Tuesday, 25 February 2020

EU’s last nickel smelter heads for the gallows, or an afterlife


This article was published by Al Jazeera International

A worker injects pure oxygen into furnace number one to coax out molten nickel-iron at a temperature of 1,300 degrees Celsius

LARYMNA, Greece - The final countdown has begun for Larco, the European Union’s only remaining nickel smelter, and its 1,260 workers and their families. The Greek state can no longer afford to finance it and has given it a final dowry of 35mn euros and a year to find an investor.

“If during this period three quarters of Larco’s assets haven’t been sold, the company must file for bankruptcy,” finance minister Christos Staikouras told parliament.

Larco sits at the centre of a $170mn economy. In addition to its miners, smelters and office workers, more than 22,000 suppliers and contractors are dependent on it, so shuttering it would entail a high political cost.

But the eight month-old New Democracy government has its sights fixed on a new age of smaller government, lower taxes, renewable energy and competitive, high-tech services, and appears impatient to close the book on an attempt at heavy industry that began in the 1950s and was largely bankrupt thirty years later.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Is the US heading to the front lines of European defence?


This article was published by Al Jazeera International.
A Greek Chinook helicopter ferries journalists to joint US-Greek wargames on February 19


In contrast to its ongoing redeployment of forces in the Middle East, the US appears to be surging to the fore of European defence.



The US-led annual Defender Europe exercise will involve 20,000 US troops - more than those of all its NATO allies put together, and more than at any time in the past quarter-century.



“The overarching goal of the event is to demonstrate the ability of the US to lift and shift a division-size force over long distances,” said Tod D. Wolters, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe earlier this month. “The planning in itself is deterrence,” he said.


Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Greece says it’s speeding up asylum cases and returns


This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

Greece says it has begun to enforce fast track procedures for new asylum-applicants and is stepping up deportations to Turkey, but aid organisations voice concerns that applicants’ rights are being  trampled upon.

Greece deported 53 asylum-seekers in January, police tell Al Jazeera, a significant increase on last year’s monthly average of 16, but only slightly higher than the monthly average of 45 since the EU-Turkey Statement went into effect in April 2016. Turkey and the European Union are obliged to readmit irregular migrants from each other under that agreement.

“The rules have changed. We’re no longer open to people who don’t have a refugee profile,” said migration minister Notis Mitarakis on Friday as he headed for the island of Chios, his constituency and one of five eastern Aegean islands bearing the brunt of new arrivals.

“We’re now taking at least first instance [asylum] decisions within four weeks,” he said.

En route to Berlin, Haftar holds talks with top Greek officials

This article was published by Al Jazeera International


ATHENS, Greece- Smarting from its exclusion in Libyan peace talks, Greece scored a diplomatic win on Friday when Libyan warlord Halifa Haftar paid an unexpected visit to Athens, on his way to the UN-sponsored talks in Berlin.



Greece asked to be included in the Berlin Process, as the talks are called, saying it has vital interests at stake.



The Council of Ministers in Tripoli signed a maritime jurisdiction agreement with Turkey last year that claims waters Greece also sees as part of its own jurisdiction.



Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), based in Benghazi, is at war with the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al Sarraj, based in Tripoli.



Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias said Haftar agreed that a ceasefire agreement had to recognise “the invalidity of the illegal memoranda between Turkey and the Sarraj government.” The government says Haftar has committed to negotiating a new maritime deal with Greece.