OPINION

Pragmatic approach

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s visit to the United States was brought to a successful conclusion as expected. The good atmosphere in bilateral ties was confirmed while both sides expressed the political will to improve them further. Besides, there are no differences or outstanding issues serious enough to spoil the warm climate. The Greek delegation was pleased to receive a warm welcome and to hear President George W. Bush’s statement concerning security measures during the Summer Olympic Games in Athens. The American side, in turn, was pleased to hear the Greek premier reiterate his commitment that Athens – and, more importantly, Nicosia – will back Turkey’s demand for an EU membership talks date in December. Cyprus was the only issue which could have cast a shadow over the meeting. Both leaders avoided touching on the problem. No doubt Washington was irked by the Greek-Cypriot rejection of the UN reunification plan for the island in the recent referendum. On the other hand, the overwhelming percentage by which the plan was rejected prompted Bush to admit that the most realistic information had come from Athens and not from his own staff. The most substantial gain for American diplomacy is that Turkey has managed to shake off the burden of the Cyprus problem ahead of December’s verdict. Karamanlis raised the issue of resuming negotiations on the UN’s Cyprus plan before both UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the US administration – but he did not get what he wanted. He nourishes no illusions about the issue, but his intervention somewhat dispelled the impression that the Cyprus issue has been filed away. It is important that Greek-American relations these days are less influenced by ideological factors and appear to have entered a period of stability. The trend is also confirmed by a recent V-PRC survey. Seventy-six percent of the respondents said it is important that Greece is on good terms with the USA. This view was held by the same percentage of people who define themselves as center-leftists and by 69 percent of people describing themselves as left-wing. It is indicative that 59 percent said that Greece must take American interests into consideration – which, however, did not prevent 89 percent having a negative opinion of Bush. This particular finding shows that the Greek public distinguishes bilateral relations from the occasional actions of American administrations. The distinction underscores that the ideological and political subtext of mistrust – a result of an allegedly US-backed military coup, Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus and the toleration of Turkish expansionism – have given way to a more pragmatic approach.