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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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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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