2011-03-26 Greek cablegate revelations: The secret people behind Prime Minister Papandreou, and the criticism from his party colleagues

WL Central continues the coverage of Greek diplomatic cables, revealed by SKAI media group and Kathimerini newspaper. Today’s cables refer to the internal party workings of PASOK from 2007 until today, with the last cable being especially interesting as it reveals key and unknown people behind the Prime Minister Papandreou.

PASOK, whose leader is George Papandreou, now Prime Minister of Greece, was the main opposition party during the period 2007-2009 and from 2009 until today it is the ruling party. PASOK self-indentifies as a socialist party. However, since PM Papandreou’s administration orchestrated Greece’s loan from the International Monetary Fund and the EU, and its subsequent impact on the living standards of Greeks, its popularity diminishes at an unprecedented pace.

PASOK’s leadership crisis; “Knives sharpened” states the American ambassador

“PASOK’s defeat in the September 16 [2007] election has prompted a furious internal debate over the party’s leadership” notes the American ambassador in the cable dated October 11, 2007. Immediately, after the defeat of PASOK in the national elections from the right-wing party New Democracy, PASOK’s president George Papandreou, was immediately challenged by former colleague Evangelos Venizelos.

Among others, the embassy’s attaché notes that even if Papandreou wins the internal party elections, his supporters believe that the party needs a leadership change and also that the best people for the presidency aren’t even candidates. He states that much of Papandreou’s support is lukewarm, and that he was considering resigning.

In an almost prophetical tone the cable continues: “Papandreou declared PASOK the party of "radical platforms;"[…] He sought, he said, a meaningful political mandate that would allow him to reconstruct the party and be ready for the next general election campaign”.

He concludes by saying that “Venizelos can win an election – But Papandreou can win the party”.

Original cable

“Barons” and “Technocrats” of PASOK

At November 13, 2007, two days after the internal party elections of PASOK between today’s Prime Minister Papandreou and the then contender for nomination Evangelos Venizelos, the embassy’s attaché in Athens makes observations about the outcome. He places George Papandreou in a difficult position between three different teams inside the party; the “barons” that were elected with his father Andreas Papandreou during the 80’s and 90’s, his own “entourage of advisors”, and former PASOK’s president and Prime Minister Simitis’s “technocrats”.

He stresses that Papandreou’s win inside the party brought criticism for his defeat at the national elections of October 2007. However, he continues, the apparently exhausted Papandreou is stronger than what he was two months ago.

Finally, he refers to several top members of the party who may have not had opposed openly Papandreou but they are skeptical about his leadership, and doubt the fact that he has a vision that may appeal to the voters, in order to bring the party to the power again.

He closes the cable by stating that “that’s good news for [the then ruling party] New Democracy and PM Karamanlis.”

Original cable

Greece Prime Minister’s secret diplomacy and his unknown consultants

Right after PASOK’s victory in national elections of Fall 2009, Prime Minister George Papandreou appointed himself as a Foreign Minister. In that way, he was both Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, for the first few months of his party’s administration.

However, in a cable sent to the American State Department from the American ambassador in Athens Daniel Speckhard, at December 20, 2009, there are mentioned some secret consultants of the Prime Minister concerning Foreign Diplomacy issues. They were being kept secret in their role not only from the public but also from key people in his administration.

All these information were derived from a conversation he had with Mrs. Paulina Lampsa, officially the International Secretary for PASOK but unofficially an advisor to PM Papandreou and “a regular contact of the political section at Embassy Athens” according to the ambassador’s own words.

Lampsa, the ambassador continues, run a “small but expanding office that is set apart from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and PASOK party headquarters” and that she preferred that position because she did not want to report to any minister. She mainly acted “as a direct informal advisor to PM Papandreou, before input is sought within the government”.

Continuing the revelations, Mr. Speckhard states that Mr. Alex Rondos has also been acting as an informal advisor out of the limelight and has been taking on special cases and projects on behalf of the Prime Minister. Although, he notes, Lampsa was an informal consultant herself she acknowledged that there was too much “secret diplomacy” going on inside the government and a consequence of this tactic was that several key people in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “were not receiving information on sensitive issues”.

The author continues, in apparently the most interesting cable of today’s batch, that Lampsa referred to the Cypriot President Christofias as being unable to trust his Foreign Minister, exposing in that way, key politics of a third, foreign government. “Therefore” she continues “Greek messages passed through the Cypriot Foreign Ministry will not elicit the desired response”.

In their conversation Mrs. Lampsa stated that the Papandreou administration wanted a solution promoting the unification of Cyprus Island and that the administration intended to promote its views “via influential columnists with the ability and legitimacy to advocate for a solution and explain the dangers posed if current talks fail”.

She continues, by mentioning two key owners of media groups with different views on the issue. Bobolas media group, she notes, was “working against the process”, while Lambrakis media group was “willing to support resolution of the Cyprus conflict”. It is interesting to note, that although the cable mentions these two media groups by name, no article by the major Greek newspapers refering to this particular cable mentions these groups by name. Kathimerini newspaper, which published this cable, is owned by Lambrakis media group. See our previous coverage of a cable discussing the interdependence and corruption of Greek mainstream media.

On a different subject, Greece–Turkey relations, Mrs. Lampsa states to the American ambassador that the relations were “very sensitive” and that “the Greek [Ministry of Foreign Affairs’] Turkey desk is not necessarily in the loop regarding high-level discussions with the Turks”.

Finally, she notes that opposition party’s New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras’ pick of John Korantis for a shadow cabinet position was risky because “of his former role as the head of the Greek National Intelligence Agency and the possibility that he could leak sensitive information”.

Interestingly, Mrs. Lampsa despite the publicizing of the current cable, did not resign but she dismissed the cable’s accusations as a “morbid figment of imagination”, believing that they “serve the agendas of the authors”. “PASOK is completely against tactics of “secret diplomacy”” she stated.

Similar denials were issued also by the Cypriot government. Cypriot government representative Stephen Stephanou noted that the claim that Cypriot President Christofias is commenting on his Foreign Minister in conversations with foreign diplomats is “lacking of seriousness”.

Original cable

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