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Cablegate: Northern Notes -- November 2009

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIK #0057/01 3631528
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291528Z DEC 09
FM AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0504
INFO RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS PRIORITY 0379
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEABND/DEA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHIK/AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI 0547

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 THESSALONIKI 000057

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PTER SMIG SNAR ECON KCRM GR TU
AL, BU
SUBJECT: NORTHERN NOTES -- NOVEMBER 2009

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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 Local Reactions to New Opposition Leader Samaras

o Papandreou Hosts Trilateral Environmental Meeting

o Rainbow Party Opens Second Office

o Calls for the Closure of the Turkish Consulate in Komotini

Econ/Commerce:

o Businesses Feel Effects of Financial Crisis

o Bulgarian and Greek Border Communities Protest Planned Gold
Processing Plant

Organized Crime/Terrorism:

o Greek Diplomat Found Guilty of Visa Fraud

o "Revolutionary Struggle" Members Frequent Thessaloniki

o Arson Attacks and Other Security Incidents

o Decline in Illegal Immigration Arrests Near Evros

o Trafficking Arrests in Northern Greece

o October Drug Figures Released for Thessaloniki

o Child Porn Arrests in Northern Greece

LOCAL REACTIONS TO NEW ND HEAD SAMARAS

1. (SBU) On November 29, the center-right New Democracy party
elected Antonios Samaras as its new leader. Although Samaras
won 50.06% of the party vote overall (over former FoMin Dora
Bakoyannis' 39.76%), he lost by a much wider margin in the
Muslim populated areas of Thrace, where he is viewed by the
minority as being hostile to its interests. Post's contacts
commonly mention Samaras' refusal to include Muslim candidates
in his former Political Spring party (1993-2004) as a source of
their mistrust. Samaras supporters stated to the media that he
has been misunderstood by sections of the population and offered
assurances that there will be no discriminatory practices in the
party under the new leadership. Mr. Samaras, who had famously
resigned as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1993, arguing for a
harder line on the Macedonia name issue, has thus far refrained
from fully clarifying his present position on the matter, other
than to say that it is "imperative" that Macedonia accept a name
"erga omnes." In other ND party election results, Bakoyannis
was strongly supported by the Muslim minority, receiving as much
as 90% of the vote in certain areas, but scored disappointingly
overall, winning only four of the 16 northern Greek prefectures.
Finally, Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis, to the
right of the party and very vocal on foreign policy issues,
performed better than predicted by the media, receiving over 20%
of the party vote in Northern Greece with a national average of
10%.

GREEK PRIME MINISTER HOSTS TRILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL MEETING


THESSALONI 00000057 002.2 OF 004


2. (SBU) On the weekend of November 27-29, PM Papandreou hosted
a trilateral meeting with Macedonian PM Nikola Gruevski and
Albanian PM Sali Berisha in the Prespes area, where the three
countries' borders meet. The meeting had a primarily
environmental agenda, namely discussion about initiatives to
preserve the ecologically important Prespes lakes, which extend
into all three countries. However, local press also described
it as a "small step" towards finding a solution to the
Macedonian name issue, despite the fact it did not bear any
tangible results.

MACEDONIAN ACTIVIST PARTY OPENS SECOND OFFICE IN NORTHERN GREECE


3. (SBU) On November 15, the Rainbow Party -- advocates for the
rights of the Slavic Macedonian community in Greece -- opened
its second office in the Northern Greek town of Edessa. The
opening took place in the presence of some of the party's
members and supporters. No security incidents were reported and
the event attracted only minimal press attention. [NOTE: When
the party inaugurated its first office in the town of Florina on
September 06, 1995, protestors broke into the premises, attacked
those inside and caused extensive material damage. END NOTE.]

CALLS FOR THE CLOSURE OF THE TURKISH CONSULATE IN KOMOTINI

4. (SBU) A citizens' initiative entitled "Consulate - STOP" was
inaugurated in the Thrace town of Komotini, requesting the
closure of the Turkish Consulate in the area. The initiative,
also backed by a segment of the local media, organized multiple
events in support of its cause including distribution of
leaflets, public lectures, etc. and its founding members claimed
it was "gaining momentum by the day." On November 12, an MP
from the far right LAOS party brought the organization's
activities to Parliament's attention, asking for Parliamentary
backing of the idea. The main principles of "Consulate - STOP"
are: (a) the Lausanne Treaty has been "violated by Turkey on
numerous occasions, so as to be rendered irrelevant"; (b) The
Turkish Consulate has no real reason to be in Komotini, since
"there are few Turkish citizens in the area, all of whom can
visit the Consulate in Thessaloniki"; (c) the Greek state is
unable to monitor the "undermining" activities of the Consulate
that "go way beyond a Diplomatic Mission's duties and jeopardize
the peaceful environment in the region"; and (d) if necessary,
Greece should be ready to "sacrifice" its Consulate in Istanbul
in return for the abolition of the one in Komotini.

NORTHERN GREECE FEELS EFFECTS OF FINANCIAL CRISIS

5. (U) Throughout November, local media published results of
national surveys about the state of the economy in Northern
Greece. According to one survey, 97% of Thessaloniki-based
businesses reported that the financial crisis has affected them,
compared to just 66% of those based in Athens. At the same
time, 57% of Thessaloniki businesses, as opposed to only 25% of
those in Athens, appeared optimistic about the future, stating
that they are confident that in the next three years
competitiveness will increase. In a separate survey, 70% of
Northern Greek businesses reported they must travel to Athens
approximately 10 times a year for permits, certifications and
other bureaucratic reasons, while another 15% reported an
increased need of up to 30 such trips per year. Also, local
media reported on data released by the General Confederation of
Labor, showing five Northern Greek prefectures being among those
with the biggest percentages of people living below the poverty
line. Lastly, another survey showed that 15,900 jobs were lost

THESSALONI 00000057 003.2 OF 004


in small industries in the Prefecture of Thessaloniki between
May and November 2009. Also, 68% of small industries reported a
decrease in their turnover in the last 12 months.

PLAN FOR GOLD PROCESSING PLANT ON GREEK-BULGARIAN BORDER
INFURIATES LOCALS

6. (SBU) The possible establishment of a gold processing plant
in the Bulgarian municipality of Kirjali, close to the
Greek-Bulgarian border, angered local communities on both sides
of the border and led to joint protests over potential
environmental hazards associated with its operation. The plant
will need to maintain a cyanide reservoir, which is planned to
be located only 200 yards from the major river Ardas that
crosses both countries and would therefore pose a contamination
risk to it. In their fight against the project, local
authorities in Thrace have secured the support of the GoG, while
two MEPs -- Kriton Arsenis and Stavros Labrinidis -- have
brought the matter to the attention of the European Commission.

THESSALONIKI COURT SENTENCES GREEK DIPLOMAT FOR FRAUD

7. (U) On November 02, the Thessaloniki Appeals Court sentenced
a former Director of the Greek Consulate in Kiev to 10.5 years
imprisonment for issuing over 2,500 fraudulent Greek tourist
visas for money. The visas were issued in 2002. A Kiev
Consulate clerk and a tour operator were also sentenced to five
and three years imprisonment respectively for their roles in the
scheme. A Thessaloniki policeman who is accused of providing
blank invitation forms to the Consulate Director will be tried
separately.

"REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE" MEMBERS IN THESSALONIKI

8. (U) On November 01, local media cited police Anti-Terrorist
Squad sources as claiming that the masterminds of "Revolutionary
Struggle" and the "Revolutionary Sect" are frequently found in
Thessaloniki. They specifically mention a 40-45 year old male
who lives in Thessaloniki and allegedly provides the ideological
background to the organization and a young female "link" who
visits the city on dates, relevant to serious attacks.

ARSON ATTACKS, PROTESTS, AND OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS

9. (U) In the early hours of November 17, local media reported
on an arson attack with gas canisters against the entrance of a
store. Minor material damage was caused and no arrests were
made. On November 17, a group of about 500 people,
demonstrating as part of the November 17 commemoration events,
threw rocks at a police station in downtown Thessaloniki and
later on, Molotov cocktails and rocks from inside the Aristotle
University campus. Police reacted by deploying motorbike units
and using tear gas. They detained 30 demonstrators,
subsequently arresting one of them. On November 24,
Thessaloniki police arrested three people in connection with an
earlier arson attack (November 22) on a public transport bus.
Police said the three were part of a larger group of around 20
individuals that had damaged the bus. The incident was related
to soccer hooliganism. On November 24, an anti-government group
hang-out called "Solidarity Buena Ventura" was bombed by unknown

THESSALONI 00000057 004.2 OF 004


culprits. The explosive device that was used -- a pipe bomb --
caused serious damage to the premises and smashed windows in the
wider neighborhood. Media speculated the attack may have been
perpetrated by a rival anarchist group.

DECLINE IN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTION ARRESTS NEAR EVROS

10. (SBU) On November 11, local media reported that the number
of illegal immigrants (4,500) arrested in the Greek-Turkish
border area of Evros in the period January-October 2009, was
reduced by 30%, compared to the same period the year before.
The number of arrested smugglers (250) was reduced by 20% for
the same period. Media cited Thrace police sources that
attributed the lower figures to the fact that organized rings
now seek alternative routes to smuggle people into the country
and on into western Europe. These alternative routes include
the Greek islands, Bulgaria, and Albania. Police sources
confirmed the above trend to Post, but spoke of a higher
reduction of 38-40% in arrests.

TRAFFICKING ARRESTS IN NORTHERN GREECE

11. (U) On November 05, the Hellenic Police arrested a female
bar owner and two male employees on charges of trafficking and
pimping in the northwestern Greek town of Ptolemaida. They were
accused of forcing foreign women into prostitution by exertion
of physical force and by the withholding of their travel
documents. All three were Greek citizens.

OCTOBER DRUG FIGURES RELEASED

12. (U) On November 05, local media published a report by the
Thessaloniki Police detailing drug-related criminal activities
in Thessaloniki for the month of October. According to the
report, 25 drug dealers were arrested during this period, while
police confiscated a total of 5kg of heroin, 1.5kg of cocaine,
almost 20kg of hashish and different quantities of liquid
methadone and pills.

CHILD PORN ARRESTS IN NORTHERN GREECE

13. (U) On November 20, police arrested two individuals in the
town of Kilkis for possessing child pornography material. After
appearing before an examining magistrate, they were both
released on bail. On November 23, Thessaloniki police arrested
an individual after a search of his residence on charges of
possession and trafficking of child pornography material. Local
police reportedly traced him following a dispatch by Interpol.
KAY

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