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Arming the poor?

Victims of hostile foreign supervision and successive anti-Greek governments, have the people of Greece reached their limit?

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It was a sunny warm day in early June 2018. My Greek-American classical scholar friend, Apostolos Athanassakis, and I were having coffee in a lovely coffee shop in Theseion (Θησεῖον) near the Acropolis. The “boom-boom” music bothered me. I asked the waiter to change that abominable sound with something Greek. “I agree with you, Sir,” he said. “The music is bad. But I can’t do anything about it. The boss thinks this is what tourists want to hear.”

Arming the poor

My friend and I had just left the coffee shop when a logo written in black graffiti on a glass caught my attention. It read, in Greek: “Poor people to arms.” At that moment when I was taking a picture of the slogan and commenting on its grave implications, a middle-age man responded on the meaning of the word “poor.” “Have-nots or brainless?” he asked. I admitted there are many people who are being brainwashed to oblivion and others who are, possibly, stupid.

“In either case,” I said, “arming the have-nots and the potentially brainless is combustible.”

The man said “let me tell you a story of Solon and Croesus of Lydia. Solon was the Athenian philosopher-legislator of late seventh-first half of the sixth centuries BCE who, in response to a question on ultimate happiness by this very wealthy and powerful Asian king Croesus, said he doubted money alone could buy happiness.”

“It happens,” this Greek continued, “that Croesus of Lydia lost a war and the victorious enemy put him on a fire pyre. Once Croesus of Lydia got hold of himself, he started saying Solon was right. Ah, Solon,” he cried aloud, where are you? You were right.”

My friend and I let this man go on with his passionate speech. He did know his mythology and had such an admirable way of telling stories.

This man, as well as the rest of the Greeks in 2018, have been caught in a vicious chronic oppression resembling low-level warfare. This unsettling affair started, supposedly, because Greek governments borrowed excessive funds from gigantic European and American banks.

Financial meltdown

When the American financial meltdown hit the airwaves and the wallets of millions all over the world in 2008, the sleaze in Greek borrowing also blew up. Suddenly, in 2009, the American-born Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, appealed to the IMF for fixing Greek finances. Immediately, the European Commission and the European Central Bank joined the IMF, forming a formidable international coalition to run Greece.

With this calculated anti-Greek policy, Papandreou tied Greece to the International Monetary Fund, an instrument of American foreign policy known for bankrupting countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. The European Commission and the European Central Bank had no objections to IMF. Indeed, these three institutions exist to protect the interests of powerful countries and the profits of large banks.

Troika occupation of Greece

The ten-year hegemony of this “troika” over Greece has been utterly humiliating, violating human rights and national sovereignty. Moreover, this hostile foreign control of Greece has impoverished the country. First, the Troika insisted Greece gives up its sovereignty, patently an act violating both Greek and international law. Second, the Troika insisted the Greek government sells off all state assets and impose “austerity” on the Greeks. This means drastic cuts in social spending, shredding public health, abandoning environmental protection, the imposition of harsh taxation, and continuous cuts in pensions.

The results of these Troika-enforced policies have deleterious consequences on how Greeks think of Europe. Their pauperization brings to mind the terrible German destruction of their country during WWII. One tragic irony here is that Germany, magically burying its barbaric Nazi past, is leading Europe’s punishment of Greece.

The Greeks know this history, but, the influential among them, say they must obey the German-dominated troika. Silently, the Greeks oppose their government, which has become the enforcer of policies from Brussels. This probably reminds them of the dismemberment of their country by the European crusaders.

Aside from these metaphysical anxieties, the reality of daily life in Greece in 2018 brings to light large forces shaping the life of all Greeks.

Is Greece ditching its agrarian civilization?

In 2016, Greece exported goods valued at $26.5 billion. In 2016, however, Greece paid $47.6 billion for its imports.

Second, the pressure of “free” markets have sped up the industrialization of Greek farming. Farms of one crop have been getting larger. The use of hazardous and neurotoxic pesticides has been expanding. Urbanization has been depopulating thousands of villages. The country I left in 1961 is not the country of 2018.

How do I know these changes are going on? Certainly not by reading scarce and unreliable statistics. In each of my trips to Greece, I travel to villages and talk to farmers.

Greek farmers are telling me the effects from this fake farm “modernization,” subsidized by EU, are not good. It’s hard to find healthy food. Bread in 2018 is less nutritious than the bread of 1961. Bread in 2018 does not taste like homemade bread or the bread I ate while growing up in Cephalonia in the decades of the 1950s and 1960s. Greece is no longer self-reliant in food.

A flickering light of hope is the spreading of organic/biological agriculture. My visit to an organic fruits and vegetables food market was the climax of my 2018 trip to Greece. I admired the beautiful, aromatic red tomatoes from Crete and the dozens of Greeks buying them and other healthy fruits and vegetables.

Organic-biological fruits and vegetables market in the Vrilisia suburb of Athens. (Photo credit: Evaggelos Vallianatos)

Too many cars

Third, the infrastructure of the country is crumbling.

The country was rebuilt in a hurry after World War II. Most of its roads are inadequate for the influx of huge numbers of cars. Add this hazard to bad village and city narrow roads without sidewalks and you have a crisis of medieval proportions.

I like to walk and bike. I had a great deal of difficulty in walking in very narrow, broken-up right and left strips of streets flooded with parked and moving cars. As for biking, I did not even try it.

Pollution is unregulated. Greece is a dream country for polluters. The country’s huge fleet of imported cars is damaging human health and the natural world. I felt that pollution.

Parked cars in the streets of Nikaia near Piraeus. (Photo credit: Evaggelos Vallianatos)

Tax extortion 

Then comes the crown of human stupidity and greed: heavy taxation in a country collapsing from luck of funds and jobs. The Troika knows you cannot tax an unemployed person. Yet, taxation in Greece in 2018 is very broad and brutal. I was sick and tired of listening to my relatives and friends talking in terror about all the special taxes on food, homes, land, inheritance etc.

So why did the troika impose policies that impoverish Greeks, making the repayment of the loans nearly impossible? Is it possible the troika sees Greece simply as a vacation spot for rich non-Greeks? Converting the country to lots for second vacation homes for anyone with lots of cash?

This is not entirely speculative. Thousands of Germans own houses in Crete and Peloponnesos. Close to two thousand British own houses in Cephalonia. The economic collapse of Greece, and the drastic decline of home prices, is a “golden opportunity” for foreigners to buy their vacation home in Greece. And then there are thousands upon thousands of Muslim refugees in Greece.

Greeks think about this reality in their country. They probably blame the troika and its Greek collaborators, hence the genesis of the slogan: “Poor people to arms.”

Protests

Protests don’t seem to matter that much. The Greek government is a product of post-World War II inequalities and foreign ideologies. Government officials, theoretically representing the extreme left, even communist wing of the political spectrum, are just as capitalist as Wall Street bankers. Not only that, but they are, like the early Christians, internationalists to the point they are harming the national interests of Greece. They just sold the Greek name and legacy of Greek Macedonia to a bunch of Albanians and Bulgarians pretending to be “Macedonians.”

Demonstration outside Greece’s parliament on June 15, 2018, in opposition to the Tsipras-Zaev “North Macedonia” deal. (Photo: Michael Nevradakis)

Moreover, these Greek politicians don’t think Greece has borders or that Greek borders matter.

These bad policies, encouraged by NATO and the troika, also fuel Turkey’s hostility towards Greece. Turkey, fully cognizant of the incompetence, cowardliness, or idiocy of Greek political leadership, is pushing illegal migrants to the Greek islands of the Aegean, almost daily. Those who take care of the increasing numbers of Muslim migrants to Greece told me “Greece is becoming a warehouse of souls.”

Thus, “Arming the Have-Nots” may be more than a slogan. Limits control everything. Humans can put up with a lot of abuse until their limits break down. Some Greeks have already passed through that threshold.

Opinions expressed are those of the author alone and may not reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Hellenic Insider, its publisher, its editors, or its staff, writers, and contributors.

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The Mediterranean Pipeline Wars Are Heating Up

The EastMed gas pipeline is expected to start some 170 kilometers off the southern coast of Cyprus and reach Otranto on the Puglian coast of Italy via the island of Crete and the Greek mainland.

The Duran

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Authored by Viktor Katona via Oilprice.com:


Things have been quite active in the Eastern Mediterranean lately, with Israel, Cyprus and Greece pushing forward for the realization of the EastMed pipeline, a new gas conduit destined to diversify Europe’s natural gas sources and find a long-term reliable market outlet for all the recent Mediterranean gas discoveries. The three sides have reached an agreement in late November (roughly a year after signing the MoU) to lay the pipeline, the estimated cost of which hovers around $7 billion (roughly the same as rival TurkStream’s construction cost). Yet behind the brave facade, it is still very early to talk about EastMed as a viable and profitable project as it faces an uphill battle with traditionally difficult Levantine geopolitics, as well as field geology.

The EastMed gas pipeline is expected to start some 170 kilometers off the southern coast of Cyprus and reach Otranto on the Puglian coast of Italy via the island of Crete and the Greek mainland. Since most of its subsea section is projected to be laid at depths of 3-3.5 kilometer, in case it is built it would become the deepest subsea gas pipeline, most probably the longest, too, with an estimated length of 1900km. The countries involved proceed from the premise that the pipeline’s throughput capacity would be 20 BCM per year (706 BCf), although previous estimates were within the 12-16 BCm per year interval. According to Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli Energy Minister, the stakeholders would need a year to iron out all the remaining administrative issues and 4-5 years to build the pipeline, meaning it could come onstream not before 2025.

The idea of EastMed was first flaunted around 2009-2010 as the first more or less substantial gas discovery in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Tamar gas field in Israel’s offshore zone, paved the way for speculations about an impending gas boom. Then came the 535 BCm (18.9 TCf) Leviathan in 2010 and the 850 BCm (30 TCf) Zohr discovery in offshore Egypt five years later and suddenly it seemed that an Eastern Mediterranean gas expansion is inevitable. Yet over the years, the operators of Leviathan have already allocated part of their total gas volumes to domestic power generating companies and most notably NEPCO, the Jordanian electric power company (1.6-2BCm per year). Egypt has been concentrating on meeting domestic needs and getting rid of LNG imports, moreover once it bounces back to gas exporter status in 2019, it will only use its own 2 LNG terminals in Damietta and Idku.

Thus, a pertinent question arises – whose gas would be used to fill the EastMed pipeline? If the pipeline starts in offshore Cyprus, then it would be logical to expect that Cyprus’ gas bounty would be somehow utilized. Yet Cyprus has been lagging behind Egypt and Israel in its offshore endeavors and so far lacks a clear-cut giant field to base its supply future on. The two discoveries appraised heretofore, the 6-8 TCf Calypso operated by ENI and the 4.5 TCf Aphrodite operated by Noble Energy, are not enough to support the construction of a relatively expensive gas pipeline – all the more so as Noble has signed a provisional deal to send Aphrodite gas to Egypt’s Idku LNG terminal, most likely by means of a subsea gas pipeline. If we are to judge the viability of the EastMed on the current situation, there is only Calypso and Israel to fill the pipeline, as Greece’s gas export plans are close to zero on the probability scale.

The subsea section from Cyprus’ offshore zone to the island of Crete lies in depths of 3km and is stretched across a seismically active zone. But there is even more – should Turkey claim rights on Cyprus’ offshore hydrocarbon deposits (in February 2018 it sent warships to scare away ENI’s drilling rig that was on its way to xxx), the project is all but dead. This is far from an implausible scenario as President Erdogan stated that Turkey would never allow for the extortion of natural resources in the East Mediterranean by means of excluding Ankara and Northern Cyprus. Cognizant of the risks inherent in an East Mediterranean gas pipeline, there has been no interest from oil and gas majors to participate in the project. This is worrying as the $7 billion are expected to be financed from private investors, of which there is a palpable dearth – despite the EU’s 35 million funding to promote what it sees as a Project of Common Interest.

Yet even for the European Union, the EastMed gas pipeline presents a bit of a headache as its commissioning would render the Southern Gas Corridor, comprising so far only of Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) with a 10 BCm per year throughput capacity, irrelevant by creating a sort-of competitor. The price of the natural gas to be supplied via the EastMed pipeline might become the biggest obstacle of them all – if the cost of producing offshore Mediterranean gas turns out to be $4-5/MMBtu as expected, the addition of further transportation costs to it all would place EastMed supplied at the bottom range of European gas supply options (Russian gas supply is alleged to be profitable with price levels as low as $4/MMbtu). All this might change if any of the East Mediterranean countries were to discover a giant gas field, altering the economics of production or possibly even liquefaction.

In fact, 2019 will witness several key wells being drilled across Cyprus, Egypt and possibly even Israel. ExxonMobil’s testing of Block 10 in offshore Cyprus would largely point to the overall attractiveness of Cyprus as an oil and gas producing country – the drilling has already started, with results expected in Q1 2019. The ENI-operated Noor offshore field in Egypt, adjacent to Zohr, is a much hotter prospect with BP buying into it lately – most likely it will outshine all the other drilling sites in the Eastern Mediterranean, however, if a big discovery is confirmed, it would be most likely used for Egyptian purposes which run counter to the EastMed gas pipeline. Thus, EastMed’s only hope is that Israel 2nd international licensing round, results to be announced in July 2019, will elicit a couple of Leviathan-like finds that would make pipeline construction profitable. Until then, the prospects are rather bleak.

By Viktor Katona for Oilprice.com

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Turkey’s Threats against Greece

Erdogan believes that the Greek islands are occupied Turkish territory and must be reconquered.

The Duran

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Authored by Debalina Ghoshal via The Gatestne Institute:


  • The one issue on which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his opposition are in “complete agreement” is the “conviction that the Greek islands are occupied Turkish territory and must be reconquered.”
  • “So strong is this determination that the leaders of both parties have openly threatened to invade the Aegean.” – Uzay Bulut, Turkish journalist.
  • Ankara’s ongoing challenges to Greek land and sea sovereignty are additional reasons to keep it from enjoying full acceptance in Europe and the rest of the West.

In April 2017, Turkish European Affairs Minister Omer Celik claimed in an interview that the Greek Aegean island of Agathonisi (pictured) was Turkish territory. (Image source: Hans-Heinrich Hoffmann/Wikimedia Commons)

Turkey’s “persistent policy of violating international law and breaching international rules and regulations” was called out in a November 14 letter to UN Secretary General António Guterres by Polly Ioannou, the deputy permanent representative of Cyprus to the UN.

Reproving Ankara for its repeated violations of Cypriot airspace and territorial waters, Ioannou wrote of Turkey’s policy:

“[it] is a constant threat to international peace and security, has a negative impact on regional stability, jeopardises the safety of international civil aviation, creates difficulties for air traffic over Cyprus and prevents the creation of an enabling environment in which to conduct the Cyprus peace process.”

The letter followed reports in August about Turkish violations of Greek airspace over the northeastern, central and southeastern parts of the Aegean Sea, and four instances of Turkey violating aviation norms by infringing on the Athens Flight Information Region (AFIR). Similar reports emerged in June of Turkey violating Greek AFIR by conducting unauthorized flights over the southern Aegean islets of Mavra, Levitha, Kinaros and Agathonisi.

In April 2017, Turkish European Affairs Minister Omer Celik claimed in an interview that Agathonisi was Turkish territory. A day earlier, a different Turkish minister announced that Turkey “would not allow Greece to establish a status of ‘fait accompli’ in the ‘disputed’ regions in the Aegean Sea.” In December 2017, Greek Deputy Minister of Shipping Nektarios Santonirios reportedly “presented a plan to populate a number of uninhabited eastern Aegean islands to deter Turkish claims to the land.”

According to a recent statement from Greece’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

“Greek-Turkish disputes over the Aegean continental shelf date back to November 1973, when the Turkish Government Gazette published a decision to grant the Turkish national petroleum company permits to conduct research in the Greek continental shelf west of Greek islands in the Eastern Aegean.

“Since then, the repeated Turkish attempts to violate Greece’s sovereign rights on the continental shelf have become a serious source of friction in the two countries’ bilateral relations, even bringing them close to war (1974, 1976, 1987).”

This friction has only increased with the authoritarian rule of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, particularly since, as Uzay Bulut notes:

There is one issue on which Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), are in complete agreement: The conviction that the Greek islands are occupied Turkish territory and must be reconquered. So strong is this determination that the leaders of both parties have openly threatened to invade the Aegean.

The only conflict on this issue between the two parties is in competing to prove which is more powerful and patriotic, and which possesses the courage to carry out the threat against Greece. While the CHP is accusing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP party of enabling Greece to occupy Turkish lands, the AKP is attacking the CHP, Turkey’s founding party, for allowing Greece to take the islands through the 1924 Treaty of Lausanne, the 1932 Turkish-Italian Agreements, and the 1947 Paris Treaty, which recognized the islands of the Aegean as Greek territory.

This has been Turkish policy despite the fact that both Greece and Turkey have been members of NATO since 1952. Greece became a member of the European Union in 1981 — a status that Turkey has spent decades failing to achieve, mainly due to its human-rights violations.

Recently, EU and Turkish officials met in Brussels on November 30 to discuss an intelligence-sharing agreement between the European Police Service (Europol) and Ankara. Such an agreement is reportedly one of 72 requirements that Ankara would have to meet in order to receive visa-free travel to the Schengen zone.

Ankara’s ongoing challenges to Greek land and sea sovereignty are additional reasons to keep it from enjoying full acceptance in Europe and the rest of the West.

Debalina Ghoshal, an independent consultant specializing in nuclear and missile issues, is based in India.

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Paranoid Turkey Claims “Greece, Israel, & Egypt Are Part Of Khashoggi’s Murder Plot”

A new Turkish narrative has been launched claiming that Greece, Israel and Egypt are part of the murder plot of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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Via Zerohedge


As we noted previouslythe conflict over gas in the eastern Mediterranean is intensifying.

The dispute concerns gas blocks, with Turkey furious about the energy cooperation of these Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt in the East Mediterranean Sea. While Turkish warships have been active, it appears Turkey is taking a new approach to this hybrid war.

As KeepTalkingGreece.com reports,a new Turkish narrative, based on paranoia and conspiracy theories, has been launched claiming that Greece, Israel and Egypt are part of the murder plot of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggipresumably in an effort to garner global opinion against their energy-hording neighbors.

This unbelievable allegation has been claimed by Erdogan’s close aide Yigit Bulut, who is famous for his delirium and ravings, during an appearance on state television of Turkey.

“Greece, Israel and Egypt are part of murder plot involving slain Saudi Arabia journalist Khashoggi in Istanbul,” Yigit Bulut said in TRT Television, where he is a frequent guest.

Enlisting the ‘good old traditional perception’ that Turkey is surrounded by enemies, KeepTalkingGreece notesthat Bulut said:

“a belt extending from Europe to Israel has always harbored hostility towards Turkey they never wanted Turks in this region. Europe even made Turks to fight unnecessary wars against Russia.”

It is worth noting that Russia and Turkey have come closer recently due to Syria, a cooperation sealed with armament sales to Ankara triggering the anger of US and the NATO of which Turkey is a member.

Bulut vowed that Turkey will continue oil and gas exploration in the East Mediterranean off-shore Cyprus.

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