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Greek state tries to stem neo-Nazi rise September 20, 2012

Posted by Yilan in Yunanistan.
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Following its unprecedented election to parliament, Greece’s neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn has been engaged in ‘law and order’ crackdowns and solidarity gestures that have boosted its popularity, alarming the state.

In recent weeks the once-fringe group has organised Greeks-only food handouts and blood donations, and has twice ousted migrant peddlers from street markets to the delight of local operators and the outrage of authorities.

Tightly regimented and dressed in black T-shirts stamped with the meander, an ancient Greek motif, Golden Dawn is also suspected of orchestrating a rising trend of racist violence against foreigners, legal or otherwise.

And it has sent squads of black-clad supporters to harass and intimidate political opponents at public events.

The government has already accused Golden Dawn of attempting to usurp the role of the police and warned that “storm battalions” would not be tolerated, a direct reference to the paramilitary gangs that helped Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.

Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias earlier this month stripped the group’s 18 lawmakers of their police guards after one of them was allegedly implicated in the smashing of immigrant trading stalls.

Golden Dawn retorted that it was fully entitled to help merchants and traders brought low by the crisis and accused the government of “taking the side of smugglers and illegal migrants.”

The group’s ratings have risen to over 10 percent in recent opinion polls.

“They seek to appear as the upholders of the law” to a nation groaning under a third year of austerity measures and decades of political corruption, criminologist Sophia Vidali told AFP.

“It’s a strategy reminiscent of Italian neo-fascism in the ’70s,” she said. The self-styled nationalist party, which campaigned in June elections with pledges to “scour the country clean”, has capitalised on the perception that undocumented migration has been allowed to run rampant.

It has benefited from judicial inertia and a suspiciously soft-handed response by police, who usually fail to arrest Golden Dawn members even when under direct attack by them.

And it has exploited anger towards Greece’s political system which is blamed by most people for the country’s economic ills.

“It’s a new phenomenon that is very dangerous for the parliamentary system,” said Yiannis Mavris, a political analyst whose polling institute Public Issue recently recorded the party’s rating at “nearly double” its score at the last election, where it picked up over 425,000 votes.

Golden Dawn “is here to stay,” Mavris said.

A former police unionist who is now a lawmaker recently warned the ruling coalition that planned pay cuts to police “would send 300,000 families directly to Golden Dawn.”

And a former police minister last year revealed that Golden Dawn militants had carried out “joint actions and assisted Greek police.”

Dimitris Psaras, a journalist investigating far-right groups, says Golden Dawn has links with German neo-Nazis.

“They are trying to appear as the only credible response to the system,” he said, deploring the state’s slow-paced response.

So far, the government has been forced to tread with caution as the party usually sends its lawmakers — who can only be prosecuted by special permission from parliament — to head street operations.

The Supreme Court has duly called on parliament to lift the immunity of three Golden Dawn lawmakers who were present at the market peddler crackdowns.

Three far-right militants — one of them a former Golden Dawn political candidate — are set to go to trial next week after seven deferrals, accused of stabbing Afghan migrants.

But Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis has warned that it will take more than legal action to stop the “inhuman” behaviour of Golden Dawn members.

“We are wrong if we believe that the Golden Dawn phenomenon can be addressed with legislation. We must seek the causes of this Nazi, fascist and inhuman behaviour by Golden Dawn members,” said Roupakiotis.

Rights activists see little room for an anti-racist campaign of substance, as the conservative-led government is itself raising the tone against migrants.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has pledged to crack down on undocumented migration which he termed “an unarmed invasion” during the election campaign.

A ‘common destiny’ for Greece and Macedonia June 24, 2011

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Macedonia.
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A common destiny

Greece and Macedonia must let go of the past and focus on a joint future based on mutual respect, writes Günther Dauwen

At a time in Europe when even in very centralised states such as Poland, France, UK and the Netherlands many political discussions are held on implementing the European Charter for regional and minority languages – Greeks and Macedonians are stuck in a juridical-constitutional limbo.

At a time when the euro and eurozone members are under serious threat and Greece seems to be heading for total financial bankruptcy, Macedonia still seems not to be allowed to enter the EU anytime soon, 20 years after its independence – Greece and Macedonia continue to disagree on the name issue.

At a time where Greece actively uses a veto to block Macedonia’s rights to a new future – both countries should be focusing on a joint future, especially in this fragile Balkan regional area, if they do not want to risk missing out on this historical moment of change.

One could say that Macedonia has not progressed as it had hoped, after freeing itself from dictatorship 20 years ago. We could also say that Greece today has not progressed in the same way it hoped, when it freed itself from dictatorship 37 years ago. Both countries are in crisis, but let’s not waste time in defining the problem again but start to solve it.

Very often people say that crises are opportunities for change – but very often those involved in the crises, caught up in conflict, don’t see it that way. And yet very often those looking at the conflict from a distance are the first to acknowledge the truth of this common sense. My several visits to this area of the Balkans, and meetings here in Brussels with relevant partners, have taught me that it is time to let go of history and that both countries should choose a common destiny. This can only be done with mutual respect.

Mutual respect means recognising one another, respecting one another’s territorial integrity and one another’s minority groups. It is high time Athens, 15 years after accepting a party representing Macedonians in Greece, faces facts and recognises and accepts Greek citizens of Macedonian descent as equal citizens in society and gives them the rights that are taken for granted in other European democracies. Linguistic and cultural rights are also increasingly implemented as universal rights, simply because they are.

It is high time that Greece no longer contests what cannot be contested, the right of a country to auto-define itself. Where on earth is this name discussion between the citizens of the two countries in crisis leading to? Nowhere. It is also high time that Greece, instead of spending money it no longer has on actively denying that the Macedonian community in Greece exists, instead spends it on recognising it, coming together and building bridges.

Without this recognition, no real communication can take place and if they do not know each other’s languages, no respectful dialogue can take place. We have therefore supported the project to create a Macedonian-Greek dictionary not due to sentimental or symbolic reasons but purely for utilitarian motives.

The Greek-Macedonian version was published some years ago and this work is now concluded by publishing Macedonian-Greek version. People from both sides should be given the chance and should give dialogue a chance. I am a dictionary collector and I know that many combinations between different languages are not yet established – communications between Uighurs and Basques, between Kurds and Sorbians are not likely to be undertaken because of a lack of infrastructure, and of dictionaries.

But that two neighbouring countries with a long and rich history should not have the instruments to shape the future is an absurdity that belongs to the René Magritte museum in Brussels but not to European institutions or to the two communities in the divided societies of Greece and Macedonia.

Shall we again focus all our energy and money into interpreting and re-interpreting history or shall we put all our cards on the table and choose a future with, dialogue, respect and mutual recognition? I know that very soon now Macedonians who live and work in Greece will not be denied the right to teach their children to speak their mother tongue together with Greek. I know that the FYROM abbreviation will soon be abandoned as a heartless artifact created out of a lack of dialogue and understanding.

Let’s build bridges. The first bridge is to recognise the reality in Lerin and the second to recognise the reality in Skopje. Greece and Macedonia are such beautiful nations that today only stand to gain if they opt for a future with communication, mutual respect and recognition.

Turkish, Greek Cypriot leaders make opposing calls for talks September 28, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Cyprus, Kibris, Yunanistan.
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Disagreements on how to resolve the prickly Cyprus dispute have once more erupted between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders, this time on whether Turkey should be a party in ongoing UN-led negotiations.

Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu and Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias have both been in New York to attend the UN General Assembly. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held bilateral meetings with Christofias on Tuesday and with Eroğlu on Saturday.

Both meetings focused on the status of the ongoing negotiations which began in 2008 — as the latest of many mediation efforts after the then-leaders of the two communities committed themselves to working towards a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality, as defined by relevant Security Council resolutions.

Christofias, addressing the UN General Assembly on Friday, said he wanted to hold direct talks with Turkey on the future of peace talks on the ethnically split island, where a decades-old conflict threatens Ankara’s bid to join the European Union.

“From this podium, I repeat my call to the Turkish leadership to meet me, parallel to the negotiating process, so that I can share with them my vision for a solution to the Cyprus problem which would serve the interests of the Cypriots, of Turkey, of Greece, as well as of peace and security in the region,” Christofias told the assembly.

Eroğlu, however, speaking at a press conference following his meeting with Ban on Friday, firmly ruled out such a composition of negotiation when reminded of Christofias’ remarks. “The problem is between Turks and Greeks living in Cyprus. The Greek Cypriot will for holding negotiations with Turkey means escaping the negotiating table. Certainly, neither Turkey nor Greece would like to be the intervener in an agreement that is not embraced by both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. Moreover, Turkey is our motherland and, of course, we are having consultations [with Turkey]; but we are the parties who will resolve the Cyprus dispute,” Eroğlu said at the press conference held at the Türkevi, which hosts Turkey’s permanent representation to the UN and Turkey’s consulate general in New York.

Greece, Turkey and former colonial ruler Britain are guarantor powers of Cyprus’ independence agreement in 1960 — giving them the right to intervene militarily if the terms of that agreement are threatened. The four-decade-old Cyprus problem erupted after the eastern Mediterranean island was granted independence from Britain in 1960, soon followed by an outbreak of inter-communal clashes in 1963. The island was ethnically divided between a Greek south and a Turkish north when the Turkish military intervened in 1974 under the terms of the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee after diplomacy failed to end unrest on the island. In addition to the Turkish Cypriot Peace Forces Command (KTBK), made up of 4,500 Turkish Cypriots, there are around 35,000 Turkish troops stationed on the island.

“The fact that he [Christofias] wants to escape the negotiating table and meet with Turkey shows that he doesn’t accept us as a counterpart — which is an extremely wrong idea. His counterpart is us,” Eroğlu said.

He, nonetheless, added that once the negotiations reached a certain level of mutual consensus, then the Turkish Cypriot side wishes to have a quadrilateral meeting among Cypriot leaders, Greece and Turkey.

Why the Byzantine Empire was not a “Greek Empire”? August 4, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Byzantine, Yunanistan.
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Within the last two centuries, we have seen the western literature label the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) as “Greek Empire”.

Once again this is largely to the inventions and distortions of the western historians of the 19th century, who also falsely ascribed “Greek” ethnicity to the ancient Macedonians.

These people took the fact that Greek was used as the language of the Empire and declared that the Empire was ruled by “Greeks”, had “Greek” armies, “Greek” churches, and “Greek” art.

In other words they spoke of the Byzantine Empire as a “Greek Empire”, a view which had been completely supported and propagated by the modern Greeks as well.

Along with distorting the ethnicity of the ancient Macedonians, the labeling of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire into “Greek” is one of the greatest fabrications of the western and modern Greek writers.

Although it is true that Greek was used as the language of the Empire, that can not be taken as proof that the empire was “Greek”.

Latin was the original official language, imposed by the Romans who established and ruled the Roman Empire.

In 395 AD when the Roman Empire split into western and eastern (Byzantine), Latin continued to be used as the official language but in time it was replaced by Greek as that language was already widely spoken among the Eastern Mediterranean nations as the main trade language.

Yet the Emperors, the Church clergy, the army, and the artists, although they spoke Latin and Greek, where not exclusively of Greek ethnicity.

The Empire was made up of many nationalities – Thracians, Macedonians, Illyrians, Bythinians, Carians, Phrygians, Armenians, Lydians, Galatians, Paphlagonians, Lycians, Syrians, Cilicians, Misians, Cappadocians, etc.

The Greeks composed only a small portion of this multi-ethnic Empire and evidence shows that they did not posses much of the power either, for we know exactly who were the Byzantine Emperors, and we know they were not ethnic Greeks.

The earlier Byzantine Emperors were Romans but in time people of different ethnic backgrounds ruled this multi-ethnic empire.

It is known that the empire reached its zenith while it was ruled by the Macedonians while the Macedonian Dynasty was on power for almost two centuries.

Other dynasties that ruled were the Syrian, Armenian, Phrygian (Amorian), and other emperors were of various nationalities.

Having in mind the ethnic diversity of the empire, the Church clergy, the army, and the artists, also came from the many different nationalities, and were not exclusively ethnic Greeks.

The Byzantine historians often speak of “Macedonian army”, “Thracian army”, “Roman army”.

The Thracians, Macedonians, Illyrians, Bythinians, Carians, Phrygians, Armenians, Lydians, Galatians, Paphlagonians, Lycians, Syrians, Cilicians, Misians, Cappadocians, had to speak Latin and Greek in order to communicate among themselves, but they must have used their original languages to communicate within their own ethnic boundaries, which of course does not make them “Greeks”.

Thus it is inaccurate to call the Byzantine Empire a “Greek Empire” and falsely ascribe its greatness to the Greeks, when in fact it is the non-Greeks who gave the greatest contribution in its progress.

The inaccurate 19th century western historiography needs another major revision, just like the one it already went through regarding the ethnicity of the ancient Macedonians. Otherwise it will continue to be unreliable and biased.

Critical rendezvous of Papandreou July 5, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Cyprus, Yunanistan.
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Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, on an official visit to the southern Greek Cypriot side of the island had a critical rendezvous yesterday with political party leaders to determine a “common national policy” on steps to be taken in the peace talks with the Turkish Cypriot side going to a landmark presidential poll this Sunday which may replace the socialist, pro-federal settlement incumbent President Mehmet Ali Talat with a conservative, Dr. Derviş Eroğlu, the current prime minister, who is also committed to the peace process, has been advocating a confederal solution to the 47-year-old problem of power sharing between the two sides of this eastern Mediterranean island.

Papandreou entered yesterday’s meeting with a clear message, “We are moving decidedly and we shall not tire of laboring on a viable solution for the Cyprus problem. We are also committed to stay by the side of the leaders of the Republic of Cyprus and the [Greek] Cypriot people, in actions and not just in words.” Yet, he was expected to confront at the meeting with a set of sharp differences between Greek Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and his AKEL party and the rest of the parties represented in the House of Representatives on some core aspects of the peace talks, as well as how Christofias has been leading the process.

For example, excluding the AKEL party, all other Greek Cypriot parties, disagree completely with the “rotation of presidency” in the future federal republic between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot “constituent elements” and the permanent stay on the island of some 50,000 mainland Turkish settlers as citizens of the new federal state.

Similarly, the “cross voting” or “weighted vote” scheme – according to which Greek Cypriots will have a 20 percent say over the outcome of the leadership elections in a Turkish Cypriot state, and vice versa – is opposed by all Greek Cypriot parties, excluding AKEL, on grounds that the proposal was an attempt to keep the socialists in power both in north and south. Interesting enough, conservative parties in the north are opposing the proposal along the very same lines, as well as from the perspective that through such an exercise of “nation building” for the first time in their history Turkish Cypriots would not be able to solely decide who should be their leader. Christofias, however, has been stressing that cross voting was a must and should there be rotation of presidency in the future federation between the two peoples on grounds that irrespective whether s/he is a Greek or a Turk, a president should come to office with votes of both two communities of the island.

Naturally, high on the agenda of the talks of Papandreou with Greek Cypriot leaders was the moves in the European Union to find ways of implementing the so-called direct trade regulation which would allow Turkish Cypriots use their airports and ports in exporting goods to the EU. Direct trade of the north with the EU was blocked effectively by the Greek Cypriot side ever since their May 1, 2004 EU membership, just a week after they buried in simultaneous referenda, despite overwhelming approval from the Turkish Cypriots, a U.N.-sponsored peace plan. In the 2004 U.N. peace plan process Papandreou was strongly supportive of the settlement, but weeks before the twin referenda on the island he lost elections and consequently Greek Cypriots killed that plan.

According to reports in the Greek Cypriot media, Papandreou has already warned the Christofias administration that he should be prepared to see a changed attitude in the EU toward the Greek Cypriot state and its persistent tactics aimed at stalling Turkey’s EU accession process. Furthermore, because of the rampant economic difficulties, it is a fact that Greece has been weakened both within the EU as well as internationally and as vulnerable as it is, Greece might not be able to be ready to stand with the Greek Cypriot caprices in the EU.

Naturally, high on the agenda of Papandreou with Greek Cypriot leaders was what policies the Greek Cypriot side should adhere if Sunday’s elections bring Eroğlu to presidency and the Turkish Cypriot side start to emphasize more strongly the demand that the new federation must derive its sovereignty from the two constituent sovereign states, which even after establishment of the federation retain with themselves some residual sovereign powers?

What Papandreou discussed on the Greek Cypriot side will become clearer within days.