by Apostolis Zoupaniotis
WASHINGTON.- The relationship between Greece and the United States is very good despite differences in opinions and policies in some fields, including the war in Iraq, said U.S. Ambassador to Greece Thomas Miller, speaking in Washington D.C., at an event organized by the Hellenic American Women’s Council (HAWC).
“We can disagree without killing each other … we must respect each other’s opinions,” Miller told an audience of Washington professionals and women.
The top American diplomat said that he witnessed a maturity in Greece, even during the tough time of the Iraqi crisis, that he had not seen in the 1980s.
Greeks, he explained, have become more and more secure, taking pride in all of their accomplishments in recent decades; and they do not try to externalize the internal problems.
“The relationship is not always about the U.S. As Greece becomes more and more European, people in Greece become more secure. I remember in the past, huge anti-American demonstrations,” he said, expressing at the same time appreciation because the Greek government has honored the agreements they have signed with the U.S., about the use of Greek airspace and bases in Souda.
“There were people even within the Greek government disagreeing with what [the U.S.] was doing in Iraq,” he said.
Many of the questions Miller was asked by those in attendance were related to the anti-Americanism versus anti-war reaction. Miller acknowledged that not all the reactions were anti-American, and that a lot of the reactions expressed were opposition toward Bush administration policies. At the same time, Miller recognized that after September 11, some fundamental differences developed. He explained that while Europe suffered many wars, before September 11, Americans were feeling secure despite whatever was happening in the world. That changed after September 11, when the priority became to not let such a tragedy ever recur. Because of that, while Europe wants more dialogue to solve problems of security, the U.S. wants to make sure that its security won’t be compromised.
“There is also a tendency for both sides to stereotype each other,” Miller said, citing one more problem that must be solved between the U.S. and Europe.
Replying to a Greek American who said he doesn’t feel welcome in Greece, Miller said, “The American tourist is wanted now and he is missed… They need American tourists.”
Miller predicted that when Americans get over September 11 and start crossing the Atlantic again, the number of tourists from the U.S. to Europe will increase.
He praised the Greek government on the fight against terrorism, and he said that Greece is a safe and secure country. He cautioned, however, against easing any security measures because of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.