September 17-21, 1975. Official visit of French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing to Greece (Athens and Thessaloniki). Substantial talks with Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis, in a warm atmosphere. Dinner at the Presidential Palace. Greek civilization and French enlightenment. A salutation unique in its content by President of the Republic Konstantinos Tsatsos: “The community of fundamental ideas defines the dominant forms of civilization and, essentially, each country’s policy.”
However, the most important conversation and agreement between Karamanlis and Giscard d’Estaing happened at sea, in the Aegean, on September 20, 1975. The exact content exists in a note dictated by Karamanlis himself and published in his invaluable 12-volume archive.* The only other person present for the conversation was Ambassador Petros Molyviatis. First item, the European Community. Giscard d’Estaing observed that, “sooner or later, Greece would become the tenth member.”
Then, according to the vote, Karamanlis directly asked Giscard d’Estaing “if France could, in any way, help Greece in case of war with Turkey.” President Giscard d’Estaing replied that “he did not think he could help militarily.” He could, however, “rally all of Europe to… impose sanctions on Turkey.”
“I replied” – continues Karamanlis – that “given Turkey’s state of mind, I did not think that would be enough, the more so because these actions would be after the fact. I noted to him that, in such a case, I would be in need of substantial help, whose form it would be left to him to define.”
At this point comes the – unknown to most – crucial commitment by the president of the French Republic. I quote it in full, from Karamanlis’ note: “The French president told me that it would be possible, when hostilities began, to reinforce the Hellenic Air Force by sending a significant number of fighters and transport planes, without clarifying if this offer was a sale or a loan. My impression is that it was the second.” Karamanlis and Giscard d’Estaing agreed that the understanding should be kept a secret, communicated only to Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, the two defense ministers and the two commanders of their armed forces. On the basis of this agreement, Greek Minister of Defense Evangelos Averoff visited France a few days later.
Forty-five years have passed. But the conversations between the recently deceased French president and the late Konstantinos Karamanlis could have taken place recently. With the necessary adaptations. With other participants, who continue the Entente between France and Greece.
Alexandros P. Mallias is a former ambassador of the Hellenic Republic to the United States (2005-09).
* Volume 9, p. 32. Publication: Constantine G. Karamanlis Foundation.