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Antenna: News in English (PM), 97-05-11

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From: Antenna Radio <> - email:

News in English, 11/05/97


  • Constantinos Karamanlis and former king Constantine exchange heated words over the past.
  • The prime minister defends his Turkish policy before his critical MPs.
  • And, the president of the European Commission talks about EU funds for Greece.


It was a week of heated exchanges between Greece's former king and conservative politicians about the past.

It started with the publication of excerpts from the archives of former prime minister Constantinos Karamanlis. The archives relate that in 1976, then prime minister Karamanlis heard from British government sources that army officers loyal to the former king wereplanning a coup against his government.

Constantine denied any knowledge, and charged that Karmanlis and others had asked him to impose a dictatorship in the 1960s.

A heated debate about the past has opened up between former king Constantine and conservative politicians prominent in politics in the 1960s and 1970s.

Excerpts from former prime minister Constantinos Karmanlis's archives, composed of confidential letters and documents, appeared in the Athens press last weekend.

The excerpts talk of a plan by military officers loyal to the ex-king, to overthrow Karamanlis's democratically-elected government.

Hearing rumours of the plot, Karamanlis dispatched Giorgios Rallis to London, to warn the former monarch off any coup plans.

According to the archives, Constantine expressed surprise, and told Rallis he had no knowledge of the affair.

In a reply to the archive revelations, Constantine says he went to see then British prime minister James Callaghan, who said the rumours had Greek sources, and that his government was disregarding them.

Constantine says he asked Rallis to visit Callaghan with him, but Rallis declined, and returned to Athens.

Constantine goes even further in his reply. Turning the page of history back a decade, he charges that on numerous occasions, politicians asked him to impose a dictatorship in the unstable period before the colonels imposed a dictatorship of their own in 1967.

The leader of the main opposition party, Panayiotis Kanellopoulos, asked him to mandate him to form a government, in flagrant violation of the constitution.

In 1966, says Constantine, he sent Dimitris Bitsios, then head of his office, and later foreign minister of Karamanlis, to Paris, to ask Karamanlis to end his self-exile and return to Greece. Karamanlis, says Constantine, said he would do so only if he, Constantine, would impose a dictatorship.

And in 1967, just before the colonels' coup, says Constantine, then prime minister Kanellopoulos and and then public order minister Rallis, asked him to set up a dictatorship.

In his statement, Constantine says he refused to discuss any of those proposals. He adds that he doesn't need to prove his democratic beliefs, and that he sacrificed his throne to the defence of the national interests and the well-being of the Greek people.

Constantine's statement provoked angry counter- replies from Karamanlis and Rallis.

Karamanlis refutes that he asked for a dictatorship to be imposed in 1966. He cites excerpts from a book by Bitsios which tally with his archives. Bitsios writes that in Paris in 1966, Karamanlis told him that he was refusing the king's request to return to Greece, to take over the ERE party party and prepare for elections. He declined a second time, a month-and-a- half later, saying the existing political impasse could only be resovled if the constitution were changed, something he, Karamanlis, could not do.

In that reply of Wednesday, Karamanlis adds that anyone who still favours the monarchy should understand once and for all that the issue of what sort of rule Greece is to have, has been settled once and for all. The monarchy is gone forever.

A letter from Karamanlis to Greek-American professor George Anastopoulos dated Novermber 28th, 1968, appeared in an Athens daily this week. In that retrospectivfe letter, Karamanlis says he was offered the opportunity to establish a dictatorship in 1966. He adds that he abandone politics precisely so he wouldn't have to do so.

After Constantine's bombshell of a statement appeared on Tuesday Rallis took up Constantine's account of their 1976 London meeting. He said the then-king did not ask him to meet with Callaghan to discuss the coup rumour.

Regarding Constantine's allegation that he, Rallis, asked for a coup to be imposed in 1967. Exaplains Rallis, "Then prime minister Kanellopoulos told the king, in the presence of the defence minster, Bitsios, and me, that a state of emergency, allowed for in the constitution, should only be declared if the situation warranted it".

"The king agreed, adding that if parliament were dissolved, he would convene a meeting of all the MPs to ratify the state of emergency".

Following the rebuttals of Karamanlis and Rallis, Constantine responded to Karamanlis's contention that what kind of political system Greece is to have has been settled once and for all.

A statement from Constantine's office Friday says, "Regarding the views of the different political systems held by the former king and Karamanlis, what's important is what the sovereign Greek people desire and decide".

Appended to the statement is an excerpt from a book by the American journalist Schulzberger, which backs up Constantine's assertion that Karamanlis wanted to be counted in, if there were a king's coup in 1967. The excerpt says that in the spring of 1967, Karamanlis paid a secret visit to former Nato chief Larry Norstet in New York. The book claims that Karamanlis asked him if he could get the US to approve a coup in Greece in the spring. Norstet replied that the US couldn't get mixed up in such matters. Schulzburger continues: "Karamanlis was clearly referring to the coup being planned by a group generals, who wanted to seize power in the name of the king, and implement a strong conservative regime under Karamanlis".


New Democracy founder Constantinos Karamanlis dominated Greek politics for three decades. Recently-disclosed letters from the past shed light on his often stormy relations with another towering political figure, Andreas Papandreou.

One was a conservative and the other a socialist. Through the decades, their paths crossed often.


The prime minister defended his handling of Greek-Turkish relations from inhouse critics last week.

Kostas Simitis says his decision to go ahead with a Greek-Turkish commission to look at issues between the two countries was correct. The committee will have no negotiating power, and there is no danger, as some fear, of Turkey using it to put Greece's sovereign rights on the negotiating table.

Kostas Simitis responded to a letter sent to him by 32 Pasok MPs two weeks ago, expressing concerns over the Greek-Turkish committee he's agreed to at the European Union's request.

"The committee does not mark the beginning of any political dialogue with Turkey", he reassured his deputies, "or any kind of arbitration. The committee will deal with procedural issues, exploring the framework of a possible framework for further talks. The committee conclusions will not be binding".

The prime minister brushed aside claims that the committee could lead to negotiations over Greece's sovereign rights.

Explained Simitis: "The committee will either lead to a betterment or worsening of relations. But our poicy is clear: Greece will not discuss its territorial rights, which are codified in international law, and internationally-recognised treaties. Greece will discuss no change in the status quo in the Aegean. Our policy is to defend Greece's right and interests. The burden of defending its words and deeds is on Turkey".

Simitis also went on the offensive against the 32 MPs. "Letters aren't normally made public before their receiver gets them, but I heard about yours on the radio first, at 2:30 pm, just as I was about to leave for Austria and Germany. Do those who sent the letter, but didn't even sign it, ask themselves whether they were making it harder for me to push Greece's views with its partners?"

Simitis acknowledges that there will always be differences of opinion, that's why there are party bodies to discuss the issues. "But this letter wasn't a call for discussion. I believe such public announcements do not promote inner-party democracy, party unity, or party interests".


The prime minister's comments sparked heated discussion between Pasok MPs, some backing the government, others opposing it.

During the MPs meeting in parliament there were also heated personal exchanges.


In an interview with Santer, Antenna's Anna Boutou asked him why he chose Greece as the place from which to send his Europe Day message to 370 million people.

Greece, had said, is not only an EU member, but also a symbol of European civilisation.

Santer was asked about Turkey's prospects for EU admission, given that it often issues threats against Greece, and makes claims on its territory.

The EU commission president replied that the EU's interested in seeing better Greek-Turkish relations. As a full EU member, Greece has the EU's full support he added. Turkey is an associate member, it's a large country, and we have good economic relations with it.

Boutou also asked Santer about the EU's commitment to start talks on Cypriot admission six months after the end of the inter-governmental conference. Turkey, she noted, is threateing to annex northern Cyprus is Cyprus gains admission to the EU.

Santer said the EU's position is clear: the talks with Cyprus will begin as planned.

© ANT1 Radio 1997

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