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Thursday, June 10, 1999 Published at 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK

EU portrait: Greece - security and the single currency

Greece is the southern-most member of the EU

By Europe Correspondent Jonathan Beale

Never before has Greece felt more unsure about its position in Europe.

Jonathan Beale reports on a country worried about security and the Euro
It's already geographically cut off from the rest of the European Union. It's the last Christian country before the Muslim world and on its doorstep there's a war in the Balkans.


It is the crisis in Kosovo that has made Greeks feel more isolated than ever before. Public opinion is opposed to Nato bombing.

[ image: European security is a big issue for a country so close to a war]
European security is a big issue for a country so close to a war
The Greek socialist government has had to walk a tightrope of supporting its EU and Nato partners' actions whilst at the same time demanding more efforts on the diplomatic front.

Nikitas Kaklamanis of the smaller opposition party Political Spring believes the EU's support for Nato bombing may turn people away from the European elections in disgust:

"I believe that with the bombing, it's not destroying Yugoslavia, it's destroying Europe's future."

Graffiti and posters across Athens echo that sentiment, as have mass demonstrations against the Nato bombing.

Elusive Euro membership

If it wasn't for Kosovo the single currency would be the issue dominating the European elections.

It's a subject on which the Greeks feel more enthusiastic. Greece failed to make the grade in joining the euro in the first wave. It's had to slim down its bloated public sector and cut spending on pensions.

[ image: The Elefsis shipyard has succeeded despite a lack of EU aid]
The Elefsis shipyard has succeeded despite a lack of EU aid
Not in itself a popular move but most feel imminent membership of the single currency will be worth it.

At Elefsis, Greece's second largest shipyard, they're experiencing the first year in profit. After trying to survive without state aid, the recent privatisation has been a success story.

Yiannis Stephanopolous - the shipyard's union leader - says:

"The question of economic and monetary union interests all Greeks, but we would like to join with our heads held high. We don't want to crawl in and we certainly don't want the issues of war to be used to create easier conditions."

Greece is expected to join the single currency early next year.

Greece vs Turkey

Whilst Greece is keen to see itself fully integrated in the grand European project, it is very reluctant to see one of its neighbours welcomed in.

Relations between Greece and Turkey have been strained for some time.

[ image: For local fishermen tensions with neighbouring Turkey can affect their livelihood]
For local fishermen tensions with neighbouring Turkey can affect their livelihood
There are frequent disputes over islands situated between the two countries. Tensions resurfaced in February over the eventual kidnapping of the Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Greece's Foreign Minister Theodorus Pangolos resigned amid accusations that he had colluded in the rebel Kurd's capture.

On the island of Kalimnos near disputed waters with Turkey the Fisheries Minister - Costas Vrettos - makes a pre-election visit.

He knows local fishermen feel their waters and way of life are threatened. He also knows that if these Euro elections address one issue it must be their security:

"Everyone wants safety and the people are judging the government on the issue of whether it's supported safety in their lives."

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