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Cablegate: Northern Notes - September 2009

VZCZCXRO0567
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIK #0041/01 2880919
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 150919Z OCT 09
FM AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0473
INFO RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS 0349
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHIK/AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI 0516

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 THESSALONIKI 000041

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM SMIG SNAR ECON KCRM GR TU
SUBJECT: NORTHERN NOTES - SEPTEMBER 2009

REF: THESSALONIKI 036

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1. (U) The following summary of last month's major developments
in Northern Greece contains items on the following topics:

Political:

o Muslim Election Campaign Dynamics in Thrace

o Poll Data on Importance of Macedonia Name Issue

o Eastern Macedonia and Thrace SecGen Hosts Iftar Dinner

o Setback in Permitting of Private Colleges

Econ/Commerce:

o Thessaloniki Fair: Ticket Sales Up; Demonstrations Down

Organized Crime/Terrorism:

o Security Incidents - Bombings and Weapons Trafficking

o TIP-related Arrests

o Alien Smuggling Arrests

o $3mil in Smuggled Cigarettes Seized

PRE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN IN THRACE

2. (SBU) Local media reported negatively on the elected Mufti
of Xanthi [NOTE: not recognized by GoG] Ahmed Mete's alleged
comments in advance of the 04 October national parliamentary
elections. Mete is reported to have said that "every vote to a
Greek [i.e. Christian] will be a tear for the minority" and that
"voting orders have been sent to all and are very clear." Local
papers in Thrace also criticized TV spots that appeared on
Turkish state television channel TRT [NOTE: broadcast in Turkey
and received and watched in Thrace via satellite] urging voters
to vote for "Turks" in the upcoming election and suggesting
specific candidates to support. Lastly, Muslim candidates were
criticized by the Thrace press for conducting their electoral
campaigns in Turkish, and thereby reinforcing the political
separation between the two communities in the region.

MACEDONIA NAME ISSUE TOP FOREIGN POLICY CONCERN FOR NORTHERN
GREEKS

3. (SBU) On September 10, regional press published survey data
on Northern Greeks' views regarding the country's "national
issues". The results showed the Macedonia name issue topping
the list with 42.4% considering it the nation's highest foreign
policy priority, followed by Greek-Turkish relations with 31.8%
and the Cyprus issue with 16.5%. Regarding specific opinion
trends on these overarching issues, 74.1% of respondents stated
they would "definitely not" or "probably not" accept a
compromise name for the Republic of Macedonia that including the
specific term "Macedonia." Also, 70.6% of respondents
specifically opposed Turkey's accession to the EU on the grounds
that "geographically, it is not part of Europe", while 57.7%
were against any European role for Turkey.

SECRETARY GENERAL OF EASTERN MACEDONIA-THRACE HOSTS IFTAR DINNER
FOR FIRST TIME EVER

4. (SBU) On September 02, the Secretary General of Eastern
Macedonia-Thrace Dimitrios Stamatis hosted an Iftar dinner in
honor of the region's Muslim minority. It was the first time
anyone in this office had taken such an initiative and Post

THESSALONI 00000041 002.2 OF 003


contacts who are members of the community expressed appreciation
for Stamatis' efforts. A Thrace newspaper reported that the
initiative was received with skepticism by the Turkish Consulate
in Komotini, whose staff allegedly believed that this was the
Secretary General's way of attempting to redeem himself for his
failure to meet the Muslim minority's needs.

PRIVATE COLLEGE PERMITS INVALID AFTER EVALUATION COMMITTEE
MEMBERS RESIGN

5. (SBU) On September 01, two members of the committee
evaluating applications by private colleges for permits allowing
them to operate as fully licensed and recognized higher
educational institutions resigned, protesting the "inadequate"
provisions of the process in areas such as faculty credentials,
facilities standards, curriculum content, etc. Post's contacts
believe that the resignations, announced only two days prior to
the decision to hold snap national parliamentary elections,
originated from a perceived undesirable political cost rather
than from truly bureaucratic disagreements.

THESSALONIKI INTERNATIONAL FAIR (SEPTEMBER 5-13)

6. (U) The opening day of the Fair saw three large
anti-government demonstrations that reportedly involved a total
of 14,000 people (septel). But despite fire-bomb attacks
destroying two bank branches and other miscellaneous small
incidents, press described the day as "the most peaceful in
years." On the same day, in his traditional
state-of-the-economy speech, Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis
announced the relocation of the Fair, beginning in 2010, to a
new site in the western [underdeveloped] part of Thessaloniki.
Fair organizers announced an increase of 13% in the number of
tickets sold this year, compared with 2008. In total, there
were 241,000 visitors in 2009. President of the Fair Dimitrios
Bakatselos claimed that the institution generated around 550m
($804m) for Thessaloniki's businesses annually.

SECURITY INCIDENTS

7. (SBU) On September 02, a time bomb exploded behind the
Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace. Earlier, the perpetrators
placed warning calls to the Athens Police and to a private TV
channel. The explosive device consisted of a timer detonator
and gunpowder that had been placed in a saucepan, which itself
was concealed inside a telephone switchbox located on the street
behind the building. The explosion caused minor material damage
to the building's windows.

8. (SBU) The organization "Conspiracy of Nuclei of Fire" later
claimed responsibility for the attack through a statement sent
to the www.Indymedia.gr webpage. On September 03, eight
U.S.-made anti-tank rockets were found outside of Thessaloniki
by the Ministry of Finance's Special Financial Investigation
Service, following an anonymous telephone tip (reftel). The
national police's Counter-Terrorism Squad examined them and
stated publicly and to Post that there was no apparent link to
terrorism. A Thessaloniki prosecutor ordered an investigation
into whether the discovered weapons had been stolen from a
military depot.

9. (SBU) On September 08, Macedonian former basketball player
Mikhail Misounov was arrested for weapons smuggling and fraud.
Police found two RPG-7s in his apartment, along with a revolver
and a pistol. A number of fraudulent documents, including fake
Greek national identity cards and official seals also were found
and confiscated. Counter-Terrorism Squad sources told Post that
the case was related to organized crime and not to terrorism.
They also added that one of the RPGs was a training device.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING ARRESTS IN THESSALONIKI

THESSALONI 00000041 003.2 OF 003

10. (U) Thessaloniki newspapers reported on September 21 the
arrest of a Nigerian couple for keeping against her will a
21-year-old Nigerian relative and forcing her into prostitution.
According to the reports, the alleged culprits had "bought" the
victim from her own father for 55,000 ($80,000) and had
intimidated her with voodoo threats.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION ARRESTS IN NORTHERN GREECE

11. (U) During September, local media reported multiple cases
of arrests involving a total of 231 illegal immigrants and 24
smugglers in the eastern region of Thrace (near the
Greek-Turkish land border). The illegal immigrants were
primarily from Burma (83 identified cases), Iraq, Bangladesh,
Pakistan, and Afghanistan, while the foreign smugglers came from
Moldova, Romania, Georgia, and Jordan.

LARGE QUANTITY OF SMUGGLED CIGARETTES CONFISCATED IN THESSALONIKI

12. (U) Local media reported on September 30 that Thessaloniki
Customs officers confiscated 759,000 packages of smuggled
cigarettes that had arrived from China in containers labeled
"glassware." If taxed, the shipment would have brought revenue
estimated at 2,200,000 ($3,200,000). No arrests were made.
KAY

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