Pax Europa

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Tue Apr 6 08:17:26 PDT 1999

Rob Schaap wrote:

>I hear the Greek PM has just made a public speech criticising the bombing.
>I'm also told he has been warned to shut the hell up by some US aparatchik.
>Can anyone fill me in on this? It sounds promising ...

[from the April 6 Financial Times]

ORTHODOX EASTER: Athens urges bombing halt By Kerin Hope and agencies

Greece, a member of Nato, yesterday asked the alliance to stop bombing Yugoslavia next Sunday - Orthodox Easter Sunday, an important religious holiday for Serbs as well as Greeks.

"Easter has quite strong symbolism and [this] would show respect for the sensitivities of the Serbian people," said George Papandreou, foreign minister said.

Greece has traditional ties with fellow-Orthodox Christian Serbia and opposes the Nato bombings of Yugoslavia. But it has provided logistical support to the alliance and has condemned the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

However, the Nato strikes have provoked considerable popular support among Greeks for Serbia.

Truck convoys are being organised by Greece's Orthodox church leaders, trade unions and professional organisations to drive food and medical supplies from Athens to Belgrade.

The Socialist government, however, has taken a firmly pro-western position. Greece has set aside its "special relationship" with Serbia, while government officials have distanced themselves from Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav president.

Costas Simitis, the prime minister, has said it is "overwhelmingly in the Greek interest" to support Nato as part of the government's policy on seeking closer integration with its western partners.

Greece is providing support facilities for Awacs aircraft on Nato surveillance missions, although, like the other Balkan countries, it ruled out participating in a military intervention in Yugoslavia. The 12,000-strong Nato force of would-be peacekeepers based in Macedonia is supplied through the port of Thessaloniki. A 2,000-strong contingent of US Marines is based aboard ships cruising in the Aegean Sea.

But as the Nato offensive intensifies, Mr Simitis's advisers are becoming concerned over the widening gap between the government's policies and popular feeling.

The moment Nato air strikes were launched, Greece's church leaders appealed for support for the Serbs as fellow members of the Orthodox faith, while implying that the Albanians, as Moslems, were of less concern.

Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the Greek Orthodox church and an influential figure, urged the Greeks to back their "Orthodox brothers in Serbia".

"At the popular level, pro-Serbian sentiment is fuelled by the church, which has a strong influence on public opinion," says Thanos Veremis, chairman of Eliamep, a Greek foreign policy think tank.

Greece and Serbia fought on the same side in both Balkan wars earlier this century, against Turkey and Bulgaria.

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