2011-03-21 Greek cablegate revelations

As WL Central reported earlier, the Greek SKAI media group has access to all of the US state cables and has begun reporting on them. These are WL Central articles based on the cables being released from SKAI.

Greek Riots of December 2008 – What happened and how they impact U.S. interests.

In the cable dated December 18th 2008, the American ambassador in Athens describes the social and other causes that lead to turmoil in the Greek capital after the murder of the 16 year old Alexis Grigoropoulos by a police officer.

Daniel Speckhard criticizes PM Konstantinos Karamanlis, talking about "lack of Karamanlis", while, referring to the causes of the unrest, he claimed that the Greek media have covered the events of the assassination "irresponsibly and inflammatory". Moreover, he called the two parties of the Left, Communist Party and SYRIZA "dinosaurs". Finally, he characterized the Greek security forces as “demoralized” and “weakened by post-junta limits and public distrust”.

He continues with a current assessment of the ruling party, noting its reluctance to push through reforms and the resistance it encounters from various interest groups.

He concludes noting that the Karamanlis’ government will now be even more inward-looking than before and that the Americans will now have to “monitor aggressively the growing domestic terrorist threat”.

Original cable.

Comments about the Papandreou government

In November 2009, the US ambassador sent to the State Department, the 09ATHENS1661 cable in which he describes the first seven weeks of Papandreou government. He refers to the operating mechanism of the PM’s office, the governmental policies that didn’t prosper and the dichotomy in the political culture of the ruling party’s executives.

The ambassador mentions that “the government of George Papandreou has come under criticism from the Greek public and international markets for an erratic start in implementing its sweeping governmental reform”.
He also refers to the tensions between the two camps of PASOK, the “old lions” and the new ones which appear to have the Prime Minister’s favor.
He continues the rest of the cable referring to specific persons inside the Papandreou administration, most notably the Minister of Environment, Tina Birbili, who was given this position because she was a former Papandreou speechwriter, emblematic of the new breed.

He concludes, almost prophetically, that “commentators have noticed that Papandreou and Papakonstantinou [the Minister of Economics] have recently adopted more populist economic rhetoric, criticizing "plutocrats" and "those who plunder the people´s wealth," leading to speculation that the government´s not-yet-announced tax plan may be designed to benefit core PASOK constituencies at the expense of economic growth. On the other hand, such rhetoric could be a means to try to deflate what is expected to be strong opposition to upcoming, painful reforms [...] and to make the entire process more palatable to the public and the old guard.”

Original cable.

Estimates about internal party developments in PASOK

At the end of June 2008, Daniel Speckhard, the US ambassador in Athens, Greece, sent to the State Department his own assessment about the internal party developments in PASOK (then the main opposition party, now the ruling party) and the potential benefits for the New Democracy party (then the ruling party).

Among other things, he refers to the then emerging Siemens scandal, and the revelations that the former Prime Minister’s right hand man, Theodoros Tsoukatos, had received 420.000€ from the German company, had caused a great turmoil inside PASOK.

Papandreou’s critics mention that he’s trying to change the party by transforming it into something that it can’t be.

The US ambassador concludes that a continued discontent inside the party has pushed Papandreou away from his familiar pro-Western attitude and more toward an often strident, "patriotic"-populist language reminiscent of his late father. He turned against the independence of Kosovo and changed his attitude about Turkey´s EU accession which he supported when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs during Simitis’ residency.

Original cable.

Karamanlis: Putin is no teacher of democracy

During January of 2008, the newly appointed US ambassador in Athens, Daniel Speckhard, meets for the first time with Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, of the New Democracy party. They discuss, among other things, the name issue of Macedonia, Kosovo, Greece-Turkey relations and energy policy issues such as the South Stream gas pipeline.

Concerning the name of FYROM, he told the ambassador that they had to find a common naming solution, or else Greece won’t consent to FYROM´s entry into Euro-Atlantic institutions.

He told the US ambassador that Greece isn’t ready yet to have a leading role in the EU, but the country now is in the upper half of privileged states, unlike the 80s where it was at the bottom.

He talked about the planned reforms of his government, such as reforms in the pension system, privatizations, and education reform in order to allow for private universities to operate.

Concerning Vladimir Putin, he mentioned that he obviously was “no teacher of democracy” but in basic issues, such as global stability and the battle against terrorism, Russia was a partner and Greece needs good relations with them.

About the South Stream gas pipe concerns of the US ambassador, Karamanlis tried to downgrade the achieved progress of the pipe’s construction, stating that it will be difficult and it will take some time.

According to Mr. Karamanlis, relations with Turkey were better than before but he could not say there had been any progress on any substantive issue.

Finally, he advised the US ambassador to be discrete in his relationship with Greek politicos, journalists, and prominent businessmen.

Original cable.

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