matchpoint

Οκτώβριος 2, 2010

Greece against…Stephen Hawking!

Filed under: English texts — Takis Michas @ 7:52 πμ

 

                 Greece against …Stephen Hawking!

By Takis Michas

The understandable focus of the international media on  Greece’s economic debacle  has had as a result that other equally  absurd situations are going   unnoticed. Yet  one does not have to look very far or very hard to find also other manifestations of social  life in Greece that raise serious questions  about the place of the country in the European family of nations. The latest  incident concerns the venomous attack by a highly prominent state functionary against the  British physicist  Stephen  Hawking.

Α couple of days ago the bishop of Pireus  Serafeim  issued a written statement dismissing Hawking’s theories which he attributed to “the inferiority complexes”  which the British scientist suffers  as a result of the fact that he is “reduced to an electric chair and is condemned to communicate by  electronic voice.”. According to the prominent Greek cleric Hawking suffers from “confusion in the mind” resulting from his ”unbearable bodily misery”. (http://news.kathimerini.gr/4dcgi/_w_articles_ell_1_24/09/2010_416157

This shocking  statement  is not simply  a case of an  irrational outburst by an individual   Greek citizen. The Church in Greece is a state institution and its practitioners  are paid by the Greek taxpayer (and by those   who were deceived into buying  Greek state bonds…)  Religion  is the responsibility of the ministry of education (which is bizarely  called “Ministry of Education and Religions”).The  brainswashing of children  into  the teachings of  the Orthodox jihad is a state imposed compulsory 12 year affair. The Orthodox religion is considered as being  coextensive with the Greek national identity while in all national and religious celebrations the  clergy together with the military  and the politicians occupies  the central stage. Every  leading member of the Greek political nomenklatura (including the present prime minister George Papandreou) see it  as his  duty to do  photo-os with the leaders of the Church.

What was however even more interesting than the statement itself ,  was the deafening silence with which the   Greek political class greeted   the bishop’s  outburst.There was absolutely no reaction even  from  Anna Diamantopoulou who as the minister of education and religions  bears a particular responsibility for the public  statements of her underlings.

Which of course is not surprising. Greek politicians. like their counterparts elsewhere in the world , are primarily concerned about votes. In Greece, having good relations with the clergy brings votes while defending Stephen Hawking does not. Some-rather most- things in Greece never change-crises or no crises.  As this latest incidence shows   the gap separating Greece from the West  does  not  only –or even primarily -concern  deficit, debts and financial mismanagement.

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Δεκέμβριος 12, 2008

Greece is Burning

Filed under: English texts — Takis Michas @ 8:45 πμ

Wall Street Journal

12/12./08    

 

 

 

                Greece is Burning.

 

       How lost principles led to lost control

 

By Takis Michas


ATHENS–When Greece’s conservative New Democracy party came to power in March 2004 it promised three things: to “reinvent” the state, to eliminate corruption and to initiate much-needed educational reform. Four years later, the situation remains unchanged: The state is still a tool for bestowing benefits and favors, corruption in the public sector is still rampant, and all attempts at educational reform have quickly fizzled out.


This sets the context for the riots that have engulfed Greece since Sunday. The postcard picture of Greece as the land of sunny beaches and friendly people has been totally shattered, revealing a country torn by social strife and consumed by hatred and senseless violence.

 

The ostensible cause for the rioting was the killing–under circumstances that remain unclear–of a 15-year-old boy by a policeman last Saturday near the Athens district of Exarchia, a popular hangout for lefties and professed anarchists. Two officers have been arrested and charged with the boy’s slaying. Poor training, lack of motivation and low salaries make for a notoriously incompetent police force whose members are prone to cause such tragic incidents. In that sense the police shares the malaise of the rest of the public sector in Greece. The only difference is that they carry arms.


The death quickly led to mostly peaceful mass demonstrations all over Greece by students, who were understandably unhappy with the killing of their peer. They are also fed up with an overcentralized education system that thrives on rote learning, which stifles innovation and creativity.


But soon the protests turned into ugly riots. Groups of masked anarchists set about an orgy of torching, looting and vandalism in Athens, Thessaloniki and other major cities in Greece.

What was unique about the events in Greece–as opposed to, say, the riots in the banlieues of Paris a few years ago–was the total withdrawal of the government and the security forces from the scene of the riots. Civil society was left alone and unarmed to fend off the violent attacks on their property by the hordes of predators. On Tuesday night, one of the worst nights of rioting, more than 400 shops were attacked in Athens: Some were torched, others looted and seriously damaged. Similar events happened in other major cities in Greece.


All of this took place while the security forces simply stood by and watched the disaster unfold. They were following the explicit orders of their political masters to assume a “defensive posture”–which in effect meant that they did not try to prevent the orgy of destruction.

 

Anyone watching this absurd scene could be excused for concluding that a secret deal had been struck between the government and the rioters: We let you torch and plunder to your heart’s content, and you let us continue pretending that we are in charge.


The government justified its passivity by arguing that any attempt to stop the vandalism might have produced human victims. At the same time, in order to pacify the enraged shopkeepers who were seeing their hopes for a profitable holiday shopping season go up in smoke, it promised to use taxpayer money to compensate them for the damages caused by the rioters.

“What we are witnessing is the total abdication of responsibility by the Greek state,” says Antonis Papayanidis, the former editor in chief of conservative daily Eleftheros Tipos. “This happened both in the case of the shooting of the youth by an incompetent policeman as well as in the case of the riots that followed.”

 

The government’s passivity amid this dissolution of law and order did not simply reflect bad crisis management or sheer incompetence–though both elements go a long way in explaining its inaction. At a deeper level the conservative government’s failure to respond decisively also signified its defeat in the battle of ideas, especially among the young.

 

The abdication of responsibility was in part the result of the New Democracy party’s abandonment of the values of classical liberalism, whose cornerstone is the rule of law and the respect of private property. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, the party has over the years purged from its ranks all voices of classical liberalism and has explicitly rejected values-based narratives in favor of an ill-defined pragmatism. This has proved no match for the ideological assault by the left, which ended up monopolizing the marketplace of ideas in the universities and the other educational establishments of the country.

 

Such was the ideological confusion of the government that on the night of the great destruction the only criticism that Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos could voice against the plundering thugs was that they were following their idiotelis stochous ( own self-interests). Adam Smith would surely turn in his grave!

 

Even worse was the statement by Panagiotis Stathis, spokesman for the national police, explaining the authorities’ inaction: “Violence cannot be fought with violence.” With this remark, he effectively equated violence exercised by the authorities to defend the social order with the violence of those trying to destroy it.

 

“The fall of Rome,” wrote Seneca, “took place when Rome’s pragmatism ceased to be pragmatic.” Unfortunately, the conservatives in Greece do not read Seneca–or much else for that matter.

 

Mr. Michas is a journalist with the Greek daily Eleftherotypia and an associate of the Center for Studies in Classical Liberalism in Athens. 

 

 

Νοέμβριος 11, 2008

Why Critics of Greece’s Macedonia Policy Keep Silent

Filed under: English texts — Takis Michas @ 2:24 μμ

 

 

The Greek establishment still punishes people who deviate from the official line on Macedonia, as one former PASOK official discovered to his cost.

 

By Takis Michas in Athens

 

 

The legal prosecution and state-inspired harassment of people professing different views on “national issues” that took place during the early 1990s has left deep marks on Greek society.

 

Thus, today, even those few persons that have more critical views on the Macedonian issue, for example, prefer to keep them to themselves, fearing  that such views will  not improve their career prospects.  As recent events show, their fears are not unjustified.

 

Grigoris Valianatos had been employed since 1985 with the leading left-wing opposition party PASOK as a political communications advisor. His job was to “package” the political message of the party and help disseminate it. He did not have any say in the contents of the message.

 

But when Valianatos was asked about his views on the “Skopje” issue and the Macedonian minority in Greece during a TV interview last Thursday, he replied that the country had every right to be called “Macedonia” and that a Macedonian minority existed in Greece.

 

Although he made clear that those were his personal views and by no means the views of the party, this clarification did not help him. The next morning, PASOK issued a laconic statement informing the public that Valianatos’s contract had been terminated because he had expressed “personal opinions” that contradicted the party line.

 

“I was really shocked when I read the statement,” Valianatos told me when I met him in Athens. “Everybody knew my views all these years and I never had the slightest problem. Indeed when I gave a speech at a PASOK meeting a few year ago and referred to the existence of a Turkish and a Macedonian minority the participants all applauded, including the party leader, George Papandreou.”

 

The government in Skopje argues that there is indeed a Macedonian minority in Greece, which has been deprived of its basic human rights of cultural and national expression and education in its mother tongue.

 

Athens, on the other hand,  says that the only true Macedonians are the Greek Macedonians. As Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis wrote   in his letter to FYROM  Prime Minister Guevski «there has never existed a Macedonian minority»   in Greece.

 

Ever since the break-up of former Yugoslavia in 1991, Macedonia’s name and history has been the object of a dispute between Athens and Skopje.

 

After Greece strongly objected to Macedonia’s entry in to the United Nations under that name, the country was admitted in 1993 under the provisional term “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” FYROM, pending a solution to the dispute.

 

The Skopje government insisted it had no territorial claims on Greek territory, while Athens for its part pledged not to block Skopje’s accession to international organizations, as long as it remained under the provisional name.

 

The so-called “name” row gained in momentum this April after Athens blocked Skopje’s application to join NATO, insisting Macedonia had to change its name first.

Valianatos, meanwhile, is also the author of various books, which until recently appeared on the personal website of Papandreou. After the incident, they disappeared from the PASOK leader’s website.

 

Valianatos insists his former role in PASOK had been purely technocratic. “My role was not political. I would offer all sorts of ideas concerning how to make PASOK’s message more effective but I had absolutely no influence in shaping the message,” he said. “That is why I find the decision to terminate my contract incomprehensible. It is like dismissing your dentist because he happens to be a Maoist!”

 

Papandreou recently attended in Brussels a meeting of the Socialist International, the organization of which he is the current president. What is ironic is that most European socialists would agree with Valianatos on the issue of a Macedonian minority.

 

Alas, Greece is not like the rest of Europe, and what is considered self-evident in a European context is still too often considered a dangerous heresy in the Balkans.

 

Takis Michas is a Greek journalist and author of the book “Unholy Alliance: Greece and Milosevic’s Serbia” (Texas A & M University Press 2002). Balkan Insight is BIRN`s online publication.

 

 

 

Απρίλιος 30, 2008

Balkan Neighbors

Filed under: English texts — Takis Michas @ 9:17 πμ

By TAKIS MICHAS

FROM TODAY’S WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE
April 29, 2008

Athens

After a recent visit to Skopje, the U.S. envoy to NATO, Victoria Nuland, said that the argument between Greece and Macedonia could be settled «within days or weeks.» If only. Unfortunately, the so-called name dispute is far too complex for easy fixes.

First there is the name: Greece wants its northern neighbor to change its constitutional designation, Republic of Macedonia, to something else, perhaps with «New» or «Upper» prefixed. Unless it does so, Greece will continue to block Macedonia’s entry into NATO, as it did at this month’s Bucharest summit, and presumably the European Union. Athens claims the current name reveals territorial ambitions against its own northern province of Macedonia.

There is also the dispute over the existence of a Macedonian nation. Since the end of World War II, Greece consistently refused to acknowledge such a nation or ethnic group, arguing that it was the «artificial creation» of former Yugoslav strongman Tito. According to this view, the only real Macedonians are ethnic Greeks. Greek officials and most of the media here today refer to Macedonia by the demeaning term «Skopjans.»

Then there is the question of language. Greece denies the existence of a Macedonian language, claiming that this is merely a «local idiom» or «dialect.»

There is, lastly, the issue of Slav Macedonians who fled Greece after World War II. Greece denies these political refugees and their descendants any «right of return,» saying they were traitors who forfeited their claims to citizenship by fighting alongside the Communist-led Democratic Army, which sought the secession of (Greek) Macedonia from Greece. After the defeat of the Communist forces in the Greek Civil War, many of the militants settled in the countries of the former Soviet block, including approximately 30,000 in the neighboring then-Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Their properties in Greece were confiscated by the state and reallocated to the inhabitants of the region. In 1983, then Socialist Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou passed a law allowing for the repatriation of the communist political refugees. However, Slav Macedonians were excluded from this deal since the law applied only to ethnic Greeks.

All four areas of dispute are interrelated. All tend to confirm the fears and stereotypes the inhabitants of both countries have about the other.

For the Greeks – especially in the northern regions – the claims concerning the existence of a «Macedonian» nation, language or country as well as for the return of the refugees are seen as part and parcel of Skopje’s «irredentism.» Recent actions by the Macedonian government, such as the decision to rename the airport in Skopje after Alexander the Great or the circulation in public of maps of «Greater Macedonia» that include parts of Greece, did nothing to allay the fears of many Greeks that the «expansionist» ideology of their neighbor poses a threat to territorial integrity.

On the other side of the border, the picture is inverted. For the Macedonians, Greek attempts to deny them a name, a language, an ethnicity and basic human rights (like «the right to return») are part of the «cultural genocide» of Slav Macedonians that Greece has been waging for the past century. By this view, the ethnic homogenization of northern Greece – which started with the Balkan wars at the beginning of the last century and culminated in the post-World War II settlement in the region – was intended to Hellenize the Slav populations of Northern Greece.

According to this view, in the course of the nation-building of modern Greece, key aspects of history, life and culture that didn’t conform with the official vision of a single, unitary nation that could trace its lineage back to the days of Pericles were erased. Entire towns and villages disappeared from the map as did the names of a host of public spaces, churches, monasteries, mountains, lakes and rivers. Slavic family and individual names were changed into Greek names. The public use of the Slavic Macedonian language was prohibited.

Contrary to received wisdom, the dispute between Greece and Macedonia isn’t over a mere name, but concerns competing national mythologies, symbols and histories. In other words, we have here all the usual Balkan issues over which people in this part of the world and elsewhere have butchered each other in the distant and not-so-distant past. No easy fix is possible, and a compromise over the name won’t put to rest the basic conflict. Unless all the problems are addressed openly and honestly, mutual distrust will persist, ready to erupt again at the first opportunity – or once EU reconstruction funds dry up.

Had Athens and Skopje engaged in serious bilateral or multilateral talks during the past decade on all the points of contention, and not focused simply on the «name,» perhaps they would not find themselves in their current, absurd predicament.

Mr. Michas, a Greek journalist, is author of «Unholy Alliance: Greece and Milosevic’s Serbia» (University of Texas A & M Press, 2002).

Μαρτίου 22, 2008

Documentary Greece-Bosnia

Filed under: English texts — Takis Michas @ 8:06 πμ
A video which was recently released over the net by the Dutch State Television on Greek policy during the Bosnian genocide.The parts that are in Dutch are easily explained by the Greek or English that follows.When you get to the web page click on the little picture portraying a videocamera 
http://www.ikonrtv.nl/factor/index.asp?oId=402#

Μαρτίου 16, 2008

Macedonia Dispute is Not About a Name

Filed under: English texts — Takis Michas @ 9:02 μμ

Comment 

Macedonia Dispute is Not About a Name 

Even if the two countries agree on a compromise title for the former Yugoslav republic, their disputes will not be solved. 

By Takis Michas in Athens  

There is little doubt that a large part of the Greek population, especially in northern Greece, feels sincerely threatened by what it perceives as “irredentism” on the part of the Skopje government.  Recent actions, such as the decision to rename the airport in Skopje after Alexander the Great, or the circulation in public of maps of “Greater Macedonia”, confirm the fears of many Greeks that the “expansionist” ideology of their neighbour poses a threat to Greece’s territorial integrity.  

While some foreign observers concede that Greek fears are well founded, the majority sees them as ludicrous. Yet, one question is rarely posed: Even if one accepts that Greek fears are justified, how will changing the country’s name remove the grounds upon which those fears are based?

If that is the case, Greece’s policy over the last 20 years, focusing on forcing Skopje to change the country’s constitutional name, makes little sense.

 Let us assume the government in Skopje succumbs to international pressure and accepts the name “Upper Macedonia”. The Greek government, so the story goes, will then welcome “Upper Macedonia” into NATO with open arms. The question, however, is why?  Why should the adoption of a composite name like “Upper Macedonia” make Greeks feel less threatened by their neighbour’s so-called “irredentism”?   Irrespective of which name is adopted, the respective historical discourses on which the two countries base their national identities will not only continue to diverge but will also continue to come into conflict with one another. And it is those discourses – not the name itself – that lie at the heart of the dispute. 

Today, Greece claims that the country is “an artificial creation” of the former Yugoslav strongman Josip Broz Tito. Macedonian historians on the other hand see the creation of a republic within Yugoslavia as the outcome of long historical processes.  Greece does not recognize the existence of even traces of a “Macedonian” ethnic consciousness among the Slav-speaking population of the region during the 18th and 19th centuries. To the north, the exact opposite view is held.  Greece refuses to recognize that the everyday means of communication in its neighbour is a “language”, terming it in all official documents a “spoken idiom” or “dialect”.  Finally, Greece denies any “right of return” to the Slav-speaking Macedonians who fled Greece after the Second World War, claiming they were traitors who forfeited their claims to citizenship. 

Whether this situation will change if the country adopts the name “Upper Macedonia” is doubtful. The Slav Macedonians who left Greece after the War will not suddenly get a welcome mat in Greece. Nor will Greece recognize that the speech people use in Skopje constitutes a “language” rather than an “idiom” because it is now called the “Upper Macedonian language”. Nor should one expect official Greek historiography to suddenly accept that once upon a time groups of people living in Greece developed a “Macedonian” (or should we say “Upper Macedonian”?) ethnic consciousness.   

Put bluntly, all the serious points of contention between the two countries, all the claims and counter-claims, will persist, irrespective as to whether the name of the country changes or not – because the problem between the two countries is not a “name dispute” but a general dispute concerning competing national mythologies, symbols and historical points of reference.  

In other words, it is a conflict that concerns all the items over which people in the Balkans have been happily butchering one another in the distant and the not-so-distant past and will probably continue to do so in the future if the opportunity presents itself and if European Union funds dry up. If this is correct, both Athens and Skopje have committed a tremendous blunder by focusing exclusively on the name issue.  Had the two countries engaged in serious bilateral or multilateral talks during the past ten years on all issues and points of contention, and not simply on the “name”, perhaps they would not find themselves in their current absurd situation – a situation that only confirms international suspicions that the Balkans are after all – the Balkans! 

 Takis Michas is a Greek journalist and author of the book “Unholy Alliance: Greece and Milosevic’s Serbia” (Texas A & M University Press 2002). Balkan Insight is BIRN`s online publication.     

Φεβρουαρίου 18, 2008

Greece and the war in Bosnia

Filed under: English texts — Takis Michas @ 5:38 μμ

A Front-Page  interview with Takis Michas in the leading  Bosnian Political Review Star Bih(www.startbih.info)

(18/02/08)

(At the end of the Interview some extracts are provided in English)

Intervju: Takis Michas

Grci se ne kaju zbog podrške zločincima

Novinar dnevnih novina Eleftherotypia i saradnik Wall Street Journala, autor knjige “Nesveta alijansa” po prvi put za bh. medije govori o reakcijama koje je izazvala njegova knjiga, prijetnjama i pritiscima koje je doživio nakon objavljivanja knjige te odgovornosti grčkih političara za učešće u zločinu. Nazavan je i crnom ovcom grčkog novinarstva, a o načinima na koji mu je prijećeno te profesionalnim pritiscima koje je doživio ne želi direktno govoriti, kaže – to je iza njega i ne želi se na to vraćatiRazgovarao: Almir PanjetaGrčki novinar Takis Michas suočio se sa burom javnog nezadovoljstva kada je objavio knjigu Nesveta alijansa u kojoj govori o umiješanosti Grčke u zločine u BiH i pad Srebrenice. Doživio je i osude grčkih kolega novinara, među kojima je poznat kao crna ovca jer se odbijao priključiti trendu pune podrške pravoslavnoj braći tokom rata u nekadašnjoj Jugoslaviji. U početku knjige, Michas je citirao jednog od grčkih boraca koji su učestvovali u osvajanju Srebrenice. Nakon što je artiljerija prestala bombardovati, uletjeli smo i ‘počistili’ mjesto! – kazao je tad pripadnik Grčke dobrovoljačke garde, jedinice koja je operirala u Vlasenici. Prema podacima iz knjige, garda je formirana u martu 1995. na zahtjev generala Mladića, glavnokomandujućeg vojske bosanskih Srba, i bila je potpuno integrirana u njegove snage. Iako su mnogi ovu knjigu nazvali knjigom koja govori o grčkim dobrovoljcima, ona je, kaže Michas u eksluzivnom razgovoru za Start, više knjiga koja govori o ukupnoj umiješanosti Grčke u rat u BiH, i to ne samo vojno, već moralno i ekonomski.  Iako je Grčka uloga u probijanju sankcija tokom ratova prilično poznata, knjiga po prvi put bilježi primjere dostupne čitalaštvu s engleskog govornog područja. Tri dana prije nego što je ubijen u oktobru 2000., srpski biznismen i lik iz svijeta podzemlja Vladimir Bokan dao je intervju Michasu. Bokan je preselio u Grčku 1992., a grčko državljanstvo je primio dvije godine potom. Michasu je pričao kako su grčke vlasti pomagale da se slomi ratni embargo na naftu za Srbiju i Crnu Goru a objasnio mu je kako je 1994. kupio plovilo da prevozi naftu iz državne rafinerije u Grčkoj do crnogorske luke Bar, odakle je išla dalje za Srbiju. Takis Michas, novinar dnevnih novina Eleftherotypia i saradnik Wall Street Journala, po prvi put za bh. medij govori o reakcijama koje je izazvala njegova knjiga, prijetnjama i pritiscima koje je doživio nakon objavljivanja knjige Nesveta alijansa te odgovornosti grčkih političara za učešće u zločinu.

Da li je bilo teško skupiti materijal za knjigu Nesveta alijansa u kojoj govorite o umiješanosti Grčke u rat u BiH te o učešću grčkih dobrovoljaca?

– Niko ne želi da priča o toj temi. U Grčkoj kao i u ostatku balkanskih zemalja nacionalizmi diktiraju situaciju u kojoj zločini počinjeni u ime nacije ustvari nisu zločini, dok još više iritiraju stavovi prema kojima sve treba skloniti ustranu s očiju javnosti.

Da li su Milošević i Karadžić imali otvorenu podršku grčkih vlasti?          

Moja knjiga pokazuje da je postojala masovna podrška naroda, medija, crkve i političke elite Miloševiću i njegovim pristalicama Karadžiću i Mladiću. U svojoj knjizi dokazujem da je ta podrška bila moralna, ekonomska, diplomatska i vojna.

Da li bi neko trebao odgovarati zbog takve podrške?       

  Nije pitanje da li bi neko trebao za to odgovarati ili ne. Svakome se desi da napravi političku grešku. Problem grčkih političara je taj što ne žele priznati svoje greške. Nijedan grčki političar nije imao snage reći Bosancima: Vidite, svjesni smo da smo bili na strani sa koljačima i zaista nam je žao zbog toga.

Kako javnost u Grčkoj generalno reagira na temu umiješanosti Grčke u rat u BiH?        

Većina ih je ravnodušna. A među onima koji pokazuju bilo kakav interes većina je onih koji još podržavaju rat koji su Srbi vodili u BiH.

Kako reagiraju na činjenicu da su se grčki dobrovoljci borili i ginuli u BiH?

Mnogi ljudi ili ne znaju ili ih nije briga. Kakogod, većina njih vrlo vjerovatno podupire napore naših hrabrih momaka koji su otišli da se bore na strani naše srpske braće.

Da li Vam je ikada neko prijetio?

Mnogo puta. Također, bilo je i određenih profesionalnih pritisaka, a to se dešava svakome ko se usudi pisati o nacionalno osjetljivim pitanjima i to na način koji ne odobravaju vladajući moćnici. .

Na koji način su Vam prijetili?– To je sad iza mene i zaista ne bih o tome želio pričati.

Kako su grčke vlasti reagirale na knjigu?       

  Potpuna zvanična tišina. Ali nezvanično, i socijalistička PASOK vlada kao i konzervativna ND vlada napravili su nekoliko pokušaja da me profesionalno ugroze. Naravno, nisam ni očekivao ništa drugo. 

Da li su, po Vašem mišljenju, grčke vlasti zaista podržavale volontere koji su dolazili da se bore u Bosnu?

Da. Regrutiranje tih dobrovoljaca kako bi išli i borili se protiv vlade u Sarajevu koju je priznavao i UN ali i Grčka, dešavalo se otvoreno i usred dana. Grčke vlasti nikada nisu pokušale to da spriječe.

 Znate li kako danas žive grčki dobrovoljci koji su se borili u BiH?        

 Ne. Nisam ragovarao s njima, s obzirom da su oni samo dio priče o grčkoj umiješanosti. Njihove izjave nalazio sam u intervjuima koje su davali nekim od grčkih novina.

Mislite li da su oni zadovoljni svojom ulogom u ratu u BiH?  

       Do sada nisam vidio da se neko od njih javno požalio. Mislim da oni i dalje smatraju kako su Bosanci krivi za rat i za sva počinjena zlodjela.

Koja je, prema informacijama koje ste prikupili, bila uloga grčkih dobrovoljaca u genocidu u Srebrenici?        

Neki od njih bili su prisutni prilikom podizanja grčke zastave nakon pada Srebrenice. Šta su tačno tamo radili prilična je nepoznanica, a oni sigurno neće hodati naokolo i reklamirati svoja djela iz straha od Haškog tribunala.  

Koliko ih se borilo u BiH?

Prema do sada dostupnim podacima, bilo ih je 100-tinjak. Ne znam koliko ih je poginulo ili ranjeno, niti sam čuo da postoje neki socijalni programi koji bi im pomagali.

Planirate li knjigu izdati i na bosanskom jeziku?    

     Ako neko od izdavača ima interes da je objavi, to neće biti problem. Također, ukoliko me neko pozove, rado ću gostovati u BiH. 

Translation of parts of the interview

 -You said that your book “Unholy Alliance :Greece and Milosevic’s Serbia” is about the Greek involvement in the conflict in former Yugoslavia. Can  you give me some more details about that involvement? Was there , in your opinion, open support to Milosevic and Karadzic? 

My book shows that there was open and massive support by the people, the media, the church and the political elite  for Milosevic and his henchmen Karadzic and Mladic.In my book I show  that this support was moral, political, economic, diplomatic and military.

-Who should be charged for that support? 

The question is not whether somebody should be charged. Everybody makes political mistakes. The problem with the Greek politicians is that they refuse to recognize their mistakes. Not a single Greek politician had the courage to say to  the Bosnians:”Look we recognize that we sided with those that massacred  your people and we are sorry for that!” 

How do people in Greece react to  such a topic? 

Most are indifferent. However among  those that show a certain interest, the majority still supports the Serb led war.

How did the goverment react to your book? 

Total official silence . But  unofficially  both the socialist PASOK government and the conservative ND government did not exactly try to help me in my  professional career. Of course I did not expect much else.

What do people in Greece generally think about the presence of Greek military volunteers in Bosnia fighting on the side of the Serbs ? Do they support or condemn them? 

Most people don’t know or don’t care. However  among those that know the majority would certainly support the effort of our brave lads that went to fight on the side of our Serbian brethren.

Do you think that Greek officials have supported the Greek volunteers in Bosnia?

Yes. The recruitment of those volunteers to go and  fight  against the Sarajevo government that was recognized officially by Greece and the UN, was taking place openly and in broad daylight in the early nineties. The Greek authorities never tried to stop it.

What do the volunteers  generaly think about the war in Bosnia?

That the Bosnians were to blame for the war and for the atrocities

What was their role in the Srebrenica genocide?

Some of them were present and helped hoist a Greek flag after the fall of the city. What they did exactly is unknown-in any case they would not go around advertising their acts  for fear of the Hague Tribunal.

Δεκέμβριος 25, 2007

Greek Pseudo-Privatization

Filed under: English texts — Takis Michas @ 6:55 πμ

 

The Wall Street Journal Europe

24/12/07

                                        Greek Pseudo-Privatization

Athens

By Takis Michas
Given the country’s statist tradition, it is no surprise that even Greece’s nominally conservative Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis has never been a fervent free-market advocate. After five  years in power, the government has so far managed only a single full-scale privatization. All public utilities, for example, are still state-run. A recent attempt to privatize telecoms operator Hellenic Telecommunications Organization SA (OTE) resulted in a protectionist backlash. 

 Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis announced last year that he was scrapping a law stipulating that the state must hold at least 33% of OTE’s shares. “Our goal,” he explained, “is that the government’s stake is reduced to to 5%-8%.” In a first move, Athens brought its stake down to 28% from 38%. This signalled to many investors that the government was really serious about privatization. As a result, investment holding company Marfin Investment Group (MIG) started buying OTE shares, even eying a takeover. Within a year it acquired 18% of the company, making it the second largest shareholder after the government.

But then MIG did something that was unheard of in Greece’s state-controlled corporate culture: It tried to exercise its property rights. It demanded seats on the governing board and openly criticized the policies of the state-appointed CEO, Panagis Vourloumis, a buddy of the prime minister. MIG also asked for more transparency and improved corporate governance, accusing OTE‘s management “of taking crucial decisions about its future without consulting its shareholders.” This was too much for Mr. Alogoskoufis. He announced in parliament earlier this month that the whole story of OTE’s privatization was a great misunderstanding. “The government,” he said, “is also not discussing any issue of co-management with any institutional investor or any other interested company.” He also introduced legislation capping private investments in “strategically sensitive” companies, such as OTE. Shareholders would need government approval to acquire more than 20% of such firms. This was widely seen as a move to shield OTE from a takeover by MIG.

Moreover, the new law will open the way to “crony capitalism,” former Finance Minister Stephanos Manos told me. The legislation in effect substitutes market-led privatization with state-led privatization. “In a country like Greece, where corruption and clientelism are rampant, this is an invitation to disaster,” Mr. Manos added. It will lead to new opportunities to bribe officials in return for favorable decisions. At the same time, the government’s about-face on OTE’s privatization will scare away investors. They will think twice before risking their capital in a country where the rules of business can so quickly change. The absence of legal certainty is poison for an economy.

The only opposition to the government plans came from a small group of free market activists who appealed to the European Commission, arguing the legislation violates EU rules for the free movement of capital. Word here in Athens, though, is that given the increasingly protectionist sentiment in Europe, the government will have little to fear from Brussels.

The OTE case illustrates that what is called partial privatization really is pseudo-privatization. The companies’ strategy and decision-making remains in the hands of the state while shareholders are reduced to the role of passive spectators. Although globalization has forced the Greek state to open up a little, much of the economy remains in shackles.

Mr. Michas is a journalist for the Greek daily Eleftherotypia. 

Σεπτεμβρίου 10, 2007

«The Little Envelope»

Filed under: English texts — Takis Michas @ 8:41 μμ

The Wall Street Journal

10/09/2007

         ‘The Little Envelope’

  By Takis Michas  Athens

As Greece is going to the polls this Sunday, the recent wildfires understandably preoccupy the public. Sixty-six people were killed and over 200,000 hectares of land destroyed in the worst forest fires in nearly a century. But the debate over whether conservative Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis mishandled the crisis has also further sidelined Greece’s number one problem from this election campaign: the public sector’s inability to deliver basic services like health care and education. The long-term economic damage of these shortcomings by far surpasses the destruction caused by the fires. Take secondary education, for example, which in principle is free. Yet in practice, teachers lack the motivation and professionalism to provide students with an adequate education. As a result, most parents are forced to pay for private tutoring—in many cases provided by the very same teachers that teach their kids in the state schools. Others send their children to expensive private evening schools.“No kid can expect to enter a university or to learn a foreign language if he relies on what he learns in the state school,” says Georgia Mastoraki, a math teacher at an Athens high school. The failure of the state to provide basic services is compounded by wide-spread corruption. According to a 2006 report by Transparency International, a Berlin-based think tank, Greece is one of the most corrupt countries in the European Union. That sad reality is known in Greece as “fakelaki” which means “the little envelope” and refers to the bundles of cash Greeks need to navigate the corrupt halls of their public administration.

When a Greek has to undergo surgery in a public hospital, for instance, he knows that he’ll have to grease the surgeon’s hands with some “fakelaki” underneath the operating table. Such payments—depending on the type of surgery they can range anywhere from Œ1,000 to Œ20,000—are of course illegal since the services in public hospitals are supposed to be free. By making this payment the patient hopes not only that the doctor will do his best but will also ensure that during his stay at the hospital he will be treated with at least a minimum of dignity.Theodoros Pelagidis and Michael Mitsopoulos, two Greek academics, speak of the “predatory expropriation” of the public sector by the very same employees and organizations that are supposed to provide those services. “The Greek State is huge yet hollow,” the two authors wrote in a recent book on Greek reforms. “It intervenes in all aspects of economic and social activity, yet at the same time it has been taken over from the inside by organized groups that prey on the national welfare in the same way the Vikings were preying on other European societies a few centuries ago.”

As a result, services that are in principle free require considerable expenditures on the part of the population. In the case of health and education the Greek citizens must in effect pay twice. Once through taxes to fund the system and then again through direct payments, such as to the doctor or to the private tutor. And while the recipients of these payments do not pay taxes, the person providing the funds cannot deduce the “fakelaki” from his taxable income. This is especially hard on the lower income groups, who are supposed to be the primary beneficiaries of such “free” public services.This system encourages the growth of a civil service culture where the job is not seen as an end in itself but as a means to make additional tax-free money.“Getting a civil service job in Greece is widely perceived as being granted a sinecure and not as entering into a contractual obligation to work,” says Nikos Dimou, one of Greece’s best-known authors and intellectuals.

During the previous elections in 2004, Mr. Karamanlis successfully campaigned on a platform to erase corruption from the public sector. But after three years in power, his New Democratic party was unable to make any progress on this front. What’s more, it ended up being itself tainted by sleaze. Managers of state-controlled pension funds and government officials are suspected of having colluded with brokerage firms and bankers to sell over-priced government bonds to pension funds, swindling them out of an estimated Œ100 million.Pervasive corruption of course breeds cynicism and resignation among the public. There are few other places in the Western world where the average man so readily expects the worst of the men and women leading them as in Greece. Greeks habitually refer to their politicians as “liars” or “crooks.”“Politicians are only interested in promoting their own well being,” says George Sidiropoulos, who owns a souvlaki joint in downtown Athens.

At the same time, many citizens also know that their future may depend crucially on carrying favours  with the people in power. In Greece’s patronage system, knowing the right politician or carrying the right party book is crucial if you want to get that coveted job in the civil sector or that EU subsidy for your small business. This mutual dependency helps keeping down public outrage over corruption. Given the clientelistic nature of Greek politics, who wins Sunday’s elections won’t matter much for public governance. “Fakelaki”, I’m afraid, is here to stay. Mr. Michas is a journalist for the Greek daily Eleftherotypia.  

Νοέμβριος 7, 2006

Cyprus Decides ,Greece Follows

Filed under: English texts — Takis Michas @ 7:27 μμ

The Wall Street Journal Europe

06/11/2006 

 

 

      Cyprus Decides ,Greece Follows

 

 

 

By Takis Michas

 

Greece faces a serious foreign policy dilemma. On the one hand, Athens supports Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. On the other hand, it also supports, officially at least, the policies of the Greek Cypriot leadership. Thus Greece may  inadvertently end up helping  derail Turkey’s EU accession.

 

At present, Brussels and Ankara seem to be heading for collision. Foreign ministers from Turkey, Greece, both sides of the divided island and  current EU president Finland were supposed to gather this weekend to discuss a transport dispute between Cyprus and Turkey. But the meeting fell through.

 

The EU wants Turkey to open its ports and airports to vessels and planes from EU member Cyprus this year under a customs union protocol it signed in 2005. Turkey refuses. It argues that Brussels has failed to honour a pledge to lift the economic and political blockade of the Turkish Cypriots in return for their support for a U.N.-backed reunification plan. Brussels insists that these two issues are not formally linked. EU diplomats acknowledge in private, though, that ethically such a linkage does exist.

 

The Finish EU Presidency had hoped to break the deadlock during negotiations in Helsinki. Their compromise proposal would have obliged Turkey  to extend “at some point” the customs agreement to the Republic of Cyprus. In return, northern Cyprus’ Farmagusta port would have been opened for Turkish Cypriots to trade under U.N. supervision. The meeting’s last-minute cancellation further darkens Ankara’s prospects for joining the EU. Recent press leaks say the European Commission’s next report card on Turkey, due this week, will already be very critical. Apart from the Cyprus dispute, Brussels is expected to slam Turkey’s alleged lack of progress on human and civil rights issues.

 

How will a Turkish-EU crisis affect Greek-Turkish relations and consequently the stability of the region? When I recently interviewed Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bacoyannis, she insisted that this is purely a problem of Turkey complying with EU requirements. As such, it should not affect the relations between the two countries. “Besides”, she added “ Cyprus is only one of  many issues plaguing Turkey’s EU membership negotiations”

 

Some analysts disagree. “If negotiations with Turkey get derailed over Cyprus,” says Professor Alexis Iraklidis of Panteion University of Athens, “Turkey will hold Greece  directly responsible because of its unwillingness to confront the hard-line policies of the Greek Cypriot leadership.”

 

Such a development would be especially hard for Ms. Bacoyannis. Since she assumed  office last spring she has made Turkey’s EU accession a cornerstone of her foreign policy. At the same time, though,  she has not introduced any policy changes in her country’s foreign policy on this issue.  That policy can be summed up as “Cyprus decides, Greece follows.”

 

Unlike Ankara, which is actively engaged in shaping the policy of the Turkish Cypriots, Athens seems increasingly content to accept whatever Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos  offers. In April 2004, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan played a very constructive role in convincing Turkish Cypriots to support a U.N. plan to reunify the island. Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, however, simply let things run their course. In the end, the Turkish Cypriots voted overwhelmingly in favour of the U.N. plan. But the Greek Cypriots, following their president’s plea, rejected it.

 

The only significant difference between Athens and Nicosia, according to diplomatic sources, concerns their attitudes toward U.S. efforts to mediate. Greece welcomes such efforts while the Greek Cypriots believe that any such attempt is just a ploy to promote Turkish interests at their cost.

 

To this day the Greek Cypriot leadership opposes lifting the economic and political restrictions on their Turkish neighbors. They argue that this would be the first step  to the international recognition of a sovereign Turkish Cypriot State. As a consequence, Turkish Cypriots cannot engage in direct trade with the international community. And they have no voice in EU institutions

 

Most diplomats are gloomy about the possibilities of ever striking a deal. But there are exceptions.   “If you force me to make a guess, I see lots of reason for hope,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Mathew Bryza told me last month . “Nobody wants this train wreck to occur. Neither the Greek government nor the government of the Republic of Cyprus want to derail Turkey’s accession. They all agree that at the end of the day the Eastern Mediterranean is a more stable and prosperous region as long as Turkey is reforming and modernizing and fulfilling the criteria of EU membership.”

 

This may be so. But in matters of so-called “national importance,” Greek politicians are just like their American or Turkish counterparts. Unfortunately, they tend to follow the dictates of public opinion polls rather than those of reason.

 

 

 

 

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