Correspondent in Athens
“Democracy returned to our country in its plane, and with its support it joined the European family. Greece says goodbye with gratitude and emotion to its great friend, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing». With these words the Hellenic Prime Minister reminded him Kiriakos Mitsotakis, as soon as the news of the death of the French politician was known. For his part, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, described him as a leading figure in France and Europe, adding that “we will always remember him as an old friend of Greece at crucial moments and a great defender of European values.”
No one forgets in Greece that it was thanks to French support and Giscard’s staff that the then self-exiled politician Constantinos Karamanlis he was able to return to his country as soon as the board of colonels fell, and thus restore democracy. Karamanlis flew in the plane of the French presidency from Paris to arrive and be received triumphantly at the Athens airport on the night of July 23-24, 1974. He quickly formed a coalition government that restored the 1952 constitution, suspended the law martial, freed political prisoners and legalized the communist party, illegal since 1947. A year later, Karamanlis, already prime minister, officially invited him, and his visit marked a milestone in Greek political life.
To Giscard the Greeks also owe the support to his candidacy to enter the then Common Market still not meeting many of the requirements (including its weak industry and poor public administration). His entry represented a very concrete and realistic way for the other member countries to reinforce Hellenic democracy. Karamanlis insisted from the moment that Greece requested his admission in 1975 that Europe was a European word, implying that “the Greek spirit contributed the idea of freedom, truth and beauty” to European culture. And the one who understood him best was Giscard d’Estaing himself, who won the admission of the Mediterranean republic in 1981, years before that of Spain and Portugal. For him, according to his memoirs, Greece represents the “mother of all democracies”, and he could not miss it. And Karamanlis himself went so far as to say that “D’Estaing scandalously favored Greece” …