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Street protest paralyzes Greece

Thousands fill the streets of Athens to protest further austerity measures

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Protesters fill the streets of Athens carrying flags and chanting slogans against austerity.
Thousands of Greek workers, students, union members, and the unemployed crowded in unison as part of a general strike.
The nationwide strike has brought public transportation to a stand still.
Even restaurants, shops, and schools are closed.
Many in the streets are carrying banners, signs, and flags of various political persuasions.
Brief clashes between protesters and riot police have broken out in various parts of the city.
This is nearly the 50th general strike since the austerity measures began nine years ago.

Pavlos Alexandros, the head of a union representing construction workers, carried a banner along with fellow protesters as they made their way to the parliament.
“Wages have shrunk a lot for construction workers [throughout the crisis],” he told Al Jazeera. “We are here fighting against this.”

The Socialist publication, wsws.org reports

Following its landslide election victory in January 2015, Syriza betrayed its mandate to end the austerity imposed by previous conservative and social democratic governments on behalf of the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Ignoring a referendum vote decisively rejecting austerity in July of that year, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras signed a Third Memorandum with the EU committing his government to carrying out even more brutal cuts.
On August 20, Greece is set to formally exit the EU bailout and return to the international financial markets to seek funding for its colossal debts. Since its debt crisis began in 2009, Greece has received €260 billion in loans in exchange for the implementation of the austerity measures, including public-sector layoffs, tax hikes and pension cuts. This has not reduced the country’s mountain of debt by a single euro. Virtually every cent has been handed back to the banks to meet interest payments. The EU and IMF are demanding that Greece pay £57 billion in loan obligations and interest over the next four years.
Syriza plans to pass another austerity package by June 14 that will include the privatisation of the energy sector. A meeting of euro zone finance ministers is set for June 21 to judge Greece’s compliance with the EU’s diktats.
The idea that austerity will cease when Greece exits the bailout programme is a sick joke. The programme agreed by Syriza has been specifically designed to ensure a reduction in workers’ living standards for years to come so as to hand over further billions to the international financial elite. Proposed measures include tax increases and further cuts in pensions of 18 percent to be imposed beginning in January 2019, with 300,000 to 700,000 families hit. Further cuts are scheduled for 2020.
On May 21, Kathemerini reported that “top cabinet officials declared publicly—both within Greece and to the country’s creditors—that pending measures, including pension cuts, will be enforced.”
This week, the European Commission published a Supplemental Memorandum of Understanding with Syriza to run from 2019 to 2022. It stipulates several years of high primary surpluses and the implementation of dozens of agreed austerity policies.
It states, “Success requires ownership of the reform agenda by the Greek authorities. The government therefore stands ready to take any measures that may become appropriate for this purpose as circumstances change.”
Syriza cannot enact any legislation without the say so of the “troika.” The memorandum notes, “The government commits to consult and agree with the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund on all actions relevant for the achievement of the objectives of the Memorandum of Understanding before these are finalised and legally adopted.”
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras boasted to business leaders at the annual conference of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) that his government has imposed every attack on the Greek working class demanded by the troika. He referred to the praise he received earlier this month from Angel Gurria, head of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Gurria told him in person, “I would like to congratulate you, your administration and the whole of Greece for an impressive stabilisation effort and one of the most ambitious reform packages we have seen at the OECD in recent times.”
An article on the Stuff news site noted: “Tsipras smiled, hugged Gurria and promised to keep reforming the economy—and demanded debt relief.”
Under PASOK, New Democracy and Syriza, austerity and the evisceration of democratic rights have been imposed by means of state repression. That this will continue was symbolised Wednesday by the stationing of riot police around Athens. The police, including a contingent protecting the offices of the SEV, attacked a number of protesters.
The cuts already in place are still not enough. The European Commission, endorsing a call by the OECD, issued a report stating that the only avenue left to bring Greek pensioners out of poverty is to raise the retirement age for all!
Since 2010, Greece’s gross domestic product has been reduced by a quarter. Wages have been slashed, with the active collaboration of the trade unions, by an average of average of 15 percent.
In the private sector, the collapse has been staggering. In 2012, the minimum take-home pay of a full-time private-sector worker was US$848 a month. This was slashed to US$690 a month in February of that year. Many workers are earning much less, as the figures mask the fact that half of all new jobs are part-time or seasonal. After three years of Syriza in power, Labour Ministry figures reveal that the poorest one-third of private-sector workers now received a starvation wage of just US$445 a month.
Masses of people remain unemployed, with official unemployment still over 20 percent and at 45 percent for young people.

According to recent polls, Syriza’s support has dropped to 21.5 percent leaving the conservative New Democracy the largest opposition party.
The Golden Dawn holds eight percent and the communist party lies below six percent.
Over forty percent of Greeks are disillusioned with all parties.
“Today, we want to send a clear message to the government that exiting the memorandum should also mean the end of austerity,” she told Al Jazeera at Wednesday’s demonstration. Many people are saying that if the end of the austerity is soon, “When can we have our jobs back?”

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Paranoid Turkey Claims “Greece, Israel, & Egypt Are Part Of Khashoggi’s Murder Plot”

A new Turkish narrative has been launched claiming that Greece, Israel and Egypt are part of the murder plot of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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Via Zerohedge


As we noted previouslythe conflict over gas in the eastern Mediterranean is intensifying.

The dispute concerns gas blocks, with Turkey furious about the energy cooperation of these Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt in the East Mediterranean Sea. While Turkish warships have been active, it appears Turkey is taking a new approach to this hybrid war.

As KeepTalkingGreece.com reports,a new Turkish narrative, based on paranoia and conspiracy theories, has been launched claiming that Greece, Israel and Egypt are part of the murder plot of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggipresumably in an effort to garner global opinion against their energy-hording neighbors.

This unbelievable allegation has been claimed by Erdogan’s close aide Yigit Bulut, who is famous for his delirium and ravings, during an appearance on state television of Turkey.

“Greece, Israel and Egypt are part of murder plot involving slain Saudi Arabia journalist Khashoggi in Istanbul,” Yigit Bulut said in TRT Television, where he is a frequent guest.

Enlisting the ‘good old traditional perception’ that Turkey is surrounded by enemies, KeepTalkingGreece notesthat Bulut said:

“a belt extending from Europe to Israel has always harbored hostility towards Turkey they never wanted Turks in this region. Europe even made Turks to fight unnecessary wars against Russia.”

It is worth noting that Russia and Turkey have come closer recently due to Syria, a cooperation sealed with armament sales to Ankara triggering the anger of US and the NATO of which Turkey is a member.

Bulut vowed that Turkey will continue oil and gas exploration in the East Mediterranean off-shore Cyprus.

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Turkey vows to make ‘sea bandits’ drilling gas off Cyprus pay, like ‘terrorists in Syria’ did

Ankara claims jurisdiction for offshore research in the East Mediterranean, an area thought to be rich with natural resources.

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Via RT


Ankara will not allow any “sea bandits” to roam free and tap the disputed natural gas reserves off Cyprus, Turkey’s president has vowed, while commissioning a new warship to challenge competitors militarily, should the need arise.

“We will not accept attempts to seize natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean through the exclusion of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC),” Erdogan said Sunday, according to Daily Sabah. While claiming that Turkey has no ambitions to annex any “territories,” Ankara promised to protect “the rights of our country and of our brothers.”

“Those who thought that they could take steps in the Eastern Mediterranean or the Aegean despite [this] have begun to understand the magnitude of their mistake. We will not allow bandits in the seas to roam free just like we made the terrorists in Syria pay,” Erdogan said at a ceremony transferring the TCG Burgazada corvette to the Turkish Navy.

The exploration of hydrocarbon resources off the coast of the Republic of Cyprus has become a sensitive issue for the international community, ever since the first gas deposit discoveries were made off the coast in 2011. While the Republic of Cyprus belongs to the EU community and is recognized by the UN, TRNC, the northern third of the island, has been occupied by Turkey since 1974. As a result, Ankara continues to claim jurisdiction for offshore research in the East Mediterranean, an area thought to be rich with natural resources.

The region has recently witnessed an escalation in tensions, after the Turkish Navy intercepted a Greek frigate which tried to interfere with a Turkish research vessel’s seabed exploration on October 18. The incident prompted a diplomatic row with Greece, which traditionally supports the ethnically Greek government of the Republic of Cyprus. While Greece denied interfering with the Turkish research vessel, Ankara has cautioned its neighbor and longtime opponent not to stir trouble in the region.

To ease tensions, Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades has offered Turkey on Friday to cooperate on exploiting the East Mediterranean’s potential oil and gas wealth, stressing that the ethnically split island nation should be reunified. All previous international efforts to unite the island have failed. To avoid any further intercommunal tensions and hostilities the United Nations continues to maintain a buffer zone there.

“We will continue with our goal of exercising the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus, as an independent state – member of the European Union, proceeding seamlessly with our energy planning for the benefit of all the legitimate inhabitants of the country, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots,” the president noted.

US-based ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum have already been licensed by the Cypriot government to undertake seabed exploration of Block 10. Last month, Nicosia also invited France’s Total, Italy’s ENI and ExxonMobil to explore Block 7. ExxonMobil’s Stena IceMax drillship is scheduled to arrive in Cyprus on November 12. Turkey, meanwhile, started conducting its first deep-sea drilling off Antalya’s shores on its Mediterranean coast this week.

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After Embarrassing Defeat, NATO, EU and the West Try to Alter Reality in Macedonia

Amidst all the faux cheer and public displays of confidence of the pro-NATO/EU crowd, a palpable sense of unease hangs in the air.

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Authored by Aleksandar Pavic via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Although the September 30, 2018 name-change referendum in Macedonia, which was supposed to set that ex-Yugoslav federal republic on a path to (certain) NATO and (blithely promised but much less certain) EU membership, failed miserably, with only 36.91% of the voters turning out, well short of the 50% + 1 necessary for it to be valid – one would never know it from the reactions of its Western proponents and impatient beneficiaries. Indeed, a new term may be needed to adequately describe the reactions of the key pillars representing the reliquiae reliquiarum of the Western-led post-Cold War unipolar moment. Fake news simply doesn’t do them justice. Fake reality anyone?

The US State Department was firmly in denial, releasing the following statement“The United States welcomes the results of the Republic of Macedonia’s September 30 referendum, in which citizens expressed their support for NATO and European Union (EU) membership by accepting the Prespa Agreement between Macedonia and Greece. The United States strongly supports the Agreement’s full implementation, which will allow Macedonia to take its rightful place in NATO and the EU, contributing to regional stability, security, and prosperity. As Macedonia’s parliament now begins deliberation on constitutional changes, we urge leaders to rise above partisan politics and seize this historic opportunity to secure a brighter future for the country as a full participant in Western institutions.”

EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn wasn’t to be outdone in his contempt for the 63% of the Macedonian “deplorables” who stayed home in order to voice their disagreement with renouncing their perceived national identity and country name (it was to become “Northern Macedonia”) in exchange for the double joy of a) becoming NATO’s cannon-fodder in its increasingly hazardous game of chicken with Russia and b) the EU’s newest debt-serfs: “Referendum in Macedonia: I congratulate those citizens who voted in today’s consultative referendum and made use of their democratic freedoms. With the very significant “yes” vote, there is broad support to the #Prespa Agreement + to the country’s #Euroatlantic path. I now expect all political leaders to respect this decision and take it forward with utmost responsibility and unity across party lines, in the interest of the country.” He was seconded the following day, in a joint statement, by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the EU Commission.

Understandably, as the most direct public stakeholder, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was particularly (hyper)active. As the disappointing results began to roll in, Stoltenberg went into immediate damage control, tweeting“I welcome the yes vote in Macedonia referendum. I urge all political leaders & parties to engage constructively & responsibly to seize this historic opportunity. #NATO’s door is open, but all national procedures have to be completed.” He reinforced his delusional missive the next day, releasing a similar statement co-signed by EU President Donald Tusk. And the day after, during a news conference, Stoltenberg even offered lightning-quick NATO accession to the unwilling Macedonians – January 2019, to be exact – if they would just be so kind as to urgently implement the very agreement that they had just so emphatically rejected. When NATO says it promotes democratic values – it means it!

But that wasn’t the end of the “democracy mongering” surrounding what may well prove to be NATO’s, the EU’s and the rest of the end-of-history West’s Balkan Waterloo. For example, the EU Parliament’s Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, although “regretting that the turnout was less than 50%,” nevertheless hailed the referendum’s results and “call(ed) on the opposition to respect the expressed will of the majority [sic] of voters.” The Group’s leader, Udo Bullmann, while also maintaining that, somehow, a voter turnout of under 37% still represented a “majority,” additionally used the occasion to chastise Macedonia’s President for having the nerve to call for a boycott of the referendum (he committed the crimethink of referring to it as “historical suicide” during his UN General Assembly address), as well as to decry – what else? – “reports about Russian interference in the electoral process.” It goes without saying that Bullmann offered absolutely zero proof for his assertion. On the other hand, according to numerous media reports, as September 30 approached, while no high Russian official was to be seen anywhere in the vicinity, a veritable procession of Western political bigwigs made the pilgrimage to Skopje in order to reveal to the natives their “true” best interests: Sebastian Kurz“Mad Dog” Mattis, the indefatigable StoltenbergFederica MogheriniJohannes HahnAngela Merkel. No meddling there, obviously…

Speaking of Angela Merkel, she also joined her fellow Western democrats’ show of unanimous disdain for the Macedonian voters’ majority opinion, urging the country to “push ahead” with the implementation of the majority-rejected accord, citing voters’ “overwhelming support” [sic], and arguing through the mouth of her spokesman that the required 50% + 1 turnout was actually “very high,” as voter registers purportedly included many people who had long since left the country.

Coincidentally (?), the same argument was used by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, who opined that the “yes” votes cast in the referendum do, in fact, “represent the majority despite the low turnout because Macedonia does not have the 1.8 million voters entered into its electoral rolls but just 1.2 million since 300,000 people have left the country since the voter lists were last updated 20 years ago.” The fallacy of his reality-challenged claim is easily exposed if we just take a glance at the results of Macedonia’s last parliamentary elections (December 2016), in which voter turnout was just under 1.2 million (1,191,832 to be exact) or, officially, 66.79%. If we were to believe Kotzias and Merkel (who lodged no objections at the time), that would have meant that the turnout for the 2016 elections had been 99% – a figure that would make any totalitarian dictator blush with envy. On the other hand, since those elections did produce the “desired result,” enabling the current heavily pro-NATO/EU government led by Zoran Zaev to be formed, that automatically made them “valid” in the eyes of the high priests of democracy in Brussels, Berlin, London and Washington.

Needless to say, Zaev joined his Western patrons’ charade, hailing the referendum as a “democratic success,” and announcing that he would seek the Macedonian Parliament’s support to amend the constitution and get the agreement with Greece ratified (according to the so-called Prespa Agreement, the Macedonian Parliament must adopt the necessary constitutional amendments by the end of 2018) so that the Greek Parliament can do the same, which would seal the deal. However, Zaev and his Albanian political partners are currently well short of the necessary two-thirds majority (reportedly, they can count on 71 deputies, or 9 short of the needed 80), and will have to call early elections if they don’t soon succeed in securing it.

Yet, let it not go unsaid that Zaev was singing a rather different tune prior to the referendum, assuring that “citizens will make the decision,” and that Parliament would vote on the necessary constitutional changes only if the referendum is successful. But that was then, when confidence was still high that the usual combination of Western pressure, money and overwhelming domination of the media spectrum would get the job done. And then reality struck on September 30…

Still, amidst all the faux cheer and public displays of confidence of the pro-NATO/EU crowd, a palpable sense of unease hangs in the air. As a Deutsche Welle opinion piece put it, the “low voter turnout for Macedonia’s referendum is a bad starting point for the country’s future development.” And, according to DW in Serbian, a Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commentary warned that “politicians who otherwise ceaselessly talk of democracy as a ‘special value’ should not call on the parliament in Skopje to accept the voting results.” In other words, Macedonia’s people (read – a large majority of the majority Slavic population) have “voted with their feet” and rejected the agreement, and no new parliamentary election, no matter the results, can change that unpleasant-but-immutable fact. That alone will delegitimize any Western-led effort to “manufacture consent” by ramming the agreement through the present or future Parliament – although, as we know, NATO doesn’t put too much stock in referenda anyway, while the EU is not averse to making citizens vote as many times as needed to obtain the “right” result.

But the West has lost more than just legitimacy in Macedonia – it has damaged its reputation, perhaps irretrievably. In the words of former presidential advisor Cvetin Chilimanov, “The West has humiliated us… Macedonians have rejected this media, psychological, political and propaganda aggression against the people, and that’s the tragedy of these days, that a large percentage of a people that had been genuinely oriented towards the West has changed its mind and stopped looking at the West as something democratic, something progressive and successful… That is the reason for the boycott. Pressure was applied against Macedonia, a country that had always been open to ties with the West, but which did not want to make this disgusting compromise and humiliate itself before the neighboring countries, before Western countries. We did not understand why that humiliation was needed so that we might become a member of Europe. What’s worst, perhaps that is now the thinking of a silent majority of the people, that they won’t forget this insult and this attack on Macedonia.”

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