WASHINGTON, DC – After an immediate and loud outcry from the Greek-American community, including reporting in the Greek edition of The National Herald and its English and Greek websites, on March 26 Senator Dan Coats, Republican of Indiana, lifted a hold he placed on S.Res.105, a resolution in the U.S. Senate that recognizes the 194th anniversary of the independence of Greece and celebrating democracy in Greece and the United States
Lifting the hold cleared the way for the its passage. The senator placed a hold on the resolution because of his concern about recent statements made by Greece’s Minister of Defense Panos Kammenos, and he asked Ambassador of Greece Christos P. Panagopoulos to clarify the government’s position.
Ambassador Panagopoulos sent a letter of clarification today that provided the senator with “reassurance about Greek policy,” according to the senator’s Twitter feed and his statement.
“We appreciate that the senator and the ambassador were able to work together to address the senator’s concerns about Greek policy,” Supreme President Phillip T. Frangos said. “We also appreciated working with the senator’s staff to help on this issue from the perspective of the American Hellenic community. We look forward to the resolution’s swift passage in the U.S. Senate.”
The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) sent a expressing disappointment with Coats’ initial action. “We are extremely disappointed that Senator Dan Coats has taken such drastic action to express concern about the minister’s flippant comment,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “Greece’s contributions to the security interests of both the United States and NATO are quite clear and evident. Our letter details Greece’s unwavering commitment to United States security policy and should alleviate any concern the senator has about it…We urge the Greek American community to contact Senator Coats today and urge him to let S.Res.105 pass.”
Andy Manatos, president of the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes told TNH Coats demanded a personal clarification on Kamenos’ statement, but the Greek government did make a public statement that the minister’s remarks did not reflect its position. ”I suspect that part of his motivation might be that because he was the ambassador to Germany from 2001 to 2005…he is attacking the Greek people so that he can cozy up to Germany for income when he soon retires from the Senate. I hope that is not the reason.
One senator can put a hold on the resolution because such measures are passed by unanimous consent, and Coats is objecting.
“Coats has never been a good friend of Greece,” Manatos noted, but given that “Greece has been so generous with what it is doing for American troops is Suda Bay, Crete, for him to gratuitously slap the Greek government for no apparent reason is inexcusable.”
Manatos noted, however, that Coats’ action will not impact the annual White House celebration of Greek Independence, which will take place on April 16.
The full letter is below:
March 24, 2015
His Excellency Christos P. Panagopoulos
Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic
2217 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
I write to express my concern about recent reported statements by Minister of Defense of Greece, Panos Kammenos. These statements are inconsistent with the warm bilateral relationship reflected in the Resolution on Greek Independence Day that is now pending in the Senate.
According to widespread and reliable media reports, Minister Kammenos explicitly threatened Greece’s European Union partners, warning that Greece would issue travel documents to thousands of illegal immigrants now held in Greek detention centers unless Greece’s economic demands are met. He threatened in particular that among this “wave” of immigrants then freed to travel throughout the European Union could be “Jihadist” enemies.
With these statements, the Minister threatened the security of his country’s own allies. Since holders of European Union travel documents also travel easily to the United States, this threat extends to our own security interests as well.
I do not believe that such outrageous statements actually reflect official Greek Government policy. Nevertheless, coming as they do from such a senior government minister, they are inconsistent with the warm bilateral relationship normally reflected in the Senate’s annual resolution marking Greek independence.
I believe it is in your interest as well as ours that you or another senior spokesman of the Greek government publicly comment on those threatening statements and clarify whether they reflect current policy or thinking within your government. With such clarification, I hope I will be able to support the Senate resolution regarding Greek independence and our shared democratic traditions.
Permit me to express again the highest regard I hold for Greece, as the birthplace of western culture and democracy; for the long positive relationship between our two countries; and for you personally.