Consulate General of the United States, Thessaloniki

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U.S. Seal
U.S. Consul General of Thessaloniki Robert P. Sanders

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 headed 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. Robert P. Sanders is the 21st Principal Officer as of September 2012.

Consulate History[edit]

Before World War I[edit]

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 1830s, 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. Between 1910 and 1911, George Horton represented the US Consul at Salonika. 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[edit]

During the 1920s, 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 V. 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 adult Jewish male population of Thessaloniki being rounded up at Platia Eleftherias by German soldiers

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 [1][2].

Post World War II years[edit]

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.

A donkey carrying U.S.-funded supplies in Greece as part of the Truman Doctrine

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.[3]

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 1960s 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 1970s, 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 former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, John Dimitri Negroponte, served at the post from 1975-1977.

The U.S. Consulate General in Thessaloniki, 7th floor

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 here.

Principal Officers[edit]

Name Date
Consular Agent Pericles Hadji Lazzaro 1870 - 1906
Consul Russel 1906 - 1908
Consul Evan E. Young Nov. 1, 1908 - Jan. 29, 1910
Consul George Horton Jan. 30, 1910 - Aug. 5, 1911
Consul John E. Kehl Dec. 12, 1911 - late 1915
Consul Leland B. Morris late 1915 - 1921
Consul Fernald 1927
Consul Charles J. Pisar 1927 - May 1932
Consul Paul Bowerman June 1932 - 1933 (8 months)
Consul Harry L. Troutman 1933 - 1936
Consul Hanson 1936 (a few months only)
Consul James H. Keeley 1936 - Aug. 1939
Consul John D. Johnson fall 1939 - July 11, 1941

Consulate closed by order of German Reich on July 11, 1941

Consul William M. Gwynn Dec. 14, 1944 - Jan. 30, 1947
Consul Raleigh A. Gibson Jan. 31, 1947 - Oct. 5, 1949
Consul Glenn A. Abbey Feb. 5, 1950 - Sept. 20, 1951
Consul General John B. Holt Sept. 21, 1951 - Jul. 19, 1954

In 1952 the Consulate was elevated to the rank of Consulate General

Consul General Murat W. Williams July 30, 1954 - June 1, 1955
Consul General Philip W. Ireland Sept. 13, 1955 - Oct. 21, 1958
Consul General Robert S. Folsom Oct. 21, 1958 - Aug. 19, 1964
Consul General William L. Hamilton Oct. 21, 1964 - March 5, 1970
Consul General A. David Fritzlan Mar. 15, 1970 - June 22, 1971
Consul General Edward T. Brennan July 29, 1971 - Oct. 31, 1975
Consul General John D. Negroponte Oct. 28, 1975 - June 30, 1977
Consul General Dan A. Zachary July 13, 1977 - Sept. 15, 1981
Consul General Michael D. Sternberg Sept. 3, 1981 - June 21, 1985
Consul General A. Donald Bramante Aug. 22, 1985 - Aug. 15, 1989
Consul General Larry C. Thompson Aug. 11, 1989 - June 8, 1991
Consul General James E. Blanford July 3, 1991 - May 4, 1994
Consul General Miriam K. Hughes July 17, 1994 - July 14, 1997
Consul General Paul D. Stephenson July 22, 1997 - June 13, 2000
Consul General John M. Koenig June 27, 2000 - June 30, 2003
Consul General Alec L. Mally July 2003 - March 2004
Consul General Demitra M. Pappas April 2004 - June 2006
Consul General Hoyt B. Yee August 2006 - July 2009
Consul General Catherine E. Kay August 2009 - June 2012
Consul Robert P. Sanders September 2012

Work of the Consulate General[edit]

Mission Statement[edit]

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[edit]

The Consulate General has placed a high priority on combating 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.

Reyshawn Terry, Darius Washington, Bracey Wright and Jeremiah Massey with the kids

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 2008 U.S. Presidential elections were in focus with 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.

Discussions amongst scientists at Lake Mavrouda

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.

On September 1, 2009 Consul General Kay addressed the opening of an important conference on Contemporary Integrated Mosquito Control organized in partnership with the Development Company of Thessaloniki.

The Consulate is an avid supporter of social networking and of both the "Thessaloniki Friends of the Environment"[4] 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"[5], a youth group aiming to promote innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Consulate has also created its own social networking page on Facebook [6] and communicates with many fans over this platform.

Consulate news can also be accessed by finding a copy of the Northern Pages [7] - the Consulate's quarterly newsletter - which is a bright new initiative involving the staff and many young interns.

In celebration of the International Roma Day, the Consulate organized an event on its premises consisting of a round table discussion, the showing of a film and a photography exhibit. Government representatives, representatives of various Romani 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 the Republic of Macedonia and Romania, as well as the FBI.

Other Noteworthy Events and News[edit]

  • 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 aforementioned Robert Keeley, critically analyzes the case.
  • The Consulate has its own competitive football team, The Eagles [8], 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[edit]

Coordinates: 40°38′01″N 22°56′33″E / 40.63369°N 22.94246°E / 40.63369; 22.94246