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5/26/04 - GREEK PRIME MINISTER’S VISIT - 2004-05-27

In August, Greece will host the summer Olympic Games in its capital, Athens. Because of the worldwide terrorist threat, security will be a major concern. About one-billion two-hundred million dollars has been budgeted for security this year, several times as much as for the summer Olympic Games four years ago in Australia. At a White House meeting this month, President George W. Bush discussed the Olympics and other issues with recently elected Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

The inspiration for the modern Olympic Games came from ancient Greece, and Mr. Bush told Prime Minister Karamanlis that the U.S. is pleased that the games are returning this year to the land of their birth:

“I want to thank you for your very close cooperation, working together to make sure the games are successful, that people are able to travel to your beautiful country in as secure an environment as possible.”

About eighty-thousand Greek police and soldiers will be providing security during the two weeks of the Olympics. Greece has also asked its allies in NATO to help patrol the skies with surveillance planes. Mr. Karamanlis said that Greece is looking forward to Olympic Games that will be “successful on the athletic and cultural level, and also safe and secure.”

Cyprus was another issue discussed by Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis with President Bush. In April, Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected a United Nations plan to reunify the island, which has been divided since 1974 into a Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south. The U.S., Greece, and Turkey all supported the plan to establish a loose federation of two states under a central government.

Mr. Karamanlis said the decision of the Greek Cypriot voters must be respected. But he said that Greece will support “new efforts. . .to get closer to the final goal, which is reunification of the island.” Prime Minister Karamanlis also made it clear that Greece will support what he called the “Turkish European perspective.” What this means is eventual membership for longtime NATO ally Turkey in the European Union. The future of southeastern Europe is best served by bringing Turkey into the European Union, and the affirmation of this point by Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis is a very positive step for the region.