Written by Marcin Grajewski, Relations between the European Union and Turkey gained new momentum last month with an agreement aimed at addressing the migration crisis. One element of the deal is that Turkey shall take back migrants who cross to Greece illegally. The EU would accept Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and compensate it with […]
“Decision to exclude #Afghans violates summit agreement”, said @imouzalas, “though it was not a written one…” We are trapped.
Those kind of “individual” countries’ decisions in its territory, Europe proves to be unable to handle, or avoid. Greece will pay the unbearable, unthinkable cost , but we should definitely have a plan, said @imouzalas , Monday 22, the closed-FYROM- #borders day .
See more on vima article Mouzalas: “Decision to exclude Afghans violates summit agreement”
The next impenetrable razor-wire border fence in Europe should be built on the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Bulgaria’s borders with Greece, according Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the AP wrote.
Orban says it’s necessary because “Greece can’t defend Europe from the south” against the large numbers of refugees pouring in, mainly from Syria and Iraq”.
The plan adds another physical barrier between Greece and countries used as passage for asylum seekers and migrants to Europe’s 26-nation passport-free travel region, the Schengen zone, that is considered one of the European Union’s most cherished achievements. But it is the countries that are newer members to the European Union, and that are just recently enjoying what it means to be in a free Western zone, actually what it means to be the West, in modern and older political civilization, and live without borders as a European citizen . They were countries that lived behind razor soviet borders for almost 7 decades. Ex soviet countries.
As reported by AP, it is one of the new mini-blocs emerging lately in Europe due to the continent’s chaotic, inadequate response to its largest migration crisis since World War Two. The Visegrad group (an alliance of four Central European states – Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) is also becoming a force that threatens the plans of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who wants to resettle newcomers across the continent while also slowing down the influx.
“The plan to build a new ‘European defence line’ along the border of Bulgaria and [FYROM] with Greece is a major foreign policy initiative for the Visegrad Four and an attempt to re-establish itself as a notable political force within the EU,”
said Vit Dostal, an analyst with the Association for International Affairs, a Prague-based think tank.
Representatives of these four countries are holding an informal meeting ahead of the European Union summit on February 18 and 19.
Germany’s Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that she would press for implementation of the EU’s migration deal with Turkey at the summit this week, saying the alternative of closing borders to limit the flow of refugees to Europe would have dire consequences for the bloc.
“I will fight with all my strength for the EU-Turkey agenda as the right way to tackle this,”
the German Chancellor stressed Speaking at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Merkel said the summit was about whether the EU-Turkey pact could successfully tackle the causes of the migration, or
whether the bloc should “give up and instead close the Greek-FYROM-Bulgarian border with all the consequences that would have for Greece, the European Union and the Schengen zone.”
On Monday, February 15, the representative of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas had made clear that
the EU’s response to the refugee crisis will be in cooperation with Greece and not against Greece,
invited to comment on the meeting of the “Visegrad four” with governments of FYROM and Bulgaria, to promote the proposal for the closing of borders to Greece.
Shinas emphasized that based on the latest Commission figures, there is significant progress in the registration of refugees and migrants in Greece.
Greece’s Defense Minister Panos Kamenos announced on Tuesday that Greece has met its deadlines and commitment to EU to have the hot spots ready before February 18th,and that the four five hotspots were already functioning .
Spokesperson for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship of European Commission Tove Ernst, also, stressed at a press conference:
“Any action to the FYROM border will be undertaken in cooperation with the Greek authorities and Frontex”.
Ernst Tove said that an additional EUR 10 million of European aid was given to FYROM, in order to improve the management of migration flows at its borders and in particular for the better systematic controls and better monitoring of the borders and identification and registration of third countries nationals.
She stressed though that this aid is not to finance the construction of any fence,
“the work of the Commission is aimed at the management of the border and not on closing them”.
In regard with the construction of hotspots in the Greek islands, Tove expressed the Commission’s satisfaction with the work in progress .
In Berlin, government spokesman Steffen Zaimpert reiterated that the main priority for Berlin is to improve the guarding of the European Union’s external borders as a prerequisite for the maintenance of Schengen.
“From the perspective of the German government, it remains imperative to improve the guarding of EU’s external borders. This is the main requirement to put in order and to control and eventually reduce the flow of refugees’,
adding that “Without effective guard of external borders, the freedom of movement within the Schengen area will be jeopardized”
German spokesman Steffen Zaimpert added that “when we talk about a European solution, we mean a solution of the whole of Europe, which (solution) does not bypass any european country nor is it against an individual member state”.
Commenting the article of Sigmar Gabriel, to which the German Vice-Chancellor is against the possibility of the exclusion of Greece from the Schengen, he said: “I understood the text of Sigmar Gabriel as a very strong advocacy for european solutions – for european rather than national solutions. And this is a fundamental belief of the government”.
Strengthening the control on the Bulgarian-Greek and Greek-FYROM borders will not lead to a solution for Europe but will result only in a change of migration routes,
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov also, had said on February 15 in Prague.
Borissov was in the Czech Republic capital as a guest at a meeting of the Visegrad Group – made up of the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia – at which the migrant crisis in Europe was the key agenda item.
Greek Prime Minister’s Office earlier last week had strongly denounced the Visegrad countries’ blame game .Go to this story
Visit our Aegean Borders Special Page on greek2m
sources: sofiaglobe, Independent Balkan News Agency , AFP, New Europe, balcan eu
Belgium’s interior minister has suggested Greece build a camp in Athens to accommodate up to 400,000 migrants, Greece’s minister of immigration policy @mouzalas told national media Tuesday.
“The Belgian minister raised the issue of camps for 300,000 to 400,000 migrants in Athens,”
Ioannis Mouzalas told Greece’s Skai TV broadcaster.
The EU interior and justice ministers met in Amsterdam on Monday, where they attempted to find institutional solutions to the migrant crisis that saw over a million people arrive in Europe last year.
EU’s “big and unfair blame game against Greece is despicable”,
Greek alternate minister Yiannis Mouzalas told to reporters after the meeting of European Union interior ministers in Amsterdam on Monday.
At the EU Ministers’ meeting the Greek Minister had asked for 100 new Frontex vessels, and 1000 more Frontex personnel to assist Greece to repatriation of those migrants denied to asylum, to Turkey, shouting angrily to the EU miniters “We need Frontex in Greece!”
Europe, Ioannis Mouzalas said on Monday Jan 25, later to the international and Greek reporters, has shortchanged Greece by providing smaller-than-promised numbers of everything from cots and fingerprinting machines to border guards.
“It’s a myth that the Greek-Turkish border can’t be protected,” said Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner of Austria, which last week set an upper limit on new arrivals. Mikl-Leitner said the Greek navy has “sufficient capacity” to keep refugees out.
Nikos Toskas, a deputy interior minister, said it’s hard to stop some refugee-laden boats “except via sinking or shooting”, emphasising that
‘Cemetery of Souls’: Greece Hits Out at Plans to Exclude It From Schengen, Sputnik news article title wrote
The continent-wide name-calling harked back to the worst days of the debt crisis when Greece’s membership in the euro zone was imperiled. Germany and Austria pressured Greece to seal off its Aegean Sea border with Turkey, warning that the unchecked march of refugees from the Middle East would lead to longer-lasting passport controls at internal borders in western Europe,Bloomberg Business wrote
Mouzalas said Greece, as a frontline country that receives most of the new arrivals, was prepared to open new registration centers in early March.
The European Commission sought to tamp down speculation that it might be bolstering Macedonia’s border to bar Greece from the EU’s passport-free travel area known as the Schengen zone. “We have never discussed a Schengen suspension or an exclusion of a Schengen member,” Natasha Bertaud, a commission spokeswoman, said on Monday.
(sources: Sputnik, New Europe, Bloomberg Business )
Refugees in thousands arriving in Athens from Lesvos, and the other Aegean islands, September 2015
Neither Greece, nor the International Monetary Fund (IMF) want to delay the completion of the country’s first program review, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the Fund’s head Christine Lagarde agreed during a meeting in Davos on Thursday.
According to the prime minister’s office, Tsipras and Lagarde agreed that the government and the IMF should have direct communication so that each side has a clear understanding of each other’s position.
The prime minister also briefed Lagarde on the audits conducted by Greek authorities for possible tax evaders who have bank counts abroad, noting it is the first time that there is political will to investigate those cases and not cover them up. Finally, he said the government is hoping to collect a significant part of this money by introducing a legislation of “self-reporting”.
Following the meeting, the IMF issued a press release saying that it stands ready to continue to support Greece in achieving robust economic growth and sustainable public finances through a credible and comprehensive medium-term economic programme, but only if it was granted “significant” debt relief by its European partners.
Earlier, Tsipras said during a panel discussion that solving Europe’s problems required “more Europe”.
“We are doing what we can in order to progress quickly and smoothly with the implementation of the agreement,” he said, and expressed hope that the disagreements and different views that occasionally arose between the three institutions representing the country’s creditors would not be the cause of further delays.
“This is not the time for various ‘exits’, whether these concern ‘Grexit’ or ‘Brexit’, or for divisions, or walls, or differentiations,” the Greek premier continued. “It is a time for more Europe: Common rules, deepening democracy, strengthening solidarity, an increased European budget in order to restrict inequalities, banking union with a European system for guaranteeing deposits,” he added.
According to Tsipras, it was time for Europe to return to its founding principles, which were those of democracy, solidarity and social cohesion.
Addressing issues raised by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who said the International Monetary Fund’s presence in the Greek programme was essential and compared asking German lawmakers to sanction its removal to “going into a room full of dynamite with a lit candle”, Tsipras made the following comment:
“I too am no supporter of the view that one should attempt to light a candle in a room full of dynamite. Neither, however, do I have the view that on this account one must constantly be in the dark. The best solution is to remove the dynamite from the room and then light the candle.”
Euro zone countries tried in vain to stop the IMF publishing a gloomy analysis of Greece’s debt burden which the leftist government says vindicates its call to voters to reject bailout terms, sources familiar with the situation said on Friday to Reuters, as its exclusive report wrote
The Europeans were also concerned, the Reuters exclusive artcle further reveals, that
the report could distract attention from a view they share with the IMF that the Tsipras government, in the five months since it was elected, has wrecked a fragile economy that was just starting to recover.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” an IMF source involved in the debate over publication said. “We are not living in an ivory tower here. But the EU has to understand that not everything can be decided based on their own imperatives.”
The board had considered all arguments, including the risk that the document would be politicized, but the prevailing view was that
all the evidence and figures should be laid out transparently before the referendum.
“Facts are stubborn. You can’t hide the facts because they may be exploited,” the IMF source said.
The document released in Washington on Thursday said Greece’s public finances will not be sustainable without substantial debt relief, possibly including write-offs by European partners of loans guaranteed by taxpayers.
It also said Greece will need at least 50 billion euros in additional aid over the next three years to keep itself afloat.
Publication of the draft Debt Sustainability Analysis laid bare a dispute between Brussels and the Washington-based global lender that has been simmering behind closed doors for months.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras cited the report in a televised appeal to voters on Friday to say ‘No’ to the proposed austerity terms, which have anyway expired since talks broke down and Athens defaulted on an IMF loan this week.
It was not clear whether an arcane IMF document would influence a cliffhanger poll in which Greece’s future in the euro zone is at stake with banks closed, cash withdrawals rationed and commerce seizing up.
“Yesterday an event of major political importance happened,” Tsipras said. “The IMF published a report on Greece’s economy which is a great vindication for the Greek government as it confirms the obvious – that Greek debt is not sustainable.”
At a meeting on the International Monetary Fund’s board on Wednesday, European members questioned the timing of the report which IMF management proposed at short notice releasing three days before Sunday’s crucial referendum that may determine the country’s future in the euro zone, the sources said.
There was no vote but the Europeans were heavily outnumbered and the United States, the strongest voice in the IMF, was in favor of publication, the sources said.
In Brussels, the way the IMF communicated the findings was seen as confusing, misleading and politically unhelpful.
The European Commission had produced its own debt sustainability analysis, based partially on IMF data, which is less pessimistic in its scenarios and is one of the documents mentioned on the Greek referendum ballot paper.
Diplomats said the IMF’s publication of the study was a way of making clear it would only be part of any future loan pact with Greece if the Europeans included debt relief in the mix.
Germany and its north European allies have said the IMF’s presence is indispensable both to win parliamentary backing for aid for any euro zone partner, and to keep the European institutions honest. Berlin suspects the European Commission of being too soft on Greek efforts to wriggle out of reforms of pensions, taxation, public sector wages and labor law.
The European Central Bank, ( which has made Banks close in Greece as soon as the referendum was announced , we note) the third partner in what used to be called the “troika” of bailout enforcers, is also keen to keep the IMF involved, the Reuters article writes.
Negotiations between Greece and its creditors are progressing at an accelerated pace and representatives of both sides are expected to convene for a Brussels Group meeting on Tuesday afternoon, a eurozone source said.
Earlier, European Commission spokeswoman Annika Breidthardt said that Monday night’s ‘mini-summit’ with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and the heads of the three institutions representing the creditors – European Commission, ECB and IMF – had evaluated the progress in negotiations between Greek authorities and the institutions, adding that the contacts will continue.
Breidthardt said that Greece’s international partners speak with one voice and that talks are continuing on all levels, while the institutions remain in close contact with Greek authorities in order to complete the negotiations, adding that Monday’s meeting was held in this framework.
Taking these developments into account, it is believed that a plan for a joint agreement will start being drafted in the next few hours , the Athens News Agency wrote
Commission sources noted that Monday’s mini summit meeting was aimed at smoothing out differences between the institutions and forming a common political line. They also said it is possible that a decision will be adopted which will have a medium- rather than a long-term nature, since it will not include final arrangements for the Greek debt.
Greece has sent 47-page draft agreement to creditors
The Greek government submitted a comprehensive draft agreement running to 47 pages to the institutions representing Greece’s creditors on Monday and is now awaiting their reply, government sources said on Tuesday.
They said this proposal provides for a primary surplus of 0.8 pct in 2015 and 1.5 pct in 2016, as well as three VAT rates of 6 pct, 11 pct and 23 pct.
Decision for realism and not for a divided Europe belongs to European leaders
“We are negotiating with a plan and strategy amid difficult conditions. All Greeks know the difference between a government that negotiates and the previous governments that signed whatever they were asked to.The Greeks should be proud, regardless of the party they belong to. Greece has tabled proposals, we have made concessions – a normal practice in a negotiation – but we have submitted a realistic plan for the country to get out of the crisis.
Find this story on our Close that Deal Greek to me Home Page
Alexis Tsipras is showing the example to the European leaders by his paradigm of remaining stable on his “red lines” strategic, and by resisting to the “irrational strategic of the loop” the creditors have applied to Greece, wrote today the editor of economic newspaper « La Tribune »Romarik Gkonten, commenting on the Greek PM’s article on Le Monde and stating openly that Alexis has turned successfully the the game upsidedown
Creditors had hoped, says Gkoten, that “that the more the noose would be tightenend, and ecnomic aspuxiation of Greece would be growing, the more Greek resistance would be reduced. But the opposite happened!
In his article Alexis Tsipras shows decisive, the author of La Tribune notes. He starts his article on Le Monde by denouncing the stalemate policies of the previous governments imposed by the troika, he remonded then the retreats accepted by his governmenet and concludes by saying clearly he retains “red lines”. “By this attitude, Gkoten underlines, Alexis Tsipras’ has completely reversed the situation “It is now that Greece should not ‘beg’ for an agreement (…) but its the creditors that should realize the reality of the Greek decline and its economy that has” been bled from their own block. “
(…) This tactical move of Alexis Tsipras is particularly smart. From here on, it is the one who puts the rules of the game …. , the author goes on .
Greece’s solution and Europe’s future lies in the leaders’ hands, said Alexis Tsipras on his article on Le Monde :
“The lack of an agreement so far is not due to the supposed intransigent, uncompromising and incomprehensible Greek stance,” Alexis Tsipras wrote on May 31 on his article on Le Monde . “It is due to the insistence of certain institutional actors on submitting absurd proposals and displaying a total indifference to the recent democratic choice of the Greek people.”
“Greeks voted for a change by a courageous decision “
On 25th of last January, the Greek people made a courageous decision. They dared to challenge the one-way street of the Memorandum’s tough austerity, and to seek a new agreement. A new agreement that will keep the country in the Euro, with a viable economic program, without the mistakes of the past.
The Greek people paid a high price for these mistakes; over the past five years
- the unemployment rate climbed to 28% (60% for young people),
- average income decreased by 40%, while according to Eurostat’s data,
- Greece became the EU country with the highest index of social inequality.
- Public debt soared from 124% to 180% of GDP, and despite the heavy sacrifices of the people, the Greek economy remains trapped in continuous uncertainty caused by unattainable fiscal balance targets that further the vicious cycle of austerity and recession.
The new Greek government’s main goal during these last four months has been to put an end to this vicious cycle, an end to this uncertainty.
“Let me present the truth, on what Greece has done “
Many, however, claim that the Greek side is not cooperating to reach an agreement because it comes to the negotiations intransigent and without proposals.
Is this really the case?
Because these times are critical, perhaps historic–not only for the future of Greece but also for the future of Europe–I would like to take this opportunity to present the truth, and to responsibly inform the world’s public opinion about the real intentions and positions of Greece.
“These are Greece’s real intentions”
One of the key aspects of our proposals is the commitment to lower – and hence make feasible – primary surpluses for 2015 and 2016, and to allow for higher primary surpluses for the following years, as we expect a proportional increase in the growth rates of the Greek economy.
Another equally fundamental aspect of our proposals is the commitment to increase public revenues through a redistribution of the burden from lower and middle classes to the higher ones that have effectively avoided paying their fair share to help tackle the crisis, since they were for all accounts protected by both the political elite and the Troika who turned “a blind eye”.
From the very start, our government has clearly demonstrated its intention and determination to address these matters by legislating a specific bill to deal with fraud caused by triangular transactions, and by intensifying customs and tax controls to reduce smuggling and tax evasion.
While, for the first time in years, we charged media owners for their outstanding debts owed to the Greek public sector.
In other words, the oligarchs who were used to being protected by the political system now have many reasons to lose sleep.
“So, let’s be clear:…”
The lack of an agreement so far is not due to the supposed intransigent, uncompromising and incomprehensible Greek stance, but due to to the insistence of certain institutional actors on submitting absurd proposals and displaying a total indifference to the recent democratic choice of the Greek people, despite the public admission of the three Institutions that necessary flexibility will be provided in order to respect the popular verdict.
Speaking at the London School of Economics last week, Jack Lew fueled speculation with his “greater flexibility” comment that the U.S. was hintingthat the three financial institutions should renegotiate the terms under which they rescued Greece from debt and forced exit from the euro currency.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained at the regular Wsked by the instithite house Press Conference one day before Alexis Tsipras article was pubished on Le Monde, that “That’s not in anybody’s interests. And he’s hopeful that all the parties will be able to sit down in good faith and broker an agreement that satisfies their concerns.”
“Obviously the IMF has been a part of the conversations here,” replied President Barack Obama’s top spokesman, “These kinds of multilateral institutions such as the IMF have a role to play. The IMF has provided significant assistance to Greece and what Secretary Lew was urging was for all the parties to come to an agreement that doesn’t cause undue turmoil in the financial markets.”
“The problem with the IMF renegotiating is that there are many players involved,” Desmond Lachman, American Enterprise Institute scholar and onetime deputy policy director of the IMF, told Newsmax, “A lot of its shareholders would have to go along with any refinancing and already, a lot of them aren’t happy campers over the way the Greek bailout has gone.”
Tsipras: “Two oposite strategies for Europe’s Present and Future”
Greece is the very epicenter of conflict between two diametrically opposing strategies concerning European unity and its future, the Greek PM in his article concludes; The first, that aims to deepen European unification , and the second that works for the beginning of the creation of a technocratic monstrosity that will lead to a Europe entirely alien to its founding principles.
The first step to accomplishing this( second strategy version) is to create a two-spewo ed Eurozone where the “core” will set tough rules regarding austerity and adaptation and will appoint a “super” Finance Minister of the EZ with unlimited power, and with the ability to even reject budgets of sovereign states that are not aligned with the doctrines of extreme neoliberalism.
For those countries that refuse to bow to the new authority, the solution will be simple: Harsh punishment. Mandatory austerity. And even worse, more restrictions on the movement of capital, disciplinary sanctions, fines and even a parallel currency.
Solution in the Leaders’ hands: “For whom the bell tolls” (…Mr. Schauble-?-)
For those who want to believe that this decision concerns only Greece, they are making a grave mistake. I would suggest that they re-read Hemingway’s masterpiece, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.
For the editor of «La Tribune», Alexis Tsipras’ article is a direct call to Angela Merkel:
“The criticism of the intransigence of creditors expressed by the Greek PM, is actually a criticism towards Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who never hid his preference for Grexit”, La Tribune on June 1 wrote
Negotiations for Greek agreement have taken ‘sudden, positive turn’
There has been a sudden, positive change in the Brussels Group, during the final stretch in efforts to achieve an agreement between the Greek government and its partners, a source in Brussels reported on Friday.
According to the source, there were only “very few elements left” on which a substantive solution had yet to be found, so that an agreement can be reached.
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