Friday, 12 April 2019

How refugees die

This article was published by The Sewanee Review

I met Doa Shukrizan at the harbormaster’s office in the port of
Chania, in western Crete. She sat with her back to a balcony
 overlooking the street, and the strong morning light enveloped
 her delicate figure, so that there appeared to be even
less of her than there was after her ordeal with the sea. Doa’s face 
had peeled from extreme sunburn; she spoke softly. Between the
cavernous ceiling and polished concrete floor, the only furnishings
 were tables, chairs and ring binders, so that voices, however slender,
 resounded. There were no secrets in this room. During the hour
 that we spoke, three coastguard officers sat at their desks not doing
 any work, transfixed by what she said.

Doa and her fiancé had been among some five hundred people
 who boarded a fishing trawler at the port of Damietta in the Nile
Delta on September 6, 2014. Many, like Doa, were Syrian. Others
 were Palestinian or Sudanese. All were fleeing war and had paid
 smugglers to ferry them, illegally, to Italy.

Doa’s family had fled their native town of Daraa soon after the
Syrian uprising began there in March 2011, when Doa was just sixteen. They spent more than two years in an unofficial refugee camp
 in Egypt, and pooled enough money to pay Doa’s and her fiancé’s 
passage, so they could start their lives in Europe.

Why Greeks abhor and applaud Brexit

The secret appeal of Britain’s imperiousness to Europe’s disenfranchised South

This article was published in the Spectator US.

Pavlos Eleftheriadis is as Anglophilic a Greek as they come. His wife and children are British, and he is a professor of public law at Oxford. But Brexit has altered Eleftheriadis’ view of life in Britain.

‘Psychologically, it’s difficult to accept that half of the society you live in is against the presence of Europeans,’ he says. ‘This came out very strongly, including from the prime minister herself. She said we have to stop the free movement of workers from Europe. It’s her primary objective. This wounds you. You wonder why they say this and what led them to it.’

Eleftheriadis says that he’s never seen a hint of racism or prejudice in professional life. But he’s hedging against the attitudes of the next generation. This year, he’s taking a sabbatical, partly in order to acquaint his children with their Greek roots.

‘My children have Greek names. I’m not sure I want them to grow up here 100 percent British. I want them to be Greek, too… so they can have a choice in case things become very ugly in Britain.’

Political divisions widen in Albania as EU decision nears

Poverty, crime, corruption and political instability are testing the EU-aspiring country

 This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

The perception that Edi Rama’s socialist government has embraced special interests, and especially the illegal drug trade, is widespread in Albania. Two interior ministers have resigned under suspicion of taking bribes from organized crime. The opposition Democratic Party is refining that sentiment into political fuel.

Last month it walked out of parliament and took to the street, beginning a series of protests outside Rama’s office. On Thursday it is inaugurating a new practice of demonstrating outside parliament every time there is a debate.

“Amendments we proposed were voted down without discussion. Whenever ministers were called to report before parliamentary commissions, they declined,” Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha tells Al Jazeera. “Investigative committees never worked because contrary to the law they refused to submit evidence of investigations we initiated of collusion between organized crime and senior ministers, including the two former ministers of interior. And finally they even denied our right of parliamentary debate. So finally we just became a piece of a picture-perfect parliament with government and opposition, which was effectively a façade.”

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Why Greek-Turkish turbulence is likely to worsen

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.
Alexis Tsipras meets Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on February 5.
Turkey chose the day of the Greek prime minister’s visit to place a $6.1mn bounty on the heads of Turkish eight army officers seeking asylum in Greece. This emphasis had been suggested days earlier, when the powerful National Security Council in Ankara issued a demand for their extradition, despite the fact that the Greek Supreme Court has forbidden this on humanitarian grounds.

The court’s decision is unreviewable, but the Turkish government suspects the men of helping to plot a failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016. The men commandeered a helicopter to escape Turkey and seek asylum in Greece.

To the conservative Greek opposition, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had walked into a trap. “This visit is poorly prepared by the Greek side, and augurs ill for Greek interests and Greek-Turkish relations,” declared Greek shadow foreign minister Yiorgos Koumoutsakos.

“For the last 18 months, Turkey has toughened its rhetoric and backed that up with actions. The result is that the two countries are in a state of constant confrontation. Nothing has occurred to make us believe in a breakthrough,” says Angelos Syrigos, an expert in international law at Panteion University in Athens, and a candidate with the conservative New Democracy party.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Greece, North Macedonia have their work cut out for them

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

NATO and the European Union celebrated Greece’s ratification of the Prespes Agreement on January 25, whereby it recognizes its northern neighbour as North Macedonia.

But the agreement has yet to enter into force. “It has been adopted, but not implemented. It’s an interim period,” says Greek foreign ministry spokesman Alexandros Gennimatas. “As soon as we ratify the NATO Induction Protocol, we shall inform Skopje and they will reply saying that “we are now called North Macedonia.”

This is to happen over the next ten days. Then North Macedonia’s induction will have to be ratified by the parliaments of all 29 NATO members. “Last time this took year,” says Gennimatas, referring to Montenegro’s induction in 2017.

In the weeks following, Greece is also expected to notify the EU that it supports accession talks with North Macedonia. The two countries will upgrade their liaison offices to full embassies.

Within five years, North Macedonia is to rename all its public bodies, adjust its internal official documents and replace all passports currently in circulation.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

What's next in the Greece-North Macedonia agreement

The Greek parliament on January 25 ratified the Prespes Agreement with 153 votes in the 300-seat chamber, whereby it recognises its northern neighbour as North Macedonia. 

Over the next two weeks: Once the Prespes Agreement is published in the Greek government gazette and NATO informed that it is law, NATO will invite member states to accept North Macedonia as a member. Once Greece ratifies the NATO Accession Protocol, North Macedonia will inform the United Nations and other international bodies that the Prespes Agreement is in force.

In the weeks following: Greece is also expected to notify the EU that it supports accession talks with North Macedonia. The two countries will upgrade their liaison offices to full embassies.

Within six months: North Macedonia will convene a committee to review its monuments and public buildings and how they "refer in any way to ancient Hellenic history and civilisation," and take appropriate "corrective action". (8.2).

Some substantive changes may take longer. Trade and education are the most prickly areas. The two countries have set up a joint committee of trade experts this year to discuss trademarks and brand names containing the term Macedonia or Macedonian. The committee must conclude an agreement within three years on mutually acceptable uses of such names. (1.3.h)

A Joint Inter-Disciplinary Committee of Experts on historic, archaeological and educational matters formed last year will revise school textbooks, maps and teaching guides to remove "irredentist /revisionist references" to ancient Macedonia or other Greek heritage, and in the process is redesign the next North Macedonian generation's identity. (8.5).

The two parties are also supposed to establish an Action Plan of cooperation on a range of issues like transport, civil protection, agriculture, energy, the environment, infrastructure, investments and defence. They are to establish a High Level Cooperation Council to oversee that plan. (14).

Within five years: North Macedonia is to rename all its public bodies, adjust its internal official documents and replace all  passports currently in circulation. (1.10)

Friday, 25 January 2019

Greek parliament set for historic Macedonia name vote

This article was published by Al Jazeera International

On Thursday night, Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) are scheduled to put to rest a 27-year dispute over the latter country’s name.

That’s when the Greek parliament is scheduled to ratify the Prespes Agreement, reached last June. FYROM agrees to abandon “Republic of Macedonia” - the name it chose for itself when it declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 – and call itself North Macedonia. Greece agrees to lift its veto to North Macedonia’s membership in NATO and the European Union. A source of instability and ill feeling in southeast Europe is thus removed. There are economic dividends, too. North Macedonia’s premier, Zoran Zaev, reports an 18.7 percent uplift in mutual trade over the past ten months.

To the casual observer, an incomprehensible dispute has been resolved. Yet the compromise has brought political turmoil in both capitals. In Skopje, social-democrat Zaev was soundly beaten in a referendum on the deal; he ratified it in parliament by luring eight MPs from the nationalist VMRO party across the aisle.