Friday, December 31, 2010

This is how you wreck any efford to make Europe united.

As published in the Irish Times, 25 Jun 2009.
Latest Nixon tapes reveal broker role offer to Lynch. 

By Denis Staunton. 

Days after Ireland joined the European Economic Community in 1973, Richard Nixon urged former Taoiseach Jack Lynch to act as a “broker” between European and American interests by discouraging protectionism.

The request came during a 30-minute meeting at the Oval Office on January 5th, 1973, a recording of which is part of 150 hours of newly released White House tapes.

Ireland had joined the Common Market, along with Britain and Denmark, just four days earlier and Nixon told Lynch he was worried about the bloc’s future trade policy.

“There’s a lot of concern in this country about what’s going to happen in relation to Europe. And I would think myself and would hope that Ireland would play, the Irish government would play frankly a broker’s role and say, look, we’d better look out for this. You may have more fish to fry with us than with some of these other people,” Nixon said.

“That’s right,” Lynch replied.

“We would hope so.”

Peter Flanigan, who was Nixon’s assistant for international economic affairs and attended the meeting with Lynch, confirmed to The Irish Times yesterday that the White House had indeed feared that the Common Market would move towards protectionism.

Lynch was in Washington to attend a memorial service for former president Harry Truman but he took the opportunity of the White House meeting to brief Nixon on developments in the North in the run-up to the Sunningdale Agreement and to discuss bilateral economic issues.

Much of the discussion focused on a dispute over the Shannon stopover, with the White House threatening to lift Aer Lingus’s right to land at Chicago unless the required stopover at Shannon for US carriers was shortened.

Nixon offered no concessions to Lynch on the landing rights issue but he advised the Taoiseach on how he could spin the meeting back in Ireland.

“You could say that the president directed that Mr Flanigan review the problem again, bearing in mind the points you made,” Nixon suggested.

Lynch told Nixon that the Irish economy was doing well and was a good venue for US investment, although he had harsh words for the unions.

“Our big problem, of course, is that our trade unionists have inherited all the bad habits of the British trade union movement. They’re looking for too much for too little work,” Lynch said.

The US president said it was difficult to handle unions, particularly if they were unable to impose discipline on their own members.

“You know, it’s really hard to be a responsible leader in Ireland, just as it’s hard to be a responsible leader in America,” said Nixon, who would resign from office the following year in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

Other newly released recordings cast further light on Nixon’s handling of the Watergate investigation and the former president’s attitude to abortion. After the supreme court struck down laws criminalizing abortion in June 1973, Nixon expressed concern that the ruling could encourage permissiveness but suggested that abortion could be necessary in some cases, including interracial pregnancies.

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white. Or a rape,” he told an aide.

The reason and purpose of this Blog!

It is time I think to explain to my readers the reason for this blog.

If you take in account that the majority of the media in this world, are owned by mainly 5-6 multinational companies, then you realize that the "news" that we are being presented, are a product.

Not much different than anything else that is produced by a multinational company: mass produced, to reflect the interest of the masses, the popular conception of the events that are taking place and the national interest. Or are they?

Could the people who own the media, try to shape our interests and our conceptions? The way we see the world, our perception of it or what we should like, believe or support in our life. Just imagine this: would we in Europe accept multiculturalism as easily, if we haven't been for decades exposed to movies or TV programs from the USA?

If it bleeds it sells in our media, sad but true. But do we really want to know how many people died and in what way, more than we would want to know what really is being cooked in our Parliaments, the European Parliament, the UN meetings or the G20, G8 and so on.

What is more important, a family that accidentally perished in a blaze, or what has been discussed and agreed in all these summits by our leaders and how will they affect us in the future? Do we form what become news in our media, or do the media dictate what is news for us?

Personally I love questioning everything, thinking, having an active not a passive mind. If you are into politics, Europe, European history, culture and heritage, European social issues and economics but from a citizen's point of view you may like this blog. What I am trying to do is not impress you with my knowledge of economics. I am not an economist. Rather present you with thoughts, ideas and analyze European politics as any ordinary citizen would do.

I am trying to inspire you to become more active or even understand a bit more about some European, (or Irish and Greek) political realities. Writing about politics and social issues, as well as historic facts is my passion. I want to change the way people think and become more active politically and socially. I do not feel very comfortable with idle people, people with no interests or opinion.

So what I am trying to achieve in this blog, is to stimulate your brains and offer you an alternative point of view. Many  times an inconvenient or uncomfortable alternative opinion that you will in no way find in any mainstream media.

I believe that blogs like this have a lot to offer in breaking the monopoly of the established media and start a debate among ordinary citizens. With ideas and information that are not widely accepted or promoted in our national media, perhaps we can reach different conclusions and solutions. Hopefully you will find some interesting ideas by reading this blog. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The crisis in Ireland and Greece. What is really going on?

Being a Greek living in Ireland, I am only able to feel double disappointment and anger lately. Last year I had to watch the country I originally come from being humiliated with the IMF loan, this year is the turn of the country I chose to live in.

In both cases the citizens were the ones who had to pay for the mistakes and mismanagement of their politicians. If we study what happened in Greece and how things have evolved there, can we expect similar events in Ireland?

In Greece from a “sluggish” economy and with a public that favored its socialist structures, things have transformed in a way which can only be compared to what happened in Britain during the Thatcher government in the ‘80s. Mass privatizations, high unemployment and social unrest.

 For the first time we have things that existed in Britain decades ago, like private parking companies, the destruction of the public sector, the sell off of all national resources and companies and the dissolution of the local governments.

Speaking with family and friends from Greece, I am sad that I have to keep listening to frightening news. The public sector employees are particularly hard hit. The sector is quite large in Greece, but that does not justify pay cuts that in some cases are reaching amounts up to 40% of the original salaries, while the VAT on basic supplies like food is up to 23%.

 Pensions and social welfare benefits are also cut and the general climate and feeling among the public is fear, uncertainty and anger. Households do not know how to make ends meet, and they are bracing themselves for 2011 and the new cuts and measures announced by the Government.

In Ireland the Government only announced its new budget this week, and even though the new measures are not as drastic as in Greece, the feelings among the general public are the same. Will more cuts follow a year later like in Greece? And why none of the bankers or politicians that are responsible for the current situation is being brought to justice?

In Iceland they are taking their former Prime Minister Mr. Geir Haarde to court over negligence that led to the country’s financial collapse. Can we see anything like that in Greece or Ireland? While the European Parliament warned that austerity might harm growth, such measures are still being forced upon us.

Many say those measures are necessary to save the economy of those countries, the euro and Europe's economy. But the ordinary citizens will carry the weight of all these reforms and not those responsible. Will Greece become like Britain after the Thatcherite years and has Athens the potential in becoming the London of the Balkans in the future?

This new reality is just a transformation period, to change dramatically the economies of countries that for so many years had outdated or dysfunctional financial policies, hindering their growth. Are they a part of the plan to promote new social policies in Greece, Ireland and in Europe in general?

There are rumors in Greece that big multinational companies are behind all this that are after the oil and natural gas of the Aegean, and the uranium and gold of the Greek region of Macedonia. They want to bring the country to its knees, make it bankrupt so Greece will be forced to sell off all its natural resources for nothing to those companies, exactly as they did to many African countries before. And the same rumors exist here in Ireland about the natural gas reserves.A populist myth, or is there some truth behind it?

Other folk in Greece talk about financial slavery. Both countries have lost their sovereignty to the global marketeers, who can now control their policies and tell them what to do. They force cutting of the salaries, but then we must raise the taxes. How will people spend their money if they have none, and how can this help the economy recover?

So what is the plan? Perhaps change the attitude and the habits of the Greeks, to make them become other European nations. The affair of the Greek public with its public sector will end abruptly since the salaries will not be as attractive anymore. The sector will shrink dramatically and we do not even know if there is going to be permanency in the future.

Having one work is not enough to make ends meet in Greece anymore. Studying does not guarantee you a secure career since there are no jobs. You have no free social security and you will have to pay for every visit to a doctor, even for the simplest health issue.

 The situation indeed in Greece sounds like a genocide. Young couples can not start a family when they can not even sustain themselves. No children means no future workers, to pay taxes and sustain the economy. The reforms expect them to work until late in their 60s, while it is not even guaranteed that they are gong to get a pension.

If those new measures are necessary, then the Greek politicians should take cuts like their counterparts in Ireland did, even if the amount of their salaries they agreed to be axed is purely symbolic. If the country is really sinking, how come it is the people on lower income that must pull the country out of the difficult situation?Who is benefiting from all this mess and will we see other countries suffer the fate of Greece and Ireland?

In Greece we had very successful retail companies and light industries and also a huge retail market dominated still by small businesses. All that has been destroyed, small companies are being closed down by the financial turmoil, so large multinationals can eventually penetrate and take over.

In Ireland on the other hand, the bail out is not to save the allegedly bankrupt Irish state, but its banks and the foreign investors shares in them. So in a way, the Irish public will have to pay to save the shares of American, British, French and German investors in their banking system.

Why Ireland did not invest in a real economy and utilize its natural resources, rather it created a bubble economy, with no real substance and future? So now the Irish must suffer constant changes from boom to bust and vice versa, while they could have a stable economy and avoid emigration, recession and inequality.

Some people profit from this financial circle that countries like Greece and Ireland must go through, roughly every one or two decades. Who are these people at last, who control the financial fortunes of some countries and the world and how can we protect ourselves from them?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Euro and it's future.

With the ongoing economic crisis, we hear a lot about the collapse of the EURO, the EU's most ambitious project so far. Many skeptics are feeling justified, while most Euro-zone and EU ministers bow that the euro will not and cannot fail, as it would lead to the collapse of EU itself!

First of all, I really believe that the euro is here to stay, even if some countries are forced out for a while or a new form of it may be created. Imagine a single market without a common currency. Free movement of capita, goods and people while having constantly to change currency and being charged interest rates for every transaction, is simply absurd! Those who benefit from all these charges, certainly would love to see the Euro go.

We can not blame the Euro for the crisis. The single currency as an idea, political and financial experiment is a very ambitious one, but it was not designed properly by its creators. In other words it is our governments and Europe's leaders that must be blamed, for creating a currency without the appropriate bodies, policies and safeguards to deal with situations like the ones we are dealing now.

The crisis was not created by the Euro, however it has worsen because of the cracks in its structures. If Europe's elites had agreed to do what was necessary to create a successful currency from the beginning, we would not be in such difficulties now.

A single currency needs a single governance in its policies. It needs a more federal Europe, further integration on economic and political level, something that our leaders are not yet ready to proceed with. They certainly fear their voters' reaction or their countries' business and financial elites, that do not want to change the current status quo.

How can we have a common currency without a common economy? Why aren't all Euro-zone member states encouraged to harmonize and collectively diversify their economies, develop new industries instead of relying on subsidies or bubble economies? If we harmonized our economies, then we would not need to have national currencies in the first place.

National currencies are a better solution when you have a distinct economic model. Without so many different models, we could achieve a more stable Euro. But doing something that is difficult. Europe lacks of strong leadership and I do not think that we are ready for something like that. We have yet to start thinking "European."

We could set up a European fund to start investing in all states, trying to exploit their natural resources and help them develop new technologies, new fields or science while creating more jobs as well! Why have a fragmented European economy with different policies while we try to fit all those under one currency? Instead of that, our leaders chose the "solution" austerity. Well it hasn't done much good for countries like Greece and Portugal so far.

Isn't it crucial when you have one currency, to have one economy as well? Does the USA have two or multiple different kind of policies in its economy, while they are having one currency, the dollar? It is time to start dealing with problems in a European level and set up tools now, for any further crisis that will most certainly come. Then the European integration becomes more successful.

Imagine if there was a common European industry and all states contributed resources, knowledge and funds to research new fields of science. And potentially explore new ways of finding solutions to our problems. Instead of that our leaders believe that competition at any cost is good for our continent, when it only benefits the banks and multinational corporations, who gain from playing one state against another.

Personally I like the euro. To me money and currencies are something I just use to buy stuff, I do not consider them as "national heritage". We used to trade with sea sells and animals bones, having a national currency does not add to my national heritage. I travel a lot as well and not having to change currency while moving from country to country, suits me just fine.

And that is only one of the benefits of the euro. The EU market will get a  boost by the elimination of currency fluctuations, while the single currency creates stable inflation and product prices, price transparency, fewer bureaucratic barriers in transferring large amounts of money between borders. Thus giving Europe a greater influence in global economic policy, rather having to react to developments in USA and Japan.

The future of the Euro can be a great one, if we accept what needs to be done and proceed with the reforms. Like salary harmonization for example across the block. If we keep trying to promote our national interests over others', while keeping the Euro we will find ourselves going in circles again.

We will keep patching temporarily things up, until the next crisis appears. By then, the European voters will definitely have enough of having to pay for the mistakes of our governments, that public support for the Euro will crash. And if that happens we will have no choice but to revert to our national currencies.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Corruption of the Western Powers to involve Greece in WW1.

Sir Basil Zaharoff - The unknown effect of shrewd Greek Vasilis Zacharias (1849-1936)

By Sotirios C. Georgiadis
zaharof1As the recently made public archives reveal, ultra-top secret files of the British Foreign Ministry using the combined activity of British Intelligence and British Foreign Ministry period 1873-1939.
On April 1, 2005 reputable British newspapers, such as TIMES and DAILY TELEGRAPH, announced the opening in March 2005 of the ultra-top secret files of the British Foreign Ministry, the period 1873-1939. These records reveal for the first time the British Secret Service agents' bribery used by Britain during this period of 63 years.

For the purpose of gathering vital information from foreign countries and influence for British foreign policy eminent personalities of the respective States with the acquisition of important political leaders and other personalities.

In the bribery of foreign political leaders, the penetration of British intelligence services, creating unfavorable impression against the then ruler of Greece, included in the archives and Greece in the period 1914-1918. The goal was to remove the country from neutral to observe and to join the Alliance Entente (England-France-Russia) in the WWI.

The ultra-top secret files were available in many papers, which certainly deserve careful study by historians. A first impression of the general account of archival material, together with characteristic information, gives us a summary by Keith Hamilton, historian of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Below are many important and unknown statements mentioned by Keith Hamilton, for the action in Greece, of the basic agent of the British Services. An arms merchant and industrious personality of the era, Zacharias Vasileiadis in the period of WW1 1914-1918. The busy and ingenious Greek, succeeded in being awarded for services rendered to Britain the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire and became widely known as Sir Basil Zaharoff.

 In 1915 he had already a great wealth and luxury residences in Monte Carlo, Paris and elsewhere, moving with complete comfort to the high social, business and political circles of his time. Based on these records, the British historian Keith Hamilton, notes that England in WW1 having previously offered Greek territories in return to Bulgaria to attract it to its side, then noting the failure of the operation after the accession of Bulgaria allied with Germany, turned all its efforts towards the inclusion of Greece on their side.

In this context The British Secret Service were propagating lies, says Keith Hamilton, that neutral King Constantine of Greece was supposedly-German, on the basis that his wife Sophia, was the sister of the German Kaiser. According to Keith Hamilton, the Allies of the Entente have been looking to Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos with collusion, as he writes, that British and French Armed Forces had captured Thessaloniki in order to compel the Greek military to assist in Serbia, in which Germany had attacked with the Central Powers.

The versatile Greek Basil Zacharias, was born in 1849 in a town of southwestern Asia Minor. Later his family was exiled to Odessa. There he turned the name into Zaharoff. Basil grew up in slums of Istanbul. Begging in the streets, did various "odd" jobs not so decent or lawful to earn money. Later, after being trained as tradesman, he traveled to London.

There he went to court for a case of money "mismanagement". From London at the age of 24 years, he fled to Athens where he met and became friends with the then political editor and later Prime Minister (1915-1916) Stephen Skouloudis. Thanks to mediation of which 1877 Basil took the representation of the Swedish arms company Thorsten Nordenfeldt. In this position Basil has developed an outstanding performance, achieving to sell sub-marines to Greek, Ottoman and Russian Navy.

Basil quickly created other profitable businesses, and became not only highly successful arms dealer, but also a banker and an industrialist, while sought to gain control of newspapers. His star has now become known throughout Europe and Asia as Basil Zaharoff, and was continuously and rapidly called 'Mystery Man' and "Merchant of Death". He had stated to a journalist shortly before his death at age 87 in 1936, that in his career he had the potential to cause wars and sell weapons to all warring sides.

He was considered also to able to create the extension of the warfare, to increase the profits from arms sales. After the outbreak of WW1 in 1914, he was dominating the Balkans and the Middle East and with very extensive personal connections with key figures in these regions and Europe, he became necessary and valuable agent of England. In this capacity, he managed to further promote his business and to acquire not only large additional profits, but be named Sir Basil Zaharoff.

In Greece Basil Zaharoff was used by Britain from the outbreak of WW1 in 1914 for penetration and development of propaganda in favor of the accession of Greece to the Entente, led by England. To win Greece towards the Entente, he claimed in a letter found in the referenced file and addressed to senior link with the British Prime Minister, that he needed to spent on bribery in Greece a total of £  1.500.000.

From this money Zaharoff wrote that he had already spent in Greece the last 9 years £ 1,200,000 and with an additional amount of £ 300,000, he stated that would manage within 20 days, the accession of Greece to the Entente and the start of operations of the Greek Army against the adjacent  to Germany,  Bulgaria. Zaharoff also noted, that the leader of the Liberal Party, Eleftherios Venizelos was a dear friend, and also an old friend was prime minister Stephen Skouloudis who will follow his prompt.

Zaharoff continued in his letter that it was first and foremost  important, the acquisition of 45 Greek Members of the Parliament, the pro-German Greek newspaper editors and a Military Governor of the Greek border to accelerate the end of WW1.  The British Prime Minister, despite the misgivings of those responsible, he finally accepted in writing on December 11, 1915, the proposals of Zaharoff's letter, considering in particular that Germany had 3,000 of its own agents in Greece and the Greek newspaper review.

Then the British Government made available to him the amount of £ 1,407,000 depositing money in credit of Zaharoff, in an account of Barclay's Bank. Upon receipt of the money Zacharoff, says Keith Hamilton, briefed Eleftherios Venizelos. As part of the propaganda he was careful to set up in Athens in 1916 the Anglo-French News Agency, which took the form of a Broadcasting Agency.

For the further economic strengthening of Eleftherios Venizelos, records say that Britons spent one million French Francs, which were paid through the National Bank of Egypt to George Averoff, a friend and an agent, as characterizes him Keith Hamilton, of Eleftherios Venizelos. Georgios Averoff was nephew and principal heir of the National benefactor George Averoff (1818-1899) and in the Great Greek Encyclopaedia he was politician of Evia and sponsor of the movement of Eleftherios Venizelos of Thessaloniki 1917, during the WW1 that  intended to gain the support of Greece in the Entente in the war.

From his own money Zaharoff sponsored £ 37,000 according to records, for the establishment of the Liberal Publishing House. However until July 1916, he did not achieve a declaration of war by Greece against Bulgaria, so Zaharoff asked and succeeded the Franco-British financing of the Liberal Party with an additional 5,000,000 GRD for anticipated pr-electoral expenses. Despite pressure from the Entente, there were no elections in Greece, and Greece was forced on a naval blockade imposed by Britain and France and the intervention of French and English forces, to take part in the First World War alongside the Allies.

During the Government of Eleftherios Venizelos in the period 1917-1920, which formed after the naval blockade of Greece, the Athens naval bombardment, the landing of British and French troops in Salonika, the Greek islands occupied by the English and French and in their claim the dethronement of King Constantine in June 1917, Greece took the side of the Entente in WW1 and honored Basil Zaharoff with the distinction of Cross of Christ.
Following is the summary of ultra-top secret files the history of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Keith Hamilton, we will await the analysis of all these very interesting files from historians.

 * Sotirios C. Georgiades is a retired Navy Rear Admiral, Engineer-Naval Architect. Born in Kalamazoo in 1932. He entered the Naval Academy in 1950 and retired in 1985 as a Navy Inspector General. Member of the Society for the Study of Greek History. It deals mainly with the period of WWII.

Translated from Greek by Christos Mouzeviris.

Where is the Camp Bondsteel?


Camp Bondsteel is known as the “grand dame” in a network of US bases running both sides of the border between Kosovo and the FYROM. In less than three years it has been transformed from an encampment of tents to a self sufficient, high tech base-camp housing nearly 7,000 troops—three quarters of all the US troops stationed in Kosovo.

There are 25 kilometers of roads and over 300 buildings at Camp Bondsteel, surrounded by 14 kilometers of earth and concrete barriers, 84 kilometers of concertina wire and 11 watch towers. It is so big that it has downtown, midtown and uptown districts, retail outlets, 24-hour sports halls, a chapel, library and the best-equipped hospital anywhere in Europe.

At present there are 55 Black Hawk and Apache helicopters based at Bondsteel and although it has no aircraft landing strip the location was chosen for its capacity to expand. There are suggestions that it could replace the US Air-force base at Aviano in Italy.

How can a foreign state's base stretch on both sides of the borders between other two states? Seems U.S. military hadn't the greatest regard of borders when they built it! Also, shows a lot about how U.S. officials actually see the Balkans.

So, here is Camp Bondsteel, the “grand dame” of U.S. bases in the Balkans, and here's the reason the world bothers over a handful of FYROM ultra-nationalists, as told by a NATO commander: G.W.Bush has this country outspending the next 46 countries in the world in terms of spending on Death. What needs to be pointed out is that America finds it necessary to have 176 such bases all over the world. Germany has several .. As does England.

So much for ending the cold war!

In April 1999, British General Michael Jackson, the commander in the FYROM during the NATO bombing of Serbia, explained to the Italian paper Sole 24 Ore “Today, the circumstances which we have created here have changed. Today, it is absolutely necessary to guarantee the stability of Macedonia and its entry into NATO. But we will certainly remain here a long time so that we can also guarantee the security of the energy corridors which traverse this country.”

Energy corridors that are infrastructure built by -guess which- companies: Exxon-Mobil and Chevron!
And yet some people still fail to see the bigger picture. The FYROM government first! They don't mind being at ill with their neighbors, they don't mind being the protectorate of some war-mongers, as long as they feed their ego thinking they descent from a king who in his great marches didn't even meet a tribe by the name... 'Slavs'

From the following statistics it's clear that Greece sees Skopje as trading opportunities. Greek businesses get benefited from the neighbor-ship and benefit the under-developed Skopjan economy as well, while a handful of Skopjan ultra-nationalist officials hang propagandist maps on Skopjan streets showing Greek Macedonia as part of their expanded state. That's the difference of mentality between the two parts. Greeks wouldn't mind at all if a name other than 'Macedonia' is used by Skopje, in fact, it's to the Greeks' best interest that a solution is reached soon. But you cannot trade historical heritage.

Between the years 2000-2006, Greeks invested almost 263 million USD in their nascent neighbor. That would make Greece the second largest foreign investor in FYROM. Of the 20 most sizable investments in FYROM's economy, 17 are financed with Greek capital. More than 20,000 people are employed in Greek-owned enterprises (c. 6% of the active workforce in this unemployment-plagued polity).
Greeks are everywhere: banking (28% of their total investment in the country); energy (25%); telecommunications (17%); industry (15%); and food (10%).

also source:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The issue with F.Y.R.O.M.

One of the most important current E.U. agendas is the further expansion of the Union and the inclusion of all Western Balkans. There are many issues that must be resolved, for some of the countries to be eligible to join.

Many of them have issues with corruption, financial, social and judicial problems. One of them has an additional name dispute with an existing E.U. member state, Greece.

Not that the only obstacle for full EU membership that FYROM is facing is the naming dispute. Corruption, a fragmented multi-ethnic society, equality issues between the Albanian and the Slavic communities, freedom of speech are also serious issues.

But focusing on the country's spat with Greece, is the name dispute just "silly," as many of our fellow European nationals think? They are obviously influenced by their national media, that do not give an accurate description of the problem, or they simply do not understand it and are oversimplifying it. Perhaps it masks a deeper problem that is far more complicated for an average European citizen, with limited understanding of the region's history to understand.

Ancient Macedonia has undoubtedly Greek heritage and lineage.All archaeological findings and historical facts point out to this fact. And if in any doubt you may like to listen to a testimony from a non Greek here.

If ancient Macedonians were of different stock then how come we have after the expansion of the empire of Alexander the Great, the creation of the "Hellenistic" period in art, history and culture of Europe and not the "Macedonian"? The Greek language was spread from the Balkans to India, while there is absolutely no evidence that the ancient inhabitants of this land spoke the same language with the citizens of FYROM.

The Romans had also conquered Greece and spread its culture to the rest of Europe, but they also promoted their own language which was Latin. And so we have the different languages that originated from it, in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Romania. Why didn't ancient Macedonians promote their own language, rather prefered to make the Attic dialect of ancient Greek the lingua franca of the times? 

We have to understand that when we are talking about ancient Greece, we are not talking about one state or nation, not even one homogenous ethnic group. Ancient Greece was fragmented in kingdoms, city states, monarchies and tyrannies of the different Greek tribes, just like the different Celtic tribes and organized in different political systems.

Perhaps ancient Greeks were as different to each other as today are the Norwegians to the Swedish. They spoke different dialects of the same language and as they were a nationalist and chauvinist society, their favorite debate was who was a barbarian and who could be called a true Greek. To be called a barbarian was the worse insult you could give to another person or nation.

So welcome to the world of ancient Greek politics. When the Athenians, who were enemies of the kingdom of Macedon called them barbarians, they were actually insulting them. I guess their debates of who could be called a Greek, were not much different from our debates today on who is European, where Europe ends and if Turkey, Georgia and Ukraine can be called European and join the EU.

The Greek identity was not solidified back then, just like the very European identity is under a lot of debate now. And as it expanded and came in contact with other ethnic groups, it certainly kept absorbing them together with their culture, creating an ever shifting Greek ethnic identity.

Due to its long history Macedonia's population changed dramatically over the centuries. In fact Macedonians seized to exist as an autonomous ethnic group after the expansion of the Roman empire. Never again Macedonia will be independent until the liberation of the region from the Turks. Since its incorporation in the Roman empire Macedonia's borders will change constantly, depending its rulers' administration efforts to manage their empire's regions.

Macedonia was since the Byzantine and Ottoman empires constantly a multinational society. Its population was consisted of Greeks, Romans, Turks, Armenians, Slavs, Bulgarians, Albanians, Jews, other Europeans and middle Eastern people.They lived side by side for centuries and by geographical terms, they can all be called "Macedonians." Why should one nation today be allowed to monopolize its name?

With the Balkan wars and the collapse of the Ottoman empire, one question remained: how to partition the region of Macedonia, a region so rich in natural resources and with such geopolitical and strategic location. Many wanted it and tried to promote their interests in it. For the Greeks apart of any economical or political motives, there was also the historical aspect of it.

Thessaloniki's Jews did not want the region to fall under either Bulgarian or Greek rule. They held under the Ottoman rule most economic control of the region and in fact many ultra orthodox Jews did not even want the creation of Israel, as they considered Macedonia as their promised land.(1)

The big powers of Europe were also divided, but most of them did not want Macedonia to come under either Greek or Bulgarian control, as they have established good trade relations with the Ottomans and the Jews, plus they wanted to manage the region's resources. (1)

Austria even thought to campaign towards the south to conquer Macedonia for itself, but they were too late. The Greek army liberated the region before them. The Ottomans of course did not want to lose Macedonia either, as it was a very important stronghold of their empire in Europe. (1)

After the liberation by the Greeks, the newly created state came face to face with the multi-ethnic population of Macedonia. Population exchanges happened between Turkey and Greece, but also Greece and Bulgaria, in order to create a more homogenous state, something that all countries wanted. Bulgaria and Greece especially got involved in a nasty and bitter struggle to gain influence over Macedonia.(1)

Throughout the Ottoman years, the Greeks and the Bulgarians were competitive against each other to gain influence and lands in Macedonia. Its population in many regions was bilingual from all these struggles. (1)

Before the collapse of the Ottoman empire, we have the beginnings of the creation of an effort to keep Macedonia either Turkish or have it as an independent state, because it suited the interests of many. Therefore various Jewish, Turkish and communist organizations were dedicated in the creation of a pan-Macedonian consciousness, in order to keep the region independent. (1)

Many preferred to see it as an independent nation rather to fall into the hands of a newly emerged state like Bulgaria and Greece, that they argued that they could not handle the potential of the region on their own. And here is where the problem starts. (1)

There was a Slavic or Bulgarian speaking population in the region of Greece, plus also a significant Jewish population. The second community was decimated by the Nazis in WW2, while the first community after the end of the war and when Greece fell into a bloody civil war, chose to side with the communists and co-operated with Tito. Tito wanted the region to join the rest of the communist Balkan states on the side of USSR, and he had views on Macedonia.

So he assisted the Greek communists and the Slavic speakers of the region, in order to break Greece and create a new Korea in Europe. A northern Greek communist state in Macedonia and Thrace, and a nationalistic pro-Western southern Greek state.

After the war the Greek Communists and the Slavic speakers of Greece who sided with them, were expelled from the country with the blessings of the West and settled in what is today FYROM, most eastern Europe and ex-USSR states. Their descendants in FYROM demand to be allowed back into Greece and regain the properties of their ancestors that have been confiscated after the war. So they use the issue of the naming dispute to put pressure on Greece, to accept their demands.

But most of the people of FYROM are of Slavic descent and migrated to the region of Macedonia 1000 years after the years of Alexander, so they can not have any claim on the history and heritage of ancient Macedonia. Their language is a Bulgarian dialect.

They have settled in the region for centuries, so for geographical reasons they can call themselves Macedonians, but there are not a separate and distinctive ethnicity under that name. Ancient Macedonians are vanished and gone. Their heritage and legacy remain with Greece, as they were a Greek kingdom.

Just like the legacy of the ancient Greeks of south Italy or "Magna Grecia" belongs to Greece too, even though by modern geopolitical terms they are Italians. Sicily in fact is also a Greek originated name as it was called "Sikelia" by the Greeks. The name of a region can never be an obstacle. The narrow minds of its inhabitants though, surely can.

The name Sikelia (Sicily) is still used by Italians but they do not have any claim of the Greek heritage of the region, or denounce it just like the FYROM people do, in order to present it as or create their own. They embrace it and proudly acknowledge it! Something that not only the people of FYROM but of the Balkans in general, still drenched with blind nationalism, are not mature enough to do.

Today Macedonia has two or more ethnic groups living in its land, the Greek Macedonians, the Slav Macedonians with Albanian and Roma minorities also present. The Greeks actually call the inhabitants of FYROM, "Slavomacedonians". That translates to Macedonians of Slavic descent. Another proof that the issue is not about the name, rather  about land, heritage, history and the "truth."

We could share the name, provided they drop their claims over Greek national history and heritage plus the mud throwing against Greece about non existent oppressed minorities in its territory. A name that could include the term "Macedonia," could be accepted by the Greeks if they are reassured. Slavonic Republic of Macedonia, or Macedonia of Vardarska could be successful candidate names. But can they be trusted?

Macedonia is and should remain a region of Europe. With two separate ethnic groups separated in two different states. The Greek Macedonians and the "Vardarska" Macedonians. Vardarska was the name of the region of FYROM before the propaganda of Tito, who changed its name and who's legacy in fact is the "Macedonian naming dispute." 

Name disputes are not anything new. France blocked the UK's entry in EEC back in the '70s, under the name of Great Britain, because they thought it implied territorial claims over the French territory of Bretagne (or Brittany)! So that is why the UK entered EEC as United Kingdom!

FYROM belongs in the EU and all European institutions. It is in Greece's interests to have stable and prosperous nations as neighbors, but we should not have to sacrifice our national heritage to see this plan through. Pity, because the people of FYROM are victims of the megalomania of it's current leadership.

I am a Greek Macedonian from Thessaloniki, and a European. There is no reason for Greeks and SlavoMacedonians to be hostile to each other. It is in both our interests a common understanding and solution to the problem. It is also in our interests to have closer cooperation and integration in the region, within the EU framework.

(1) Extracts from Mark Mazower's book: "Salonica, City of Ghosts."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gay Marriages and Homophobia in Europe.

"Homophobia is damaging people’s health and careers across Europe and the problem may be worse than reported because victims are scared to draw attention to themselves for fear of a backlash, an EU study said. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights said police in most countries were incapable of dealing with homophobic crime – ranging from verbal abuse to deadly attacks – and said many governments and schools failed to take it seriously enough."
From the Irish Times.

Isn't it sad that in the year 2010, Europe is still divided by a "Rainbow Curtain". More than 40 years since the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement in America and its spread throughout the western or westernized countries, Europe is still divided. The west- northern states in their majority recognize same sex marriages or civil partnerships, but the eastern -southern states do not and have no plans in doing so anytime soon.

It is also intriguing that 40 years before WW2 the first organization promoting education about homosexuality and the abolition of laws against homosexuality was founded in Germany, before the Nazis' rise to power ended all efforts. We could say then that if the Nazis stopped it, then every government that acts in a similar way behaves like them.

Homosexuality existed always in human societies. From the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Persians, the Celts, Indians, American Indians, every society in the ancient world was tolerant of it. In ancient Greece and Rome sexual preferences and partners were as natural, tolerated and accepted as today is the music that you listen to.

In fact in ancient Greece older men usually were the mentors, teachers and often lovers of younger men. They were teaching them how to fight, use the sword and even how to make love to a woman while they were in a homosexual relation.

In ancient American Indian tribes, homosexual men were honored and respected people. They did not go to battle like the rest of the men, rather stayed back and became teachers or minders of the children. They were often taking roles of the shaman and other respected figures.

Homosexuality also exists in many animal species like dolphins, geese, lions, monkeys, apes, herbivore mammals, parrots, penguins, snakes, beetles and octopuses. Animals from different species and families are practicing homosexual sex, each for different purposes.

From just fun in dolphins, to strengthen social ties in our closest relatives the bonombo chimpanzees. Male to male couples of geese are often proved to be more successful in raising young. Because both are stronger than females, thus having an advantage. One of them mates with a female and they drive it off its nest so they can raise the young on their own.

Female lionesses often practice same sex games, in order to strengthen their ties before a hunt. Scientists have found a species of octopus on the bottom of the oceans that when its population explodes, a percentage of its male populations "turns" gay and their population is reduced again. In other words nature controls some species populations' by homosexuality.

Homosexuality  is in fact a natural practice and occurs in about 10% of the human population of all races, every ethnicity, religion, sex and age. Now why we ended up loathing and humiliating our homosexual minorities comes down to religion and it's role in controlling human sexuality and freedom of expression.

Sexuality, passion, creativity, love, emotions, free thinking are all interconnected. If you want to control one, you will have to control all others. And all three main religious movements (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) did just that. After  centuries of suppression of human sexuality it became the norm to the masses of people that homosexuality is something evil, devil derived, ridiculous and laughable, a degradation from how God wanted us to be.

I will have to laugh on this after the recent scandals of child abuse in the Catholic church. They preach against consensual sex between two adult males or females, while they were raping innocent children throughout Europe and America for decades or even centuries. Hypocrites!

So we ended up having homophobia rooted deep in our mentality and only recently attitudes started to change again. In few European countries they have already given full rights to homosexual couples, while in others are taking steps towards it.

There is also a huge misunderstanding on the issue of gay marriage. Gay couples do not just want to get married in a church like the straight ones. Rather they are seeking same legal status for their union, in all aspects of it apart from sex. Buying a house together, inheritance, social benefits etc. Legitimizing by law their union and achieving equal status for it as any couple, gay or straight should. And I really do not understand the Church's objection to this.

Why it supports monogamous relationships for all people while they object to it for gay people? One would thought that promoting monogamous lifestyle and sex life in gay people would be what they wanted. Since they can not eradicate homosexuality as it is a natural occurrence, then why not try to bring it to the same level as heterosexuality?

Who would want gay people to have casual sex only and never be able to form open, loving, caring and long term partnerships, that is more natural and healthy than hiding and practicing sex in the shadows? In that way, they are pushing the gay minority to have an unhealthy lifestyle that harms them, with the spread of STI's and AIDS.

The role of the media is also dubious. They are promoting the gay lifestyle in TV series, soap operas and reality television, but they seem to promote only one type of homosexuals. Are there really any cliche types of gay people? We have abolished apparently ghettos in our neighborhoods, but we have implanted them in our heads.

We are giving "freedom" to homosexuals to be open and "come out", but we immediately promote a stereotyped lifestyle that all of young gay individuals should follow. Ghetto is not just an area that you live in, it is also a state of mind. I think the society is succeeding in creating an image of gays that is camp, funny, feminine and interested in clothes and fashion. It forgets though to mention that some of the greatest artists, painters, ballet dancers, writers, actors, musicians, thinkers and even politicians and military men in human history were homosexuals or bisexuals.

Why would anyone object that two people that love each other, can form partnerships that have legal protection for the two partners in case of death or separation? Securing and protecting not just the interests of each individual in the partnership from one another, but in the case of death, from the family of the deceased partner.

The religious conservatives hold this notion that sex is only acceptable for procrastination purposes, despite observing even in Nature and other animal species that sex is not used just for this. And even if it did, why would we like to bring ourselves to the same level of the other animals? We claim that we are the most advanced species on the planet and we take pride of it. But they insist when it comes to sex, to take example of the allegedly laws of Nature and have sexual relations only when we want to have kids.

Humans are the most complex species on this planet, yet we chose to ignore their mental or emotional needs that are more complicated than any other animal. And from the spiritual angle of this, if two souls are in love with each other, why should the body be the obstacle to their union?

We insist in projecting young gay people, while in the most difficult period of their lives, to this damaging, humiliating experience of having to endure bullying, discrimination and rejection even by their own family. We don't realize that those practices only create damaged and dysfunctional people in our societies, afraid to be what they want to be and behave in a natural to them way.

There is also the issue of gay couples adopting children. For the moment I would not support such move by gay people who do not already have children of their own. Not that I do not have faith that gay people can raise a child as well as straight people. But our society is not ready to accept gay marriages, so I have concerns about the possibility of bulling that the adopted child might face at school, for having two same sex parents.

I would not exclude it though later, after our societies are fully ready to accept this and gay marriages have become as normal as the heterosexual ones. But for the cases when one partner has already kids by a previous heterosexual relationship, is another thing. Their other half should be able to adopt the children and give them protection and financial security if all parties agree. It is not unusual for people to have both homosexual and heterosexual relationships throughout their lives and have children with their straight partners.

It is time to rethink the family structures and norms that we have set for our societies. Since our sexuality is not as black and white as we think or are told it is and since our societies are changing fast, what good is to cling in old and failed practices that only perpetuate human misery and sadness?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why it is important to keep voting in the European Parliament elections!

Democracy in the western world and Europe, is one of our fundamental assets, the spine cord of our civilization and the pride of our culture. Yet democracy, is a relevant idea if it lacks it’s main ingredient: the public. Any democratic system that it’s people are indifferent, ignorant or hostile to it’s institutions and functions, is in danger of becoming nothing more than a theater without the audience and the actors. An empty and meaningless institution.

Democracy can exist in a national, and an international level. As long as the people who are affected by the decisions of the Parliament, the heart of every democracy in the world are getting involved, vote, debate and being informed for the decisions taken by it, democracy exists and prevails. Either in one nation state, or in an international organization that is formed by many states like the EU, democracy can be present once it’s laws are being respected and implemented.

The duties of each one of us who is a citizen of a democratic country or a group of states, are most importantly to vote, care, be aware and participate in the functions and decision making of the democratic
system we belong. Our actions are necessary for the establishment of a functioning democracy.

Turn your back to it, or have no interest in participating and you do not just lose your voice, your influence and your chance to express your satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Technically you lose your right to democracy.

It works for you and with you, but without you, not only it loses it’s power, but you also lose every right to complain about everything you dislike in the country you live in. Or the group of countries who form the democratic institution your country belongs.

By voting in the European elections, you do not undermine your country’s sovereign status but you are increasing its influence and voice in the EU. Something that is so important for every country in
it, since by sending the most suitable MEPs to represent your country, you are securing the best interests of your nation and Europe’s in general.

Most "euro-skeptics" will argue that by giving power to the EP, you are giving away your country's sovereignty. But just think about this: are we really sovereign in a globalized world and how independent do you think you are at a national level? Do other regions of this world really have 100% say over their countries or their continent? But unlike the others, we have a chance to unite our voices, coordinate our actions and protect our collective interests better than them.

The role of EU is not to threaten the sovereignty of any member state as many believe. The argument of losing your national identity and becoming “European” if you vote for the European elections it simply
silly. The EU is not one nation or country, rather a union of states that want to work together, co-operate and share knowledge, resources, and policies towards a common good. “European” is something that we already are, since we inhabit this continent and participation in European affairs is something that we all should take seriously since whatever happens to Europe, affects us all directly.

To me the only way that Europe could become fairer and a better place to be, would be the formation of a partially federal government. To offer an alternative to our national often corrupt governments, paralyzed by the interests and monopolies of the ruling elites that were established after WW2. Lets give them competition and shake up the European established political elite.

Europe should be governed in three levels: The local, national and the European one. And for all matters European, we should give full power to the EP. We should not allow our national governments to mix or impose national politics onto European ones. Our countries and economies are already widely intertwined, so trying to solve European issues applying national solutions does not work anymore. Keep our national governments for all issues national.

Indifference, hostility, radicalism, nationalism, or simply lack of interest, can have disastrous consequences. Democracy does not work well with those elements. Any decision taken under such circumstances can be the wrong one and when it is an important one, the results can be negatively affecting the whole of  Europe for decades to come.

So the importance of a vote should be clear to everyone. It is not something imposed to us, it is our right and we should be proud and protective of it. We fought for it, we deserve it. Use it and use it wisely. In the next European Elections make sure you are present and give your message to your Government and all our European leaders.

What kind of Europe do you want? Vote to say that you care, that you are bothered. Vote to shape Europe, and influence it. No one will ignore you if the turn out is large. The more people turn out to vote, the more serious the elections are, the more seriously your politicians will take you.

If the turn out is small, do not be surprised if you are ignored again. Be responsible and use your rights. Vote! Let's make EU democratic and fully functioning.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Whaling and CFP should not be an issue for Iceland's EU accession!
I am reading with a great interest the progress of Iceland's application for EU membership. Iceland might be a tiny nation, but has a great strategic importance. Located near the North Pole, can give EU and Europe access to the region until and if Norway ever wants to join.

It holds as well a good fisheries stock and a good expertise in finding alternative energy. Their infrastructure is very interesting and many other European states can learn a lot by them.

The fisheries is not the only issue that is a potential obstacle for Iceland's EU membership. The debate on the whaling practices of the small country also raise a case for concern.

It is no lie that EU's CFP (Common Fisheries Policy) is outdated, just like CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) and in need of reforms. Some good policies exists in it, but I disagree with many others. The quotas that are set in the policy may not be always the right ones, but quotas are necessary. We need to control our stocks and managing them better. Because they are not going to last forever if we keep exploiting them like we do.

Nevertheless I do not agree with the way we handle our fisheries. Here in Ireland and in Greece, small fishermen complain and blame the EU for destroying their fisheries. In fact EU policies destroyed the small and medium sized fishing industries, as well as many local fishing communities almost completely.

 Large fleets from Spain come to Ireland to fish, and from Italy to Greece to do the same. Small fishermen have lost their jobs and livelihoods to big fleets from large fishing companies. Again it is the people that suffer the consequences, but that does not mean that Ireland or Greece as states have lost from the deals. When each country enters the EU, it negotiates what will give and what it will take from the rest of the Union's members.

From my knowledge, when Ireland entered the EEC, it chose to get support for it's farming industry and money for infrastructure in other areas, but it gave up completely its fisheries. In a way it exchanged them for better farming and development in the areas it was most interested in. So if the Irish want to blame somebody, then they should blame their then government who had no real interest in safeguarding their fisheries and the welfare of their fishermen, not the EU.

But Iceland's position is totally different. One of it's main industries are the fisheries so I doubt if they will abandon them as easily. Nevertheless I disagree with Europe's mentality on this issue overall. Why take all the fisheries from a nation and it's people, do not allow them to exploit them themselves according to quota you give them, so each state can then chose who and how much can catch.

Once a nation depletes it's quota, it can go and exploit another nation's that has not yet done so, and thus provide fish to the whole of the market. I watched a documentary recently about how smaller pacific nations exploit their fisheries, only catching what they need and want. I think it is time for Europe to do the same. Encourage smaller fishermen to work and provide for their families and local communities, following the national and European quota.

Fish are not just commodities to me. They are living organisms that belong to no one else but themselves and to all creatures that depend on them for their food. I disagree with the industrialization of the fisheries as it kills off many species and threatens them with extinction. EU should protect them so the quotas are needed after relative researches are done, to establish which species need protection. De-industrialization of the fish stocks and a new more eco and animal friendly fishing practices in Europe, is the way forward I am afraid.

The CFP should and from what I hear is meant to be reformed during the next few years. I will be certainly be watching the developments and Iceland's or Norway's reaction to them. 

Iceland should protect its fisheries, but it could allow other countries to fish in a percentage of their waters. Smaller fishermen and small fishing industries will have the exclusive rights to fish and provide the national and  European markets in a percentage of Iceland's fishing grounds, while other regions will be international. I hope that this will solve any issues on fisheries.

The whaling issue I think it is even simpler. In USA and Canada, they allow the native tribes to catch a quota of whales each year, even though both USA and Canada have banned whaling. They have allowed their native American population of the north to continue catching a small number of whales, for cultural and ethnic heritage reasons.

Though I love whales and I am sad to see them killed, I realize that there is no difference between a whale and a pig, an animal also intelligent that we kill it for meat. Though pigs are farmed and whales can not be, we could still after careful research point out which species have recovered and how many deaths can they support each year by humans. And so allow the Icelanders and a small number of Norwegians, the native populations of northern Europe, to continue catching a limited number of whales for the same reasons that the Innuit people do in north America.

Whaling is a part of the Icelandic heritage and I respect it totally, but I also want to preserve the whales. If the Icelanders agree to lower their quota each year on the number of whales caught and use their meat only for their internal market consumption and not for exporting, then I see no reason for whaling being an obstacle to Iceland's EU accession. 

They could agree on a quota given to them by a new EU whaling body that should be set up,especially for this reason. To monitor how many whales are caught by Iceland or Norway, in what way and how their meat is being used. Or perhaps the Fisheries Commissioner should have this responsibility, instead of creating a new position and it would be best if he/she was coming from a Nordic country.

Why should we always lift barriers when it comes to finding solutions in a problem in Europe? There is always a way around things, if we truly want to work on European integration. Imagine if Europe wanted to strike a special deal on farming with India that would benefit the continent, but the Indians found very upsetting that in Europe we eat cows, their holy animal.

So suddenly the Indians placed a demand out of us to stop eating cows, thus destroying a whole industry in Europe that focuses on turning cows into burgers! Should we comply? We have lost Norway in the past from becoming a very valuable EU member stated, because of the stubbornness of France's De Gaul. We are losing Turkey now with the reluctance of a few members in accepting the country in the club. Should we lose Iceland and the very important door to the North Pole, because of rejection of the Nordic diet?

Energy Issues of Europe.

Could the European nations find new ways to explore alternative sources of energy? Becoming in that way energy efficient,independent from oil or gas exporting nations and of course "greener".

So far they are encouraged by EU or their own governments to do so, on a national level mostly.

There are very few inter-national efforts and those apply mainly in oil or gas imports. Can we start building alternative energy production units from renewable or "green" resources collectively?

Europe has such a variety of climates and diverse natural habitats. We have strong streams and winds at the north and western part of our continent, hot sun and wind in the south. We could start exploiting solar, wind and sea current energy in the Mediterranean  EU states, both existing and future.  While exploit wind and sea currents in the North Western states.

Why could we not work together, a number of states sharing the expenses of exploration and building new kind of power-plants. Why spend money engaging in wars, to keep the flow of oil and gas from third party countries? Or putting so much effort in political involvement in countries that the oil or gas pass through to reach Europe.

Of course the companies that have invested so much in these activities and have huge interests in these regions, won't approve such thing. And it is clear that renewable energy probably cover all Europe's needs in energy. But we definitely can replace a percentage and reduce not only our CO2 emissions, but a costly trade with producer countries too.

A number of EU nations could co-operate, co-finance or co-build a source of alternative energy provider together, belonging to all of them and perhaps to the whole of Europe. Sharing expertise, knowledge and resources can lead to greater results.

The EU could create a common fund for exploration and development in all countries, accessed by all countries. We have CAP and CFP, how about a CEP (Common Energy Policy)? We shall all profit, benefit from and share this power generated and shall contribute to become independent and energy efficient. One of the purposes of EU is to make European nations cooperate and work together,so we can achieve our goals. Why not in energy issues as well?

As long as we are relying on others too much for our energy we will always be at their mercy. Countries like Nigeria, Iraq, the Middle East will always suffer and be undeveloped so the rest of the World can find cheap oil. Transit states like Ukraine and the Caucasus will also always be unstable.

We could put an end to all this or we could limit its effects, by producing a part of our energy needs from natural resources and renewable energy. Stop investing in efforts to get more cheap oil from poor and devastated nations. In that way we create a new market and a new source of exploration and exploitation.

And with them new jobs and industries, new kind of growth changing Europe's economy drastically. The future of Europe can be greener. But the benefits of such changes, won't just help our pockets and the way we heat our homes. They could also help European integration, by encouraging the creation of many trans-European projects and economic activities.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Europe and Islam.

There are simmering tensions growing in Europe, between its native Christian population and the immigrant Muslim one. Traveling throughout Europe,  I came in contact with local people that expressed their thoughts and feelings about their country's Muslim minorities, that in many cases were not positive.

Coming from Greece, a country that associates Islam mainly with Turkey and the Ottoman Empire, it sounded natural. The opinions of course I was getting in their majority were coming mostly from a more populist aspect, that of the unemployed European who must compete with non natives for the same jobs and welfare.

The root of the issue is hardly religious. Europe is a secular continent and the times that  the Europeans and Muslims were fighting to prove the superiority of their God are gone. Different countries have different problems with the Muslim communities.

In Greece any rise of it's Muslim population is seen as a threat, since our largest neighbor is Turkey with 71 million population. Many even believe that the rise of immigration of people from Muslim countries into Greece, is a Turkish policy to weaken the Greek-Orthodox nature of our country, thus "Islamizing" Greece.

It happened when we were under Ottoman rule. The Ottomans were using forced Muslim immigration into the northern Greek region of Macedonia to weaken the Christian and Greek element, thus making their grip more firm onto the region. So any rise of the immigrant Muslim population, especially through Turkey, reminds to the Greeks those times.

Other countries of Europe have a different approach to the issue, depending their own past relations with Islamic countries. Some of them used to be colonial powers and their view of Islam differ. Racism of course is ever present in our societies and contributes to the problem. As varied is the European public opinion on immigration from Islamic countries, it is of course the relation of the Muslim immigrants for Europe and their adopted countries.

Muslim immigrants do not come from one single nation. They are from various countries, each with its own distinctive culture, heritage and religious beliefs. Some are closer to European values, some far from them. It is not fair to treat them all in the same way.

Most Europeans fear the loss of their ethnic identity, culture and way of life from the huge influx of non European immigrants. That results to the rejection of any different culture and the rise of nationalism. The fact that we are in war in the Middle East with some Muslim nations and the role of our media do not help. These two facts contribute to the rising fear of people of Islamic background.

Could this rising "threat" be manufactured? In the past we had the constant threat of the Communists and their regimes but now that they are gone, do we need another bogey-man to threaten us? I was never threatened by Iraq for example before 9/11, or the Afghan militia and didn't even heard of their will to destroy all Western nations.

All of a sudden Muslims in Europe are being targeted and  there is a mistrust created between the two communities. But if we do have problems with Islam, then why don't we curve immigration from Islamic countries and encourage immigration from Latin America that already have European culture and the Christian faith?

In the past Christians and Pagans were also arguing and fighting on European soil. The result was the creation of Christianity as we know it today, created by the Roman Emperor Constantine. Christian and Pagan beliefs were mixed to create a new version of Christianity with pagan elements, and the total control of the psyche and way of thinking of the Europeans begun. Will the new infighting lead to the unification of the two religions and the creation of a new one?

I have to admit though, us Europeans are a hypocrite breed. In Switzerland they allow Muslims in their land, but they do not want to see the minarets anymore. They do not mind a Turk serving them in a restaurant, but it is the minaret that reminds them of the spread of Islam in Switzerland. And in France and Britain, the two countries that boasted to the rest of us about their tolerance and multicultural societies, we now see their policies fail.

Personally I do not agree with the radical branches of Islam. It is unacceptable to give a citizenship and nationality to someone who rejects the secular laws and constitution of the state that she or he wants to live in. If you reject that, how can you demand acceptance from the others? If you adopt a new country, you adopt also the laws of it.

And if a cartoonist or Dutch politician have personal issues with Islam and create cartoons or films against it, why does this have to become a thorn between the two communities? We have freedom of speech in Europe. There is a secular Muslim country called Turkey, so I would like to see a European version of Islam. You can be European and you can be Muslim. The first does not forbid the second one.

But definitely you can not be European if your ideas about religion, homosexuality and women are set in a radical Islamic mentality. We in Europe fought hard to get rid of that Catholic and Orthodox Church control and manipulation of our lives. We have liberated our women, accepted homosexuals as equals, we are not going backwards!Either we are dealing with radical Catholicism, any other Christian sect, or radical Islam our attitude should be one; rejection.

We allow Muslims to come here but with no real interest in integrating them. We need fairer and reformed immigration policies and work on our relations with the Muslim world. In the past it was the Arabs that kept ancient Greek scripts and studied them, developing Maths and Algebra. Not the Europeans that were living in the Middle Ages and the control of the Christian Church.

Hopefully in the future we will have lots to learn from them again, and themselves from us.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Turkey in EU?

There is a lot of heated debate whenever we discuss Turkey's entry in the EU. What are the real issues behind Europe's reluctance in allowing Turkey to join?

Islam and it's large population are two of the obvious reasons, Greece and the Cyprus issue, but also the lack of freedom of the press, minority issues and the very powerful military elite of the country are also serious issues.

I myself consider Turkey a European nation. For centuries Greeks, Romans and other European nations roamed the region that today is called Turkey and Turkey's flirt with Europe started since the days of the Ottoman Empire. Culturally they are very close to us Greeks, since our ancestors belonged in the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, living side by side with what today is the Turkish population for centuries.

Islam as a religion is not an issue for most Europeans, since we are more and more an agnostic breed of people. Besides Turkey is a secular country and extremist Islamic movements are not as present as in other Muslim countries.

The real problem that Europeans have with Turkey's EU membership related to Islam, is the growing Muslim population in Europe. Many Europeans fear that Turkey's EU entry will bring more Muslim immigrants into their countries and will contribute to a radical change in Europe's demographics. So that in the future the European population will see its native Christian population shrink. And with it, the European values, culture and way of thinking.

But Turkey has already a lot of these European values and way of thinking. It is not fare to categorize every Muslim country the same, as they are all so different from each other. Besides, from what we have seen so far from the case of  states like Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, immigration from these countries was not always as large or permanent as feared.

Many migrated for some years to western European states to work and make a lump-some, before returning back to their countries. Turkey's economy is doing rather well, better than many other EU Candidate Member States. Will the Turks flood Europe en mass once they join? Surely we will see more immigrants from Anatolia for a while, but if we curve immigration from other Muslim states, it can be balanced.

The full support of USA and the UK for Turkey's entry in EU is a thing that makes me a skeptic though. If the Americans and the British want it so badly, it can't be that good for the rest of Europe. They emphasize on what a great asset Turkey will be for our economies and the European Market. But does this translate as something necessarily good for the ordinary citizens?

The European Project should be something more than a huge Market and an economic experiment. Can Turkey offer solutions to European integration, do they have anything new to offer apart from what the Americans are advising us for?

Another issue of course the shift of power within EU. Why is Britain so keen for Turkey to join, while the Germans and the French are not? Turkey has a huge population and growing. If they join the voting power will shift. Especially if the Turks form with the Brits a similar Axis like that of the Franco-Germans, the EU could be transformed in what the British and Americans desire it to be.

Just a free trade market, not a political or a military union. I guess that is why Germany and France are not so keen and I do not believe that the Islam is the main issue, rather a secondary one. And I totally understand Germany's and France's fears and reluctance.

The only positive argument I find here, is the Turkish workforce that we may need. They are young, educated, numerous and hard working. I would much prefer to have immigrants from Turkey, a secular Muslim state, than Pakistan or Afghanistan in my country.

A major thorn in Turkey's EU accession is of course the attitude of the Turkish elite towards Greece, Cyprus and other Balkan states. Sadly there can be no favorable solution for them on the Cyprus issue, if they continue with their current policies. If they want accession, they will have to recognize the Republic and allow the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides in reaching a compromise themselves. It should be the EU actually that must get more involved and play its role in reaching an agreement between the two sides.

As for Greece, Turkey's entry in the EU can be most favorable. Both nations suffer from having to invest heavily in their military budget in order to "protect" from each other. Two allied NATO nations that must protect from each other, how odd is that? But once Turkey joins, a war between them will be unthinkable, just as it is for Germany and France. Their economies will be so entwined and people will once again be able to move freely across the borders.

The Greeks will be able to resettle in cities like Istanbul and Izmir and the Turks in Crete and Thessaloniki, beginning a new era in the two countries' relationship. For sure they won't pose a threat to each other anymore, something that NATO membership has failed to achieve.

But can Europe "digest" Turkey? While they have a growing and promising economy, the western tip of the country is as European as the rest of the Balkans, but the eastern tip is way behind the rest of the country. In large parts it is controlled by separatist groups in the Kurdish region. It will take ages to bring the two sides of the country in the same level.

With the current economic crisis Europe has so many other things to work on, so Turkey is left out in the cold. Many predict that the Turks might get fed up and turn their back to Europe and that they will try to form alliances in the Middle East. Well I doubt if they are gonna turn to Iran, if they want to stay allies with America. They have neighbors like Armenia Georgia and Syria, nations not as friendly to them.

And the Middle East as a region is fragmented as well between pro and anti American sides. Could Turkey gain their trust and manage to unite them all? Especially since the Arabs do not have the best view of the Turks, and the Turks do not see themselves as Arabs. There is also the Kurdish problem. A challenging task indeed.

The "bridge between East and West" argument translates to me in "Oil Pipes from Caucasus" and their control. Turkey has a great strategic location. Europe needs oil. We are desperate to secure more sources of it and perhaps be less dependent in countries like Russia that have a hold on us, or any other less stable states from the Middle East and Africa. But can Turkey offer us that?

Wouldn't it be more preferable, instead of playing such dangerous geopolitical games in the region, to invest in a greener, energy efficient European economy?If we want to find a solution to our energy needs, perhaps meddling in the Middle East and its nations' affairs, is not the way forward. And so perhaps that is not the reason that Turkey should join the EU.

Of course major reforms must take place in the Turkish society before they can join. Their military elite must be weakened and overall they must become less authoritarian and more trusting towards their neighbors and Europe. The reforms that the EU has asked for must continue, especially those considering the freedom of press and certain minorities. They really need a minor social revolution, in order to change some issues that Europe is skeptical about, in their own time and gradually.

Overall I think this saga will continue for decades to come and loads of things can change during this time. Even Turkey. I hope they join one day, but not for the Markets or the oil that they have to offer Europe. If they join to be committed to Europe and the vision of an independent, prosperous, stable and federal continent, with common strategies and policies in the military and financial spheres, then they got my vote. Good Luck!

Future Governance of Europe. Nations, Feudals or a Federation?
Our leaders have gathered in Brussels to discuss, or rather argue on how to handle the current crisis. They rarely agree on anything and never take our opinion into consideration on whatever they agree in their summits in Brussels, even though it directly affects us.

The truth is that even though they want to keep the E.U. as a single Market and a place to trade, they do not really want to hand over the reigns of their countries into a new political union that is emerging in Europe.

The problem in our continent today is that we do not know what we want to do with it. We do not know how to manage our resources, how to cooperate with each other and how to work collectively.

And if we take into account the political reality in every nation, that is each dominated by a rich established elite, then it is clear to see that Europe is being ruled by elitism. Both on European and national level.

But that is not much different from the times that our nations were ruled by oligarchs or feudal lords. The difference is that today they are not land owners that govern us, rather rich bankers, businessmen, technocrats and marketers. It is not land they are offering for our hard work, but goods and services.

Our elites' interests are not necessarily our nations' interests. In a globalized world, the nation state is generally an outdated idea for those who thrive from the global market. And some of them have accumulated so much wealth, that are able to influence national governments, or even threaten their very existence. Yet through media manipulation, they are persuading us that what is generally good for them is the "good of the country." 

In the globalized economy, a free and independent state can not really exist unless it becomes another Cuba. Once you enter the Markets and become an open economy, there are certain rules you must abide with, in order to keep receiving credit. Thus your "independence" is relative.
Another factor that influences European politics, is that our continent today still bears the marks that WW2 has left behind. Our political, social and economic models were established on the aftermath of the war and our collective ideology and culture have also their roots there. Our political elites were established around the same time and reflect the ideology and politics of that era.

Global players influence and dominate now the policies that small nations follow, or large multinational organizations like the EU are promoting. That is what our political and economic capitalist system is dictating,a free open market and an overall neo-liberal agenda.

And to achieve that, this system has established in every country that wants to be part of it, a political and economic elite that is coming together, cooperating with the elites of other nations. The only thing though they agree on is that they have to preserve this system. Who is going to receive the Lion's share is what dominates European and global politics.

In Greece like in many other countries, we have two or three main political parties dominating and ruling the country. Political dynasties that have been established after the great post war shake up, that are somehow still relevant in our political and social psyche. But for how much longer?

The squabbles of many countries in Europe today, still reflect the overall attitude that one nation had for the other during or after the war. This political reality is very damaging for our future and for any effort to progress and reform.

The E.U. was created as an initiative of one group of European leaders and thinkers, during the '50s. They envisioned a Europe that would never see another war again. Today the European governments have long left this track and are focusing in making our continent a great market, but for the benefit of their "national" interests. They generally lack any collective vision for the continent. Each country represents simply it's own interests.

Many great motto exist like "United in diversity", "Europe for the people", to add prestige to the "European project." But you only have to wait until a crisis or an EU Summit to see the lack of unity or any consideration for the interests of the ordinary citizens of Europe.

The main power that rules the E.U. still lie with our national governments, plus the strong industrial and financial lobbies of our continent that they represent and serve. The Euro-Parliament has not the authority or jurisdiction to make the EU fully democratic and federal. These powers are being passed to the unelected by us EU Commission, or the EU Council that is all our governments put together.

In fact what EU is right now, a fine mess of the combined effort of all our governments, to control, shape, and influence the policies that apply to all of us in Europe. There are strong business lobbies in EU and in our countries individually, whose interests are placed above the common good of the people. Our leaders are often placing their personal aspirations above Europe's common future as well.

The funny thing is that the same people who despise EU and call it undemocratic, are the same ones who do not want to see it democratic, by proceeding to some kind of federation. When we try to implement reforms that will push with its democratization as an institution and make it transparent to its citizens, they protest in fear of losing their national interests. In many cases their actions simply mask theirs or some rich individuals' personal interests.

What do you want your country to be? A small feudal state that is controlled by rich European or national oligarchs, or to belong to a federal Union of nations that can decide on their affairs united, be more powerful and less susceptible to manipulation? Both from inside and outside of your nation's borders.

It is decision time for us as citizens, but also for our leaders and leading elites. Our actions will influence the future of our continent and our future generations, so we've got to be responsible.I am afraid that we have no other alternatives, in a globalized world.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

State Owned, or Privately Owned?

One of the greatest dilemmas in our societies and one of the main friction points between the main political ideologies, is the ownership of the public services. Should they be state owned, or must everything be liberalized and owned privately?

Until recently in most European countries, the main services were public. Telecommunications, health, education, pension schemes. The last few decades we see a surge in privatizations, everywhere in our continent. Is this the right way to move forward?

The public in general are very skeptical about liberalizations. Yet if you think about it, we are all customers of many private companies of telecommunications, one sector that has been deregulated widely in most of Europe. Most of us have subscribed with cheaper than the State owned services and companies, so why are we still complaining? 

Some do not have telephone landlines anymore, rather we receive our phone services through a modem of the digital TV and internet. There is a variety of companies offering a variety of services and different prices and budget bundles, so we have a lot to chose from. In other words deregulation is not necessarily something bad, but something that we all use and profit out of it.

Let us not be hypocrites, we all shop around and find the best quotes and sign up to the best offer. But perhaps it is when we have to deal with its side effects, like the loss of jobs in the public sector or their relocation out of our country, that we protest about it.

In Europe most of us have embraced capitalism and its free market, but can we do anything to protect ourselves from the negative effects of liberalization, while still reaping its benefits? 

If we privatize everything, then what will we be paying our governments for and what will be their responsibilities towards us if we can't hold them responsible for anything? They will provide us with very little if anything. And since many companies merge and buy each other off, if one big multinational corporation buys a whole sector, it can end up owning the whole health system for example of one country.

Small countries are particularly vulnerable here, since they have small public sectors and for a large multinational company is so easy to buy it off. But that will mean that gradually small nations may lose their independence and sovereignty not to another nation, but to a large corporation. Some believe that without a state intervention, they will be "freer!"

If we take the above in consideration, then we certainly free ourselves from the "evil" of state government but we throw ourselves at the mercy of rich private owners! To me that is going backwards to a new kind of feudalism that is not linked to land ownership rather to goods, services and commodities.

And as large corporations care little for anything if there is no profit to be made out of it, what will they do once they have full control of one sector? If one private this time company is owning a whole sector, aren't we going back to square one, where we had to deal with the monopoly of the state companies?

In other words we will need to place strong and effective rules to stop this from happening and protect the markets of the small nations, from being monopolized by large multinationals.

But can we liberalize everything and where do we draw the line? Some services and goods are a human right so why give it to the hands of a few, when if nothing else they should be free and available to all? Take water and sanitation services, education, pensions or social security for example.

If the state decided that it does not want to provide me with a pension, then it should not be taxing me as much and raise my salary. If I have a higher salary, then I can seek out a private pension scheme. Many claim that in the future the state will not be able, or should not provide its citizens with social protection and pensions.

We all must realize this and seek out a private pension scheme for security and better services, that the private sector is rumored to offer when compared with any public company. But even these private schemes are not safe. They can also go bust and all the money that you paid all those years, can just end up in the pockets of some devious folk that gambled with it or invested it badly.

The health,welfare and education of your people is the best investment you can make as a statesman. A healthy and educated population is an asset for the future, as it is productive and it attracts more  investments.

If you allow private companies to provide such basic rights to your people, then your nation is dependent on the interests of these providers and only the rich can get the best treatments or education. This of course will create an unchangeable, unequal society of those who can afford better health and those who will have to compromise to disease, because they can not afford it.

Privately owned education is still an issue and the status of its degrees or diplomas are not equally recognized as the state run universities in many countries. So while one spends a lot of money to attain a degree, he or she can have trouble in finding a job that will offer the same salary expectations with someone that holds a degree from a state run university.

And if the privately owned educational institution goes bust in the future, there are no guarantees that your degree will still be of any value in the business world.

Also what if at an old age you are informed that the life insurance company that you had a contract with, was bought off by another or went bust. Your money do not worth anything anymore and you must agree into another pension scheme or receive nothing at all. Can there be any guarantees that you are going to get a pension, even with a private insurance?

If we have a look to the U.K. when they liberalized their postal services, we will see that private companies are interested only in what is profitable. They are keen to provide service to large towns and cities and mainly packets and parcels that bring more profit. They are not really interested in postcards or letters addressed to small villages or isolated regions of the country.

They have to wait a disproportionate amount of time to receive these kind of services and in fact in those regions, the state owned mail services kept their market.

Rail way prices are extremely high in the U.K. and there is a fine mess with parking regulations, since each company tries to fine as many people as they can to raise more revenue. The traffic wards are pushed to stick to a quota of fines to make the business profitable. I do not think that this can be considered as "better service" rather an unjust money making business for some, while it should be in place to make sure that citizens abide by traffic laws.

We are being transformed into manic consumers, while we are being convinced that our "freedom" is our ability to keep buying and seek out new deals and budget services. It is another thing to try and provide better "services" and another thing to try and fleece people off their money in any way you can.

Even worse this economic system that we have adopted is expanding to new markets. Countries like India, Brazil and China are joining and adapting fast. So we in Europe not only are being fleeced of our money but our jobs as well, since the capitalists want always cheaper workforce and we with our higher living standards and demands, have deprived them from it.

To conclude deregulation in certain sectors has led to a booming of new technologies and industries the past few decades. In telecommunications, transportation and other former state owned sectors, privatizations were hugely beneficial. In some other sectors like the postal services the transition was not very successful and was handled badly in many countries.

But privatization can not be used as panacea for all sectors, especially those affecting the social structure of a society. Not that we should approve a "nanny" state that provides all and creates dependency, condemning certain social groups to chronic idleness. The state should encourage innovation and allow privately owned companies to blossom, but it should give equal importance to SMEs and local businesses as well, not just multinationals.

State intervention is needed, together with a free market so that each can control and influence the other. We do need some state laws to "regulate the deregulation,"or we ourselves will end up being treated as commodities in the end.