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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08ATHENS536 2008-04-16 07:14:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Athens
Cable title:  

PASOK MP VENIZELOS' TOUR D'HORIZON ON EVE OF U.S.

Tags:   PGOV PREL GR 
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SIPDIS

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y TEXT PARA 2)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/10/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL GR
SUBJECT: PASOK MP VENIZELOS' TOUR D'HORIZON ON EVE OF U.S.
VISIT

Classified By: Ambassador Daniel V. Speckhard
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).



1. (C) In a cordial initial meeting, Ambassador discussed
current affairs with senior opposition PASOK MP Evangelos
Venizelos ranging from his upcoming visit to the U.S., the
Macedonia name issue, Kosovo, education reform, and the
future of PASOK. Venizelos, whose public persona is a
frequently-bombastic critic of the U.S. and of the ruling New
Democracy government, was an unexpectedly moderate, pragmatic
and thoughtful interlocutor. End Summary.

VISIT TO U.S.


--------------------------





2. (C) On April 9, Ambassador Speckhard met with senior
opposition PASOK MP Evangelos Venizelos who mounted a failed
challenge to PASOK Chairman George Papandreou after PASOK's
loss to PM Karamanlis and the New Democracy party last fall.
In discussing his April 20 - May 2 trip to the U.S.,
Venizelos said he had been invited by the Onassis Foundation
and that he would speak at Columbia's Harriman Institute and
at the City University of New York. While in Washington
(April 20 to 24), Venizelos would like to meet members of
Congress "beyond just the Greek caucus." He specifically
mentioned Senator Biden, as well as some journalists and
academics, and discussed possibly meeting Acting U/S Fried, a
representative from the NSC, and someone from the Pentagon in
an "unofficial capacity." Venizelos also said that he had
connections at Georgetown University and that he might speak
there as well.

MACEDONIA


--------------------------





3. (C) Venizelos advocated restarting negotiations with
Skopje on the name issue, saying that it was important to
preserve the historical dignity of both sides and to avoid
irredentism at a symbolic level. Venizelos said that he
sees Vassilakis (whom he described as an old friend) as the
best person on the Greek side to continue with the
negotiations. On the question of continued U.S. involvement,
Venizelos said the American position would be of paramount
significance. He added that everyone knew the EU was
powerful when it came to economic issues but that it was
"without political impact" -- largely because it had no
security apparatus backing it up. Venizelos said that crisis
was always the best way to find solutions, and added that
post-Bucharest was the best time to find a solution to the
name issue. Venizelos concluded that the EU would need to
accept Skopje into its membership as a price for settling the
name issue. He said that he thought it very unlikely that
the use of the modifier "Skopje" would be acceptable to
either the government or the public after the reaction to the
last Nimetz proposal using Skopje in parentheses. He saw
either 'upper' or 'northern' as being the most acceptable
modifiers.

KOSOVO


--------------------------





4. (C) On Kosovo, Venizelos avoided the usual list of
grievances with the U.S. position. Instead, he queried,
"what is the American policy toward Serbia?" The U.S. needed
a more elaborate Serbian strategy, according to Venizelos,
because Serbia's only future was with the EU and
Euro-Atlantic institutions. He said that Greece had a kind
of "natural objection" to Kosovo -- which he called a
protectorate without possibility -- because of "our own
problems with Turkey and our Muslim minority in Thrace." He
also questioned whether U.S. policy, in spite of
protestation, wasn't really heading toward the concept of
Greater Albania.

EDUCATION REFORM


--------------------------





5. (C) Venizelos insisted that Greece had no issues against
serious academic institutions, but said the Greek law was
designed to stop "educational fraud" by institutions without
standards and without infrastructure. Venizelos said that
due to Article 16 of the Greek constitution and the
jurisprudence of the Greek Supreme Court, it would be
extremely difficult for an American entity independently to
establish itself in Greece and instead would have to align
itself with a European university - or for a well-established
American University to open a secondary campus in Greece or
some other European city. The Ambassador urged Venizelos to
look for other ways to ensure equal treatment for
American-style educational institutions, as affiliations with
European and Greek institutions would require changes in the
fundamental nature of the American-based institutions.

PASOK FORTUNES


--------------------------





6. (C) Asked about the recent losses of PASOK in opinion
polls, Venizelos coyly responded he was not sure why the
party had slipped, but added that the role of political
personalities was very important in understanding this
phenomenon - an obvious dig at George Papandreou. On the
possibility of a future coalition between PASOK and New
Democracy, Venizelos said PASOK desperately needed to
revitalize its own political ambitions and develop a new
strategy for developing a new majority -- without which there
can be no discussion of coalitions. Finally, he said he
believed the "perpetual dilemma" between centrists and
leftists within PASOK was unacceptable for a progressive
majority. The citizens needed a clear message, he said,
perhaps blaming PASOK's downslide on the fact that it had
abandoned some of its traditionally leftist positions. As
for a coalition with Synaspismos, Venizelos said he was "very
hostile" to the idea of a coalition without programmatic
maturation on the part of the other party.

COMMENT


--------------------------





7. (C) In a surprising change from his bombastic public
persona, Venizelos was moderate, reasonable and pragmatic.
Venzelos' questions about U.S. strategy towards Serbia --
rather than the usual diatribe about Kosovo -- presented a
thoughtful approach to an issue that often evokes strong
visceral reactions from Greek politicians. His questioning,
however, of American support for the theory of Greater
Albania means that he is not exempt from traditional regional
conspiracy theorizing. Nonetheless, he was a pleasant and
articulate interlocutor with whom we will seek to engage more
frequently. We see it as likely that his upcoming visit to
the U.S. is, at least in part, designed to shore up his
foreign policy credentials as he continues to seek to
undermine George Papandreou, and show himself as
Prime-Ministerial. Our support for his visit should be
commensurate with that provided for any other high-ranking
member of the opposition.
SPECKHARD