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Eyewitness account: The violent suppression of the protests opposing the “North Macedonia” deal

As Tsipras and Zaev celebrated the signing of the “North Macedonia” deal in a picturesque lakeside setting, hell on earth was unfolding in the surrounding region as the same riot police SYRIZA once promised to abolish, violently attacked demonstrators.

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Editor’s note: The following is a first-hand account provided to us by independent journalist George Adalis and translated by Evans Aggelisopoulos. The account concerns the protests which took place in the Prespes region, where the Tsipras-Zaev “North Macedonia” accord was formally signed, and the violent, brutal police response to the demonstrators who had gathered in the region and who attempted to approach Prespes. This is a rural, mountainous, isolated region with few roads in or out, which is probably the real reason this location was selected for the signing ceremony, and not the “symbolism” of the region’s location at the frontier between the two countries.

Here, it bears noting that this account discusses the violent actions of the very same riot police which SYRIZA, prior to its initial election in January 2015, had promised to abolish. Not only have the riot police not been abolished, but they continue to operate with reckless abandon, violently attacking senior citizens, women, children, and anyone else that crosses their path except, coincidentally, the “known-unknown” instigators of violence at most demonstrations: hooded youth who may or may not be Greek and who have often been seen mingling with the very same riot police which are purportedly there to “maintain order.” It should be obvious to anyone with a modicum of logic and common sense who these hooded hoodlums are operating on behalf of, and why they always seem to evade arrest.

One final comment: while protesters were being violently suppressed by the riot police which SYRIZA had once promised to disband, most of the “mainstream media,” including almost the entirety of the foreign press corps operating in Greece, “saw nothing and heard nothing.” Instead, abandoning any pretense of objectivity, they hailed the Tsipras-Zaev “North Macedonia” deal, continuously described Tsipras’ Greece as a “new” (and better) Greece, brazenly characterized – via their Twitter accounts — protesters and opponents of the agreement as “fascists” (which happens to be the exact same rhetoric employed by members of the SYRIZA government) and turned a blind eye to the violence; quite ironic, when considering that this same press corps in large part celebrated SYRIZA and its now-forgotten promises back in 2015…

Prespes is a magical and beautiful and historic place which has been forever condemned by Tsipras’ traveling troupe, which has acted to destroy the hearts of the people in this country. I wanted to go there with my friends to demonstrate against the decision which he took in a dictatorial manner; a prime minister that lied to the people with his pre-electoral pledges. We didn’t want to hit anyone, we didn’t want to fight anyone, we didn’t want to go into conflict with anyone! We wanted to shout peacefully that the agreement of Tsipras with the wine maker of [Thessaloniki mayor and winery owner] Yiannis Boutaris, “FYROM” prime minister Zoran Zaev, is a sellout and a betrayal which may not only lead to the dissolution of Greece but the whole of the Balkans!

What fools! We believed we had democracy! We believed we were free! We believed we had a left-wing government which promotes progressivism and freedom of expression. How foolish!

We approached the village of Vigla and the ski center located there and realized that cars were backed up at a great distance. We had to stop 4 kilometers away from the village and continue on foot, with hundreds of others. As we arrived in Vigla, we saw thousands of people in the ski center and a stage with speakers where the organizers of the rally spoke alongside some Church leaders. This was a waste of time. Many people had sat and were eating souvlaki.

“Did we come here to eat souvlaki” I asked the organizers. They informed me that 5 kilometers further down the riot police were blocking the road towards Prespes! I spoke to the police chief, who confirmed this information to me. I asked him to allow me to go with my car so as to cover the issue as a journalist, but he didn’t allow it. Alongside him was a police deputy who actively obstructed me from performing my job.

That’s when the first phone call came in. In the village of Pisoderi the riot police were beating up people and throwing tear gas canisters! I gathered as many people as I could and we left on foot! A thousand of us walked for over an hour amidst deadly heat, to an unknown place.

When we finally arrived we found another 4-5,000 people there. The first group we encountered were red and covered in chemicals! In Pisoderi, the riot police had taken positions on the sides of the hill and fired chemicals and fake bomblets from above towards the demonstrators below. I took a pair of binoculars and counted more than 40 riot police, who were located even on treetops. Smoke was everywhere.

We walked one kilometer from the center of the village to the outskirts. Others were coming and others were leaving. On the streets were young children laying on the pavement, attempting to recover from the attacks of tear gas.

On the outskirts, there was a major roadblock on the sidewalk and a few vans of riot police on the farming road parallel to the central road, at a height of 20-30 meters, preventing cars from bypassing the police blockade. They did not stop there though. For four hours, the riot police beat people up!

I can attest that the riot police were never provoked by the people. Most of them were exhausted from the walking and were asking the riot police to be allowed through to go to Prespes, another 20 kilometers away. The riot police were never attacked nor were they provoked by the demonstrators!

Instead, from the farmers’ path on the side of the hill, every now and again the riot police threw tear gas on the heads of people. At one point, people dressed with normal civilian clothes who were behind the riot police came forward and threw stones and pieces of wood from on high, to the riot police that were on the road. That occurred first time at 9 am and it has been captured on video and I saw it with my own eyes. By 1 pm, such attacks occurred twice more. Men with civilian clothes behind one set of riot police to attack another bunch of riot police who were lower down! They then hid behind the riot police on the hill! What does the “leftist” Minister of Interior Nikos Toskas have to say about this? What will he say about the videos and photos circulating on social media as to who provoked who?

[Foreign minister] Nikos Kotzias’ pronouncements were a joke and lies! Once the first rocks were thrown by the four citizens who were hiding behind the backs of the riot police, the riot police began to fire upon those located on the road below. They attacked with no concern, hitting old people and even children! Many fell and were trampled by the Praetorian guards attacks and I saw 20 injured, three of which were seriously hurt.

Not only did the riot police from below launch chemicals. I have covered demonstrations for almost three decades and have never seen such conduct.

As is normal, the youth who saw what was happening filled the streets and started to climb on the sides of the hills with the aim of grabbing the four citizens that threw rocks to the riot police. But what sort of citizens are we speaking of exactly? These were paramilitary state officials in civilian clothes.

That’s where everything devolved into chaos. I am presenting my personal eyewitness account that the riot police would hit anyone who reached the top of the hill with clubs and their shields. It should be mentioned here that the youth who were climbing the deal were facing a steep downward slope below. This fact did not stop the ruthless riot police, who fired tear gas canisters to injure people. On the right side of the hill a riot police brute forcefully shoved a young lad, who fell down after having dropped like a sack, rolling down the side of the hill for 20 meters. He just remained there and tens of people went to help him.

I really don’t know if that riot police officer who pushed the young man was a human, even if he was Greek! Notably, the riot police never spoke amongst themselves! Not a word. Their eyes, however, belied a venomous hatred! I didn’t hear one word uttered from their mouths for five hours. Not one…

Street battles continued in this area, and the riot police fired tons of tear gas.

Along with my friend Nick I reached the front of the line of protesters, facing the riot police, and shouted “wait for the old people to leave. Stop hitting them anymore. I am a journalist. Someone will be killed!”

Whilst I had my hands high and I told them we were going to the side of the hill there, and while we did nothing which could be interpreted as a confrontational attack the riot police threw two tear gas canisters at my feet and four more in front of us! We had been cut off from the crowd which was around 100 meters behind us. No one threw a stone towards the riot police. People were in retreat, simply chanting slogans.

In my attempt to escape from the cloud of tear gas and to see which way the wind is blowing so as to go in the opposite direction I was hit at least three times in the back and on my legs and without breath I ran towards the crowds. It took me about 20 minutes to be able to see properly as my eyes were blown up and hurt from the tear gas! Another two hours were needed for my chest to clear from the tear gas!

Whilst all the people had left fully from the blockade and they were in the village, suddenly at around 3 pm the riot police entered the village and started throwing tear gas and hitting people. As a result, women and children were taken inside the cafe, where one observed a chaotic scene, with children crying and old people suffering!

Why was this attack by the riot police required inside Pisoderi, Mr. Toska, when you already knew there were injured people in the village? What was the aim? Didn’t you realize there were already enough beatings outside the village? Why wasn’t there an ambulance to transport the three seriously injured people?

You are all liars! From the prime minister to all of the party lackeys!

No one provoked the riot police. Instead they pleaded to be allowed to pass on foot. No one attacked the riot police on the road below. The riot police drowned the people with chemicals so as to dissolve them! The chaos then continued when those hiding behind the riot police on the hills began throwing rocks, with the aim of dissolving the peaceful gathering below. It was a provocation manufactured to become a criminal attack. Everything else is made up.

There is something else that I would like to know as well: I had asked to speak to a prosecutor, in order to be allowed to pass the blockade and go on foot for Prespes as part of my journalistic work. However, I was told during the blockade that there was no prosecutor!

Since when are the roads blockaded with no prosecutor to oversee and to give orders?

A whole operation is required so as to be released from the hell created by Alexis Tsipras in Pisoderi, but it was worth it.

As we learned, you aren’t the same as those who governed before you. No, you are much worse!

You deserve some credit though, as you are uniting us! You are cultivating unity and cohesion amongst ourselves.

Alexis Tsipras, you will find us on the streets! You have become a tyrant!

The hell created in Pisoderi and which was censored by all the establishment media laid the foundations for us to “burn” the traitorous agreement which you signed, and the poison you fired at us so as to not appear to your bosses that the Greeks are demonstrating!

Greece doesn’t accept sold out marionettes like you! In Pisoderi you united us. Unified and alone, we will win.

Postscript

As for you own followers, Mr. Tsipras, who you sent to weaken the opposition of the people to the agreement, they remained comfortably in Vigla, circulating speeches and eating souvlaki while we were being bombarded with tear gas. One wonders whether they were paid for their faithful service…

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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Archons of Greek Orthodox Church issue toothless letter about abortion law

The good news is the Archons did say some good things in reaction to the New York abortion law. But there was no consequence.

Seraphim Hanisch

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In relation to our previously published piece about Governor Andrew Cuomo signing abortion into the New York State Constitution, we noted that at the time of the article’s writing, no entities within the Orthodox Church in any jurisdiction issued any kind of statement condemning this law. Of all fourteen universally acknowledged Local Churches, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Greek Orthodox Church was particularly of note, since their Archons awarded a humanitarian award known as the Athenogoras Award to extremely liberal, pro-abortion politicians, Andrew Cuomo being one of these.

Well, the Archons did issue a statement yesterday:

The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Condemns New York’s New Abortion Law

The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, strongly condemns the State of New York’s new Reproductive Health Act that was passed on January 22, 2019. This new law allows abortions up to the moment of birth and gives people who are not doctors the right to perform abortions.

The Order also deplores the celebratory atmosphere surrounding the new law, as One World Trade Center was lit pink to commemorate the passage of the law, as if it represented a great advance for the rights of women. The rights of no human being are ever advanced at the expense of another. The State of New York will not truly have respect for the rights of women until it once again restores legal protections for every human being, from his or her first moment of existence until natural death.

Hailed as progress, New York’s Reproductive Health Act is not actually an advance, but a regression, a return to a time of barbarism when the weak were at the mercy of the strong and had no protection from legal structures or governing authorities.

The Order implores New York’s legislators to reconsider this dangerous new law and reinstitute protections for all human life, no matter how weak and vulnerable. Only when such protections exist can any society truly prosper.

Rev. Alexander Karloutsos
Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Spiritual Advisor of the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle

Is this enough?

It does not seem to be so. Governor Cuomo and his award, along with pro-abortion Roman Catholic Vice President Joe Biden, also received this award at the same time Governor Cuomo did.

What did not happen in this letter was that neither politician was named, nor were the four (out of five) Greek Orthodox politicians in the New York State Assembly that voted FOR this law.

Neither did the Archons move to rescind the Athenagoras Awards they gave to Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Biden. This move appears to be still far too politically calculated, and keeping with the tragic, curious and distressing behavior of the leadership within the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Monomachos.com is a popular blog site whose editor, George Michalopulos, is undoubtedly one of the giants among those Greek Orthodox who seriously uphold at the notion that the Church ought never compromise herself. Yet, he was very happy with the letter that is shown above because for him it represented a “180-degree turnabout” in terms of the history of the Archons’ behavior, which he noted elsewhere as smacking of “the feeling that their primary job is to raise money for Istanbul.”

He neglected to mention the lack of mention of the Awards, but perhaps understandably, his surprise at any sort of traditional statement by this group was leading to exuberance where perhaps it is not deserved.

The Greek Orthodox Church seems to have an overall alignment with very liberal figures, and it is unclear as to why. But this tendency of people that are considered good and faithful Greek Orthodox churchgoers to align with liberal politics in the United States is very different than the sharply conservative tendencies of Russian Orthodox churchgoers, or Greeks or Romanians in the US.

The other rather liberal church is the US is the Orthodox Church in America, but this group does tend to involve itself in social causes in the US – especially abortion – in a very conservative, if rather feeble, manner. They do make their presence known at the annual March for Life and this is of great value.

We wish to name all the Greek Orthodox elected New York assembly members here, with their votes regarding the state abortion measure:

Michael Gianaris             (D) (co-sponsor)   – Yes.
Andrew Gounardes         (D) (co-sponsor)   – Yes.
Nicole Malliotakis           (R)                            – No. (and she is a woman!!)
Aravella Simotas             (D)                            – Yes.
James Skoufis                  (D) (co-sponsor)   – Yes.

This measure enshrined abortion at any point in a woman’s pregnancy as a constitutional right. The law stipulates several following procedures are now “rights:”

  • The law allows non-physicians to perform abortions.
  • The law allows abortion through the third trimester.
  • and the law repeals protections for babies that survive abortions (this means that if the baby gets delivered alive, it will still be killed.)

This is a barbaric law, and a resounding victory for people aligned with some very dark ideas about life and death. It is a tragedy, and while the Archons’ letter condemning it is at least a token statement, it really wants a full-throated response from the Christian world.

In fact, even Muslims and religious Jewish people ought to be outraged as well. All the Abrahamic religions understand that only God is the author of life. In this viewpoint, people do not themselves create life. We only cooperate with God to bring it into existence, by his blessing.

But we can cause death, and this power is influenced by forces that are not interested in God, traditional values, family, children or anything of the sort.

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Greek MPs pass Prespes deal with 153 votes in 300-seat House

Opinion polls indicate that most Greeks oppose the settlement, a fact which may not bode well for Tsipras in an election year.

The Duran

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Via Ekathimerini


Greece’s parliament on Friday ratified a landmark accord that changes the name of neighbouring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), ending a decades-old dispute and opening the way for the ex-Yugoslav republic to join the European Union and NATO.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who hammered out the deal with his FYROM counterpart last year, secured the parliamentary majority needed to get the accord approved with support from independent and opposition lawmakers.

“Today we are writing a new page for the Balkans. The hatred of nationalism and conflict is giving way to friendship, peace, and cooperation,” Tsipras wrote on his social media account.

FYROM has already ratified the deal, brokered last year, and its prime minister promptly sent a tweet hailing the Greek parliament’s vote.

The settlement seeks to end a 28-year old row between Athens and Skopje over the use of the term “Macedonia” by renaming the tiny Balkan state “Republic of North Macedonia” to differentiate it from Greece’s northern province of Macedonia.

Greece’s European Union allies welcomed the ratification.

“They had imagination, they took the risk, they were ready to sacrifice their own interests for the greater good,” European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted. “Mission impossible accomplished.”

Opinion polls indicate that most Greeks oppose the settlement, a fact which may not bode well for Tsipras in an election year. A general election is due by October, and his party is trailing the opposition New Democracy by up to 12 points.

The debate in the Greek parliament was heated, with voting almost interrupted on Friday when an MP for the right-wing Golden Dawn Party, asked to cast his vote, responded: “No to treason!”

Several MPs in favour of of the accord reported attempts to intimidate them.

Many Greeks fear the agreement could lead to territorial claims against Greece and say it constitutes an appropriation of their country’s ancient cultural heritage. Macedonia was the birthplace of Alexander the Great.

Protests against the deal have at times turned violent this week, and on Thursday evening police fired teargas to disperse crowds outside parliament. Smaller groups of people braved heavy rain on Friday to demonstrate outside the parliament.

New Democracy slammed the agreement.

“This deal should never have been signed or brought to parliament for ratification,” party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament. “It is a national defeat … a national blunder that is an affont to the truth and history of our country.”

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The Mediterranean Pipeline Wars Are Heating Up

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

The Duran

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Authored by Viktor Katona via Oilprice.com:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Viktor Katona for Oilprice.com

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