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Politics

EU’s Future Must Always Contain Greece, Ex-Ambassador Nick Burns Tells TNH

Translated from the Original Greek
BOSTON, MA – Former U.S. Ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns, on the eve of the Sept. 20 elections, spoke with The National Herald but declined to predict a winner or give advice about how the Greek government could overcome its economic problems.
Amb. Burns, who currently teaches at Harvard University, granted the interview during Greek Day at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. He praised the Greek-American community, calling it “the natural bridge that links Greece and the United States. The community is vital for the relationship of our two counties. When I was Ambassador I couldn’t have done my job successfully without the Greek-American community because they were so supportive politically, with the arts, with sports, the 2004 Olympics. I really made so many friends with Greek-Americans” across the United States.
Even as he did not predict an election winner in Greece, Burns said “I am philhellene” and was happy that the Greeks themselves would decide their own fate. “Not Americans, not Germans, no one else. Just the Greek people.”
He added: Whatever government comes in, I think it will find very strong support from the United States and I hope from the EU and the IMF, because Greece is a central part of the EU. It must be able to overcome the economic crisis.”
But who is responsible for the mess to begin with? “It is not for me to cast judgment,” the ambassador said. “I am an outsider, I am no longer ambassador. I think the best think in this situation is not to look backward but to look forward.”
But does Greece have a future, we asked? “Of course,” said the ambassador. “Greece is a great country. It is very resilient, it can bounce back. It needs a period of time for the economy to grow and the people who are suffering particularly people on pensions
need time to go on with their lives. Young people need to find help to stay in Greece.”
He pointed to the artwork in “the greatest museum of New England and one of the greatest in the world” as testimony to “the glories of Greece from 2500 years ago. “The Greek people will overcome the economic crisis because the y are deeply rooted into civilization as the Museum of Fine Arts shows.”
Has the United States done enough to help Greece? Burns begins by reminding that the primary responsibility falls on the ECB-EU-IMF Troika, but adds that “the Obama Administration has made very clear that it wants Greece to remain a member of the EU;
it wants the Europeans to help Greece through this crisis, and it tried to support Greece in key moments during the past six months.”
Beyond that, Burns explained, “I am not in a position to give advice, but I would say this I think the future of Greece is to continue to be part of the EU. The EU’s future should always be one that includes Greece within it.”
Burns recalled some of the more memorable moments of his ambassadorship: for instance, it was during his tenure that Greece entered the Eurozone. “It was a proud moment for the Greek people.” In serving the Clinton Administration, “we supported
Greece’s entry into the Eurozone and we always thought of Greece as a fundamental part of the EU and that is why Greece must survive the crisis and continue as a European country.”
Would Burns run for political office?: “I teach at Harvard, and I am very happy there,” he said.

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