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Cablegate: Greece: Cretan Governor Wants More Usn Ship Visits

VZCZCXRO5551
OO RUEHNP
DE RUEHTH #1521/01 2110803
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 300803Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY ATHENS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9812
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHNP/AMCONSUL NAPLES PRIORITY 0021
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/NAVSUPPACT NAPLES IT PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/SECNAV WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/NAVSUPPACT SOUDA BAY GR PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ATHENS 001521

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/26/2017
TAGS: GR MOPS PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: GREECE: CRETAN GOVERNOR WANTS MORE USN SHIP VISITS

REF: ATHENS 625

Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES THOMAS COUNTRYMAN. REASONS 1.4 (B) AN
D (D).

1. (C) SUMMARY: In a July 19 meeting with CDA, Governor
(Nomarch) Grigoris Archondakis of the Chania district of
Crete (where Souda Bay Naval Support Activity (NSA) is
located) said it was important to get more U.S. ship visits,
not so much for the economic benefits, substantial as they
may be, but for the "political benefit" of demonstrating U.S.
support. The governor, who ran on the New Democracy ticket,
believed PM Karamanlis himself may not yet know when the next
elections would occur -- the governor preferred October --
but said he advocated the PM take a more liberal (i.e.,
free-market) approach to governance issues. On economic
issues, the governor said tourist revenues were up again this
year by 6-7 percent and outlined several infrastructure
improvements projects that indicated his district was on the
upswing. END SUMMARY.

MORE SHIP VISITS, PLEASE
------------------------

2. (C) Charge d'Affaires a.i. Thomas Countryman and
DepPolCouns traveled to Chania to participate in the 99th
meeting of the U.S.-Greece Joint Commission (reported septel)
and to take part, respectively, in the high school and
college programs of the Greek Association for Atlantic and
European Cooperation. We also took the opportunity to pay a
call on the governor, who was elected last October on a
platform advocating more U.S. and other NATO ship visits.
(NOTE: Archondakis replaced a socialist of PASOK's left wing,
who actively sought to discourage NATO ship visits to Chania.
NATO obliged and the consequent drop in revenue to local
businesses created sufficient economic pain for the local
population that voters turned out the previous governor in
favor of Archondakis. See reftel. END NOTE.)

3. (C) Archondakis said it was important to get more NATO,
and especially USN, ship visits to Chania. This was not so
much for the economic benefits that the visits would bring --
although those were substantial and much appreciated.
Rather, it was for the "political benefit" visits brought in
terms of showing U.S. support to the local community, which
he claimed was very pro-U.S. despite a small, very vocal
communist minority. Archondakis argued this was also the
case in terms of increasing purchases of locally produced
and/or supplied commodities by Souda Bay NSA. (NOTE: Souda
Bay NSA estimates that apart from ship visits, the base
itself annually pumps approximately 25 million USD into the
local economy in terms of wages, rents, etc. The governor
would like to see this increased by expanding NSA local
procurement to show the local population that the USN is a
good and valuable neighbor. END NOTE.)

ELECTIONS: SOONER THE BETTER
----------------------------

4. (C) PM Karamanlis himself probably did not know yet when
he would call the next elections, according to Archondakis
but the governor believed they should be called soon. He was
aware of ND's recent slide in the opinion polls in relation
to PASOK due to the social security bond scandal and the
government's seeming inability to control forest fires, which
had just a few days prior destroyed large forest areas on
Crete. But the governor believed ND needed the elections
before the next EU budget, which could cause further voter
resentment.

5. (C) The governor also believed the PM should Qcored the importance of the
rule-of-law issue for the current government, with which the
governor also agreed.

CHANIA ECONOMY ON THE UPSWING
-----------------------------


ATHENS 00001521 002 OF 002


6. (C) Chania was experiencing a "good tourist year," with
revenues up six to seven percent, and most of these tourists
were Scandinavians. To keep up with the tourist boom, the
governor said an airport expansion was planned to be paid for
by a tourist tax, as opposed to coming out of EU funds, which
would be better spent on road projects. Roads were, in fact,
a big problem, according to Archondakis. He had recently
presented a 1.5 billion euro proposal to the Ministry of
Construction for a road project, which would also be funded
through tolls. In Souda Bay, a pier expansion was planned as
well. These upward economic indicators were further
bolstered by a thriving real-estate market, which the
governor said was experiencing an increase in land prices.

7. (C) COMMENT: The Chania district has experienced a
political sea change since the local elections last fall.
Previously, we dreaded paying calls on local politicians, who
used the opportunity for negative grandstanding. Now, the
governor and other local officials welcome our visits and
encourage us to send more USN ships. We agree with the
governor's argument that more ship visits, as well as
increased local purchasing by Souda Bay NSA, would provide
significant political benefit. Souda Bay NSA is actively
pursuing ways to increase its use of local procurement, and
we encourage the USN to take advantage of the new welcoming
attitude of Chania in its planning for ship visits.
COUNTRYMAN

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