WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 23-The frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, Howard Dean, in interview to Greek daily “Ta Nea” and its correspondent in Washington D.C., Athanasios Ellis, gave his positions on a range of Hellenic issues – including U.S.-Greece bilateral relations, Cyprus settlement efforts, the Athens Olympics, and the fight against terrorism in Greece.
Prominent members of the Greek-American community in Washington, D.C., Michael Angelakis and Anna Lea, are working with Governor Dean and spearheading efforts to coordinate members of the national Greek-American community to support the Dean campaign.
Q. How would you describe the present state of bilateral relations between the US and Greece?
I consider the Greeks trusted allies and friends, and our partnership can continue to help further our mutual economic and political interests. Greece is a key founding member of NATO and the Atlantic Alliance. Greece is a significant economic engine in the Balkans and plays a key role on issues important to the US in this troubled region. Greece is also appreciated as a valued ally of the United States in the fight against global terrorism.
Should the US and the international community allow Turkey and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to continue to defy them by not solving the Cyprus problem?
I am optimistic that with continued international and American support, the Cyprus issue can be resolved relatively soon. To help accomplish this, my administration will consider this issue as a foreign policy priority and will assist to bring about a just and viable solution.
Resolution of the Cyprus issue is important to the US, especially because both Greece and Turkey are members of NATO. The Europeans also recognize the centrality of the issue, and expect Turkey to resolve the issue before it can gain entry into the EU. This is important for the West because, under the right conditions, Turkey’s entry into the EU would also help cement democratic ideals in the Middle East. Cyprus is also important from a security standpoint — its location in the eastern Mediterranean can give it a strategic role in the reconstruction of Iraq and for trade between the Middle East and Europe. Resolution of this issue would also free up valuable resources, which could be used for other pressing humanitarian concerns. Finally, by exercising leadership in finding a solution to this dispute the US can in the process rebuild a number of relationships damaged by this administration’s foreign policy.
Q. Can Turkey start accession talks with the European Union while still occupying one third of Cyprus, an EU member state?
This is a question for the European Union and Turkey to consider.
Q.- Turkey disputes the status quo in the Aegean Sea. As a politician who believes deeply in the rule of law how do you view the Greek proposal to take the issue of delimitation of the continental shelf of the Aegean to the International Court of Justice?
Ideally, with the assistance of the international community, these two NATO allies should be able to resolve this dispute.
Q.- Given its membership in the EU and NATO, as well as its recent strong economic performance, can Greece act as the main force of stability and growth in the Balkans?
Just as Greece recently distinguished itself when Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis served as President of the European Council, Greece has proven itself as a force for stability and growth in the Balkans. Greece, for example, played a very important role in bringing a new regime to Serbia. And Greece’s economic ties to the Balkans have been the dominant force fueling development in the region. It is because of this strong regional role that the city of Thessaloniki in northern Greece was chosen as the headquarters for the European Agency for Reconstruction of the Balkans.
Q.- In less than a year Greece will host the 2004 Olympics. How should Americans view the return of the Games to their birthplace, and does this offer an opportunity for the games to step back from their over-commercialization and return to their original human spirit?
My best wishes to Greece — the birthplace of the ancient and modern games — for a successful Olympics I hope that Greece can serve as an example for other countries aspiring to host the Games in the future. The 2004 Games present a chance to once again reflect on shared human ideals in a time of uncertainty.
Q.- As Greece prepares for the Games on the security front, and Greek authorities work closely with the US and other major countries (Britain, Germany, Israel, etc), how do you assess Greece’s performance in combating terrorism given its success in capturing the domestic terrorist organization “17 November”?
Security, of course, is always a concern and I urge Greece do everything in its power to ensure a safe and secure Olympic Games. I was pleased to hear that Greece has budgeted nearly a billion dollars towards security services and infrastructure. I believe that the US and the international community should work closely with Greece to preserve the security and integrity of these Games.
q.- How influential is the Greek American community?
Greek Americans are good, solid Americans. They are patriotic and hardworking and stress the importance of family and education. Their influence extends beyond the Greek community and sets an example for all Americans.
WAR IN IRAQ
Q.- Why did President Bush insist on going to war in Iraq and was his decision justified?
I don’t know why the President went to war, but I am certain that that decision was not justified. There is also no doubt that a sovereign state has a right to fight a preventive war against an imminent threat to its vital national security interests. But for more than a year, I have been stating that the situation in Iraq did not come close to meeting this criterion.
Q.- Did the war in Iraq take away resources and attention from the war on terrorism?
After the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001 awoke America to the danger of terrorism, making Americans more secure should have been our nation’s top priority. Instead, after some initially positive steps, the Bush Administration abandoned the war on terror for other misplaced priorities. It chose a domestic agenda of tax cuts for a few wealthy Americans and a foreign policy focused solely on Iraq. Almost two years later, the President has turned the largest budget surplus in history into the largest budget deficit, and much of the work necessary to protect us from the threat posed by terrorists remains undone. As a result, all Americans, at home and abroad, are less secure today — economically, politically, and strategically.
Q.- Was the decision to sidestep the UN the correct one? And given the present reluctance of other countries to contribute troops and funds to the rebuilding of Iraq, is it time for the UN to be given more control over the situation in Iraq?
While I would never delegate the decision to use US troops to the UN, in this instance, there was no justification for the foreign policy of this administration and the sidestepping of the UN. And since last May, I have repeatedly called for the internationalization of the reconstruction effort in Iraq and increasing the role of our friends and allies and the United Nations and NATO in the stabilization and reconstruction process.
Q.- The Iraq war divided the US from many of its traditional allies in Europe and most of European public opinion. How concerned are you about the present state of relations between the US and Europe, and what would you do to repair them?
I am deeply concerned about the state of US relationships with its traditional friends and allies. For almost 60 years we have worked cooperatively with European nations to build a better and more peaceful world. This valuable work is now at risk. Instead of the humility we were promised, this administration has acted with unparalleled petulance and arrogance. President Bush has alienated our friends and allies and weakened our national security in the process — with no apparent upside.
A little over a decade ago, the Berlin Wall came down and America didn’t fire a shot. There are three reasons that happened. The first was that we had a strong military. The second was that the Atlantic Alliance held steadfast in support of democratic values. The third was that most of the people on the other side of the Iron Curtain wanted to be like America, and they wanted to be like Americans. We had strong ideals that the world believed in and respected. And in only two and a half years — this president’s time in Washington — you would be hard-pressed to find a majority in any country in the world that wanted to be like us anymore. If you make me the president of the United States, I will restore the honor and dignity and the respect for this country that we deserve in the world.
Q.- Finally, what would be the domestic economic and social priorities of a Dean Presidency?
In 2002 I began to travel the country in the usual way one does when seeking the Presidency. I wanted to raise the issues of health care and early childhood development. I wanted to balance the budget to bring financial stability and jobs back to America. Most importantly, I have wanted my party to stand up for what we believe in again.
But something changed along the way as I listened to Americans around this country. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve heard a fundamental distrust of a government that people feel more and more disconnected from. People are concerned that something is wrong with our democracy when there are 33 lobbyists for every Congressman in Washington and oil companies write our energy policy, pharmaceutical companies draft our Medicare policy and Halliburton receives a no-bid contract in Iraq worth up to $7 billion.
It is a government of, by, and for the special interests, and the American people are becoming less and less important to our lawmakers. This is not the way America is supposed to work.
I am running for president because I believe democracy itself is at stake in this election. I stand with the millions of Americans who are fed up with being shut out of the political process, who believe that the special interests have no business making the decisions which affect us all, and who want to restore the democracy our founders envisioned. My domestic economic and social priorities — to balance the budget, fund a public education system that gives opportunity to all students and bring health care to every man, woman and child in this country — can and will be achieved, because my campaign is based on ridding Washington of the politics of money, and bringing back the power of the people.