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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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Germany Returning Migrants to Greece

Germany’s policy contradicts claims that the migrants are “war refugees,” because if that were the case, they’d seek asylum at the nearest, non-wartorn country.

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Via Infowars Europe:


Germany will soon send back migrants to Greece if they had already applied for asylum there.

The two countries made the deal at the behest of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose coalition government is on shaky ground due to increased opposition to her immigration policies.

“EU law states that refugees should apply for asylum in the first EU country they reach, but Germany has typically allowed newcomers with open applications elsewhere to reside in the country as it examines their claim,” reported the Wall Street Journal. “In practice, very few ever leave Germany, even if they fail to obtain asylum there.”

Germany’s policy contradicts claims that the migrants are “war refugees,” because if that were the case, they’d seek asylum at the nearest, non-wartorn country.

In fact, many of the migrants travel across multiple European countries, including Greece, to seek asylum in Germany, which under Merkel has offered comprehensive welfare to migrants.

Merkel’s recent immigration backtrack was also likely influenced by the backlash against open borders in neighboring countries, particularly Austria.

Austria has ramped up deportations under recently-appointed Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

“I’m convinced that the solution to the migrant problem lies with decent border protection and stronger help in countries of origin,” he said earlier this year.

Poland, Hungary and other Eastern European countries have similarly sealed off their borders to the chagrin of the EU, which had previous demanded “migrant quotas” for each member nation.

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The Greek Disaster: State Inertia and the Market Economy

In Greece we witnessed this repulsive, internally-generated tragedy in all its horrifying glory. Unfortunately we may soon see more far-reaching consequences…

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What happened in Attica, Greece, close to Athens, is without precedent. An ordinary fire, like the ones that occur in this area almost every other summer, met up with a terrible, sudden wind that turned it into real galloping inferno.

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The tragic result was 87 dead Greek citizens and more than 20 still missing. Huge questions loom on the horizon and only very limited answers are forthcoming. Are some of the lessons from this tragedy related to the wider geopolitical and political-economic questions?

Public-sector clientelism is leading to disastrous inefficiency

Why do tragedies like these occur in social environments with firmly entrenched clientelist political systems and in political entities that operate on the periphery of major, bureaucratic, modern empires? Sweden saw huge uncontrolled fires this summer. However, there was no loss of life or major disasters that befell the urban centers.

In Portugal last year — and very recently in Greece  —  scores of people died, mainly due to the inability of the state machinery to efficiently deal with the problem. The major difference between these examples is the quality of the civil service. In Greece and Portugal there is no real ethics in the public administration, which frequently fails to meet any vigorous efficiency test .

In public bureaucracies that sprout favoritism the way trees grow branches, it is very difficult to design long-term plans to handle critical and life-threatening situations. Likewise, the political system lacks the prerequisites to draw upon informed societies that are trained to be cooperative and disciplined when there is a need for coordination.

When clientelism dictates and forms the essence of the political culture, this culminates in fractured societies that are infected with spreading islands of lawlessness and limited possibilities for administrative coherence.

In Greece in particular, the deep-rooted mentality of state favoritism produces whole sectors of uncoordinated urbanization, with no respect for the environment, chaotic borough formation, and a coastline that has been brutally violated by hasty real-estate developmental schemes.

In such a social context, thorough planning becomes almost impossible and the idea of applying administrative guidelines to deal with a crisis sounds like a joke. It is essentially the political system itself that invites disasters and not any sort of physical deluge that begets them.

The need for market solutions

Clientelism and heavy state intervention in the running of the economy and society are the basic causes of inefficiency and, henceforth, administrative chaos. It appears that the process of rational choice is the fatal enemy of the dominant mentality in such systems of government. This is represented by any model that relies on the market to deal with questions of economic policy and societal organization.

A bloated public sector that is encouraged by the political authorities to constantly expand, irrespective of its ability to deliver on its promises, becomes the major problem. Instead of being the solution to emerging issues, the state actually becomes the cause of most troubles and difficulties.

Henceforth, without clear objectives or cost-benefit solutions, the state is unable to provide reliable outcomes or to cope with situations, especially emergencies. In the case of Greece in particular, the fire-fighting service had been financially starved, while its personnel had been recruiting new staff based on specific social criteria!

In other words, firefighters entrusted with saving people from emergency situations were hired on the basis of their physical inability to deal with normal life situations, i.e., the physically handicapped, mentally unfit, generally unhealthy, or recruits who were simply from disadvantaged social backgrounds.

Relying on a market mentality means that choices are made based on measurable results, well structured plans to deal with crises, and thoroughly tested options. When none of these requirements are met, it is more than certain that achievements will be negligible and the consequences disastrous.

Hence one must assume that societies that do not rely on rational-choice procedures and which pursue policies of heavy state intervention and patron-client favoritism are not likely to see successful results. This essentially means that societies built on capitalist principles pursue measurable results that further the welfare of their citizens.

Geopolitical repercussions

There is also a geopolitical angle to these observations. If a country cannot keep up with globally established administrative and financial trends, it will end up facing dead-end situations and find itself being marginalized. With the exception of its reliance on heavy state taxation, the EU always pursues policies of open social frontiers and market economics. Countries that deviate from this logic find themselves gradually lost in a political wilderness.

They constantly creep along on the fringes of events and absent themselves from all contemporary processes. By acting as the exception instead of the rule, they will rapidly find themselves marginalized. They will become a stark anomaly and thus be excluded from every movement going forward. They will become the pariahs of the international system. Geopolitical events will pass them by, and they will be looked upon as the “black holes” of the international order.

Domestic events and major financial and/or economic choices cannot be limited any longer to national or regional occurrences. Notwithstanding the importance of events within a country, opting for heavy state intervention may lead a country into the international wilderness.

What’s more, its international standing may also be impaired, contributing to the nation’s overall marginalization.

In Greece we witnessed this repulsive, internally-generated tragedy in all its horrifying glory. Unfortunately we may soon see more far-reaching consequences…

Via Strategic Culture

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Greek-Russian relations at a crossroads

The political landscape of Greek-Russian relations has suddenly darkened.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras meet in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on April 8, 2015.

What exactly is the matter? It is almost impossible to cull any accurate information enabling us to clarify the situation and shine a light on recent developments.

Let’s first sweep the picture clean of inaccurate assertions and unfounded claims. Commentators who almost always turn to the anti-Western narrative immediately took to the field. The Greek government, they claim, is trying to earn its credentials vis-à-vis NATO and the US.

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Although nobody has ever required such a demonstration of allegiance from Athens. Under the present circumstances Greece is not going to win any points with such behaviour. With the agreement at Prespa Lake and Athens yielding to FYROMacedonia’s membership in NATO, the Greek government has already earned what it could from like-minded Western European capitals.

A breakup with Russia would not have added anything to Athens’ pro-Western arsenal.

At a time when the US is blaming Germany for being friendly with Russia and other European states — namely Austria, Italy, and Hungary, among others — appear to be moving closer to Moscow, what would an anti-Russian gesture by Greece signify? How could Athens expect to capitalize on this? I cannot honestly discern any direct benefit for Greece.

Likewise, why would Washington pressure Athens to adapt such a hostile attitude? What would the Americans expect to earn at a time when the US president himself reiterates that in Vladimir Putin he sees a man he can fully understand … and make a deal with…

On the other hand, as far as bilateral relations are concerned, Athens’ relationship with Moscow has been seriously wounded — without any clear benefits for Greece. Putin has made it clear how he would react if faced with a repeated challenge: “If you squeeze a spring as far as it will go, it will snap back hard. You must always remember this”.

One should not overlook the fact that some months ago a meeting was called off between the Greek and Russian government ministries that had been aimed at fostering economic cooperation between the two countries. The reason given was the unexpected appearance at the meeting of some Crimean politicians — the Russians maintaining however that the Greek side had been forewarned and had not raised any objections at the time.

In the end the episode was brushed aside without any major repercussions, at least public ones. But it was an issue nevertheless…

At the last occurrence, culminating in the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Athens there is enough ambivalence as concerns the matter. The main issue being discussed is a possible Russian effort against the Prespa agreement, objecting in order to to nullify FYROM’s future membership in NATO. Two comments must be made here. Only Northern Macedonia can render the agreement invalid at this point, not Greece.

Even if the Greek parliament fails to ratify the agreement, the northern Macedonians will automatically become members of the Atlantic alliance. In order for that to happen the government in Skopje merely needs to satisfy the requirements set out by the Prespa agreement and stipulated by NATO. It is ridiculous to think that Russian diplomats are not fully aware of this situation. Why then, as some observers insinuate, should they try to nudge Greece into walking out of the agreement?

As for NATO, it is doubtful that the Russians do not recognize that the attitude of the US and of its president, who recently met with Russian officials and with President Putin himself in Helsinki, poses a greater threat to the cohesion of the alliance than the membership of tiny FYROM.

My opinion is that the various reports on the issue are making the matter seem much weightier than it really is. My assessment is that Moscow is much less concerned about it than is generally acknowledged.

There is, however, definitely an issue. Otherwise we would not have reached the point of repatriating diplomats. One should never overlook the fact that great powers are usually burdened by many decision-influencing centres. Sometimes they are working outside of the official process that the governments dictate. Russia can hardly be an exception. Often the tentacles of such decision-making centres reach the state machinery.

This has happened in Greece in the past, when a retired Air Force pilot attempted to bomb parts of Albania. We saw it again in the case of a fugitive from Turkey, the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. In the US it is very often the case that various agencies take initiatives without the knowledge of the central government authorities.

With Russia, the issue of Orthodox Christian belief is quite important. Adherence to those principles can potentially prompt actions and moves without the knowledge or approval of a central authority. Unfortunately, I am not privy to specific information, but I believe that my ideas make logical sense.

Why should the Kremlin jeopardise a carefully cultivated cordial relationship with Athens just to pursue a dead-end policy on the issue of Skopje? After all, that’s an issue of paramount importance to Greece. And it could not possibly produce any fruitful results.

There are people in northern Greece who have often involved themselves in issues of vital importance to Greece without the slightest official authorisation or coordination with the aims of the Greek state. Some of them refer to Russia as a sister Orthodox power, without having been entrusted with such authority.

On the other hand, one should not overlook the fact that Greece carries a grudge against the Kremlin for having embraced Turkey in recent months, supplying it with missiles and accepting its friendly overtures on the Syrian front, although aware of its diverse inclinations concerning the future of that region.

It is not impossible that such sentiments may have culminated in and led to the recent crisis between the two states.

Notwithstanding the above, there is a wider issue contributing to the current misunderstandings. Russia has always been a puzzle for anyone attempting to do business with her. They find it difficult to comprehend her reactions and behaviour. Almost all are reminded of Winston Churchill’s words describing Russia: “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma“. What few people remember is the rest of Churchill’s phrase: “But perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest“.

Some years later he explained: “I am convinced that there is nothing they [the Russians] admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness”.

No country can expect a positive appraisal if it does nothing but beg and offers little or no policy coordination. These words might adequately explain Russia’s attitude towards other countries and its posture towards various global affairs.

Via Strategic Culture

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