Hillary Clinton’s campaign issues a position paper on the Greece, Cyprus and the Greek American Community
New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
The Greek News was given a position paper on Hellenic issues by the Clinton campaign on Friday. Perhaps influenced by tightening polls and the fact that there are significant Greek-American populations in battleground states like Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Colorado, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, the long-rumored position paper was released just days before the Presidential election. It must be noted that during 2016, it is still only the Clinton campaign that has prepared such a position paper or undertaken any formal outreach to the Greek-American community on Hellenic issues.
In the position paper, Secretary Clinton notes her activism on the issue of the Ecumenical Patriarchate – as First Lady, as Senator and as Secretary of State. The paper also recalls her trip to Greece as Secretary of State and identified partnership in NATO, preserving cultural antiquities, and the economic crisis as the issues addressed then. She did not note any previous actions on Cyprus, the Macedonian issue or the Aegean in this paper.
If elected President, Clinton makes commitments on Hellenic issues under the following four categories. Stand with our allies and strengthen NATO; Support economic security for Greece and Europe; Call for a robust international response to the European migration crisis; Support a comprehensive settlement to reunify Cyprus as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.
The Clinton paper makes some notable statements that echo the recent upgrading of Greece in American foreign policy thinking, including: “Hillary recognizes Greece’s important role as a NATO ally. Greece hosts the U.S. Naval Support Activity at Souda Bay in Crete.” She also acknowledges the front line role Greece has played in the refugee crisis by recognizing “the tremendous efforts made by the Greek people to offer humanitarian aid and assistance to the hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants who have entered the country since 2015.” She pledges to assist on this issue by continuing “to call for a more robust international response to the European migration crisis,” and ensuring “the U.S. maintains its role as the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to displaced persons and refugees.”
The most noteworthy statement in the paper is on a subject that many hope will be the focus of President Obama’s upcoming trip to Greece. It is well known that Washington and Berlin have a serious policy disagreement over how to make European debt sustainable, and Clinton makes it clear that she disagrees with any assessment that Greece’s debt is presently sustainable. She makes note of the economic catastrophe Greece has suffered (“The economic crisis that struck Greece in 2009 caused its economy to contract by about 25 percent and, resulted in dramatic increases in unemployment and poverty”) restates her support of economic reforms. Most importantly, she concludes the section with a call for solutions that provide “a path forward for economic recovery through debt relief.”
On Cyprus, Hillary proclaims support of the “Cypriot-led, UN-facilitated negotiations as the best process to achieve a fair and lasting settlement.” Unlike President Obama’s 2008 campaign statement – which stated: A negotiated political settlement on Cyprus would end the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus – Clinton makes no mention of Turkey nor does she acknowledge the obstacle that Turkey represents in reunifying Cyprus. At the same time, the Clinton statement shows how far bilateral relations with Cyprus have come in the last eight years: “Hillary views Cyprus as a strategic partner of the United States, and she values our close cooperation with Cyprus and the European Union in advancing our shared transatlantic priorities.”
According to Endy Zemenides, the Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council, this statement is an important step. “Having written statements allow the community to have a standard of accountability with elected officials. If we in fact start dealing with a Clinton Administration, we will not only be dealing with officials with whom we have some history with, but now have some policies to build off of.” Zemenides said he was pleased with “the public declaration of the strategic significance of Greece and Cyprus, the pledge to help Greece with the refugee crisis, the support of a Cypriot-led reunification process, and the call for debt relief” because all of these items would likely force themselves onto the agenda of the next President’s first 100 days. At the same time, he expressed disappointment that this statement “still contains a degree of equivocation that the American foreign policy establishment is famous for on Hellenic issues. A President of the United States should be able to call for ‘debt forgiveness’ and not just ‘debt relief’; she should be able to call for the end of an occupation in Cyprus.” In the end, Zemenides that this policy statement was a “very positive development” that could “hopefully lead to more fruitful policies on Hellenic issues out of Washington.”