Can New Democracy Reverse Greek Anti-Americanism?

Greek-U.S. relations during the Simitis era followed a contradictory pattern. At the level of official policy everything went more or less smoothly, with the Greek government cooperating fully with Washington. The Simitis government, for example, allowed the transfer of NATO military equipment and forces through northern Greece during the war in Kosovo.

More recently the Greek government did not object to the U.S. using its military facilities in Suda Bay for the attacks against Iraq. Last, but by no means least, it was also during the period of the Simitis government that some key members of the terrorist organization November 17 were arrested and convicted.


Yet on the level of the *#8220;Greek street,*#8221; anti-Americanism exploded during the last decade. Fueled originally by the U.S.-led attacks against Greeces erstwhile friends and allies Milosevic and Karadzic and later by the military operation in Iraq, anti-U.S. sentiment in Greece surpassed any other place in Europe.


But PASOK is according to all opinion polls yesterdays story, and so is Mr.Simitis. The question that must be addressed today is what will happen to the Greek-U.S. relations under the New Democracy government that is widely expected to emerge from the results of the elections scheduled for the end of April.
Will anti-Americanism in Greece subside? Or will it on the contrary get a new lease of life? We posed this question recently to Marieta Gianakou, an ND deputy and former minister who is expected to play leading role in the foreign policy of the country.


*#8220;Of course much will depend on the particular international situation at the time,*#8221; she said. *#8220;But generally I am optimistic.*#8221;
According to Gianakou, the rise of anti-Americanism during the last decade was partly due to the way PASOK operated in the public sphere.


*#8220;Anti-Americanism was in many ways the outgrowth of PASOKs Janus-faced policy towards the U.S.,*#8221; she said. *#8220;You see,on the official level Simitis and Papandreou kept accommodating Washingtons-not unreasonable-demands. But on the unofficial level, something more sinister was taking place. The hardcore section of PASOK militants was actively promoting anti-Americanism through the unions, the media etc., thereby undermining the official policy of the government.*#8221;
However, neither Simitis nor Papandreou wished to confront the hard-liners. *#8220;It was really a question of priorities,*#8221; says Gianakou. *#8220;The number one priority of the Greek government was improving Greek-Turkish relations.They did not want to waste any valuable political capital trying to combat anti-Americanism among the rank and file.*#8221;


This is where ND differs from PASOK. *#8220;There is no split in New Democracy between a party leadership that is pro-American and a hard core which is viscerally anti-American,*#8221; she says. *#8220;Sure,*#8221; she admits, *#8220;there are some oddballs in the party whose views on the U.S. do not differ significantly from those of the communist left. But those are isolated cases. They do not constitute a structural feature of the ND party as they do of PASOK.*#8221;


Is all this too good to be true? Perhaps. Although Gianakou is one of the leading lights of New Democracy (and very much admired in Brussels), she has been often in the past an isolated voice crying out in the wilderness. She was, for example, one of the very few politicians in her party (or in Greece in general) that objected to the Greeces support for Milosevics genocidal policies. And she was also one of the extremely few New Democracy politicians who supported the governments decision not to include religious denomination in the new Greek identity cards. Were she (and like-minded people) to play a significant role in Karamanlis government, one could then reasonably claim that Greece had indeed *#8220;turned a page*#8221; in its history.