Continuing cooperation

First of all I would like to thank you for the opportunity to meet at the beginning of your term. I’m very happy to be here in Greece. The welcome has been extraordinary, very positive, and many people have shared my interest in making the relationship better. I look forward to a very productive time here, following on my talented predecessors. Your immediate predecessor Tom Miller had two very specific targets: to help crack down on terrorism and to achieve a secure Olympics. Are there any specific targets that you have? Well, I think I would like to carry forward with the work of Tom, particularly on the terrorism front and also on trafficking in persons, where Tom was also active. The Olympics were a tremendous success, not only because they went off without terrorist incidents, which was probably due to the extraordinary preparations and efforts and training that the Greek government and ATHOC (the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee), and everyone else involved undertook, but also it was a tremendous success for Greece. It demonstrated what a truly impressive country Greece is – the smallest country ever to host the Olympics managed, and by testimony of many who attended, one of the most friendly, positive, rewarding Olympics. I think the proof of the quality of the preparation of the Olympics was The (New York) Times calling for Greece to be the permanent home of the Olympics. I see myself as benefiting from the time of transition for Greece. Greece is not only finished with the tremendous national commitment that was involved in the Olympics but has also taken a seat on the UN Security Council and this means that Greece’s horizons will be broadening quite a bit. We hope to have a productive dialogue and effective cooperation with Greece across a wide spectrum of economic policy issues from the Middle East to the Balkans to the Caucasus and Africa, for that matter, in the context of the UN Security Council. I, as you know, have spent a lot of time in Brussels; my previous job took me there very often. As we have with many states, I expect to have a full dialogue with Greek authorities in the context of both EU and NATO issues. Are there any loose ends to deal with in the issue of terrorism? There is a global war on terrorism, a trans-national terrorist threat that requires acting to cut off sources of terrorist finance, to improve what we call transport security, the efforts airlines and maritime fleets take to prevent exploiting modes of transportation. There is a sharing of intelligence, the efforts we have been making to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, all of those are part of the struggle against terrorism. Is there a specifically Greek angle? Greece has had significant success in finding and arresting and convicting members of the notorious November 17 and other groups. I think one of the characteristics of modern life is that these things are never completely over. The threat may rise or decline, but is never completely over. We hope to continue the work as we learn more about terrorist techniques and means of investigation to share our experiences and training. For example, one of the whole series of the training exercises that were part of the Olympics served recently in good standing in the bus hijacking which was resolved, without loss of life, in an extremely professional manner. Those are the kinds of interchanges that we will be continuing. There will still be contact at a fairly intensive level? There is an ongoing level of contact between our services in this field. I had the opportunity to call on (Public Order) Minister (Giorgos) Voulgarakis last week, and we pledged we would continue the good cooperation, tactics and sense of trust that developed in preparation for the Olympics. What about the question of Greece providing training for Iraqi officers within the framework of NATO? NATO as a whole is committed to training Iraqi officers, and the NATO military authorities and Supreme Allied Commander are planning this mission. There will be scope for a number of ways countries can help. We obviously would like as much help from Greece as we can get for the NATO training mission in Iraq. Has Greece offered any alternative to the actual training of officers? Greece is willing to help and we are still working with the Greek government on exactly how and where and when. And in Afghanistan? Greek forces are on the ground and recently the Greek ambassador offered some additional commitments, a medical team to accompany one of the provincial construction teams in western Afghanistan, for which we are very grateful. We thank the Greek government. Investment and trade I expect you will be very active in terms of investment and trade. Indeed, I hope to be. I have already seen the Economy and Finance Minister (Giorgos) Alogoskoufis. This is something I have spent the better part of my career on – economics, trade, investment policy – and I have noticed, and this is nothing very perceptive, a lot of people have noticed it, is the fact that American investment in Greece proportional to the size of the economy is less than in every other country of the European Union. There are a variety of reasons for that, historical as well as economic policy reasons. The government is engaged in a number of efforts in terms of changing the tax structure, improving the transparency, government regulations and other economic policy reforms that should generate a considerable amount of interest, not just among American private investors but investors from all over the world. They are also undertaking privatizations that may have scope for foreign direct investment to come by shares in recently privatized companies. I’m not necessarily an investment banker putting together deals. My role is to make sure that the attractiveness of Greece as a place for investment is widely understood in the US. I expect to travel around the US, spend some time here, talking and answering people’s questions, buttressing presentations by Greek authorities in the US. When American companies come to Greece interested in trade, exporting or investment in this country, one of the first stops they make is in this embassy. I will see as many of them as I can. By the same token, I hope to establish very close relations with the American business community and the Greek business community that are partners with US companies here in Greece, with the American Chamber of Commerce, the Greek-American Business Council. I will spend time with them, and learn from their experiences. I hope to visit companies, get out and around and find out about market opportunities. I think that there are a variety of reasons to invest in Greece but one of them is the new dynamism in this region, the enhanced stability and economic growth in the Balkans, which we hope will continue, the European orientation of Turkey that was supported with a considerable amount of strategic insight by Greece, the prospect of peace in the Middle East. I think these are all good for the Greek economy. To the extent they are good for the Greek economy, they are good for foreign investors to come and create jobs and facilities and headquarters in Greece. Greece-Turkey You have served in Turkey in the past. Now in Athens, you are seeing another dimension of the Greek-Turkish image. I have a very positive image of Greece, on two grounds. First, I was in Washington much more recently than my time in Turkey. I was the deputy assistant secretary with responsibility for relations with the EU. Greece had the presidency of the EU at a very delicate and historic moment in the first half of 2003, which was when the question came up of what to do about Iraq and its refusal to abide by UN Security Council resolutions. The US felt there was a good case for military action and a number of other European countries agreed with it, but a significant number didn’t agree, so we had the prospect of trans-Atlantic split on this. Greece found itself in the chair, and I was very impressed with the way in which the minister of foreign affairs and the prime minister undertook their responsibility at that historic moment. They did not despair over disagreements over Iraq, but sought to continue to make progress in other areas and contain disagreements to the areas where there were genuine disagreements. The US-EU summit in June of 2003 was actually a very successful summit from our standpoint. We agreed on a historic, mutual, legal assistance agreement and extradition treaties between the United States and the European Union which helped the war on terrorism. We also set out common objectives on fighting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which were very important. Both efforts have been carried forward to this day from the leadership of Greece in 2003. That, plus the very impressive work on the Olympics, predisposed me to be very positive on the prospects for working with Greece before I ever got here. With respect to Turkey, I must say I was in Turkey from 1984 to 1986. I was an economic officer at the time, responsible for energy, environment, science and technology. I did not really work on political issues. But I have a good affection for the country and I travelled around quite a bit. Greece has been a strong supporter of Turkey getting closer to the EU but so far the government has not seen any noticeable gain in terms of Turkey’s behavior regarding differences over the Aegean. I would look at it in a different frame. Turkey’s interest and commitment to its European vocation with the strong support of Greece has made a very substantial difference to the way Turkey approaches its internal issues… All of those measures would not have happened without the prospect of the European Union accession. I would submit that all of those efforts are very much in Greece’s interest as well: Greece’s security and political interests, Greece as a member of Europe. They are what made possible the decision in December. But while that happens we also see the Turkish military have not reduced their pressure at all on points that are very sensitive to Greece. This is not new. Differences over the air space, the continental shelf, have a long history, and one of the most important and significant parts of this has been the direct dialogue between Greece and Turkey. It began in, I believe, 1999, to tackle those issues and that continues. I think to the extent that these other things are addressed will help provide an impetus to those as well. We do believe that the matters of sea and air space are best addressed between Turkey and Greece directly. We’ve been clear with both sides that we support such an engagement.