Declassified documents of the British Foreign Office are throwing light on and raising interesting facts about politicians, who were dominating the Greek political horizon in the last 35 years. Since 1994, William Mallinson, a former British diplomat and currently Professor of History at the Ionian University, has been examining the archives of the Foreign Office, the Prime Minister’s office and the Cabinet of Great Britain. The main subject of his research involves the Greek-British relations during the Cold War and during the Turkish invasion in Cyprus.
According to one of his papers, Greece’s problems started back in 1974 when Kostas Karamanlis took over the country with his new party New Democracy. This is the time when the negotiations for the accession of Greece into the then European Economic Community having the full support of France started. Here is how the diplomats from the Foreign Office of Great Britain looked on the French positions:
"Mr. Villemure found it difficult to present proposals on agriculture in Greece. He was preparing a report, but the complete absence of statistical data was a very serious obstacle. Villemure wondered if there actually were any minimal data. The Frenchmen have found out that when they tried to request such information, the Greeks became very suspicious. He was disturbed by the fact that a very small percentage of the public officials understood the scale of the problem lying before them. Those who understood all the decisions were not more than three or four. Villemure expressed his restraint, similar to our embassy’s, as to whether the Greek bureaucracy is likely to be changed to make the necessary efforts."
The documents show that by 1981, the situation had not changed at all. The British Ambassador to Athens was very critical of the political developments in the country. The following excerpt from his report could have been written today too, "First, inability and corruption. Greek public services are governed by bureaucracy, low rates of operation and a strong party influence [...] Administrative authorities are struggling to respond to the need for reforms [...] Although the Greeks are good at drawing up plans, they lag far behind in their implementation and then, modify them with a new unique skill."
The ambassador describes the work of administration as ineffective and that bureaucracy "is often inhumane." This is greatly due to the low level of education of the majority of civil servants as well as to the aspiration of all governments to appoint "close friends" in the administration, "which, in turn, results in too many employees." In his opinion, corruption is due to the fact that the political system operates under the rules of kickbacks and clientelist relations with the electorate. "Joining the European Community will surely lead to specific and serious problems of adaptation. Under their weight, certain sectors of the Greek industry will be broken to pieces, because they are not able to compete without any protection."
As for PASOK, which was a relatively new party in 1981 and which won the elections with a significant majority, the British diplomat wrote, "If PASOK takes the power it will be more a power of instability and decay, detrimental to Western interests." He still does not believe that New Democracy would be able to take swift changes. "The years when the party was in power undermined the will to improve the current class, which was so clear immediately after the fall of the military dictatorship."
The documents in the British Foreign Office contain not only political analysis but also an archive with assessments of leading political figures in Greece. According to diplomats, the former president of New Democracy Miltiadis Evert was "sharp, self-confident and arrogant." Yiannis Horn was of "unbalanced nature", "extremely funny but ready to insult as well." It was almost impossible for someone to work for him, as at the same time, he was a great miser. Spiridon Markezinis is defined as "a small funny man who looks like a frog." For Konstantinos Mitsotakis, it is stated in a very diplomatic way that he was not "above corruption."
The British diplomats’ opinion of Andreas Papandreou was that "he is much more logical than during his theatrical public appearances. He has a moderate academic look and is a kind of an ambitious adventurer," who deeply believed in his destiny of inheriting the power. An interesting fact is the mentioning of a health problem in the period 1979-1980.
Three years later, the ambassador wrote, "There is compelling evidence that he led the ASPIDA organization the aim of which was to establish political power in the army in favour of the Papandreou family."
By June 1980, about 17 months before the elections, the British Ambassador still believed that PASOK "belongs to one person" and that such a government would lead the country to an economic crisis and chaos in the government. The documents show that a fiery patriot during his public appearances, Andreas Papandreou behaved almost servilely during his meetings, mostly with British diplomats. In November 1980, a month after the government of Kostas Karamanlis decided to join the country to the military part of NATO again, according to an official source at the British Foreign Office, Andreas Papandreou "was running behind Lord Carrington, trying to provide some comments that did not contain any change in the position." As everyone knows, when he took over the power he did not repeat the pre-election promises of leaving the North Atlantic Alliance.