotel was targeted because an international conference was to be held there. The attack was the deadliest in a series of violent protests that began with the launching of allied airstrikes. As a result of this incident, as well as almost daily demonstrations outside the U.S. Embassy in Athens and the U.S. Consulate in Thessaloniki; the placement of a bomb at the Fulbright Foundation office in Thessaloniki, which was safely defused; and a thwarted attempt to place a gas canister bomb in front of the consulate, the State Department issued a travel notice at the end of April. It cautioned U.S. citizens traveling in Greece to exercise security precautions and avoid demonstrations because of an increased potential for violence. An anti-tank rocket attack on the German ambassador’s residence damaged the roof. Greek authorities believe the November 17 terrorist group was behind the attack, as well as rocket attacks on branches of the U.S.-based Chase Manhattan Bank, British Midland Bank, and the French Banque Nationale de Paris in Greece’s main port of Piraeus. No injuries were reported in these incidents. Outside the U.S. navy base at Souda Bay, near the city of Hania on the island of Crete, anti-NATO demonstrators scuffled with police resulting in the injury of several officers and protestors. Officials of municipalities near the base said the installation’s 450 servicemen were no longer welcome on the island. U.S. Ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns received assurances from the Greek government that the servicemen were safe. In addition, anti-alliance protestors at the port of Thessaloniki have tried to block the movement of NATO troops and military equipment traveling from the port to F.Y.R. Macedonia to form a peacekeeping contingent for Kosovo. Greek police escorted a convoy of French troops from the port to the Greece-F.Y.R. Macedonia border to prevent demonstrators from blocking their route. A train transporting tanks and armored vehicles from a British ship to the border was forced to return to the port after protestors, including Greek railway employees, blocked the railway tracks. Protests have also occurred outside the NATO regional headquarters at Tyrnavos near Larissa in central Greece. April 1999 - May 1999 Air Force Approves $2 Billion For U.S. Fighter Jets Washington, D.C. - Greece announced in April that it plans to modernize its fleet of fighter jets with the purchase of 50 to 60 U.S. F-16 Block 50 Plus aircraft, at a cost of about $2 billion, and 15 French Mirage 2000-5 planes, at an estimated cost of $35 million apiece. In addition, it will upgrade 10 of its existing fleet of 35 Mirage 2000s. The Hellenic Air Force currently has 75 F-16s. Greece’s F-16 purchase is expected to enhance its air defense capability without aggravating the threat perception of other regional countries toward Greece, including Turkey. The aircraft can perform missions assigned to the air force by both national and NATO authorities, including air defense in the Aegean Sea. This capability will be achieved without introducing a new weapon system into the Greek-Turkish balance of forces, such as the F-15, whose selection would likely have exacerbated concern on the part of the United States Congress about stability in the eastern Mediterranean. The advantages of the F-16 decision are fast delivery schedules, the procurement of a higher number of aircraft than would have been possible if the more expensive F-15 had been purchased, and an existing logistical and training infrastructure. April 1999 - May 1999 Government Strong Despite Popular Opposition to Bombing Washington, D.C. - An early May poll, taken in anticipation of elections for the European Parliament in mid-June, indicated renewed support for Prime Minister Costas Simitis, despite overwhelming opposition to his support for the NATO alliance as it undertakes the bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. Trailing main opposition New Democracy Party leader Costas Karamanlis by up to 10 points several months earlier, Simitis was favored in the poll as prime minister over his likely opponent in next year’s parliamentary elections. Local analysts will be watching the June elections closely, as they will be considered a crucial vote of confidence for the Simitis government. The results of these elections are thought to be strong indicators of the strength of parties at the national level. Factors that could influence polling results leading up to the June elections emanate from the NATO bombing campaign, including the possibility of increased Serbian civilian casualties, the possibility of a ground war in Kosovo, and the need to utilize Thessaloniki and northern Greece to supply and reinforce NATO troops in a possible offensive against Yugoslavia. February 1999 - March 1999 Ocalan Affair Forces Resignation Of Key Ministers Washington, D.C. - Prime Minister Costas Simitis faced a domestic political crisis and public criticism over the government’s sheltering of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in the Greek Embassy in Nairobi prior to his capture in mid-February by Turkey. (See Turkey section, Ocalan Capture Dominates Kurdish Debate.) Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, Interior Minister Alekos Papadopoulos, and Public Order Minister Philippos Petsalnikos, who played key roles in the matter, were fired by Simitis. Pangalos oversaw the attempt to hide Ocalan in Nairobi and find a country that would grant him political asylum. Papadopoulos was in charge of Greece’s intelligence services, which were involved in carrying out Ocalan’s transfer to Kenya. Petsalnikos, whose ministry was in charge of security forces, failed to prevent a small group of Kurdish sympathizers, including a retired naval officer, from illegally smuggling the Kurdish guerrilla leader into Greece from Russia on a private plane without government knowledge. Former Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou replaced Pangalos as foreign minister. Greece had long avoided involvement in helping Ocalan or the PKK, in order not to add another point of contention between Athens and Ankara to the existing disputes over the Aegean and Cyprus. Certain Greek officials had, however, expressed support for Kurdish self-determination, and the Greek public had generally sympathized with the Kurdish pursuit of political and human rights. After Ocalan’s capture, pro-Kurdish rallies were held throughout Greece. In November, more than one-third of the Greek parliament extended an invitation to Ocalan to visit Greece, renewing an invitation that a similar number of deputies had extended 18 months earlier. The Simitis government refused to act on the parliamentary invitation. A judicial inquiry ordered by Simitis to determine how Ocalan entered Greece illegally has recommended that 18 people, including private individuals and politicians, should be charged with a series of crimes and misdemeanors that range from endangering Greece’s international relations to falsifying documents. The Greek parliament has also requested an investigation into politicians’ involvement in the case. Simitis has faulted the EU for failing to achieve a solution to the Ocalan problem after the Kurdish rebel leader was expelled from Syria and arrived in Italy seeking political asylum last fall. Simitisin a letter to his EU counterparts, has called on the bloc to exert its influence to ensure that Ocalan receives a fair and open trial. February 1999 - March 1999 Ocalan Aides Receive Safe Passage, Political Asylum Washington, D.C. - The U.S. criticized the Greek government for providing safe passage out of Kenya for three aides of Ocalan and for granting political asylum to one of them. The secretary general of the Greek foreign ministry went to Nairobi in early March to escort the women and a Greek intelligence officer out of the Greek diplomatic compound, where they had remained following Ocalan’s capture, and fly them to Greece. One of the aides was traveling on a Belgian passport, while another already had political refugee status in Greece. The action was carried out with the cooperation of the Kenyan authorities and under the observation of the Belgian and Swedish ambassadors to Kenya. Foreign Minister George Papandreou said Greece considered the move a humanitarian act. At a press conference in Athens, one of the aides charged the Greek government with complicity in Ocalan’s capture, an accusation the government denied. February 1999 - March 1999 Public Outcry Weakens Government Support Washington, D.C. - The Greek government’s involvement in sheltering Ocalan has dealt a blow to the public’s view of Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s leadership, already diminished by hardships imposed through economic reforms to prepare Greece for entry into the European single currency by 2001. A poll taken in early March showed the opposition New Democracy Party leading the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) by a margin of 6.8 points. A late January poll, three months after PASOK suffered major losses in municipal elections, showed that economic reforms were having a negative impact on the popularity of Simitis and PASOK. In the poll, Simitis’s rating fell to about 25 percent, 12 points lower than a January 1998 figure, which already reflected a downward trend as a result of tight economic policies. February 1999 - March 1999 U.S. Fighter Purchase Imminent Washington, D.C. - Greece is expected to announce that it will purchase about $1.2 billion in U.S. fighter aircraft. Sources indicate that the acquisition order will be for 30 to 35 F-15s and 25 to 30 F-16s. Greece already has 37 F-16s in its air force. Athens will also buy 10 French Mirage 2000s to replace aging Mirages in its current fleet of 36. Greece announced in February that it would open negotiations for the purchase of 60 to 80 Eurofighter aircraft, a combat plane that is expected to go into production after 2005. The aircraft is being developed by a consortium involving defense industries in Britain, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Under agreements concluded between the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB) and the Italian and German firms in the consortium, Greece is expected to be a participant in the manufacture of the aircraft. Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos has emphasized the need to promote cooperation between European nations in the weapons industry. February 1999 - March 1999 S-300 Missiles To Crete Despite Turkish Campaign Rehtoric Washington, D.C. - Although the Turkish General Staff is known to have accepted Greece’s decision to deploy S-300 missiles originally purchased by Cyprus on Crete, placing the weapons out of range of Turkey and the Turkish-occupied region of Cyprus, Turkish politicians have charged that the missiles are a threat to Turkish interests and NATO in an apparent attempt to gain politically in anticipation of April general elections. The charges refer to the vulnerability of the two NATO bases on Crete to Russian surveillance when Russian technicians go to the island, along with Cypriots trained in operating the weaponry, to instruct Greeks in the use of the missiles’ advanced radar system. But military analysts observe that Russia is able to conduct surveillance of these bases by sailing in international waters up to six miles off the coast of the island. In addition, Russian weapons systems surround NATO member Turkey in Armenia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, and the Russian Navy is a major presence in the Black Sea and frequently accesses the Mediterranean Sea, easily exposing Turkish defense installations to surveillance. The missiles will be fully operational on Crete, rather than being stored there. Their installation at the easternmost tip of the island will be carried out within the framework of the 1993 joint defense doctrine between Greece and Cyprus, with Cyprus maintaining ownership of the missiles. Greece will control their operation and pay their operating costs, but decisions regarding their use will be made jointly by both countries. Greek Deputy Defense Minister Dimitris Apostolakis has said the missiles would be deployed by the end of March. February 1999 - March 1999 Peaceful Kosovo Resolution, Regional Cooperation Urged Washington, D.C. - In talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade in mid-March, Foreign Minister George Papandreou said that resolution of the Kosovo conflict should be achieved peacefully through political means and should provide autonomy for the province’s ethnic Albanians within the existing borders of the Yugoslav federation. Such an outcome, he said, would enhance the development of cooperation among countries in the region with the goal of working toward their European and Euro-Atlantic integration. Papandreou’s stop in Belgrade was part of a tour that also included Tirana, Skopje, Sofia, and Bucharest to promote a regional approach to ending the conflict in Kosovo peacefully and maintaining stability in the Balkans. In late March, Papandreou chaired a meeting of the foreign ministers of Albania, F.Y.R. Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey in Bucharest to discuss such an approach. The ministers reaffirmed their support for autonomy for the Kosovar Albanians and the deployment of an international force to assist in the implementation of any peace agreement that is reached in Kosovo. Prime Minister Costas Simitis told visiting NATO Secretary General Javier Solana in February that Greece would contribute troops to a NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo, if an agreement were reached during peace talks between Serbs and ethnic Albanians. He said, however, that Athens continued to oppose the use of military force to resolve the conflict. Greece has continued to maintain good relations with the Yugoslav government. During a visit of then Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos to Belgrade in early February, Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic said that cooperation between the two countries in the political, economic, tourist, cultural, and communications sectors was improving continuously. February 1999 - March 1999 U.S. Calls For Aggressive Anti-Terrorism Efforts Washington, D.C. - State Department officials, including Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, have expressed the U.S. government’s concern over what Washington considers to be Greece’s lack of progress in efforts to arrest members of the November 17 terrorist group. The group has killed some 25 people in Greece since it claimed responsibility for the 1975 assassination of the CIA station chief in Athens. Greek authorities have never apprehended or publicly identified any suspected members of the group, whose victims include a total of five Americans. The U.S. has reportedly given Greece a list of 10 individuals, accompanied by strong evidence linking them to the group. Washington has called on Greek authorities to improve their offensive against terrorism in the country, especially in light of Greece’s proximity to regional states that sponsor international terrorism and the concern that the 2004 Olympic summer games in Athens may be a target for terrorist activity as any city which hosts the games becomes. The United States and international counter-terrorism services are currently concentrating their efforts on Sydney, Australia, where the summer 2000 games will be held. In March, November 17 issued a communique challenging the United States to eradicate it and accused the Greek government of turning Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan over to Turkey in Kenya in February, following his stay in the Greek Embassy in Nairobi. February 1999 - March 1999 Israeli Cooperation On Public Security Issues Washington, D.C. - Israeli Public Security Minister Avraham Kohav headed a delegation that visited Athens in March for talks with Greece’s public order ministry and the leadership of the Greek police force on greater cooperation between the two countries on security issues. The countries signed a police cooperation agreement in 1995. The talks revolved around the issues of drug trafficking and illegal immigration. February 1999 - March 1999 Telecom Policy Shortfalls Trigger EU Funding Freeze Washington, D.C. - The European Commission threatened in March to take Greece to court for failing to liberalize its telecommunications sector to conform to EU standards. Greece had been given until the end of 2000 to fully liberalize its market, an extension from the January 1998 deadline that applied to most other EU countries. However, Athens has not met EU directives for liberalizing specific sectors within that timetable, which caused the Commission to freeze $41 million in grants to finance modernization of the country’s state-controlled telecommunications company last year. The Commission has given Greece until May to comply with EU regulations or face action in the European Court of Justice. February 1999 - March 1999 New Joint Venture With Russia In Oil Production Washington, D.C. - The state oil companies of Greece and Russia have agreed to form a joint venture enterprise that is expected to produce oil initially in the countries of the former Soviet Union and later in North Africa, Iraq, and Iran. A cooperation agreement signed by the companies in February stipulates that the two sides will also work jointly in southeastern Europe and the Black Sea region. The new company will supply oil to Greek refineries and will market oil products in Greece and the Balkans. Greece currently imports about 1 million tons of Russian oil annually. February 1999 - March 1999 Bomb Blast Near Turkish Consulate Washington, D.C. - Greece’s foreign ministry condemned the February placement of a bomb across the street from the Turkish consulate in the northern Greek town of Komotini, which exploded and injured a bomb disposal expert when he tried to defuse it. The Turkish foreign ministry lodged a protest over the bomb with the Greek charge d’affaires in Ankara. February 1999 - March 1999 Greece Opts For Delayed Early Warning Defense Washington, D.C. - In a move away from the U.S. as the traditional supplier of the Hellenic Air Force, Greece in December announced that it would purchase four Swedish Erieye radar systems mounted on EMB-145 Brazilian aircraft to serve as an airborne early warning and control system (AEW&C). Although the Erieye is currently used by the Swedish air force, it is mounted on the Saab 2000 aircraft, which is no longer being manufactured. Since the EMB-145chosen by Sweden to replace the Saab 2000and the Erieye radar units must be built to order and reconfigured to work in tandem, the Swedish-Brazilian system, as yet untested, will not be delivered to Greece until 2003.According to defense analysts, the software to be used in the system is not NATO-compatible. Greece's decision to place the $575 million order for a new untested AEW&C system surprised defense analysts in both Washington and Athens since the U.S.-made Hawkeye system was widely considered to be the air force's first choice. The current Hawkeye system, as part of a purchase of either E-2C or C-130J aircraft, could have been delivered to Greece by n-tid-1999, and the upgraded version, the Hawkeye 2000, would have been available in December 2000.In effect, Greece's air defense will operate at a sub-standard level for more than three years despite the imminent availability of superior proven NATO-compatible systems. The deployment of the Hawkeye AEW&C system, in conjunction with the U.S.-made Patriot and Hawk missiles, Kidd-class destroyers, and F-16 fighter planes, as well as the French Mirage planes, would have maximized the interoperability of Greece's air defense system. With the Hawkeye, all Greek air defense assets would have been centrally coordinated and controlled for the first time, adding to their survivability, lethality, and effectiveness. Greece also could have contributed more effectively to broader AEW&C requirements within NATO and the Western European Union (WEU) by having the Hawkeye, which is the standard system for the U.S. Navy. - February 1999 - March 1999 Defense Officials Meet To Finalize Peacekeeping Force Washington, D.C. - Defense ministers and high-level military officials from the seven nations participating in the Southeast European Brigade (SEEBRIG), a 50Balkan peacekeeping force created to promote regional security, met in Athens in January to sign a supplementary protocol finalizing the agreement establishing the brigade last fall. The protocol formalizes Plovdiv, Bulgaria, as the brigade's headquarters for the first four years, assigns a Turkish commander to lead the force for the first two years, and designates Greece to take over the presidency of the political and military steering committee for the first two years. The location of the headquarters, the command, and the presidency of the steering committee will then rotate among the member countries, which are NATO nations Greece, Italy, and Turkey and Partnership for Peace nations Albania, Bulgaria, F.Y.R.O.M., and Romania. The U.S. and Slovenia are observers. Activation of the force is expected to take place in August, and its first military exercise is anticipated by the end of the year. The peacekeeping force grew out of Washington's efforts to achieve military cooperation in the Balkans under NATO's Partnership for Peace program and will operate within the framework of NATO, the WEU, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)and the U.N. to carry out conflict prevention missions and other regional peace support initiatives. February 1999 - March 1999 Efforts To Build Israeli Relations Proceed Washington, D.C. - Greece has decided to revive discussions on the possibility of improved military cooperation with Israel. The discussions would be follow-up to the signing of a memorandum of understanding for cooperation between the navies of both countries in 1991 and to continued contact between naval delegations up until 1995. The memorandum, which was never implemented, called for joint military exercises in the Aegean Sea and eastern Mediterranean, the reciprocal training of naval personnel, and cooperation in building weapons systems. The possibility of naval cooperation was slated for discussion during a visit by Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai to Athens in mid-December. When the Israeli military went on high alert during U.S. and British air strikes against Iraq, Mordechai was forced to postpone his visit. The development of Turkish-Israeli military ties since 1996, including reciprocal training of air force pilots, joint military exercises, Israeli arms sales to Turkey, and intelligence sharing, have been of concern to Greece and to Arab nations, such as Egypt, which see the cooperation affecting the military balance in the region.I n late November, Mordechai told Greek reporters in Tel Aviv that Israel would like to develop ties with Greece that are similar to those between Israel and Turkey, including Israeli-Greek naval cooperation. He noted that Israel had asked Greece to participate in the joint naval search-and-rescue exercise conducted by Israel, Turkey, and the United States in the Mediterranean in January 1998, but Greece had declined. The minister also said that Israel had offered to mediate between Greece and Turkey to resolve differences between the two countries. In January, a Greek delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis met with Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon and other officials to discuss the expansion of bilateral relations between Greece and Israel in the economic, education, trade, and military sectors. Sharon was scheduled to visit Athens in late February to further explore intensification of these relations. The delegation also met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at Orient House in east Jerusalem. The fact that the meeting took place at Orient House, a site associated with Palestinian political activism, provoked a sharp reaction from the Israeli government. In addition, under the Oslo agreement, which created the framework for the peace process resolving the Palestinian issue, it was stipulated that no political activity would be conducted in Jerusalem by the Palestinian Authority until the final status of Jerusalem was determined. Greek officials indicated that Kranidiotis had met with Arafat in an unofficial capacity as a prominent figure in Greece's ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), rather than as a government official. February 1999 - March 1999 Egypt, Greece Conduct Naval Exercise Washington, D.C. - The Greek and Egyptian navies conducted a week-long joint exercise in December aimed at strengthening military cooperation between the two countries. Two frigates from each navy and other vessels took part in the exercise, which was held near the Egyptian Mediterranean port of Alexandria. Greek defense officials reportedly view expanded defense cooperation with Egypt as a way of counterbalancing the potential dominance of the Turkish-Israeli military entente in the eastern Mediterranean. February 1999 - March 1999 Greece Strengthens Euro Drive Toward 2001 Washington, D.C. - As Europe's single currency, the euro, was launched in January, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said in its annual report that Greece's sustained efforts at implementing a restrictive economic policy had made the country's objective of joining the currency in 2001 "feasible." Although Athens' macroeconomic policy and structural measures were moving in the right direction, the OECD said that a tighter macroeconomic program was needed to lower the debt/gross domestic product (GDP) ratio and decrease inflation, projected to fall below 3.0 percent by 2000. In addition, the government's anti-inflation program should include more fiscal consolidation to help contain wage increases. The OECD criticized high labor costs and low productivity in public sector enterprises, which have slowed the effort to reduce inflation, standing at 3.9 percent at the end of 1998. Greece's official inflation target for the end of 1999 is 2.0 percent. An austere fiscal policy and an economic growth rate at 3.5 percent of GDP in 1998 have helped reduce the budget deficit and public debt. However, the OECD said that Greece could increase its GDP by at least 10 percent by radically restructuring inefficient public sector enterprises, such as those in the energy, transport, and telecommunications sectors, which are already slated for reform. In contrast to the lag in public sector reform, Greece's financial sector has seen the rapid restructuring and privatization of state-owned banks. February 1999 - March 1999 Labor, Student Protests Plague Country Washington, D.C. - Labor unions continued to fight the government's anti-inflation efforts, such as privatizing state enterprises and freezing wages, by calling a 24-hour nationwide strike in mid-December that halted government services, such as public transportation, health care services, postal transactions, and banking activity. The unions fear losing job security and other longstanding benefits as Greece implements measures to conform to strict European Union economic guidelines. In addition, protests by high school students and their teachers, which began in the fall in opposition to sweeping government education reforms, accelerated in mid-January with demonstrations in cities through- out Greece. No classes have been held this academic year in about 600 of Greece's 3,170 high schools. In early December, the government ordered striking customs employees back to work after their five-day strike paralyzed border traffic and left Greek citizens without gasoline, heating fuel, and other essential goods, costing from $20 million to $30 million daily in lost revenue. The employees were protesting a plan to merge their wealthy pension fund with deficit-ridden state-sector funds, part of the government's plan to begin pension reform in response to pressure from the EU. A radical overhaul of the pension system is expected after Greece joins the European single currency in 2001. February 1999 - March 1999 Air Traffic Problems Impact Regional Aviation Washington, D.C. - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has criticized Greece's handling of flights in the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR), in which Greek air traffic controllers assume responsibility for the safe passage of all commercial aircraft. According to an IATA report, Greece handles only 7 percent of Europe's air traffic but causes 30 percent of the total European delays in the summer. Turkey, which has differences with Greece over critical sovereignty issues in the Aegean Sea, such as the delimitation of the continental shelf and the extent of national airspace and territorial waters, cited the report in criticizing Athens' handling of air traffic in the region. IATA attributes the problem of delays to Greece's failure to use its radar system to control en route air traffic, aircraft overlying the Athens FIR or stopping at Greek airports, because of labor and wage disputes between the government and system operators. The situation causes back-ups in the flow of traffic in surrounding countries, such as Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, and Italy, and can cause delays as far away as Britain. Greece is the only country among 37 that fall under the jurisdiction of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC), a sister organization of the International Civil Aeronautics Organization (ICAO), that does not use radar to handle en route traffic. IATA has noted that the current safety standards in the Athens FIR remain adequate but has been urging Greece to activate its radar system for en route traffic since it was installed about three years ago. Responding to the criticism of IATA and other international bodies, Greece stated that it would finally activate the radar system by mid-February. October 1998 - November 1998 NATO Exercise With Turkey Sets Cooperative Direction Washington, D.C. - In October, Greece and Turkey both participated in a major NATO military exercise in the eastern Mediterranean for the first time since the early 1980s, breaking a pattern in which Greece had usually abstained from the annual alliance maneuver. During this period, Turkey had been a regular participant with the exception of 1997, the only year Greece took part in the exercise. The three-week air, land, and sea exercise, Dynamic Mix ‘98, was conducted in Italy, Greece, and Turkey by 17,000 troops from a total of 11 countries. The focus of the exercise was improving the handling of crises or humanitarian and peacekeeping operations in the alliance’s southeastern flank. In addition to Greece and Turkey, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, the Netherlands, Portugal, and the U.S. sent troops to the maneuver. Up to now, sovereignty issues in the eastern Aegean Sea have been the primary cause of tension preventing Greece and Turkey from simultaneous participation in Dynamic Mix, formerly named Display Determination. In planning this year’s exercise, NATO officers, including officers from Greece and Turkey, designed scenarios that would exclude the eastern Aegean and instead would be carried out in Turkey near the Syrian border, in Greece along the northern border with F.Y.R.O.M., and in Italy. In addition, the movement of Greek and Turkish troops was arranged so that Greek soldiers would not be involved in activities on Turkish soil and Turkish soldiers would not be part of scenarios on Greek soil. Both in the planning and execution stages of the exercise, Greece and Turkey were clearly looking for ways to cooperate on enhancing regional security without compromising their fundamental national positions. This attitude has also enabled them to take part jointly in the Southeast European Brigade (SEEBRIG), a multinational force being established to foster regional cooperation on security issues. October 1998 - November 1998 New NATO Headquarters Symbolizes Full Alliance Partnership Washington, D.C. - Greece began preparations in November for the opening of a new NATO headquarters at a base near Larissa in central Greece. A ceremony was held to mark the beginning of preliminary operations at the base, following the transfer of military personnel to the facility. It is anticipated that an activation order announcing the start date for the headquarters will be issued by April 1999, the fiftieth anniversary of NATO. A multinational staff is expected at the facility, including Turkish, U.S., and Italian military personnel. Since the reintegration of Greece into the military wing of NATO in 1980six years after its withdrawal in response to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, attempts to open a major NATO headquarters in Greece have failed. October 1998 - November 1998 FBI Cooperation To Deter Terrorism, Organized Crime Washington, D.C. - During a visit of FBI Director Louis Freeh to Athens in September, Freeh and Public Order Minister George Romeos discussed ways of strengthening the existing cooperation between the FBI and the Greek police in curbing money laundering, drug smuggling, and illegal immigration. Analysts viewed Freeh’s visit as a milestone in U.S. efforts to achieve greater U.S.-Greek cooperation on counter-terrorism procedures. The two countries agreed on steps to be taken to launch a renewed offensive against terrorism in Greece, particularly the attacks of the November 17 group, which have claimed the lives of more than 20 people over the last 23 years. During the past year, anarchist groups have claimed responsibility for nearly 200 firebombing attacks on targets that have included banks, government offices, and cars belonging to politicians, government officials, policemen, journalists, and diplomats. October 1998 - November 1998 New Weaponry Strengtens Defense Capability Washington, D.C. - Greece is in the process of developing a state-of-the-art air defense over the Aegean Sea with its decision to purchase Patriot missiles, Kidd-class destroyers, and airborne early warning systems. A decision was made in October to purchase U.S.-made Patriot long-range, surface-to-air missiles, rather than Russian-made S-300s, to replace the Hellenic Air Force’s aging Nike Hercules missiles. Four batteries will be ordered with an option to buy an additional two in the future at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion. Greece, the third NATO nation outside the U.S. to have the Patriot in its arsenal after Germany and the Netherlands, will benefit from the fact that the missile is the current long-range choice for the U.S. Army and therefore will be continually improved over the coming decades. The Greek government has authorized the Greek Navy to start negotiations to buy four former U.S. Navy Kidd-class guided missile destroyers. The ships will significantly upgrade the air defense and anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare capabilities of the Greek fleet and improve the interoperability of its vessels with those of its NATO allies. Upon delivery of the ships, valued at $540 million, Greece will decommission up to seven of its older vessels. Greece is also expecting to make a decision by the end of the year on its choice of four airborne early warning systems, with an option to buy an addition two. In the running are the U.S.-made Hawkeye 2000 system as part of a purchase of either E-2C or C-130J aircraft and the Swedish-made FSR890 Erieye system carried by the Brazilian-made EMB-145 aircraft. The estimated cost of the purchase is expected to be about $500 million. In addition, Greece is purchasing 21 Russian-made Tor-M1 short-range, surface-to-air missile systems, each equipped with SA-15 missiles, for the army. Their estimated value is more than $500 million. Greece is the first NATO country to order these systems. Russian officials say the Tor-M1 system is fully compatible with the Patriot missile system, but U.S. officials say such compatibility would be unlikely without extensive modification. Western military analysts believe Athens is purchasing the Tor-M1s to provide short-range air defense for its troops on the Greek islands along the Turkish coast. October 1998 - November 1998 Relations With Israel Build In Non-Military Fields Washington, D.C. - Greece signed an agreement with Israel in November to expand educational, cultural, and scientific cooperation between the two countries. The accord was signed in Athens by the director of cultural affairs of the Greek foreign ministry, Apostolos Anninos, and Israel’s Ambassador to Greece Ran Curiel. Exchanges between representatives of universities and cultural organizations are one focus of the agreement. October 1998 - November 1998 Municipal Elections Signal Socialist Difficulties Washington, D.C. - The ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) lost political ground to its conservative opposition in the October municipal elections as the New Democracy Party won the mayoral races in Greece’s largest cities, Athens, Piraeus, and Thessaloniki, with their combined population of about 45 percent of Greece’s 10 million people. New Democracy’s gains were seen partly as a protest against the tight economic policies imposed by the government to prepare Greece for joining the European single currency, the euro, by 2001. In addition, analysts attributed the opposition’s electoral inroads to the division within PASOK between the modernizing faction led by Prime Minister Costas Simitis, which is working toward free-market reform, and the faction that is loyal to the populist legacy of former Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, the founder of PASOK. Following the elections, Simitis, who is halfway through his four-year term, vowed to continue his economic measures, including accelerated privatization, restrictions on public sector hiring, and curbs on wage increases. These measures have resulted in clashes between the government and the labor unions, PASOK’s electoral base, which have seen their power reduced under the Simitis government. Since Greece should remain on track to join European economic and monetary union (EMU) by 2001, Simitis is betting that his economic program will start to pay dividends by the year 2000. In addition, next year’s cuts in indirect taxes on new cars, gasoline, and heating oil, as well as plans to freeze rates for public utilities, are expected to be politically popular. October 1998 - November 1998 Anti-Inflation Offense Keeps EURO Plans Intact Washington, D.C. - Two years before its planned entry into the European single currency, Greece continues to battle inflation, its primary concern among the criteria it must meet to join the currency. In November, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said he was confident that the 4.7 percent rate expected at the end of 1998 would drop to 2.0 percent by the end of 1999. Meeting the EMU requirement for the reduction of long-term interest rates could be a challenge, however, since market uncertainty has increased these rates in Greece. However, the country has been largely protected from global economic turmoil due to its close ties with the rest of Europe. By the end of 1998, the budget deficit is expected to fall to 2.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), below the 3 percent level required for euro members. In addition, the government has met its forecast of 3.5 percent growth in the GDP this year. The public debt is about 108 percent of GDP, higher than the convergence requirement of 60 percent, but it is set to fall for the third straight year. August 1998 - September 1998 Greece Continues To Back Cypriot Deployment of S-300 Missiles Washington, D.C. - Following August talks in Athens between Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, Simitis reaffirmed Greece’s support for the deployment of Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missiles in Cyprus and its commitment to defend them from possible Turkish air strikes, under the joint 1993 defense doctrine between Athens and Nicosia. Simitis’ statement was issued despite pressure on Cyprus by Turkey, the U.S., and the European Union, through its Cyprus envoy Sir David Hannay of Britain, to cancel the deployment, which Turkey perceives to be provocative. Simitis and Clerides said the missiles were still scheduled for installation in November. A Greek defense ministry official also said Greece, if necessary, would provide naval support for the Russian navy ships expected to deliver the missiles to Cyprus that month. While visiting occupied Cyprus in July to mark the anniversary of the 1974 Turkish invasion of the republic, Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz reiterated his government’s pledge to prevent the deployment of the missiles and said Turkey could boost its military presence in the occupied zone in response to the deployment. In July, Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos accused the Clinton administration of reneging on pre-election promises to make the Cyprus question a U.S. foreign policy priority. He later called on Washington to pressure Ankara to withdraw the U.S.-made arms that Greece alleges are being used by Turkish forces, in violation of U.S. law, to occupy 37 percent of Cyprus. August 1998 - September 1998 Low-Level Violence On Greek-Turkish Border Washington, D.C. - The border patrols of Greece and Turkey in July exchanged gunfire across the Evros River in the Thrace region, the only land border between the two countries, but no one was injured. Each side accused the other of being the first to open fire. The incident was resolved quickly through diplomatic channels but was considered the worst outbreak of violence for some time along Greece’s northeastern border. Tension over sovereignty issues in the Aegean Sea and the division of Cyprus sometimes leads to incidents between isolated units of the Greek and Turkish militaries. Greek coast guard boats periodically chase unauthorized Turkish military and commercial vessels out of Greek territorial waters. In 1996the two countries narrowly averted the outbreak of hostilities after Turkey challenged Greece’s sovereignty over the Imia islets in the Aegean Sea. August 1998 - September 1998 Reliance On U.S., Canada For Defense Modernization Washington, D.C. - In a major arms purchase from the United States, Greece is planning to buy 1,322 mobile Stinger-RMP Block 1 International anti-aircraft missiles, 188 guided missile launchers, and related support equipment worth $150 million. Greece already stockpiles this type of missile. A Defense Department announcement in August said Greece’s acquisition of the missiles would improve arms interoperability between Greece and its NATO allies. The medium-range Stinger, launched from military vehicles or from troops’ shoulders, can be used against cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, low-flying aircraft, and helicopters. Greece has been negotiating a $500-600 million agreement with the Canadian government for the purchase of 36 ADATS Mk2 air defense and anti-tank missile systems. The procurement of these systems would meet the Greek Army’s need for a combined air defense and anti-landing craft/anti-armor defensive capability. Discussions have also included the possibility of buying additional systems for Greece’s air force and navy. The U.S. in September delivered five ground-to-ground Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMs) to Greece, the first shipment of an order of 40 such missiles costing $65.5 million. The mobile all-weather missiles are designed to hit high-priority targets such as administrative and control installations and munitions depots. They have a range of about 100 miles. In early October, Greece is expected to announce that it will purchase U.S.-made Patriot surface-to-air missiles rather than Russian-made S-300s, which Russian President Boris Yeltsin had personally lobbied Greece to buy. August 1998 - September 1998 New Calls To Curb Global Drug Trafficking Washington, D.C. - During the December European Union summit in Vienna, the Greek government will present a proposal calling for a greater EU role in efforts to combat the production and distribution of illegal narcotics internationally. Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said in July that the proposal will stress the need for international organizations to approach the problem of drug trafficking as a global issue. He also announced that a meeting of Balkan ministers will be held, possibly by the end of the year, to discuss measures for fighting the drug trade regionally. August 1998 - September 1998 Mixed Signals In Yugoslav Relations Washington, D.C. - Economic cooperation between Greece and Yugoslavia is expanding rapidly, with trade increasing 26 percent this year. During a visit to Athens by Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said that Greece was the top foreign investor in Yugoslavia and Belgrade’s fifth-largest trading partner. Greece has lifted its veto on the imposition of a European Union ban on flights of the Yugoslav national airline JAT to EU countries, enabling the ban to go into effect in early September. The ban was proposed in June in response to the continued Serbian crackdown in Kosovo. August 1998 - September 1998 Firmer Ties With Armenia, Iran Washington, D.C. - The foreign ministers of Greece, Armenia, and Iran met in Tehran in September to strengthen tripartite cooperation established last December during talks in Athens. In Tehran, the ministers signed a memorandum of understanding launching joint projects in environmental protection and the handling of industrial accidents and natural disasters. In Athens, the ministers created committees to oversee cooperative efforts in communications, tourism, industry and technology, economic issues, and energy. August 1998 - September 1998 Joint Agro-Project With Turkish Partner Washington, D.C. - A Greek and a Turkish firm will invest $20 million in the joint production of cotton, fruit, and vegetable seeds on farms throughout Turkey. With an expected $250 million in sales over five years, the scope of the venture is considered broader than that of other Greek-Turkish investments in Turkey and will contribute to the development of the Turkish agricultural industry. The first products to emerge from the farms will be on the market next year. Regional analysts have long advocated joint business ventures between Greece and Turkey to promote understanding and eliminate popular perceptions the two adversaries have about each other.