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Christos Tsakas: Post-war Greco-German Relations, 1953-1981. Economic Development, Business Interests and European Integration, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2022, xx + 305 S., ISBN 978-3-0310-4370-3, EUR 106,99
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Korinna Schönhärl
Universität Paderborn
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Korinna Schönhärl: Rezension von: Christos Tsakas: Post-war Greco-German Relations, 1953-1981. Economic Development, Business Interests and European Integration, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2022, in: sehepunkte 23 (2023), Nr. 10 [15.10.2023], URL:

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Christos Tsakas: Post-war Greco-German Relations, 1953-1981

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Christos Tsakas' investigation firstly considers Greco-West German relations between 1953 and 1981, with a focus on the economic ties and relationship between the two countries. His second main interest is the process of Greece's integration into the European Economic Community (EEC) from an economic and political perspective. The author highlights bilateral economic interdependencies, on the one hand, and the special role that West Germany played for Greece's integration into the EEC, on the other. His study is therefore essential reading for researchers who want to delve into German-Greek economic relations in a well-founded and detailed manner.

The study starts very abruptly at the end of the civil war in 1949, without further attention to the longer history and tradition of foreign investment in Greece [1]. For the early years, the shipping and shipbuilding industries, business in lignite, nitrogen fertilisers and nickel as well as large infrastructure projects such as the construction of radio and telephone communications form the focus of interest. Consequently, entrepreneurs such as Aristoteles Onassis and Stavros Niarchos and companies such as Siemens, Telefunken and the Bodosakis group are given special attention. Tsakas impressively shows personal continuities and networks from the interwar to the post-war period. It becomes clear that business activities during the period of German occupation were an advantage rather than a disadvantage for continuing business in the 1950s, and were rarely discussed publicly from a moral point of view. The author emphasises the role played by West Germany as a creditor to Greece in the process of economic reconstruction after the end of the Marshall plan aid. Because some of these deals went beyond the bounds not only of what was legitimate but also of what was legal, they were the starting point for various scandals in Greek politics, of which the Siemens scandal (1953-55) is the best known. Some of them seriously shook Greek domestic politics.

From the late 1950s onwards, Greek-German economic relationships were more and more embedded in the European context. An important cornerstone was the 1961 Association Agreement between Greece and the EEC. Some of its terms were frozen during the Regime of the Colonels in Greece (1967-1974). This did not mean, however, that business relations, especially those between Greece and Germany, completely petered out. Various German actors had a vivid interest in their continuity, e. g. the conservative financial minister Franz Josef Strauß. German investors in this period were even confronted with competitive offers from France and the USA, but did not lose their leading role for Greece.

The main strengths of Tsakas' work are, firstly, its consistent and equal adherence to the Greek perspective alongside the West German and European ones. Secondly, the extensive and meticulous use of unprinted source material must be praised, mainly from political and economic archives in Germany, Greece and other countries, including several oral history interviews. Unfortunately, these rich sources are evaluated almost exclusively to reconstruct the history of events. A critical reflection on the intentions and narratives of their authors and the contemporary witnesses is lacking. At the beginning of each chapter there are even lengthy quotations from sources which are not interpreted at all, but apparently are intended to speak for themselves. Even when the history of events has already been elaborated upon in research [2], Tsakas tells it mainly from the point of view of the sources without explaining or legitimising this method of operation. This approach brings problems with it: There is no critical examination of previous research and no clear positioning of the study within the research landscape. Furthermore, the author devotes little to no attention to methodological considerations.

The conclusion makes little effort to sort and weight the study's results, but offers a plain list of events as appendix. Instead, it bridges time from the endpoint of the study in 1981 to Alexis Tsipras' referendum on the Eurogroup's conditions in 2015 with a kind of fast-forward. This gives the opportunity to draw from the historical analysis some interesting and enlightening insights into the nature of Greek economic problems since 2008. However, the prime minister's economic policies in 2015 are presented as having no alternative, a result that appears rather unnuanced at the end of such a detailed study of almost thirty years of German-Greek economic relations with all their facets and intricacies.

However, this criticism does not detract from the merits of this diligent study, which provides a helpful and indispensable basis for further research in the field of Greek-German post-war economic relations.


[1] It thus refrains from an elaboration of specific attitudes of the Greek public and press towards foreign investment from a longue durée perspective, see e. g. [Giannitsis, A. K.]: [The Foreign Direct Investments and the Transformation of the Greek Economy (1830-1939)], in: [The Greek Review of Social Research] 80 (1977), 234-253.

[2] E. g. George N. Yannopoulos (ed.): Greece and the EEC. Integration and Convergence, New York 1986; Eirini Karamouzi: Greece, the EEC and the Cold War, 1974-1979. The Second Enlargement, Basingstoke / New York 2014.

Korinna Schönhärl