The Greek government is determined to not only block European Union funds to Turkey but also the process of Ankara's customs union with the 15-member Community, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said on Saturday.
Greece has already requested a one-month postponement of the customs union discussion by the EU, considering that the scheduled March 25 date - a Greek national holiday celebrating the beginning of the independence struggle against the Ottoman Empire - is in "bad taste," Mr. Pangalos said.
In order to give its consent to the unanimous decision of the Council of Ministers for the EU-Turkey customs union, Greece will request inclusion of last Thursday's Europarliament resolution on the recent crisis in the Aegean, the foreign minister said.
Mr. Pangalos spoke at a press conference on the occasion of the first meeting of the World Hellenism Council (SAE) at its headquarters in Thessaloniki.
He accused Turkey of having already violated the customs union agreement and called for "the voice of the peoples of Europe" to be heard, saying that the Europarliament was the only EU body "with direct popular legitimacy."
With respect to EU funds provided for Turkey under the terms of the customs union agreement, Mr. Pangalos said there was a preamble to the accord stipulating that a condition for advancement of the customs union was for Ankara to maintain good-neighborly relations and respect international law.
"It is clear that Turkey has violated the agreement and, therefore, we feel it is logical on our part to want to discuss the entire issue again. Of course, there will be no funding until this discussion has been completed," Mr. Pangalos added.
He said there were another two issues pending in the EU with respect to Turkey, namely funds expected by Ankara within the framework of Community financing for Mediterranean regions and discussion of the customs union itself by the Council of Ministers.
On the first issue, Mr. Pangalos said Greece will request that Turkey present all its programmes so they may be approved individually, "because Greece does not want EU funds to be wasted," noting that Britain shared that view.
On the second matter, Mr. Pangalos said if the positions of the European Parliament were not included "there will be no common European position, and there will be an association council with Turkey."
The foreign minister said Athens' positions were "reasonable, moderate and show that Greece does not create problems, but helps resolve them."
On the prospects for Greek-Turkish relations, Mr. Pangalos underlined that Ankara had upgraded its demands against Greece by openly claiming territory, adding that "a storm is on the way and we must all become serious."
Mr. Pangalos said that if Turkey wished to be seen as a civilized state, "then it should present its claims with legal arguments citing specific rules of international law. Ankara is not entitled to threaten us with war if we wish to extend our territorial waters to 12 (nautical) miles, nor to use force as in the case of Imia."
In directly addressing the Turkish government, Mr. Pangalos stated: "If the Turks believe that they can create faits accomplis, as in Cyprus, then they are laboring under a very false impression and they will receive the appropriate response."
Mr. Pangalos said that expatriate Greeks should focus their efforts on the two major national issues - the Turkish threat in the Aegean and the continuing occupation of the northern part of Cyprus.
Replying to questions, Mr. Pangalos also briefly referred to Greece's relations with neighboring Albania, Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
He said that relations with Tirana were improving, adding that President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos may visit Albania for the first time probably next month.
Relations with Bulgaria, he continued, were continuously improving, while the only issue pending with FYROM was that of the landlocked neighboring state's name.
Turkish Alternate Foreign Under-secretary Inal Batu proposed the formation of a committee of legal experts to examine arguments put forth by both Greece and Turkey regarding the status of the Imia islets in the eastern Aegean.
In an interview with the Greek state-controlled television station ET-1 yesterday, Mr. Batu appealed for some form of dialogue.
He contended that there was a legal basis for Turkey's claims, while noting Greece's assertion of its own strong legal position and sovereign rights over the islets. "Let us please discuss these issues through diplomatic channels or let us form a committee of legal experts; we can do many things," the Turkish official said. Mr. Batu stressed the "dangers involved in an absence of dialogue," expressing his concern over future "faits accomplis" and another escalation of the situation, which could lead to a similar crisis in the future.
Perforations found in the cabin of a Hellenic Navy helicopter that crashed off the Imia islets during the recent Greek-Turkish military standoff in the eastern Aegean were caused by the impact of the aircraft hitting the sea and are not bullet holes, a military statement read Saturday.
In an announcement issued following an examination of the helicopter by experts, the General Navy Staff (GEN) said the perforations were "solely caused" by detachment of steel bolts from the metal plates and to the violent shifting of steel bars in the steering system during the crash. Corrosion caused by more than two weeks in the sea was also attributed as a cause of the perforations.
The helicopter was retrieved Friday from a depth of 95 meters, some three kilometers northwest of the smaller Imia islet.
There was widespread speculation in the Greek media after the helicopter's recovery and announcement that perforations had been discovered, that Turkish soldiers who had briefly occupied one of the Imia islets during the military standoff had fired on the craft.
The national defense ministry has attributed the cause of the crash to an electrical problem and vertigo suffered by the pilot.
The three-man crew of the frigate-launced Augusta-Bell helicopter died in the crash.
Following the GEN announcement, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas launched a stinging attack against the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party, saying its leadership did "not rise to the occasion and was dangerous for the country."
"The government stated that it would do everything to reveal the truth (concerning the helicopter crash). It emerged from the examination by specialists that the perforations in the cabin of the helicopter were caused solely by (parts) becoming detached , the movement of mechanical parts and corrosion, all caused when the helicopter crashed into the sea," Mr. Reppas said.
"Once again, New Democracy has displayed its impertinence and irresponsibility. The main opposition party adopted interpretations which were false and beyond the realm of reality. It did so for the sole purpose of accusing the government, indifferent as to whether it might be harming national interest," he added.
The spokesman condemned ND's policy, saying it lacked a sense of national responsibility.
In statements following the announcement Friday night that the helicopter had been retrieved from the Aegean's bottom and before experts examined the fuselage, ND party spokesman Vassilis Manginas called for resignations from the government. He charged that the three officers had been sent on a suicide mission on the night of the crisis and after an agreement for disengagement had already been reached. He also said the government had desperately tried to conceal the truth for several days.
Commenting on initial reactions that holes had been found in the helicopter cabin, National Defense Minister Gerassimos Arsenis afterwards said the nation's political life should be conducted in a manner which does not embroil the armed forces.
Mr. Arsenis charged that the fighting capability of the armed forces, the country's security and the functioning of the military were becoming the subjects of "petty political and petty party exploitation."
Commenting on the initial reactions of the opposition parties, Mr. Arsenis said that "some rushed to apportion blame, despite our advice and to make outrageous political statements."
From the outset, Mr. Arsenis said the defense ministry had followed "a course of open procedures" and that he himself had given instructions to ascertain the cause of the crash without ruling out any possibility.
"I believe that these recent experiences have made it clear to all, that it is time to leave the armed forces to do their job and for the national defense ministry to function without impediment, in order to protect the national interest," Mr. Arsenis said.
Mr. Manginas on Saturday reiterated ND's call for resignations, saying that "instead of assuming its extremely heavy responsibility, the government is hiding behind cursory findings which it arrived at on its own."
He said ND would not allow the government "to cover up the truth" and would take "specific steps to shed light on this dark matter in which three heroic Greek officers lost their lives in vain."
Mr. Manginas also expressed doubts about the accuracy of the findings.
Political Spring (Pol.An) spokesman Notis Martakis said the investigation into the cause of the perforations in the helicopter's cabin should be "detailed and full."
Mr. Martakis claimed that there were contradictions between the two announcements issued by the Hellenic Navy on Friday and Saturday.
Finally, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in a statement said the "whole issue reveals the government's heavy responsibilities... The government did not hesitate to include this us within its internal party games."
Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos stressed the need for a comprehensive national strategy to exploit international law to the fullest so Greece would not be forced to negotiate on issues of sovereign rights.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos, who spoke to reporters in Tripoli, Peloponnese, yesterday, also noted that the ruling PASOK party is passing through a period of transition, adding that he expected a July party congress would review many issues. He cited party leadership and entities as one such issue which needed to be reassessed in the light of current circumstances. While he warned against interpreting differences of opinion within the party as indications of conflict.
Asked to comment on reactions to the release of details of a recent telephone conversation he had had with party leader and former premier Andreas Papandreou, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said that unfortunate interpretations had been made and that his simple statement had been blown out of proportion.
An earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale was recorded at 11:50 yesterday morning.
The tremor's epicenter was located 290 kilometers northwest of Athens in a sea region west of Preveza, in northwestern Greece.
Yesterday's bulletin on the health of PASOK President Andreas Papandreou said his condition showed improvement, with a programme of breathing physiotherapy and kinesiotherapy continuing normally.
Doctors said the former premier is now being briefed daily on the latest political developments through television and newspapers, while they estimate he will be able to leave the hospital shortly after a tracheostomy is closed next week.
A stolen van believed used by the November 17 terrorist group in a rocket attack against the US Embassy in Athens last Thursday was discovered on Saturday.
A 3.5-inch anti-tank rocket hit the outer wall of a parking lot behind the embassy, damaging three cars belonging to embassy personnel but causing no injuries. Nearby windows of shops and residences were also damaged. The vehicle, which carried false license plates, was checked for fingerprints, however, no clear prints were removed.
According to reports, security has been increased around potential terrorist targets around the capital, particularly American and Turkish targets.
Although the longtime terrorist group has not claimed responsibility for the embassy attack, senior police officials believe the incident is the group's responsibility. Along those lines, authorities said the possibility of more attacks is likely.
Mihalis Raptis, a prominent figure of the Trotskyist movement for many decades and best known as "Pablo", died Saturday at an Athens hospital from a stroke at the age of 85.
Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Mr. Raptis graduated from the Athens Polytechnic and continued his studies in urban planning at Sorbonne in Paris.
Drawn into the "Spartacus" faction, he represented Greek Trotskyists at the founding conference of the Fourth International in Paris in 1938, and became the organizational secretary of its European Bureau in 1943.
He became one of the leading figures of this movement together with Belgian economist Ernest Mandel, displaying a special interest in the anti-colonialist movement following World War II. Mr. Raptis was particularly involved in the illicit supply of arm s to the Algerian revolutionary movement against French rule, an involvement that eventually led to his arrest, trial and conviction.
The idea of self-management as a concept attributing specific content to socialism, and clashing with that of management of state power by only one party, was one of the central ideas of Mr. Raptis' political action, which led him to support Yugoslav leader Tito in his clash with Soviet ruler Josef Stalin. Despite his opposition to the return of capitalism in eastern Europe after the W.W.II, he backed the 1956 Hungarian uprising and 1968's "Prague Spring," conceding that a return to capitalism had to be allowed if the workers themselves wanted it.
In 1963 he was expelled from the Fourth International for violations of the principle of "democratic centralism." He considered the May 1968 Paris uprising as a validation of the idea of self-management.
During the colonels' dictatorship in Greece, imposed in 1967, he established a network to assist resistance members' escape abroad, an effort that led to his cooperating with Andreas Papandreou.
He set out his main political ideas in two books, "Dictatorship of the Proletariat, Socialism and Democracy," and "Self-Management in Chile," which he wrote after visiting Salvador Allende's Chile.
The press ministry announced in a statement: "Michalis Raptis was an outstanding personality in the domain of political theory and action. His presence symbolized the ethos of ideas. His death causes sorrow to all of us. The government wishes to express its condolences to his companion."
PASOK president Andreas Papandreou said in a statement:
"I learned of the death of dear friend Mihalis Raptis with deep sorrow. Pablo was a pure idealist fighter, consistent with his principles and faithful to his visions. With actions and deeds, he stood by liberation movements until his last moments. He was a beautiful person."
Distinguished writer Vassilis Vassilikos has been appointed as Greece's permanent representative to UNESCO, following a government decision on Saturday.
Mr. Vassilikos, a native of the island of Thassos, off Kavala in northern Greece, received congratulations by Kavala Mayor Lefteris Athanasakis.
The first meeting of the World Hellenism Council (SAE) ended in Thessaloniki yesterday with an announcement by Alternate Foreign Minister George Romeos that the government is planning to table a bill early next month regarding the proposed World Hellenism Assembly, scheduled to hold its first session early next year.
In other matters, the expatriates' council approved the formation of an information network aimed at promoting Greek interests abroad, as well as a cable service by the state-controlled network (ERT) to cover North America by the end of this year and future expansion to Australia.
Mr. Romeos announced that 350 million drachmas had been secured for the project. In addition, he said a census report of overseas Greeks was in progress and has registered one million individuals so far.
The council's priorities for this year include education and Greek language training for expatriates' children, cultural activities, support for ethnic Greeks in the former Soviet republics as well as creation of business and information networks.
SAE Chairman Andrew Athens emphasized the spirit of unity he said characterized the meeting and expressed a conviction that much more can be achieved.
In a related matter, SAE presidium members met Thessaloniki Mayor Constantine Kosmopoulos, who announced that the municipality will provide a historic building to temporarily house the council.
Today the presidium leaves for Istanbul on a pilgrimage to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos declared the government's political will on Saturday to confer the right to vote in Greek national elections to expatriates. Mr. Pangalos told the SAE meeting that an amendment to the Constitution would first be necessary in order to implement the decision, as well as resolution of a number of practical issues pertaining mainly to electoral constituencies. "All Greeks living overseas should be able to enjoy all political and cultural rights," Mr. Pangalos said, adding that "overseas Hellenism is not a passing phenomenon."
He clarified that the right to vote in national elections would be given only to persons having dual nationality.
Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis said before ending his official visit to the island republic yesterday, that a speedier and more effective implementation of the joint defense doctrine between Greece and Cyprus would soon make Greek Cypriots feel invulnerable.
"I believe that the joint defense doctrine will strengthen defense on the Cyprus - Aegean - Evros front in its entirety, and for this reason no anxiety is justified," he added.
"We shall not be the first ones to pull the trigger, and those who will must know that nobody can forecast development thereafter," he said.
The Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) yesterday installed the new chiefs of the armed forces.
The new appointees in the top posts are as follows:
- Chief of Staff: General (Air Force) Athanassios Tzoganis (formerly chief of the Air Force General Staff)
- Deputy Chief of Staff: Lieutenant General Constantinos Panayiotakis.
- Chief of the Army: Lieutenant General Manousos Paragioudakis.
- Chief of the Navy: Rear-Admiral Leonidas Palaiogiorgos.
- Chief of the Air Force: Lieutenant General Georgios Antonetsis.
The PASOK youth organization concluded yesterday its second congress with the election of a new 51-member central council, expected to be announced today.
Yesterday's sessions produced a resolution approving the organization's new charter and another regarding the development of border regions.
A proposal to disallow any central council member from holding state or government posts was rejected in a second round vote, after having been approved earlier. In the intervening debate, outgoing youth secretary D. Kalogeropoulos proposed the option of central council approval of any such appointment, and with the ensuing salary being paid to the PASOK youth group.
PASOK Secretary Costas Skandalidis said that such exclusions had proved inadequate in the past in dealing with the party's real problems and proposed that public service jobs held by youth group officials be unpaid.
New Democracy party deputy and former culture minister Dora Bakoyanni met with UN Secretary - General Boutros Boutros-Ghali Friday night and briefed him on the recent Greek-Turkish crisis and the Cyprus problem.
In statements afterwards, Ms. Bakoyanni said she had set out the essence of the problem, which was the Turkish aim to overturn the status quo in the Aegean.
"This is precisely the essence (of the problem), and we are expecting a clear-cut stand," she said.
Asked if Mr. Boutros-Ghali appeared to be concern over the Turkish stand and the serious deterioration of Greek-Turkish relations, Ms. Bakoyanni said: "I cannot speak for Mr. Boutros-Ghali, but I do not think any of my interlocutors was very happy about recent developments."
Referring to Cyprus, she said: "Mr. Boutros-Ghali is not very optimistic, also given that there is no government is Turkey today."
A New Democracy group of deputies, which set out Greek positions following the recent stand-off in the Aegean to the Greek -American community, returned to Athens Saturday. Former labor minister Aristeidis Kalatzakos said the national character of the mission was appreciated and the need was recognized for regular and more systematic contacts in order to mobilize the Greek-American community more effectively.
Former sports under-secretary Fani Palli-Petralia said Greek-Americans had the power and will to help Greek causes, but the country also had to have a stable foreign policy, with continuity and consistency.