United Nations Reacts to German Occupation of Greece

  September 22, 2021   Read time 4 min
United Nations Reacts to German Occupation of Greece
The report finally appeared in June. The majority found that Yugoslavia in particular, and to a lesser extent Bulgaria and Albania, had 'supported the guerrilla warfare in Greece'.

In the case of Yugoslavia this included not only the arming but also the training of refugee soldiers, especially at Bulkes, a camp in Yugoslavia which the commission actually visited. Albania, though it no longer trained forces, continued to supply arms, guides, clothing, food and other assistance. Both Yugoslavia and Bulgaria had encouraged a separatist movement among the Slav minority in northern Greece. Although unrest among the people of Macedonia resulted originally from the deliberate promotion of Macedonian nationalism by the Germans in the war, and later partly from the policies of the Greek Government, the Yugoslav and Bulgarian governments had deliberately, by speeches and articles, revived and promoted the separatist movement and so aggravated tensions.

The majority report therefore made three main recommendations: that normal good-neighbourly relations between the four countries should be resumed, so that all incidents could be resolved by bilateral exchanges or recourse to the UN; that in future when a government refused to take effective action to halt support for armed bands operating in the territory of another the matter should be considered by the Security Council as a threat to the peace; and, above all, that a permanent commission or commissions should be established in the area to keep the border under observation. In addition refugees sheltering in neighbouring states should be kept well away from the borders of their own country; and consideration should be given to concluding new agreements for the voluntary transfer of minorities.

The minority, the Soviet Union and Poland, of course dissented totally from these conclusions and recommendations. Their judgement was that there was a large-scale civil war in Greece which resulted from the reactionary and dictatorial character of the Greek Government, the discontent that this aroused amongst their own people and the repeated territorial claims against neighbours. Only a transformation of the Greek political system to eliminate the reactionary elements could restore peace.
By the time the Council met to consider the Commission's report at the end of June 1947, there had been some change in Greece's international position. On 24 February the British Government announced that it no longer had the economic resources to maintain its support for Greece. On 12 March the US Government proclaimed the Truman Doctrine, under which the United States would take over the economic and military support of Greece and Turkey. In June, this programme for Greece and Turkey was followed by the still more comprehensive Marshall Plan, providing for US economic assistance for the whole of Western Europe. The effect of all this, and of the refusal of the Soviet Union, with its East European allies (including eventually Czechoslovakia), to take part in the programme was to make the division of Europe even deeper than before.
The United States had become more deeply committed to Greece and its defence than ever before. Within the Council she proposed the endorsement of the commission's proposal to send a permanent body to Greece to observe her borders. But this was condemned by the communist states asa cold-war move. They complained that to set up a permanent body was, in effect, to accept the unproved Greek charges against her neighbours. They refused to undertake to provide facilities for a commission in their own countries. And when the resolution was finally put to the vote, though it obtained nine affirmative votes, it was vetoed by the Soviet Union.
But the Western governments, knowing that they had a majority in support of their position within the organisation, were now no longer prepared to accept that the actions they proposed could be frustrated by the use of the Soviet veto in the Council. Now, in the first of many similar occasions during the next decade, they turned to the Assembly, where no veto operated. In the autumn session of 1947, the United States put before the Assembly an almost identical proposal to that which had been vetoed in the Council. The resolution called on Albania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia to cease giving assistance to the Greek guerrillas and called on all four countries to seek to settle their disputes peacefully, to establish diplomatic relations among themselves, to consider concluding frontier conventions and to co-operate in solving refugee problems. It proposed the establishment of a permanent committee, of the kind that had been recommended in the Commission's report, to assist in the implementation of the resolution and to 'observe the compliance by the four governments concerned'. Though opposed by the communist states, this was passed by 34 votes to 6, with 11 abstentions.