American Hellenic Institute


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AHI Protests Testimony Of Atlantic Council Official On Visa Waiver Program For Greece
February 22, 2000 No. 13/2000 (202) 785-8430

AHI Protests Testimony Of Atlantic Council Official On Visa Waiver Program For Greece

On February 16, 2000 the American Hellenic Institute sent a letter to the President of the Atlantic Council, Washington DC, protesting the testimony of Mr. Wayne Merry, an Atlantic Council official, before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims on February 10, 2000 with regard to the Visa Waiver Program for Greece. The letter reads:

"In our exchange of correspondence (resting with your letter of November 13, 1999) about Mr. Wayne Merry and his attitude to Greece, you mentioned that you encouraged the Atlantic Council's senior staff to express their ideas in public as the "essence of democratic exchange." I have no difficulty with that. As you note, the Atlantic Alliance is strong enough to cope with a diversity of views.

What does, however, strike me as needing some form of intervention by the Atlantic Council is that Mr. Merry clearly has imbibed a deep anti-Greek prejudice deriving from his time there. His February 10, 2000 testimony before the House Judiciary subcommittee on Immigration and Claims to the effect that "Greece has one of the world's worst records in combating terrorism" and his recommendation against Greece's inclusion in the U.S. visa waiver scheme show a depressing lack of balance.

Terrorism is an important issue. It can strike anywhere and anyone. No NATO member has a perfect record on this front. For Mr. Merry to single Greece out in this repeated public fashion suggests that he has an agenda that transcends the facts.

Mr. Merry is, of course, fully entitled his own views about Greece. I am sorry that he has formed these views about my country of birth. I think he is way off base. But I must record that I find it astonishing that views such as Mr. Merry's are compatible with an organization whose ostensible mission is to promote the transatlantic relationship and which should, as part of this mission, show some professional understanding of Greece's actions on this issue. I do not think that it can be reasonably argued that in formal testimony before the Congress, Mr. Merry is merely expressing his personal opinions. I was glad to see that they were repudiated by the State Department spokesman on February 14.

I urge you to review his positions with him."

Following Senate action in 1997, the amendment providing for a visa waiver program for Greece was passed by a vote of 360-46 in the House of Representatives on March 25, 1998. The Amendment was offered on a bipartisan basis by Richard Pombo (R-CA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Michael Pappas (R-NJ) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI). AHI was proud to play a vigorous role in supporting passage of this amendment.