Monday, 16 August 2010

Ioannidis, Cyprus, and the irony of history

Dimitrios Ioannidis, one of the instigators of the April 1967 coup that brought the Greek Colonels to power, died early in the morning today.
During the seven-year reign of the 'junta', Brigadier Ioannidis was director of the Greek military police (ΕΣΑ), and he was known as one of the hardliners of the regime.
He rose to prominence in November 1973, when he masterminded, behind the scenes, a new coup that put an end to the liberalising efforts initiated by Georgios Papadopoulos, under the so-called 'Markezinis experiment'.

History showed its ironic face once again, as the 'invisible dictator' (as he was known during 1973-4) passed away on the 50th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Cyprus.
Ioannidis' fate was tied to the Mediterranean island.

The Cyprus issue, which eventually brought about the demise of the
military junta, was the most predominant foreign policy preoccupation of all the
dictators (and especially of Ioannidis) throughout their tenure of power, for they
thought that, as Coufoudakis has argued, ‘removing this irritant from Greek domestic and foreign policy and interallied
relations, was expected to increase the Colonels' prestige at home and end the
régime’s international isolation’.

The first signs appeared in the summer of 1970, when a crisis was brewing up on the island, also as a consequence of the attempted assassination of President Makarios earlier that year.
Papadopoulos' handling of the situation in Cyprus, in conjunction with
his initiatives in trying to mitigate foreign critics through
pursuing a conciliatory line precipitated cracks within the junta, which appeared
at that time to be far from united. The internal troubles peaked in the summer of 1970
when Papadopoulos (who was already both prime minister and minister of defence)
decided, following Pipinelis’ death, to assume the post of minister of foreign affairs,
as well. Jealously prevailed among Papadopoulos’ critics, with the concentration of
power in his hands being the real issue. The casualties of the acute internal crisis,
which was resolved in September, were the prime minister’s ability to confront the
hardliners and his supposed efforts towards the gradual democratisation of the

When, in November 1973, a coup overthrew Papadopoulos, the British were quick to identify Ioannidis as the ‘somewhat shadowy figure’ behind the new government.
As a consequence of developments in Greece, however, the British decided to adopt once more a
wait-and-see policy, with greater caution dictated by parliamentary attitudes that were
unfavourable to Ioannidis.

A few months later, and before celebrating fifteen years as an independent state, the Republic of Cyprus would cease to exist in its initial form.
The coup that the Greek junta, under Ioannidis, launched against Makarios triggered a invasion by Turkey, which still occupies the northern third of Cyprus today, thus dividing the island.

The actions of the dictator that precipitated the division of Cyprus came back to haunt him; according to the dictates of historical irony, the 16th of August will from now on mark both the beginning of the Republic of Cyprus and the end of the man who tried to dismantle it.

Photos taken from and

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

When Greece won the World Cup

The Turkish invasion of Cyprus on the 20th of July served as the final catalyst
for the events set in motion by the coup against Makarios, inasmuch as it spelled
disaster for the objectives of the Greek junta regarding the island, and it marked the
end of the military dictatorship in Greece. Only a couple of days
later, while the British were preoccupied with the Geneva conference on Cyprus,
reports reached London that the junta was about to fall and that Gizikis had
summoned ‘old’ politicians (Mavros, Canellopoulos, Markezinis, Stephanopoulos,
Zolotas, Averoff, Palamas, and Garoufalias were mentioned) to discuss the formation
of a civilian government.

The scenes of ‘extraordinary jubilation’ in the centre of Athens
(which, according to British ambassador Hooper, was reacting ‘very much as though Greece had won the World Cup’)
intensified even further after the announcement that the military junta would hand
power over to a political administration, and euphoria culminated upon Karamanlis’
arrival in the wee hours of the following day, with the crowd calling on him to ‘save
Greece’. Shortly before that pro-Enosis demonstrators had smashed the windows
of the British embassy in Athens.

Karamanlis was immediately sworn in as prime minister and, as a result, the
British ambassador was instructed to deliver him a message (highly indicative of London’s satisfaction over the change in Athens and its concern and sense of urgency
over Cyprus) from Wilson:

'I am delighted at the news that you have taken office as Prime Minister. Please
accept my warmest congratulations. I have no doubt that your high reputation as an
international statesman and your long experience will make an invaluable contribution
at this critical time. I am sure that you will agree that it is of paramount importance that talks between the parties concerned in the Cyprus dispute should start as quickly as possible. I hope that you will be able to send a member of your government to Geneva tomorrow.'

The new Greek prime minister’s reply was in the same spirit:
'[…] In the difficult task of restoring and consolidating democracy in Greece the
eradication of the unfavourable consequences for Cyprus of the recent crisis shall play
a vital role. I am sure that I can rely on your personal understanding and assistance in
this respect. Sharing your feelings about the importance of the talks, the
implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution on Cyprus should
start as soon as possible, I am sending Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Mavros to
Geneva where he will be arriving tomorrow afternoon'.

Callaghan thought that with the arrival of a democratic government in Greece,
‘British policy acquired a new element’, as ‘it was important for the Greek people and
for international relations that Greek democracy should be strengthened’. The
British thought they should ‘certainly welcome’ the return of Karamanlis, but not become ‘over
committed’ at that stage to his government, as it was considered able to stay in power only if it could ‘deliver the goods’. The British were content to see that the new
government had ‘a strong pro-NATO pro-Western Europe bias’ and had been greeted
with relief by supporters of the two major parties. As Hooper reported to FCO:

‘[t]he present Government is as good as we are likely to get but it is far from being
the “ecumenical” Government which some hoped for after the return of Karamanlis’.

What troubled him, though, were the negative aspects of Greek
political life:
‘The bickering and factionalism endemic in Greek politics has alas
begun to reappear, and it is much to be feared that even in the present critical situation
the politicians inside the Government will soon start squabbling. Those outside are
unlikely to refrain from destructive criticism’.

The foreign secretary commenting
on the events on Cyprus in his memoirs wrote the following:

‘Nevertheless, when I look back on that fateful and absorbing period there were some
rewards. Democratic government in Greece was an uncovenanted bonus and I believe
Britain did a great deal to assist its consolidation in those first days of uncertainty’.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Britain and the junta: 40 years ago II

Here's the article on Anglo-Greek relations in 1970, in English this time:

Britain and Greece: 40 years ago
By Alexandros Nafpliotis*

‘If a member of a club breaks the rules for a limited period, the other members may tolerate it but if he is in persistent violation of the rules, the time must come when the club can no longer accept the situation. My government, with great reluctance, has come to the conclusion that this is the situation we are faced with now’
George Thompson (Britain’s chief delegate to CoE), 11 December 1969
The timetable presented by a Greek minister failed to persuade European allies of the intentions of the Greek government. Western European governments are toughening their stance vis-à-vis Greece, which is now forced to look for support in other areas of the globe. The Greek prime minister, who has also taken over the post of minister of foreign affairs, is struggling to take the country out of the ‘vulnerable international position’ it is in, and which does not leave it much room for manoeuvre. In his effort to achieve this he encounters strong reactions from members of his government, who disagree with his initiatives in trying to mitigate foreign critics through pursuing a conciliatory line.

Meanwhile, Britain is preparing for a crucial election, which is very likely to reinstate the Conservatives to the leadership of the country after a long period of Labour dominance. It is considered certain that the Tories’ return to power will impact considerably on London’s relations with Brussels and other major European capitals. The leader of the party assumed the responsibility of dramatically changing the party’s profile and competing with the charismatic Labour leader five years ago.

All of the above refer to the situation in Athens and London not in 2010 but exactly 40 years ago. The third anniversary of the 21 April coup d’etat that brought the Colonels to power was overshadowed by the feeling of isolation that the regime was increasingly experiencing. This was mainly a consequence of Greece’s walkout (when it realised that expulsion was imminent) from the Council of Europe, the previous December. George Papadopoulos (prime minister, minister of defence, and, from the summer on, also minister of foreign affairs) launched the regime’s ‘opening into the East’, in order to enhance the international standing of Greece, which had taken some serious blows. The hardliners of the junta reacted to Papadopoulos’ concentration of powers, and to his handling of the situation in Cyprus. In the summer of 1970, Edward Heath completely unexpectedly became premier, as he led the Conservatives to one of the biggest electoral surprises in British history, and set Britain’s accession to the EEC as his primary goal.
The return of the Tories in power created great expectations on the part of the junta, mainly because of the lack of a left wing within the Conservative party and the great interest that the Tories traditionally show for matters of defence and security. The newspaper Nea Politia (the mouthpiece of the regime), immediately pointed out the importance of the electoral outcome, claiming that the British election results ‘show that the swing towards the left in Europe is being halted’ and that these developments ‘vindicate the 1967 Revolution and show that the Greek officers who launched it were the first to understand the message of [the] times’. This was followed by positive statements by British officials (stressing the fact that the Conservative party did not have a left wing) that contributed to an amelioration of relations. London, under tremendous pressure formed by its financial difficulties and US insistence, decided that it was necessary to have a ‘good working relationship’ with the Greek military regime that would allow Britain to actively promote trade (including arms sales) between the two countries.

The tension that was created in the Mediterranean in September 1970, strengthened Greece’s position, as it underlined its significance for the Atlantic Alliance and seemed to justify the British argument in favour of working closely with Athens and avoiding discussing the ‘Greek issue’ in NATO at all cost. The meeting that took place at Geoffrey Rippon’s office at the end of the month is quite indicative of the Heath government’s intentions. The record of this meeting epitomised British policy towards the Colonels under the Conservative party, as it provided a perfect illustration of the priorities of Whitehall, its position on a series of sensitive issues, and, finally, marked a watershed with regard to Anglo-Greek relations in some respects. It was decided that ‘co-operation with Greece in the military field was particularly important if we were to maintain a good working relationship with the Greek Government’ and it was stated that ‘HMG’s recent agreement to the supply of frigates should prove helpful in this connexion’. The new spirit in relations was further proven by Palamas’ (Greek alternate minister of foreign affairs) visit to the British capital and Sir Denis Greenhill’s (permanent under-secretary of state for foreign affairs) statement that his country wished to do ‘as much business as possible with Greece’, as well as by the Palamas –Douglas-Home meeting in New York in October.

Despite a relative fluctuation in relations between the two countries (that chiefly had to do with difficulties bequeathed by Wilson), the Heath government made clear its will to establish warmer relations, by drawing a distinction between its policy and that of its predecessor, and by using cooperation in the military field as the catalyst. 1970 is a milestone in Anglo-Greek relations as it is the starting-point of a Tory policy towards the Greek junta that, however, was to bear more fruit in the following years of their tenure. The prevalent aspect of this policy was the cynicism with which London and its representatives in Athens seemed to accept the situation in Greece. The following year, the British ambassador in Greece, Sir Robin Hooper sent a report to FCO stating this:

‘I do not see Greece returning to a democratic system of government as understood in Western European countries for many years and evolution even to a form of guided democracy such as the colonels have in the past seemed to envisage is evidently going to be slow and uncertain’.
*Alexandros Nafpliotis holds a PhD in International History from the London School of Economics and is currently writing a book on Britain and the Greek Colonels, 1967-1974.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Britain and the junta: 40 years ago

Here's an article (in Greek) on the similarities between the situation in Athens and London today, and back in 1970.

Χούντα και Βρετανία: 40 χρόνια πριν
του Αλέξανδρου Ναυπλιώτη*

«Αν κάποιο μέλος μιας ένωσης αψηφά τους κανόνες για μια περιορισμένη περίοδο τα άλλα μέλη μπορούν να το ανεχθούν· αν όμως παραβιάζει συνεχώς τους κανόνες, τότε πρέπει κάποια στιγμή να πάψει η ένωση να δέχεται αυτή την κατάσταση. Η κυβέρνησή μου, με μεγάλη απροθυμία, έφθασε στο συμπέρασμα πως τέτοια είναι η κατάσταση που αντιμετωπίζουμε τώρα».
George Thompson (Υπουργός άνευ χαρτοφυλακίου στην κυβέρνηση Wilson), 11 Δεκεμβρίου 1969

Το χρονοδιάγραμμα που παρουσίασε κορυφαίος υπουργός δεν κατάφερε να πείσει τους Ευρωπαίους εταίρους για τις προθέσεις της ελληνικής κυβέρνησης. Οι Δυτικοευρωπαϊκές κυβερνήσεις σκληραίνουν τη στάση τους απέναντι στην Ελλάδα, η οποία είναι αναγκασμένη πια να αναζητήσει ερείσματα σε άλλες περιοχές του πλανήτη. Ο Έλληνας πρωθυπουργός, έχοντας αναλάβει και καθήκοντα Υπουργού Εξωτερικών, προσπαθεί να βγάλει την χώρα από την «ευάλωτη διεθνώς θέση» στην οποία έχει περιέλθει και που δεν της αφήνει μεγάλο περιθώριο ελιγμών. Στην προσπάθειά του αυτή συναντά ισχυρές εσωτερικές αντιδράσεις από μέλη της κυβέρνησής του που δε συμφωνούν με τη συμβιβαστική γραμμή που φαίνεται να ακολουθεί ο πρωθυπουργός σε σχέση με τους ξένους επικριτές της Ελλάδας.
Το ίδιο διάστημα η Βρετανία ετοιμάζεται για μια κρίσιμη εκλογική αναμέτρηση που είναι πιθανόν να επαναφέρει στο τιμόνι της χώρας τους Συντηρητικούς ύστερα από μια μακρά περίοδο κυριαρχίας των Εργατικών. Θεωρείται βέβαιο ότι η επιστροφή των Τόρηδων στην εξουσία θα επηρεάσει σημαντικά τις σχέσεις του Λονδίνου με τις Βρυξέλλες και τις άλλες μεγάλες ευρωπαϊκές πρωτεύουσες. Ο αρχηγός του κόμματος εκλέχθηκε στην ηγεσία του κόμματος πριν από πέντε χρόνια σε μια προσπάθεια να αλλάξει ριζικά το προφίλ του και να συναγωνιστεί τον χαρισματικό ηγέτη των Εργατικών.

Τα παραπάνω αναφέρονται στην κατάσταση που επικρατούσε στην Αθήνα και το Λονδίνο όχι το 2010, αλλά ακριβώς 40 χρόνια πριν. Η τρίτη επέτειος του πραξικοπήματος της 21ης Απριλίου έβρισκε το καθεστώς απομονωμένο από τους Ευρωπαίους συμμάχους του λόγω της ουσιαστικής αποπομπής της Ελλάδας από το Συμβούλιο της Ευρώπης τον προηγούμενο Δεκέμβριο. Ο Γεώργιος Παπαδόπουλος, πρωθυπουργός, και υπουργός άμυνας και (από το καλοκαίρι και έπειτα και) εξωτερικών, προωθεί το («κυρίως επικοινωνιακό») «άνοιγμα προς Ανατολάς» και το «άνοιγμα προς την Αφρική» της χούντας, ώστε να βελτιώσει το διεθνές κύρος της χώρας που έχει πληγεί σημαντικά. Οι λεγόμενοι «σκληροί» του καθεστώτος (Ιωαννίδης, Λαδάς, Ασλανίδης) αντιδρούν στη συγκέντρωση εξουσιών στο πρόσωπο του Παπαδόπουλου, καθώς και στους χειρισμούς του τελευταίου σχετικά με την κρίση που παρουσιάζεται στις σχέσεις με τον Μακάριο και την απελευθέρωση κρατουμένων, η οποία πραγματοποιείται για να κατευνάσει πρωτίστως τους επικριτές που βρίσκονται στο εξωτερικό. Το καλοκαίρι του 1970, ο Edward Heath γίνεται τελείως ανέλπιστα πρωθυπουργός, έχοντας οδηγήσει τους Συντηρητικούς σε μια από τις μεγαλύτερες εκλογικές εκπλήξεις στην ιστορία της Βρετανίας, και θέτει ως πρωταρχικό του στόχο την είσοδο της χώρας στην Ευρωπαϊκή Οικονομική Κοινότητα.
Η επιστροφή των Τόρηδων στην εξουσία γεννάει μεγάλες προσδοκίες στην χούντα, λόγω της έλλειψης αριστερής πτέρυγας στο εσωτερικό του κόμματος και του μεγάλου ενδιαφέροντος που επιδεικνύουν παραδοσιακά οι Συντηρητικοί για θέματα ασφάλειας και άμυνας. Η Νέα Πολιτεία (όργανο του καθεστώτος) σπεύδει να επισημάνει τη σημασία του εκλογικού αποτελέσματος ως ενδεικτικού του γενικότερου φραγμού στην αριστερή στροφή στην Ευρώπη, και ως δικαίωσης της «Επανάστασης του 1967» που πρώτη συνέλαβε το μήνυμα της εποχής. Στην καλλιέργεια αυτού του κλίματος συντελούν και δηλώσεις Βρετανών αξιωματούχων πως «το γεγονός ότι δεν υπάρχει – ως συνέβαινε με Εργατικούς – αριστερά πτέρυξ δια να δημιουργή προβλήματα, δύναται να χαρακτηρισθή ως ευοίωνον σημείον». Το Λονδίνο, υπό την ασφυκτική πίεση των οικονομικών του δυσκολιών (αλλά και των ΗΠΑ), θεωρούσε ότι ήταν αναγκαία μια πολιτική καλών σχέσεων με το καθεστώς, η οποία θα καταστούσε δυνατή την εντατικοποίηση των εμπορικών συναλλαγών, συμπεριλαμβανομένης και της πώλησης πολεμικού υλικού.
Η ένταση που δημιουργήθηκε στην περιοχή της Μεσογείου τον Σεπτέμβριο του 1970, ισχυροποίησε τη θέση της χούντας, καθώς υπογράμμισε τη σημασία της για την Ατλαντική συμμαχία και φάνηκε να δικαιώνει το επιχείρημα των Βρετανών για στενότερη συνεργασία με την Αθήνα και την πάση θυσία αποφυγή συζήτησης του «ελληνικού ζητήματος» στο ΝΑΤΟ. Ενδεικτική των διαθέσεων της Συντηρητικής κυβέρνησης είναι η σύσκεψη που πραγματοποιήθηκε στα τέλη του μήνα υπό τον υπουργό που ήταν υπεύθυνος για τη διαδικασία εισόδου της Βρετανίας στην ΕΟΚ, Geoffrey Rippon. Εκεί αποφασίστηκε ότι η συνεργασία με την Ελλάδα στον στρατιωτικό τομέα ήταν «ιδιαιτέρως σημαντική» για τη διατήρηση καλών σχέσεων εργασίας με τη χούντα, και ειπώθηκε πως η πρόσφατη συμφωνία του Λονδίνου για την παροχή φρεγατών (και άλλου είδους υλικού για νατοϊκή, αποκλειστικά, χρήση) θα βοηθούσε σ’ αυτό. Το νέο πνεύμα στις ελληνοβρετανικές σχέσεις επισφραγίστηκε με την επίσκεψη του Αναπληρωτή ΥπΕξ Παλαμά στη βρετανική πρωτεύουσα και τη δήλωση του γενικού γραμματέα του Φόρεϊν Όφις, Greenhill ότι η χώρα του ήταν πρόθυμη για «όσο πιο πολύ εμπόριο» με την Ελλάδα, αλλά και με τη συνάντηση Παλαμά -Douglas-Home στη Νέα Υόρκη, τον Οκτώβριο.
Παρά μια σχετική διακύμανση στο επίπεδο των σχέσεων των δύο χωρών (που είχαν κυρίως να κάνουν με δυσκολίες που είχαν κληρονομήσει οι Συντηρητικοί από τη διακυβέρνηση Wilson), η κυβέρνηση Heath κατέστησε σαφείς τις προθέσεις της για θερμότερες σχέσεις με το καθεστώς, διαφοροποιώντας τη θέση της από τους Εργατικούς, και χρησιμοποιώντας ως καταλύτη τη συνεργασία στον αμυντικό τομέα. Τα γεγονότα του 1970 αποτέλεσαν την αφετηρία για την πολιτική των Τόρηδων απέναντι στην χούντα, η οποία είχε πιο ουσιαστικά αποτελέσματα τα επόμενα χρόνια της κοινής πορείας των δύο κυβερνήσεων. Χαρακτηριστικό αυτής της πολιτικής ήταν ο κυνισμός με τον οποίο δεχόταν το Λονδίνο και οι εκπρόσωποί του στην Ελλάδα την κατάσταση στην Αθήνα. Τον επόμενο χρόνο ο Βρετανός πρέσβης στην Ελλάδα Sir Robin Hooper έγραφε προς το Λονδίνο τα εξής:

«Δε βλέπω την Ελλάδα να επιστρέφει σε ένα δημοκρατικό σύστημα διακυβέρνησης όπως αυτό γίνεται αντιληπτό σε δυτικοευρωπαϊκές χώρες για πολλά χρόνια, και η εξέλιξη, ακόμη και με τη μορφή καθοδηγούμενης δημοκρατίας όπως αυτή που φαίνεται να οραματίζονταν οι συνταγματάρχες στο παρελθόν, θα είναι αποδεδειγμένα αργή και αβέβαιη».

*Ο Αλέξανδρος Ναυπλιώτης είναι διδάκτωρ διεθνούς ιστορίας του London School of Economics.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The eagles, the lion, the hammer and sicle and the phoenix

On the 43rd anniversary of the Colonels' coup I've decided to upload a book review (in Greek) of two very interesting books that were published recently and that deal with Greece's foreign relations shortly before and after the establishment of the military regime.

The two books are:
M. Vassilakis (ed.) From relentless struggle to dictatorship (in Greek), Athens: Papazisis, 2009, and
Walldén, Sotiris. Unseemly Partners: Greek Dictatorship, Communist Régimes and the Balkans (1967-1974) (in Greek), Athens: Polis, 2009

Οι αετοί, το λιοντάρι, το σφυροδρέπανο και ο φοίνικας: Οι εξωτερικές σχέσεις της Ελλάδας αμέσως πριν και κατά τη διάρκεια της δικτατορίας των συνταγματαρχών

Από τον Αλέξανδρο Ναυπλιώτη

Ίδρυμα «Κωνσταντίνος Κ. Μητσοτάκης», Από τον Ανένδοτο στη Δικτατορία (επιμέλεια Μανώλης Βασιλάκης), Εκδόσεις Παπαζήση, Αθήνα 2009, σελ. 612

Σωτήρης Βαλντέν. Παράταιροι εταίροι: Ελληνική Δικτατορία, κομμουνιστικά καθεστώτα και Βαλκάνια (1967-1974), Πόλις, Αθήνα 2009, σελ. 794.

Monday, 18 January 2010

BBC and the fall of the junta

This is a BBC article on the demise of the Greek dictatorship. The article was published on 23rd July 1974.

See also a BBC video of celebrations for the end of military rule here.

Francis Noel-Baker

Here's a set of articles and obituaries on Francis Noel-Baker, a former Labour MP that passed away almost four months ago.

Noel-Baker had supported the democratic government overthrown by the coup of 1967, but he praised the "honest Colonels" for tackling corruption and inefficiency. He scorned torture allegations by Amnesty International as "grossly exaggerated", and hailed the regime as "the best for years".

Papadopoulos and the British Parliament

In this 1994 article by Richard Clogg you can read how the leader of the Colonels' regime contributed towards cleaning up British political life, by giving 'a powerful boost to the process which culminated in the establishment in 1974 of the Register of Members' Interest'.