OPINION

Consolidating ties

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s impending visit to Washington inevitably entails some kind of test for Greek-American relations, whose fluctuations over the previous years have stabilized to a large extent. Karamanlis’s intent is to revive and reinforce the positive climate. During the talks, the conservative prime minister will try to consolidate his image as a reliable interlocutor who defends Greek interests with determination and pragmatism. Greece’s newly installed premier was a university student in the United States and is familiar with the American mentality. Karamanlis respects this big country but his political outlook is not distorted by prejudice or phobias. His aim is to shape a bilateral relationship that will be based on mutual respect. His efforts are made easier by the fact that in American eyes, New Democracy’s administration will not be a short-lived one. This means that it is in both countries’ interests to show good will and work for the further improvement of bilateral ties. The manner in which Athens handled the issue of the Cyprus referendum was indicative of its broader stand and its position was carefully examined in Washington. The same is true of its overall stand on Greek-Turkish relations, as illustrated during Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Athens visit. The US values the fact that the Karamanlis government has pledged to back Ankara’s demand for an EU membership talks date from the European Council in December. The Americans deem that Athens’s firm support of Ankara’s bid is also a guarantee that Nicosia will keep to the same line on the issue – which it has already said it will do anyway. Furthermore, the Greek premier will aim to consolidate the positive results obtained during the recent visit by Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis, and ensure America’s support on the crucial issue of Olympic Games security. Athens is aware that on top of the operational problem, there is also a political dimension, which it will have to deal with in a flexible manner. This is something that the Socialist administration had achieved and its successor is treading the same path. Greek-American relations are not negatively affected by any political differences or outstanding issues. Nor does the Karamanlis administration intend to change the basic contours of Greece’s foreign policy. It is worth noting that the trip is taking place on the eve of US presidential elections – at a time when Bush needs the economic assistance and votes of the ethnic Greek population. Karamanlis’s visit has every chance of success.