Based on the USA’s past, the Greek people have every right to be cautious toward the stance of American officials on issues of Greek interest. As members of the Greek-American community who have fought in Washington for Greek issues, but also issues regarding orthodoxy in the higher levels of the American administration in the past 80 years, we’ve become witnesses to bad politicians.
We are writing this article today to highlight that things have changed. The biggest hope lies in that the No. 2 in the White House, Vice President Joe Biden, posted on his “wall” the name by which I addressed him in public right after his election in 2008, “Joe Bidenopoulos.” Biden remains a loyal friend, while both President Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew must be considered Greece’s best friends, as it became evident during the recent negotiations for Greece’s stay in the European Union.
Circumstances drastically reduce the prospect that America will ignore matters regarding Greece and orthodoxy in favor of Turkey. Moreover, everyone holding an important position in the U.S. Capitol, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the Foreign Affairs Committees of the Senate are philhellenes and knowledgeable in Greek matters.
But what does that mean for Greece’s very crucial moment, the continuing occupation of Cyprus, and also the issues regarding the ecumenical patriarchate? It means something very positive.
In regards to the economic crisis in Greece, American involvement means that for the first time, the U.S. government is working together with the Greek-American community to find feasible solutions to help facilitate Greece in achieving its budgetary goals and restarting the Greek economy. If Greece manages to move ahead with important reforms, America will find ways to help Greece in its effort to depreciate the debt.
For Cyprus, it will mean that Turkey will gradually accept America’s position for the end of the island’s occupation. Vice President Biden has deep knowledge of the issue and remains faithful to the rationale of coexistence between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. He has also intensified his efforts for Turkey to understand that leaving from Cyprus will be absolutely in its best interest for the future. It’s no chance that Turkey’s interest in Cypriot gas has been linked to Ankara’s recent realization that the money that is being spent on its military in Cyprus could be better used for the country’s defense.
Regarding the ecumenical patriarchate, Turkey is yet to open the Theological School of Halki, has still not returned the ecumenical patriarchate’s property, and has neglected to recognize the ecumenical patriarch as the spiritual leader of the second biggest Christian church in the world. Besides all this, the relationship between the government and the ecumenical patriarchate has improved, and while Turkey’s relationship with the West has worsened in the last few years, its relationship with the ecumenical patriarchate has remained stable.
A few years ago Vice President Biden described Mr. Bartholomew as one of the humblest people he has ever met. President Obama and philhellenes in Congress are standing by the patriarch’s side and support his view that Turkey will have to allow his religious freedom.
As you can probably gather, this precise moment in time is favorable for Greek issues. But in the constantly shifting environment of the Eastern Mediterranean, nobody knows how long these positive conditions will last. But it does seem that the world’s greatest power, America, is keen on using that power to help Greece.
*Mr. Andy Manatos is the president and Mr. Mike Manatos the vice president of Manatos & Manatos, which The Washington Post described as “one of the most powerful lobbying firms in Washington.”