- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2007

EU stability

The Greek foreign minister is hoping that the lure of the European Union will be strong enough to prevent another conflict in Kosovo, that tinderbox of a province in Serbia where the ethnic Albanian majority is demanding independence.

Dora Bakoyannis yesterday told Embassy Row that her government believes that membership in the European Union is the answer for stability in the entire western Balkans, an area synonymous with violence for much of its history.

“This is a region that has suffered a lot, a region still with open wounds,” she said.

Mrs. Bakoyannis cautioned against speculation about a U.N. report on Kosovo’s future, prepared by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who is expected to present his recommendations to the Security Council next week. News reports have said he plans to urge the United Nations to grant independence to Kosovo, a move expected to enrage Serbs, who value the region as the historic seat of much of their culture.

Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since the 1999 NATO bombing campaign that stopped an earlier Serbian government from crushing an ethnic Albanian uprising.

“It is very important to have a good sense of timing and for Serbian sensibilities,” Mrs. Bakoyannis said, referring to the expected release of the report. “We must be careful that no people are humiliated. Humiliation is not good for stability.”

Mrs. Bakoyannis, whose government is playing a leading role in the region, called on the European Union to adopt a common position on the future of Kosovo, where the Serbian minority has been in sharp decline.

“We must make sure that, whatever the situation will be, that the Serbian people in Kosovo have all the standards of minority protection,” she said.

Mrs. Bakoyannis raised Kosovo in meetings yesterday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

Mrs. Bakoyannis also pressed for Greece’s inclusion in the U.S. visa-waiver program, noting that Greek passports have state-of-the-art security measures that surpass U.S. requirements.

Mrs. Bakoyannis concludes her visit today with a meeting at the White House where President Bush will honor Greek National Day, along with Archbishop Demetrios, prelate of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States.

A presidential proclamation issued to commemorate the visit says, “The ancient Greeks entrusted their citizens with the right to govern, and they believed in the power of freedom to protect human dignity. …

“Today we continue to defend freedom together in the global war on terror, as Greek and American armed forces work to lay the foundation of peace for generations to come.”

Common challenges

The United States and Greece face “common challenges and common responsibilities” as the two nations work together against global threats like international terrorism, said Charles P. Ries, the U.S. ambassador in Athens.

The two nations “are bound together by mutual understanding, a deep respect for the tradition of democracy and common interests,” he wrote in an article published this month in the Defense and Diplomacy Magazine.

“We are NATO allies and strategic partners who share the values of individual freedom and responsibility, respect for human rights, economic entrepreneurship and the rule of law.”

Mr. Ries noted that the search for the terrorists who fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S. Embassy in Athens is an example of the cooperation between the two countries. No one was injured in the attack, which caused minor property damage.

“The disturbing attack against our embassy on January 12 highlighted the risks that we face … as well as illustrated the importance of cooperation on security matters,” he said.

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

washingtontimes.com.

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