- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2006

Economic threads

A top Greek official compared his country’s economic diplomacy to Lilliputians trying to restrain Gulliver from wreaking havoc in the world.

Theodore Skylakakis called economic diplomacy a long-range antidote to many international conflicts because trade relations are like “threads interconnecting people, organizations, regions and countries.”

“If enough such threads form the relations among countries, then gradually the destructive forces motivating conflicts will find themselves constrained and defeated by this net of intersecting economic threads,” Mr. Skylakakis, secretary-general of the Greek Foreign Ministry, told a Washington audience this week.

“These destructive forces have long existed, and they will not disappear overnight. But like the ropes of the Lilliputians, the multiple threats of economic relations, given enough time, can restrain and immobilize the Gulliver who wreaks havoc in the world.”

He told the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars that Greece’s practice of economic diplomacy includes the promotion of international trade, the reduction of costs and risks in cross-border transactions, the security of property rights and the facilitation of the political climate to support those principles.

“This is a great challenge, especially for governments that must contend with the forces of economic nationalism, cultural anxieties, embedded corruption and resistance to reform,” he said.

“Economic diplomacy is necessarily a long-term process. Its results start showing not in mere months or years, but rather in a decade or even longer. So it cannot be effective by itself when a situation rapidly and unexpectedly deteriorates toward conflict.”

Mr. Skylakakis cited Greece’s relations with Turkey as an example of economic diplomacy. He noted that his country, once a rival of Turkey’s, is now its biggest advocate for membership in the European Union.

“Greece took the brave decision to encourage and support Turkish candidacy,” he said.

“We believe that if Turkey proceeds with the reforms necessary for European integration, both our countries, and the broader region, will enjoy very substantial political, economic and security benefits.”

Mr. Skylakakis also noted such joint economic projects as the natural-gas pipeline being built from Baku, Azerbaijan, through Turkey and Greece and into Italy.

Corrupt Cambodia

Cambodia’s government might be drenched in corruption, but it made significant progress in the fight against human trafficking, the U.S. Embassy said this week.

“The record over the past year demonstrates the high-level commitment by the [Cambodian government] and the prime minister to improve the government’s performance in fighting trafficking in persons,” said Mark C. Storella, charge d’affaires at the embassy in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

The State Department’s “2006 Trafficking in Persons Report” recognized Cambodia’s progress by promoting it to a Tier 2 nation from the bottom ranking of Tier 3. The new status means that Cambodia does not fully comply with international standards but is making progress in the fight to end sexual exploitation and forced labor of women and children.

The department urged Cambodia to “make greater efforts to prosecute and convict public officials who profit from or are involved in trafficking and should also pass and enact comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation,” the embassy said.

It noted that Cambodia’s efforts are “hampered by corruption at all levels of government and by ineffectual judicial system.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak called the new status a “reflection of reality.”

“It is good news,” he told Japan’s Kyodo News. “We welcome such fair and positive assessment based on the fact that we are committed to fighting against human trafficking.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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