Greece Asserts Fight against Terrorism

Article excerpt

Top officials in Athens are expressing high hopes that a crime-fighting agreement signed this year with the United States will lay to rest the mistrust underlying recurring U.S. charges that democratic Greece is not doing enough to combat terrorism.

"The agreement sets clear rules under which the two nations will cooperate in tackling the problem of terrorism," Foreign Minister George Papandreou said in a recent hourlong interview in Athens.

He viewed the mistrust as a product of the two nations' post-World War II history.

"I think the whole Cold War legacy from the [Greek] civil war in the '40s all the way through the junta [1967-74], and even later on with PASOK (the Panhellenic Socialist Union), created a strong tension between Greece's desire to be more independent in foreign policy and the U.S. seeking conformity and viewing Greece with the mistrust that came out of the civil war." Civil war erupted in Greece after the German, Italian and Bulgarian forces that invaded the country in 1940 withdrew in late 1944. British and Greek Royalist troops defeated communist resistance forces, and restored the monarchy. Communists waged a guerrilla war against the government in 1947-49 but were defeated with American help.

American-Greek mistrust is history now, Greece's top diplomat said.

"We have developed a new relationship over the last 10 years, particularly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mr. Papandreou said.

Michalis Chrysohoides, minister of public order, agreed that postwar history is what created the mistrust.

"The Americans seem to think that Greece does not have the political will to fight terrorism. That is the problem," he said.

"But I think the mistrust is not warranted. All governments of Greece from then to now have had the political will to fight terrorism."

On Sept. 8, a memorandum of understanding on combating terrorism and other transnational crimes, such as drug trafficking and illegal migration, was signed in Washington by Mr. Chrysohoidis and Attorney General Janet Reno.

The memorandum provides for combined training between the United States and Greece and exchange of law-enforcement personnel.

"I think the agreement has a symbolic dimension. It shows that Greece is willing to cooperate and expresses our strong political will. This is an old problem, for which we have new means in place to combat it," the public order minister said.

Even before the agreement, Greece had moved to improve its internal-security situation. For example, an upgraded baggage-handling system that will be able to X-ray every piece of luggage is planned for use next year at the new Athens airport. …