Saturday, 16 June 2018

Greece's Muslims seek reform between civil and religious laws

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

When he died almost a decade ago, Chatidje Molla Sali’s husband willed her a comfortable widowhood: at least a million dollars’ worth of rentable property in the northern Greek province of Thrace, where the couple lived, and in Istanbul, from where he hailed.

That financially secure life has so far eluded her. Molla Sali’s two sisters-in-law contested the will on the grounds that, as a member of Thrace’s Muslim community, their brother was bound by the precepts of Islamic law, under which they, too, should receive a share of his estate.

The Sali dispute has now escalated into a landmark case at the European Court of Human Rights and prompted the Greek government to radically alter the law governing its Muslims for the first time since they found themselves outside the jurisdiction of the Ottoman Empire in 1918.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Greek government faces censure over Macedonia deal

 This article was published by Al Jazeera International

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (L) and aides walk to the president's office to announce the Macedonia deal on 12 June

The Greek government faces a vote of no confidence over its deal with the former Yugoslav Macedonia.

The conservative opposition New Democracy party brought the motion on Thursday, saying the deal “is opposed by the overwhelming majority of the Greek people.” The vote is to take place late on Saturday.

To survive, the government needs at least 151 of its 154 MPs to vote against the censure motion in the 300-seat chamber. If it should fail to garner the votes, it would fall and an election would be called.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Severna Makedonja is born

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

All smiles: Greek premier Alexis Tsipras (L) informs president Prokopis Pavlopoulos of the deal on Tuesday.

Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia announced a historic agreement on that country’s future name, ending a 27-year dispute. 

Severna (or Nor180612 thern) Macedonia was one of three names left on the table since talks began in January. Premier Zoran Zaev chose it over Gorna (Upper) Macedonia and Nova (New) Macedonia.

“I believe all greeks can today be proud,” Greek premier Alexis Tsipras said in a five-minute announcement on Tuesday night. “This is a great diplomatic victory and a historic opportunity… not just for our nation but for our entire region. A source of discord that undermined the region’s ability to go forward together is ended, and a window of friendship, cooperation, prosperity and mutual growth opens onto the future.”

Thursday, 7 June 2018

In Macedonia, Greece is torn between history and realpolitik

This article was published by Al Jazeera international.

PELLA, Greece – Tens of thousands of Greeks took to the streets across the country on Wednesday, to protest against a reportedly imminent deal between Athens and its northern neighbour that would share Macedonian identity between the two peoples.

Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have been in talks since January to establish full diplomatic relations for the first time since the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. Key to that normalization is finding a name for the country whose government resides in Skopje that Athens can live with.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Europe's trade confrontation with US escalates

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

The European Commission opened trade proceedings against the US a day after it announced tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from its closest allies, Canada, Mexico and the European Union, but restrained its rhetoric.

We’re not in a trade war but we are in a very difficult situation. It could escalate," said Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, adding that the US was “playing a dangerous game.”

This is bad news for European business, the transatlantic relationship and world trade,” said Marcus J Beyrer, Director General of BusinessEurope, an industry lobby group. “The EU needs to remain a strong leader against protectionism and unilateralism in support of rules-based trade,” he added.

Monday, 28 May 2018

In Greek economy’s vicious cycle, workers lose most

This article was published by Al Jazeera International

ATHENS, Greece -- Out of money and out of time, Alexandros Mnimatidis is a product of his generation. He cannot afford to attend the robotics degree he enrolled in because he also needs to work and contribute to his parents’ household budget. But without that degree, it’ll be difficult for him to rise above the retail work he now does for $4.78 an hour. 

“At the present rate,” he says, “it’ll take me another ten years to graduate. I’ll be 35, and at that age it’ll be really difficult to find a job in my area of expertise.”

If he fails to obtain a university education, Mnimatidis may eventually join the ranks of Greece’s working poor – people who cannot improve their socio-economic position, no matter how hard they work.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Greece vs. Turkey: Are we headed for an Intra-NATO War?

This article was published by The Weekly Standard.

Soldiers parade on Greece's national day, March 25.

The Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey hosts one of the world’s highest concentrations of high-tech weaponry. Sixty-seven surface ships and two dozen submarines are deployed on a body of water the size of Lake Superior. The two air forces command 448 fighter jets armed with smart bombs and guided missiles. On land, 832 heavy tanks and more than 2,500 lighter artillery vehicles—as much tank firepower as in all the rest of Europe combined—could rapidly be brought to bear along a Greek-Turkish border only 105 miles long.

These arsenals, built up over decades and constantly modernized, were not merely a boon to U.S. and German defence contractors. Western policymakers wanted to believe that loyalty to NATO’s mission of containing the USSR, rather than regional rivalries, motivated this exemplary level of Greek and Turkish defense spending. After the Soviet Union collapsed, good diplomacy and Turkey’s E.U. aspirations made it possible, most of the time, to overlook the downsides of an arms race between uneasy neighbors. Recently, however, the Aegean has become a dangerously narrow sea.

For decades, Turkish military aircraft have regularly violated Greece’s 10-mile airspace around its islands, on the grounds that Greece’s territorial waters extend only six nautical miles from shore, and that air and sea borders should match. Turkish ships also ignore the territorial waters around a number of small islands whose Greek ownership Turkey questions. These ships and planes are intercepted by their Greek counterparts, and mock dogfights result. Occasionally fatal accidents occur.