The Spanish Ambassador in Greece, Mr. Henrique Vigera, blatantly intervened into the internal affairs of Greece, its Constitutional order, and in the domestic political affairs of the country. Breaching the diplomatic protocol and the rules governing relations between European partners, in an interview with a Greek newspaper, he denounced the Greek government for its stance on the issue of the Referendum in Catalonia, and goes as far as to offend our country’s Constitutional order, presumably thinking himself to be a Franco-era governor in a Spanish colony. Even more so when, in his statements, tries to cultivate the idea that H.E. the President of the Hellenic Republic is against the Greek government.
Mr. Vigera, however, is proven to be utterly out of touch, since he seems not aware of the statements made by the government spokesman, Mr. Dimitris Tzanakopoulos on the “issue of Catalonia”. It worth noting, that the position expressed by the government spokesman was on par with the positions expressed by a number of EU leaders concerning the overall need to preserve the unity and territorial integrity of Spain. And yet, almost everyone condemned the police brutality on the day of the Referendum in Catalonia. But Mr. Vigera either did not know or pretended to not know of such statements, and by choosing the slippery slope, did not hesitate to distort reality up to the point of trying to turn the President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopios Pavlopoulos against the Greek government, under false pretenses that the Prime Minister’s office failed to take a stance on the “Catalan issue”. In spite of Mr. Tzanakopoulos’ official statement.
Mr. Vigera’s slippery slope does not end here. He also attempted to intervene in the domestic political order of our country. How else could his praises “on New Democracy’s support for Spain” and his aversion to the elected Greek government be characterized? Is he claiming the role of the spokesman on behalf of the main opposition party in Greece? Because the only one also denouncing the government’s stance on the “Catalan issue”, as such echoing the Spanish Ambassador’s sentiments, was New Democracy, the main opposition party. You could almost say that this was prearranged or even that the Ambassador is following the New Democracy party line to a T. Regardless of the fact that the head of the Spanish government is politically aligned to New Democracy, the Ambassador should know that, while in Greece, he represents his country and not his Prime Minister’s party.
Additionally, he should be aware that the diplomatic rules and protocol, which he must observe, require the absolute respect for the Constitutional, legal and political order of the host country. And he made “valiant efforts” to blatantly trample all over them. What would he say, if the Greek ambassador to Spain, in his interviews, attempted to cultivate the image that the King is against the Prime Minister of Spain, or appeared to openly provide support to Podemos, the main opposition party, during one or another critical internal or external political issue in Spain? It seems that Madrid would be quick to expel him from the country. The intervention made by Mr. Vigera mirrors political mentalities of a bygone era in Spain written in the dark pages of history.
The following is the statement made by Mr. Tzanakopoulos’ on 4 October 2017, during a regular press briefing, when he was asked “What does the government think about the forthcoming declaration of independence of Catalonia, as announced by the President of the Catalan Government?”
To which he replied: “The events in Catalonia are examined from the point of view of a European Union member-State, which is situated in an extremely sensitive geopolitical area and thus takes extremely seriously the issues of national sovereignty, territorial integrity, but also the principle of maintaining borders. In any case, of course, the images we have seen (i.e. violent episodes and riots due to police intervention in the Referendum) are extremely sad and one could say that they are strengthening separatist and nationalist movements, jeopardizing European integration itself. Democratic dialogue can aid in de-escalating the crisis and this is the main position of the Greek government.”
How could it be any clearer, Mr. Ambassador? The basic guiding principle of Greek policy is “national sovereignty, territorial integrity and the principle of maintaining borders”. It is that simple. Besides, Greece, being amidst the powder keg of the Balkans, knows a lot better the issues on-hand than most of its European partners, since it had first-hand experiences during the 1990s due to the dissolution of entire neighboring countries, and even today witnesses nationalist irredentist movements in neighboring countries that show no signs of slowing down.
“New Democracy diplomacy”
In order not to be accused by Mr. Ambassador for bias against him, it is wise to include his own statement, which clearly demonstrates that he has no clue about the Greek government’s position, which of course does not put him in the best light, as it is every diplomat’s duty to at least follow the daily press of the host country.
Mr. Vigera stated the following: “I received direct statements of support from New Democracy. I spoke personally with Mr. Mitsotakis, who unequivocally expressed his support and understanding of New Democracy with regards to the unity of Spain. I also heard similar, crystal clear, statements made by the President of the Hellenic Republic. For me this is a clear political stance. Obviously, there were no statements on this issue by the government, but it does not take much effort for someone to see what the reality is. Still, until today this was the expressed attitude of the Greek government. However, other European governments have strongly supported the territorial integrity of Spain and the stance of our government.”
It is notable, that the Spanish ambassador, when commenting on the excessive use of force by the police on the day of the referendum in Catalonia admitted that “we cannot deny that force was used after a court order was issued in order to prevent an illegal referendum.” However, he tried to downplay the whole issue regarding the excessive use of force by casting responsibility on the “bad” media outlets. He argued that “there was a lot of exaggeration by many media outlets”, forgetting though that many European leaders, such as the Greek government spokesman, although in support of the territorial integrity of Spain, condemned strongly police violence and the excessive use of force.
The President of the Hellenic Republic
It is a dangerous foul, a diplomatic “red card”, for Mr. Vigera to try and create a confrontation between the elected government and the President of the Hellenic Republic, based on the so-called “premise” that the Greek government failed to take a stance. In any case, because in democratic systems the view expressed by the President of the Republic is respected both by the government and the political parties, since he has been democratically elected to be the first citizen of the country, it should be reminded that Mr. Pavlopoulos on 4 October 2017, referring to the issue of the “illegal and essentially baseless”, as he described it, Referendum of Catalonia, underlined that “Barcelona, as a city, can express infinitely better all of Catalonia’s particularities, thus cancelling out the extreme aspirations of the separatists, which in effectively affect Catalonia itself and its prospects.”
He also stressed that the city, as a means of expression and communication between individual social groups, can, in particular today, absorb any shocks produced by modern separatist phenomena, which incorporate elements of dangerous nationalism, which affect not only the cohesion of the state-nation but also, to come back into our European reality, the cohesion of the European Union and the entire process towards European integration.