American Hellenic Institute

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Forum Analyzes Implications for Turkey-U.S. Relations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: C. Franciscos Economides
November 4, 2010—No. 07 (202) 785-8430

 

Executive Director’s Note: The American Hellenic Institute presents AHI’s Capital Report which is a timely synopsis of recent policy discussions in Washington to help keep you abreast of the latest developments. As a service to our membership and constituency, and to gain an understanding of the position of other entities on our issues, the American Hellenic Institute attends and participates at policy forums or roundtable discussions to ensure the policy positions of the Greek-American community are represented.

The content provided in AHI’s Capital Report is for informational purposes only, and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of AHI.

Forum Analyzes Implications for Turkey-U.S. Relations

The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Southeast Europe Project hosted a policy forum on September 27, 2010 titled, “Turkey’s Neighborhood Policy: Implications for Turkey-U.S. Relations,” featuring five members of the Turkish Parliament: Suat Kinikloglu (AKP), Cuneyt Yuksel, (AKP), Erol Aslan Cebeci (AKP), Emrehan Halici (CHP), and Mithat Melen (MHP).

Kinikloglu, the main speaker, commented on the vanishing perception that Turkey and its neighbors are constant enemies. On the contrary, he highlighted how relations in the “neighborhood” have improved through three main initiatives: deepening relations with neighbors, increased trade, and people-to-people contact in order to create a flow of culture, people, and information that ties the region closer together. Turkey has also changed its visa law to allow free movement between Turkey and its neighbors, specifically Syria. Kinikloglu also discussed the Turkish-American partnership, saying the two nations are correcting the anomaly of the Cold War years and working together to create stability in the Balkans and Anatolia. He also mentioned a benefit of good Turkey-U.S. relations is that Turkey’s good relations with countries like Iran gives them access, trust and influence in such governments that the U.S. doesn’t has and therefore allows them to negotiate on situations more effectively.

The second speaker, Melen, focused on the economic benefits of the U.S. increasing their trade relationship with Turkey. An economist, Melen discussed how economic stability leads to political stability, especially in the Balkans and Middle East. He claimed Turkey is very interested in helping Greece fix its economy. In lieu of their newly booming trade relationship with Russia, Turkey is working to increase such economic ties with its neighbors so that it can prove valuable enough to take part in European markets.

Halici reinforced the idea of the importance of Turkey entering the European markets and building relations with governments unfriendly with the U.S. He claimed that the EU and NATO are elements of continuity between the U.S. and Turkey’s foreign policy.

During the Q&A session, the representatives asserted that Turkey does not support any terrorist organization and stated that engagement is key to facilitating peace with any nation. The focus stayed on Turkey’s relationships with Russia, the Middle East, Europe and Israel. The panelist refused to entertain any questions pertaining to Cyprus or Armenia and insisted that relations with Greece were good.

 

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Greece’s Policies amid a Year of Crisis Examined

On October 6, 2010, the Woodrow Wilson Center held an event titled: “A Year in Crisis: Greek Policies in Perspective.” Speaker of the event was Professor John Koumoulidees, emeritus professor of History, Ball State University.

The speaker opened his remarks by commenting on the depth of the severe state of Greece’s economic crisis, saying that in its short history, modern Greece has always been in debt. He highlighted the fact that Greece has an estimated one million immigrants who burden the economy by taking over many jobs. He also noted that the economic crisis has created a surplus of foreign labor and bankrupted local economies.

Commenting on Greece’s relationship with international financial institutions, the professor highlighted its relationship with the International Monetary Fund.  He estimated that $27,000 is owed by every citizen in Greece in order to get out of debt.

He also opined that in the perception of modern Greeks, Muslims are a personal and emotional threat. Quoting some facts, he stated that from a newspaper article, 50 percent of Greeks believe presence of migrants will alter the ethnic identity of the country and 50 percent of Greeks believe racism is wrong. The speaker referred to modern Greece as changing into a “Kaleidoscope Society.”

During a Q&A session, the focus was placed mainly upon the need for leadership to create business venture. Furthermore, emphasis was placed on the importance of education and the need to reform the existing educational system in Greece. The speaker commented negatively on the fact that wealthy families are not willing to contribute to help institutions.

Referring to modern Greeks, the speaker expressed the belief that to this day they live in a “utopian world” where they constantly consume and choose to blame others. Lastly, he highlighted the fact that the number of people participating in riots has decreased and that there has been a rise in the concern of all Greeks to rightfully pay their taxes.

 

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AHI Executive Director Moderates Panel at Landmark AHEPA Conference

AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis moderated a panel titled “Historical Background of Greek-Israeli Relations” at a landmark conference held by the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association that explored the next steps in the emerging relationship between Greece and Israel on October 7, 2010, in Washington.  Ekavi Athanassopoulou, senior research fellow, ELIAMEP, and Lecturer of International Relations at the University of Athens, presented on the topic (see her remarks here).

Overall, the conference featured four panels of experts from the diplomatic corps, academia, community organizations, and the military on the following topics:

  • Panel 1: What Does a Greek-Israeli Strategic Relationship Look Like?
  • Panel 2: Historical Background of Greek-Israeli Relations
  • Panel 3: National Issues & the Role of Community Organizations
  • Panel 4: The Dynamics of a Greek-Israeli Military Cooperation

His Excellency Michael B. Oren, ambassador of Israel to the U.S., His Excellency Vassilis Kaskarelis, ambassador of the Hellenic Republic to the U.S., U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), member, House Foreign Affairs Committee, were among the many speakers.  For a complete listing, please click here.

 

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Assistant Secretary of State Gordon Addresses U.S.-Europe Relationship

AHI attended an event at the SAIS Center for Transatlantic Studies at Johns Hopkins University titled “The United States and Europe: An Agenda for Engagement.” The speaker for this event was Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Phillip H. Gordon.  It was held October 18, 2010.

In his remarks, Gordon commented on the long history of the U.S. and Europe working together to combat global issues and the commitment of this administration to re-engage in Europe. He described the U.S.-E.U. relationship as one of “democratic, prosperous, [and] militarily capable allies.” The three main objectives of this relationship are: 1) working together as global partners to beating international challenges; 2) working with Europe on Europe, meaning European enlargement, membership and integration; and 3) setting a new course for relations with Russia.

Gordon also outlined key points in Balkan policy. The first objective is to help Serbia and Kosovo move toward a dialogue. NATO is also pursuing strategies and negotiating with Russia to implement a theater of missile defense in the region. Another objective for the Balkans is to have FYROM join NATO as soon as the name issue has been resolved. Gordon offered no timeline or details as to how the U.S. is facilitating any progress on this issue.

With regards to the Armenia-Turkey protocols, Gordon stated that “the U.S. wishes to see both countries ratify and implement the protocols, which has not happened, [however] we will remain committed.”

Please click here to view Gordon’s remarks in full.

 

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Israeli-Greek Relations and Future Cooperation Discussed at Forum

The Woodrow Wilson Center held a policy forum on October 19, 2010 titled “A New Axis for Stability: The Israeli-Greek Alliance.”  The speaker for this event was Aristotle Tziampiris, assistant professor, Department of International and European Studies, University of Piraeus (Greece).

Tziampiris discussed the turbulent history of Greek-Israeli relations as well as describing the recent developments surrounding a new surge in positive relations.  The “flurry of diplomatic action” in the past two months is astounding after centuries of ill-will between the two nations. While noting that this turn-around was sparked by crumbling relations between Israel and Turkey, Tziampiris emphasized that these new ties won’t fall apart if Israeli-Turkish relations happen to improve. The reason, he says, is because of how well the Greek and Israeli prime ministers get along and how committed they are to moving forward.

He also discussed the possibility of a new oil pipeline running from Israel, through Cyprus and Crete, and then either onto mainland Greece or to Italy. This type of alliance would lead to increased stability of the Greek-Israeli relationship, which Tziampiris claims would not fall apart even with a change in administration.

 

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“Reimaging Eurasia” Forum Sheds Little Light on Turkey, Greek American Policy Interests

The Center for American Progress hosted a policy forum on October 20, 2010 titled, “Reimaging Eurasia.” The forum featured Dr. Samuel Charap, associate director for Russian and Eurasia, Center for American Progress; Alexandros Petersen, senior fellow, Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council; Dr. Fiona Hill, director and senior fellow, Center on the United States and Europe, Brookings Institution and former national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia;  and The Hon. William Courtney, former U.S. ambassador to Georgia and Kazakhstan. Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor, The Washington Post, moderated the forum.

The U.S. relationship with Russia and the former Soviet states, or Eurasia, was the focus of the event.  While engagement strategies for this region were discussed, very little references were made to Turkey, Armenia or any other AHI issues. The only related comment was regarding the Armenian-Turkish protocols and how, despite having them in place, neither party is adhering to the terms.

Please click here to view a video link of the entire panel.

 

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AHI Releases Congressional Candidate Questionnaire Findings

AHI released the results from its 2010 Congressional Candidate Questionnaire on October 25, 2010.   In September, AHI mailed the questionnaire to the campaign offices of congressional candidates from the two major parties and select independent candidates who are running for congress.

“The questionnaire surveyed the candidates on issues that are of great importance to the Greek American community that involve U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus, as well as Southeastern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean region,” said Executive Director Nick Larigakis “This includes issues such as the Aegean Sea Boundary, FYROM’s name-recognition, a just and viable Cyprus solution, religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and a critical review of U.S. policy toward Turkey.”

AHI received 47 responses of which 21 candidates stated that they do not complete surveys or questionnaires.  Twenty-six candidates did submit responses.  The overwhelming majority of respondents were in agreement with each of the nine policy questions asked by AHI.

Please click here to view the questionnaire’s findings.

 

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AHI Refutes Congressional Letter to President Obama on FYROM, NATO Membership

AHI sent a letter on October 26, 2010 to President Barack Obama expressing the Institute’s disagreement with an October 1, 2010 sent to the president by 19 members of Congress who claimed that NATO membership for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) should not be “negatively affected by bilateral issues with Greece,” in reference to the name dispute issue, as NATO prepares to meet for the Lisbon Summit in November.  Of the 19 congressional members who signed the letter, six are members of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues.

“The Members [of Congress] claim that FYROM has fulfilled all the criteria for membership,” wrote AHI President Aleco Haralambides and AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis.   “However, FYROM continues to be an intransigent party as it relates to its name dispute with Greece.  FYROM must realize that in order to join NATO, it must focus on the fulfillment of NATO’s good neighborly relations principle and the immediate settlement of the difference over the name.”

The AHI letter also commended the Obama administration for not supporting the legislators’ position, citing a recent statement by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip H. Gordon.

“Macedonia will join [NATO] once the dispute over its name is settled,” the AHI letter quotes Assistant Secretary Gordon from a speech given October 18, 2010, at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University.

Finally, AHI’s letter recounted Greece’s contributions to NATO, especially to Afghanistan, and President Obama’s previous positions on the FYROM name-dispute issue that included an original co-sponsorship of S.Res.300 in the 110th Congress.

To view AHI’s letter to President Obama, please click here (818KB PDF).

 

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Members of Congress Who Signed Letter

The 19 members of Congress who signed the letter to President Obama are: U.S. Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), Candice Miller (R-MI), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Gary Peters (D-MI), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), David Price (D-NC), Connie Mack (R-FL), Russ Carnahan (D-MO), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Harry Mitchell (D-AZ), Mike Turner (R-OH), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Steven LaTourette (R-OH), Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Pedro Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico), Bobby Rush (D-IL), and Daniel Maffei (D-NY).  U.S. Reps. Franks, Peters, Carnahan, Hastings, Pascrell, and Rush are members of the Hellenic Caucus.

 

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For additional information, please contact Demetra Atsaloglou at (202) 785-8430 or at pr@ahiworld.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.