Monday, 22 July 2013

Britain and Karamanlis: British reaction to the restoration of democracy in Greece in 1974

It has now been thirty-nine years since the fall of the Junta and the restoration of democracy in Greece (triggered by the Turkish invasion of Cyprus). 

In an effort to help shed some more light on the events that transpired during the transition period, I present here a small excerpt from my research on the British reaction to the return of Konstantinos Karmanlis and his swearing-in as prime minister (as it appears on my latest book, Britain and the Greek Colonels).

Ίδρυμα Kωνσταντίνος Γ. Kαραμανλής © Copyright 2013
"[British foreign secretary, James] 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 (‘a politician of real status with popular following in the country’), 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 [British ambassador in Athens, Sir Robin] Hooper reported to the Foreign Office: ‘[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’ (emphasis added).
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’ (emphasis added)."

For more information on how Whitehall viewed Karamanlis, visit the pages of the Karamanlis Foundation, where quotes from two British PMs are given:

Ίδρυμα Kωνσταντίνος Γ. Kαραμανλής © Copyright 2013
“The British people welcomed and with profound admiration followed the personal achievement of Mr. Karamanlis and his government in restoring democracy to Greece. If there were a Nobel Prize for Democracy, he who should receive it is Konstantinos Karamanlis.“

Harold Wilson
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

 "He became prime minister at a critical moment in his country’s history, and under his wise and steady leadership democracy was re-established and peace was preserved despite the considerable provocations threatening them. He rendered exceptional services to his homeland and to Europe.” 

James Callaghan
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

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