2011-03-22 Greek cablegate revelations

The US ambassador on the state of Greek mainstream media.

Charles Ries, the then US ambassador in Athens, comments on the “incestuous” state of Greek media and newspapers. In a cable dated July 13, 2006 he notes that although at a first glance Greek media appear orderly arranged with constitutional guarantees in place, much like “the media in the U.S”, a closer inspection, “reveals a Greek media industry controlled by business tycoons whose other successful businesses enable them to subsidize their loss-making media operations”.

He states characteristically that Greece has the triple amount, or even more, of newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, compared to Portugal which has the same population. He also says that, due to the lack of newspaper subscriptions and the fact that newspapers have to sell themselves from newsstands, “even the occasional calm and partially accurate story will have a misleading or untrue headline that often has nothing to do with the story”, often using DVD and book giveaways as buying incentives.

Concerning the state of internet journalism he states that “the same media companies that own newspapers and broadcasting stations have established internet news portals, but they have not taken off”. Specifically, “there are no "Salons" or "Drudge Reports"”.

Although, he continues, the public generally distrusts the media, there are high levels of anti-Americanism “because people like to vent their frustrations”. However, he states, in a deeper level “you will find that the public is generally content with the decisions the government makes, even those where Greece and the U.S. are allied“.

He then refers to the ethnocentricity that prevails in Greek media, with the problems of the average Greek consuming a great portion of news and with foreign developments receiving a very limited and scarce coverage.

In the ambassador’s words, “the private media outlets in Athens are owned by a small group of people who have made or inherited fortunes in shipping, banking, telecommunications, sports, oil, insurance, etc. and who are or have been related by blood, marriage, or adultery to political and government officials and/or other media and business magnates”. He then refers to specific people, such as Vardinoyannis, Lambrakis, Goulandris and Nomikos in order to document his statement.

As long as journalists are concerned, according to Ries, they are “an underpaid bunch” usually paid by the same politicians they are covering”.

He also states that “Greek public opinion thrives today, as it did in 800 B.C., on myths, scapegoats, and conspiracy theories, with the U.S. portrayed as the "Planetary Ruler" who is to blame for Greece´s domestic troubles and for its lack of stature in the international arena”.

Finally, the ambassador discloses that in order to counter this growing sentiment of anti-Americanism they have succeeded in “placing interviews, locally produced op-eds, and IIP products on key foreign policy concerns”, as well as they are “attempting to counter factual errors and omissions with telephone calls, letters to the editor, and regular meetings with journalists, editors, and publishers”.

He concludes by acknowledging that “despite the efforts of the media, […] the Greek public is comfortable venting against U.S. foreign policy while admiring many aspects of U.S. culture”.

Original cable.

Turkey’s views towards Europe.

(This article is based on a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available)

At December 10, 2005, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs Petros Moliviatis meets with the US ambassador in Athens, who, in turn, sends the next day the cable 05ATHENS2371 to State Department. In it he describes in detail their conversation about the views of Turkey towards Europe as well as the complex relations between Athens and Nicosia.

Specifically, the then US Ambassador Charles Ries states that Moliviatis was worried about the political pressures of Cyprus and France that were “were pushing the Turkey/EU issue into a downward spiral”.

He characterizes Moliviatis as “glum” and notes that even though he had assured the ambassador that the tough line of Cyprus and France in that issue would not be continued so as to put in danger the meeting of the EU, he was not so optimistic now.

As the minister notes, public opinion both in Greece and Cyprus was “very bad”.

He also stressed that the Cypriot Foreign Minister Iacovou was "impossible" on the Turkey/EU issue and that he would simply “not talk to him”.

The cable also states that Mr. Moliviatis asked from the United States not to be publicly involved in the Turkey issue, as France was already causing troubles, and that an involvement of USA would further support France’s arguments that "we shouldn’t let the U.S. define the shape of the EU".

Original cable.

How Cyprus views the appointment of Dora Bakoyianni as a Foreign Minister by the Greek government.

After the appointment of Dora Bakoyianni as a Minister of Foreign Affairs, the US embassy in Nicosia notes the reactions of the political parties.

As it is stated in the cable, the Greek minister and her father are regarded in Cyprus as Pro-Americans and soft on the Cyprus issue.

It also reports that only the right-wing, pro-Annan plan "DISY" political party was “effusive in its praise for the appointment”. The other parties were “noticeably quiet”. The smaller, nationalist parties were concerned at Bakoyianni’s support for the Annan Plan prior to the April 2004 referenda.

The embassy notes that the appointment of Dora Bakoyianni was not a surprise neither for Cyprus, nor for Greece, but in the island there is a concern about her views towards the Cypriot issue.

That’s why, according to the ambassador, the Cypriot minister of foreign affairs Iakovou would go to Greece, in order to reinforce the view that that "Cyprus decides; Greece supports".

Original cable.

Theodoros Pangalos, former Foreign Minister, talks to the US ambassador.

Theodoros Pangalos, former Foreign Minister and then MP with the major opposition party PASOK, met with the American ambassador in Athens, at February 15, 2008. The now Vice President talked openly to the ambassador Daniel Speckhard about the FYROM naming issue, the education reform and the internal party’s issues.

He stated that the conflict regarding the name of the Republic of Macedonia was "ridiculous" and a "disaster from the beginning". He also notes that Greece should be honored that they want to use the name Macedonia. Pangalos additionally stated that “the U.S. should not worry about Greece blaming the U.S. for not solving the problem”.

Regarding educational reform, and specifically the changing of the law in order to allow the operation of private universities, he noted that he did not agree with his party’s position that the law shouldn’t change. He characteristically told the ambassador that the current system of public universities in Greece was “b.s”. He also stated that “particularly guilty was the Synaspismos party, which had taken a demagogic approach to the issue and was just inflaming the situation”, revealing that his current position against the successor of Synaspismos, SYRIZA, has lengthy foundations.

Attempting to explain why his party, PASOK, isn’t doing well in polls despite the conditions in the country, he indicated that this was due to the economic policies of the past which had affected the low and middle classes which were a natural PASOK constituency and that they “were angered by what they perceived to be PASOK´s complicity in cutting government support”. He also told the ambassador that PASOK “suffered from poor leadership and poor leadership decisions. George Papandreou was honest and direct, but he was a poor communicator and not a leader.”

The US ambassador concluded by commenting that “a very small percentage [of Greeks] would agree with Pangalos on the Macedonia name issue”.

Original cable.

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