- Treaties of Bucharest and Athens. The doubling of Greece
The end of the Second Balkan War.
Treaties of Bucharest and Athens.
The conference in Bucharest started simultaneously with the signing of the armistice by the belligerents on July 17. In that involved representatives of the four Balkan states (Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Romania), while the Ottoman Empire was excluded on the grounds that discussions were purely on Balkan issues. The role of the representatives of the Great Powers was crucial, as essentially, they directed and coordinated the discussions. The processes leading to the signing of the Treaty demonstrated the irreconcilable differences between the Powers, which a few months later led to the outbreak of the First World War.
The key issue to be resolved was to define the borders of the defeated Bulgaria with the three winners Balkan countries. The border with Serbia and Romania settled without particular difficulties. Romania, having already secured the southern Dobrudja, had the room to play a mediating role. Serbia agreed to limit its initial claims and granted the city Istip. In contrast, the definition of Greek-Bulgarian border caused great friction between the two countries and the Powers.
Greece claimed a large part of the Western Thrace by drawing the boundary line of Makri (a few miles west of Dedeagats - Perelik (in the Rhodope Mountains). The Bulgarians, keen to ensure the widest possible outlet to the Aegean, seeking to draw the border line closer to west, by the Bay Orfanos in Xanthi to the Serb-Bulgarian border. The diplomatic situation was not particularly favorable to the promotion of Greek demands, as around the disputed area developed complex international interests. Also, the Bulgarians were informed of the success of their last counter-offense against the Greek forces and more confidently claimed major Macedonian cities. Faced with the perceived impasse, the Powers intervened to settle the issue. Essentially, the interest was centered in eastern Macedonia. Particularly, the issue of friction between the two countries was the assertion of Kavala and the wider region.
Venizelos, who from the outset did not share the views of the crashing of Bulgaria in battle field by the Greek forces and the consequent maximalist demands, had gone to the conference aware of the correlation of strength. The Greek army was exhausted. Greece had paid a very heavy price in casualties in the wars of 1912-13. The dead totaled in 7.732 and the wounded in 42.819. The total cost for the Greek national economy had reached stratospheric heights (estimated at 414.5 million drachmas). Moreover, it was clear that such a choice would turn against Greece the Balkan states and the Powers, especially Italy and Austria. Therefore, Venizelos precluded any thought of engaging in a new military adventure and focused on the diplomatic claim of the most favorable outcome for Greece. He had in mind that, during the negotiations, the farthest point of decline for the Greek claims could not be further from the line of Nestos, east of Kavala. The Greek Prime Minister harbored no illusions: in such a conference would have little gravity the reliance on the ethno-religious character of the majority of the inhabitants of the claimed area that allowed Greece to have irredentist aspirations. However, Venizelos knew that the military occupation of Kavala, was for the Greek side a considerable acquis. It was an important bargaining advantage, which could be used effectively as the Powers, in case the city awarded to the Bulgarians, would not be willing to intervene for the expulsion of the Greek army, either naturally, would allow a new martial ignition in the area.
Bulgaria was supported by Austria-Hungary and Russia, who argued that rightfully, should have a large port in the Aegean, since Greece had already secured Thessaloniki. The interests of both countries required the maintenance of Bulgaria as a strong presence in the Balkans. The first one, sought to weaken Serbia, which claimed its territory. The second one looked to the rapprochement between Bulgaria and Serbia, in the ideology of panslavism, in order to exploit it then in its intensifying rivalry with Austria-Hungary. France was strongly in favor of the Greek request, because of the financial interests it had in Greece. England maintained a neutral stance as did Italy, especially after the retreat of Greece in two issues of particular interest to it (the Northern Epirus issue and the luck of Dodecanese). But what tipped the balance decisively in favor of Greece was the rather unexpected support of Germany, who convinced Romania to support the Greek positions. With this strategic choice, Germany attempted to lay the groundwork for the success of its planning in the face of the looming international developments. In those plans fitted the concretion of a united front of the Balkan countries with the participation of Greece, Romania, Turkey and possibly Serbia and Montenegro and thus ensuring access to the Aegean. Essentially, Berlin sought to deflect Greece from the influence of the Powers of the Entente -of French and England- since Bulgaria was already under the influence of Russia. Also, Queen Sofia had intervened to her brother asking him to support the Greek demands.
The Treaty of Bucharest was signed on July 28/ August 10, 1913. In conjunction with the provisions of individual bilateral agreements and intergovernmental contacts that followed, established the new map of the Balkans and settled a number of individual bilateral issues. The border between Greece and Bulgaria began from the new Bulgarian - Serbian border on the ridge of Mount Beles and ended at the mouth of the river Nestos, in the Aegean Sea, 50 kilometers east of Kavala. Greece basically took all the areas between the rivers Strymon and Nestos. The city of Kavala and the island of Thassos accrue to Greek sovereignty, as well as Chalkidiki and the Aegean islands except the Dodecanese, Imbros and Tenedos. Also, Bulgaria renounced all claims to the island of Crete. To the defeated Bulgaria, which lost most of the territories it had conquered in the First Balkan War, eventually accounted about the 1/4 of the claimed territories, as was the western Thrace, and kept its outlet to the Aegean. Serbia achieved a significant increase in its territorial area and increased its population of 1.5 million, but was left without an outlet to the Adriatic. Romania won Dobroutsa and its boundaries with Bulgaria stretched from the Danube to the Black Sea. Furthermore, after an exchange of epistles between its Prime Minister and Venizelos, were recognized religious and educational privileges in Vlach villages of the new Greek possessions in the region of Pindos, Epirus and Macedonia (right to the foundation of diocese, autonomy to schools and churches, funding and supervision by the Romanian government).
It also specified the conditions for the evacuation of the Bulgarian territory by foreign troops, the mutual surrender of prisoners and the ratification of the Treaty.
With the Treaty of Bucharest the map of southeastern Europe changed significantly and the Turkish sovereignty in the region definitively abolished. Henceforth, Turkey had under its rule Constantinople and part of Thrace, a little bigger than the one it had before the Second Balkan War. It was certain that the Powers were not prepared to make its revision because, except Austria, who wished to overturn the decisions of Bucharest principally seeking to the weakening of Serbia, none of the others wanted to open a new round of bloody confrontation on the peninsula of Aimos.
With the Treaty of Athens of November 1/14, 1913, which signed between Greece and Turkey, ended the state of war between the two countries and confirmed what "preliminary" had concluded with the Treaty of London. This Treaty, according to Venizelos, was "the last word on the Cretan Question", as it disappeared every trace of Turkish sovereignty over Crete. Following the resignation of Bulgaria from any related claim over Crete, it was unnecessary to be required a corresponding waiver of the other two states to which Crete was jointly granted with the Treaty of London (Serbia and Montenegro). Regarding the issue of the Aegean islands, with the Treaty of Athens, the two countries entrusted its setting to the Powers. On January 31, 1914 the Powers updated their earlier decision in the context of the London conference, for the concession to Greece of all islands except Imbros, Tenedos and Kastelorizo, setting two conditions: that Greece should not fortify nor to exploit the islands for military purposes. Also, after the granting of Northern Epirus in the Albanian state, by the Protocol of Florence on December 17, 1913, the Greek army had to withdraw from its territory. However, the decision of the Powers was not accepted by Turkey. The next time, Venizelos attempted a secret diplomatic approach in order to achieve a Greek-Turkish agreement to ensure the permanent annexation of the islands in Greece, which had also become involved in a new naval arms competition for dominance in the Aegean. The resources allocated, as the first installment of a loan of 500 million francs, intended to cover part of the war cost of 1912-13 and to finance the post-war reconstruction and development.
Undoubtedly, the Treaty of Bucharest sealed the success of the Greek war effort of 1912-13. In ten months the borders of a small free Greek kingdom were from Melouna in Beles, Prespa and Nestos. Its extent doubled, from 63.211 to 120.308 square kilometers. Greece acquired areas with particular geopolitical significance, considerable fertile land and new sources of wealth. Its population grew by 80%, from 2.631.952 to 4.718.221 residents. Henceforth, had no land borders with multinational and vast Ottoman Empire but with nation states to the northeast with Bulgaria to the north with Serbia and the newly created Albania. The Treaty constituted a decisive step towards the fulfilling of the Greek national claims, but it was not its complete vindication. Areas with strong Greek presence (Eastern Romylia, Thrace, Monastir e.tc.), or brought into a Bulgarian sovereignty either remained under Ottoman administration. Moreover, the treaty left in limbo the fate of Northern Epirus and the islands of the eastern Aegean, which, as we saw, the first attached to the Albanian state, while almost all of the islands have been attributed to Greece.
The territorial and population growth of Greece brought a new potential for development of the national economy and for the upgrade of the military power, while also improved the position of the Greek state in the international diplomatic arena. Greece was now a regional force in the Balkans, by controlling the bulk of the southern coast of the Aegean and generally in southeastern Europe. What mattered was the organization and smooth integration of the new areas and their population in the Greek state and the exploit of the development opportunities that arose, especially with the annexation of fertile land and developed cities in Macedonia. To effectively manage the new reality, general authorities were established. The Greek government by taking advantage of the fertile land and the new wealth sources (tobacco and forestry in Macedonia, olive production in the islands, livestock in Epirus) significantly stimulated the national economy. At the same time, population growth meant the expanding of the internal market and essentially imposed industrial development, and improvements in communication links (mainly road and rail network) within the country but also in neighboring states. Inevitably, however, some problems remained unresolved, such as the agricultural issue while, because of the war effort the reform work of the first government of Venizelos was halted violently. Moreover, growth opportunities could be exploited to the full in a peaceful environment, not in a context of generalized uncertainty. And the Treaty of Bucharest, although regulated a lot of the Balkan affairs, left important unfinished business. It was for example given, that Bulgaria and Turkey sought the first opportunity to improve their position. The British Foreign Minister Grey foresaw that with the Treaty of Bucharest in place, any future Balkan peace will be impossible.
In addition, Greece was confronted with the simultaneous genesis of the refugee and minority issue. The Greek populations that remained in the territory of the Ottoman Empire in eastern Thrace and Asia Minor were in dire straits. The Turkish population turned against them, in most cases based on structured plans. During 1914, more than 250.000 refugees fled to Greece, to the Aegean islands and the mainland territories. Moreover, the new countries that joined the Greek state were inhabited by compact non-Greek populations. Thus, should de facto create a framework for the coexistence of heterogeneous populations in a state that did not have relevant experience. The minority issue, its basic parameter the integrating of the new populations, exacerbated in the coming years, especially after the First World War and the Asia Minor Disaster.
On December 1st, 1913 at Firkas, Chania held the official ceremony of the union of Crete with Greece in the presence of King Constantine and Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos. In symbolic terms, that day, with the completion of four years of the arrival of Venizelos in Athens, closed a circle. The assessment that Venizelos could have is sure to satisfy the Cretan political leader. He had created a new Greece. With a vast reforming work and his ornate diplomatic options, with great sacrifice on the battlefields, Greece had achieved what few years ago seemed impossible. Beyond the territorial and population doubling, what was significantly changed was the very face of the Greek state, in an institutional, financial and military level. The country acquired infrastructure and stood in the way of development and progress. From pariah of the international system had evolved into a significant regional power with international prestige and its position in the military adventures that would follow would be enhanced. Moreover, thanks to the war effort of 1912-13 and with Venizelos’ own personal stamp, his homeland was united to the national center. It was a vindication for generations of Cretans of their bitter struggles to the revolutionary and diplomatic field, in several of which Venizelos himself was the protagonist.