An odd and alarming at the same time e-mail puzzled many Greeks on Saturday, when a Greek newspaper posted on its internet site the content of an e-mail allegedly issued by the EU Commission to its staff containing “safety instructions”. The e-mail was apperently forwarded to EU staff due to visit Athens in the upcoming weeks. Worst than this is the e-mail sender warned of “violent riots with an X number of deads” and this in March. EU representative in Athens dismissed some part of the e-mail content but not convincingly enough.
On Saturday, online edition of TO VIMA newspaper revealed the content of an e-mail allegedly sent by the EU Commission to its staff due to Greece.
The controversial e-mail as posted by TO VIMA at 2:30 p.m., on Saturday, March 2/2013:
This note is confidential, for your information. Contacts information has been removed for reasons of safety of people involved. There is some additional information (only orally distributed), shared with IMF staff, in regard with intelligence collected, concerning violent riots in Athens on March, with Xs (the number mentioned is not possible to communicate) deads.
Kind request for discretional treatment.
FYI, this is the first travel advice ever issued by Commission for a mission of officials to a member state.
Greek employees in Commission have been severely upset and they read very carefully the recommendations also for their own safety whenever they will have to travel and accommodate back home.
Concerning your mission to Athens we would like to send you some recommendations and additional information about your stay in Athens.
What follows is security advice and tips recommended by the Security Directorate.
Recomendations to be read in To Vima
The alarming news prompted Kathimerini newspaper to post a relevant request to EU representative in Athens, Panagiotis Karvounis. He indirectly admitted the existence of “safety instructions to EU personnel” However he denied the part of “verbal instructions” EU representative in Athens Panagiotis Karvounis answered to Kathimerini (posted on 10:30 pm Saturday, March 2/2013):
”The EU Commission issues guidelines for the safety of its personnel, that’s not originality, that’s its duty. The following text in quotes was NOT issued by the Commission. The instructions that follow in this text are implicit suggestions by the Commission for its staff. These instructions were made in consultation with the Greek authorities! “.
“According to EU Commission, the text posted by TO VIMA was fake,” Kathimirini correspondent in Brussels reports.
Later, TO VIMA picked up the issue again, posting Karvounis’ answer and noting:
“The EU Commission not only admits the existence of the e-mail containing travel warning for Greece with unprecedented safety instructions for the personnel to visit the country, it also involves the Greek authorities in this.” (To Vima)
The issue leaves a lot of question-marks open as the EU representative in Athens did not explicitly denied the “safety instructions,” but apparently the “orally distributed intelligence collection”, speaking of “violent riots”.
E-mail, fake or not… it’s not the first time Brussels allegedly advises its personnel to take increased safety precautions when in Greece. On 23. January 2013, TA NEA newspaper had published a report according to which Brussels had advised the Troika staff to go around in disguise when in Athens. KTG had translated the report.
A travel warning issued by EU Commission about one of its members without an obvious reason like a war? Is “Kabul” boiling under our feet and we don’t know it?
Was this e-mail deliberately distributed by some EU Commission staff? Or do they there in Brussels know more than we? And who could predict with certainty “violent riots with X deads”? Somebody who confuse “social unrest” with “earthquake” prediction?
And if there is such intelligence, why nobody undertakes measures to prevent them?
UPDATE: EU Commissioner for Maritime Issue & Fishery, Maria Damanaki (PASOK) strongly complained about the e-mails and wrote a protest letter to EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
Damanaki requests to be informed in detail about the reasons and the procedures for the issuing of the travel wring. In her letter, Damanaki also notes that Greece is a country peaceful and safe for all European and international officials, with vivid and timeless traditions of hospitality to every citizen. (posted on Maria Damanaki’s official website on Sunday noon).