Published on April 3rd 2013
Effective March 14th the President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece signed a presidential decree to remove the title of ‘Ambassador Ad Honorem’ from former Greek Ambassador to Canada Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos. In Greece, the title ‘Ad Honorem’ is awarded to retired diplomats in recognition of their long-standing and exemplary service to their country.
Ambassador Chrysanthopoulos quite rightly rejects the validity of this decision. Personally speaking, I commend him for ‘just saying no’. No one, not even an outspoken child, should be expected to humbly accept unfair treatment.
The question that arises is why both the foreign affairs ministry and President Papoulias would decide to strip the ambassador of a well earned title when the Minister gave Mr. Chrysanthopoulos high public praise on the Foreign Affairs website for his long standing service to Greece and his work as Secretary General of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization just 9 months ago.
Although the decree contains no reason for this decision, confidential government sources have informed Ambassador Chrysanthopoulos that the decision was based on the outcome of a December 2012 international interview that he gave.
The aforementioned interview is the one published in Millstone News. In only a few weeks the article went “viral’ in Europe. The next two commentaries posted in the Millstone about the Greek political and economic crisis also received European attention as well as some coverage in the American media. It should be noted that in these interviews and commentaries Ambassador Chrysanthopoulos had not disclosed anything that the Greek Government had not mentioned or had not been referred to in the Greek press.
The only existing precedence for this type of decision was when the junta of the colonels took away the same title from Nobel Laureate Ambassador George Seferis in 1969 when he made anti-junta statements to the BBC on March 28 of that year.
Apparently, the government of Greece is not comfortable with its citizens sharing negative information with foreigners; especially issues that involve the safety and security of the people of Greece. Clearly they cannot punish foreign-based journalists and political pundits who critique their attitudes or actions. However, they can punish Greek citizens for expressing their thoughtful comments on government policies. In fact, the European press is filled with stories of Greek reporters being harassed by government and police officials after they have posted articles that demonstrate opposition to government actions.
Perhaps President Papoulias and Minister Avramopoulos should remind each other that the right to human dignity is a fundamental component of the Greek Constitution. Over the millennia the people of Greece have had many experiences with groups, foreign and domestic, that have tried to crush their spirit and culture.
For all of the preaching that occurs in Western political and academic circles about the fundamental human right of ‘free speech’ in a democratic state, it is unfathomable to me why any secure democratic government, particularly of an EU and NATO member state, would have any desire to limit this right and to punish those who practice it.
Greece, lest any of us forget, is the birthplace of the concept of democracy and all of the freedoms and responsibilities this form of governance includes. Surely the current government of Greece understands that punishing those who speak freely plants the seeds of their own destruction as well as that of democracy in Greece. Not even the European Central Bank can save a government from the cumulative domestic outrage regarding their decisions to suppress dissent and limit free speech.