Consulate General of the United States in Thessaloniki

The Consulate General of the United States in Thessaloniki is the focal point for events relating to the United States in northern Greece. The Consulate is situated on the 7th floor of a new commercial office building at 43 Tsimiski Street in the city center. The Consulate is delegated by the Consul General, an American Deputy Principal, who also serves as Political Officer and Consul, along with an American administrative assistant, and employs local hire individuals whose expertise includes administration, public diplomacy, IT systems, political affairs, maintenance, and security. Hoyt Brian Yee is the 19th Consul General as of August 2006.


Consulate History

Before World War I

Though the exact details concerning the establishment of a consulate in Thessaloniki are sparse, it is a fact that a consular agency was initially established in Thessaloniki during the occupation of the Ottoman Empire, as early as the 1830's, to represent American shipping interests in the northern Aegean Sea. A Thessalonian named Pericles Hadji Lazzaro later became the first honorary American consular agent in 1870. On June 10, 1908 the agency was upgraded to a "Consulate" status, at which time Evan E. Young was appointed as the first American Consul. During the period of time leading up to World War I, the Consulate played a mostly commercial and representational role in Thessaloniki due to the lack of visa requirements for U.S. travel and due to the small number of Americans both living in and passing through the city. Dr. Henry House was one of the few prominent Americans living in Thessaloniki during this period. Dr. House established the [ American Farm School] , which is still in operation today.

Impact of the World Wars

During the 1920’s, due to new visa requirements and the restructuring of the city following the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917, the Consulate was characterized by significant growth. Consul James H. Keeley, whose son Robert A. Keeley would later serve as Ambassador to Greece from 1985-89, was appointed as principal officer of the Consulate from 1936 until the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

The Germans occupied Thessaloniki from April 1941 until October 1944 and closed the Consulate on July 11, 1941. During this occupation, three of the Consulate’s Greek employees- David Tiano, Emmanuel Karasso, and John Vafiades – (the two former being of Jewish extraction) were all sent to an internment camp in Thessaloniki. Tiano was executed, while Karasso and Vafiades survived. Following the war, they resumed work at the Consulate at its re-opening in 1944. The reception room in the Consulate, otherwise known as the David Tiano room, is dedicated to his memory, and the Consulate acknowledges his service and sacrifice with an annual David Tiano Lecture [] [] .

Post World War II years

In 1944, following the departure of the German forces, William M. Gwynn assumed the role as Consul and relocated the Consulate to 59 Nikis Avenue, where it remained until its most recent move in 1999.

During the post World War II years the Consulate transformed its role in Thessaloniki, reflecting the evolving relationship between America and Greece. The Consulate supported the restoration efforts of the American Farm School and [ Anatolia College] , both of which had been used as headquarters of the German forces. At this time, Greece was recovering from the devastation of the Second World War and, as the British were not in a position to help, the U.S. filled the void through both the Truman Doctrine and the closely related Marshall Plan, supporting Greece with roughly $300 million in military and economic aid. []

In 1952, the Consulate was elevated to the rank of Consulate General and, over the next decade, a strong relationship developed between Thessalonians and the Consulate. During the 1960's the Consulate began working with an increasing American business presence in the city which accompanied the Greek Economic Miracle. The Consulate also engaged in sensitive border issues involving Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Albania.

The 1967 Greek military junta coup and the Cyprus Crisis damaged the American image across Greece. Thus, during the 1970's, the Consulate began to focus more on improving public relations through an active outreach program to neighboring provincial cities in northern Greece. This decade was a hectic one for the Consulate General as it dealt with several drug trafficking cases originating in the Middle East and Africa. The current U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, John Dimitri Negroponte, served at the post from 1975-1977.

1999 marked a final move to the Consulate's present location in a suite on the seventh floor of 43 Tsimiski. At present, the United States has had an official presence in Thessaloniki for nearly 177 years. There have been 19 Consul Generals and 16 Consuls. For a map to the Consulate, click [,22.942286&spn=0.003933,0.006866&z=17 here.]

Work of the Consulate General

Mission Statement

The mission statement of the American Consulate General in Thessaloniki, Greece is to strengthen cooperation, friendship and trade between the United States and northern Greece, to be a model diplomatic platform for the promotion of U.S. Government policies and objectives, and to protect the lives and interests of U.S. citizens. Goals associated with this mission include:

*Promoting mutual understanding through educational, cultural and public affairs activities.
*Addressing common concerns and differences through open and constructive dialogue with officials, journalists and other citizens.
*Increasing commerce between the U.S. and northern Greece and surrounding countries by identifying and promoting opportunities for trade and investment.
*Fighting terrorism, illegal migration, trafficking and other cross-border crime through joint training and other preventive efforts.
*Assisting U.S. citizens by providing prompt, efficient consular services, information and other support.

Recent Issues in the Forefront

The Consulate General has placed a high priority on combatting the issue of human trafficking and modern-day slavery by organizing a number of border control seminars and workshops in places such as Kilkis and Alexandroupolis in an attempt to combat the Balkan network of women and children trafficked for the purposes of labor and sexual exploitation. The efforts have helped pave the way for new Trafficking in Persons legislation into Greek law.

The Consulate helped organize a visit to a local elementary school by a few U.S. professional basketball players who stressed the importance of both hard work physically and mentally as a key to success in life.

The treatment of Greece's minorities in the North, particularly the Muslim population in Western Thrace, has been addressed through cooperation with local authorities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Xanthi, and through public outreach events such as seminars, lectures, and training sessions.

The upcoming U.S. Presidential elections were recently the focus of a live digital video conference with Professor David Goldfield of the University of North Carolina, in which students and members of the academic community attended.

Local Lake Mavrouda was restored by 25% following a master plan developed by Professor Zalidis of Greece and Professor Crisman of the U.S. This Greek-American cooperation is just one of the many programs of similar spirit that the Consulate fosters.

Under the auspices of the “Great Ideas” speaker program, the Consulate hosted the Director of the MoMA, Mr. Glenn Lowry, as well as Dr. Richard C. Levin, President of Yale University, in Thessaloniki. During their stay the guests gave public lectures to Thessaloniki audiences.

The Consulate sponsors Greek participants the Battle of the Year break dance competition.

The consulate is an avid supporter of both the “Thessaloniki Friends of the Environment” [] informal committee, which seeks to improve living conditions by introducing alternative solutions such as the creation of a bicycle path and, also, of the “Young Entrepreneurs of Thessaloniki” [] , a youth group aiming to promote innovation and entrepreneurship.

In celebration of the International Roma Day, the Consulate organized an event on its premises comprising of a round table discussion, the showing of a film and a photography exhibit. Government representatives, representatives of various Roma associations and academics attended the event.

The Consulate, together with SECI, organized a conference entitled “Trans-border Co-operation for Combating Weapons Smuggling”. Participants included representatives of the authorities of Turkey, Bulgaria, Albania and Greece, SECI members from FYROM and Romania, as well as the FBI.

Other Noteworthy Events and News

*The Consulate has played a significant role in many high profile cases such as the George Polk investigation of 1948. The mysterious death of American journalist George Polk has long bewildered Americans and Greeks alike. Polk, who arrived in Thessaloniki in the spring of 1948, had attempted to contact the leader of the Andartes resistance group, only to disappear. Polk's body was found having been murdered, execution-style, and speculation and accusations were rampant as to who was responsible for his assassination. The Consul General at the time, Raleigh A. Gibson, invested a considerable amount of time on the case. "The Salonika Bay Murder: Cold War Politics and the Polk Affair", a book written by Edmund Keeley, brother to aformentioned Robert Keeley, critically analyzes the case.
*The Consulate has its own competitive football team, The Eagles [] , who claim to be undefeated in official matches.
*In the book "Midnight Express", based on actual events, Billy Hayes found asylum at the Consulate General in Thessaloniki following an escape from a prison in Istanbul in which he had spent almost five years.
*The Consulate has received a number of prominent celebrities. Most recently, former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis visited the Consulate and gave a lecture in 2007; other visitors have included Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, actress Faye Dunaway, five-time Academy Award winning film director Francis Ford Coppola, film director Sofia Coppola, production designer Dean Tavoularis, former U.S. Secretaries of Defense William Cohen and Donald Rumsfeld, Tipper Gore, and actress and singer Juliette Lewis.

External links

* [ Consulate General of the United States in Thessaloniki]
* [ "Greek Youth Remake ‘Seattle of the Balkans’". New York Times.]

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