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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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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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Via RT


One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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Greece: “Humanitarian Aid” Organization’s People-Smuggling

Greek NGO evidently received 2,000 euros from each illegal immigrant it helped to enter Greece.

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Authored by Maria Polizoidou of Gatestone Institute:


  • Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI) describes itself as a “Greek nonprofit organization that provides emergency response and humanitarian aid in times of crisis….” It has reportedly abetted the illegal entry into Greece of 70,000 immigrants since 2015, providing the “nonprofit” with half a billion euros per year.
  • ECRI evidently received 2,000 euros from each illegal immigrant it helped to enter Greece. In addition, its members created a business for “integrating refugees” into Greek society, granting it 5,000 euros per immigrant per year from various government programs (in education, housing and nutrition).
  • With the government of Greece seemingly at a loss as to how to handle its refugee crisis and safeguard the security of its citizens, it is particularly dismaying to discover that the major NGO whose mandate is to provide humanitarian aid to immigrants is instead profiting from smuggling them.

Migrants arrive at a beach on the Greek island of Kos after crossing part of the Aegean sea from Turkey in a rubber dinghy, on August 15, 2015. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

On August 28, thirty members of the Greek NGO Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI) were arrested for their involvement in a people-smuggling network that has been operating on the island of Lesbos since 2015. According to a statement released by Greek police, as a result of the investigation that led to the arrests, “The activities of an organised criminal network that systematically facilitated the illegal entry of foreigners were fully exposed.”

Among the activities uncovered were forgery, espionage and the illegal monitoring of both the Greek coastguard and the EU border agency, Frontex, for the purpose of gleaning confidential information about Turkish refugee flows. The investigation also led to the discovery of an additional six Greeks and 24 foreign nationals implicated in the case.

ERCI describes itself as:

“[A] Greek nonprofit organization that provides emergency response and humanitarian aid in times of crisis. ERCI’s philosophy is to identify the gaps of humanitarian aid and step in to assist in the most efficient and impactful manner. Currently ERCI has 4 active programs working with refugees in Greece in the areas of Search and Rescue, Medical, Education and Refugee Camp Coordination.”

In spite of its stated mission and non-profit profile, however, ECRI — according to Greek authorities, has earned considerable sums of money from its serving as a conduit for illegal activities. ECRI evidently received 2,000 euros from each illegal immigrant it helped to enter Greece. In addition, its members created a business for “integrating refugees” into Greek society, granting it 5,000 euros per immigrant per year from various government programs (in education, housing and nutrition). ERCI has reportedly abetted the illegal entry into Greece of 70,000 immigrants since 2015, providing the “non-profit” with half a billion euros per year.

This revelation, however, does not begin to cover the extent of the illegal activities surrounding the entry of migrants into Greece. In 2017, for instance, Greek authorities arrested 1,399 people-smugglers, some under the cover of “humanitarian” operations; and during the first four months of 2018, authorities arrested 25,594 illegal immigrants.

More worrisome than the literally steep price paid to people-smugglers by the immigrants themselves — or that doled out by the Greek government in the form of integration subsidies — is the toll the situation is taking on Greek society as a whole.

According to Greek police statistics, there were 75,707 robberies and burglaries reported in 2017. Of these cases only 15,048 were solved, and 4,207 were committed by aliens. In addition, the police estimate that more than 40% of serious crimes were committed by illegal immigrants. (Legal and illegal immigrants in Greece make up 10-15% of the total population.)

In 2016, Greek prisons reportedly contained 4,246 Greeks and 5,221 foreigners convicted of serious crimes: 336 for homicide; 101 for attempted homicide; 77 for rape; and 635 for robbery. In addition, thousands of cases are still pending trial.

In a recent heart-wrenching case on August 15, a 25-year-old college student from Athens — on a visit home from his studies at a university in Scotland — was murdered by three illegal immigrants while he was out touring the city with a female friend from Portugal.

The three perpetrators, two Pakistanis and an Iraqi ranging in age from 17 to 28, told police that they first attacked the young woman, stealing money, credit cards, a passport and a cell phone from her purse, but when they realized that her phone was “old,” they went for the young man’s phone, threatening him with a knife. When he tried to fend them off, they said in their confession, they shoved him and he fell off a cliff to his death. After the interrogation, it transpired that the three killers were wanted for 10 additional robberies in the area.

In an angry letter to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, members of parliament and the mayor of Athens, the mother of the victim accused Tsipras of “criminal negligence” and “complicity” in her son’s murder.

“Instead of welcoming and providing “land and water” to every criminal and dangerous individual with savage instincts,” she wrote, “should the state not think first of the safety of its own citizens, whose blood it drinks daily [economically]? [Should the state] abandon [its citizens] to ravenous gangs, for whom the worth of a human life has less meaning than the value of a cell phone or a gold chain?”

Although those were the words of a grieving mother, they are sentiments widely felt and expressed throughout Greece, where such incidents are increasingly common.

On August 29, two weeks after that murder, six immigrants in northern Greece verbally assaulted a 52-year-old man on the street, apparently for no reason. When he ignored them and kept walking, one of them stabbed him in the shoulder blade with a 24-cm (9.4-inch) knife, landing him in the hospital.

Two days earlier, on August 27, approximately 100 immigrants, protesting the living conditions in their camp in Malakasa, blocked the National Highway for more than three hours. Drivers stuck on the road said that some of the protestors went on a rampage, bashing cars with blocks of wood. To make matters worse, police on the scene said that they had not received instructions from the Ministry of Citizen Protection to clear the highway or protect the victims. Gatestone was told upon further queries, that there was no official statement from the police or the ministry, just the drivers’ statements.

With the government of Greece seemingly at a loss as to how to handle its migrant crisis and safeguard the security of its citizens, it is particularly dismaying to discover that the major NGO whose mandate is to provide humanitarian aid to immigrants is instead profiting from smuggling them. The recent arrest of ERCI members underscores the need to scrutinize all such organizations.

Maria Polizoidou, a reporter, broadcast journalist, and consultant on international and foreign affairs, is based in Greece. She has a post-graduate degree in “Geopolitics and Security Issues in the Islamic complex of Turkey and Middle East” from the University of Athens.

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Turkey’s Latest Power Grab: A Naval Base In Cyprus?

“If Greek-Turkish tensions escalate, the possibility of another ill-timed military provocation could escalate with them… Moreover, such a conflict might open up an even greater opportunity for Russian interference.” — Lawrence A. Franklin.

The Duran

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Authored by Debalina Ghoshal via The Gatestone Institute:


  • The possibility of a Turkish naval base on Cyprus does not bode well for the chances of a Cyprus reunification deal, particularly after the breakdown of the July 2017 peace talks, which were suspended when “Turkey had refused to relinquish its intervention rights on Cyprus or the presence of troops on the island.” Turkey has 30,000 soldiers stationed on Cyprus, the northern part of which it has illegally occupied since 1974.

Turkey’s Naval Forces Command has “submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating that Turkey should establish a naval base in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” according to Turkey’s strongly pro-Erdogan daily, Yeni Safak, which recently endorsed the proposal for the base in an article entitled, “Why Turkey should establish a naval base in Northern Cyprus.”

“The base will enable the protection of Northern Cyprus’ sovereignty as well as facilitate and fortify Turkey’s rights and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, preventing the occupation of sea energy fields, and strengthening Turkey’s hand in the Cyprus peace process talks.”

Having a naval base in northern Cyprus would also strengthen the self-proclaimed “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” which is recognized only by Turkey. Cyprus is strategically important: a naval base there would give Turkey easier access to the Eastern Mediterranean’s international trade routes and greater control over the vast undersea energy resources around Cyprus. In the past, Turkey has blocked foreign vessels from drilling for these resources; in June, Turkey began its own exploration of the island’s waters for gas and oil.

This is not the first time that Turkey has set its sights on the area’s resources. In 2014, Ankara dispatched surveillance vessels and warships to Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to search for hydrocarbons. This incident took place just before the leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt deepened their an energy-cooperation, “freezing Turkey out.” As soon as the accord was signed, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades blasted “Turkey’s provocative actions,” saying that they “do not just compromise the peace talks [between Greek and Turkish Cypriots]… [but] also affect security in the eastern Mediterranean region.”

At the time, UN-brokered reunification negotiations, which had been renewed after a long hiatus, ended unsuccessfully yet again, as a result of Turkey’s search for hydrocarbons in the EEZ. According to a November 2014 report in the Guardian:

“Turkey’s decision to dispatch a research vessel into disputed waters last month not only resulted in talks being broken off but has exacerbated the row over drilling rights.”

The possibility of a Turkish naval base does not bode well for the chances of a Cyprus reunification deal, particularly after the breakdown of the July 2017 peace talks between Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. The talks were suspended when “Turkey had refused to relinquish its intervention rights on Cyprus or the presence of troops on the island.” Turkey has 30,000 soldiers stationed on Cyprus, the northern part of which it has illegally occupied since 1974.

Another factor that may be contributing to the Turkish Navy’s desire for a base in Cyprus is Israel. Aside from Ankara’s extremely rocky relations with Jerusalem, Israel and Cyprus have been working to forge an agreement to join their electricity grids and construct a pipeline to link their gas fields to mainland Europe. Although they are in a dispute over development rights of one of these gas fields, Aphrodite, they are invested in reaching a solution that will not damage their increasingly friendly relations.

Erdogan’s considerations should concern NATO, of which Turkey, surprisingly, is still a member, and the rest of the West. As Lawrence A. Franklin recently wrote for Gatestone:

“If Greek-Turkish tensions escalate, the possibility of another ill-timed military provocation could escalate with them. The ability of NATO to respond to other conflicts in the area could be affected, as well as NATO air and naval assets based in both countries. Moreover, such a conflict might open up an even greater opportunity for Russian interference.”

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

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