Wednesday, February 21, 2024
 
 

John Kerry Graces Greece with a Mini-visit. Check off that box.

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The real news is that the Kerry Greece visit actually happened December 4th.  That’s one more box to check off for last week’s European tour….after visiting France, Belgium, Kosovo, Serbia and Cyprus.  To many observers the Greek stop was merely a sideshow compared to the progress made on Balkan issues during Kerry’s week of travel.
In a nutshell, while in Athens, Secretary Kerry met with Greek PM Alexi Tsipras, Foreign Minister Kotsias and his team, answered two press questions (one of those was on another subject), visited a refugee support NGO and stopped at the ancient Agora for a brief tour.  A nice half day in sunny Athens.  That’s all folks.
We were hoping that more of substance would leak out over the weekend than simply the official pronouncements, but little real news has emerged at this point.
 
So here are just a few key observations:
–While The Secretary declared American support for Greece’s economic recovery at almost every juncture, there were no forward-leaning pronouncements on debt relief, which is going to happen in any event provided Greece delivers on its reform commitments to (European) creditors.
–Secretary Kerry refused to be drawn into Aegean maritime border issues with Turkey or the issue of Turkish overflights in the Aegean.
–Energy is clearly the key geostrategic concern here.  As the New Europe’s Energy Insider reported Friday, Kerry focused heavily on making sure the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and Greece-Bulgaria interconnector projects, set in motion years ago, move ahead.  We did not hear the hoped-for announcement of an American investment in Alexandropoulos, connected to American LNG transshipments to Bulgaria, but we are hearing the project will move forward.
–Secretary Kerry signaled strong support for the work of NGOs in the refugee crisis by visiting the Melissa Network NGO, a move that was warmly-received by the Greek NGO community and many others.  While in Athens, Kerry also announced a new U.S. contribution of $24 million in refugee aid for the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR).
–The Secretary avoided any real U.S. involvement in Greek domestic politics at this critical juncture.
–For Secretary Kerry’s remarks in Athens: http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2015/12/250362.htm
Mission accomplished. The boxes are all checked.

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CEO / co-founder and Executive Director for Global Economics and Southeast Europe at NE Global Media.  Former US diplomat with previous assignments in Eastern Europe, the UN, SE Asia, Greece, across the Balkans, as well as Washington DC.

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