4 MARCH 1960, Page 6

When Greek

Meets Grivas



MR. CONS'I ANIINE KARASIANLIS has been the, Prime Minister of Greece for an unbroken period of four and a half years, 'a darn good record,' as has been written in another context, 'in this vicinity.' It is, in fact, said to be an absolute record for modern Greece—more than long enough, anyway, to create a feeling of impatience and frustration in the Greek citizenry which, keener than that of probably any other European nation on politics as a hobby, as a subject of endless talk, and as a means of ensuring a proper turn and turn about at the jobs and perks, likes nothing better than a nice change. 'Stability' is not at all the commendatory word in an Athens café that it is in a London club. Indeed, 'it is more interesting that a government should be like a bicyclettc, don't you know, rather than like the Parthenon,' was how an ex-Minister put it to me the other day at an Athens party. (It may be that there aren't, statistically, more Greek ex-Ministers in Athens at any one time than there are French ones in Paris. but they seem to lead a more active social life.) But where to turn for a change? The second biggest party in Parliament is the extreme Left- wing EDA, as near Communist as it can be with- out actually going to gaol (technically, Com- munism is illegal), and not very imaginative at being near-Communist, either, or it wouldn't par- rot so gormiessly the propaganda of the Bul- garians, who wouldn't be popular in Greece even if they turned royalist tomorrow. And if it seems surprising, this being so, that. EDA and its hangers-on should have polled 25 per cent. of the votes at the last election, and should hold about 25 per cent. of the seats in the House (more than all the other ten opposition parties put together).

the explanation is that many Greeks vote EDA because they are poor, or disillusioned, or dis- gruntled, or want a change, who would gladly vote for a more respectable opposition if there were one that looked like getting any number of seats worth mentioning. (It was another ex-Minister who told me the story of a very rich and reaction- ary Greek indeed who voted for EDA because his pretty wife had run off with his best friend.) Even Mr. Karamanlis's Government, safe with its 171 seats out of 300, would like to see a serious alternative government emerge from the hope- lessly divided dozen opposition parties, if only to syphon off some of the votes from EDA. But there is still no sign of a new party, or of a new Leader for any of the old ones. .

It is true that Mr. Markezinis is talented, exper- ienced and ambitious, and has just been tipped as a man to watch by one of the shrewdest observers of the Athens scene, in an enthusiastic Times leader-page article. But, although he put Field- Marshal Papagos into power some ten years ago, Mr. Markezinis has never been able to do as much . for himself. He leads a centre Progressive Party' of himself and a couple of others and when, last month, ten middle-of-the-road independent liberal members formed a 'new political movement,' it was a mild-mannered poet they chose as their spokesman, and not Mr. Markezinis—in spite of the fact that their manifesto was indistinguishable from the aims that he constantly proclaims. Every- body in the Greek Parliament who sees himself as a future prime minister—about half the total membership—would like Mr. Markezinis as his number two, whereas Mr. Markezinis, as he looks around, sees nobody—other than himself—good enough to be the number one. After all, he had second thoughts about Field-Marshal Papagos.

The great disappointment, though, ha's been General Grivas. He appeared on the scene last spring like something between St. George and a hero of the War of Independence, with a touch of Orde Wingate, and has dwindled into a cross between Monty and Groucho Marx. He is honest, everybody tells you that, but incapable of believ- ing in the honesty of others. He makes silly speeches, or refuses to make speeches when he should. What political programme he has—it isn't much, and it varies—has scared the Right, with

Bernard Levin is on tour, behind the Iron Curtain. We hope to have his first dispatch next week.

his promises to release the political internees and to tear Greece away from American tutelage and from NATO, without endearing him to the Left, who have no wish to see the military line- Metaxas. Plastiras, Papagos—continued in Greek politics. He alienated the King, over a dinner last summer in Corfu, by making it clear that he expected royal backing in a bid to 'purge' Greek politics.

,Many clever politicians in Athens, on both sides of the House, believe that the General could have bounced into power last summer, if he had only played his very good cards less clumsily, but that now his chance has gone. And quite a lot of Greeks feel that they have been done out of a firework display.

All this is to take the cynical Athenian view. In the countryside it is different, and especially in those Balkan and Byronic mountain regions where the name df a living guerrilla leader (and an uncommonly successful one) evokes proud and romantic folk-memories of whiskered klephts who less than a century and a half ago carved Turks into particularly small pieces with exceptionally large swords. It is much, even, 1 am told, in those parts, that Grivas is sufficiently in the tradition to affect a moustache, however modest, when the King, the Prime Minister and Mr. Markelinis haven't a single whisker between them.

I have just returned to the capital from a trip by Land-Rover that took me along the northern edge of Macedonia, from Salonika through Edessa and Florina to Kastoria, by way of villages only just made accessible by the thaw to wheeled traffic (some still only to be reached on foot) and with Yugoslav trees and villages and, eventually, Albanian mountainsides well within sight for much of the journey. In one village hall and school after another, the General's was the only portrait on the walls other than those of the King and Queen. (Usually it had been laboriously copied locally in pen and ink from a newspaper photo- graph, or cut from a magazine.) In one vtllai community centre his photograph was bigger a higher up than those of the royal pair. Only on did I come across a picture of Archbis Makarios. Life is cruelly hard in these parts; it took a turn for the worse, General Grivasi co command a tremendous backing among peasantry. To be as sure of the more sophisticat slum-dwellers of the Pirteus, though, he wo need a campaign-manager and someone to Wri his speeches. And there are few prolestja politicians that the General will trust to he as to him and as important to him as that.

Kastoria, the end of my northern journey, one of the most majestically situated towns Europe—between the Vitsi and the Grain mountains, with, beyond them, the Pindus ran and others, the names of which I have a° known, and set upon a neck of land that ct1S, lake almost into two, so that in every direct there is water, and fold upon receding fold mountain ranges, toothed with peaks. Al highest point of the town, with the most spiced views of all, is the new Lake Hotel, long, low a almost all window, not yet open for the 19 season, but symbol of Greece's five-year pla tourism, now well under way.

The Greek Government proposes to nearly £20 million on hotels, holiday camps, wet supplies hnd ferry ports by 1965, before Nell date it hopes to be welcoming three times present average of a quarter of a million tour a year. Both BEA and Olympic Airways 5 putting Comets on the London-Athens run month, knocking two and a half hours off t flying time each way, and adding seats for more passengers a day than at present. In i for the Rome Olympics there will be a car fer between Brindisi and Igoumenitsa. The ex st internal air network brings Rhodes, at one diag extreme, and Corfu at the other, each within hour and three-quarters of Athens; and Lerla Crete, Ioannina and Salonika are all about as (Even my romantically remote Kastoria is all four or five hours away when the summer soli is flying to Kozani, whence there is a daily b Greece is still cheap. The Lake Hotel (like t 1 excellent Amphitrion at Nauplion, where I sla for a disastrously wet weekend) costs only a cot! 1 of pounds a night for a double room with ode' bath. And in Kastoria, the Lake Hotel is the hint of such expensive sophistication. A me a local restaurant is still a matter of going the kitchen to choose your baby-lamb cutlets, your lake fish; having ouzo with olives and t and cheese while they cook over the charcoal 8 fruit to follow, Naoussa wine to wash it do with, and coffee as a matter of course, all for or 6s. a head. Even on the enormously In worldly-wise island of Rhodes, where I had couple of days at the new and rather more eXPt sive Miramare 'beach-bungalow' hotel, an air lunch of crisply fried red mullet, with sale cheese and fruit, ouzo, wine and coffee, cost about 8s. a head. And on various mainland 8 island beaches there are already, or there will be, camps and 'bamboo villages' for peo as poor as I am, but younger, at prices rat upward from £1 a day, all in.

This great drive for a slice of the boo' in world trade in trippers may sadden those who knew Hydra before it was like Mykonos, Mykonos before it was like Capri, and Capri before the south wind blew. But for them there is always somewhere a little farther, beyond the beckonings of the latest Hilton hotel. For the Greeks it is a sensible and possibly the most profitable answer to the problems of a country where there are 125,000 unemployed out of a total population of eight million; even more serious, because half- concealed, under-employment; and where an eighth of the population live on an annual income

of less than £25 a year, in what Mr. Averoff, the Foreign Minister, accurately described to me as

'bestial conditions.' (Even the national average is .7.). r Only a couple of pounds a week : some statistics- as r e_ °Rector has just revealed that eight Greeks in a lio hundred possess a toothbrush.) rail Tourism is the trade to go in for, when the actin: wuntry has so much to offer its visitors, and when ais it little else in the Greek economy makes sense. ell Neither inside nor outside the Common Market. aoos for instance, does there seem much hope of A Greece's farmers and fruit-growers being able to compete, on equal terms, with those of the other primary producers, and the country's infant in- dustries are even less able to face outside competi- tion. Tobacco is Greece's chief national product— possibly the best tobacco in the world—and the Americans would rather pump in millions of dol- lars' worth of 'aid,' some of which goes to irriga- tion schemes that help to grow yet more unsale- able tobacco, than buy a single packet of the fragrant. oval Greek cigarettes. Before the war Britain used to buy 200 tons a year; in 1958 it was twelve. The Greeks say that the Americans won't let us buy any more; and say that they can't understand friends, allies and protectors who prime the pump with one hand and stem the flow with the other—do the Americans want them to listen to all those tempting trade overtures from their Communist neighbours? But then the Greeks have long given up trying to relate what their English-speaking friends profess with what they practise : look at Byron's fellow-countrymen in Cyprus.