Κυριακή, 22 Φεβρουαρίου 2015

New Yorker: Πώς την πάτησε η Ελλάδα

"Πώς την πάτησε η Ελλάδα" αυτός είναι ο ιντριγκαδόρικος τίτλος στο μακροσκελές άρθρο του John Cassidy στο περιοδικό New Yorker που εξηγεί όσα συνέβησαν αυτές τις μέρες στις Βρυξέλλες.EMMANUEL DUNAND

"Χωρίς να εκπλαγεί κανείς, εκτός από μερικούς κινδυνολόγους, οι υπουργοί Οικονομικών της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης κατέληξαν σε συμφωνία με την Ελλάδα την Παρασκευή (20/2), επεκτείνοντας το υφιστάμενο πρόγραμμα διάσωσης της Ελλάδας μέχρι τις αρχές του καλοκαιριού.Η νέα αριστερή κυβέρνηση του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ έλεγε σε όλους για εβδομάδες ότι δεν θα συμφωνήσει στην παράταση του προγράμματος, και ότι ήθελε μια νέα δανειακή σύμβαση που θα της έλυνε τα χέρια, πράγμα που σηματοδοτεί την συμφωνία ως συνθηκολόγηση από πλευράς του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ και ως νίκη για την Γερμανία και το υπόλοιπο κατεστημένο της ΕΕ.
Εκ των υστέρων, είναι σαφές ότι οι Αλήξης Τσίπρας και Γιάνης Βαρουφάκης πόνταραν πολλά ενώ δεν έπρεπε. Δεδομένου ότι ο Βαρουφάκης είναι ακαδημαϊκός γνώστης της θεωρίας παιγνίων, το ότι ... έπαιξαν τόσο λάθος μοιάζει λίγο περίεργο, αλλά ίσως δεν είναι απολύτως έτσι.
Για να κυριολεκτήσουμε, όμως, το παιχνίδι δεν έχει τελειώσει. Η συμφωνία που επιτεύχθηκε στις Βρυξέλλες είναι απλώς μια ενδιάμεση συμφωνία, η οποία θα κρατήσει την Ελλάδα μακριά από τη χρεοκοπία και τις τράπεζες της στη ζωή, ενόσω μια ευρύτερη συμφωνία για τα τεράστια χρέη της χώρας θα αποτελεί αντικείμενο διαπραγμάτευσης.
Ο Έλληνας υπουργός Οικονομικών, έχει προτείνει μερικές ενδιαφέρουσες ιδέες για το πώς να προχωρήσουμε, για παράδειγμα, την έκδοση νέων τύπων ομολόγων σε αντικατάσταση των παλαιών, αλλά όποια διαπραγματευτική δύναμη είχε φαίνεται να έχει υπονομευθεί.
Τις τελευταίες ημέρες, σύμφωνα με τις αναφορές από την Αθήνα, οι Έλληνες κάνουν αναλήψεις μετρητών από τις τράπεζες της χώρας σε ύψος περίπου 500 εκατομμύρια Ευρώ την ημέρα. Με το πρόγραμμα διάσωσης της Ε.Ε να λήγει σε μια εβδομάδα, η Ελληνική Κυβέρνηση αντιμετώπιζε την προοπτική της πλήρους οικονομικής κατάρρευσης, αν η Ευρωπαϊκή Κεντρική Τράπεζα δεν συμφωνούσε να παράσχει στο ελληνικό τραπεζικό σύστημα περισσότερα χρήματα.
Ωστόσο η ΕΚΤ έλεγε στην Ελλάδα ότι απαιτείτο να συμφωνήσει με τους όρους που έθεταν οι Βρυξέλλες και το Βερολίνο. Τελικά, αυτό οδήγησε τον Βαρουφάκη και τον Αλέξη Τσίπρα να υποχωρήσει και να συμφωνήσει στην παράταση του προγράμματος.
Τώρα, οι πολιτικές της Κυβέρνησης θα συνεχίσουν να εποπτεύονται από τη μισητή "τρόικα" (Ευρωπαϊκή Κεντρική Τράπεζα, Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση και Διεθνές Νομισματικό Ταμείο), την οποία πολλοί Έλληνες θεωρούν υπεύθυνη για τη δεινή κατάσταση της χώρας τους.
Επιπλέον, η ελληνική κυβέρνηση έχει συμφωνήσει να προχωρήσει με μια σειρά νέων διαρθρωτικών μεταρρυθμίσεων, μερικές από τις οποίες θα πρέπει να παρουσιάσει λεπτομερώς αυτό το Σαββατοκύριακο.
Αν η τρόικα δεν είναι ικανοποιημένη με αυτό που θα προτείνει η Ελλάδα, θα μπορεί ακόμη και να παρακρατήσει ένα μέρος των χρημάτων που χρειάζεται η χώρα. Μόλις ο Βόλφγκανγκ Σόιμπλε, ο σκληρός Γερμανός υπουργός Οικονομικών, συνειδητοποίησε ότι ο Βαρουφάκης δεν θα μπορούσε να παίξει το χαρτί του Grexit, ήξερε ότι τον είχε εκεί όπου τον ήθελε. 
Εκτός από όλα αυτά, ο Βαρουφάκης φαίνεται να έχει υποσχεθεί να μην ανακαλέσει ορισμένα από τα μέτρα που έχει επιβάλει η τρόικα και ενάντια στα οποία ο ίδιος και ο Τσίπρας είχαν ξιφουλκήσει στην πορεία προς τις εκλογές, όπως την ιδιωτικοποίηση κρατικών επιχειρήσεων.
Το κείμενο της νέας συμφωνίας, λέει: "Οι ελληνικές αρχές δεσμεύονται να απέχουν από οποιαδήποτε κατάργηση μέτρων και από μονομερείς αλλαγές των πολιτικών και των διαρθρωτικών μεταρρυθμίσεων που θα μπορούσαν να επηρεάσουν αρνητικά τους δημοσιονομικούς στόχους, την οικονομική ανάκαμψη και τη χρηματοπιστωτική σταθερότητα, όπως αξιολογείται από τα θεσμικά όργανα".
Σε αντάλλαγμα αυτής της αναστροφής πορείας, η ελληνική κυβέρνηση κέρδισε κάποιες παραχωρήσεις, συμπεριλαμβανομένης μιας κάποιας χαλάρωσης των δημοσιονομικών στόχων που πρέπει να πληροί.
Σύμφωνα με τους όρους του προγράμματος διάσωσης που συμφωνήθηκε το 2012, η Ελλάδα έπρεπε να δημιουργήσει ένα πρωτογενές πλεόνασμα της τάξης του 4,5 τοις εκατό του ΑΕΠ (Το πρωτογενές πλεόνασμα αναφέρεται στα φορολογικά έσοδα μείον τις δαπάνες, μη συμπεριλαμβανομένων των τόκων για το δημόσιο χρέος.).
Η επίσημη δήλωση σχετικά με τη νέα συμφωνία δεν καθορίζει συγκεκριμένο στόχο για το τρέχον έτος. "Οι Ελληνικές αρχές έχουν επίσης δεσμευτεί να διασφαλίσουν τα κατάλληλα πρωτογενή δημοσιονομικά πλεονάσματα ... σύμφωνα με τη δήλωση του Eurogroup του Νοεμβρίου 2012", γράφει, αλλά προσθέτει, «Τα θεσμικά όργανα, για το πρωτογενές πλεόνασμα του 2015, θα λάβουν υπόψη τις οικονομικές συνθήκες του 2015». Αυτό υποδεικνύει κάποια ευελιξία.
Ο Βαρουφάκης έχει επανειλημμένα πει ότι η κυβέρνησή του θα έχει ως στόχο να πετύχει πλεόνασμα 1,5 τοις εκατό του ΑΕΠ. Δεδομένου ότι τα φορολογικά έσοδα έχουν καταρρεύσει κατά τους τελευταίους δύο μήνες, αυτό εξακολουθεί να είναι ένας φιλόδοξος στόχος, και φαίνεται να αποκλείει οποιαδήποτε μεγάλης κλίμακας εφαρμογή μιας κεϋνσιανού τύπου αναπτυξιακής πολιτικής. Αλλά η οποιαδήποτε χαλάρωση των υφιστάμενων πολιτικών λιτότητας θα ήταν ευπρόσδεκτη για τους Έλληνες, και, μετά την επίτευξη της συμφωνίας, αυτό είναι που έλεγαν πως πέτυχαν οι Έλληνες αξιωματούχοι. "Η Ελλάδα σήμερα άλλαξε σελίδα", είπε ένας αξιωματούχος στο Reuters. "Έχουμε αποφύγει τα υφεσιακά μέτρα". Αυτό είναι λίγο τραβηγμένο.
Ο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ πράγματι πήρε κάτι σημαντικό από τη συμφωνία, αλλά τίποτα σαν αυτό που ήλπιζαν όταν ανέλαβαν την εξουσία, στις 25 Ιανουαρίου. Τότε, έγινε λόγος για την απελευθέρωση όχι μόνο της Ελλάδας, αλλά ολόκληρης της ηπείρου από την λαβή των πολιτικών λιτότητας. Μετά από την ανακοίνωση της συμφωνίας της Παρασκευής, κάποιοι Έλληνες δημοσιογράφοι προειδοποίησαν ότι θα είναι πολύ δύσκολο για τους Βαρουφάκη και Τσίπρα να παρουσιάσουν τη συμφωνία στα ριζοσπαστικά στοιχεία του κόμματος, αυτούς που βρέθηκαν έξω στους δρόμους διαμαρτυρόμενοι για την κακοπιστία της Γερμανίας, των Βρυξελλών και της ΕΚΤ. Εκ των υστέρων, είναι σαφές ότι οι Τσίπρας και Βαρουφάκης πόνταραν πολλά ενώ δεν έπρεπε.
Οι αρχικές καυχησιές τους ενόχλησαν πολύ τους Γερμανούς και αποξένωσαν τους άλλους παράγοντες που χρειαζόταν να πείσουν, όπως την ΕΚΤ και την Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή. Δεδομένου ότι ο Βαρουφάκης είναι ακαδημαϊκός ειδήμων της θεωρίας παιγνίων, το ότι ... έπαιξαν τόσο λάθος μοιάζει λίγο περίεργο, αλλά ίσως δεν είναι απολύτως έτσι. Έχοντας εκτοξευθεί στην εξουσία σχεδόν από το πουθενά, η ηγεσία του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ ήταν ευεξήγητα ζαλισμένη, και ευεξήγητα πρόθυμη να ανταποκριθεί στις απαιτήσεις του λαϊκού κινήματος διαμαρτυρίας που ήταν υπεύθυνο για την άνοδο της.
Οι Τσίπρας και Βαρουφάκης είχαν επίσης και την οικονομική λογική με το μέρος τους. Οι πολιτικές λιτότητας έχουν αποδειχθεί καταστροφικές για τη χώρα εν γένει. Το ακαθάριστο εγχώριο προϊόν στην Ελλάδα έχει μειωθεί κατά περίπου το ένα τέταρτο από το 2009, και το ποσοστό ανεργίας ανέρχεται σε περίπου είκοσι πέντε τοις εκατό.
Η λιτότητα δεν έχει ακόμη πετύχει να μειώσει το βάρος του χρέους της χώρας. Επειδή το ΑΕΠ μειώνεται μέχρι στιγμής, η αναλογία χρέους προς ΑΕΠ συνέχισε να αυξάνεται, και τώρα ανέρχεται σε περίπου εκατόν εβδομήντα πέντε τοις εκατό. Σε κάποια άλλα μέρη της Ευρώπης, υπάρχει μεγάλη συμπάθεια για τα δεινά των Ελλήνων, καθώς και για το επιχείρημά τους ότι η λιτότητα έχει αποδειχθεί αντιπαραγωγική. Αλλά το γεγονός είναι ότι οι Τσίπρας και Βαρουφάκης δεν είχαν πολύ διαπραγματευτική ισχύ, και θα έπρεπε να το έχουν αναγνωρίσει αυτό νωρίτερα.
Από την αρχή, υπήρχε μόνο μια απειλή που θα μπορούσαν να έχουν κάνει και η οποία θα τρόμαζε τη Γερμανία και τις άλλες χώρες του πυρήνα (σ.σ. της Ευρωζώνης): ότι η Ελλάδα, αν δεν πάρει τη συμφωνία που ήθελε, θα χρεοκοπούσε, θα αποχωρούσε από τη ζώνη του ευρώ , και θα επέστρεφε στο να τυπώνει το δικό της νόμισμα.

Όμως, η πλειοψηφία του ελληνικού λαού, παρά τα όσα έχει περάσει, θέλουν να κρατήσουν το ευρώ, και, κατά τη διάρκεια της προεκλογικής εκστρατείας, ο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ είπε ότι δεν είχε καμία πρόθεση να φύγει από το κοινό νόμισμα. Από οικονομική άποψη, αυτό ήταν αναμφισβήτητα μια αυτοκαταστροφική πολιτική: η ελληνική οικονομία βρίσκεται σε τόσο κακή κατάσταση που θα ήταν ίσως καλύτερο να ακολουθήσει το παράδειγμα της Αργεντινής, η οποία, το 2002, αθέτησε τις υποχρεώσεις της σχετικά με τα χρέη της και είπε αντίο στο ΔΝΤ.
Το ότι υποσχέθηκε να κρατήσει το ευρώ ήταν ένα μέρος από το τίμημα που κατέβαλε ο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ για να λαμβάνεται σοβαρά υπόψη ως πολιτική δύναμη. Μόλις ο Βόλφγκανγκ Σόιμπλε, ο σκληρός Γερμανός υπουργός Οικονομικών, συνειδητοποίησε ότι ο Βαρουφάκης δεν θα μπορούσε να παίξει το χαρτί του Grexit, ήξερε ότι τον είχε εκεί όπου τον ήθελε.
Η γερμανική κυβέρνηση αρνήθηκε νέτα-σκέτα ακόμη και να εξετάσει ένα ελληνικό αίτημα για τον τερματισμό του προγράμματος διάσωσης και την έκδοση ενός νέου δανείου-γέφυρα και σιωπηρά ενθάρρυνε την ΕΚΤ να εκδώσει μια σειρά από προειδοποιήσεις για τους Έλληνες.
Και μετά, μια-δυο μέρες πριν, αφού ο Βαρουφάκης είχε αλλάξει πορεία και ζήτησε παράταση της τρέχουσας διάσωσης, ο Σόιμπλε απέρριψε και το αίτημα αυτό, αναγκάζοντας τους Έλληνες να κάνουν ακόμα περισσότερες παραχωρήσεις.
Ακόμα και μετά το κλείσιμο της συμφωνίας, ο Σόιμπλε φαινομενικά δεν μπορούσε να αντισταθεί στο να ρίξει μια μπηχτή στον Βαρουφάκη και τους συνεργάτες του. Σύμφωνα με το ανεκτίμητο live blog του Guardian, παρατήρησε: "Οι Έλληνες σίγουρα θα δυσκολευθούν να εξηγήσουν τη συμφωνία στους ψηφοφόρους τους".
Ο Βαρουφάκης, στα σχόλιά του, ήταν πιο συγκρατημένος. "Τώρα δεν είναι η στιγμή για αγαλλίαση», είπε. «Αυτή η συμφωνία αποτελεί ένα μικρό βήμα προς τη σωστή κατεύθυνση".
ΠΗΓΗ: newyorker.com

Τετάρτη, 11 Φεβρουαρίου 2015

The Real Turkish Heroes of 1915

February 10, 2015
By Raffi Bedrosyan
Germany has decided to name several neighborhoods, streets, buildings, and public schools in Berlin and other German cities after Adolf Hitler and other Nazi “heroes.”
If the above statement were to be true, how would you react? How do you think Germans would react? How do you think Jews still living in Germany would react? My guess is that you, the Germans, and the Jews would all find it inconceivable, offensive, and unacceptable.
And yet, it is true in Turkey, where it is acceptable to name several neighborhoods, streets, and schools after Talat Pasha and other Ittihat ve Terakki (Committee of Union and Progress) “heroes” who not only planned and carried out the Armenian Genocide, but were responsible for the loss of the Ottoman Empire itself.
At last count, there were officially 8 “Talat Pasha” neighborhoods or districts, 38 “Talat Pasha” streets or boulevards, 7 “Talat Pasha” public schools, 6 “Talat Pasha” buildings, and 2 “Talat Pasha” mosques scattered around Istanbul, Ankara, and other cities. After his assassination in 1922, Talat was originally interred in Berlin, Germany, but his remains were transferred to Istanbul in 1943 by the Nazis in an attempt to appease the Turks. He was re-buried with full military honors at the Infinite Freedom Hill Cemetery in Istanbul. The remains of the other notorious Ittihat ve Terakki leader, Enver Pasha, were also transferred in 1996 from Tajikistan and re-buried beside Talat, with full military honors; the ceremony was attended by Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and other dignitaries.
Is this hero worship misguided or deliberate? Is the denial of 1915 only state policy, or is it wholeheartedly accepted by the Turkish public, brainwashed by the state version of history?
Undoubtedly, there was mass participation in the genocide committed by the Ittihat ve Terakki leaders, resulting in the removal of Armenians from their homeland of 3,000 years, as well as the immediate transfer of their wealth, property, and possessions to the Turkish and Kurdish public, and to thousands of government officials. Yet, despite this mass participation and the hero worship, there were also a significant number of ordinary Turks and Kurds, as well as government officials, who refused to participate in the massacres and plunders. There is complete silence and ignorance in Turkey about these righteous officials who refused to follow government orders and instead tried to save and protect the Armenians. They paid dearly for their actions, often with the loss of their positions or even their lives as a consequence. This article will cite some examples of these real and unsung heroes.
Konya governor Celal Bey
Konya governor Celal Bey
Celal Bey was the governor of Konya, a vast central Anatolian province and a hub for the Armenian deportation routes from north and west Anatolia to the Syrian desert. He knew exactly what the Armenians’ fate would be along these routes, or if they survived the deportations and reached Der Zor; he was previously the governor of Aleppo and had witnessed the atrocities there. Celal Bey had attempted to reason with the Ittihat ve Terakkileaders, saying that there was absolutely no Armenian revolt in Anatolia, nor in Aleppo, and that there was no justification for the mass deportations. However, one of his subordinates in Marash inflamed the situation by arresting and executing several Marash Armenians, triggering a resistance by the Armenians. As a result, Celal Bey was removed from his governor’s post in Aleppo and transferred to Konya. Once there, he refused to arrange for the deportation of the Konya Armenians, despite repeated orders from Istanbul. He even managed to protect some of the Armenians who were deported from other districts and arrived in Konya. By the time he was removed from his post, in October 1915, he had saved thousands of Armenian lives. In his memoirs about the Konya governorship, he likened himself to “a person sitting beside a river, with absolutely no means of rescuing anyone from it. Blood was flowing down the river, with thousands of innocent children, irreproachable old men, and helpless women streaming down the river towards oblivion. Anyone I could save with my bare hands, I saved, and the rest went down the river, never to return.”
Hasan Mazhar Bey was the governor of Ankara. He protected the Ankara-Armenian community by refusing to follow the deportation orders, stating, “I am a vali [governor], not a bandit. I cannot do this. Let someone else come and sit in my chair to carry out these orders.” He was removed from his post in August 1915.
Faik Ali (Ozansoy) Bey was the governor of Kutahya, another central Anatolian province. When the deportation order was issued from Istanbul, he refused to implement it; on the contrary, he gave orders to keep the deported Armenians arriving in Kutahya from elsewhere, and treat them well. He was soon summoned to Istanbul to explain his subordination, and the police chief of Kutahya, Kemal Bey, took the opportunity to threaten the local Armenians—either convert to Islam or face deportation, he said. The Armenians decided to convert. When Faik Ali Bey returned, he was enraged. He removed the police chief from his post, and asked the Armenians if they still wished to convert to Islam. They all decided to remain Christian, except one. Faik Ali’s brother, Suleyman Nazif Bey, was an influential and well-known poet who urged his brother not to participate in this barbarianism and stain the family name. Faik Ali Bey was not removed from his post despite his offers of resignation. He ended up protecting the entire Armenian population of Kutahya, except for the one who converted to Islam and was deported.
Kutahya governor Faik Ali Ozansoy
Kutahya governor Faik Ali Ozansoy
Mustafa Bey (Azizoglu) was the district governor of Malatya, a transit point on the deportation route. Although he was unable to prevent the deportations, he managed to hide several Armenians in his own home. He was murdered by his own son, a zealous member of the Ittihat ve Terakki Party, for “looking after infidels [gavours, in Turkish].”
Other government officials who defied the deportation orders included Reshit Pasha, the governor of Kastamonu; Tahsin Bey, the governor of Erzurum; Ferit Bey, the governor of Basra; Mehmet Cemal Bey, the district governor of Yozgat; and Sabit Bey, the district governor of Batman. These officials were eventually removed from their posts and replaced by more obedient civil servants, who carried out the task of wiping out the Armenians from these locations.
One of the most tragic stories of unsung heroes involves Huseyin Nesimi Bey, the mayor of Lice, a town near Diyarbakir. While the governor of Diyarbakir, Reshit Bey, organized the most ruthless removal of the Armenians in the Diyarbakir region—with a quick massacre, rather than lengthy deportation, immediately outside of the city limits—Huseyin Nesimi dared to keep and protect the Lice Armenians, a total of 5,980 souls. Reshit summoned Huseyin Nesimi to Diyarbakir for a meeting, but arranged to have his Circassian militant guard Haroun intercept him en route. On June 15, 1915, Haroun murdered Huseyin Nesimi and threw him into a ditch beside the road. Since then, the murder location, halfway between Lice and Diyarbakir, has become known as Turbe-i Kaymakam, or the Mayor’s Grave. The Turkish records document this murder as “Mayor killed by Armenian militants.” In an ironic twist of history repeating itself, in October 1993 the Turkish state army attacked Lice, supposedly to go after the Kurdish rebel militants there; instead, they ended up burning down the entire town and killing the civilian population. This became the first case the Kurds took to the European Human Rights Court, resulting in a 2.5 million pound compensation against the Turkish state. At the same time, several wealthy Kurdish businessmen were targeted for assassination and murdered by then-Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller. One of the victims was a man named Behcet Canturk, whose mother was an Armenian orphan who had managed to survive the Lice massacres of 1915.
Lice mayor Huseyin Nesimi Bey
Lice mayor Huseyin Nesimi Bey
Governor Reshit was also responsible for firing and murdering several other government officials in the Diyarbakir region who had defied the deportation orders: Chermik Mayor Mehmet Hamdi Bey, Savur Mayor Mehmet Ali Bey, Silvan Mayor Ibrahim Hakki Bey, Mardin Mayor Hilmi Bey, followed by Shefik Bey, were all fired in mid- to late-1915. Another official, Nuri Bey, the mayor of first Midyat and then Derik, an all-Armenian town near Mardin, was also fired by Reshit Bey, and subsequently murdered by his henchmen. His murder was blamed on Armenian rebels. As a result, all of the Armenian males in Derik were rounded up and executed, and the women and children deported.
The names of these brave men are not in the history books. If mentioned at all, they are labeled as “traitors” from the perspective of the official Turkish version of history. While the state and the masses committed a huge crime, and while that crime became a part of their daily life, these men rejected the genocidal campaign, based on individual conscience, and despite the temptation of enriching themselves. These few virtuous men, as well as a significant number of ordinary Turks and Kurds, defied the orders and protected the Armenians. They are the real heroes, and represent the Turkish version of similar characters in “Schindler’s List” or “Hotel Rwanda.” Citizens of Turkey today have two choices when remembering their forefathers as heroes: to either go with the mass murderers and plunderers who committed “crimes against humanity,” or the virtuous human beings with a clear conscience who tried to prevent the “crimes against humanity.” Getting to know these real heroes will help Turks break loose from the chains of denialist history over four generations, and start to confront the realities of 1915.

Δευτέρα, 26 Ιανουαρίου 2015

Greece’s Agonized Cry to Europe

The Opinion Pages |THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD




Athens on Monday. CreditLouisa Gouliamaki/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The message from Sunday’s elections in Greece was unambiguous: The Greeks cannot and will not continue to abide by the austerity regime that has brought their economy to its knees. It was a message the Germans and other Europeans who continue to insist that Greece pay off its mountainous debt, no matter what the damage, must hear. Persisting on their dogmatic course is not only wrong for Greece but dangerous for the entire European Union.
It is too soon to anticipate how Alexis Tsipras, the maverick politician whose left-wing Syriza party won 36.3 percent of the popular vote and nearly gained an outright majority in Parliament, intends to deliver on the promises he made to voters to abandon the austerity program while reducing the nation’s debt and retaining the euro.
These goals are fundamentally incompatible, but the new prime minister has signaled to Europeans that he is ready to moderate his ambitions once in office. It is essential that Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who is seen by Greeks as the prime architect of the austerity program, and the “troika” of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which manage the Greek bailout, demonstrate a similar readiness to ease the size and conditions of Greece’s debt burden.
Some of the creditors still seem to feel that a debt is a debt to be repaid in full, and that the Greeks “deserve” punishment for their history of profligate spending and habitual tax evasion. But shrinking an economy by a quarter and throwing more than half the young people out of work — policies Mr. Tsipras has likened to waterboarding — is not the way to enable a country to pay back its debts. Greece needs some breathing room, not only to give Mr. Tsipras a chance to turn the country around but also for the sake of the rest of Europe.
Greece may be exceptional in the size of its debt burden, now about 177 percent of G.D.P., and its systemic problems run deep. But Greeks are not unique in their feelings of alienation and anger over the economic crisis that spread to many of the poorer countries of the European Union, and Syriza is hardly the most radical of the fringe parties that have arisen across Europe in reaction to the crisis. If Greece is pushed to the limit and compelled to default on its debt payments, and even to abandon the euro, the economic repercussions would spread through all Europe. Politically, a “Grexit” — Greek exit from the euro — would shatter the assumption that there is no retreat from the euro and further destabilize Europe. And it would certainly add fuel to anti-European Union sentiments that have propelled the growth of far-right parties.
Of course, Mr. Tsipras must use his popular mandate to push through the fundamental domestic reforms that his predecessor, Antonis Samaras, had begun. The moneyed elites’ aversion to paying taxes must be brought to an end, along with the corruption, nepotism and cronyism in government. Opposing austerity does not mean abandoning reform as a group of prominent economists wrote recently in The Financial Times.
There is not a lot of time, though. Greece’s current bailout program expires on Feb. 28. European Union leaders — Mr. Tsipras among them — are scheduled to gather in Brussels on Feb. 12. An announcement there of an extension of the program for several months would be a good signal that the Europeans have heard the cry of the Greeks and are prepared to be more sensible.


Alexis Tsipras pays homage to Greek communists at site of Nazi atrocity

Alexis Tsipras places flowers on the National Resistance Memorial in Kaisariani on Monday.
 Alexis Tsipras places flowers on the National Resistance Memorial in Kaisariani on Monday. Photograph: Alexandros Beltes/EPA
Greece’s new prime minister lays red roses as a symbol of ‘liberty from German occupation’, says his Syriza party
Few places in Greece conjure the spirit of resistance as much as the war memorial in Kaisariani. It stands on the spot where 200 political activists – mostly communists – were executed by Nazi forces on May Day 1944. The monument in a rifle range in one of Athens’ “red” suburbs, is redolent of defiance but, perhaps more than that, the battle against tyranny. That Greece’s new prime minister Alexis Tsipras, Europe’s first radical left leader, should elect to visit the monument minutes after being sworn in, is rich with symbolism – and defiance too. Red roses in hand, resistance veterans looking on, the young firebrand paid homage to the victims in his first act in office. “It represents national resistance to German occupation,” says Panos Skourletis, spokesman of Syriza, an alliance of far-left groups ranging from Maoists to greens. “But also the desire of Greeks for freedom, for liberty from German occupation.”
If explanation were needed, he adds: “It was purely symbolic.”
Tsipras, who at 40 becomes Greece’s youngest post-war leader, is a deft communicator with an army of (mostly) US-trained advisers. For a nation battered by German-inspired austerity and humiliated by international focus, standing up to Europe’s paymaster by whatever means plays well with the gallery.
As the TV cameras rolled, Greek commentators couldn’t help themselves: “It’s another ‘up yours’ to the Germans,” one said.
Tsipras told thousands of supporters in a victory speech on Sunday that he would seek to restore “their lost dignity”. For Greek leftists, widely persecuted after their defeat in the bloody civil war that followed the Wehrmacht’s withdrawal from Greece, such gestures are hugely significant.

The men and women who were shot dead at dawn that day were killed in reprisal for the guerrilla ambush of a German general, Franz Krech, and three of his aides at Molaos, near Sparti, in the Peloponnese.
Famously they began to sing – giving an uproarious rendition of the Greek national anthem – as they were lead to their deaths from the notorious SS-run camp at Haidari, then a suburb on the outskirts of Athens. German soldiers looked on astonished as the Greeks broke into song. Once at the range, the hostages refused to undress – insisting that they go dressed with dignity. It was an act of resistance that in austerity-whipped Greece resonates greatly today.
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/26/alexis-tsipras-greece-syriza-kaisariani-nazi-german





What was the outcome of the Greek election over the weekend and why were these elections important?

iNTERNATIONALCOMMENTARY

Q&A: Meet the Party That, By Promising Greeks End of Austerity Measures, Won the Election

Within hours Syriza formed a small coalition with the right-wing Independent Greeks. It is also worth pointing out that the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party came in third place.
In terms of the future of the eurozone and European integration these elections were historical. The future of Greece in the eurozone and the pace at which economic and political integration in Europe will take place is at stake.Why is Syriza so popular and what did it promise the Greek people? 
Basically, Syriza branded itself as the anti-austerity party. During the elections it adopted populist policies that make for good campaign posters but not responsible government. For example, one of its key policies is raising minimum monthly salaries from €580 to €751. But in the current economic climate this is hardly possible.
Most importantly, Syriza promised an end to austerity measures. It has also pledged to re-negotiate the terms of the multiple bailouts Greece has received in the past few years with the hope to delay debt repayments or even have the some of the debt written off.
How will the rest of Europe respond? Does this mean that Greece might leave the eurozone?
During his victory speech Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, declared an end to the “humiliation and pain” of Greece’s austerity measures. He has pledged to re-negotiate Greece’s debt repayments to the Troika (the European Union, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank).
On the other hand, European leaders have said that, regardless of the electoral outcome, Greece must stick by the terms of its €240 billion bailout agreement.
What we are likely to see now is a massive game of chicken between the EU—led by Germany—and Greece. As this is uncharted territory and anything could happen—including Greece leaving the eurozone and returning to its old currency, the drachma.
What does this mean for the future of the European Union?
The election result shows the political challenges Europeans face in the coming months. Many Europeans are tired of the EU’s incessant push for deeper political and economic integration.  This disenchantment has manifested itself in the rise of extreme parties across Europe. Of course, the most obvious example is  Syriza and Golden Dawn in Greece, but the National Front in France, and extreme right-wing party, won the most seats during the 2014 European parliamentary elections.
This doesn’t bode well for an organization that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 for bringing stability to Europe.
What about the future of the European economy?
It is unlikely the election results will bring drastic change to the eurozone. Countries in Europe’s south have not made the structural reforms needed for long term adjustment. The eurozone’s overall economic freedom is seriously undermined by the excessive government spending required to support an elaborate welfare state. Economic policies being pursued by many eurozone countries are hindering productivity growth and job creation, causing economic stagnation and rapidly increasing levels of public debt.
Regrettably, many still believe that more European integration, not prudent economic policies, is the answer to Europe’s problem.
The EU was created, in part, to help bring stability and peace to Europe but what we see in Greece is the opposite, right?
Yes, that is correct. Over the past six decades the EU has developed into one of the most undemocratic institutions in the western world. Power has been removed from sovereign-nation states and has become consolidated in obtuse decision-making institutions in Brussels. Those countries that joined the Eurozone and adapted the single currency have lost monetary control.
Not since the start of the EU experiment, have more Europeans felt so distant from the decision making processes of governance that affects their daily lives. In the case of Greece, decisions taken by the EU have had a disastrous effect on society. The unemployment in Greece is just over 25 percent. Youth unemployment is closer to 60 percent. A whole generation of young people feel lost in society. This does not bring stability, but breeds resentment.
Why should American policymakers care?
Political instability in Greece could spill over to other places in southeastern Europe—already one of Europe’s most unstable regions.  It has already been reported the Russian ambassador to Greece had been seen entering the headquarters of Syriza, so who knows what influence Moscow might be able to buy—literally— in the new Greek government. Syriza has also questioned if Greece should remain in NATO.
American banks hold some eurozone debt and would take a hit in the event of any default. But the deepest effects would likely be felt through the interconnected global financial system. In a slagging European economy U.S. exports to European markets would start to fall off and would decline, for example.
http://dailysignal.com/2015/01/26/qa-meet-party-promising-greeks-end-austerity-measures-won-election/ utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social

Κυριακή, 25 Ιανουαρίου 2015

Greeks Vote In Austerity Foes, a Major Shift

EUROPE



Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Syriza party, celebrating on Sunday in Athens. Mr. Tsipras has promised to force creditors to renegotiate the terms of Greece’s bailout.CreditPetros Giannakouris/Associated Press

ATHENS — Greece rejected the harsh economics of austerity on Sunday and sent a warning to the rest of Europe as the left-wing Syriza party won a decisive victory in national elections, positioning its tough-talking leader, Alexis Tsipras, to become the next prime minister.
With almost 98 percent of the vote counted, Syriza had 36 percent, almost nine points more than the governing center-right New Democracy party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who conceded defeat. The only uncertainty was whether Syriza would muster a parliamentary majority on its own or have to form a coalition.
Appearing before a throng of supporters outside Athens University late Sunday, Mr. Tsipras, 40, declared that the era of austerity was over and promised to revive the economy. He also said his government would not allow Greece’s creditors to strangle the country.


“Greece will now move ahead with hope and reach out to Europe, and Europe is going to change,” he said. “The verdict is clear: We will bring an end to the vicious circle of austerity.”

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Greek voters gave power to Syriza as the country’s unemployment rate stood near 26 percent.CreditLefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press

Syriza’s victory is a milestone for Europe. Continuing economic weakness has stirred a populist backlash from France to Spain to Italy, with more voters growing fed up with policies that require sacrifice to meet the demands of creditors but that have not delivered more jobs and prosperity. Syriza is poised to become the first anti-austerity party to take power in a eurozone country and to shatter the two-party establishment that has dominated Greek politics for four decades.
“Democracy will return to Greece,” Mr. Tsipras said to a swarm of journalists as he cast his ballot in Athens. “The message is that our common future in Europe is not the future of austerity.”
Youthful and seemingly imperturbable, Mr. Tsipras has worked to soften his image as an anti-European Union radical, joking that his opponents had accused him of everything but stealing other men’s wives. On the campaign trail, he has promised to clean up Greece’s corrupt political system, overhaul the country’s public administration and reduce the tax burden on the middle class while cracking down on tax evasion by the country’s oligarchical business class.
But his biggest promise — and the one that has stirred deep anxiety in Brussels and Berlin as well as in financial markets — has been a pledge to force Greece’s creditors to renegotiate the terms of its financial bailout, worth 240 billion euros, or about $267.5 billion. Squeezed by policies intended to stabilize the government’s finances, Greece has endured a historic collapse since 2009; economic output has shrunk by 25 percent, and the unemployment rate hovers near 26 percent.
While setting up an imminent showdown with creditors, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Mr. Tsipras has argued that easing the bailout terms would allow more government spending. That, he said, would stimulate economic growth and employment as well as help the Greeks who are most in need.
“Tsipras won because those who imposed austerity never thought about the effects of such drastic policies that impoverished millions of people,” said Paul De Grauwe, a professor at the London School of Economics and a former adviser to the European Commission. “In a world where people are so hit, they just don’t remain passive. Their reaction is to turn to the politicians who will change the process.”

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Mr. Tsipras, leader of the left-wing Syriza party, cast his vote in Athens on Sunday.CreditPetros Giannakouris/Associated Press

Mr. Tsipras will face immediate challenges. Greece is waiting for a €7 billion bailout payment needed to keep the government running and to pay off billions in debt obligations due in the coming months. Mr. Tsipras has demanded that creditors write down at least half of Greece’s €319 billion public debt to give the country more breathing room for a spending stimulus.
“This is a turning of a page, a historical moment for all of Europe,” Yiannis Milios, the chief economist for Syriza, told reporters. “The Greek people are taking their future into their own hands.”
Europe “cannot go on with deflation, recession, increasing unemployment and over-indebtednesses,” he said. “Greece points the way. Our country, our people, are the groundbreakers of a very big change.”
A Syriza victory would lift hopes elsewhere for parties that are critical of the European Union, especially in Spain. There, the left-leaning, anti-austerity Podemos party, which is less than a year old, already is drawing 20 percent support in national opinion polls. The leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, joined Mr. Tsipras last week for Syriza’s final campaign rally.
“What the whole debate about Greece and Syriza highlights is that voter anxieties, voter resentment and electoral disillusionment over austerity policies can be expressed at the ballot,” said Jens Bastian, an economic consultant based in Athens and a former member of the European Commission’s task force on Greece. “The example of Greece today may become a precursor to what happens in other countries like Spain, Portugal or Italy.”
Mr. Tsipras has said he wants to negotiate directly with Ms. Merkel and other European leaders to reduce Greece’s debt burden. Some officials, however, have characterized Mr. Tsipras’s demands as unrealistic and rife with potential to drive Greece toward default — or even out of the eurozone, the group that shares the currency.

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Supporters of Mr. Tsipras cheered as exit poll results were announced in Athens. CreditMarko Djurica/Reuters

Earlier concerns that a Syriza-led Greece would abandon the euro have been fading, but Mr. Tsipras’s confrontational stance on renegotiating the bailout could create a game of chicken with Greece’s creditors. Mr. Tsipras has insisted that he will not adhere to the bailout’s austerity conditions; Greece’s creditors insist that they will not disburse funds unless he does.
Mr. Tsipras has pledged immediate action, including restoring electricity to poor families who were unable to pay their bills. He has promised to raise the minimum monthly wage to €751 from €586 for all workers, restore collective bargaining agreements, prohibit mass layoffs and create 300,000 jobs.
Jens Weidmann, president of Deutsche Bundesbank, the German central bank, warned that Greece would remain dependent on outside financial support and that the new government “should not make promises that the country cannot afford.”
“I hope the new government won’t call into question what is expected and what has already been achieved,” Mr. Weidmann said in an interview with Germany’s public broadcaster.
On the streets of Athens, voters expressed a range of emotions as they went to the polls.
At a polling station in Mets, a middle-class district near central Athens, Achilleas Mandrakis, 47, said he runs a garage but has been struggling since his wife lost her job at a shoe store. “I always voted New Democracy, and I never trusted the leftists,” he said. “But enough is enough, really. We kept giving them a chance, but they messed up. They’ve made our lives miserable.”

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Continuing economic weakness has stirred a populist backlash as more voters grow fed up with policies that demand sacrifice. CreditMilos Bicanski/Getty Images

“At least,” Mr. Mandrakis added, “a different party might change something in this mess, anything.”
In a brief news conference late Sunday, Mr. Samaras vowed that his party would continue to play a role in Greek politics and defended his government. “I received the country at the edge of a cliff,” he said. “I was asked to take burning coals into my hands, and I did it.”
Mr. Samaras said that Greece had moved away from deficits and recession and that his government had “restored the credibility of the country.”
For Syriza, the immediate question was whether the party would win the 151 seats needed for a majority in Parliament. Projections suggested a close final result. If he falls short, Mr. Tsipras might align with the Independent Greeks, a center-right fringe party that opposes austerity measures and might push for a harder line in any debt negotiations.
Early returns also showed the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party in third place with roughly 6 percent of the total vote, even with some of its leaders campaigning from prison, awaiting trial on charges of being in a criminal gang.
While Greece sees itself as being punished by creditors’ demands, Germany and a host of European officials have argued that Greece and other troubled nations in the eurozone must clean up the high debts and deficits at the root of Europe’s crisis. They say Athens has failed to make enough progress on structural reforms seen as necessary to stabilize the economy, and they are pressing Greece to raise billions of euros through more budgetary cutbacks and taxes.
Many analysts say Mr. Tsipras must moderate his campaign promises and take a more centrist approach if he wants to save the economy and keep Greece solvent. “That will be the best possible outcome for Greece and for Europe, because it would show that these protest movements ultimately recognize reality — which is that they are in the euro, and they have to play by the rules,” said Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.
Otherwise, he warned, “things could get a lot worse.”
“Very, very quickly,” he added.