- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2008

Balkan dreams

The Greek ambassador foresees the day when all of southwestern Europe, part of that historical powder keg known as the Balkans, will be peaceful, stable members of NATO and the European Union.

“We cannot have a gray hole in the heart of Europe,” Ambassador Alexandros Mallias told foreign policy specialists yesterday at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

“We cannot afford another round of destabilization,” he said.

Mr. Mallias explained that Greece has strategic, security and economic interests in bringing Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia into European institutions.

He proudly noted that Bulgaria and Romania in the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula and Slovenia, which some analysts consider part of the Balkans, are members of both NATO and the European Union. Slovenia is the first nation of the old Yugoslavia to hold the rotating presidency of the European Union.

The ambassador urged the European Union to work with Serbia for membership and to move cautiously over the issue of independence for Kosovo, the troubled ethnic-Albanian province of Serbia.

Kosovo is only 140 miles north of Greece or, he added, “an hour and a half by Greek-styled driving.”

“It’s important to engage the democratic government of Serbia,” he said, adding that Serbia also must do more to arrest war crimes suspects from the Balkan wars of the 1990s and turn them over to international prosecutors.

Greece, he added, has put its own money where its dreams are. More than 3,500 Greek companies do business in the western Balkans and have invested more than $24 billion there, he said.

With plans to crisscross the entire Balkans with crude oil and natural gas pipelines, the region is becoming “the energy hub of Europe,” he said.

“It is no surprise to us that we have … an emerging marketplace of 140 million citizens” in the entire Balkans, Mr. Mallias said. “It is a new market, a new middle class that will buy our services.”

As the Greek ambassador, he said, he had a duty to invite U.S. investors to join Greece in the Balkans market and suggested that American entrepreneurs seek out Greeks for advice.

“We have the know-how, ‘who-how’ and the ‘where-how,’ ” he said.

No invasion

U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield this week found himself again denying that the United States is plotting to overthrow Venezuela’s anti-American president, Hugo Chavez, even though Mr. Brownfield is now the envoy in neighboring Colombia.

“I can’t speak for other governments in the world, but I can guarantee that the United States government has no intention, no plan and absolutely no expectation of invading, attacking or interfering in the affairs of any other country in the region,” he told reporters when asked about Mr. Chavez’s latest warning against U.S. meddling.

At a regional summit meeting in January, Mr. Chavez insisted that the “U.S. empire is creating conditions to generate an armed conflict between Colombia and Venezuela.”

Mr. Chavez has been advocating international recognition of the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Mr. Brownfield also told reporters in Colombia that the United States has no evidence that Colombia is planning to invade Venezuela, either.

“Of that I’m absolutely certain,” he said.

As ambassador to Venezuela from 2004 to 2007, Mr. Brownfield was frequently the target of verbal assaults from Mr. Chavez and his associates. He also had to repeatedly deny that the Bush administration was planning to invade.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide