868.51 Public Works/10

The Minister in Greece (Skinner) to the Secretary of State

No. 814

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my telegram of February 7, 1929,3 stating that the International Financial Commission had communicated to the various Governments represented on the Commission the request of the Hellenic Government that the Commission accept the service of the loan contract for $54,000,000, just concluded between the Hellenic Government and Messrs. J. & W. Seligman of New York.4 I am told privately that the delegates are not encouraging their Governments to comply with the request. In extension of this information, I transmit herewith, in translation, copies of the correspondence exchanged between the Hellenic Minister of Finance and the International Financial Commission.3 These letters have been submitted to me in confidence.

It was because of my fear that some such situation as this might present itself that I cabled the Department on January 29th [28th?].3 In existing circumstances, the matter now being before the Governments of France, Great Britain and Italy for decision, I have suggested to the Department that our Ambassadors in the countries [Page 88] named be instructed to make it known that the Government of the United States would be glad to have the Commission undertake the service indicated. I can hardly suppose that they would refuse such a request, especially as it would involve the Commission itself in no important additional effort. The funds of the Hellenic Government already pass through the Commission’s hands, and the only substantial labor involved in taking over the service of the Seligman loan would be to allocate a due proportion of available receipts for the payment of coupons under an irrevocable authorization from the Hellenic Government.

Inasmuch as the Department may be under the impression that the International Financial Commission sitting in Athens has been set up by banking interests in France, Great Britain and Italy, I may mention that one of the principal characteristics of the Commission in Greece is that it is composed exclusively of delegates of the three Powers, who may be revoked directly by the appointing Powers, which originally included Germany and Russia also.

I have previously suggested that the Department may now wish to give consideration to the appointment of an American delegate to sit upon the Commission, either with powers concurrent with those of other delegates, or with authority only to concern himself with American interests. It must be admitted that our position is not wholly satisfactory when, in order to protect American investors, we find ourselves obliged to invoke the intervention of a Commission created by three foreign Governments, and in which we have no voice whatever. On the going into effect of the Seligman contract, we shall have placed loans in this country amounting to well over $100,000,000, and, should the Senate pass the pending Greek settlement bill,6 the American Government would itself become concerned in these matters in the same manner as our bankers and investors generally. As the labors of the Commission are technical and wholly non-political, it does not occur to me that our membership in this Commission could be attacked as contrary to our traditional attitude respecting European affairs. The cost of maintaining the Commission itself is borne by the Hellenic State. The delegate who might represent the United States could be either a Legation official or a special appointee. In any case, his actual labors would be inconsiderable.

The Department is aware, I think, that our commercial and financial interests in Greece have grown enormously of late, and I hope will continue to expand in a favorable sense.

I have [etc.]

Robert P. Skinner
  1. Not printed.
  2. Dated January 25, 1929; not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.
  5. See Foreign Relations, 1928, vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.