Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Thatcher on Papandreou: ‘a charming and agreeable man’

Strange going through Margaret Thatcher’s autobiography, The Downing Street Years, and finding rather flattering references to Andreas Papandreou, whose tenure as Greece’s prime minister in the 1980s coincided with Thatcher’s leadership of the UK. Ideologically, Papandreou and Thatcher were as far apart as it’s possible to imagine.

Thatcher mentions Papandreou in reference to her battles in Europe to secure British interests and sovereignty. At one point, she describes him as ‘remarkably effective in gaining Community subsidies for Greece’, while, elsewhere, recalling discussions to expand the EEC to bring in Spain and Portugal, she calls him ‘a charming and agreeable man’ and reveals his hardball tactics aimed at securing more European funding for Greece.

‘At least on this occasion it was not Britain but Greece which was marked out as the villain of the piece – and with some justice. The two outstanding issues as regards the terms for Spain’s and Portugal’s entry had turned out to be wine and fish, on both of which the Iberian countries were heavily dependent. The negotiations seemed to be nearing a mutually satisfactory conclusion. It was at this point that Mr Papandreou, the left-wing Greek Prime Minister, suddenly treated us to some classical theatre.

‘A charming and agreeable man in private, his whole persona changed when it was a question of getting more money for Greece. He now intervened, effectively vetoing enlargement unless he received an undertaking that Greece should be given huge sums over the next six years. The occasion for this arose as a result of discussions which had been going on for some time about an “Integrated Mediterranean Programme” of assistance, from which Greece would be the main beneficiary. It seems that the Greeks’ appetite had been further whetted by unauthorized discussion of large sums within the Commission. Mr Papandreou’s statement threw the Council into disarray. Everyone resented not just the fact that Greece was holding us to ransom, nor even the particular tactics used, but still more the fact that, though Greece had been accepted into the Community precisely to entrench its restored democracy, the Greeks would not now allow the Community to do exactly the same for the former dictatorships of Spain and Portugal.’

2 comments:

Hermes said...

Thatcher’s comments are interesting in a trivial sort of way. Who cares what she said? She is dead now and she was much less significant than what all the reporters, who have nothing to write about, have been saying about her over the last few days.

The real interesting story above is just how much diplomatic capital Greek politicians used over the years to satisfy their populist but ultimately destructive agenda. To secure all those wealth transfers would have meant the Europeans would have been much less willing to listen to our concerns about Cyprus, the Aegean and so on. It is almost impossible to measure but I wonder what we traded in return for all that money that was used to feed the Greek Socialist Paradise?

Everything has a cost and we are paying for it now.

John Akritas said...

Yes, the interesting point about Thatcher’s comment and why I posted it is that it reveals how even though Papandreou may have been trenchant in getting money for Greece, the money obtained was squandered and went to creating the disastrous model now painfully unravelling.