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Revelations on Greece from UK declassfied documents

In 1982, the then newly incumbent PASOK government under Andreas Papandreou was of intense interest to UK officials, as Foreign Office documents recently declassified show. UK services were keen to see where Andreas Papandreou was “heading” as until that time he was an unknown quantity, and his leftist rhetoric was a source of concern.

The files disclosed show that in private, the British discovered, the “troublesome” Papandreou “was much more of a pragmatist and much more sedate than at his public appearances,” while as concerns his foreign policy had moved towards a realistic stance concerning NATO, the EEC, and relations with the USA.

As concerns then agriculture minister Kostas Simitis the documents note that he had quickly become acclimatized to his ministry, but was perhaps too much of a theoretician for the post.

The documents also characterize then foreign minister Yannis Haralambopoulos as an “enigma” but was considered “lacking” in abilities and background.

Teh Foreign Office seems to have held the late Giorgos Gennimatas in some esteem because of his readiness when he was vested with authority and his actions, with a special reference to his role to promote the bill recognizing national resistance during the Axis occupation.

The efforts of Melina Merkouri and her scathing attack against the UK in Mexico during the UNESCO conference in Mexico for the return of the Parthenon marbles, “disappointed,” and “surprised” the otherwise phlegmatic British diplomats.

In terms of the burning issue of the times, the Cyprus problem, the UK documents show that the Greek side was seeking great concessions from Turkey, which it did not have the power to achieve.

In analyzing the Greek political system, the British documents show perceptive acumen in saying that it was “more a power game among leaders than policy issues.” As concerns Greeks, the documents note that they “have a strong sense of being special,” and that they suffered from “lack of confidence as a result of subjugation, invasion, and the repression they have suffered , resulting in inflated egos,” adding that all compete against one another for any advantage , resulting in the lack of progress fro all.

However, the British seem not to have had the best opinion, noting that “Greece is a mess.” the cause of this they opined had to do with the rushed, anarchic development and profiteering of the a960s and 1970s that had contributed to the economic problems at that time. The reports, almost prophetically note, something apparent from the hindsight of crisis, that “structural reforms and investments are needed, but in order for this to happen, deeply rooted conceptions will have to change.”