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Arming the poor?

Victims of hostile foreign supervision and successive anti-Greek governments, have the people of Greece reached their limit?

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It was a sunny warm day in early June 2018. My Greek-American classical scholar friend, Apostolos Athanassakis, and I were having coffee in a lovely coffee shop in Theseion (Θησεῖον) near the Acropolis. The “boom-boom” music bothered me. I asked the waiter to change that abominable sound with something Greek. “I agree with you, Sir,” he said. “The music is bad. But I can’t do anything about it. The boss thinks this is what tourists want to hear.”

Arming the poor

My friend and I had just left the coffee shop when a logo written in black graffiti on a glass caught my attention. It read, in Greek: “Poor people to arms.” At that moment when I was taking a picture of the slogan and commenting on its grave implications, a middle-age man responded on the meaning of the word “poor.” “Have-nots or brainless?” he asked. I admitted there are many people who are being brainwashed to oblivion and others who are, possibly, stupid.

“In either case,” I said, “arming the have-nots and the potentially brainless is combustible.”

The man said “let me tell you a story of Solon and Croesus of Lydia. Solon was the Athenian philosopher-legislator of late seventh-first half of the sixth centuries BCE who, in response to a question on ultimate happiness by this very wealthy and powerful Asian king Croesus, said he doubted money alone could buy happiness.”

“It happens,” this Greek continued, “that Croesus of Lydia lost a war and the victorious enemy put him on a fire pyre. Once Croesus of Lydia got hold of himself, he started saying Solon was right. Ah, Solon,” he cried aloud, where are you? You were right.”

My friend and I let this man go on with his passionate speech. He did know his mythology and had such an admirable way of telling stories.

This man, as well as the rest of the Greeks in 2018, have been caught in a vicious chronic oppression resembling low-level warfare. This unsettling affair started, supposedly, because Greek governments borrowed excessive funds from gigantic European and American banks.

Financial meltdown

When the American financial meltdown hit the airwaves and the wallets of millions all over the world in 2008, the sleaze in Greek borrowing also blew up. Suddenly, in 2009, the American-born Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, appealed to the IMF for fixing Greek finances. Immediately, the European Commission and the European Central Bank joined the IMF, forming a formidable international coalition to run Greece.

With this calculated anti-Greek policy, Papandreou tied Greece to the International Monetary Fund, an instrument of American foreign policy known for bankrupting countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. The European Commission and the European Central Bank had no objections to IMF. Indeed, these three institutions exist to protect the interests of powerful countries and the profits of large banks.

Troika occupation of Greece

The ten-year hegemony of this “troika” over Greece has been utterly humiliating, violating human rights and national sovereignty. Moreover, this hostile foreign control of Greece has impoverished the country. First, the Troika insisted Greece gives up its sovereignty, patently an act violating both Greek and international law. Second, the Troika insisted the Greek government sells off all state assets and impose “austerity” on the Greeks. This means drastic cuts in social spending, shredding public health, abandoning environmental protection, the imposition of harsh taxation, and continuous cuts in pensions.

The results of these Troika-enforced policies have deleterious consequences on how Greeks think of Europe. Their pauperization brings to mind the terrible German destruction of their country during WWII. One tragic irony here is that Germany, magically burying its barbaric Nazi past, is leading Europe’s punishment of Greece.

The Greeks know this history, but, the influential among them, say they must obey the German-dominated troika. Silently, the Greeks oppose their government, which has become the enforcer of policies from Brussels. This probably reminds them of the dismemberment of their country by the European crusaders.

Aside from these metaphysical anxieties, the reality of daily life in Greece in 2018 brings to light large forces shaping the life of all Greeks.

Is Greece ditching its agrarian civilization?

In 2016, Greece exported goods valued at $26.5 billion. In 2016, however, Greece paid $47.6 billion for its imports.

Second, the pressure of “free” markets have sped up the industrialization of Greek farming. Farms of one crop have been getting larger. The use of hazardous and neurotoxic pesticides has been expanding. Urbanization has been depopulating thousands of villages. The country I left in 1961 is not the country of 2018.

How do I know these changes are going on? Certainly not by reading scarce and unreliable statistics. In each of my trips to Greece, I travel to villages and talk to farmers.

Greek farmers are telling me the effects from this fake farm “modernization,” subsidized by EU, are not good. It’s hard to find healthy food. Bread in 2018 is less nutritious than the bread of 1961. Bread in 2018 does not taste like homemade bread or the bread I ate while growing up in Cephalonia in the decades of the 1950s and 1960s. Greece is no longer self-reliant in food.

A flickering light of hope is the spreading of organic/biological agriculture. My visit to an organic fruits and vegetables food market was the climax of my 2018 trip to Greece. I admired the beautiful, aromatic red tomatoes from Crete and the dozens of Greeks buying them and other healthy fruits and vegetables.

Organic-biological fruits and vegetables market in the Vrilisia suburb of Athens. (Photo credit: Evaggelos Vallianatos)

Too many cars

Third, the infrastructure of the country is crumbling.

The country was rebuilt in a hurry after World War II. Most of its roads are inadequate for the influx of huge numbers of cars. Add this hazard to bad village and city narrow roads without sidewalks and you have a crisis of medieval proportions.

I like to walk and bike. I had a great deal of difficulty in walking in very narrow, broken-up right and left strips of streets flooded with parked and moving cars. As for biking, I did not even try it.

Pollution is unregulated. Greece is a dream country for polluters. The country’s huge fleet of imported cars is damaging human health and the natural world. I felt that pollution.

Parked cars in the streets of Nikaia near Piraeus. (Photo credit: Evaggelos Vallianatos)

Tax extortion 

Then comes the crown of human stupidity and greed: heavy taxation in a country collapsing from luck of funds and jobs. The Troika knows you cannot tax an unemployed person. Yet, taxation in Greece in 2018 is very broad and brutal. I was sick and tired of listening to my relatives and friends talking in terror about all the special taxes on food, homes, land, inheritance etc.

So why did the troika impose policies that impoverish Greeks, making the repayment of the loans nearly impossible? Is it possible the troika sees Greece simply as a vacation spot for rich non-Greeks? Converting the country to lots for second vacation homes for anyone with lots of cash?

This is not entirely speculative. Thousands of Germans own houses in Crete and Peloponnesos. Close to two thousand British own houses in Cephalonia. The economic collapse of Greece, and the drastic decline of home prices, is a “golden opportunity” for foreigners to buy their vacation home in Greece. And then there are thousands upon thousands of Muslim refugees in Greece.

Greeks think about this reality in their country. They probably blame the troika and its Greek collaborators, hence the genesis of the slogan: “Poor people to arms.”

Protests

Protests don’t seem to matter that much. The Greek government is a product of post-World War II inequalities and foreign ideologies. Government officials, theoretically representing the extreme left, even communist wing of the political spectrum, are just as capitalist as Wall Street bankers. Not only that, but they are, like the early Christians, internationalists to the point they are harming the national interests of Greece. They just sold the Greek name and legacy of Greek Macedonia to a bunch of Albanians and Bulgarians pretending to be “Macedonians.”

Demonstration outside Greece’s parliament on June 15, 2018, in opposition to the Tsipras-Zaev “North Macedonia” deal. (Photo: Michael Nevradakis)

Moreover, these Greek politicians don’t think Greece has borders or that Greek borders matter.

These bad policies, encouraged by NATO and the troika, also fuel Turkey’s hostility towards Greece. Turkey, fully cognizant of the incompetence, cowardliness, or idiocy of Greek political leadership, is pushing illegal migrants to the Greek islands of the Aegean, almost daily. Those who take care of the increasing numbers of Muslim migrants to Greece told me “Greece is becoming a warehouse of souls.”

Thus, “Arming the Have-Nots” may be more than a slogan. Limits control everything. Humans can put up with a lot of abuse until their limits break down. Some Greeks have already passed through that threshold.

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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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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Greeks Owe A Stunning €182 Billion In Tax Arrears To The State

Greece repeatedly raised taxes during its international bailouts between 2010 and August 2018.

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Via Zerohedge


Data from the Independent Authority for Public Revenue show tax arrears totaled 182.5 billion euros ($214 billion) on Aug. 10, according to a note sent from the agency to parliament last week and seen by The Associated Press Wednesday.

“The Greek government is owed so much in tax arrears from households and companies that it could pay off more than half its massive public debts if it collected it all,” writes AP, adding “unfortunately for the government, that’s unlikely to ever happen.”

However, as KeepTalkingGreece.com reports, more than 80 billion euros of that represents interest and fines on delayed payments from debtors that include companies that have been out of business for decades.

The arrears come close to Greece’s total economic output, estimated at 184.7 billion euros ($217 billion) this year, and Greece’s total public debt is worth about 180% of these arrears.

Eurozone-member Greece repeatedly raised taxes during its international bailouts between 2010 and August 2018.

Some 3.7 million Greeks – about 60 percent of the total – are behind on tax payments, and while the EU governments have attempted to crack down on the so-called shadow economy, black market activity still thrives in Greece.

As Statista’s Niall McCarthy notesexamples of black market activity are pretty common, whether it’s a warehouse worker driving an unlicensed taxi between shifts, an electrician accepting cash payments without declaring his earnings or a simple drug deal in a shady alleyway.

However, the level of black market activity, also defined as the shadow economy, depends highly on your country of residence. Generally defined as businesses and individuals engaging in inappropriate practices without complying with certain legal obligations such as paying tax or maintaining acceptable standards of employment, the shadow economy costs governments around the world trillions of dollars every year.

According to the IMF, heavily regulated economies with weaker administration tend to have well-established shadow economies. It’s far smaller in natons with strong, well-regulated and efficient government institutions. Back in the late 1990s, this was readily apparent in former Soviet states like Georgia where the shadow economy was estimated at 64 percent of GDP.

Today, the shadow economy is booming across southern Europe, though the scale of underground activity can only be measured indirectly.

You will find more infographics at Statista.

According to a new study published by the Institute for Applied Economic Research at the University of Tübingen in Germany (IAW), Greece’s shadow economy is estimated to average 21.5 percent of GDP. In the United States, undeclared cash transactions seem to be rarer with IAW’s study placing U.S. shadow economic activity at 5.4 percent of the country’s GDP.

 

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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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Via RT


One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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