A U.S. State Department report drafted last August but released in early January of 2019 states that Greece is “a pillar of stability in a complicated region.”
The State Department’s “Integrated Country Strategy” (ICS) for Greece recognizes the country’s position in the Eastern Mediterranean as being of key importance to U.S. national security and energy priorities.
“The public and private support the United States provided Greece throughout its nine-year economic crisis and more recent migration crisis spurred a reversal of decades of anti-Americanism,” according to the report.
According to the study, there may now be an opportunity for the U.S. Embassy in Athens to further cultivate bilateral ties, particularly in the spheres of security, investment and trade.
“By encouraging Greece to grow its role in the European energy sector and pushing education reform, Embassy Athens will combat global adversaries’ attempts to exploit Greece’s geopolitical importance”, according to the report.
The ICS statement additionally noted that the U.S. may also assist in preventing any other entity’s efforts to “destabilize the region and incite anti-Western sentiment.”
The State Department analysis is part of a mission-wide four-year strategy which articulates Washington’s priorities with the aim of developing a common set of objectives among the Department of State and other U.S. government agencies, with programming in the country.
Highlights of the full report:
Greece, an E.U. member state and NATO ally, is a pillar of stability in a complicated region. Its position in the Eastern Mediterranean in close proximity to the Balkans, the Black Sea region, North Africa, and the Middle East elevates Greece’s importance in addressing US national security and energy priorities… Embassy Athens will capitalize on this opportunity to expand the breadth and depth of our bilateral relationship, particularly in security, investment, trade, and people-to-people engagements, including through the establishment of a US-Greece High Level Strategic Dialogue.
Our excellent bilateral defense and security relationship is vital to our ability to leverage Greek support in military activities and law enforcement concerns. Greece is a committed partner in advancing US interests in and beyond Greece via the US Naval Support Activity at Souda Bay, Crete. Planning is underway for a joint, interagency counterterrorism exercise, and the government approved our request to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles and a new detachment of special forces craft and personnel in Greece.
Greece continues to be one of eight NATO countries to spend at least two percent of GDP on defense. Despite challenging budgetary issues, Greece committed to invest in F-16 aircraft upgrades and to continue to support and host NATO exercises, spending over $2 billion since 2015. New programs will expand capabilities and open prospects for Greece to become a regional center for NATO helicopter capacity. Similarly, 333 funding for the Hellenic Coast Guard Special Forces has enhanced counterterrorism and maritime security interoperability.
The Greek government is a strong, reliable partner on law enforcement issues, particularly counterterrorism and border security collaboration. In 2017, Greece became the first E.U. country to implement Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Real Time Platform (SRTP), allowing Greek authorities to screen migrants and refugees against US security databases.
The Mission will continue to encourage Greece to support and take a leadership role in the integration of western Balkan countries into the E.U. and NATO and for peaceful resolution of regional disputes and conflicts. Greece’s relations with Turkey deteriorated following the 2016 Turkish coup d’état attempt and remain strained over continued migration flows and persistent airspace and maritime disputes. We will reinforce ongoing Greek engagement with Turkey in order to improve the bilateral relationship and to avert accidental military confrontation. Embassy Athens will urge Greece to implement the Macedonian name issue agreement and will encourage continued joint engagement on the Cyprus issue.
Greece represents an untapped market as it emerges from a decade-long economic crisis and eight years of under-investment. A pivot toward entrepreneurship rather than a state-led economic model is underway. Embassy Athens will leverage relations within the Greek government, diaspora groups, and the U.S. technology sector to promote synergies.
A large venture capital infusion (potentially €1 billion over ten years) from the European Investment Bank will help catalyze changing attitudes among many Greeks regarding the role of the public sector.
Greece’s geographic location makes it a key player in U.S.-E.U. efforts to advance European energy security by diversifying the sources of natural gas in countries to the north, which rely predominantly on Russian gas. The Mission will seek investment opportunities for US companies which will reduce the region’s reliance on Russia for its energy needs and leverage U.S. expertise in renewables.
Embassy Athens will continue to advocate for greater transparency, reduced bureaucracy, equitable taxation administration, and a level playing field for U.S. companies to further attract investment.
Mission Greece will continue to strengthen the bilateral relationship in terms of energy, military, law enforcement, and counterterrorism cooperation, while focusing on two major diplomacy goals to foster growth and competitiveness in Greece – reform and modernization of the education sector.
Education is the key to Greece’s future prosperity. The current system restricts students’ access to cooperative programs with international institutions and higher level degrees abroad. The Mission will encourage improved governance and management, divorced from politics, and facilitate Greece’s development of a modern and efficient education system.
Mission Greece’s educational and cultural programs target youth, girls, and the next generation of leaders in business and civil society to promote a positive view of US-Greek relations and to foster greater civic understanding.
Embassy Athens will focus on public diplomacy programs that attract investments in science and technology and promote entrepreneurship to help Greece continue on its path to economic recovery, firmly rooted in transatlantic institutions and playing a stabilizing role in the region.
Mission Greece will leverage momentum from the 2018 Thessaloniki International Fair (in which the United States was the honored country) to promote American economic and cultural engagement in Greece’s northern region. The Mission will seek to reinstate a position at Consulate General Thessaloniki (currently staffed with only one direct-hire American) to support economic development.