First US-Greece strategic dialogue will mark new chapter in recovery story

First US-Greece strategic dialogue will mark new chapter in recovery story
© Greg Nash

There is good news coming out of Greece these days. In June, the country ended its long bailout program, pulling out of what at times seemed a pretty grim long-term economic reality. The economy is slowly rebounding, and unemployment is decreasing as well, although it is still at rather high numbers. Tourism is booming. Investors are eyeing Greece again. There are challenges ahead, but Greece seems determined to follow through with the economic reforms and arduous austerity plan. Light at the end of the tunnel is looming, at long last.

Vast off-shore gas findings in the Eastern Mediterranean elevated the region’s potential for economic revival. Greece jumped at the opportunity and is strongly engaged in building stronger regional cooperation. It has significantly warmed up relations with Israel, but also with Egypt and Cyprus. For Greece (and also the entire region) to be successful, the private sector must take a leading role. American know-how and investments can certainly bring a crucial added value but also help speed up the important privatization processes, such as DEPA (Public Gas Corporation of Greece). A strong American presence can also help regional synchronization of regulatory and technical issues, for example those encountered in respect to the Greece – Bulgaria Interconnector.

ADVERTISEMENT

Gas findings also revived old rivalries, unsolved maritime disputes, and a number of political challenges. However, energy abundance can pull the region closer together, serve as a catalyst to find compromise solutions to various issues, and boost energy security. Therefore, the Trump administration push to enact strategic dialogue cannot be timelier. The U.S. administration is paying significant attention to the Eastern Mediterranean and Greece, and rightly so.

Recently, Greece expelled two Russian diplomats and barred entry to two others for undermining national security after the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece reached a historic agreement to rename the country Republic of North Macedonia. The agreement paves way for the (future) Republic of North Macedonia’s NATO membership and places the country on a faster track towards European Union integration. Greek Prime Minister Tsipras is determined to see the name change agreement between the two countries finalized, regardless of the opposition now coming from his own right-wing coalition Greek Independents party. After 27 years of dispute that blocked Macedonian progress both in E.U. and NATO integration, the agreement is indeed historic and will significantly contribute to regional stability. It also contributes to positioning Greece as a major pillar of stability in the Western Balkans and Southeast Europe. These applaudable actions are much welcomed in Washington D.C.

The upcoming U.S. - Greece Strategic Dialogue is the natural next step in further strengthening bilateral cooperation, and an important new milestone in the relationship between the two countries.

This December, high level meetings will be held in Washington D.C. in an effort to improve economic, military, and security cooperation between the U.S. and Greece. Regional cooperation, especially in the energy sector, is expected to dominate the discussion. U.S. strategy in the region – led in Greece by our experienced Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt – is moving in the right direction. U.S. businesses continue to be welcomed, and opportunities are slowly but surely outnumbering possible risks. Many countries, including China and Russia, are looking into the Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean, making the upcoming dialogue very timely.

Sasha Toperich is the Senior Vice President for the Mediterranean Basin, Middle East, and Gulf affairs at the Transatlantic Leadership Network. Previously, he served as Senior Fellow and Director of the Mediterranean Basin initiative at the Center for Transatlantic Relations SAIS at Johns Hopkins University. Sasha is editor of multiple publications dealing with these regions.