The British Sunday newspaper The Observer carried an article on another, less savoury, aspect of Serbian-Hellenic co-operation recently:
Greece faces shame of role in Serb massacre
War crimes tribunal will hear secrets of support for Milosevic's ethnic cleansing
Helena Smith in Athens
Sunday January 5, 2003
It is what Hellenes have long feared: the shattering of a conspiracy of silence that has surrounded the role of Greek volunteers who proudly flew their flag at Srebrenica, after participating in Europe's worst massacre since the Second World War, when 7,000 men, women and children died.
Next week, as Greece settles into the presidency of the European Union, Milan Milutinovic, Serbia's recently retired president, will be brought before the war crimes tribunal at The Hague. Greek involvement in the atrocity, as well as other secrets Athens would prefer buried, could be revealed when the 60-year-old testifies.
No one, it is said, played such a pivotal role in the alliance between Athens and Belgrade during the Nineties Balkan conflicts. As Yugoslavia's ambassador to Greece, Milutinovic was Slobodan Milosevic's most trusted lieutenant. His links with Greece's political, religious and business elites were allegedly crucial to Serbia's secret economic infrastructure. They allowed the country to evade United Nations sanctions and, according to the International Criminal Tribunal, contributed considerably towards Milosevic's war machine.
When the diplomat was promoted to Foreign Minister in 1994, he retained his Athens post for several months when, EU diplomats say, he stashed away funds to buy villas and other prime properties in Athens and Crete at the behest of his boss.
With Greece's admiring public, pro-Serbian church, tolerant media and governments that supported Milosevic, Athens was seen as a bolt-hole by the now disgraced president. As Bosnian Serb ethnic cleansers torched villages, it was here Milosevic would escape to enjoy the hospitality of Greek politicians. Marko Milosevic, his lascivious smuggler son, declared Greece 'my first home'.
'This is our best-kept secret, the subject no politician of any persuasion has ever wanted to broach,' said Takis Michas, author of Unholy Alliance: Greece and Milosevic's Serbia. 'In an era where everyone is saying sorry, in Greece at least no one has shown remorse for the crimes in Bosnia when undoubtedly a significant proportion of the political establishment bear some responsibility.'
The US-published book, yet to be printed in Greek, records in shocking detail the relationship between the two Orthodox nations, including the leaking of Nato military intelligence under socialist leader Andreas Papandreou.
The Greeks know their past may be catching up with them. After last month's long statement of contrition before the Hague tribunal by the former Bosnian Serb leader, Biljana Plavsic, many believe it is only a matter of time before others open up too.
A Dutch documentary investigating Greek complicity in the Serb wars was aired on local television in which a director of the semi-official Athens News Agency, Nikolas Voulelis, admitted to widespread censorship. During the wars the Greek media was fanatically pro-Serb, portraying Yugoslav Muslims as 'infidel Turks' bent on destroying their Orthodox brethren. 'Editorial interference was a given,' he said.
But it was not only hospitality or money that the Greeks offered. Spiritual succour was provided by the Greek Orthodox church which sent priests to the front line (several clerics received bravery medals from Plavsic).
In a step repeated in no other country, Archbishop Serafeim invited the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to visit Athens in 1993. At a mass rally attended by prominent politicians, the indicted war criminal proclaimed: 'We have only God and the Greeks on our side.'
Last year, in a 7,000-page report that the Dutch authorities commissioned into the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, Greece was revealed to have sent shipments of light arms and ammunition to the Bosnian Serb army between 1994 and 1995. The report describes how Greek volunteers were implored, in intercepted army telephone conversations, to raise the Greek flag after the town fell. In one, General Ratko Mladic asked that they record the scene on video for propaganda purposes.
Around 100 soldiers are believed to have joined the Greek Volunteer Guard, formed at Mladic's request. The unit, which fought alongside Russians and Ukrainians, was led by Serb officers and had its own insignia - the double-headed eagle of Byzantium. At least four of its members were awarded the White Eagle medal of honour by Karadzic.
Although their 'heroic' exploits were widely reported in the Greek press, the volunteers have gone to ground since the creation of the war crimes tribunal. No government or party has ever sought an inquiry into their activities. http://www.observer.co.uk/milosevic/story/0,10639,868869,00.html
I look forward to reading some of the articles on your site for other views though.