Sunday, 20 January 2019

Chronology of the Macedonian Issue

1805 – Serbian revolution against the Ottoman Empire

1821 – Greek revolution against the Ottoman Empire

1830 – founding of the Greek state

1844 – Greece’s first prime minister, Ioannis Kolettis, first articulates the ideology of the Great Idea in Greek parliament.

28 Feb / 12 Mar 1870 – Under Russian pressure, Sultan Abdul Aziz grants Bulgaria suzerainty (exarchy) over a broad swathe of the Balkans stretching from Balkan Mts. to Danube, essentially what is today northern Bulgaria. This is an idea the Bulgarians had been working towards since 1856, and their efforts intensified after Nikolai Ignatieff was installed as Russian ambassador to the Porte in 1864. Majority Greek areas are excluded but article 10 allows them to join the exarchy if 2/3 of the population wish it. The patriarchate held a Holy and Great Synod in 1872 to condemn tribal nationalism (εθνοφυλετισμός) and the period marks the beginning of Greek-Bulgarian rivalry in the Balkans.

1875 – revolution in Bosnia-Herzegovina

1876 – Serbo-Ottoman war

April 1876 – Bulgarian revolution

Monday, 14 January 2019

Greek government splits over Macedonia

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

ATHENS, Greece - Defence Minister Panos Kammenos and his Independent Greeks party quit Greece’s ruling coalition on Sunday, potentially leaving it without a governing majority in parliament.

Kammenos disagrees with a deal struck with former Yugoslav Macedonia last June, which would rename that country North Macedonia. Many Greeks believe that any name containing the term Macedonia would imply territorial claims on Greece’s northern province of the same name, incorporated into the Greek state in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13.

“We cannot, for the sake of membership in the government, sacrifice Macedonia for which blood has been spilled,” Kammenos said on Sunday.

In Greece, Merkel embraces former Eurosceptics

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

Angela Merkel left Greece on Friday after an unusual show of support for the leftwing government of Alexis Tsipras and disdain for her fellow-conservative opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

What caused this reverse-polarity was the Syriza government’s agreement with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) last year to change that country’s name to North Macedonia.

That agreement has led to a series of constitutional revisions by Greece’s neighbour, expected to be finalized this week. The onus will then be on Greece to ratify the agreement. Greece’s veto on North Macedonia joining NATO and the European Union would then be lifted.

“I am especially grateful to Alexis Tsipras for taking the initiative on a very difficult problem,” Merkel said on Thursday, praising his “great courage”. Merkel had less kind words for Mitsotakis, leader of the New Democracy party, which vows to vote against the agreement.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Mattis resigns. So should Trump.

Let's forget about whether Trump is senile, clueless or a Manchurian candidate (and these are the only choices). The motive is no longer the point, but the effect for all those of us living at the edges of the US security arrangement. One can only imagine that Erdogan, Putin and Xi are gleeful at the sheer speed with which the US administration is becoming unable to function and ceding power. Were Greece to suffer an attack, one wonders whether the US now even has the decision-making power to come to its aid. This is a big additional step to being worried about the fall of democracy in the free world. One can only hope for impeachment, but this would be bloody and divisive, and the RP would not be healed by the departure of one man. For the foreseeable future, therefore, Europe is on its own. France, Britain and Greece, the only countries with serious defence capabilities, need now to start forming a European army with its own command and control structures. 

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Greece is flogging its productive class to death

Greece has increased its taxes faster than any other developed economy over the past decade. In fact, only a minority of taxpayers carries the vast majority of the income tax burden. A new study found that 19 percent of workers pays 90 percent of income tax, and 4.5 percent of businesses pays 83 percent of corporate tax. This means one thing: the productive private sector is in its death throes. Most workers cannot earn enough to pay tax, and most businesses have very low turnover. It should tell the government that 2.2mn people still employed in the private sector can no longer support 700K public sector workers, a million unemployed and 3mn pensioners, plus children and other dependents. Greek governments have for years flogged a dying horse - no one more cruelly than Syriza. When I report on the travails of the Greeks, I see snide remarks about how they should stop whingeing and grow up etc. What people in better-governed societies may not realise is that a minority of Greeks is working very hard indeed to save the entire economy from collapse, but governments are not elected by them. They are elected by the handout majority. We have taxation without representation. Given demographic trends, other European societies could eventually end up with a similar democratic deficit.


Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Erdogan is building a new Turkish empire

This article was published in The Spectator USA

Last year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan campaigned for a new constitution that would change his country’s polity from a parliamentary to a presidential system. When German officials refused to allow his ministers to travel to Germany and woo its million-strong expatriate vote, he called them Nazis. He later also accused the German Chancellor of Nazism for saying that the European Union should reconsider its relations with Turkey – a veiled threat for suspending talks to bring it into the EU. Ankara and Amsterdam withdrew their ambassadors during a spat over the same campaign.

During a disastrous visit to Athens last December, Erdogan demanded the return of ten fugitive officers Erdogan considers plotted against him in a July 2016 army coup that nearly unseated him, even though Greece’s Supreme Court ruled against their extradition. And he called for a revision of the Lausanne Treaty, which has established peace between Greece and Turkey for the last century.

But the worst clash was with the US. Last summer, Congress discussed imposing sanctions on Turkey over its refusal to release an American pastor. Now released, Andrew Brunson had been imprisoned for two years for allegedly plotting against Erdogan. The US is also withholding delivery of F-35 stealth aircraft Turkey has bought because it is unhappy over Turkey’s increasingly close relationship with Russia. Russia is building Turkey’s first nuclear reactor and Turkey plans to purchase Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles over the objections of NATO.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Greek official blows the whistle on refugee costs

This article was published by Al Jazeera International

A senior Greek official has described the way the government buys migration-related services as "chaos," after Greece's top court ordered an inquiry into the handling of European Union funds paid to Athens to assist with the refugee and migration crisis.

Andreas Iliopoulos, head of Greece’s Reception and Identification Service, which registers undocumented migrants when they enter the country, says Greek and European taxpayers may be subject to fraud because many contracts are awarded directly to Greek firms and non-governmental organisations without going through a competitive bidding process.

“[Fast-track procedures mean] I can go directly to interested parties. I can come to you and make a deal without revealing too much information to others,” said Lieutenant-General Andreas Iliopoulos in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera. “That makes sense when people are landing on the beach and we have to feed them and there are no obvious means of doing so… This happened in 2015, but we can’t claim that in 2018.