NEW YORK, Sept. 30, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras declared today that the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party would be eliminated.
"All of the leading members of Golden Dawn have been arrested and are being prosecuted," Samaras told an AJC reception in his honor this morning. "They are a criminal group of people, who will be tried in a democratic manner."
Speaking in New York two days after his government launched a widespread crackdown on Golden Dawn, Samaras said that "It is important to me to deracinate this group." The arrests, including the head of Golden Dawn and other members of Parliament, came soon after a Golden Dawn member murdered a popular Greek rapper, Pavlos Fyssas.
"There is no room for the neo-Nazis in any part of the democratic world," Samaras declared. The actions launched against Golden Dawn, he stressed, are "something unique, and have not happened elsewhere in Europe," where other extremist groups are active in national politics.
The prime minister spoke about the severe economic crisis Greeks have endured since 2007, a factor he acknowledged may have boosted support for Golden Dawn, which currently holds 18 seats in the Parliament. The party has used violence, intimidation and neo-Nazi symbolism to promote its racist ideology.
With an unemployment rate of 27 percent and youth unemployment at more than 60 percent, Greeks are living through the equivalent of the "Great Depression nightmare," said Samaras.
However, on a positive note, Samaras said that Greece will soon have a budget surplus for the first time in ten years. "We have come a long way since last year, politically and economically, due to the sacrifices of our people, to the solidarity of our European partners, and to the support of friends and allies," he stated.
"More and more people are talking about 'Grecovery,'" in contrast to the doomsday scenario that was widely portrayed for Greece only a year ago, he declared.
An improving economy will help to diminish public support of Golden Dawn, which already has dropped since the rapper's murder. "Now everyone realizes who they really are," Samaras said.
On Greece-Israel relations, Samaras noted that he will visit Israel next week for high-level meetings "to push forward for a true and comprehensive strategic partnership between Greece and Israel." He will bring his Cabinet ministers to meet with their Israeli counterparts. "This strategic relationship with Israel is long overdue," said Samaras.
As one example, the prime minister cited the energy resources in the Mediterranean Sea that will be shared, and jointly extracted and exported, by Greece, Cyprus and Israel. Samaras said the estimated size of the natural gas reserves is so extensive that potentially the three countries could supply 50 percent of Europe's energy resources over the next 30 years.
He also said that Greece, Israel and Cyprus, all strong democracies, can together "become a beacon for freedom and hope" in the Eastern Mediterranean, an area that is facing increasing challenges of political stability and security.
In addition to 100 AJC leaders from across the country, there were representatives from the Greek-American and Cypriot-American communities in attendance. Several references were made to the decades-long partnership of both communities and AJC.
AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has known the prime minister for nearly 25 years, introduced him to the audience, citing his key role in elevating Greek-Israeli relation, his family's efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust, and his bold leadership in confronting both the economic crisis and extremist parties in Greece today.
SOURCE American Jewish Committee