A Treatise on European Government: on a constitution and the transnational

SOURCE

This treatise on constitutional European government is linked to the first on the EU treaties: outlining the foundations for a transnational constitution as the keystone for a ‘second Reformation of Europe’. (Long – 13,000 words)

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The Altiero Spinelli Building, European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium. Sojka Libor/Press Association. All rights reserved.

With Europe’s current order in the spectacular débâcle that it is, a return to basics is in order to rethink the supranational construct, and the underlying idée européenne, from the ground up. For this, consideration must be given to the antecedents of the current European Project, particularly in Europe’s intellectual history, as well as some of the earlier suggestions for a political and, it is assumed, democratic, Europe. Furthermore, the concepts which make up the European idea need to be redefined and reconsidered. What I aim to argue is that Europe does not need a revolution, in the sense of the complete replacement of the very foundations of the European idea, but a reformation [1]. We are not here to destroy Europe, but to reaffirm our belief in it, through challenging the core articles of faith, dismantling the redundant pillars of the construct, and regenerating them into something new. For a truly transnational Europe, there must be a Second Reformation; a real constitution lies at the heart of this. Here is my contribution to DiEM25’s Constitutional pillar.

Back to basics: preliminary considerations & suggestions

At its core, the European idea in itself is revolutionary; a revolution against the nation-state and the European state-system, which has characterised the continent since the fall of the Pax Romana. It is the idea that our vision, our terms of reference and our assumptions should not be limited to any national or ethnic boundaries, but should cross them. For much of its history Europe poorly fitted what today is our understanding of the international system; Spanish kings elected as Holy Roman emperors, Dutch Stadtholders being gifted the English throne, royal unions between Saxony, Poland and Lithuania. There have always been many cultures and ethnicities in Europe, but not until the eighteenth century at earliest can we say they matched at all closely the alignment of the European state-system. Even Rome itself, in its republican days, though a single imperium, had a level of cultural variation and diversity that we would recognise in Europe today, both because Rome lacked the administrative capacity and the interest to attempt full-scale homogenisation[2].

The nation-states have changed this, so that within each state, cultural and ethnic homogeneity has come to be expected; the international reigns, where within borders, life is integrated, and between them, there is a void in which negotiation is conducted and relations established. But nothing goes across those borders, considered as high walls separating the isolated national communities. One might think that the existence of the international community repudiates some of these assumptions within nationalism; however, internationalism still rests on the idea of inter, that we are all in our separate national communities, and sometimes agree to cooperate, or discuss things with one another at high-minded summits and conferences. We might visit each other, but being truly integrated at the social level is beyond the conceptual ability of this understanding of the world. The international reigns, where within borders, life is integrated, and between them, there is a void in which negotiation is conducted and relations established. But nothing goes across those borders…

In this way, we see the revolutionary potential of establishing a ‘free and united’ Europe. This was the phrase used by Altiero Spinelli, the Italian former communist and federalist, and Ernesto Rossi, a radical liberal, in the Ventotene Manifesto, written in 1941 when both were imprisoned by Mussolini’s fascist regime. This text is the product of over a century of revolutionary thought on European unification, from Giuseppe Mazzini and Victor Hugo all the way to Karl Kautsky and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon; it is ‘the most powerful vision of continental unity to emerge from the European resistance’[3]. The manifesto is divided into three parts, addressing the crisis of modern European civilisation at the height of what can be described as Europe’s ‘Second Thirty Years’ War’[4], post-war duties on the subject of European Unity, and post-war duties on the subject of social reform. In the second section on European Unity, Spinelli and Rossi preface their agenda with the fact that at the end of the war, there will come a revolutionary moment when the initiative can be seized to rebuild Europe on their radical agenda, which includes wealth redistribution, the abolition and defeat of the old ruling classes and aristocracies, a reconfiguration of the bounds of private property (though not its abolition, communist doctrine was rejected as statist and bureaucratic), and the creation of a European Federation; a state around which will grow “the new, genuine democracy”, free of the reactionary influences and foundations of the old national state-system[5].

The question arises as to why a new oligarchic ruling class would not grow also around this new state, along with all the other trappings of the nation-states, including militarism, cartelism and monopoly, xenophobia towards outsiders, and an introverted and ultimately servile social mentality. However, it is clear there are several reasons. First of all, there is the fact that Spinelli and Rossi’s European Federation is predicated on and deeply informed by the necessary crushing defeat of the old, reactionary ruling elite, which are integrally wedded to the national structures of power: ethnic homogeneity, blood and soil, monopoly of national resources, national symbols of identity and locality, the nexus of aristocratic landownership, capital, and military leadership, all of which controlled and guaranteed nation-state power – even in republican states which had created their own aristocracies.

This not only took centuries to build, in societies that were much more servile and uninformed than that which emerged from Europe’s ashes in 1945, but also relied on actually existing relics from history. This does not exist for Europe as a whole. There has never been European ethnic homogeneity, nor a nobility, nor glory to embody. European history would have to be completely rewritten for that, which national histories were not; they were written selectively[6]. You might say ‘new structures can be created, as in the Soviet Union’. Indeed, there is that possibility; of the creation of a faceless, all-powerful bureaucracy utterly disconnected from Europe. However, Spinelli and Rossi explicitly argued that the society which founds the Europe Federation cannot be ‘servile’. In this term, I understand to mean and characterise national identity, for clear reasons. National identities, though founded on historical relics, were all created, they didn’t exist organically. Within them, though also the ideas of enlightenment and modernity, were those of power and obedience, particularly in states which pre-existed their nations, where the state-elites forged their nations[7]. Even non-state national movements fixated on the attainment of sovereign, state power – take Germany and Italy as clear examples – especially for ethnicities which had a history of state power (Hungary and Poland). The nation must have state-power by right, before any other potential reason. Due to this, obedience, uncritical acceptance, deference to authority and submission were all wrapped up in national society; the nation “brought with it, however, the seeds of capitalist imperialism which our own generation has seen expand to the point of forming totalitarian states and to the unleashing of world wars.” However, while Spinelli and Rossi hence prescribe a society that is not servile, they do not indicate the components of an identity that would facilitate such a society.

The strength of vision in this manifesto is without a doubt leaps and bounds ahead of any of the political calibre that we see in our contemporary Europe, after 60 years of integration. This is due to the intellectual architecture fundamentally: the two other traditions of thought on European unification have collaborated to form the construct that exists today – the conservative tradition, and the technocratic tradition. The idea that Europe’s nation-states should guide Europe collectively, and the idea that the political should be transcended and instead government should consist of technical management. So here is the first wall we knock through: the political ideas found in the Ventotene Manifesto should be the foundation of the Europe we wish to see, and shall act as the foundation of what follows; for at its core, as with DiEM25, is radicalism and democracy.

There are nevertheless two major gaps in the manifesto, and one obstacle; the first gap is, while there is much dedicated to economic and social questions – which are certainly relevant to the wider question of a just and cohesive society – there is little dedicated to constitutional questions. They readily admit that given the uncertain nature of the future, they do not know the exact constitutional forms and can only prescribe that which we already know: representative bodies, the formation of law, independent magistracies and freedom of expression and association. They also argued for secularism; the clear separation of Church and State which the Mussolini regime had reneged on in order to gain the support of the church and his religious countrymen.  One area they are clear on which links constitutional questions with socioeconomic questions is the theory of corporatism. Spinelli and Rossi’s European Federation has a strong democratic element at its very core, “giving the solid stamp of liberty to political life, imbuing it with a strong sense of social solidarity”; this is not compatible in their reckoning with corporatism, experience with which they have from Mussolini’s fascist regime in Italy. They do not believe corporatism can be salvaged for democracy, being a key element of fascism’s “house of cards”; representatives of the various sectors of the economy, even if sincerely representative, are not qualified to handle questions of government policy, for they become organs of the accumulation of power and privilege depending on who has better representation – and hence, access to government. This is very reminiscent of business-lobbying today, where corporations aim to bypass the parliamentary process to gain direct access to government, which they are able to do, and more effectively than other sectors of the economy (especially labour) thanks to their wealth and connections with the political class. Unfortunately, this is the model that technocratic Europe has chosen to base its ‘representative’ government on, which I believe links back to a liberal-individualist conception of democracy[8] and ‘Roman’ strategy of legitimacy[9]. Through corporatist methods, the wants of the people are determined and then technocrats can fashion policies to satisfy those wants; it is a hollow form of democracy, stripped of all normative value or potential. The manifesto tells us the end result: “This would create a kind of feudal anarchy in the economic life of the country, leading to renewed political despotism.” We see it now, different fiefs – banks, industrial manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies etc. – vying for power and influence over the centre, completely disregarding other interests, the common interest and the greater good of the whole, their influence based entirely on who has the most slick and effective representation, rather than equal representation of all.

By contrast, Spinelli and Rossi want a holistic approach to democratic politics, which excludes both corporatism and the sectarian vision of communism as they understood it. Citizens must retain freedom and autonomy; society must retain cohesion. Again, this hints at the form of society that is required for the European Federation, but does not provide any clear instructions.

The second gap is really the most fundamental question that progressive Europeanists have to answer if they want to justify a European state, federal or otherwise. That is, why Europe? The functionalist liberal David Mitrany put this question to Europeanists in his critique of ‘regionalism’ in 1965[10]. In arguing that it would encourage eurocentrism and introversion by undermining the international and reproducing the problems of the national writ large, Mitrany made several assumptions on the nature of identity, internationalism and cosmopolitanism. The manifesto itself addresses the issue to an extent: intergovernmental orders like the League of Nations lack the capacity to actually compel states, which is a problem in Europe in particular because the actions of one state often impact their neighbours. Hence, they wrote, the constitution of each of the single states is a question of vital interest for all the other European nations. The national state-system is effectively anarchy; a Federation would take us from the State of Nature to the State of Peace, guarantee Europe’s peaceful relations with the rest of the world, and transmit its underlying values onto the international stage. Hence, the path to the political unity of the globe would be paved. This is roughly in line chosen by Habermas today, as a stepping stone to a unified humanity[11]. The functional response is the creation of international institutions which dismantle full state-sovereignty, placing it within technocratic limitations. As we know from our own experience, the absence of democratic legitimacy in such a system is profound and unacceptable. In the tradition of Ventotene, Marsili and Milanese wrote a pamphlet in 2011 on forming a democratic union, in which they give several arguments why European democracy should be pursued [12]. The two key arguments are that Europe is on the scale at which transnational democracy can be most effectively pursued, given the imperative of the current situation, and that Europe is large enough to actually influence the shape and character of global capitalism; in other words, to bring back into Europe’s hands power and justice[13]. While there are arguments against both of these, it is on them that I wish to build.

The simplest answer to ‘why Europe?’ is because it’s already here. Like the nation-states before it, which existed before they were democratised, the European Union exists and provides an object to tame and influence, rather than starting from scratch. Yanis Varoufakis made a similar point in a meeting in Belfast in 2017; that since the eighteenth century, the Left believed the state, though a bourgeois construct, should be transformed rather than dismantled. So is it for Europe, now it is here. On the question of why it is here, we learn more. Europe’s stories, though varied, have always been intertwined and interlaced with elements from each other. Europe’s cross-border tradition, its highly-enmeshed economy and society; these things have been attacked by national states, but not destroyed, and they provide the ground-work for the current Union. The Union made the crucial step in 1951 then, in breaching ‘the ramparts of national sovereignty’[14], and undermining the national narrative. This must be built on: why not use Europe as a force for transnational society; why not make the first steps across national borders; and why not use the heritage that Europe has, of borders crossed and boundaries blurred? A place which values diversity in its lived experience like nowhere else in the world. Why not begin at a level which is attainable, in terms which can be understood better, in a territory which has already begun the steps towards transnationalism, namely, those breached ramparts? Why not demonstrate that ‘beyond-the-national’ can be democratised? In response, many would argue that in creating a European state, you would simply create the national writ large, which betrays the very éthos of Europeanism[15]. Here we turn to Müller and identity.

Müller’s response is to the question of why Europe relies on a level of nuance that nationalism and cosmopolitanism lack, and in so doing connects to the foundations of the European Project. It has been noted that the cold rationality of modernity is very disconcerting for humans – to the point that its height in 1900 preceded its downfall in 1939[16]. Hence, reconciling Eros and Civilisation – emotion and reason; the particular and the universal – should be seen as one of the guiding objectives of the European Project[17]. Müller provides a framework of how to realise this in constitutional patriotism, a theory which argues for loyalty neither to a national culture nor to the worldwide community of human beings, but instead, the process and institutions of democratic constitutional government, which enable an interpretation of and mediation between universal values and particular traditions[18]. This process relies on an identity which rejects the idea of unquestioning pride or homogeneous, unchallenged national narratives about the past, or any single object of identification or historical narrative enforced from above[19]. Rather than replacing the national with the post-national, universal in some way replacing particular, a shifting and fluid concept of identity as the outcome of a common discourse between free and equal citizens creates a process of reflection and self-criticism[20]. It is the particular conditioned by the universal.

In this way, it is also not cosmopolitan universalism; primarily in the ties to specific institutions which enable and are moulded by discursive engagement with universal values, and in rejecting the assumption that all humans enjoy the exact same political-moral relationship with one another[21]. Hence, the process of self-critical and reflective engagement with one another creates a source of identity, as the sharing of a common political struggle creates attachment not only to the principles of that struggle but also the people who took part in the struggle[22]. This connects directly with Spinelli and Rossi’s prefacing of the Federation with a society that is not servile; they criticised the nation for having become a ‘divine entity’, which considers only its own existence, and hence, the identity underpinning such an edifice had to be servile. Müller invites Europe to consider a new identity, which is not as passionate, nor as unquestioning nor possessive as nationality, but nor as cold as rational universalism. Globalisation is not an all-powerful melting pot which obliterates particularity, nor should it be. It has been recognised that postmodern Europe is awash with identities[23]; these can be turned into a binding, united identity only in a discursive and critical process forming a civic identity, which would then characterise the state which it built. Moving from the national – particular – to the global – universal – cannot be made all at once. But it must be shown that it can be done, that national boundaries can be superseded; that an identity that is post-national and post-ethnic can be created on the basis of civic, democratic values and processes; that peoples can live in harmony with different cultures, with different languages, with different understandings of history – and that these can be bridged also, through conscious effort and democratic discourse. A dynamic, evolving identity.

This civic, rather than ethnic, identity goes deeper, connecting directly with the core of democratic government. Currently, democracy is underpinned across much of the west by ‘liberal nationalism’. If constitutional patriotism enables us to think beyond the national, then perhaps the popular foundation of democracy – the dêmos – can be stripped of its nationality – éthnos. The purpose would be to bind it to a political structure that is also post-national, and enable that political structure to exist without the trappings of national identity and ‘nation-statism’ which Mitrany and others fear. The polity would embody the discussion conducted by a critical and reflective dêmos. An additional binding element, alongside the definition of constitutional and institutional specifics (which would evolve) and discussion of the legacy and meaning of the past, would be the seizing of a common télos – destiny – usually attached to éthnos, but appropriated in the name of democratic government. The dêmos united by its collectively determined télos, a process guaranteed by constitutional structures at the heart of which are universal values. What would define the European sphere is the absence of a single éthnos giving legitimacy to its political structures; these would be legitimised instead through the democratic process undertaken by a dêmos which had defined its own existence on the basis of universal values; as Habermas said, peoples emerge only with their constitutions and states[24]. The relation between the dêmos and the European Federation could not be but symbiotic; there would be no ethno-cultural justification for the state. It would embody a common process, a democratic one, rather than a common ethnicity. This has brought us from the simpler why Europe, to the more pressing how Europe.

Democratic reformation

We turn now to the outstanding obstacle: Ventotene was explicitly crafted for the context of a revolutionary moment – specifically, where the authors believed democracy would be ineffective. It is clear that, while Europe may be in crisis, this has not reached a revolutionary moment, and nor should we wish it to. Democratic methods, and related, constitutional structures, are that which we work with, returning to the first gap in the manifesto. As Rousseau said, commonly crafted institutions and laws give character to a people – or peoples united by a single politics.  It is important to note that government is not simply the institutions which shape it, but also the constitutional and political culture which informs it. The latter is fundamentally a question of values; these we have defined to an extent, in speaking of universal values. Both Zygmunt Bauman and Wolfgang Münchau have articulated specific universal values which should be at the core of Europe’s raison d’être.

In 2004, Bauman wrote that justice, rationality, democracy, liberty and the autonomy they produce are all the key values of Europe, and are the source of Europe’s development into the civilisation it is today[25]. Justice as the protection of the common good and hence underlying social solidarity; rationality as the justification of actions through reason; democracy as the ability to settle shared human affairs; liberty as the basis of autonomous citizens and their responsibility for the good of society; these together form an autonomous society, the society capable of conducting its own affairs. In 2016, Münchau gave a shorter list as the values of the French Revolution: liberté, égalité, fraternité[26]. To liberty, he linked openness and tolerance, to equality, equal opportunity, and to fraternity, the defence of the public good, which could include wealth redistribution and social welfare. In other words, the fundamental tenets of post-war Social Democracy, or as Habermas put it, the Sozialer Rechtsstaat, which he saw as the basis of constitutional patriotism – a state which guarantees the rights and freedoms required for it, and which ensured all citizens could equally participate in the democratic process through wealth redistribution[27].

In effect, these two elements are those which Spinelli and Rossi advocated should be at the basis of the European Federation, that is, a political life imbued with liberty and solidarity, each occupying a symbiotic relationship with the other, in the sense that the absence of one nullifies the other. Where the post-war settlement failed to meet the manifesto prescriptions however was in the national element; Social Democracy in the above sense, born and grown in national chains, would fail in the revolutionary agenda Ventotene set for it. The guarantee of a Europe free of the reactionary classes which ruled prior to the Second World War, including the capitalist classes which brought about the neoliberal counter-revolution from the 1970s onwards, was absent from the post-war settlement; it was constructed by them on the contrary. Hence, the prescription by Bauman for a social democratic European Union, and the corresponding certainty that Europe’s political classes will not establish this; changing this then is the fundamental priority of the Second Reformation.

It is here that the democratic reformation of the Union is so fundamental; not only as a challenge against the current illegitimacy and constraints of the international order, but also as a challenge to the current mode of globalisation via markets. This is presented by some as the spread of universal values across the world, but is in fact the creation of a global over-class completely free of the restraints of government and the concepts of public, common good. The democratic deficit exists not only in Europe, but is widening everywhere, with governments engaging in localised Standortkonkurrenz while the super-rich pursue their own priorities completely divergent from the average citizenry[28]; precisely the threat of corporatist government which Ventotene warned against. This reinforces the imperative of Marsili and Milanese’s argument about Europe challenging the current path of global capitalism. This is something that can only be done through democratisation of the Union, and must be done in the name of confronting the super-rich at their until-now distant vantage point from where they have exercised a monopoly of power, and ending this in favour of democratic government.

From this discussion, several elements of the Constitution of the European Federation become clear, as regards what democrats across Europe intend it to be. The first key is diversity. This is a concept which must be treated as a value like liberty, justice and solidarity, for it is at the heart of Europe’s reality. Diversity, as has been made clear, is a natural consequence of splitting dêmos from éthnos, and hence creating a purely civic basis for democratic politics. However, in reconciling Eros and Civilisation, we cannot jettison Eros, that is, emotion, culture and passion. Instead, nations must remain a part of Europe; there can be no transnationalism without nations themselves; borders are not truly crossed if they are irrelevant or non-existent. But there is also moral value in diversity, which has infused the life of this continent with a sense of dynamism and élan that is unique to Europe. Diversity is not just a matter of cultural norms, but cultural expression – expression which produces a raft of distinct and conflicting opinions, ideas, interpretations and insights into life. This crescendo of expression is not consensual; however, in the realm of words, sounds and images, it is peaceful, contained conflict. Difference which produces even greater and more divergent expression and thought on the human condition; Europe is the “birthplace of a transgressive civilisation”, ‘allergic’ to borders and limits[29]. Europe’s differences intermingle, but they do not merge, and hence, it is perfect for the transnational crossing of mental, legal and physical borders. The conflict of this renegade mode of existence nevertheless comes together in the shifting melody of a continent in the process of permanent self-improvement; such a legacy corresponds well with the constitutionally patriotic society, which encourages itself to constantly refine and improve upon its realisation of universal values and understanding of its history, in a ‘struggle for perfection’[30]. This evolution requires conflict, in the sense of ‘this can be done differently, and better’, and conflict requires diversity. Such a heritage has to be protected, and not threatened by the rational civic identity held commonly across the federation. It is what Weiler has called a ‘differentity’, a community of others.

This leads to the second key; sovereignty. There are many who have argued along the lines I have, in favour of a Europe reconciling eros and civilisation and founding a dêmos which is disconnected from éthnos and culture. However, they usually go on to argue that such a ‘de-centred’ society would be ‘post-sovereign’ ‘post-decision’ or ‘post-state’[31]. Here, I fundamentally disagree. Firstly, to take Weiler’s argument head-on, in his description of the idea of differentity, he uses the example of a person as not having a real ‘identity’, in that who they are is made up of multiple, competing influences[32]. There is nothing identical about it. However, the argument breaks down when we reach the subject of decision-making; a person, though not uniform, is capable of making single decisions. One can evaluate their competing influences, and reconcile them in taking a course of action. Though I would warn against treating a political community as an individual, here I believe it makes sense to say that differentity within the body politic should not preclude an ability to take sovereign decisions as a single community; this is indeed the purpose of democracy. And this is the crux of the argument: for democracy to be real, for its meanings – autonomous, peaceful and stable self-government, influenced by the equally voices of its citizens (isegoría) – not to be rendered hollow, there must be an authority which has sovereignty, and that authority must be the people (in our case peoples). They, through representatives and other means, must be able to install and dismiss governments, and through them, pass whatever legislation they please within the polity and within the constraints determined by their own constitution and values. If they are unable to do this, they are not sovereign, and they are not in a democracy; what has occurred in Europe, and I contend, what the ‘post-sovereign’ conception expects Europeans to accept, is that sovereignty has been taken and placed into a void, replaced by technocrats and councils of national ministers whose only authority has been granted by treaty and is hence illegitimate[33].

By contrast, a European democracy would require sovereignty to be reconstituted beyond the nation[34], at the level of Europe, and borne by a single dêmos, united by its common politics (institutions, values, discourse), which is made up of multiple peoples (éthnoi). The fundamental point in this is that there must be an answer to the question of ‘who decides’[35], and the answer in Europe must be the peoples, operating on a plane where they are not divided but acting together. This does not mean, nor does it need, unity in all matters – only in their common political action, in defining (and redefining) their common télos, they must be able to act together and direct their common institutions; in all other matters, diversity takes priority. Hence, we are talking about transcending boundaries, not policing them in a regulated ‘Community’, as some have argued[36]; citizens must be able to freely cross them, and operate above them in matters of common politics, while recognising their existence. Some have been very clear: the course we should adopt is to freeze the European construct where it is, as a symbol of postmodern, post-sovereign liberalism – a so-called ‘Liberal Order’[37]. The assumptions are that people pursuing different ends cannot be reconciled, and likewise, nations which are different cannot act together – only in some areas can and must they be forced within frameworks established internationally. This is the quintessentially Liberal Nationalist approach – privileging of collective, national identity on the world-stage over the identity of individuals as free citizens, and of ‘national’ interests over reconciled transnational ones. The fact is, such an order would mark the abandoning of all liberal, constitutional precepts of democracy in the age of globalisation; of individuality, of autonomy, of constitutionally legitimised law, of the very belief that democracy can reconcile diverging interests in areas of crucial mutual significance. In short, we cannot accept this view, for that precludes legitimate government from the globalised world, and means accepting unlawful despotism, controlled by the aforementioned over-class with no loyalty to any nation-state or democratic principles. Likewise, we reject the idea that constitutions can only be bestowed octroyé by existing power; legitimate authority can be founded by peoples alone.

Through the previous paragraphs I believe I have constructed a distinct interpretation of supranationalism, which might be better defined as Transnationalism, as opposed to Community Internationalism or Liberal Order, pure intergovernmentalism, or a nationalist-statist Europe. My interpretation recognises that all these nationalisms have a tendency towards aggression, xenophobia and absence of solidarity across borders, and offers a method of how to counter this. Transnationalism is certainly constructed in opposition to the supranational technocracy that the Union is today. The fact is, despite Mitrany’s critique of ‘regionalism’, the Union of today represents the exact functional technocracy that he argued should replace the inter-state realpolitik of the inter-war and pre-1914 eras.

There are, I think, clearly discernible reasons why Mitrany and others like him were opposed to a restoration of nation-state-based international relations; in fact, they may even be similar to the ideas in the Ventotene Manifesto, that such a system is in fact anarchic. Their opposition to democracy[38] is also understandable, if misplaced.

Their belief in bureaucracy however, is sorely problematic. Officials that rule – technocrats – are not performing functions above political decisions, but are governing according to certain assumptions and beliefs. Weber’s ‘ideal type’ of bureaucratic power sheds light on the threat of bureaucracy to autonomous government and self-rule; its hierarchical, oligarchic power structure, demands for obedience, deference to authority and impenetrability[39]. Technocrats overruling decisions of democratic governments is just as illegitimate and despotic as the global over-class which can come to power under the Liberal Order. In fact, it is the other side of the coin, and a necessary element of a corporatist undermining of democracy. The interests of big capital can simply sidestep democratic politicians who require a popular mandate, and go straight to the bureaucrats who implement the rules[40]. With the inequality of representation inherent in corporatism, the bureaucrats will accept capital’s word as representing the only interests which matter, and will have no qualms about enforcing unpopular decisions. This was the objective of Hayek’s interstate federation; place key elements of public life beyond the reach of citizens and submit them to the homogenising and dehumanising influence of the market unbound[41], its laws decided and maintained by technicians at the service of big capital, its participants stripped of all autonomy or self-determination, states reduced to self-destructive Standortkonkurrenz in the hopes of gaining the favour of the markets and capital.

This kind of functionalism has no place for a politics of values – or politics at all. This is most importantly a lie, as technocracy is not apolitical, but despotic, and authoritarian. Technocracy enables there to be an absence of responsibility; on the part of the technocrats, who, though making decisions take no responsibility for the moral or political consequences of their actions; and on the part of the politicians, who take no responsibility for the authority of collective government and political discourse of Europe.

It is the technocrats’ role to enforce the current architecture; but if the architecture is faulty, it is politicians who must make the difference – and none want or are able to assume the role of deciding and leading in the world of technocracy[42]. The whole of the Union is united into a single, monolithic bureaucratic and legal structure, towering above the national level. However, there is no political structure placed on top of that. Normally the technical level is in service to the political level; in Europe, this is not the case. They are completely separate[43]. In this way, with technical power concentrated and political power diluted, politics is in service to technocracy. This is how democracy is made absent from Europe.

Bureaucrats do not wield their power openly, because they cannot – it is power which is not theirs but which they have been loaned by people who do possess mandates. Therefore, they must whisper in the ears of ministers and statesmen, hoping to convince them secretly and then mercilessly execute their supposed orders as if they had no choice. The wielding of such power – pretending to have none beyond following orders while in secret influencing those with authority – is despotic. Crucially, it has seeped into every nook and cranny of the European construct: “The operative maxim of the EU has become Brecht’s dictum: in case of setback, the government should dissolve the people and elect a new one.”[44] It should become clear then, that the imperative to democratise Europe is not just a technical illegitimacy – a trick of constitutional law – but an urgent priority to remove the ‘cartel of elites’[45] and their influence over European society, both for the sake of those in Europe, and as a challenge to this mode of rule across the globe. Transnationalism is an alternative to this mode of rule, which has the democratic imperative placed at its very heart, hence making it the keystone of this second Reformation of Europe. Transnationalism is an alternative to this mode of rule, which has the democratic imperative placed at its very heart, hence making it the keystone of this second Reformation of Europe.

The civic-state; beyond the nation-state

We have our alternative articles of faith to inform the Union’s reformation. However we have yet to consider concrete pillars to define its shape. It is to this that I now turn.

There are two previous attempts to give tangible form to a political Europe: the Statute of the European Community, 1953; and the Draft Treaty establishing the European Union, in 1984. The former was drafted by an ad-hoc assembly of national parliamentarians from the six founding member-states, including Paul-Henri Spaak and Heinrich von Brentano; the latter was drafted by a committee of federalists led by Altiero Spinelli in the first European Parliament, elected in 1979.

The Statute of the European Community was Europe’s first attempt at political unification, and yet has been described as one of the most elegant constitutional documents to have been proposed in history, and one that should be a template for future European constitutions[46]. The federalist Guy Verhofstadt laments Europe’s failure to have its ‘Philadelphia moment’, when we could have carried the baton of political union over the finishing line and provided answers to the debates we are having in the current Union[47]. Monnet did not believe Europe was ready to make this step in 1954, when the Statute was rejected by the French Assemblée Nationale, however, Verhofstadt sees it as Europe’s greatest mistake of the post-war era. Unlike the 2004 constitutional treaty, the Statute was not overwhelmed by legal jargon and was hence compact. Furthermore, its aim was clear: to found a European Federation and a new, supranational sovereignty, underpinned by democratic institutions – recognising the legitimising authority and power of a representative parliament, which Verhofstadt points out, is not recognised in the current Union[48]. It provides for the representation of citizens and collective nations; it recognises that the Statute, rather than member-states arbitrarily, confer competences; it ties the supranational executive’s authority directly to the parliament – which has full legislative power – and separates the executive’s members from any corporate entanglements; it restricts the intergovernmental Council of Ministers to a secondary, harmonising role; it establishes a fledgling federal judicial system; it restricts corporatism to a purely advisory role; it prevents an increase in bureaucracy by relying on the established principle of indirect administration; it provides it with spending power under parliamentary control, necessary for a government to enact its agenda; and it establishes an enumeration of powers[49]. There is an echo of the Swiss system in this document, along with the German one, courtesy of the influence of von Brentano who was involved in the drafting of the German Grundgesetz[50].

Turning to Spinelli’s draft treaty, it further introduces the ideas of transnational solidarity and respect for diversity, as well as establishing the principle of subsidiarity in European government; it establishes European citizenship; it introduces territorial boundaries to the Union; it explicitly states the preservation of peace and peaceful, stable coexistence between humans as a core objective of the Union; it establishes a process of judicial review for the Union; it provides a means of Union-coercion of member-states for breach of the treaty; and it provides a more detailed enumeration of powers which has some protections[51].

It is clear the drafters, including perhaps Spinelli, had been influenced by the Union’s established practices, developed over the course of 30 years, and hence is less federalist and radical than the first. Both documents establish the constitutional idea that no document but this one can be considered as containing the governing norms and procedures of the Union. These are all aspects which relate to the effective functioning of a transnational European democracy.

The Statute combined with the Spinelli Treaty offers the basis of what I believe should be the institutional shape of the European government, though there are of course sections we can dispute and alter, and we must bear in mind that no constitution is – or can be – perfect. A number of influences can be determined as to the nature of the construct the drafters of these treaties were trying to build. To these I wish to add further elements based on three further political theories, blending with the already-present influences and together making the European construct more distinct, and ensuring that it serves the transnationalist ends defined above. These theories are: the Kantian pacific federation; republican democracy; and federalism[52]; together they will be underpinned by the idea of a civic dêmos with universal values, facilitating a constitutionally patriotic identity which will hold the edifice together. The fundamental precept is that Europe should have a constitution which repeals all of the treaties and replaces them with a document, the legitimate authority of which originates from the European peoples. It is they, not the nation-states, who are the pouvoir constituant of the Union. With this foundation laid, we can turn to the first theory, establishing the Preliminary and Definitive Articles of Perpetual Peace in the European pacific federation. The fundamental precept is that Europe should have a constitution which repeals all of the treaties and replaces them with a document, the legitimate authority of which originates from the European peoples. It is they, not the nation-states, who are the pouvoir constituant of the Union. 

In Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch, Kant gives a series of ‘Articles of Perpetual Peace’, which would end the ‘State of Nature’ between states (which he called the State of War), and bring about the ‘State of Peace’. It is the definitive articles which demand our attention – they are: “The civil constitution of each state shall be republican”; “The law of nations shall be founded on a federation of free states” (the pacific federation); and “The rights of men, as citizens of the world, shall be limited to the conditions of universal hospitality[53]. In the term ‘republican’, Kant meant that firstly all members of society were recognised as free and equal citizens subject to the same law, that citizens were represented in a government which acted by their consent, and that executive and legislative power were severed from one another in government. The first and second are recognisable today and are part of our modern understanding of democracy. The third Kant believes is in conflict with democracy, as his idea of severed executive and legislative power is that the two must be exercised by different classes of society; citizens may have legislative power but executive power should be exercised by a monarch or aristocracy (which he favoured). A democratic form of sovereignty (‘forma imperii’) is in conflict with a republican form of government (‘forma regiminis’); it is instead a despotic form of government. On the one hand, Kant argues significantly that a small, un-bureaucratic executive must be combined with a ‘real’ representation of the people for republicanism to be fulfilled, and this makes sense to me as well (note, small executive should not be confused with the idea of the minimalist state of Hayek’s imagining; the state should not be passive, for it is a tool the people use to exercise their sovereignty and ensure just, effective government.

Nevertheless, the state must not have the means to administrate every aspect of its citizens’ lives. However, I believe that our understanding of democracy and the separation of powers[54] has developed from 1795, so that our idea of ‘the people’ and their sovereignty can itself be divided – the people dividing their will into executive and legislative (as well as judicial) branches of government. ‘The people’ cannot be considered as a despot if power is effectively separated and limited, and if free citizens are considered as so – distinct individuals rather than a homogeneous mass. Citizens can and should place controls on their own sovereignty, and hence act peacefully and constitutionally, in cooperation with one another. Federalism helps to further develop the idea of a people that are not permanently united but are on several occasions willingly divided, through the concept of the clear enumeration of powers within a constitutional settlement, guaranteed by the courts. Habermas has made the further point that only in the writing of a constitution do the people exercise their will in an ‘undivided way’[55]. This relates directly to the role of diversity and the continued existence of European nations in the European Federation, layered on top of which is Kant’s Second Definitive Article: the federation should be composed of these free, autonomous republican states.

Kant directly relates his idea of the state and sovereignty to a people or nation, and hence argues that the federation itself cannot be a sovereign ‘state of states’. It must nonetheless be capable of taming the sovereignty of nation-states and prevent them from going to war needlessly, acting as humans did in the state of nature.

There are two principles at the heart of this design then: that we cannot be frivolous in our treatment of war, as Clausewitz was in suggesting war was a continuation of politics[56]; and that the rights and liberty of free people must be protected, and cannot not be forced into a single state or empire. Instead a federation of states should bind them in peace, taming their actions in the state of nature without ending their existence. In the context of the European Federation, the autonomy of the European peoples must be recognised as protected; autonomy evidenced by the existence of separate nation-states prior to the formation of the Federation. The right to existence of Europe’s peoples as nations cannot be revoked, having been established in the creation of nation-states as vehicles not only for diversity, but also constitutional democracy and civic emancipation[57]. The Federation must be the reconciliation of the drive for self-government, grounded in European history and the will to diversity, with the desire for peace and contained conflict, and our common will to be able to define a common destiny. The Federation must be the reconciliation of the drive for self-government, grounded in European history and the will to diversity, with the desire for peace and contained conflict, and our common will to be able to define a common destiny..The constitutional mechanics for this process, as a three-stage process, has been suggested by Habermas, whereby “the existence of democratically constituted nation-states is already presupposed”, operating alongside the citizens as pouvoir constituant and constitutional state as pouvoir constitué [58]. This should be solidified in the establishment of republican states, as understood above, which will be autonomous and guarantee the continued diversity of the European continent.

There are several manifestations of this line of thought: first, that the fundamental precept of international law, that states are free and equal, must be included within the constitutional structure of the Federation, declaring the republics as manifestations of autonomous, distinct peoples, and hence must be represented equally; second, that the Federation will be constitutionally mandated to protect the diversity of its peoples in the form of peaceful conflict, enriching the diversity of opinion and expression necessary to democracy; third, the right of a republic to secede from the Federation will be guaranteed, as that of an autonomous, free people; finally, there shall be a clear and strict enumeration of powers negotiated in the constitution-writing process and guaranteed by that constitution and the courts, with the aim in mind of preserving as much of Europe’s diversity as possible, without prejudice to the maintenance of peace within the Federation. Thus, the republics shall be autonomous except where their interests or actions would clash, at which point the federation’s law would prevail, and interests would be reconciled and brought into harmony. This is the basis of subsidiarity I believe; where working apart would lead to conflict or self-harmful results – where compromise is necessary to maintain peace and harmony.

Protection of such an order would require a sophisticated judicial doctrine which would guard the enumeration of powers laid out in the constitutional settlement. The alteration of that settlement would require constitutional amendment approved by peoples and citizens; hence the so-called Kompetenz-Kompetenz would be shared by the republics and the Federation in effect. An effect I believe important here would be the idea that socially destructive policies could not be implemented at the federal level by some nations on others, as this would provoke dislocation and potentially violent social conflict (as opposed to constructive peaceful conflict). Implementation of such policies, which can be described broadly as neoliberalism, will still be possible at the nation-state level. A final role for this judicial doctrine would be defining the boundaries of peaceful conflict, where the line is crossed from constructive to destructive and provocative; hence, a definition of hate-speech and how to prosecute it would be required, drawing on European traditions of this concept, and lessons from Europe’s collective history. At the foundation of all of this is that the European peoples have a right to self-determination and autonomy, but not independence; the idea that Europe’s peoples are independent is not only untrue but a counter-productive denial of history, and un-European.

The creation and protection of this order, including legitimising far-reaching judicial action, requires democratic authority. Such an order is only compatible with democracy if the federation has the sovereign authority to act as it will, granted and directed by a dêmos of free and equal citizens capable of self-government; that can act on a collective plane, through collective institutions, in an attempt to seize control of its collective fate. Democracy legitimises the state-sovereignty required for the above order to act effectively – as autonomous republics where possible and collectively as a federal state where necessary. It will legitimise the critical breach in the ramparts of national sovereignty, achieved by Monnet and Hallstein’s technocratic Europe, but required by both Kant and Spinelli’s idea of the Federation. The federation of states will be constituted by Europe’s nations acting as an undivided dêmos and, on policy enumerated to the federal level in matters which have been determined to effect all within the federal state, that dêmos shall act together.

On all other matters, they shall act separately. Whether you are a citizen of the Union does not depend on whether you are also a national of a national republic – nationality is for the republics to decide. You acquire citizenship as a member of the united European dêmos, not as a member of an ethnic community. You are recognised in a constitutionally patriotic society nevertheless; an idea which necessarily underpins a political community like this. It removes nations from the foreground of political life, so that they lose the adversarial and violently conflicting nature which the nationalist-statist order had inherent within it. A last note on government form: the result of this complex balance between national autonomy and collective democratic sovereignty is that presidential government is unfit for the European Federation, and that parliamentary representation must directly control executive power. The power of a president with a popular mandate is not necessary, functional or legitimate in the European context. A president is in effect an elected monarch, which leads to bureaucratic centralisation, contrary to peace and harmony across national boundaries. A President is a chief, which will cause confrontation; parliaments are discursive enabling compromise & reconciliation. No single person can embody and represent all of the European peoples. Parliament can instead fulfil this function legitimately. A ceremonial president should thus be chosen by the republics (peoples in diversity), with a cabinet government accountable to Europe’s citizens (peoples in unity) through parliament, and elected by it.

With ‘republic’ as the basis of the Federation, Europe must have a thorough understanding of the theory of republican democracy, as the basis of a European federal democracy. At the core of republican democracy are two ideas which define it from the more individualist versions of democracy: ‘Roman Liberty’, understood as freedom from tyranny and domination; and the citizens of a political community uniting to seize control of their common fate, in order to define it themselves[59]. The former principle can be understood as Kant’s perpetual peace and freedom from violent conflict and those who would perpetuate it – as well as freedom from the realpolitik concept of ‘the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must’, the inequality of states, and all the injustices of the ‘State of Nature’. The latter can be understood in terms of the civically-defined dêmos, the idea of transnational citizenship and a political community which enables diversity and freedom, but also demands common responsibility and solidarity between citizens; this is the symbiotic relationship between rights and duties. The former are hollow and value-less without the latter, for if we are to guarantee the former through our institutions and sovereignty, we must fulfil the latter to ensure a proper commitment to those institutions and society.

Related to these principles must be the idea of universal, humanist values, which define the European dêmos: we have begun to articulate these values above, and are bound by the idea that free and equal citizens which recognise each other as such have a right to govern themselves to the furthest extent possible. Naturally, all humans can hold these values, but they are defined as European because they come distinctly from the European experience; it is these values alone which define the European identity – that which binds them – more than anything else[60]. It is from this idea that Verhofstadt and Varoufakis have both argued that Europeans in truth have more in common than that which divides them, and hence are able to pursue a commonly defined destiny, or télos, as a united dêmos[61]; values are at the heart of identity. The natural course is to write these values into the Constitution as the definition of European identity, with the permanent demotion of nationally-defined identity to a passive, background role, rather than the primary justification for common government – the triumph of the ideas of the Enlightenment[62]. As the birthplace of these values, Europe must be the first to put them at the heart of its own self-understanding. Alongside these should be diversity, for the reasons articulated above, and for the fact that these values have enabled Europe’s appreciation of diversity, and desire to fight against homogenising, centralising influences. This is also the source, I suspect, of many Europeans’ resistance to today’s ‘Europe of Offices’[63]. It is the diversity born of these values which has set Europe on its continuous, unfinished, and hopefully unfinishable adventure, in search of utopia[64]; that is, a journey that is unfinishable yet must nonetheless be pursued.

In terms of government itself, these values combined with republican-democratic principles leave us with some clear precepts of government: self-government and decentralisation, rather than centralised bureaucratic control, linking directly with the above-stated autonomy of the nation-republics; the strict protection of the enumeration of powers established in the constitutional settlement; and the representation of both citizens and national peoples at the federal level.

On the other hand, the other key is the sovereignty of the European peoples together as a single dêmos. The dêmos is the source of democratic action; it staffs the institutions of government and directs their actions through free discourse, voting and civil-society action among other means. Despite the attempt of nationalism to bind destiny (télos) with the nation (éthnos), in fact, destiny in a democracy is directly linked to the dêmos, as the entity which defines and controls its fate as free citizens through their government. Dêmos, then, is defined by a common political discourse and institutions, not the ethno-cultural definitions of nation. For these institutions and discourse to mean something, they must have a state and sovereign power. If citizenship can be decoupled from nationality, and dêmos (democracy) from éthnos, then why can the state, and its sovereignty, not be split from the nation? Citizenship, democracy and state-sovereignty are three elements which are eternally bound for any of them to have meaning or legitimacy; democracy must have a dêmos formed of equal citizens. However, those citizens’ rights and duties must be guaranteed by a state; they must be determined democratically and articulated in a constitution, legitimately granting the power of the state, which the citizens are equally subject to[65]. That power enables them to engage in the democratic process of determining their fate. The state is a tool of democracy; it is an illegitimate authority without democracy, and democracy is hollow and impotent without the state. This does not mean loyalty to the state, or any static conception of the constitution; this uncritical, submissive attitude to the state is a product of nationalism, and is eschewed by constitutional patriotism, which demands civil disobedience where necessary, in the name of the universal values we have named as those common to us, and facilitates stability where the state serves its purpose. Republican democracy in the Federation demands a critical attitude to authority and the use of power.

Such an understanding enables a more nuanced approach to the use of power justified by majority-support. Republican liberty is the idea of freedom from tyranny[66]; this, among others, is a value which guides the use of state power by the dêmos. Hence, action by the dêmos cannot be tyrannical, justified by majority-support alone, but instead must be informed by these values for it to be legitimate and democratic. Democracy understood in republican terms is at the service to higher values – isegoría, liberty, solidarity, justice and diversity – defined and redefined collectively through discourse within the enlightened civic dêmos. At the heart of this interpretation is the need of society to reconcile ‘the unison’ with ‘the polyphonic’; that is, plurality with the need for common courses of action. That means the plurality of voices is respected – through the values of isegoría and liberty. Republican democracy demands both freedom from tyranny and the seizure of fate; autonomy on some issues, collectively-exercised sovereignty in others. Crucially, this places a heavy emphasis on the organisation of democratic politics. The current European Union fails miserably in this regard; the void of citizen politics has allowed economic interests to be privileged, exacerbated by the roots of the current institutions as a cartel-administration – hence the cast of the Competition Policy, trade relations, capital markets, the Common Agricultural Policy and emphasis in the eurozone on deregulation and austerity. These emphases are the hallmarks of institutions entirely orientated towards big capital, without any other points within its frame of reference; there are no other objectives and ideals within the agenda of the Brussels institutions. Corporatism intensifies the technocratic structure of the Union institutions: it nullifies the harmonising and pacifying effects of democracy, leading to incoherence, allowing big capital to exercise huge amounts of power over government, and the working classes to be appeased but subordinated. It is thus not surprising that neoliberalism has easily been adopted as the working-ideology of the institutions, as well as the idea that citizens are not still divided by class. This means the impact of the omnipresence of class within the body politic is neglected. By contrast, Spinelli and Rossi invoked us to build a society where we can act as equal citizens; where wealth and power disparities were not so great, where liberty was combined with solidarity, where politics was inclusive, democratic and respectful of the minority, where citizen autonomy and freedom were valued and meaningful across society’s classes. This is the project of the federation. Social justice and solidarity are instead at its core.

The technocracy and corporatism within institutional politics is one side of a coin, the other being the total failure of political mobilisation and organisation of citizens at the European level, symbolised by the European Parliament as a ‘Merovingian legislature’[67]. Republican democracy does not recognise such a distorted attitude towards politics, where low politics is run by technicians and high politics by diplomats; it demands that we choose our fate rather than leaving it to economic forces, influenced as they are by corporations. Social justice and solidarity are instead at its core[68]. Without these, the sense of cohesion, a common citizenship and political project degenerates, and alternative sources of identity predominate – nationalism. Republican social solidarity combined with constitutional patriotism is then key for a cohesive identity which does not need nationalism to effectively exist. On this understanding, socially destructive economic policies would in any case struggle to be implemented federally, because that would be counter to the general éthos of the Federation. Neoliberalism founders on the bases of civic democracy and stability; it would ignore the imperative of republican self-representation, government and autonomy.

These ideas relate to the last definitive article articulated by Kant, that citizens should receive hospitality wherever they go in ‘foreign territory’, which we should understand as territory not belonging to their nation. Already, freedom of movement and the civic rights linked with European Citizenship currently go some way to fulfilling this Article, extending the idea of being a citizen beyond the nation, if not to the whole world. The above articulated theory of republican democracy empowering a civic-state, with a transnational dêmos united by constitutional patriotism enables the idea of ‘citizens of the world’, which are recognised in all states, regardless of their nationality. It also enables a strong, decentralised democracy, privileging neither the centre nor the periphery, which would legitimise a state with the potential to realise both the pacific and European (understood as the universal values above) Federation. It is a more radical attempt at achieving Kant’s vision of bringing about an international ‘State of Peace’ than the tinkering proposed by Weiler, Garton Ash and others that want simply to put nation-states in chains by strengthening international power. These ideas aim to transform European life, the meaning of citizenship, the state, democracy and the dêmos.

That is a core purpose of the civic-state, to realise the Kantian principles of perpetual peace. To take democracy and make it transnational, spreading across borders; to decouple identity from static images and ethno-cultural blood-based definitions; to create a truly post-national Europe in Hallstein’s words, as an example for the world. Europe gave birth to these ideas and must be the first to truly embrace them. To realise the dissenting, transgressive, renegade nature of Europe which does not accept stasis, and challenges accepted wisdom in all spheres.

The idea of ‘post-national’, or more precisely, post-nationalism, is critical to constitutional patriotism as a form of identity[69], which enables us to elaborate on the issue of borders more precisely. In fact, neither Constitutional Patriotism, encouraging the opening of constitutional cultures and the gradual mixing of beliefs through critical self-reflection of them, nor Constitutional Synthesis, Fossum & Menéndez’s theory accounting for the constitutional development of the current Union, integrating several national influences into a single body of law whilst simultaneously constructing a diverse patchwork of institutions, account for political demarcation.

Why determine ‘Europe’s’ borders anywhere in particular, especially when we have established ‘Europe’s’ identity as defined by its universal values? Here, I believe we must come back to autonomy. Firstly, the civic dêmos forms a state, as an expression of the democratic process, through its constitution, institutions, body of law, political discourse and interpretation of values; these alone cannot demarcate the boundaries of a state, hence there is no territorial element to the civic dêmos, nothing which defines it precisely – it is the subject of an inclusive and ongoing process. Instead, the territorial element of éthnos is required to give geographic expression to the civic-state.

The autonomy of the sub-continent’s nations must be recognised in their construction of constitutional democratic governments. Only they can have the authority to accede to the European Federation, adopt the principles of, and integrate themselves into the common dêmos. No one has the right to force them. The continued presence of the éthnoi within the Federation determines its boundaries; it itself is a purely civic entity, guided together by a single dêmos. It is given life, shape, direction and boundaries by the ethnic nations which accede to it, and in so doing, accept the opening of their borders, a commonly defined télos, a common discussion of the past (which grows with each éthnos which accedes), and the fundamental idea that these things can and should be shared with ‘others’, in a diversity which strengthens us all. The civic-state thus acts as a vessel – all the components of which make it universal – which needs to be filled by the particular national interpretations and historical experiences to turn it into something which has substance in the real world – to make the universal tangible.

An éthnos which does not want to join the process the civic-state embodies, will not. It will only if it believes in the values of, and its own ability to contribute to, the post-national entity, and has the consent of those éthnoi already within it. It is the prerogative of free nations to join the common endeavour and secede from it if they so desire.

Federalism is the final theoretical component of the civic-state, providing a more sophisticated approach to the Federation and federal government itself and its relationship with the autonomous republics. Federalism attempts primarily to codify relations between the centre and the periphery, so that central power does not overwhelm and dominate the periphery. Decentralisation has historically been achieved by aristocratic, social control over the monarch as Montesquieu noted Britain had achieved, and which had been all but nullified in France by 1789, leading to an immense centralisation of power, the legacy of which, France still lives with today[70]. Montesquieu’s thought on the advantages of aristocratic, oligarchic rule over a centralised state clearly has influenced Kant’s thought on state forms in Perpetual Peace. Both believed that the removal of the aristocracy would lead to a despotic state; bureaucratic centralisation as a uniquely modern form of despotism[71]. Federalism aimed to replicate the controlling effect of the aristocracy and prevent centralised tyranny, without maintaining oligarchic government. Federalism is fundamentally protective of self-government then, and hence, democratic. It uses the law to protect interests at several levels of society[72]; in the civic-state, that is local, regional and national interests, alongside the common interest. Hence, this also entails several layers of state-authority, loyalty (modified as it is by constitutional patriotism), rights and duties; as this is all undertaken through law, the effective execution of judicial review is key to mediating the legitimate exercise of authority[73]. The significance of the enumeration of powers and its protection has already been mentioned. It is also significant however, for reconciling Kant’s concepts of democracy and republicanism, for federalism limits sovereignty, by creating separate spheres of authority.  Unconstrained sovereignty indeed leads to unlimited power being exercised by a single agent; both constitutionalism and federalism create limits on that authority, enabling a democratic republic, which usefully Greek has reduced to one word: the Dimokratía.

Contra un-federalist federations

From this, we can understand the problems of allocation of power in the current Union and the absence of theoretical understanding, and use federalism to properly critique the Union and plug gaps in the legitimacy of the Federation to be founded in Europe. It is clear, firstly, that the current unity/federal visions of the Union often touted by those pushing for further integration are in fact not truly federalist. Often technocrats in the Commission use the idea of federalism when in fact their objective is a more centralised, bureaucratised union, where the central institutions consume more power without any checks on the extent of their authority[74]. This is directly linked to the original design of the Union, which relied heavily on bureaucratic control of economic forces (cartelism), and is related to the French model of the state, which Monnet no doubt channelled as the Union’s chief architect and a member of the French government[75].

This model has since predominated in the development of the Union’s institutions, where orders are issued from the centre and obeyed by the periphery, the centre necessarily wielding absolute power to advance the interests of the political class[76]. Particularly the Commission, as the head of this bureaucracy, and Court, enabling the upward-transfer of power unhindered, are the primary symbols of Brussels fully embracing the French state-model. The Court in particular has not guarded the enumeration of powers at all, propounding the widest interpretation possible of the ‘flexibility clause’ and the extent of the authority of the Council[77]. This is not democratic and not federalism. Federalism is not about concentrating power at a higher level, but dividing power effectively, establishing it at several levels to be exercised by several levels of the dêmos. It demands a distinct centre, not an oppressive or overpowering one. If we accept that authority can only be established at several levels with democracy at several levels, then it is clear that federalism demands democratic action across society, something the current form of the Union, and other un-federalist federations, undermine.

There can be no bureaucratic government for the people under federalism, for federalism is supposed to counter the centralising, monolithic tendencies of post-feudal government. It must be government by the people[78]: republican, not individualist democracy; Greek, not Roman legitimacy. It is a rejuvenation of democracy informed by subsidiarity, judicial review and an active, fluid and dynamic political society. It is against stagnation. It prescribes the state as a tool of diversity, to be used at local, regional and national levels, rather than monopolised by any one vision of society; the institutional realisation of diversity, and guarantee of autonomy at all levels. It prescribes several centres from which the development of constitutional values can be cultivated, autonomy can be protected, government can be engaged in democratically, and conflict can be mediated. This is the vision of a truly federalist, rather than merely federal, European government. Naturally, it must be recognised that federations of all forms have a tendency towards centralisation in the long run[79]; this may be due to the mechanisms of bureaucratic government, however there are no doubt other factors. Crucially, federations lose sight of federalism; they lack other elements required to maintain a federalist governmental vision, such as self-government and a judiciary informed by the principle of subsidiarity. There are others in the idea of the civic-state: republican democracy that demands active engagement in government rather than the individualist consumption of bureaucratically-generated goods; a civic identity facilitated by constitutional patriotism, that eschews loyalty to tradition and the nation-state in favour of a critical approach to authority, and a discursive approach to meaning. Both of these ask the citizen to be actively involved in shaping politics and the will of fellow citizens in the dêmos, operating at several levels. The discourse theory of law comes into play here[80], arguing that law is legitimate only by the involvement of citizens in authoring it, which necessarily involves opinion and will-formation. Federalism cannot occur through the back-door, but must be actively chosen – This is where the current approach of the European Project has fundamentally failed, and why there must be a Reformation.

Furthermore, the autonomy inherent in Kant’s vision of the pacific federation, preserving the diversity necessary to counter-act the homogenising tendencies of the metropolis, also supports federalism. This diversity, as the fundamental source of dynamism in the European spirit of transgression & adventure must be built into the constitutional document. Critically, what must be taken from all this is that federalism cannot occur through the back-door, but must be actively chosen[81] – it cannot be a matter of systematic integration, to which there is no alternative. This is where the current approach of the European Project has fundamentally failed, and why there must be a Reformation.

Some final thoughts are needed on the civic-state. Firstly, on identity, there are those which might argue that such a state with such power could not be sustained by an identity which does not draw on Eros; in other words, that is not national or ethno-cultural. The discussion above was aimed at making it clear why I believe a state which draws on Civilisation much more strongly, without jettisoning Eros completely, is in fact possible. Furthermore, it seems clear that a political community like the civic-state could not be informed or sustained by a nationalist identity; that is, an arrogant, unquestioning, exclusive and possessive form of identity. The very spirit and purpose of such a state reject such an identity. The sober, critical process of constitutional patriotism, which is dynamic rather than static, is the source of identity for the new form of state; where people identify with the common project of fair government, rather than defer to a static identity. A project influenced by democracy, civil society, free expression and the spirit of exchange, discovery and enterprise. European identity, so understood, must be fluid and evolving. It can have no canon. The constitution represents a culture and history of evolving understanding of universal values, of our historical legacy, of our future path. It is the guarantee of the ability to conduct those discussions and realise those evolved understandings in society; the real potential for change.

Like Kadmos in search of Europa, we will not discover something fixed, but must build it ourselves, according to our own design[82]. The patriotism of the dêmos is in this process, underpinned by the normative concept of equal and free citizens, guided by the question of how to best live peacefully together, informed by these universal values, rather than in a fixed catalogue of values and enforced interpretations, or pride in the state. The state is a tool and an embodiment of this process, not something that itself commands citizens’ loyalty. Essential among these universal values is diversity – the idea of living in a ‘community of others’ in Weiler’s words. Europe would fight to protect and encourage diversity, as peaceful, contained conflict and difference; influences which intermingle, but do not merge. Transnationalism, as the path to the global, rather than realpolitik-internationalism or technocratic-infranationalism; the idea of crossing the mental, legal and physical borders of the nation, to others and appreciating all that intermingles therefrom. The creation of culture, but not a uniform, homogeneous culture; instead a diverse, conflicting culture which is critical and leads to common self-development. This allows us to transcend the nation in a way not as callous and hollow (or authoritarian) as the Hayekian vision (the Catallaxy), or even as dispassionate as the original conception of the Kantian pacific federation. It is not as unimaginative as the ideas of ‘Liberal Order’ or ‘Community’ Internationalism, which rely on divided sovereignty; ours is radical, democratic, republican and reformative.

Finally, a return to Ventotene. In the manifesto, Spinelli and Rossi claim that the new dividing line in politics is no longer between right and left, but between those who seek to conquer the power of the nation-state for traditional ends, and those who seek to use the power of the nation-state as an instrument for achieving international (meaning global) unity. I disagree that this is the only line that matters, though in truth, the dichotomy between nationalism and internationalism is bound up with the dichotomy between the rearguard of old-world privileges, and the vanguard of a more just and progressive world.

Nevertheless, the civic-state does take the power of the state, previously monopolised by the nation, and uses it as an instrument for achieving a more universalist, humanist vision of mankind, even if we must begin in Europe. Furthermore, the civic-state addresses the problems of the three aspects of modern civilisation which, according to the manifesto, have caused its crisis: the sovereign independence of nations, the corruption of democratic government, and the distortion of the spirit of rational criticism.

The federalist civic-state as outlined above preserves national (and lower) autonomy whilst depriving nations of the sovereignty that makes their relations adversarial, their citizens subjects, and their principles hollow. Republican democracy aims to exorcise the corrupting influences on democratic government, placing social justice, freedom from tyranny and determination of our common fate at the foundation of government. Criticism is restored by constitutional patriotism, which places a critical approach to tradition, loyalty and authority at the heart of identity, making the citizen’s relationship with the state less deferential and more active.

A European Federation is one of the few objectives which can be a source of rejuvenation for Europe, specifically its values and ideas in the wider world, a source of empowerment for its citizens, and a tool to solve the problems of the post-modern world. However, it will not be these things as a ‘network’, or a post-sovereign confederation, or an enlarged nation-state, or even as ‘the United States of Europe’. It can be these things as a civic-state, which truly embraces Civilisation with Eros, and embeds them in a real constitution. This reformation into a ‘Union of European Nations’ will not be easy to achieve, and will not be perfect once it has been. But it offers us something tangible and different; it offers us democracy in Europe, which we in DiEM25 believe is necessary to save the European idea. Europe will be democratised, or it will disintegrate, and with it, this generation’s hopes for a better world. Here, I provide an alternative.

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Vile M.J.C. Constitutionalism and the Separation of Powers. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. 1998.

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Notes and references

[1] Weiler, ‘The Reformation of European Constitutionalism’, The Constitution of Europe, p.230

[2] Goldsworthy, Pax Romana, p.133-40

[3] Anderson, The New Old World, p.484

[4] Holland, Europe in Question, p.91-2

[5] Spinelli & Rossi, A Manifesto for a Free and United Europe, cvce.eu

[6] Hroch, European Nations, p.39, 50-1

[7] Ibid. p.50-5, 62-6

[8] Marquand, The End of the West, p.128-9

[9] Van Middelaar, The Passage to Europe, p.252-4

[10] Mitrany, ‘The Prospect of Integration: Federal or Functional’, Journal of Common Market Studies, p.124-6

[11] Anderson, The New Old World, p.501; Habermas, The Lure of Technocracy, p.30, 51-5

[12] Marsili & Milanese, Towards a Transnational Democracy for Europe, p.8-9

[13] Bauman, Europe, p.70

[14] Monnet, Memoirs, p.296

[15] Weiler, ‘Fin-de-siècle Europe: do the new clothes have an emperor?’, The Constitution of Europe, p.250

[16] Weiler, ‘To be a European Citizen: Eros and Civilisation’, The Constitution of Europe, p.330-2

[17] Ibid. p.347

[18] Müller, Constitutional Patriotism, p.1-2, 59-60, 65

[19] Ibid. p.29-30, 63

[20] Ibid. p.32-4, 66-7

[21] Ibid. p.68-9

[22] Ibid. p.65

[23] Marquand, The End of the West, p.84-5

[24] Ibid. p.121-2

[25] Bauman, Europe, p.124-130

[26] Münchau, ‘European values are more important than economics’

[27] Müller, Constitutional Patriotism, p.32

[28] Bauman, Europe, p.60, 77-8

[29] Ibid. p.7

[30] Ibid. p.8

[31] Müller, Constitutional Patriotism, p.126-30, Weiler, The Constitution of Europe, p.269-71, 341-3

[32] Weiler, ‘To be a European Citizen: Eros and Civilisation’, The Constitution of Europe, p.328-9

[33] Varoufakis, And the Weak suffer what they must?, p.221-3

[34] Ibid. p.101-4

[35] Müller, Constitutional Patriotism, p.126-7

[36] Weiler, ‘To be a European Citizen: Eros and Civilisation’, The Constitution of Europe, p.339-40

[37] Garton Ash, History of the Present, p.323-31

[38] Marquand, The End of the West, p.106

[39] Holland, Europe in Question, p.36-7

[40] Carchedi, For Another Europe, p.29-34

[41] Hayek, ‘The Economic Conditions of Interstate Federalism’, The New Commonwealth Quarterly, Vol.V, No.2 p.137

[42] Varoufakis, Adults in the Room, p.323-8

[43] Ibid. p.434-5

[44] Anderson, The New Old World, p.58

[45] Ibid. p.62

[46] Monnet, Memoirs, p.394-5

[47] Verhofstadt, Europe’s Last Chance, p.7

[48] Ibid. p.28-9

[49] Draft Treaty embodying the Statute of the European Community, cvce.eu

[50] Ibid. p.29

[51] Draft Treaty establishing the European Union, cvce.eu

[52] Bauman, Europe, p.68-9, Marquand, The End of the West, p. 131-3, Spinelli, The Eurocrats, p.19-20, Hallstein, Europe in the Making, p.292-3

[53] Kant, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch, translated M. Campbell Smith, p.120, 128, 147

[54] Vile, Constitutionalism and the Separation of Powers, p.1-23

[55] Habermas, ‘European citizens and European Peoples’, The Lure of Technocracy, p.34

[56] Bauman, Europe, p.40

[57] Hroch, European Nations, p.89-94

[58] Habermas, ‘European citizens and European Peoples’, The Lure of Technocracy, p.45

[59] Marquand, The End of the West, p.131-4

[60] Bauman, Europe, p.125

[61] Verhofstadt, Europe’s Last Chance, p.34-5

[62] Ibid. p.79

[63] Spinelli, The Eurocrats, p.25, van Middelaar, The Passage to Europe, p.2-6

[64] Bauman, Europe, p.129

[65] Siedentop, Democracy in Europe, p.81-5

[66] Pettit, On the People’s Terms, p.92-4

[67] Anderson, The New Old World, p.60

[68] Pettit, On the People’s Terms, p.77-81

[69] Müller, Constitutional Patriotism, p.63

[70] Siedentop, Democracy in Europe, p.6, 105

[71] Ibid. p.2, 6

[72] Ibid. p.94

[73] Ibid. p.95-6

[74] Ibid. p.115-7

[75] Holland, Europe in Question, p.36-41

[76] Siedentop, Democracy in Europe, p.107-13

[77] Weiler, ‘The Transformation of Europe’, The Constitution of Europe, p.39-63

[78] Siedentop, Democracy in Europe, p.125-8

[79] Weiler, ‘The external legal relations of non-unitary actors’, The Constitution of Europe, p.130-6

[80] Habermas, ‘Keywords on a Discourse Theory of Law’, The Lure of Technocracy, p.47-50

[81] Siedentop, Democracy in Europe, p.80

[82] Bauman, Europe, p.1-2

Washington Pushes Harder Against Russia

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2017/07/31/washington-pushes-harder-russia-paul-craig-roberts/

Paul Craig Roberts

Some historians believe that the cause of WW2 was UK prime minister Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler’s recovery of German territory given to other countries via the Versailles Treaty in contravention of US President Woodrow Wilson’s promise to Germany that there would be no reparations and no loss of territory if Germany agreed to an armistance ending WW1.

I do not agree. The facts seem clear. The cause of WW2 was the gratuitous and unenforceable guarantee to the Polish military government given by Chamberlain that if Poland refused to hand German lands and populations back to Germany, Great Britain would be there to support Poland. When Germany and the Soviet Union made the deal to split Poland between them and attacked, Britain due to its stupid “guarantee” declared war on Germany, but not on the Soviet Union. As France was aligned by treaty with Britain, France, too, had to declare war. Because of the reign of propaganda in the West, hardly anyone knows this, but WW2 was started by the British and French declaration of war on Germany. Yet, it was the surviving members of the German regime who were put on trial by the US, UK, France, and the Soviet Union in Nuremberg for initiating aggressive war.

Nevertheless, as the general opinion is that Chamberlain encouraged Hitler to ever more aggressive actions by the British failure to respond, why has no one pointed out that the Russian government’s lack of response to Washington’s aggressive actions toward Russia encourages Washington to become more aggressive. This also is leading to war.

The Russian government, like Chamberlain’s, has not responded to provocations far more dangerous than Chamberlain faced, because, like Chamberlain, the Russian government prefers peace to war.

The question is whether the Russian government is avoiding or encourging war by its non-response to illegal sanctions and propagandistic accusations and demonizations. Russia has even allowed Washington to put ABM bases on its borders with Poland and Romania. This is like the US permitting Russia to put missile bases in Cuba.

Russia is disadvantaged because, unlike the United States, Russia is an open society, not a police state like the US where dissent is controlled and suppressed. The Russian government is handicapped by its decision to permit foreign ownership of some of its media. It is disadvantaged by its decision to accept hundreds of American and European financed NGOs that organize protests and constantly level false charges at the Russian government. The Russian government permits this because it mistakenly believes Washington and its vassals will see Russia as a tolerant democracy and welcome it into the Western Family of Nations.

Russia is also disadvantaged by its educated upper class, professors and businessmen who are Western oriented. The professors want to be invited to conferences at Harvard University. The businessmen want to be integrated into the Western business community. These people are known as “Atlanticist Integrationists.” They believe Russia’s future depends on acceptance by the West and are willing to sell out Russia in order to gain this acceptance. Even some of Russian youth think everything is great in America where the streets are paved with gold, and some of the Russian media take their cue from the Western presstitutes.

It is a difficult situation for the Russian government. The Russians mistakenly believed that the demise of the Soviet Union made us all friends. It seems only Gorbachev understands that the Soviet collapse removed all constraint on Washington’s hegemonic behavior. Few in Russia seem to understand that the enormous budget and power of the US military/security complex, about which President Eisenhower, warned in 1961, needs an enemy for its justification, and that the Soviet collapse had removed the enemy. The very minute that Russia stood up for its national interest, Washington filled the desperately needed category of “The Enemy” with Putin’s Russia.

The Russian government and upper class have been extremely slow in realizing this. Indeed, only a few are beginning to see the light.

Despite the writing on the wall, Russia’s new UN envoy, Vasily Nabenzya declared on July 29 that Russia has no alternative to “building bridges under any circumstances. We will cooperate. Americans cannot go without us, and us without them. This is an objective reality.”

This is a statement of Russian surrender.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergay Ryabkov also refuses to read the writing on the wall. He thinks Washington and Moscow must “break the vicious circle of retaliation and start anew.”

On July 30 Russian President Putin finally responded to the Obama regime’s orchestrated expulsion of Russian diplomats from Washington last Christmas and illegal seizure of Russian government properties in the Washington area by evicting 750 “American diplomats,” in reality agents working to undermine the Russian government. Putin could just as well have arrested them. It only took 7 months for Russia to respond to Washington’s hostile actions against Russian diplomats.

Sometimes the Russian government shows some awareness that it is permanently designated as Washington’s Number One Enemy. Putin explained the belated expulsion of US “diplomats” as follows: “We’ve been waiting for quite a long time that maybe something would change for the better, we had hopes that the situation would change. But it looks like, it’s not going to change in the near future… I decided that it is time for us to show that we will not leave anything unanswered.”

After saying this, Putin took it all back: “The main thing is, that we have a multi-faceted cooperation in many fields. Of course, Moscow has a lot to say and there is a number of spheres of cooperation that we could potentially cut and it would be sensitive for the US side. But I think we shouldn’t do it. It would harm development of international relations. I hope it won’t get to that point. As of today, I’m against it.”    https://www.rt.com/news/398019-putin-us-diplomats-sanctions/

A more realistic response than President Putin’s comes from Dmitry Suslov, deputy director of the Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy and program director of Putin’s Valdai Discussion Club. Suslov understands that the new illegal sanctions against Russia, in addition to their advantage for US energy corporations, are an act of aggression toward Russia, the purpose of which is to make impossible the improvement of bilateral relations between the US and Russia. “Today,” Suslov said, “it is already clear that the US is our enemy, and will remain our enemy for a long time. Russia needs to adjust its state arms program, reflecting the inevitable military-political confrontation with the US. There must be investments in stratgic deterrance, in maintaining the system of guaranteed mutual destruction.”

Suslov adds: “Perhaps, it is worthwhile to turn off cooperation with the United States on those issues which are necessary first of all for the US itself. For example, the US depends on Russia in the field of space cooperation. Perhaps there is a need to make adjustments and give up part of the programs of cooperation. It is worthwhile to think about increasing military cooperation between Russia on the American continent — I mean primarily to build up cooperation with Venezuela,” Suslov said.

In Washington, anyone who departed as far as Suslov has from the delusions that hinder Russian decision-making would be fired. It will be interesting to see if Suslov has introduced more reality than is acceptible into Russian awareness of the threat that Russia faces from Washington.

Is Russia a country so desperate to be part of the West that it is ruled by delusions and illusions? If so, war is a certainty.


Comments from DiEM25

Alexander:

I doubt that anyone who has something like a clear mind in Germany would support Roberts “analysis”. So yes what he is saying would be very typical for hardcore right-wing excuses. Even the AfD wouldnt say something like this.

Also I think it is totally false on an analytical level. What Roberts is doing is trying to find the reason for WW2 in Britain because he is arguing the mistake was to support Poland.
First of all, everyone who knew Hitler’s ideology, which he published in “Mein Kampf” in 1923, would have known that he wouldn’t stop after getting Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia.

Secondly, I think it strange to argue that helping the country which got attacked means causing WW2. Hitler knew that Poland had a guarantee from the UK and still he attacked.
I could go further on, but that could take hours. I’m usually a person who is listening if somebody tries to find an alternative narrative for specific phenomena, but what Roberts tries to do there is anything but smart, in my opinion.

WH:

I think that what Roberts is trying to do is gather arguments that will help to prevent the next war, rather than give encouragement to the losers of the last one. It is worth being familiar with viewpoints like this if one is trying to develop policies adequate to solving Europe’s present-day problems. But it is not worth allowing them to become a bone of contention.

Notis Marias: Greece can, and must, play a leading role in the Balkans

Αthens, 31/7/2017.

PRESS RELEASE

We send to you this article by Notis Marias:

Notis Marias, President of the Party GREECE-THE OTHER WAY, Europarliamentarian, Professor of European Institutions at the University of Crete

The emerging realignments on the geopolitical chessboard in the wider area of the Balkans provide, for the first time in many years, a new opportunity for our country to play an authentically leading role in the anticipated developments.

The USA undertook powerful penetration in the Balkans in the 90s, breaking up Yugoslavia, and naturally we should not forget that the EU, and particularly Germany and Austria, with the foreign policy they pursued in the 1990s, have a huge responsibility for the fragmentation of Yugoslavia and the war that broke out in the region, leaving thousands dead.

Today the EU and the USA have an obvious interest in developments in the Balkans, but events are moving so quickly that it is not easy to predict what the new geopolitical equilibria will be that will emerge from them.

The recent strengthening of Putin’s Russia, which is now not only a key player on the chessboard of Syria and the Middle East but a factor that has re-emerged with steadily increasing influence in the Balkans as well, is something that must be taken into consideration.

Washington is clearly bent on settling some outstanding accounts in the Balkans and at the same time trying to prevent Moscow from increasing the influence that it has retained in certain areas.

In recent articles we analyzed what has taken place in Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Bosnia, but also developments in Albania and FYROM, highlighting the great geopolitical volatility that now prevails in the Western Balkans. We drew attention in these articles to the mistaken policy of the EU, which demands de facto recognition of Kosovo on the part of Belgrade and so, apart from everything else, contributes to strengthening the Albanian nationalism that was reinforced by the electoral victory of Rama in Albania, intensifying the persecution of the Greek national minority in Northern Epirus and encouraging the Chams to continue their provocations.

Apart from the abovementioned developments, the evolving situation in FYROM must be taken into serious consideration, with the opportunity it presents today for Greece to clarify that in the case of the state with the current provisional name of FYROM, it is not prepared to accept a denomination including the word “Macedonia”.

The stabilizing role that Athens, Belgrade and Sofia are called upon to play is in this way reasserted, in opposition to the irresponsible, provocative and historically ignorant stance of both Tirana and Skopje.

The history of Greece is inextricably interwoven with the history of the Balkans, given that Greece is part of this region. And Greece has played a leading role, throughout history, in all developments in the Balkans.

It is up to us to project the strategic role of Greece in the Balkans and intervene for our benefit in the present geopolitical situation.

What is required is an integrated national plan, to take advantage of Greece’s potential in the field of energy, both as a transit hub and as a prospective energy producer, with the national interest as its hallmark.

In Thessaloniki on 13th July (2017) a three-day meeting was held of leaders of Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, on the model of the countries of the Visegrad group, with energy, transport and tourism as key agenda items.

The discussions were focused above all on the TAP, IBS and IGB pipelines. The IGB pipeline is to extend from Alexandroupolis into Bulgaria and further extension of the pipeline into Serbia via the IBS is also under examination.

Unfortunately, on the subject of the Russian South Stream pipeline, the Greek government has capitulated to the demands of the USA and the EU.and is acting against the national interest. The subject of the significant contribution to the prosperity and stability of the Balkans potentially offered by the construction and utilization of the South Stream, a pipeline with a capacity of 65 billion cubic metres of natural gas annually, was not raised during the three-day meeting.

The economic and political role of Greece in the Balkans is directly linked to the country’s economic prospects, and within the parameters of the national plan a clear and practical strategy must be devised for strengthening the entrepreneurial capability and outward-looking orientation of the Greek economy. Trans-border business initiatives are necessary in the Balkans with a dynamic leading role for Greek enterprises.

Appropriate multi-faceted geopolitical and economic collaboration anchored in the Greek national interest and in development of the Greek economy can help to foster a leading, and stabilizing, role for Greece in the Balkans, discouraging the illicit irredentist policies of Tirana and Skopje.

www.notismarias.gr

Sofia Club Declaration

“SOFIA” CLUB (All-European Initiative) DECLARATION – 29.05.2017

SOURCE (Direct Democracy Press)

Important tectonic changes are happening in Western societies. Those changes reveal fundamental change in the instinctive perception of today’s reality both within great agglomerations and outside them.

Both Brexit and the result of the American presidential election are evidence of that. In both cases, the control of the elites over the population – mainly exercised through mainstream media – did not succed. The public has not gone in the direction favoured by the mainstream media. The media, too, weren’t able to predict or to note, at the time, the divergence from the direction they gave. These are all signs of a worrying absence of a positive feedback between the elites, the media and public opinion.

The recent presidential elections in France and Macron’s victory have shown that the ways of controlling public opinion are still able to function. A candidate  invented at the last moment   by the ruling elites (albeit being split internally), was carried to victory. However, despite the exceptional concentration of all power centres, official and in the media, the result could be achieved only, because the eventually defeated candidate was, in fact, a victim of a “cordon sanitaire” uniting all the traditional forces, left and right. Despite all of this, half the electorate did not follow this manipulation and either voted for Le Pen, or abstained, or voted with blank or spoiled papers.

In this sense, not even the French presidential elections of 2017 have refuted the existence of ongoing tectonic changes in European societies. The causes still need to be investigated further. What cannot be in doubt is the complex internal crisis manifested in various forms throughout the West. Its character is not yet understood and causes unprecedented disturbances among large masses of population. People realise, instinctively, that great issues remain unresolved, they begin to understand that the leaders aren’t able to solve those issues. People become sceptical of inadequate explanations they are given. They feel growing distrust towards the political class and treat the mainstream media with disdain. Not only does the media not tell the truth – they actively conceal it, showing a rich variety of deception.

This does not mean that Europeans have understood the causes. However, this is enough for a “cognitive dissonance” to appear, as a result of a growing contradiction between the description of reality given from above and the crude reality seen in everyday life.

Similar signs, with diverse manifestations of local experiences, are also appearing in Eastern Europe and new EU member states. The fascination with Europe is disappearing, often turning to distrust and even hostility. This is shown by the recent presidential elections in  Moldova, by the relations between Warsaw and Brussels, Budapest and Brussels, by many analogous signs which influence  Western and Eastern Europe, no less than Southern Europe. Everywhere, the number of Eurosceptics is growing. The new political organisations formed over recent years (UKIP in the UK, M5S in Italy, AfD in Germany) demonstrate this fragility and volatility. But growth does not happen, quantitative easing cannot last forever, the rate of employment is stagnating and even falling. Massive automation is to come, and it will reduce even further likelihood of painless solutions to the problem of unemployment. The middle class is suffering from a permanent decrease in their living standards. The “social contract” – which supported the Union and consisted of an exchange of promises on welfare – fulfilled – from above and votes from below – is not working anymore. The elites cannot honour this contract, and therefore the people are not ready to vote for them. The centrifugal forces are growing.

The answers from Brussels are ridiculously inadequate. Their arrogant response to the demands, if vague, for a radical change, is to accuse the people of “populism”. Misrepresenting and delegitimizing the demands for a democracy, transparency and fair government, they accuse people of some illegitimate, if not subversive, actions. The obsessive repetition of the derogatory term “populism” is a threat to the people.

We think, on the contrary, that the growing pressure from below should be encouraged and directed towards a deep democratic reform of the current European institutions. The institutions which are lightyears away from the ideas of the European Union’s founders. Those which have deprived the peoples of the forms of national democracy which they had used, for better or worse, to replace them with supranational institutions, lacking democratic legitimacy and fully subordinated to the powers of international financial capital.

The European Union goes through this systemic and multifaceted crisis without any uniting idea. In place of any dialogue, Russia became subject to daily criticism, accompanied by statements by many Euamerican elropean leaders, of disturbing predictions of a future, imminent aggression. Afterwards, they claim that to resist that aggression, it is necessary to multiply and intensify NATO’s military presence next to Russia’s borders. NATO continues its expansion by involving Montenegro and pressuring all the ex-Yugoslav countries to join. More and more explicit steps are made to make Ukraine join, too. In the latter case, it must be obvious even for the most naive observers, that NATO might provoke a very dangerous and  unpredictable conflict situation with  Russia.

The international situation is further complicated by the results of the American elections of 2016. Europe has been shown another face of America, very different from the one European leadership and mainstream media sold to the population. This is a face of a country torn and factionalized by internal cotradictions – possibly deeper than ever in its history, albeit not a very long one. This is a country uncertain of its future, in the face of an obvious economic and social crisis. But the Europe of today, instead of understanding the problem and assuming responsibility for contributing to its constructive solution, with the aim of worldwide peace, is virtually unanimous in supporting the caste which brought the US to this place. It does not admit the failure of globalisation’s philosophy;  that casino capitalism does not produce growth, that neo-liberal recipes do not offer a solution, that the growth of the last two centuries cannot be sustainable and will bring about a collapse in ecosystems; that competition only leads to a war of everyone against everyone; that worldwide social injustice is leading to an abyss and inevitably produces social conflicts, authoritarianism and rivers of blood. The proposals from Europe are the same old globalisation, the same visions of a salvationary and “inevitable” technical progress, the same desire to homogenise nations and histories in a single global grinder, the same Market as the master of money, things and even thoughts, the ever more inhumane idea of “modernity” and an arrogant claim to dictate its laws to Nature.

There is no place for a human being in that picture. Even worse: those ideas (to the extent that these can be considered ideas) are impossible in practice. Those ideas of one seventh of the world population cannot be imposed on the remaining six sevenths. There is only one way to make them reality: it is war, violence.  And the war, should it happen, will only produce a small group of victors and a destruction on a scale difficult to imagine.

One of the causes of this crisis is Western in particular. This is the inability, or unwillingness, of the Western elites to restrain from eurocentrism. We are still thinking (the European left, too, no less than the traditional right) ourselves to be the centre of the world. Currently this is obviously wrong. This non-realistic vision is the cause of all the tragic errors made in Europe and in the West. It impedes recognition of the diversity of Earth’s cultures, religions and traditions. It is both a fruit and a cause of globalisation, which pretends to homogenize all civilizations and to cancel the invincible diversity of the modern world.

There is an attempt – contrary to reality – to contrast uniformist  globalization with isolationism and autarky. However, the facts are completely different. There is a rational and pacifist response, which substitutes “competition” (everyone’s struggle against everyone else) with “cooperation”, “respect” and “equality in diversity”.

The European Institutions are fruits not only of an extreme neo-liberalism, but also of the authoritarian idea of uniformity assured by the market. The reality contradicts this unhealthy perspective. The effect of this contradiction on the Western elites, in particular those in Europe, is a militaristic hysteria, intolerant and ever more aggressive. NATO became a focal point for the growth and self-reproduction of that hysteria. Leaving NATO becomes a necessary preliminary step for Europe to turn to a serious collective reflection on national sovereignty as a tool to protect peoples from the globalist alliance.

From here, the idea of a “European army”, to replace NATO, is slowly emerging. This project must be presented as an alternative. However, it requires a simultaneous review of the current concepts of collective security, and a review of the concept of the “enemy”. The European army cannot duplicate NATO, for that would only mean a monstrous growth in military expenditure, which is already excessive. The issue is also that the selected “enemy” – Russia (for now; China will be the next) is not an enemy, in fact. Finally, the global crisis requires us to understand that the world of tomorrow will be shaken by many menaces, not strictly military in their nature. Therefore, the European army must be formed in order not only to fulfil the tasks of military security, but, first of all, to protect the European population from various threats, already repeatedly predicted.

The ill-thought enlargement of the Union in the first decade of the century, aided by fatal illusions of the new members, has put together two Europes, with differing ideas and principles. In many cases those are not just different, but directly opposite. The modern Europe was born to overcome those divisions, which culminated in World War II. Germany, France, Italy have turned the page and shown an example of reconciliation, proposed, above all, as an Anti-Nazi durable project. The new member states, however, have no desire for such reconciliation. They have been forced to join, first, NATO, and then, the Union whose principles they do not share. They have brought with them a lot of anti-Russian revanchism and Cold War spirit, lacking connection with Anti-Nazi struggle or even openly sympathetic to Nazism. Already at the beginning, there appears a strong resistance to those ideas, albeit the most realistic and peaceful ones. From across the ocean, we hear an outcry combined with an insistent demand to enlarge national military budgets up to 2 % of GDP. This is – they say – to protect the West from an enemy, which is, effectively, the other six billion people. One can only conlude that it is necessary to reject from this madness.

We need a new Europe, one which corrects the grave mistakes committed in the course of its development up to now. And there aren’t only mistakes, but also deliberate attempts to hinder the fundamental idea of constructing a democratic, Anti-Fascist, sovereign Europe. It is time to change this situation and to turn to the original ideas. We need a Europe of peoples, returning to the roots of its democracy – the national roots. One cannot replace those roots with supranational institutions lacking both identity and soul, and based on bureaucracy without democratic legitimacy. This legitimacy can only be founded on the legitimacy of national democracies. The new supranational institutions need to enrich those historical roots, not replace or undermine them. They are in need of a new level of real democracy, still to be created.  This is what those institutions haven’t achieved or understood. Therefore, the Council, the Commission, the Parliament aren’t legitimate. The treaties of Maastricht, Nice and Lisbon have been imposed from above and intended to serve the power, even domination, of the global financial circles. The disaster of Europe today, without principles or solidarity, is a fruit of “competition” and market, presented as unquestionable essentials, put above people’s will and feelings.

Therefore, we need a new Europe. It will not have the same geographical borders as now, since it is not obvious that all countries and nations share its principles. A Constituent Assembly, elected by the peoples concerned, will be needed to establish its basics. This assembly will have to create a genuine Constitution, which will overcome the limitations of an “international treaty” to become a basis for a proper Union. Such a Constitution must be approved not only by the national parliaments, but also directly by the people, through a referendum.

All this requires the conclusion that what the European Union and humanity needs today, far exceeds the framework of episodic measures of governance. Serious reforms are needed concerning the ways in which society is working. New priorities with much higher morality should come in place of the dominant and uncontrolled power of market forces. A philosophy based on competition, trampling public morality, must give way to social justice and peace.

 

  • Giulietto Chiesa (Italy), MEP (2004-2009); President of the Alternativa political association
  • Michel Collon (Belgium), journalist, director of the website Investig’Action
  • Javier Couso Permuy (Spain), MEP, Group United Left
  • Inaki Irazabalbeitia (Basque Country); MEP (2013-2014), Board member of the Aralar political party
  • Dmitris Kostantakopoulos (Greece), journalist, writer, coordinator of the Delphi Initiative, redactor of the website Defend Democracy Press
  • Kostadinka Kuneva (Greece), MEP, Group United Left Sergey Kurginyan (Russia), President of the Essence of Time political movement
  • Anna Miranda (Galicia), MEP (2012-2013&2018-2019), Group Greens/EFA; Board member of the Bloque Nacionalista Galego political party
  • Ghenadi Mitriuc (Moldova), MP, Socialist party group
  • Oleksandr Moroz (Ukraine), Chairman, For Truth and Justice political party
  • Janusz Niedzwiecki (Poland), Board member of the Zmiana political party
  • Roman Pyskov (Russia), Institut for Socio-economic and political studies Foundation
  • Roberto Quaglia (Italy), science fiction writer, Alternativa political association
  • Dimitri Rempel (Germany), President of the Einheit political party
  • Piero San Giorgio (Switzerland), writer, member of Alternativa association
  • Bogdat Tirdea (Moldova), MP, Socialist party group
  • Vasyl Tsushko (Ukraine), Vice-chairman, For Truth and Justice political party
  • Hannes Wilhelm-Kell (Germany), Chairperson, Luzyska Alianca political party
  • Zakhari Zakhariev (Bulgaria), Member of a National Council of the Socialist Party; President of the Slavyani Foundation 
  • Tatjana Ždanoka (Latvia), MEP, Group Greens/EFA, Co-chairperson of the Latvian Russian Union political party

DiEM25 in the footsteps of Altiero Spinelli?

Democratising Europe is not about reinventing the wheel. A study of Altiero Spinelli’s efforts, especially the Congress of the European People, may increase our chances of success. Altiero Spinelli's grave, Ventotene.

Altiero Spinelli’s grave, Ventotene. Flickr/ Jon Worth. Some rights reserved.

Mr. Varoufakis: beyond your slogans, what is your practical plan to initiate a surge of democracy in Europe? This question is frequently asked in many different ways on (social) media. Though it’s a fair enough question, it is addressing the wrong person. Yanis Varoufakis, main initiator of Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25), says the organisation is horizontal. So it has no fixed leader – in theory anyway. Be very aware of the radical implication. Anyone who offers a great idea could be a leader in a certain phase of such a movement. If your suggestion is accepted by an overwhelming majority of the whole movement, you can effectively direct the movement. You don’t need to wait until the organisational structure and next steps are clearer. Now it’s you who may bring it forward. If anyone may run things in this movement, will even a dead leader do? Odd question. Let me explain. The long term vision is a federation. Varoufakis elaborated on this a little in an interview with euronews‘ Isabelle Kumar: ‘Where we can have a federal government on the basis of a one person one vote system.’ I would argue, whoever says European Federation, says Altiero Spinelli.

Altiero Spinelli

Spinelli (1907-1986) started his political life at age 17 as an Italian communist. As a member of an anti-fascist movement he fought Mussolini. In 1927, because of his involvement in the resistance he was sentenced to 16 years of imprisonment and internment. In 1937 he broke with the communists when he heard about Stalin’s purges. He absolutely opposed totalitarianism. After that rupture he studied federalist ideas. In 1941, together with Ernesto Rossi, he wrote the famous Ventotene Manifesto (on cigarette papers): Towards a free and united Europe. This federalist manifesto eventually laid the basis for European cooperation. The Italian constitutional theorist is considered one of the founding fathers of the European Union. Spinelli wrote in his autobiography:

My life can be described by six courses of action, each founded on a different hypothesis.   I. Between ’43 and ’45 my working hypothesis assumed an impetuous revival of democracy that would depart from the destruction of both the previous European order and the internal ones of almost all European nation states. II. Between ’47 and ’54 my working hypothesis was that the most important moderate ministers in Europe, encouraged by the missionary democratic spirit of US foreign policy and scared of the developments in Eastern Europe, would listen to us and would start building the federal union. III. Between ’54 and ’60(?) my working hypothesis was that it might be possible to mobilise the already widespread Europeanist feeling into a popular protest – the Congress of the European People – directed against the very legitimacy of the nation states. IV. Between ’60 and ’70 while I was almost completely retiring from political action I profoundly contemplated the meaning of the European Economic Community, the new aspects of military defence introduced by nuclear weapons and the possibility of relaunching the federalist action. V. Between ’70 and ’76 my working hypothesis was that the European Commission could take the role of political guide in restarting the construction of the political union. VI. Between 76 and ’86 my working hypothesis was that the European Parliament should take the constitutional role in the European construction.   Altiero Spinelli: Come ho tentato di diventare saggio (Società editrice il Mulino: Bologna 1999 p. 348)

At the end of his life, Spinelli felt disillusioned. Only small steps were taken towards his dream, which he chased mostly in vain.

Steps beyond history

This list of hypotheses shows that more roads could lead to Rome. Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberals in the European Parliament, is trying route 6. Obviously, DiEM25 follows the path of Spinelli’s third attempt. In order not to repeat old mistakes, adherents to the movement especially need to know the fate of the Congress of the European People. Up till now, three reasons seem to have caused Spinelli’s failure.

Firstly, in 1954, just 9 years after WW-II, hatred for the Germans was deeply felt by many Europeans. A European federal state was therefore destined to fail.

Secondly, life for western Europeans turned out rather well in the booming years after the war. So, it was felt that there was no need to challenge the leading political figures.

And thirdly, democratisation and federalism are primarily about a political structure, not the instant access to a more prosperous life that is on so many people’s minds. Hence they lack a certain mobilising force.

But times are changing. After seventy postwar years, in general, Germans are not seen as bogeymen, rather the consensus is that the Nazis were the most horrendous representatives of a fascist wave that ravaged the whole of Europe. Furthermore, the EU is going downhill fast now, even disintegrating – so Brexit is possible.

These two circumstances create quite a contrasting scenario with Spinelli’s third period of action and favor DiEM25. When it comes to the last reason, however, the lack of a motivating force remains a challenge. So socio-economic issues have to be connected urgently to the agenda of democratisation.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and similar treaties, are of course a major threat to democracy, as well as to food safety, any possibilities for economic activities in rural areas, and so forth. They should be rejected. Let more plans on other socio-economic issues be made.

By Sjaak Scheele
Πηγή:www.opendemocracy.net

Αναβάθμιση της σημασίας της «26ης Ιανουαρίου»

Η 26η Ιανουαρίου καθιερώθηκε με το Προεδρικό Διάταγμα 7 (ΠΔ 7.31/1/2012) από το 2012 σαν ημέρα δημόσιας εορτής τοπικής σημασίας για το δήμο Αίγινας.

Η ημέρα αυτή είναι η μέρα που μετά την απόφαση της Γ Εθνοσυνέλευσης της Τροιζήνας, ορκίστηκε το 1828 στον Μητροπολιτικό ναό της Αίγινας σαν πρώτος Κυβερνήτης της Ελλάδας, ο Ιωάννης Καποδίστριας.

Η απόφαση αυτή που βγήκε από τους αγωνιστές της επανάστασης παρά τις αντιδράσεις των Μεγάλων Δυνάμεων έδωσε στον Καποδίστρια και την κυβέρνηση του την δυνατότητα να ξεκινήσει το τεράστιο έργο της οργάνωσης και της αναγέννησης της Ελλάδος από την Αίγινα.

Αρκετοί, Αιγινήτες και μη, (1, 2, 3) θεωρούν πως η ημέρα αυτή δεν πρέπει να εορτάζεται μόνο τοπικά αλλά θα πρέπει να καθιερωθεί σαν «εθνική επέτειος» αφού είναι η πρώτη κυβέρνηση της Ελλάδος που δεν επεβλήθη από τις «ξένες δυνάμεις» αλλά ήταν αποτέλεσμα του 7ετούς απελευθερωτικού αγώνα και της απόφασης της Εθνοσυνέλευσης της Τροιζήνας του 1827.

Συμπτωματικά η 26η Ιανουαρίου τυγχάνει να είναι και εθνική γιορτή της Αυστραλίας. Η σημασία της γιορτής έχει μια αμφιλεγόμενη αιτιολογία αφού είναι η ημέρα που ξεκίνησε η «Ευρωπαϊκή αποίκηση» της Αυστραλίας η οποία εκλαμβάνεται από ορισμένους ιθαγενείς και υποστηρικτές τους, ως «ημέρα κατοχής». Αυτό φαίνεται ξεκάθαρα στο ακόλουθο σατιρικό βίντεο.

Η ίδια νεανική ομάδα έχει μια καυστική ματιά και για τις σύγχρονες εξελίξεις στην Ευρώπη:

Στο σατιρικό βίντεο για την εθνική γιορτή της Αυστραλίας συμπεριλαμβάνεται όμως και μια εποικοδομητική πρόταση [λεπτό 2.16]) δηλαδή να αναγνωριστεί ως εθνική γιορτή της Αυστραλίας η ημέρα του δημοψηφίσματος του 1967 (27 Μαϊου) που οδήγησε στην αναγνώριση των ηθαγενών πληθυσμών ως αυστραλών πολιτών.

Αυτή η αλλαγή θα έδινε τη δυνατότητα να μετονομαστεί και η εορτή της 26 Ιανουαρίου από «Australia Day» σε «Europe Day».

Το ότι ο πρώην Υπουργός Οικονομικών της Ελλάδας Γιάνης Βαρουφάκης θα ήταν ο πιο κατάλληλος να γίνει φορέας μιας τέτοιας ελληνικής πρότασης προς τους Αυστραλούς μπορεί να μοιάζει αυτονόητο. Μέχρι στιγμής όμως η ιδέα δεν φαίνεται να έχει αιχμαλωτίσει τη φαντασία του.

Πηγή: Aegina Light 

Upgrading 26th January

In 2012, through Greek Presidential Decree 7/31/1/2012, 26th January was proclaimed a Public Holiday of Local Significance (for the municipality of Aegina).

This is the day when, following the decision of the Third National Assembly at Troezen, Ioannis Capodistrias was sworn in at the cathedral of Aegina in 1828 as modern Greece’s first governor.

This decision, taken by the fighters of the Revolution in the face of opposition from the Great Powers, enabled Capodistrias and his government to embark on the mammoth task of organizing, from Aegina, the rebirth of Greece.

Quite a few people, not all of them Aeginetans, (1, 2 [particularly from minute 12]) think that this day should not only be celebrated locally but that it should be instituted as a “national day”, given that this was the first modern Greek government not imposed by “foreign powers” but emerging directly out of the seven-year-long struggle for independence and the decision of the National Assembly at Troezen in 1827.

Coincidentally, 26th January is Australia’s national day, but the day’s significance is controversial because it is the day that “European colonization” of Australia commenced with the establishment of a British prison at Port Jackson (today’s Sydney) in 1788. A number of aboriginal Australians and their allies call 26th January “Occupation Day”, as can be clearly seen in this satirical video.

The same young people have made caustic comment on contemporary developments in Europe:

But the Australia Day satire also contains a constructive proposal (at minute 2.16), namely for Australia’s national day to be transferred to 27th May, the anniversary of the 1967 referendum that led to the full recognition of the indigenous population as Australian citizens.

A change of his kind would make it possible for 26th January to be celebrated in future not as Australia Day, say, but as Europe Day.

Former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis might seem to be a natural emissary for conveying such a Greek proposal to Australians. But so far there is no sign of the idea having caught his imagination.

EPIFYLAKI: A visual exhibit at the Capodistrian Orphanage in Aegina

aegina_light

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By Maria Triantopoulou

A large crowd gathered today outside the entrance to that historic edifice the Capodistrian Orphanage, or the Aegina Prison as this neglected monument is more generally known, to take part in the inauguration of the visual exhibit that was mounted under the aegis of the 7th “Fistiki Fest” Pistachio Festival to mark the 30th anniversary of the closing of the prison.

Based on an idea of the historian George Kalofonos, this year’s president of the “Fistiki Fest”, the visual exhibit bears the signature of three important artistic personalities who live and work for extended periods in Aegina: Costas Varotsos, Venia Dimitrakopoulou and Danae Stratou.

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The function was introduced by George Kalofonos, who in his address emphasized the symbolic value of the visual exhibit, whose aim is to present a reminder of the fact that this historic building, which from a place of learning and culture as an orphanage was transformed into a site of imprisonment and confinement for both common criminals and political prisoners. For the last thirty years it has remained closed, caught in an interminable bureaucratic deadlock and petty political wrangling between the Antiquities Inspectorate and the local community, whose standing requirement is that the building function as a cultural centre. “Perhaps now the time has come for it to open up to the creative forces in our society and operate as a place of culture,” Mr. Kalofonos said in conclusion.

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George Kalofonos – Venia Dimitrakopoulou

Mrs. Venia Dimitrakopoulou spoke on behalf of the artistic contributors, analyzing the visual exhibit – a huge canvas had been erected directly opposite the prison building, like a mirror which, however illustrated the future picture of the restored Capodistrian historical monument as a multi-functional cultural centre. The exhibit, with its contrast between the building as it is today and the building as it could feasibly become in the near future – also drew attention to the need for completion of the work so that it can be handed over to the local community as both a place of remembrance and a cultural monument of atonement. Mrs. Dimitrakopoulou thanked those who helped to construct the exhibit, which despite its very large size was not expensive and was funded entirely by private donors.

The final speaker was the mayor Mr. Mourtzis, who praised the exhibit and congratulated Mr. Kalofonos and the distinguished artists. He too expressed the hope for speedy completion of the restoration but also of the arrangements that would make it possible for the monument to become a site of culture for the benefit of the island, its residents and its visitors.

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Venia Dimitrakopoulou

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Mayor Mourztis

Aegina Light spoke with Mrs. Dimitrakopoulou and Mr. Kalofonos:

A.L.: Are you satisfied with the result of your visual exhibit?

V. Dimitrakopoulou: I am very pleased and moved that through installation of the exhibit opposite the prison premises, a rather desolate dark street, which we frequent every day to park or throw rubbish in the bins, tonight was brightly lit and filled with people and with life.

A.L.: Is this more or less how you envisage that the street will be in the future? .

V. Dimitrakopoulou: Exactly. On one side of the street we have the empty building, closed and dark, as it has been for the last thirty years, and on the other the building as we want to see it. Open, filled with people, a genuine place of culture and creativity.

A.L.: How would you characterize your collaboration with the two other artistic personalities who contributed to the exhibit.

V. Dimitrakopoulou:  For me this is one of the most significant points about the happening and I would like to place particular emphasis on it. Personally I considered it a great honour and it gave me great pleasure for us to be together simply as three artists, without any “what” or “where” and to work together on an equal footing and design a visual happening. It is in any case, I think, a sign of the times, when there is an urgent need for collaboration and joint initiatives. We are at the point where we are all in the same boat and try to do something all together.

A.L.:  If you had succeeded in gaining access to the building for today’s symbolic commemorative visual exhibit did you intend to exhibit some works?

V. Dimitrakopoulou:  Yes, of course we had planned what we were going to do if they had given us the building. We had something ready, and the minute we are given the opportunity to open the Capodistrian Orphanage, not only for ourselves, of course, but also for others, we will present it.

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Maria Triantapoulou – Venia Dimitrakopoulou – Lila Korkoli

A.L.:  We wish you every success and here’s hoping that today’s visual exhibit will bring us a step closer to what we all want: to see this historical monument transformed into a contemporary site of remembrance and of culture.

A.L.: Mr. Kalofonos, would you agree with me if I said that today’s visual exhibit also has the character of a symbolic demand? Is it first and foremost a statement?

G. Kalofonos: It could be said that art is an important lever for setting in motion certain processes. By making relevant to today the spectrum of themes that are touched on by the history of the building we are at the same time projecting the abundant potential that it offers for the future.

A.L.:  In a few brief words, how would you characterize this site-specific visual exhibit?

G. Kalofonos: :  There are two poles to it…. It symbolizes the past and the future, reality and desire, the existent and the imaginary and many other dichotomies of that kind…

A.L.: Is there anything else you would like to add?

G. Kalofonos:ς: I would like first of all to thank Costas Varotsos, Venia Dimitrakopoulou and Danae Stratou for responding so willingly to the planning and joint creation of the “Epifylaki” visual exhibit. I would also like to thank the Municipality of Aegina, the Municipal Public Benefit Corporation (KEDA) and all the sponsors of the exhibit, and specifically “Philippos Hellenic Goods” and “Nektarios and Stylianos Pallis, Construction Works”. Thanks also to Mrs. Panagiota Gennitsari for her help in the planning of the project.

 

ΕΠΙΦΥΛΑΚΗ – Μια εικαστική παρέμβαση στο Καποδιστριακό Ορφανοτροφείο Αίγινας

Της Μαρίας Τριαντοπούλου (ΠΗΓΗ)

Πλήθος κόσμου μαζεύτηκε σήμερα έξω από την είσοδο του ιστορικού κτιρίου του Καποδιστριακού Ορφανοτροφείου, των Φυλακών της Αίγινας όπως είναι ευρύτερα γνωστό το παραγνωρισμένο αυτό μνημείο, για να παρακολουθήσουν την εκδήλωση/εγκαίνια της εικαστικής παρέμβασης που στήθηκε μέσα στα πλαίσια της 7ης Γιορτής Φιστικιού για να σηματοδοτήσει την 30η επέτειο από το κλείσιμο των φυλακών.
Την εικαστική αυτή παρέμβαση, βασισμένη σε μια ιδέα του ιστορικού Γιώργου Καλόφωνου, φετινού προέδρου του Φεστιβάλ Φιστικιού, υπογράφουν 3 σημαντικοί καλλιτέχνες που ζούν και εργάζονται για μεγάλα διαστήματα στην Αίγινα, ο Κώστας Βαρώτσος, η Βένια Δημητρακοπούλου και η Δανάη Στράτου.

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Την εκδήλωση προλόγισε ο κ. Γ. Καλόφωνος, υπογραμμίζοντας στον λόγο του, την συμβολική αξία του εικαστικού έργου/παρέμβασης που σκοπό έχει να υπομνηματίσει το γεγονός ότι το ιστορικό αυτό κτίριο, που από τόπος μάθησης και πολιτισμού ως ορφανοτροφείο, μετετράπη σε χώρο εγκλεισμού και φυλάκισης τόσο ποινικών όσο και πολιτικών κρατουμένων, παραμένει κλειστό τα τελευταία τριάντα χρόνια παγιδευμένο σε μιαν ατέρμονα γραφειοκρατική και μικροπολιτική δίνη ανάμεσα στην εφορία αρχαιοτήτων και την τοπική κοινωνία που έχει ως πάγιο αίτημα την λειτουργία του κτιρίου ως πολιτιστικό χώρο. «Ίσως τώρα να έφτασε η στιγμή να ανοίξει ξανά τις δημουργικές δυνάμεις της κοινωνίας μας και να λειτουργήσει και πάλι ως τόπος πολιτισμού» κατέληξε ο κ. Καλόφωνος.

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Γιώργος Καλόφωνος – Βένια Δημητρακοπούλου

Εκπροσωπώντας τους καλλιτέχνες πήρε τον λόγο η κ. Βένια Δημητρακοπούλου αναλύοντας την εικαστική παρέμβαση – ένας καμβάς μεγάλης έκτασης έχει αναρτηθεί απέναντι ακριβώς από το κτίριο των Φυλακών σαν καθρέφτης που, όμως, πάνω του απεικονίζεται  η μελλοντική εικόνα του αποκαταστημένου Καποδιστριακού ιστορικού μνημείου ως πολυχώρος πολιτισμού. Η παρέμβασή αυτή σηματοδοτεί επιπλέον – με την αντιπαράθεση του κτιρίου όπως είναι σήμερα και του κτιρίου όπως είναι ευκτέον να γίνει στο εγγύς μέλλον – την ανάγκη ολοκλήρωσης του έργου ώστε να δοθεί στην τοπική κοινωνία ως χώρος μνήμης αλλά και εξιλεωτικού πολιτισμού. Η κ. Δημητρακοπούλου ευχαρίστησε όσους βοήθησαν να στηθεί το έργο που παρότι μεγάλης κλίμακας είναι χαμηλού κόστους και έχει χρηματοδοτηθεί εξ ολοκλήρου από ιδιώτες χορηγούς.

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Βένια Δημητρακοπούλου

Τέλος τον λόγο πήρε ο Δήμαρχος κ. Μούρτζης ο οποίος εξήρε την εικαστική παρέμβαση και συνεχάρη τον κ. Καλόφωνο και τους διακεκριμένους καλλιτέχνες. Εξέφρασε κι εκείνος την ευχή σύντομα να ολοκληρωθεί το έργο αλλά και οι διαδικασίες εκείνες που θα επιτρέψουν το ιστορικό αυτό μνημείο να μετατραπεί σε χώρο πολιτισμού για το καλό του νησιού και των κατοίκων και επισκεπτών του.

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Δημήτρης Μούρτζης

Το Aegina Light μίλησε με την κ. Δημητρακοπούλου και τον κ. Καλόφωνο.

Α.L.: Είστε ικανοποιημένη από το αποτέλεσμα της εικαστικής σας παρέμβασης;

Β. Δημητρακοπούλου: Είμαι πολύ χαρούμενη και συγκινημένη που με αυτή την εγκατάσταση απέναντι στο χώρο των Φυλακών, ένας δρόμος σκοτεινός και άδειος, που τον περνάμε καθημερινά για να παρκάρουμε ή να πετάξουμε σκουπίδια στους κάδους, απόψε φωτίστηκε και γέμισε κόσμο και ζωντάνια.

A.L.: Κάπως έτσι όπως φαντάζεστε να είναι μελλοντικά ο δρόμος αυτός...

Β. Δημητρακοπούλου: Ακριβώς. Αντιπαραβάλλουμε από την μια μεριά του δρόμου το κτίριο σκοτεινό, άδειο και κλειστό όπως είναι τα τελευταία τριάντα χρόνια κι από την άλλη το κτίριο όπως θα θέλαμε να το δούμε. Ανοιχτό και γεμάτο κόσμο, έναν αληθινό χώρο πολιτισμού και δημιουργίας.

A.L.: Πως θα χαρακτηρίζατε την συνεργασία σας με τους άλλους δύο καλλιτέχνες που συμμετέχουν σε αυτή την παρέμβαση;

Β. Δημητρακοπούλου:  Για μένα είναι απο τα πιο σημαντικά σημεία του συγκεκριμένου δρώμενου και θέλω να σταθώ σε αυτό ιδιαίτερα. Προσωπικά το θεώρησα μεγάλη τιμή και μου έδωσε αληθινή χαρά να βρεθούμε έτσι απλά τρεις καλλιτέχνες, χωρις «τι» και «που» και να συνεργαστούμε ισότιμα ώστε να σχεδιάσουμε ένα εικαστικό δρώμενο. Είναι άλλωστε, πιστεύω, και σημείο των καιρών που απαιτεί επιτακτικά συνεργασίες και συμπράξεις. Είμαστε στο σημείο που είμαστε όλοι το ίδιο και προσπαθούμε να κάνουμε κάτι όλοι μαζί.

A.L.:  Αν είχατε προφτάσει να σας δοθεί το κτίριο για την επετειακή και συμβολική σημερινή εικαστική παρέμβαση είχατε σκοπό να εκθέσετε κάποιο έργο;

Β. Δημητρακοπούλου:  Ναι φυσικά είχαμε σχεδιάσει τι θα κάναμε αν μας είχε δοθεί το κτίριο. Είναι δηλαδή κάτι που το έχουμε έτοιμο και μόλις μας δοθεί η ευκαρία και ανοίξει το Καποδιστριακό Ορφανοτροφείο, όχι μόνο για μας φυσικά αλλά και για άλλους, θα το παρουσιάσουμε τότε.

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Μαρία Τριαντοπούλου – Βένια Δημητρακοπούλου – Λίλα Κορκολή

A.L.:  Σας ευχόμαστε κάθε επιτυχία και μακάρι η σημερινή εκδήλωση/ εικαστική παρέμβαση να μας φέρει ένα βήμα πιο κοντά σε αυτό που όλοι θέλουμε. Να δουμε δηλαδή αυτό το ιστορικό μνημείο να μετατρέπεται σε έναν σύγχρονο χώρο μνήμης και πολιτισμού.

A.L.: Κύριε Καλόφωνε θα συμφωνούσατε μαζί μου αν έλεγα ότι η σημερινή εικαστική παρέμβαση έχει και έναν χαρακτήρα συμβολικής διεκδίκησης; Είναι δηλαδή πάνω από όλα μια δήλωση (statement);

Γ. Καλόφωνος: Θα μπορούσε κανείς να πει ότι η τέχνη είναι ένας σημαντικός μοχλός για να κινητοποιηθούν κάποιες διαδικασίες. Επικαιροποιώντας το πλέγμα των θεμάτων που θίγει η ιστορία του κτιρίου προβάλλει συγχρόνως τις πλούσιες δυνατότητες που προσφέρει για το μέλλον.

A.L.:  Με λίγα λόγια πως θα χαρακτηρίζατε εσείς την σημερινή τοποειδική (site specific) εικαστική παρέμβαση;

Γ. Καλόφωνος:  Είναι ένα δίπολο… Συμβολίζει το παρελθόν και το μέλλον, την πραγματικότητα και την επιθυμία, το υπαρκτό και το φαντασιακό και πολλά άλλα τέτοια δίπολα…

A.L.: Θα θέλατε να προσθέσετε κάτι;

Γ. Καλόφωνος: Θα ήθελα πρώτα από όλα να ευχαριστήσω τον Κώστα Βαρώτσο, την Βένια Δημητρακοπούλου και την Δανάη Στράτου που ανταποκρίθηκαν με τέτοια προθυμία στον σχεδιασμό και την δημιουργία από κοινού της εικαστικής παρέμβασης «επιφυλακή». Θα ήθελα επίσης να ευχαριστήσω τον Δήμο Αίγινας, την ΚΕΔΑ αλλά και τους χορηγούς του έργου και συγκεκριμένα τις εταιρείες  «Philippos Hellenic Goods» και «Νεκτάριος και Στυλιανός Πάλλης, Οικοδομικές εργασίες». Ευχαριστώ επίσης την κ. Παναγιώτα Γεννίτσαρη για την βοήθεια που προσέφερε στον σχεδιασμό του έργου.

Open letter to Yanis Varoufakis: Plan B is democracy

varoufakis

Dear Yanis Varoufakis,

For five months, you have personified the hopes of many European citizens. You have brought a wind of intellectual rigor and honesty in the circle of gray men of the Eurogroup. You tried tenaciously to respect the mandate of Greek voters: breaking up with the austerity policies while remaining within the euro area. But late June, the zombies of the Eurogroup and the Council, reinforced by the isolation of Greece and weak solidarity movements in Europe, sent you an ultimatum: submit or leave the euro.

The victory of the “no” in the July 5th referendum had reinforced your legitimacy to refuse the diktat of creditors. On July 13th you revealed |1| the proposal you made to Alexis Tsipras on the night of the referendum, “a triptych of actions” to avoid submission: “issue IOUs” (acknowledgments of debt in euros, that is to say a complementary currency based on tax revenues), “apply a haircut on Greek bonds” held by the ECB since 2012 in order to reduce the debt, and “take control of the Bank of Greece from the hands of the ECB.” But Alexis Tsipras refused this plan and accepted your resignation.

On July 20th, at the Greek Parliament, you voted against the ‘Agreement’ of July 13th indicating the decisive point: “when society begins to feel in his gut the pain of the disastrous results of the new austerity plan, when young and older people will take the streets or remain desperate at home, faced with these effects, who will from now on represent those people we were the voice in the political arena?”.

The unity of Syriza, the tool patiently wrought by the Greek left, is precious. It seems that this is why you do not have publicly led the debate on your alternative proposals: “ “Was there an alternative?” the Prime Minister asked me last Wednesday. I believe that, yes, there was. But I’ll say nothing more. This is not the moment to discuss again. The important thing is that on the evening of the referendum, the Prime Minister said that there was no alternative. ”

Yet this choice made by Alexis Tsipras to capitulate, and worse, to implement himself the demands of the creditors, is tragic. Like you, we can only be frightened by the political consequences of July 13th: the radical left, brought to power and confirmed by referendum in its legitimacy to break with austerity, appeared not only as unable to refuse an austerity plan that destroys democracy, but also willing to manage it by herself. Even assuming that no other option is available in the short term, returning to the opposition, as you wished, would have better preserved the future.

But if a plan B was possible, as you think, then the mistake is even more tragic. This crucial debate is rising today in the European left. The Left Platform of Syriza has made a proposal on May 24th for the suspension of debt payments and nationalization of banks. Éric Toussaint suggested on July 13th a more comprehensive set of measures |2|, acknowledging the fact, now for all to see, that breaking with austerity implies a unilateral policy of necessity and urgency that will obviously be equated with disobedience by EU leaders of the day, although it does not necessarily violate existent treaties |3|.

Contrary to what assert such respectable figures as Etienne Balibar, Sandro Mezzadra and Frieder Otto Wolf |4|, such alternative proposals cannot be described as”authoritarian and unworkable concepts of ’control’ of monetary policy and capital flows “. Similarly, when the great sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos states that”if a country showed disobedient, it would be expelled and chaos would become inevitable“ |5|, one can oppose that, given the content of the July 13th “agreement”, chaos is assured if the country complies.

Pablo Iglesias, leader of Podemos, does not either see any alternative to the July 13th “agreement”, “the only thing we can do,” “the truth of power” |6|. But if there is no alternative, if no European country can break up with austerity without sinking into chaos – and there can be little doubt that Spain, Italy or France would face as such considerable obstacles as Greece |7| – the neoliberal trap is flawless. If no single country can take a step aside and engage in another route to show the way, the only remaining possibility is to maintain verbally the perspective of “another Europe” while waiting for a pan-European political crisis and / or a systemic collapse of the eurozone that would put all countries in the same boat.

For years, with others, we opposed to those who claim that exiting the eurozone is a prerequisite to any alternative policy. Leaving the euro has important economic and political costs for the country concerned. Also, to point “Germany” as the main culprit, and to advocate the return to the national scope of powers as the prerequisite for any solution, is a serious mistake that neglects the overwhelming responsibility of all national elites in the present situation while feeding the nationalist ethos.

However we believe just as you that there are credible alternative economic and monetary policies that could be undertaken unilaterally. Bold policies, for sure, but perfectly reasonable and certainly preferable to the certainty of the economic and political disaster the “agreement” of July 13th will lead. We believe just as you that Greece, in the present situation of necessity and urgency, could – and still can – unilaterally declare a moratorium on its debt, create a complementary currency, requisition the Central Bank and nationalize banks, establish an effective taxation of wealthier classes (remember that Greek employees and pensioners, subject to VAT on their consumption and the withholding of their income tax, cannot defraud).

These measures certainly involve risks, especially if they are improvised in haste: bank run, flight from the complementary currency, increased capital flight … But the stronger popular support will be, the weaker the risks. The success of the June referendum and the unpopularity of the July 13th “agreement” show that a large social base potentially exists in Greece to support a policy based on dignity and justice, values ​ ​that were trampled by creditors. This policy could give hope to the European peoples and strengthen their solidarity so far insufficient.

Such unilateral measures will probably lead creditors to want to expel Greece from the eurozone, although this would greatly reduce their chances of being finally repaid. Furthermore they lack a legal basis for doing so, and such a sanction would aggravate EU internal geopolitical contradictions. To castigate a country that is bravely trying to get out of the abyss and solve its humanitarian crisis could have significant political costs for the gray men. The debate aroused could strengthen the construction of the European public space without which the necessary refoundation will remain wishful thinking. Because one thing is to turn its back on Europe as a culprit for all the problems; another is to demonstrate by action that one only can respect the will of voters and preserve the interests of the lower classes by breaking with the dictates of the gray men who have taken possession of the European Union.

Thanks to your clarity and tenacity during these months of negotiations, you and Alexis Tsipras were very close to provide this successful demonstration. Dear Yanis Varoufakis, you would be doing a great service to Greece and Europe by undertaking, in an open and public manner, the battle for Plan B, the struggle for democracy in Greece and the European Union.

Footnotes

|1| www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/2015/07/exclusive-yanis-varoufakis-opens-about-his-five-month-battle-save-greece, published July 13

|2| Eric Toussaint, “Greece: Alternatives to the Capitulation”, cadtm.org/http://cadtm.org/Greece-Alternatives-to-the

|3| Attac and Fondation Copernic, Que faire de l’Europe. Désobéir pour reconstruire, Les liens qui libèrent, 2014

|4| Etienne Balibar, Sandro Mezzadra Frieder Otto Wolf: “Le Diktat de Bruxelles et le dilemme de Syriza », http://blogs.mediapart.fr/blog/ebalibar/190715/etienne-balibar-sandro-mezzadra-frieder-otto-wolf-le-diktat-de-bruxelles-et-le-dilemme-de-syriza

|5| Boaventura de Sousa Santos,”Fatal tests”, 23.7.2015

|6| www.europapress.es/nacional/noticia-pablo-iglesias-resignado-ocurrido-grecia-verdad-poder-20150716153300.html

|7| Unlike Greece, Spain finances its debt and huge deficit on the financial markets, but would face soaring interest rates in the event of testing an alternative policy.

Thomas Coutrot

SOURCE


Article and discussion from Open Democracy

Wayne Hall :  As soon as Yanis Varoufakis, in an interview with Spiegel, aired his idea of a grassroots European Citizens’ Movement he was contacted by the Association of Active Citizens on the island of Aegina, where he lives when he is not in Athens or travelling, and asked to explain his proposal at a public meeting in Aegina. He verbally accepted the verbal invitation, which was later formalized in writing, and his verbal acceptance was announced by a representative of our association at a meeting of the Aegina Council on 26th August. Yanis Varoufakis later said on the telephone that he did not like it that this announcement had been made. It so happens that the mayor of Aegina is actively supportive of the idea of a movement of European Citizens and is on record as saying so publicly. http://main.cse-initiative.eu/?p=413 Mr. Varoufakis says that “it is not worth trying again in Greece” so it seems that this grass roots movement is not going to start from the grass roots of what Yanis Varoufakis has been proud to advertise as “his territory”. As far as I know the invitation that was issued last summer is still open to be taken up and as well as explaining his concept of the European Citizens’ Movement Mr. Varoufakis will be free to explain his conception of the grass roots and in what way the movement he wants to start does not have designs of becoming a party, which would preclude it from being supported by the Aegina Association of Active Citizens.

Wickliffe

Mr Varoufakis keeps coming up against obstructions and threats from the power elites, which are blocking his attempts to challenge them through democratic means. Most of them are not as bright as he is, certainly not as honest, but have a massive and hidden power networks, and are willing to be brutal. He is probably aware that all avenues to further democracy are functionally blocked in Greece. Theory and practice are the same in theory (academia), but not in practice (Mafia).

Wayne Hall

1. I don’t have the sense that avenues to further democracy are more blocked in Greece than they are anywhere else, and I also do not know whether YV received threats that dissuaded him from following through on the undertaking he had given, verbally, to address a local meeting on his home territory, which is fertile ground for the ideas he has put forward…

2. Perhaps YV will end up trying to do something, in reverse, to what Cohn Bendit toyed with: the idea of standing as a candidate for the European Elections in Greece. Mr. Varoufakis might conclude that he has more of a constituency in Germany. Come to think of it, it might be the best thing for him to do, joining Die Linke, since he already cites Lafontaine as an ally. Cohn-Bendit, Spinelli and Capodistrias // Europe Starts From Here // Cohn-Bendit on Geoengineering Enouranois II

3. http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2016…

Yanis Varoufakis said: “First, we need to establish the movement. This will happen on 9th February, in Berlin. Its purpose is to mobilise Europeans along a simple, common agenda: To democratise the EU’s institutions.

Once this ‘conversation’ begins in the context of an activist movement on what needs to be done (to democratise the EU), a consensus will emerge that must then find its expression in each of the member-states of the EU.

Exactly what electoral and organisational form this expression will take in each country is something that will be decided collectively, organically. In some countries it may take the form of a brand new party. In others our movement may forge an alliance with existing parties. This remains to be debated and decided.”

Comment: YV’s ideas and proposals at the institutional level are very, very, very confused. This will be Indignados Round Two.

Ανοιχτή επιστολή προς τον Γιάνη Βαρουφάκη: Το σχέδιο Β λέγεται δημοκρατία

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Ανοιχτή επιστολή προς τον Γιάνη Βαρουφάκη:

Το σχέδιο Β λέγεται δημοκρατία

των Thomas Coutrot (οικονομολόγος, επιστημονική επιτροπή Attac Γαλλίας) και Bruno Théret (οικονομολόγος, διευθυντής ερευνών, Εθνικό Κέντρο Επιστημονικών Ερευνών – CNRS)

Αγαπητέ Γιάνη Βαρουφάκη,

Επί πέντε μήνες ήσασταν η ζωντανή έκφραση των ελπίδων πολλών ευρωπαίων πολιτών. Προσφέρατε έναν αέρα διανοητικής ειλικρίνειας και αυστηρότητας στον κύκλο των γκρίζων ανθρώπων του Eurogroup. Προσπαθήσατε με πείσμα να τηρήσετε τον λόγο σας απέναντι στους έλληνες ψηφοφόρους: να βάλετε τέλος στην λιτότητα παραμένοντας στο ευρώ. Αλλά τέλη Ιουνίου τα ζόμπι του  Eurogroup και του Συμβουλίου, ενισχυμένα από την απομόνωση της Ελλάδας και ασθενή κινήματα αλληλεγγύης στην Ευρώπη, σας έστειλαν ένα τελεσίγραφο: υποκύψτε η εγκαταλείψτε το εrafυρώ.

Η νίκη του «ΟΧΙ» στο δημοψήφισμα της 5 Ιουλίου ενίσχυσε την νομιμοποίηση της άρνησης σας των απαιτήσεων των δανειστών. Στις 13 Ιουλίου γνωστοποιήσατε (1) την πρόταση που κάνατε στον Αλέξη Τσίπρα την νύχτα του δημοψηφίσματος, « ένα τρίπτυχο δράσεων» για την αποφυγή της υποταγής: «έκδοση IOUs» (αναγνωρίσεων οφειλής σε ευρώ ήτοι ένα συμπληρωματικό νόμισμα που θα βασίζεται σε μελλοντικά φορολογικά έσοδα), «ένα κούρεμα των ελληνικών ομολόγων» που κατέχει η ΕΚΤ από το 2012 για την μείωση του χρέους και την «την θέση υπό έλεγχο της Τράπεζα της Ελλάδος που ελέγχεται από την ΕΚΤ.» Αλλά ο Αλέξης Τσίπρας απέρριψε το σχέδιο αυτό και δέχθηκε την παραίτηση σας.

Στις 20 Ιουλίου, στο Ελληνικό Κοινοβούλιο αρνηθήκατε να πάτε να υπερψηφίσετε την Συμφωνία της 13 Ιουλίου παρατηρώντας αυτό το καίριο σημείο: “όταν οι κοινωνία θα αρχίσει να νοιώθει στα σπλάχνα της τις καταστροφικές συνέπειες του νέου σχεδίου λιτότητας, “όταν οι νέοι και οι ηλικιωμένοι θα βγουν στους δρόμους η θα μείνουν απελπισμένοι στα σπίτια τους, αντιμέτωποι αυτών των συνεπειών, ποιος θα αντιπροσωπεύει όλους αυτούς των οποίων ήμασταν ως τώρα η φωνή στον πολιτικό χώρο;”

Η ενότητα του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ, ένα εργαλείο που με υπομονή έχτισε η ελληνική αριστερά, είναι πολύτιμη. Αυτό εξηγεί μάλλον που δεν ηγηθήκατε της συζήτησης επί των εναλλακτικών σας προτάσεων. « Υπήρχε εναλλακτική λύση; με ρώτησε ο πρωθυπουργός την περασμένη Τετάρτη. Πιστεύω ότι ναι, υπήρχε. Αλλά δεν θα πω περισσότερα. Δεν είναι στιγμή να το συζητήσουμε. Το σημαντικό είναι ότι το βράδυ του δημοψηφίσματος ο πρωθυπουργός είπε ότι δεν υπήρχε εναλλακτική λύση.»

Ωστόσο η  απόφαση του Αλέξη Τσίπρα να υποκύψει, και, χειρότερα ακόμα, να υλοποιήσει ο ίδιος τις απαιτήσεις των δανειστών, είναι τραγική. Όπως και σεις είμαστε τρομοκρατημένοι από τιε πολιτικές συνέπειες της 13 Ιουλίου. Η ριζοσπαστική αριστερά που ήρθε στην εξουσία και της οποίας η νομιμοποίηση να βάλει τέλος στη λιτότητα επιβεβαιώθηκε μέσω του δημοψηφίσματος, εμφανίστηκε όχι μόνο ανίκανη να αρνηθεί ένα σχέδιο λιτότητας που καταστρέφει την δημοκρατία, αλλά και διεκδικεί να το διαχειριστεί η ίδια. Ακόμα και αν δεν υπάρχει άλλη επιλογή βραχυπρόθεσμα, η επιστροφή στην αντιπολίτευση, όπως την επιθυμήσατε, θα ήταν προτιμότερη για το μέλλον της.

Αν όμως ένα σχέδιο Β ήταν εφικτό, όπως το πιστεύετε, τότε το λάθος είναι ακόμα πιο τραγικό. Αυτή η κρίσιμη συζήτηση αναπτύσσεται σήμερα εντός της Ευρωπαϊκής Αριστεράς. Η Αριστερή Πλατφόρμα του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ είχε προτείνει στις 24 Μαΐου η παύση πληρωμών και την κρατικοποίηση  των τραπεζών. Ο Éric Toussaint υπέβαλε στις 13 Ιουλίου ένα πιο εκτενές κατάλογο μέτρων (2) αναγνωρίζοντας ότι, όπως φαίνεται, η απόρριψη της λιτότητας επιβάλει την υιοθέτηση αναγκαίων και επειγόντων μονομερών ενεργειών που σίγουρα θα θεωρηθούν ως ενδείξεις ανυπακοής από τους σημερινούς ηγέτες της ΕΕ, ακόμα και αν δεν αντιβαίνουν υποχρεωτικά στις υπάρχουσες συνθήκες (3).

Αντίθετα των όσων υποστηρίζουν αξιόλογες προσωπικότητες όπως οι Etienne Balibar, Sandro Mezzadra και Frieder Otto Wolf (4), τέτοιες εναλλακτικές προτάσεις δεν πρέπει να θεωρούνται ως « αυταρχικές και μη εφαρμόσιμες θεωρίες ‘ελέγχου’ της νομισματικής πολιτικής και των κινήσεων κεφαλαίου». Κατά τον ίδιο τρόπο μπορούμε να αντιπαραθέσουνε στην άποψη του μεγάλου κοινωνιολόγου Boaventura de Sousa Santos ότι « αν μία χώρα δείξει ανυπακοή, θα πρέπει να διωχθεί και το χάος δεν θα μπορέσει να αποφευχθεί»(5)», ότι, με δεδομένο το περιεχόμενο της « συμφωνίας» της 13 Ιουλίου, το χάος είναι εγγυημένο αν το κράτος συμμορφωθεί.

Ο Pablo Iglesias, ηγέτης του Podemos, δεν βλέπει καμία εναλλακτική επιλογή από αυτή της «συμφωνίας» της 13ης Ιουλίου, « το μόνο που μπορούμε να κάνουμε, αυτή είναι η αλήθεια της εξουσίας» (6). Αλλά αν δεν υπάρχει άλλη επιλογή, αν καμία ευρωπαϊκή χώρα δεν μπορεί να σταματήσει την λιτότητα χωρίς να βουλιάξει στο χάος – και δεν υπάρχει αμφιβολία ότι η Ισπανία, η Ιταλία και η Γαλλία θα αντιμετωπίσουν ανάλογες δυσκολίες με αυτές της Ελλάδας (7) – η νεοφιλελεύθερη παγίδα δεν αφήνει κανένα περιθώριο. Αν καμία χώρα δεν μπορεί από μόνη της να κάνει ένα βήμα διαφορετικό και να πάρει ένα διαφορετικό μονοπάτι για να δείξει έναν άλλο δρόμο, το μόνο που μένει είναι να κρατήσουμε ρητορικά την προοπτική μίας «άλλης Ευρώπης» περιμένοντας μία πανευρωπαϊκή πολιτική κρίση και/η μία συστημική κατάρρευση της ευρωζώνης που θα βάλει όλες τις χώρες στην ίδια μοίρα.

Επί χρόνια, με άλλους, αντισταθήκαμε σε όσους υποστήριζαν ότι η έξοδος από την ευρωζώνη είναι μία προϋπόθεση για όποια εναλλακτική πολιτική. Η εγκατάλειψη του ευρώ έχει σημαντικό οικονομικό και πολιτικό κόστος για την χώρα που το εγκαταλείπει. Επίσης η υπόδειξη της Γερμανίας σαν τον κυριότερο ένοχο, και η υποστήριξη της επιστροφή της εξουσίας σε εθνικό επίπεδο ως προϋπόθεση για οποιαδήποτε λύση, είναι ένα σημαντικό λάθος που αγνοεί την τεράστια ευθύνη όλων των εθνικών ελίτ στην διαμόρφωση της παρούσας κατάστασης και τροφοδοτεί μία εθνικιστική ηθολογία.

Πιστεύουμε όπως εσείς, ότι υπάρχουν αξιόλογες εναλλακτικές οικονομικές και νομισματικές πολιτικές που μπορούν να αποφασιστούν μονομερώς. Ριζικές πολιτικές, σίγουρα, αλλά απολύτως λογικές και σίγουρα προτιμότερες από την βέβαιη οικονομική και πολιτική καταστροφή στην οποία θα οδηγήσει η « συμφωνία» της 13ης Ιουλίου. Πιστεύουμε, όπως και εσείς, ότι η Ελλάδα, στην παρούσα κατάσταση επείγουσας αναγκαιότητας, θα έπρεπε – και μπορεί ακόμα – να προκηρύξει μονομερώς μία προσωρινή παύση πληρωμών (moratorium) επί του χρέους, να δημιουργήσει ένα συμπληρωματικό νόμισμα, να επιτάξει την Κεντρική Τράπεζα και να κρατικοποιήσει τις τράπεζες, να επιβάλει μία αποτελεσματική φορολόγηση των πιο εύπορων τάξεων (έχοντας υπόψη ότι οι μισθωτοί και συνταξιούχοι τόσο για το ΦΠΑ όσο για την φορολογία του εισοδήματος τους δεν έχουν ουσιαστικά περιθώρια φοροδιαφυγής).

Τέτοια μέτρα εγκυμονούν βεβαίως κινδύνους, ιδίως αν αυτοσχεδιάζονται βιαστικά: κατάρρευση των τραπεζών, μη αποδοχή του συμπληρωματικού νομίσματος, απόδραση κεφαλαίων. Αλλά όσο η λαϊκή υποστήριξη είναι μεγάλη, τόσο μικρότεροι θα είναι οι κίνδυνοι. Η επιτυχία του δημοψηφίσματος και η λαϊκή αποδοκιμασία της « συμφωνίας» της 13ης Ιουλίου δείχνουν ότι μία ευρύτατη λαϊκή κοινωνική βάση υπάρχει στην Ελλάδα για την υποστήριξη μίας πολιτικής βασισμένης στην αξιοπρέπεια και την δικαιοσύνη, αξίες που καταπατήθηκαν από τους δανειστές. Αυτή η πολιτική θα έδινε ελπίδα στους λαούς της Ευρώπης και θα ενίσχυε την αλληλεγγύη τους που ως τώρα παραμένει αδύναμη.

Τέτοια μονομερή μέτρα προφανώς θα οδηγήσουν τους δανειστές να επιθυμήσουν την αποβολή της Ελλάδας από την Ευρωζώνη, έστω και αν αυτό εκμηδενίσει τις πιθανότητες να αποπληρωθούν κάποτε. Η έλλειψη μίας νομικής βάσης για μία αποβολή θα προκαλούσε έντονες γεωπολιτικές εσωτερικές διαμάχες σε ένα τέτοιο αντίποινο. Η τιμωρία μίας χώρας που προσπαθεί με θάρρος να βγει από την άβυσσο και να λύσει μία ανθρωπιστική κρίση θα είχε σίγουρα ένα σημαντικό πολιτικό κόστος για τους γκρίζους ανθρώπους των δανειστών. Η συζήτηση που θα άνοιγε θα ενίσχυε την οικοδόμηση ενός δημόσιου ευρωπαϊκού χώρου χωρίς τον οποίο η αναγκαία επανίδρυση θα παραμείνει ένα σχήμα λόγου. Γιατί είναι άλλο να γυρίζεις την πλάτη στη Ευρώπη, ως την υπεύθυνη όλων των προβλημάτων και άλλο να αποδείξεις με πράξεις ότι ο σεβασμός της βούλησης των ψηφοφόρων και η υπεράσπιση των συμφερόντων των κατώτερων κοινωνικών τάξεων απαιτεί μία ρήξη με τις υποδείξεις των γκρίζων ανθρώπων που έχουν κατακτήσει την εξουσία στην Ευρώπη.

Χάρις στην σαφήνεια και την επιμονή που εσείς και ο Αλέξης Τσίπρας δείξατε αυτούς τους μήνες διαπραγμάτευσης ήσασταν πολύ κοντά να μας το αποδείξετε. Αγαπητέ Γιάνη Βαρουφάκη, θα προσφέρατε μία μεγάλη υπηρεσία στην Ελλάδα και στην Ευρώπη αν αναλαμβάνατε, ανοιχτά και δημόσια, την μάχη για το σχέδιο Β, δηλαδή τον αγώνα για την δημοκρατία στην Ελλάδα και την Ευρώπη. 

Σημειώσεις:

1 http://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/2015/07/exclusive-yanis-varoufakis-opens-about-his-five-month-battle-save-greece, δημοσιεύτηκε 13 Ιουλίου 2015

2 Eric Toussaint, “Une alternative est possible au plan négocié entre Alexis Tsipras et les créanciers à Bruxelles” – Υπάρχει εναλλακτική λύση για το σχέδιο που διαπραγματεύτηκαν ο Αλέξης Τσίπρας και οι δανειστές στις Βρυξέλλες, http://cadtm.org/Une-alternative-est-possible-au

3 Attac and Fondation Copernic, Que faire de l’Europe. Désobéir pour reconstruire, Les liens qui libèrent – Τι να κάνουμε την Ευρώπη. Ανυπακοή για να την ξαναχτίσουμε – Οι δεσμοί που ελευθερώνουν, 2014

4 Etienne Balibar, Sandro Mezzadra Frieder Otto Wolf: “Le Diktat de Bruxelles et le dilemme de Syriza »,http://blogs.mediapart.fr/blog/ebalibar/190715/etienne-balibar-sandro-mezzadra-frieder-otto-wolf-le-diktat-de-bruxelles-et-le-dilemme-de-syriza

5 Boaventura de Sousa Santos, “Fatal tests”, 23.7.2015

6 http://www.europapress.es/nacional/noticia-pablo-iglesias-resignado-ocurrido-grecia-verdad-poder-20150716153300.html

7 Αντίθετα με την Ελλάδα, η Ισπανία αναχρηματοδοτεί το χρέος της και τα ελλείμματα της μέσω των χρηματοπιστωτικών αγορών, αλλά θα αντιμετώπιζε μία εκτίναξη των επιτοκίων δανεισμού αν πειραματιζόταν εναλλακτικές πολιτικές.

Μετάφραση: Θάνος Κονταργύρης

ΠΗΓΗ: www.contra-xreos.gr

Μήπως ήταν άτυχη η ιδέα της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης;

Aegina Light

Ως πρώτo (και – ας ελπίσουμε – όχι τελευταίo)  βήμα προς μια αντικειμενική συζήτηση για τη σημερινή κατάσταση της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης, έξω από τη λογική της κομματικής, κοινοβουλετικής και  «μηντιακής» αντιπαράθεσης, προβλήθηκε στις 16 Ιουλίου, με τη φιλική συνεργασία του ζεύγους Πασχάλη και Σαλώμη Μελισσάρη, ένα απόσπασμα από την εισήγηση που παρουσίασε το 2009 ο κ. Ιωάννης Κοκκάλας με θέμα «Από το Σχέδιο Συντάγματος του Αλτιέρο Σπινέλι στη Συνθήκη της Λισαβόνας». Ως Αναπληρωτής Διευθυντής του γραφείου του Ευρωπαϊκου Κοινοβουλίου στην Αθήνα, ο κ. Κοκκάλας ήταν εκείνη την εποχή από τους ομιλητές στο συνέδριο «Ιωάννης Καποδίστριας, Αλτιέρο Σπινέλι, Ευρώπη» που πραγματοποιήθηκε στις 21 Ιουνίου 2009 στην Αίγινα.

Μια εισαγωγή στην τωρινή προβολή του βίντεο παρουσίασε ο Γούεϊν Χωλ, μέλος του Δ.Σ. του Συλλόγου Ενεργών Πολιτών της Αίγινας:

2 1

Θα ήθελα να είμαστε σύμφωνοι ότι στη σημερινή συζήτηση δεν θα μετράει το εάν ψηφίσαμε ΝΑΙ ή ΟΧΙ στο δημοψήφησμα, εάν για τη σημερινή κατάσταση της Ελλάδας φταίνε κυρίως ο Σημίτης και ο Παπανδρέου, ο Σαμαράς και ο Βενιζέλος, ή ο Τσίπρας και ο Βαρουφάκης. Να είμαστε σύμφωνοι επίσης ότι δεν θα μετράει αν προτείνουμε να μείνουμε στο ευρώ ή να φύγουμε. Έτσι κι αλλιώς αυτά τα ζητήματα δεν τα αποφασίζουν οι απλοί έλληνες πολίτες, τουλάχιστον όχι προς το παρόν. Τη διαμάχη που γίνεται στη Βουλή, γύρω από αυτό το θέμα, ανάμεσα σε άλλα,  μπορούμε να την παρακολουθούμε. Τη διαμάχη που γίνεται στα ΜΜΕ, στα παράθυρα, στα talk shows, μάλλον καλύτερα να μην την παρακολουθούμε, επειδή απ΄ό τι φαίνεται φιλοδοξεί περισσότερο να μας τρομάζει παρά να μας ενημερώνει.

Το ζήτημα των μέσων ενημέρωσης έχει κέντρική σημασία. Νομίζω ότι ακόμα και οι πολίτες που ψήφισαν ΝΑΙ θα έπρεπε να έχουν δυσανασχετήσει από τη στάση που κράτησαν τα ελληνικά και διεθνή ΜΜΕ κατά τη διάρκεια της εβδομάδας που προηγήθηκε του δημοψηφίσματος. Αυτό το πρόβλημα βρίσκεται και στο επίκεντρο της Έκκλησης των Ελληνογερμανών και Γερμανοελλήναν αλλά και στην ελληνική απάντηση σε αυτήν, που διατύπωσαν οι εκπρόσωποι τριών συλλόγων της Αίγινας,  Σύλλογος  Ενεργών Πολιτών,  Μορφωτικός Σύλλογος Ιωάννης Καποδίστριας και  Σύλλογος Γυναικών.

Ο καθηγητής Juergen Link που ξεκίνησε την Έκκληση των Ελληνογερμανών και Γερμανοελλήνων προτείνει συνέδριο για το πρόβλημα των ΜΜΕ, τα οποία στην Γερμανία καλλιεργούν μίσος για τους Έλληνες και στην Ελλάδα μίσος για τους Γερμανούς. Στην πραγματικότητα χρειάζεται κάτι περισσότερο από συνέδριο. Χρειάζεται να θεσπιστεί μια μορφή της πανευρωπαϊκής πολιτικής που δεν επηρεάζεται από το μήντια, που στιγματίζει αρνητικά κάθε επιρροή από αυτή την κατεύθυνση. Αυτό είναι  θέμα για συζήτηση ανάμεσα σε εκείνους που θα ήθελαν να συμμετέχουν έμπρακτα σ’ένα τέτοιο εγχείρημα απαγκίστρωσης από τα μήντια. Ήδη έχουμε κάνει μια αρχή με το πρόγραμμα που φτιάξαμε το 2013 στο κανάλι VMedia Europe Starts from Here.

Εν πάσει περιπτώσει θέλω να συμφωνήσουμε ότι για τους σκοπούς της σημερινής συζήτησης δεν έχει σημασία ποιός έλληνας πολιτικός έχει παίξει το χειρότερο ρόλο. Το θέμα μας να μην είναι η ελληνική εσωτερική πολιτική, ούτε καν η Ελλάδα γενικά. Το θέμα να είναι η Ευρώπη, η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση, επειδή η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση, όπως την ξέραμε – αυτό έγραψε προχθές ο ιρλανδός δημοσιογράφος Fintan O’Toole – τελείωσε το σαββατοκύριακο που μας πέρασε.

Η ενοποίηση της Ευρώπης βασιζόταν σε τρεις προυποθέσεις, τρεις όρους. Ο πρώτος όρος ήταν, η διαδικασία της ευρωπαϊκής ολοκλήρωσης να είναι συναινετική – το κάθε κράτος μέλος έχανε όλο και περισσότερα από την κυριαρχία της επειδή επέλεξε οικιοθελώς να τη χάνει. Ο δεύτερος όρος ήταν, αυτή η βήμα-προς-βήμα διαδικασία να είναι αμετάκλητη. Αυτή ήταν η ορολογία της Συνθήκης Maastricht όσον αφορά τη νομισματική ενοποίηση. Δεν υπήρχε περίπτωση ν’αλλάξεις γνώμη και να πας πίσω, ούτε ν’αλλάξουν γνώμη για σένα και να σε πάνε πίσω. Ο τρίτος όρος δεν υπήρχε ρητά. Ήταν υπονοούμενο και είχε σχέση με το ρόλο της Γερμανίας. Όπως ξέρουμε, η Γερμανία στο δεύτερο παγκόσμιο πόλεμο ηττήθηκε, και ηττήθηκε σφοδρά. Ως  αντάλλαγμα για την ευκαιρία μιας νέας αρχής μετά από αυτή την σφοδρή ήττα, θεωρήθηκε αυτονόητο ότι η Γερμανία δεν θα προσπάθησει ξανά να γίνει δεσπόζουσα δύναμη της Ευρώπης.

Σήμερα η Γερμανία όχι μόνο προσπαθέι να γίνει δεσπόζουσα δύναμη της Ευρώπης. Καταφέρνει να γίνει δεσπόζουσα δύναμη της Ευρώπης. Υποθέτω ότι οι περισσότεροι εδώ θα έχουν δει τη χθεσινή ομιλία στη Βουλή του Γιάννη Βαρουφάκη. Δεν θαυμάζουν όλοι τον ρόλο που έχει παίξει ο Βαρουφάκης αλλά νομίζω ότι τα συμπεράσματα αυτής της ομιλίας θα έχουν τη γενική αποδοχή.

O Βαρουφάκης χαρακτηρίζει τη λεγόμενη συμφωνία που μόλις ψηφίστηκε στη Βουλή «νέα συνθήκη των Βερσαλλιών». Παρ’όλα αυτά οι περισσότεροι βουλευτές του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ την υπέγραψαν για χάρη της ενότητας. «Εμείς στο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ είμαστε και θα είμαστε ενωμένοι  την ώρα που η Ευρώπη πλήττει τον ευαυτό της μέσα από διαδικασίες που ο ιστορικός του μέλλοντος θα καταγράψει ως τη χρονική στιγμή που αποδομήθηκε τον όνειρο του Άντεναουερ, του Κωνσταντίνου Καραμανλή, του Ανδρέα Παπανδρέου, του Χέλμουτ Σμιτ, του Χέλμου Κόλ.»

Μέσα στη βουλή έγινε χαμός μετά από την ομιλία του Βαρουφάκη. Έξω από τη βουλή επίσης επικρατούσε χάος.  Εμείς εδώ δεν φωνάζουμε, δεν καταγγέλουμε, και ο λόγος γι΄αυτό δεν είναι η φροντίδα για την ενότητα του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ. Ελπίζω ότι η φροντίδα μας έιναι να παραμένουν ενωμένοι σε αυτή τη συγκυρία οι πολίτες της Ελλάδας. Και επίσης η ελπίδα είναι ίσως ότι όπως το 1828 που ιδρύθηκε στην Αίγινα το νεοελληνικό κράτος, αυτό το νησί θα λειτουργεί και τώρα ως νησίδα σταθερότητας και ασφάλειας μέσα στο γενικευμένο χάος της Ελλάδας.

Η ερώτηση που προβάλλουμε είναι «Μήπως ήταν άτυχη η ιδέα της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης;». Την προβάλλουμε όχι ως δήλωση αλλά ως ερώτηση. Σίγουρα ο άνθρωπος που πρόκειται να ακούσουμε τώρα δεν πιστεύει ότι η προτεραιότητα είναι να φύγουμε ούτε από το ευρώ ούτε από την Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση. Έχει δίκιο όμως, ή έχει άδικο;

Το βίντεο βρίσκεται online εδώ και  ολόκληρη η εισήγηση εδώ.

kokkalas

Ας σημειώσουμε ότι το 2009 ο Γιάννης Κοκκάλας δεν έβλεπε ως κύριο εμπόδιο στη διαδικασία της ευρωπαϊκής ολοκλήρωσης τη Γερμανία αλλά τη Γαλλία. Εκείνοι που ασπάζονται  τωρα τη γαλλική καμπάνια για Germanexit από το ευρώ, να το έχουν υπόψη αυτό.

Γουέϊν Χωλ

 

Has the European Union been a bad idea?

As a first (and hopefully not last) step towards an objective discussion of today’s situation of the European Union, outside of the logic of parties, parliamentary and “media” conflict, on 16th July there was, with the compliments of Mr. Paschalis and Mrs. Salomi Melissaris, a screening of an extract from the paper presented in 2009 by Mr. Ioannis Coccalas, entitled “From Altiero Spinelli’s Draft to the Treaty of Lisbon”. As Deputy Director of the European Parliament’s office in Athens, Mr Coccalas was at that time one of the speakers at the “Ioannis Capodistrias, Altiero Spinelli, Europe” conference held on 21st June 2009 in Aegina.

An introduction to the 16th July screening was presented by Wayne Hall, member of the steering committee of the Aegina Association of Active Citizens.

21

INTRODUCTION

I would like us to be in agreement that in today’s discussion it will not be relevant whether we voted YES or NO in the referendum, whether it is mainly Simitis and Papandreou, Samaras and Venizelos, or Tsipras and Varoufakis who are most to blame for the present situation in Greece. I would like us to agree also that it is not going to be relevant today whether we prefer Greece to remain in the euro or to leave the euro. In any case this is a question that is not going to be decided by ordinary Greek citizens, at least for the moment. The conflict that is so evident in the Parliament around that subject, among others, is something we can monitor. The conflict in the mass media, in the talk shows, in the journalistic squabbles is something it is perhaps preferable for us not to watch, because as it seems its main purpose is to frighten us rather than inform us.

The question of the media is of central importance. I think that even citizens who voted YES must have been at least uneasy about the stance taken by the Greek and international media in the week that preceded the referendum. This problem is also at the heart of the Appeal by German Greeks and Greek Germans and the Greek answer that was formulated by representatives of the three associations of Aegina: the Association of Active Citizens, the Ioannis Capodistrias Cultural Association and the Women’s Association.

Professor Juergen Link, who initiated the Appeal by German Greeks and Greek Germans, proposes a seminar on the problem of the media, which in Germany cultivate hatred of Greeks and in Greece hatred of Germans. In reality what is needed is more than a seminar. What is needed is a form of pan-European politics that is not influenced by the media, which places a negative stigma on every influence from this direction. This is perhaps something for discussion among those who would like to be actively involved in such a project of delinkage from the media. We have already made a beginning with the programme we made in 2013 on the VMedia web channel Europe Starts from Here.

In any case let us agree that for the purposes of today’s discussion it is not relevant which Greek politician has played the worst role. The subject is not Greek internal politics, or even Greece in general. The subject is Europe, the European Union, because the European Union as we have known it – this was written a day or two ago by the Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole – ended last weekend.

European integration was based on three assumptions, three conditions. The first condition was that the process was consensual: each member state lost more and more of its sovereignty because it was choosing of its own free will to do so. The second term was that this step-by-step procedure was irreversible. This was the terminology of the Treaty of Maastricht on the subject of monetary union. It was not part of the scenario that you could change your mind and go back. Neither could others change their mind about you and send you back. The third assumption was implicit and had to do with the role of Germany. As we know, Germany was defeated in WorldWar II, and badly defeated. In return for the opportunity to make a new beginning after this defeat it was considered self-evident that Germany would not try yet again to become the hegemon of Europe.

Today Germany is not only trying to become the hegemon of Europe. It is succeeding in becoming the hegemon of Europe. I suppose that most of us here will have seen yesterday’s address to Parliament by Yanis Varoufakis. Not everyone admires the role that Varoufakis has played, but I think the conclusions of that address will be generally accepted.

Varoufakis calls the so-called agreement that has just been voted by Parliament a “new Treaty of Versailles”. But most SYRIZA parliamentarians supported it, for the sake of the unity of SYRIZA. “We in SYRIZA are and will be united, at the time that Europe strikes a blow against itself through procedures that the historian of the future will describe as the moment of dismantling of the dream of Adenauer, Constantine Caramanlis, Andreas Papandreou, Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl.”

There was uproar in the Parliament after the speech by Varoufakis. Outside the Parliament, also, there was pandemonium. Here we are not shouting, we are not denouncing, and the reason for that is not concern for the unity of SYRIZA. I hope that our concern here is for the citizens of Greece to remain united at this conjuncture. And the hope is also, perhaps, that just as in 1828 when the modern Greek state was founded in Aegina, this island will function today also as a haven of stability and security within the chaos of Greece.

The question we put forward is “Has the European Union been a bad idea?” We raise it not as a declaration but as a question. Certainly the man we are going to hear now does not believe that the priority is to leave the euro, or the European Union. But is he right or wrong?

kokkalas

The video can be found online here.

Note that in 2009 Ioannis Coccalas saw not Germany but France as the key obstacle to the whole European integration process. Those who are now embracing the French campaign for a Germanexit should bear that in mind. (More on that here).

16th July 2015

 

Giannis Varoufakis replies on his reasons for going to Aegina at the moment of the most crucial parliamentary vote

Varoufakis and family on the ferry to Aegina

Varoufakis and family on the ferry to Aegina

A journalist complains that at the harbour of Aegina he was attacked by a member of the security for the former Finance Minister

There has been a hail of negative comment in response to Yanis Varoufakis’ message through Twitter that he will not be in the Parliament for the vote on Greece’s proposals to the European Union

Mr. Varoufakis cited family reasons in justification of his absence and shortly afterwards published through Twitter the letter with his vote in this evening’s parliamentary session, which he will not be attending.

Nevertheless, after this photographs circulated which showed him together with his wife on the ferry for Aegina, where he has a house. This, as it was to be expected, provoked even further comment.

It should be noted that according to Article 70a of the Parliamentary Regulations, parliamentarians can vote by mail only if they are on business abroad for the government or the parliament.

A short time ago protothema.gr complained that one of their journalists who tried, together with a photographer, to approach Mr. Varoufakis as he was disembarking, was attacked by a member of the security of the former Minister of Finance. The website notes that one of the bodyguards of Yanis Varoufakis attacked Frixos Drakontidis when the journalist tried to extract a statement from the former minister.

Protothema indeed says that the SYRIZA parliamentarian in effect ordered the police to remove the journalist by force, with the result that one of the three policemen in Varoufakis’ personal guard attacked Mr. Drakontidis, grabbed him by the neck and shoved him away on the hatchway, with the result that he fell over and was injured on the head.

According to reports, the Minister for Protection of the Citizen Giannis Panousis was informed of the attack on the protothema journalist and undertook to investigate the incident in depth. The journalist Frixos Drakontidis has already reported the incident to the island’s harbour authority and proposes to institute legal action against the former minister, his wife and the three security guards.

A few minutes after publication of the relevant story Yanis Varoufakis responded with a tweet.

(Yanis Varoufakis: Fortunately there are people who respect what it means that I wish to spend the weekend with my little daughter before she returns to Australia where she lives.)

Source: Lifo http://www.lifo.gr/now/politics/70685?ref=yfp#comment

From the absurd to the tragic?

Anyone living through, or even just following, developments in Greece knows all too well the meaning of expressions such as “critical moments”, “climate of tension”, “dramatic overturn”, “pressing on the limits”. From Monday something new, ostentatious and blatant will be added to all of these: the absurd.

The word may seem strange, or an overstatement. But how else could one characterize the total reversal of the meaning of such an amazing event as the referendum of 5th July, only hours after its occurrence, and indeed by its own exponents? How could one explain that Messrs Meimarakis and Theodorakis, that is to say the heads of the camp of the (crushingly) defeated, should have become the official spokespersons for the line being followed by the Greek side, and should be promenading from pillar to post laying down its terms? How is it possible for a devastating “no” to the memorandum policies of austerity to be “interpreted” as a green light for a new memorandum? And to put it in commonsense terms: if they were disposed to sign something even worse and even more binding than Juncker’s proposals, what was the point of the referendum, or rather of the struggle to achieve the “no” and, naturally, of its stunning consummation?

The sense of the absurd is not just a product of this unexpected reversal in the dynamics of the situation. It stems above all from the fact that all of this is unfolding before our eyes “as if nothing has happened”, as if the referendum were something like a collective hallucination, which suddenly ends, leaving us to continue uninterrupted what we were doing before. But because we have not all become lotus-eaters, let us be permitted to give a brief résumé of what has taken place in the course of the last days’ unbelievably rapid developments.

So, last Sunday the Greek people staggered Europe and the world, responding en masse to the government’s call and, in conditions unprecedented by the post-war standards of any European country, overwhelmingly voted “no” to the extortionate and humiliating proposals of the lenders. Both the extent of the “no” and its qualitative composition, with its enormous lead in the working class and popular strata and in the younger generation, testify to the depth of the transformations that have been occurring, or rather that have crystallized in such a short time, in Greek society. Friday’s mass mobilizations, the climate “from below” that has prevailed over the last days, not to mention the enthusiastic wave of international solidarity, testify to the huge potential that is opened by the popular intervention in favour of a political choice for conflict.

But from the morrow of that “day that shook the world”, before the victory cries in the country’s public squares had even fully died away, the theatre of the absurd began. Under the aegis of the actively pro-YES President of the Republic, the government summoned the heads of the defeated parties to elaborate a framework for negotiation positing the euro as unpassable outer limit of the Greek position and declaring specifically that it has no mandate for a rift. Public opinion, still affected by the joyful haze of Sunday, watches as the representative of the 62% accepts subordination to the thinking of the 38% in the immediate aftermath of a resounding victory for democracy and popular sovereignty.

On Tuesday the government, with no “proposal” to make, transfers its operations to Brussels for the extraordinary Eurogroup meeting and, as is absolutely logical, finds itself confronted with a new, abrupt and even harsher ultimatum. The next day Euclid Tsakalotos inaugurates his duties as Finance Minister (in the interests of brevity we pass over the factor of the “Varoufakis resignation”, simply noting that it was a demand of the lenders) by sending to the ESM (European Stability Mechanism), the organization that manages the greater part of the Greek debt, a letter requesting a new loan of 50 billion euros, which will be accompanied of course by a third memorandum[1]. It is envisaged, indeed, that the Parliament will begin on Monday to vote the relevant enabling legislation.

The Tsakalotos letter continues with references, inter alia, to Greece undertaking “to honor its financial obligations to all of its creditors in a full and timely manner.” It is obvious that despite the assurances that were heard after the proclamation of the referendum for “restarting discussions from scratch” the “negotiations” (which are negotiations only in name) are continuing exactly from where they left off, with the Greeks lowering the bar for their opponents to a point that is politically unsustainable in Greece, as we correctly judged at that time.

The same day, pending the new Greek “proposals”, which were to be “reliable, detailed”, etc., i.e. made to measure for a memorandum, the Prime Minister addressed the European Parliament and declared that “if my aim had been to take Greece out of the euro, I would not immediately after the closing of the polls have gone to make the statements I made and interpret the result of the referendum not as a mandate for a break with Europe but as a mandate for reinforcing our negotiating efforts so as to arrive at a better agreement”[2]. This amounts to more or less open acknowledgement that the result of the referendum was being “interpreted” with a specific end in mind, that of negotiation at all costs and avoidance of a rift.

In the same speech the Prime Minister outlined quite succinctly the philosophy that for many weeks has been informing the whole stance of the Greek side and to which the “parenthesis” of the referendum has not brought the slightest change: “In these proposals we have evidently undertaken a powerful commitment to achieve the fiscal goals that are required on the basis of the rules, because we recognize, and respect, the fact that the Eurozone has rules. But we reserve the right of choice, the right of being able, as a sovereign government, to choose where we shall place, and add to, the burden of taxation, so as to be in a position to attain the required fiscal objectives.” So the framework is given: it is that of the restrictive measures which secure fiscal surpluses and aim at the repayment of debt. It is incontestably the framework of the memoranda. The “disagreement” is over the “distribution of the burden”. It involves a (supposedly) “socially more just” variant of austerity, which will be presented as “redistribution” at the same time as it perpetuates the recession (every reference to commitment to non-recessionary measures has been effaced) and impoverishment of the majority.

In the meantime, and while these soothing reassurances are being put forward that demolish what has remained of SYRIZA’s programmatic commitments, there is a ramping up of the state of political siege that the country is enduring, with the European Central Bank holding closed the spigot of liquidity and trimming even further the value of bank bonds, leading ineluctably to collapse. And yet! Despite the gravity of the situation and despite the fact that through the imposition of capital controls part of the road has already been covered, nobody, apart from Costas Lapavitsas and some members of the Left Platform, is speaking of the self-evident and basic measures of self-protection that are necessitated by circumstances of this kind, starting from public control and nationalization of the banking system. The explanation for this is of course very simple: anything of this kind would place Greece with one foot outside the euro, which is precisely the absolute fetish on which the government is impaled, just as an – in no way radical – economist such as Paul Krugman ascertains that “the greater part of the cost has already been paid” and that it is time for Greece “to reap the benefits”[3].

A very simple conclusion emerges from all this: with the moves it has made in the last week, the government has achieved nothing other than total restoration of the previous entrapment, from a much more unfavorable position, under the pressure of even more relentless economic asphyxiation. As for the political advantage, the powerful injection of political capital it derived from the referendum, it hastened to expunge it in record time, following at all points the line of those who had opposed it and who have every reason to feel vindicated, despite being trounced at the ballot box.

But the referendum happened. It wasn’t a binge from which everyone has now recovered and it wasn’t a hallucination. On the contrary: the hallucination is the attempt to downgrade it to a transitory interlude for “letting off steam”, prior to resumption of the downhill course towards a third Memorandum.

Let us put this forward with all due clarity: any attempt to cancel the popular will for overturn of austerity and the Memoranda amounts to hubris in the ancient Greek sense of the term. Whoever dares to lead the country, and the Left, to surrender and to dishonor should be ready to face the corresponding Nemesis. If such is to be the culmination of the dementia of these days we are living through, let us at least be fully cognizant that for this tragedy there is not going to be any deus ex machina nor any merciful Athena to assuage the wrath of the Furies.

 

[1]The text of the letter here http://www.thepressproject.gr/article/79045/Auto-einai-to-Elliniko-aitima-ston-ESM-metafrasmeni

[2]Τhe full text of the Prime Minister’s speech here http://left.gr/news/omilia-tsipra-stin-olomeleia-toy-eyrokoinovoylioy-tin-Tetarti

[3]Paul Krugman’s article is here http://www.euro2day.gr/specials/opinions/article/1346935/kroygkman-o-megalyteros-logariasmos-toy-grexit-pl.html

Ο Γιάνης Βαρουφάκης απαντά για το ταξίδι στην Αίγινα την ώρα της πιο κρίσιμης ψηφοφορίας

856564_var11_2

Βροχή αρνητικών σχολίων συγκέντρωσε νωρίτερα ο Γιάνης Βαρουφάκης όταν μέσω Twitter γνωστοποίησε ότι δεν θα είναι απόψε στη Βουλή για να ψηφίσει.

Ο κ. Βαρουφάκης επικαλέστηκε οικογενειακούς λόγους για την απουσία του και λίγο αργότερα κοινοποίησε μέσω Twitter την επιστολή με τη ψήφο του για την αποψινή ψηφοφορία στην οποία θα απουσιάζει.

Ωστόσο λίγο μετά κυκλοφόρησαν ο φωτογραφίες που τον έδειχνα μαζί με η σύζυγό του να βρίσκεται στο καράβι για την Αίγινα όπου έχει εξοχικό. Αυτό όπως ήταν αναμενόμενο προκάλεσε ακόμη περισσότερα σχόλια.

Πρέπει να σημειωθεί ότι σύμφωνα με το άρθρο 70Α του Κανονισμού της Βουλής, οι βουλευτές μπορούν να ψηφίζουν με επιστολική ψήφο μόνο όταν βρίσκονται σε αποστολή της Κυβέρνησης ή της Βουλής στο εξωτερικό.

Λίγη ώρα νωρίτερα το protothema.gr κατήγγειλε πως δημοσιογράφος τους που προσπάθησε μαζί με φωτογράφο να προσεγγίσει τον κο Βαρουφάκη όταν αποβιβάστηκε, δέχτηκε επίθεση από άντρα της ασφάλειας του πρώην ΥΠΟΙΚ. Η ιστοσελίδα αναφέρει μάλιστα πως ένας από τους σωματοφύλακες του Γιάνη Βαρουφάκη επιτέθηκε στον Φρίξο Δρακοντίδη όταν ο δημοσιογράφος προσπάθησε να ζητήσει μια δήλωση από τον τέως υπουργό.

Το protothema αναφέρει μάλιστα πως ο βουλευτής του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ ουσιαστικά έδωσε εντολή στους αστυνομικούς να τον απομακρύνουν βίαια με αποτέλεσμα ένας από τους τρεις αστυνομικούς της προσωπικής του φρουράς να του επιτεθεί, να τον αρπάξει από το λαιμό και να τον σπρώξει με βία στη μπουκαπόρτα όπου έπεσε και τραυματίστηκε στο κεφάλι.

Για το περιστατικό της επίθεσης στον δημοσιογράφο του ΘΕΜΑτος ενημερώθηκε σύμφωνα με το ρεπορτάζ ο υπουργός Προστασίας του Πολίτη Γιάννης Πανούσης ο οποίος δεσμεύθηκε ότι θα ερευνήσει σε βάθος την υπόθεση ενώ ο δημοσιογράφος Φρίξος Δρακοντίδης έχει ήδη μεταβεί στο λιμεναρχείο του νησιού όπου καταθέτει μήνυση εναντίον του πρώην υπουργού, της συζύγου του και των τριών ανδρών ασφαλείας.

Λίγα λεπτά μετά το δημοσίευμα ο Γιάνης Βαρουφάκης απάντησε με ένα ακόμη tweet.

 

Πηγή: www.lifo.gr

Συζήτηση με τον Δήμαρχο Αίγινας για την Ευρώπη των Πολιτών

Πριν από τις εκλογές της 25ης Ιανουαρίου 2015 που έφεραν στην εξουσία τη σημερινή μας κυβέρνηση, ένας γερμανός καθηγητής πανεπιστημίου ο κύριος Juergen Link, μαζί με ομάδα υποστηρικτών, δημοσίευσε μια “Έκκληση από Γερμανοέλληνες και Ελληνογερμανούς” (Για μια αμερόληπτη και δίκαιη ανταπόκριση στις δημοκρατικές αποφάσεις του ελληνικού λαού).
Πρόκειται ουσιαστικά για διαμαρτυρία κατά της εχθρικής και δόλιας στάσης των ΜΜΕ της Γερμανίας ενάντια στην Ελλάδα και στους Έλληνες. Μέχρι σήμερα έχει εξασφαλίσει την υποστήριξη περίπου 1.500 πολιτών, κυρίως στις γερμανόφωνες χώρες.
Τον Μάιο εδώ στην Αίγινα σε σύσκεψη εκπροσώπων από τρεις συλλόγους: το Σύλλογο Ενεργών Πολιτών, το Μορφωτικό Σύλλογο «Ιωάννη Καποδίστρια» και το Σύλλογο Γυναικών, αποφασίστηκε η διαμόρφωση «ελληνικής απάντησης» στην «‘Εκκληση από Γερμανοέλληνες και Ελληνογερμανούς.»

Την Παρασκευή 26 Ιουνίου πραγματοποιήθηκε συζήτηση με τον Δήμαρχο κ. Μούρτζη για το περιεχόμενο και το στόχο αυτής της «ελληνικής απάντησης». Το κείμενο της «απάντησης» αναρτήθηκε στην ιστοσελίδα «Καποδίστριας-Σπινέλι- Ευρώπη» ως συμβολή στη συνεχιζόμενη καμπάνια υπέρ της «Ευρώπης των Πολιτών».

 


Υπογράψετε την ελληνική ανταπόκριση στη γερμανική έκκληση εδώ: http://main.cse-initiative.eu/?page_id=361

ΠΗΓΗ: Aegina Light

THE MAYOR OF AEGINA ON THE GREEK ANSWER TO THE APPEAL OF GREEK GERMANS AND GERMAN GREEKS

Mayor D. Mourtzis: What’s his name?

Wayne Hall: Juergen Link. He is a professor of literature.

Paschalis Melissaris: He took the initiative along with other university people to compose a text against the misrepresentation of Greeks in relation to what they have already….

W.H.: Essentially it is a protest against the stance of the mass media in Germany and how they reproduce enemy images

Mayor: So in the person of Mr. Link we have someone who is a friend and an ally who is interested in our history…

W.H.: He is a Philhellene and he started this movement before the elections…

P.M.: It isn’t starting now…

W.H.: Before the present government came in…. But there is a whole sequence of events after the appeal. An open letter to Mrs. Merkel and other messages to his supporters. For there are around 1,500-1,600 Germans and others supporting the initiative. But it is something that deserves an answer, a response, from Greece.

Mayor: Should we invite them to a meeting?

W.H.: As you can see…. This letter was written with support from three associations: the Aegina Association of Active Citizens, the Ioannis Capodistrias Cultural Association, the Aegina Women’s Association. Mr. Melissaris corrected the text.

Mayor: So to get to the point “a conference to highlight the lack of impartiality of the mainstream German mass media, holding a conference on our island of Aegina, which was the first capital of the modern Greek state under Ioannis Capodistrias, the great pan-European diplomat and statesman”. Yes.

W.H.: The point is also that the problem is not only the mass media of Germany. There is a more general problem. But we want to make some kind of move towards solving at least some of these problems.

P.M. : And Greeks should also respond to this letter and support it as much as they can. With the help of the polity, if that is possible.

W.H.: Mr. Mayor, the international social movements that support Greece are coming together in these days in Athens. The exact programme that they will follow depends on the progress of the so-called negotiations that are being held at this moment. We believe that the stance of citizens should not be dependent on moves at the governmental level. Even in the event that Greece is obliged to leave the euro, the goal should remain the same: Citizens’ Europe. It should remain unchanged. What is your view on that?

Mayor: I would like to thank you congratulate you for the initiative you have taken with collecting citizens’ signatures.

W.H.: Are you willing to add your signature?

Mayor: Very willingly. I have no objection. You can add my name. In any case a submission by the mayor is something more than a signature. And it can go to the council for approval by the council. My submission is that yes I agree with moves of this kind, which contribute greatly to what we believe, to what we call democracy, to what we call values, to what we describe as human, because all that together is itself democracy.

We are a united community. We are a community of Europe. And we have expected and still expect, whether we are in the euro or not, an understanding of the citizens and not condemnation to isolation of a historical community, such as Greece is, with a great culture, with a great history, with great natural beauty, with fine people, begging for something that is implicit in democracy.

So I congratulate you on this initiative, and I seek a response from the community, not the politicians. It is up to the community to respond: the community of nations in which we are all participants. That is my declaration and my statement.

W.H.: So we are in agreement.

Mayor: I would like to say, because I forgot to mention the professor who took the initiative, Mr. Link, I truly congratulate him, and I would like to make his acquaintance. He is an innovator. I agree completely with this initiative he has taken and his references to Greece which we all love because we are Greeks. I consider him a friend and I would us to get to know each other, at the level of the municipality and at the personal level, because I believe that contributions of this kind should be mentioned and recorded for history.

P.M.: Here at least in Aegina you are the first to activate people, but there is an Australian who lives here permanently and struggles for Greek interests and that is very important.

Mayor: Very.

P.M.: Rather than some local Greek patriot, the Australian comes, and moves things forward.

W.H.: Do you know what Australia’s national day is? What the date is? 26th January.

Mayor: The same day. So we’ll have to celebrate it together. One year in Australia and one year in Aegina.

(laughter)

Λίγα λουλούδια απ’ τον Αλέξη στο άγαλμα του Ι. Καποδίστρια… “έχουμε το δίκιο με το μέρος μας”

tsipras_ag_petroupoli

Αντλούμε δύναμη από το γεγονός ότι έχουμε το δίκιο με το μέρος μας ανέφερε ο πρωθυπουργός Αλ. Τσίπρας, σε συζήτηση που είχε με Έλληνες ομογενείς, στο άγαλμα του Ιωάννη Καποδίστρια στην Αγία Πετρούπολη.

«Η Ελλάδα δίνει μια γενναία και σπουδαία μάχη όλες αυτές τις ημέρες, όλους αυτούς τους μήνες. Περνάμε μια μεγάλη κρίση και δυσκολίες. Όμως, βασικό χαρακτηριστικό των Ελλήνων είναι ότι όταν έχουμε στόχους και αξίες μπορούμε να ξεπερνάμε τις μεγάλες δυσκολίες» είπε ο κ. Τσίπρας στους ομογενείς και τόνισε:

«Είναι σημαντικό να γνωρίζουμε, και αντλούμε δύναμη από το γεγονός ότι, έχουμε το δίκιο με το μέρος μας. Η προσπάθεια μας είναι και προσπάθεια όλου του ελληνικού λαού, για να ξανακάναμε την πατρίδα μας κυρίαρχη, για να δώσουμε στο λαό μας αξιοπρέπεια» υπογράμμισε ο κ. Τσίπρας.

Ο πρωθυπουργός απόθεσε άνθη στο άγαλμα του Ιωάννη Καποδίστρια στην Αγία Πετρούπολη, λίγες ώρες πριν την έναρξη του 19ου Διεθνούς Οικονομικού Φόρουμ της ιστορικής ρωσικής πόλης. Τον κ. Τσίπρα υποδέχθηκαν στο σημείο δεκάδες Έλληνες της τοπικής παροικίας. Κατά τη σύντομη συζήτηση μαζί τους, ο κ. Τσίπρας σημείωσε τους ισχυρούς δεσμούς των Ελλήνων της Ρωσίας με την Ελλάδα.

Στις 14:00 ο κ. Τσίπρας θα μεταβεί στο χώρο διεξαγωγής του Οικονομικού Φόρουμ όπου θα παρέμβει, αμέσως μετά την ομιλία του Βλαντίμιρ Πούτιν.

Ακολούθως, στις 16:15, ο πρωθυπουργός θα συναντηθεί με τον Πρόεδρο της Ρωσικής Ομοσπονδίας Βλαντίμιρ Πούτιν, με τον οποίο θα συνομιλήσουν για διμερή θέματα καθώς και για τις διεθνείς εξελίξεις.

ΠΗΓΗ

Does Greece stand for Democracy?

The coming to office of the new Greek government has inspired a new rhetoric of democracy and Philhellenism intriguingly similar to the Philhellenism that accompanied the establishment of the modern Greek state in the 1820s, in an international environment of post-Napoleonic reaction analogous in a number of ways to today’s reactionary environment of post-Soviet-collapse.

To take a characteristic example of this rhetoric, let us quote Paul Craig Roberts, dissident former assistant secretary of the Treasury under the Reagan administration in the US: “The Greeks, who were once to be contended with, who were able with 300 Spartans, supplemented with a few thousand Corinthians, Thebans, and other warriors, to stop a one hundred thousand man Persian army at Thermopylae, with the final outcome being the defeat of the Persian fleet in the Battle of Salamis and the defeat of the Persian army in the Battle of Plataea, are no more.

The Greeks of history have become a people of legend. Not even the Romans were able to conquer Persia, but little more than a handful of Greeks stopped the attempted Persian conquest of Greece.

But the Greeks, despite their glorious history, could not stop their conquest by the EU and a handful of German and Dutch banks. If the Greece of history still existed, the EU and the private banks would be cowering in fear, because the EU and the private banks have ruthlessly exploited the Greek people and represent the same threat to Greek sovereignty as Persia did.   (….)

Greece is prostrate. Greeks are actually committing suicide, because Greeks cannot provide for themselves in the depressed conditions that the EU and the private banks have created for them for no other reason than that the private banks must not have to write down the loans.

So, one result from “democracy” in Greece is suicide. With enough democracy, we can control world population and halt the destruction of nature’s capital. All we have to do is to enable the banksters to loot the entire world.

What can Syriza do?

Without Spartans, very little.”

The implication of the article is anything but flattering for democracy, but it reminds us of something about ancient Greece: that democracy was merely one side of a bipolar conflict in which democracy did not always have the best arguments. On the contrary: the majority of great texts that have survived from the golden age of Athenian democracy are anti-democratic in content or implication.

Aegina was among the prime challengers and victims of the imperialistic democracy of the Athenians, because of geopolitical factors, because of the island’s less than resolute stance – initially – against the Persians (and, yes, fighting “for democracy” against the Persians is still a thorny subject) and because of the Aeginetans’ alliance with Sparta. Aegina was nevertheless chosen to be first capital of the modern Greek state, de facto, pending the establishment of security in the formal first capital, Nafplion. The island was able to provide a safe working environment for Greece’s brilliant, enlightened, liberal, humane, popular, but not democratic, first governor Ioannis Capodistrias , a statesman who can have claims to be the preliminary architect of today’s European Union (and, certainly, of the Swiss federation). .

It was in Nafplion that Capodistrias was later assassinated, by an alliance of foreign imperialists and what might facetiously and provocatively be called local Greek “democrats”.

Aegina is back in the Greek media today in these first days in office of the new government, because so many of the ministers, from Varoufakis and Tsipras to less internationally-known figures, have houses here and/or are frequent visitors.

In its programme SYRIZA features gestures in the direction of citizens’ democracy: participation in decision making, the ability to call referenda, and similar such innovations . But citizen participation in a context of corporate mass media control is no guarantee of politics that are in the objective interests of citizens. On the contrary, in such a context citizen participation can easily be a Trojan horse facilitating imposition of policies by foreign-controlled NGOs. Possible first steps towards dealing with this problem have been put forward and discussed to a very limited extent  https://epamaegina.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/independent-citizens-assembly/  but the discussion has not acquired any traction within SYRIZA (or much traction elsewhere).

Paul Craig Roberts says, or implies, that what is needed now is not only Athenians (democrats) but also Spartans (oligarchs). Whether that is good or bad advice depends on how it is interpreted.

Aegina, 31st January 2015

Statement by Giulietto Chiesa on the crisis in Ukraine

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(Giulietto Chiesa was a key speaker at the Aegina Society of Active Citizens’ function “Capodistrias and Spinelli today – European Union: Disintegration or a new beginning?”, held in Aegina on 23rd June 2013.)

Function: http://main.cse-initiative.eu/?p=111 //  VIDEO

G. Chiesa’s visit to the Capodistrian buildings of Aegina: VIDEO

Persuading Daniel Cohn-Bendit of the importance of Capodistrias: VIDEO


Statement

The crisis in Ukraine, which clearly affects the international community, is a matter for deep concern, threatening both the sovereignty of Ukraine and the independence of Europe, triggering an unwelcome polarisation of the international system and impacting an always fragile geopolitical balance.

We would like it to be borne in mind that a historical transition from a unipolar world – with the US as the sole superpower – towards a multipolar world is underway and that this process should be aided and abetted rather than contained. The whole world, including Europe and the United States, will gain from a jointly-conducted re-organisation of global governance that recognizes multipolarity.

We believethat Europe is able to contribute positively to the peaceful emergence of a multipolar world. Indeed the Ukrainian crisis has shown that, while an independent and open Europe provides grounds for the emergence of a multipolar world, a one-sided Europe creates the conditions for a world polarized between a Western bloc and the new global powers.

Therefore, we strongly oppose the disruption of Euro-Russian relations, with the deployment of troops on both sides of the Euro-Russian border, and in particular of US military troops on Europe’s territory, with the growing tensions provoked by the uncoordinated free-trade policies of Europe and Russia on common border countries such as Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.

We consider that the Ukrainian crisis calls for the establishment of a diplomatic arena to discuss Europe’s and Russia’s rights to organize their common markets in a framework of peaceful coexistence.

We note the humanitarian emergency situation in Ukraine and crimes and abuses committed against the civil populations during the Ukrainian crisis and urge that these should be promptly dealt with and investigated.

We believe that the Euro-BRICS framework of co-operation can provide the proper mediation that is required for a positive outcome to be achieved.

The situation requires global leaders with a high sense of historical responsibility and collective interest.

We believe that responsibilities for the crisis in Ukraine must be shared between Europe and Russia. On the basis of the recognition of each player’s responsibilities it will become possible to rebuild peace in Ukraine and revive Euro-Russian relations.

RESUMING EURO-RUSSIAN RELATIONS TO CREATE THE CONDITIONS FOR A UKRAINIAN-LED CRISIS RESOLUTION

It is up to the Ukrainian people to organize and rebuild peace in Ukraine. However there is no way tensions between the pro-Russian and pro-European Ukrainians will de-escalate if tensions between Russia and Europe do not de-escalate first. Therefore, for the sake of peace in Ukraine, we require European and Russian leaders to re-launch a constructive dialogue, in particular encouraging the media to provide more objective information and correct any misinformation that might lead to future conflict.

Note This draft is almost completely extracted from a joint declaration of academicians, professors, journalists, former political personalities of the BRICS countries. I believe that a dialogue could be built on this basis.

Giulietto Chiesa

N.B. The English text of the EuroBRICS joint declaration on Ukraine is at:

http://www.leap2020.net/euro-brics/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Joint-Statement-Euro-BRICS-June-2014.pdf

Δήλωση του Giulietto Chiesa για την κρίση στην Ουκρανία

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(O Giulietto Chiesa υπήρξε από τους ομιλητές στην ημερίδα του Συλλόγου των Ενεργών Πολιτών Αίγινας «Καποδίστριας-Σπινέλλι  Σήμερα – Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση: Διάλυση ή επανεκκίνηση;», η οποία διεξήχθη στις 23 Ιουνίου 2013 στην Αίγινα)

Ημερίδα: http://aeginalight.gr/article.php?id=23883#.U9eyfMscTIU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wPniHFeXiM

Επίσκεψη του G. Chiesa στα καποδιαστριακά κτήρια της Αίγινας: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmDHoNPfmlM


Δήλωση

H κρίση στην Ουκρανία, η οποία σαφώς έχει επιπτώσεις σε ολόκληρη τη «διεθνή κοινότητα», προκαλεί έντονο προβληματισμό και βαθειά ανησυχία. Απειλεί τόσο την κυριαρχία της Ουκρανίας όσο και την ανεξαρτησία της Ευρώπης, προξενώντας, στα πλαίσια του διεθνούς συστήματος, μια ανεπιθύμητη πόλωση, αναταράσσοντας τις πάντοτε εύθραυστες γεωπολιτικές ισορροπίες.

Θέλουμε να υπενθυμίσουμε ότι έχει ήδη ξεκινήσει μια ιστορική μετάβαση από ένα μονοπολικό κόσμο, επικεντρωμένο στην μοναδική υπερδύναμη, τις Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες, προς σ΄ένα πολυπολικό κόσμο. Το ζητούμενο είναι, αυτή η μετάβαση να υποβοηθηθεί, όχι να περιοριστεί ή να αποτραπεί. Ολόκληρος ο κόσμος, συμπεριλαμβανομένων της Ευρώπης και των ΗΠΑ, θα κερδίσει από την επιτυχία μιας από κοινού επαναδιοργάνωσης της διακυβέρνησης του πλανήτη η οποία αναγνωρίζει την πολυπολικότητα.

Πιστεύουμε ότι η Ευρώπη έχει τη δυνατότητα να συμβάλλει θετικά στην ειρηνική ανάδυση ενός πολυπολικού κόσμου. Η κρίση στην Ουκρανία έχει αποδείξει μάλιστα ότι, ενώ μια ανεξάρτητη και ανοιχτή Ευρώπη δίνει περιθώρια για την ανάδυση της πολυπολικότητας, μια μονόπλευρη Ευρώπη προετοιμάζει το έδαφος για ένα κόσμο διαιρεμένο μεταξύ του δυτικού μπλοκ και των νέων αναδυόμενων δυνάμεων.

Συνεπώς τασσόμαστε ανεπιφύλακτα κατά της αναστάτωσης των ευρωρωσικών σχέσεων, απορρίπτουμε τη στάθμευση στρατευμάτων και στις δύο πλευρές των συνόρων ανάμεσα στην Ευρώπη και τη Ρωσία – και ειδικά αμερικανικών στρατευμάτων στο έδαφος της Ευρώπης – και προειδοποιούμε για την αυξανόμενη ένταση που προκαλούν οι ασυντόνιστες πολιτικές ελευθέρου εμπορίου της Ευρώπης και της Ρωσίας με τις χώρες που συνορεύουν, όπως η Ουκρανία, η Γεωργία, η Μολδαβία.

Πιστεύουμε ότι η κρίση στην Ουκρανία καθιστά επιτακτική τη δημιουργία ενός κοινού διπλωματικού χώρου στον οποίο θα μπορούν να συζητηθούν και να συμφωνηθούν τα δικαιώματα της Ευρώπης και της Ρωσίας να οργανώνουν τις κοινές τους αγορές, πάντα εντός του πλαισίου της ειρηνικής συνύπαρξής τους.

Ανησυχούμε για την κατάσταση έκτακτης ανθρωπιστικής ανάγκης στην Ουκρανία, καταγγέλλουμε τα εγκλήματα και τις καταχρήσεις που διαπράχθηκαν κατά τη διάρκεια της κρίσης ενάντια σε άμαχους πληθυσμούς και προτρέπουμε για την άμεση διερεύνησή τους.

Πιστεύουμε ότι το πλαίσιο συνεργασίας Euro-BRICS είναι σε θέση να παρέχει την απαιτούμενη μεσολάβηση έτσι ώστε να επιτευχθεί μια θετική εκδοχή.

Η κατάσταση έχει ανάγκη από ηγέτες πλανητικού κύρους, με μεγάλη αίσθηση ιστορικής ευθύνης και συλλογικού συμφέροντος.

Προτείνουμε τον καταμερισμό των ευθυνών για την Ουκρανία ανάμεσα στην Ευρώπη και τη Ρωσία. Πάνω στη βάση της αναγνώρισης των ευθυνών του κάθε εμπλεκόμενου θα είναι εφικτή η εδραίωση της ειρήνης στην Ουκρανία και η αναζωογόνηση των ευρω-ρωσικών σχέσεων.

ΕΠΑΝΑΣΎΣΤΑΣΗ ΤΩΝ ΕΥΡΩ-ΡΩΣΙΚΏΝ ΣΧΕΣΕΩΝ ΠΡΟΚΕΙΜΕΝΟΥ ΝΑ ΔΗΜΙΟΥΡΓΗΘΟΎΝ ΟΙ ΠΡΟΥΠΟΘΕΣΕΙΣ ΓΙΑ ΟΥΚΡΑΝΟ-ΟΔΗΓΟΎΜΕΝΗ ΕΠΙΛΎΣΗ ΤΗΣ ΚΡΊΣΗΣ

Εναπόκειται στον λαό της Ουκρανίας να οργανώσει και να εδραιώσει την ειρήνη στην Ουκρανία. Όμως δεν υπάρχει τρόπος να αποκλιμακωθεί η ένταση ανάμεσα στους φιλορωσικούς και φιλοευρωπαϊκούς Ουκρανούς αν δεν εξασφαλισθεί πρώτα η αποκλιμάκωση της έντασης ανάμεσα στη Ρωσία και την Ευρώπη. Συνεπώς, για χάρη της ειρήνης στην Ουκρανία, απαιτούμε από τους ηγέτες της Ρωσίας και της Ευρώπης την έναρξη εποικοδομητικού διαλόγου, αναμένοντας ιδιαίτερα από τα Μέσα Μαζικής Ενημέρωσης να παρέχουν πιο αντικειμενικές πληροφορίες, εξαλείφοντας την παραπληροφόρηση που μπορεί να οδηγήσει σε μελλοντικές συγκρούσεις.

Σημείωση: το παρόν σχέδιο-κείμενο προέρχεται σχεδόν αποκλειστικά από κοινή δήλωση πανεπιστημιακών, καθηγητών, δημοσιογράφων και πρώην προσωπικοτήτων της πολιτικής στις χώρες BRICS. Πιστεύω ότι θα μπορέσει να ξεκινήσει διάλογος από αυτή τη βάση.

Giulietto Chiesa

BRICS ονομάζεται η πολιτική και οικονομική συνεργασία των ακόλουθων χωρών: Βραζιλία, Ρωσία, Ινδία, Κίνα, Νότιος Αφρική.
Η αγγλική εκδοχή της δήλωσης EuroBRICS για την Ουκρανία βρίσκεται στο  http://www.leap2020.net/euro-brics/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Joint-Statement-Euro-BRICS-June-2014.pdf

Πρωτότυπη δημοσίευση: AEGINA LIGHT

European Union: Disintegration or a New Beginning?

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An exceptionally successful function was held on 23rd June in the forecourt of the Church of the Saviour in the Capodistrian Orphanage in Aegina. Entitled “Capodistrias – Spinelli today – European Union: Disintegration or a New Beginning”, it was organized by the Aegina Association of Active Citizens with the support of the Municipality of Aegina, providing continuity with past initiatives.

In this moving, historic and captivating milieu in Aegina town, a large audience listened attentively, for two-and-a-half hours, to presentations from Messrs. Panagiotis Paspaliaris, Andreas Koukos and Giulietto Chiesa, then contributing observations and comments and asking questions. The mayor of Aegina, S. Sakkiotis, greeted the meeting, emphasizing the special contribution of the Association of Active Citizens to publicizing the Capodistrian heritage of Aegina, modern Greece’s first capital. He announced that there had been a stepping up of the efforts by the Municipality and the Greek government to promote the maintenance and utilization of our island’s Capodistrian buildings, with the relevant works about to get under way shortly, starting with the Kyverneio, for which tenders have already been called.

Opening the function, Mr. Wayne Hall, the key organizer, referred to previous functions of the Aegina Association of Active Citizens under the same title from 2008 onwards, for the purpose of renewing the references to the pioneering and indeed titanic work of Ioannis Capodistrias in Aegina, in Greece but above all in Europe, linking it to that of the architect of the European Union’s first Constitution, Altiero Spinelli.

Subsequently the historian and writer Panagiotis Paspaliaris gave a brilliant presentation of the creative diplomatic achievements of Ioannis Capodistrias as a functionary, and later Foreign Minister, of Russia before, during and after the 1814 Congress of Vienna, marking the end of the Napoleonic Era and the beginning of reorganization of the European continent. He emphasized, among other things, the lean, uncluttered reforming presence of Capodistrias and its contrast with the wasteful, opulent and scandal-ridden presence of the crowned heads of state and their staff whose aim was to restore the old balance of power over the heads of the peoples of Europe. As he said, an examination of the activity of Greece’s first governor leads to the conclusion that he was the most important reforming diplomat promoting democratic principles throughout the European continent. Capodistrias later put the experience and the connections he acquired at that time in the service of the vision for which he was finally to give his life: the emergence of the Modern Greek State.

The journalist and former European parliamentarian Giulietto Chiesa then developed a powerful problematic concerning today’s crisis in Europe, and particularly in the countries of the South, thanking the Association of Active Citizens for giving him the opportunity to become acquainted with Capodistrias and his activity in Europe, foreshadowing Spinelli’s later work in constructing the foundations of the European Union. He stressed how Europe’s democratic deficit is continually widening, highlighting the dominant, and corrosive, role of the world of finance, and particularly the banks, including the European Central Bank, which is a private institution, in undermining European democracy. He made the observation that today’s crisis of the euro is in fact a crisis of the dollar, a consequence of the sub-primes crisis. He proposed a strengthening of democratic institutions in the European Union and specifically the nationalization of the banks of European Union member states and of the European Central Bank (ECB).

He referred to the case of one trillion euros being made available to European banks by the ECB at 1% interest, capital which the banks use for providing loans to southern European countries at 4% interest, reaping significant profit for themselves.

Summarizing the content of the two previous speakers’ addresses, Andreas Koukos, historian, professor at the Military School and President of the Society for the Study of the Work of Ioannis Capodistrias, mentioned his numerous visits to Aegina in recent years to take part in functions, primarily of the Active Citizens and of the Municipality, for study and transmission of the work the Governor, highlighting Capodistrias’ pioneering role in Europe. He referred to the specific allusion to Capodistrias made by Henry Kissinger in his writings, describing him as Europe’s constitutional referee. He also announced the forthcoming publication by the society of which he is president of important new archival sources on Capodistrias in a number of European countries. Emphasizing the importance of historical archival research and of the archives themselves, A. Koukos reminded the audience of the unique value of the small local Capodistrian archive of Aegina, Greece’s first state archive, and the need to maintain its accessibility.

In the protracted and intense discussion that followed there was much airing of citizens’ profound concern and anxiety in the face of the long-term structural crisis through which we are living and there was a call for the drawing-up of an Aegina declaration for democratization of the European Union in the spirit of Ioannis Capodistrias and Altiero Spinelli. A proposal by the Association of Active Citizens is under discussion with the Municipality for European recognition of the work of Capodistrias and indeed the naming of an official building in Brussels as a tribute to the Governor.

Alexis Krauss

More information on the speakers

Καποδίστριας – Σπινέλλι Σήμερα

Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση: Διάλυση ή επανεκκίνηση;

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Με εξαιρετική επιτυχία πραγματοποιήθηκε στις 23 Ιουνίου στο προαύλιο του Ναού του Σωτήρος του Καποδιστριακού Ορφανοτροφείου η εκδήλωση με τίτλο, «Καποδίστριας – Σπινέλλι, Σήμερα: Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση: Διάλυση η επανεκκινηση ;» που διοργάνωσαν οι Ενεργοί Πολίτες της Αίγινας, με την υποστήριξη του Δήμου, δίνοντας συνέχεια στις σχετικές προηγούμενες πρωτοβουλίες.

Σε αυτό τον συγκινητικό, ιστορικό και μαγευτικό συνάμα χώρο της πόλης της Αίγινας, ένα πολυάριθμο κοινό άκουσε με μεγάλο ενδιαφέρον, για δυόμιση ώρες, τις εισηγήσεις των κυριων Παναγιώτη Πασπαλιαρη, Ανδρέα Κουκο και Giulietto Chiesa και στην συνέχεια έκανε παρατηρήσεις, ερωτήσεις και σχόλια. Ο δήμαρχος της Αίγινας Σ. Σακκιώτης χαιρέτισε τη εκδήλωση τονίζοντας την ιδιαίτερη προσφορά των “Ενεργών Πολιτών στην προβολή της καποδιστριακής κληρονομίας της Αίγινας ως Πρώτης Πρωτεύουσας. Ανήγγειλε δε την εγρήγορση του Δήμου και της Πολιτείας για την προώθηση της συντήρησης και αξιοποίησης των καποδιστριακών κτηρίων του νησιού μας όπου σύντομα θα αρχίσουν τα σχετικά έργα, αρχής γενομένης από το Κυβερνείο το οποίο έχει ήδη δημοπρατηθεί. .

Ανοίγοντας την εκδήλωση, ο κύριος Wayne Hall, ως βασικός συντελεστής, αναφέρθηκε στις προηγούμενες εκδηλώσεις των Ενεργών Πολιτών με τον ίδιο τίτλο στην Αίγινα από το 2008 που είχαν σκοπό να ανανεώσουν τις αναφορές στο πρωτοποριακό και τιτάνιο έργο του Ιωάννη Καποδίστρια στην Αίγινα, στην Ελλάδα άλλα ιδίως στην Ευρώπη, συνδυάζοντας το με εκείνο του συντάκτη του πρώτου Ευρωπαϊκού Συντάγματος της ΕΕ, Α. Σπινέλλι.

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Π. Πασπαλιάρης

Στη συνέχεια, ο ιστορικός και συγγραφέας Παναγιώτης Πασπαλιάρης ανέπτυξε με λαμπρό τρόπο, το θέμα των δημιουργικών διπλωματικών δραστηριοτήτων του Ι. Καποδίστρια ως στελέχους και κατόπιν Υπουργού Εξωτερικών της Ρωσίας πριν, κατά την διάρκεια και στην επόμενη περίοδο του Συνεδρίου της Βιέννης του 1814 που σηματοδότησε το τέλος της Ναπολεόντειας εποχής και την αναδιοργάνωση της Ευρωπαϊκής ηπείρου. Τόνισε δε με έμφαση, μεταξύ άλλων, την λυτή, απερριτη, και ακούραστα μεταρρυθμιστική παρουσία του Ι. Καποδίστρια σε αντίθεση με την σπάταλη, γεμάτη χλιδή και σκάνδαλα παρουσία των εστεμμένων και των επιτελείων τους που σκοπό είχαν να επαναφέρουν τις παλιές ισορροπίες πάνω στους λαούς της Ευρώπης. Όπως είπε, η μελέτη των δραστηριοτήτων του πρώτου κυβερνήτη της Ελλάδας φαίνεται να τον αναδεικνύει ως τον σημαντικότερο μεταρρυθμιστή διπλωμάτη για τη προώθηση των δημοκρατικών αρχών σε όλη την ευρωπαϊκή ήπειρο. Την πείρα και τις διασυνδέσεις αυτής της περιόδου, ο Καποδίστριας την έθεσε κατόπιν στην υπηρεσία του οράματος για το οποίο τελικά έδωσε την ζωή του, δηλαδή την ανάδυση του Νέου Ελληνικού Κράτους.

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G.Chiesa

Ο πρώην ευρωβουλευτής και δημοσιογράφος Giulietto Chiesa μετέφερε κατόπιν τον έντονο προβληματισμό του για την σημερινή κρίση στον ευρωπαϊκό χώρο και ιδιαίτερα στις χώρες του Νότου, ευχαριστώντας τους Ενεργούς Πολίτες που του έδωσαν την ευκαιρία να ανακαλύψει τον Καποδίστρια και το έργο του στην Ευρώπη σε συνδυασμό με την προσφορά του Α. Σπινελλι, στα θεμέλια της ΕΕ. Υπογράμμισε το έλλειμμα δημοκρατίας που διαρκώς μεγεθύνεται σήμερα μέσα στην ΕΕ αναδεικνύοντας το νευραλγικό και κυρίαρχο ρόλο του χρηματοπιστωτικού κόσμου, ιδίως των τραπεζών, και μάλιστα της Ευρωπαϊκής Τράπεζας, η οποία είναι ΝΠΙΔ, έναντι της υποβάθμισης των δημοκρατικών ευρωπαϊκών θεσμών. Παρατήρησε ότι η σημερινή κρίση του ευρώ είναι στην πραγματικότητα κρίση του δολαρίου, συνέπεια της κρίσης των sub-primes. Πρότεινε στην συνεχεία την ενδυνάμωση των δημοκρατικών θεσμών της Ευρώπης και συγκεκριμένα την εθνικοποίηση των κεντρικών τραπεζών των ευρωπαϊκών χωρών όπως και της ΕΚΤ.

Αναφέρθηκε μάλιστα στη διάθεση 1 τρισεκατομμύριο ευρώ από την ΕΚΤ προς τις τράπεζες του ευρωπαϊκού χώρου, με τόκο 1%, κεφάλαια τα οποία οι τράπεζες χρησιμοποίησαν για να δανείσουν τις χώρες του νότου με 4%, δηλαδή με σοβαρό κέρδος.

CSE_Simera_Koukos
Α. Κούκος

Ο Ανδρέας Κούκος, ιστορικός, καθηγητής στην Στρατιωτική Σχολή και πρόεδρος του Συλλόγου Μελέτης του έργου του Ι. Καποδίστριας, συνοψίζοντας τα λεγόμενα των προηγούμενων εισηγητών, αναφέρθηκε και στις πολλαπλές επισκέψεις του τα τελευταία χρόνια στην Αίγινα με την ευκαιρία εκδηλώσεων, ιδίως των Ενεργών Πολιτών και του Δήμου, για την μελέτη και την διάδοση του έργου του Κυβερνήτη αναδεικνύοντας το πρωτοποριακό ρόλο του Ι. Καποδίστρια στον ευρωπαϊκό χώρο. Αναφέρθηκε δε στην ειδική μνεία που κάνει στα γραπτά του ο Χ. Κισσινγκερ στον Ι. Καποδίστρια περιγράφοντας τον ως συνταγματικό διαιτητή της Ευρώπης. Ανήγγειλε δε την προσεχή δημοσίευση, από την εταιρία της οποίας είναι πρόεδρος, σημαντικών νέων αρχειακών πηγών για τον Καποδίστρια από τις ευρωπαϊκές χώρες. Τονίζοντας την σπουδαιότητα της ιστορικής αρχειακής έρευνας και των αρχείων, ο Α. Κούκος θύμισε την μοναδική αξία του μικρού τοπικού καποδιστριακού αρχείου της Αίγινας, πρώτου κρατικού ελληνικού αρχείου, του οποίου πρέπει να διαφυλαχτεί η προσβασιμότητα.

CSE_Simera_Syzitisi
Συζήτηση

Στη μακρά και έντονη συζήτηση που ακολούθησε, εκφράσθηκε ο βαθύς προβληματισμός και οι ανησυχίες των πολιτών μπροστά στην δομική και μακροχρόνια κρίση την οποία ζούμε και προτάθηκε η σύνταξη μιας Διακήρυξης της Αίγινας, στην κατεύθυνση του εκδημοκρατισμού του Ευρωπαϊκού οικοδομήματος στο πνεύμα του Ι. Καποδίστρια και του Α. Σπινέλλι. Πρόταση των Ενεργών Πολιτών βρίσκεται σε εξέλιξη σε συνεννόηση με το Δήμο της Αίγινας για την ευρωπαϊκή αναγνώριση του έργου του Καποδίστρια και μάλιστα την ονοματοδοσία σημαντικού κοινοτικού κτιρίου στις Βρυξέλλες προς τιμή του Κυβερνήτη.

Wayne Hall, Zwi Georgiadou, Stratos Pantavos

Ο Wayne Hall, Η Ζωή Γεωργιάδου και ο Στράτος Πανταβός.


1η Νοεμβρίου 2013

Από το κανάλι VMedia της Αθήνας. Συνεχίζεται η συζήτηση που ξεκίνησε στην Αίγινα στις 23 Ιουνίου 2013. Με τον Giulietto Chiesa - δημοσιογράφο, πρώην ευρωβουλευτή - και τον Virgilio Dastoli, πρώην γραμματέα του Altiero Spinelli, μέλος της Ομάδας Spinelli, πρόεδρο του Movimento Europeo. Συμμετέχουν ο Στράτος Πανταβός και ο Wayne Hall του Συλλόγου Ενεργών Πολιτών της Αίγινας και ο Θάνος Κονταργύρης της κίνησης πολιτών ATTAC-Hellas.

Egine, le paradis perdu des révolutionnaires de Syriza

https://www.letemps.ch/monde/2017/08/24/egine-paradis-perdu-revolutionnaires-syriza

L’île a longtemps été le lieu de villégiature préféré de la gauche radicale. Mais Alexis Tsipras et Cie ne s’y montrent plus guère depuis qu’ils ont ployé devant Bruxelles. L’écrivain Alexandre Kollatos a pris le parti d’en rire.

Alexandre Kollatos, comédien et auteur franco-grec, prononce sur l’île d’Egine quelques mots à l’issue de la représentation de sa dernière satire, «Yanis et Alexis»: «Déçu par ce couple politique que j’avais pourtant soutenu et pour lequel j’avais voté, j’ai écrit ce texte pour faire rire.» Les deux principaux personnages de la pièce sont Yanis Varoufakis, ministre grec des Finances, et Alexis Tsipras, premier ministre. Au premier semestre 2015, le duo avait tenu en haleine toute l’Europe, tentant de mettre un terme aux politiques d’austérité imposées au pays depuis 2010 et de les remplacer par des solutions alternatives. Les négociations avec les créanciers du pays dureront six mois, avant de se solder, face à l’intransigeance de leurs interlocuteurs, par des résultats décevants: la signature d’un nouvel accord avec l’Union Européenne, la BCE et le FMI, qui impose à la Grèce de nouvelles mesures d’austérité, et la démission de Yanis Varoufakis. Cette période sert de trame à Alexandre Kollatos. L’auteur transforme le duo aux manettes du pays en un couple passionné, qui se débat à Bruxelles et rompt au bout de six mois.

La satire séduit. Ce 13 août au soir, la centaine de chaises déposées devant la scène en plein air n’ont pas suffi pour accueillir le public: il a fallu en réquisitionner dans la maison voisine. Un tel engouement n’est pas un hasard. Syriza est en chute libre dans les sondages et la déception gagne la population.

Un ultime espoir

Ainsi, dans toutes les enquêtes d’opinion, le parti du premier ministre oscille désormais entre 16 et 17% d’intention de vote, loin derrière son rival de droite, Nouvelle Démocratie (ND), qui caracole à 23,5% et plus. En janvier 2015, Syriza avait recueilli 36,34% des suffrages et frôlé la majorité absolue au parlement. Depuis, il y a eu l’accord avec l’UE et son flot de mesures impopulaires, une 13ème coupe dans les retraites en 5 ans, des hausses de taxes, etc. Alexandre Kollatos a «voulu montrer le ridicule des négociations et le manque de sérieux d’Alexis et Yanis». Et d’expliquer: «Nous les Grecs, nous les avions considérés comme un ultime espoir d’une solution pour le pays.»

Le choix du lieu a recelé une pointe d’humour supplémentaire. Quand Syriza est arrivé à la tête du gouvernement, en janvier 2015, les commentateurs ont évoqué «la bande d’Egine». A une heure d’Athènes, cette île avait des allures d’annexe du conseil des ministres. Nombre de membres du gouvernement et de députés y ont une résidence secondaire. Ils y viennent régulièrement en villégiature, comme le professeur de sociologie Konstandinos Tsoukalas, ou l’actuel ministre de l’Enseignement, Kostas Gavroglou. Surtout, c’est sur ce caillou du golfe Saronique que se sont rencontrés Yanis Varoufakis et Alexis Tsipras.

L’affaire remonte à 2012. Le Pasok, parti social-démocrate grec qu’avait conseillé Yanis Varoufakis, est alors en chute libre. Lors des élections qui ont lieu cette année-là, Syriza, le parti de la gauche radicale, effectue une percée avec Alexis Tsipras à sa tête. Un Alexis Tsipras qui fréquente régulièrement l’île d’Egine depuis qu’Alekos Flambouraris, ancien membre du parti communiste et personnalité influente de la formation, y a emmené le jeune dirigeant. «Depuis qu’il a 17 ans, il est comme mon fils, confie le père spirituel de Tsipras, habitué d’Egine de longue date. C’est comme s’il était originaire de l’île.»

Des promesses trahies

«Un hasard professionnel m’a amené ici en 1979. Ingénieur en bâtiment, j’y ai construit la maison d’un camarade, qui a depuis rejoint un autre parti, précise le septuagénaire devenu ministre (sans porte-feuille). Egine, de fait, avait de quoi lui plaire. C’est là qu’a été battue la première monnaie grecque dans l’Antiquité, là que le 26 janvier 1828, trois ans avant d’être assassiné, Ioannis Kapodistrias avait formé le premier gouvernement de la Grèce indépendante, avec Egine pour éphémère capitale. «C’est une île d’artistes et d’intellectuels proche d’Athènes», souligne Alekos Flambouraris. Pas une île de gauche, mais une île où une part de la gauche grecque prend ses quartiers d’été depuis 30 ans. Les habitués se souviennent même que «tous les 28 juillet, Alexis Tsipras venait fêter son anniversaire ici, chez Flambouraris.» Cette année cependant, personne ne l’a vu.

«Avant, toutes ces personnalités déambulaient sur le port, nous pouvions parler avec eux. Maintenant, ils restent dans leurs propriétés, ils ne veulent pas affronter les critiques», se plaint une habitante. «Ils n’ont pas respecté leurs promesses», tempête un certain Simos.

Attablé à une terrasse de café, sous l’oeil vigilant de deux garde-du-corps, Alekos Flambouraris justifie la politique du gouvernement: «Le chômage est passé de plus de 27% à 21,3%. Nous essayons d’améliorer la situation, notamment celle des plus défavorisés. Si Nouvelle Démocratie était encore au pouvoir, les choses seraient pires. Le chômage s’élèverait à plus de 30%.» Quelques mètres plus loin, Thanassis, serveur au café Nisos, affirme que la population s’appauvrit. «Il aurait fallu changer beaucoup de choses dans le pays, comme les relations clientélistes mais le gouvernement n’a pas su motiver la population», analyse-t-il avant de lâcher: «La politique n’est plus que du marketing. Varoufakis est parti quand il le fallait.» L’ancien ministre des Finances se promène souvent à Egine. Sans encombre. Comme si, dans cette saga grecque, il avait fini par avoir le beau rôle.

Greece: A (Basket) Case Study In Savage Globalization

SOURCE: MINTPRESSNEWS

Let’s face the problem of our colonial status. Let’s work to find a solution for it. Let’s decolonize our minds and spirits and become real citizens of Puerto Rico.”

Rivera’s words were, of course, made in reference to Puerto Rico. However, it can be said that they are also applicable to many other nations, including nominally independent states such as Greece, a country which has been ravaged by almost a decade of stifling economic austerity imposed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF); a country which could be described as a modern-day debt colony.

Having been raised in the United States as a “third culture kid,” with one foot in the U.S. and one foot in Greece, allows me to see things in both societies simultaneously as a native and as a relative outsider. This has particularly been true during the past four-plus years, a period in which I have resided almost full-time in Athens as a doctoral student and journalist.

Modern-day Greece: Fatalism, defeatism and hopelessness

The extent of the demoralization of the Greek people is plainly evident through everyday conversations and encounters. Ordinary Greeks, upon learning that I came to the country to perform academic research, react in surprise and confusion, wondering why anyone would be crazy enough to come to Greece to stay for an extended period. Years ago, soon after the onset of the crisis, two different taxi drivers, upon realizing that I was from overseas, questioned why I chose to come to Greece. “Why are you here? Don’t you see what is happening?” I was asked. “Leave now, as quickly as you can!”

Farmers stand behind a makeshift fire in front of tractors, near Kerdilia, Greece. (AP/Giannis Papanikos)

Farmers stand behind a makeshift fire in front of tractors, near Kerdilia, Greece. (AP/Giannis Papanikos)

Another driver interrogated me about job conditions in the United States, clearly because he had emigration on his mind. When I would mention that I was in Greece to perform academic research, but more importantly, because it was my homeland, people looked at me, quite simply, as if I were crazy.

On other occasions, upon learning that I am an autodidact in the Greek language, Greeks openly wondered why I chose to learn such an “insignificant” language as Greek, instead of a language which offered “potential,” such as German.

I could not escape this pessimism, even back in the United States in faraway Texas. At a farewell party for two Greek-American students who were graduating from my university, one of the students expressed interest in teaching English in Greece and living there for six months or a year. A student from Greece who was part of the conversation, however, warned her against such folly. “Don’t do it, you won’t like it,” he exclaimed. “Greece is only good for summer vacations.”

As far back as the “good old days” of the 1990s, when as a child I was privileged enough to travel to Greece with my family during the summer, I often used to hear mutterings about how much better things would be if Germans ruled Greece instead of the Greeks. Today, eight years into the worst economic crisis a developed country has endured in modern history and at a time when Greece is essentially governed by Brussels and Berlin, one still hears such sentiments expressed with alarming frequency.

Interviews, both academic and journalistic, that I have conducted dating back several years have revealed an overriding sentiment of hopelessness, a belief that the economic crisis that had befallen the country would not be overcome for many, many years. And while the crisis has indeed dragged on, one wonders to what extent such sentiments are self-fulfilling, as a result of the inertia and paralysis which result from the belief that nothing can or will change.

 

Mental colonization

In a 2013 interview which originally aired on Dialogos Radio, John Perkins, author of the bestselling book “Confessions of an Economic Hitman,” described how “economic hitmen” from institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, as well as from the private sector, combine their economic takeover of an indebted nation, such as Greece, with a process of mental colonization:

…[T]hat’s part of the game: convince people that they’re wrong, that they’re inferior. The corporatocracy is incredibly good at that… It’s a policy of them versus us: We are good. We are right. We do everything right. You’re wrong. And in this case, all of this energy has been directed at the Greek people to say ‘you’re lazy; you didn’t do the right thing; you didn’t follow the right policies.”

An observer will quickly determine that Perkins’ words ring true in the case of Greece. Complaining, which was practically a national pastime in the pre-crisis years, has reached stratospheric proportions. A general sense of collective guilt permeates Greek society, and it is common to hear discussions and statements about how “we elected these leaders, we were corrupt, we weren’t good citizens, therefore we deserve our current predicament and everything that is being done to us.” If you note a fatalistic undertone in these utterances, you’re not alone.

This collective guilt has been strongly encouraged by Greece’s political class, who ironically are responsible to a significant degree for Greece’s present-day crisis. Former longtime government minister Theodoros Pangalos, infamous for his salty mouth and previously described by best-selling author Greg Palast as a “fat bastard,” cynically stated at the onset of the crisis that “we ate it all together,” insinuating that Greek citizens benefited collectively from the corruption, nepotism, and cronyism that previous governments (including his own) habitually engaged in.

Following from this collective guilt is a new trend in Greece in which people insist on engaging in what they believe to be the sort of “self-criticism” practiced in other “civilized” countries. In reality, as will be demonstrated, it is sentiments of self-loathing and inferiority which are expressed instead of frank and constructive criticism of the nation’s ills. In turn, these sentiments foster feelings of apathy, hopelessness and paralysis on a national scale, acting as obstacles to any positive transformation.

 

Greece: The worst in everything?

Contributing to the general sense of helplessness and hopelessness is a commonly-held view that Greece and Greek society are inferior to the “civilized” – as they are often called – countries of the West. This inferiority complex deeply pervades the Greek psyche and every aspect of present-day Greek society.

Greek Protesters hold European flags during an anti government rally outside the Greek parliament, central Athens, June 20 , 2017. (AP/Petros Giannakouris)

Greek Protesters hold European flags during an anti government rally outside the Greek parliament, central Athens, June 20 , 2017. (AP/Petros Giannakouris)

Such a mentality has long been present in Greece. Successive waves of immigration out of Greece throughout the 20th century and into the 1970s resulted in a mentality which still lingers, that the “grass is always greener” overseas. With the onset of the economic crisis in 2008-2009, a new wave of emigration out of Greece commenced and approximately 600,000 individuals left Greece during this period. This new wave of emigration has resulted in the re-emergence of these old mentalities.

Old attitudes die hard, and in hearing many Greeks describe their country, one detects an overriding attitude, a prevailing sentiment that views Greece as a “banana republic” and “uncivilized” and that everything is better overseas in the aforementioned “civilized” countries of Northern Europe and the West. There is indeed a Greek word for this mentality: “xenomania,” literally meaning a fascination with anything foreign. Xenomania is rampant in Greece: ranging from the use of “Greeklish” instead of the Greek language, to the all-encompassing preference for seemingly anything foreign, from food to music to fashion.

A common refrain that is heard in Greece whenever anything negative occurs in the country, no matter how minor or inconsequential, is that such things occur “only in Greece.” These assertions often reach epically absurd proportions.

In February, a horrific car accident on one of Greece’s national highways resulted in the death of four people, including a pregnant woman and her three-year-old child who were sitting in an automobile parked at a rest stop. Immediately, a chorus of comments was heard throughout the traditional and social media about how terrible Greece is in all aspects. An ex-race car driver and current driving school owner, known popularly as “Iaveris,” stated on national television in response to the tragedy that “Greeks are the worst people in the world,” a remark which was met with overwhelming agreement in Greece’s public discourse.

This same “logic” is regularly and consistently applied to every real or perceived negative story, event, or facet of life in Greece. Cost overruns on a public works project? Only in Greece! Government corruption? Nowhere is it worse than in Greece! Major bankers and politicians going unpunished for their crimes? Only in Greece! Destructive forest fires? Football fans rioting? Doctors practicing medicine without a license? Workers being obliged to work unpaid overtime hours? Crooked taxi drivers that overcharge passengers? Cruelty towards animals? Small businesses that don’t issue a receipt for a minor purchase? Unfair judicial decisions? Low quality, sensational media outlets? Garbage strikes, or strikes of any variety? You get the point. Apparently, all of these terrible things are the exclusive traits of, exist in, or occur only in Greece.

A motorcyclist looks on as he drives next to a pile of garbage in Piraeus, near Athens, on Monday, June 26, 2017. Municipality workers have been on strike for almost a week , hindering trash collection across the country. (AP/Petros Giannakouris)

A motorcyclist looks on as he drives next to a pile of garbage in Piraeus, near Athens, on Monday, June 26, 2017. Municipality workers have been on strike for almost a week , hindering trash collection across the country. (AP/Petros Giannakouris)

Compounding this confounding line of thinking, most Greeks seemingly do not want to hear anything contradicting these widely-held beliefs that Greece is a corrupt, worthless, useless nation, the worst in anything and everything. Evidence or arguments to the contrary are not ordinarily received in a positive manner.

ndeed, it is quite likely that one will be attacked, frequently quite nastily, for pointing out that, for instance, German aviation workers were on strike for more days than their Greek counterparts, or that corruption and crime and violence exists in other developed countries and are not the exclusive realm of Greece. When all else fails and they find themselves devoid of a counterargument, a simple “yes, but we’re worse anyway” serves as an all-purpose catch-all to continue insisting what a horrible species Greeks are. It truly has attained the status of a fetish.

Related to this mindset is a longstanding need for positive affirmation from “outside.” The opinions of foreigners and visitors to Greece are held in high regard – certainly much higher than the thoughts of fellow Greeks. Evening television newscasts invariably accompany significant stories about Greek economic or political developments with a rundown of how the foreign press and overseas news agencies are evaluating these stories.

A favorite of the news media are the seemingly never-ending “evaluations” of the extent to which Greece is meeting the fiscal targets set for it by its “saviors” in the troika of Greece’s lenders: the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF. Like a teacher lecturing a wayward student, the Greek media breathlessly report on the evaluation of foreign bankers and credit rating agencies, pedantically informing the public whether Greece is a “model student” of sound finance or not.

Ironically, when hatchet jobs have been performed against Greece by the international media – such as during the onset of the crisis, where numerous foreign (particularly German, British and American) media outlets published highly derogatory and racist accounts of the Greek crisis, portraying Greeks as lazy, culturally deficient and reckless, there was nary a word of organized protest out of Greece. The same was true in the 1990s, when Greece was, for example, absurdly blamed by Western media for the TWA Flight 800 disaster and described as a hotbed of terrorism, or deemed too incompetent and incapable of organizing the 2004 Summer Olympic Games prior to the event.

The evaluation of foreigners is valued, so long as they are foreigners from “civilized” countries which, in the eyes of many Greeks, are paragons of virtue and rule of law and can do no wrong. By comparison, Greece is viewed by Greeks themselves as a country that can barely do anything right.

Even positive news is often dismissed. Stories of Greek students who earned an award or distinction are met by comments about how they should “go abroad” to “save themselves.” A significant sporting achievement, such as Greece’s recent gold medal in the European under-20 basketball championships, inevitably leads to comments such as how “basketball is the only thing that functions properly in Greece.”

As with purported self-criticism, so-called self-deprecation is popular in Greece. Dating back well before the economic crisis, the material of stand-up comedians and television satire programs airing on outlets owned by corrupt oligarchs with specific political and social agendas invariably focused on corrupt, thieving or incompetent Greeks, the crooked government and the “dysfunction” of “Greek reality.” As with many stereotypes, there is a degree of truth – but when repeated ad nauseum, even in satirical form, such portrayals attain the de facto status of being the whole, entire truth.

Indeed, the media, just like the politicians, love to foster hopelessness and despair in the populace, whilst pushing a globalized diet of programming down people’s throats. Television newscasts frequently feature stories about Greeks who “made it” abroad, with their success generally attributed to the fact that they left Greece and found their fortunes in a “civilized” country. The “success stories” of those who opened a café in Helsinki or landed a job with NASA in Houston are touted; accounts of the less successful are ignored.

Life in these countries is idealized, and is often accompanied by stories of the Greek “brain drain,” or of innovative Greeks who found their entrepreneurial ideas stifled by “Greek bureaucracy”—without, however, ever performing any deeper investigation into exactly why the bureaucracy and public sector operate in such a manner. Foreign movies and TV series further paint an idealized portrait of the “civilized West.”

Years ago, pre-crisis, I recall being asked, in one conversation, if my family’s home in the United States was similar to that of “the Winslow family” (referencing the TV series “Family Matters”). This mentality is further reinforced by the experiences of many Greeks, whose only time spent abroad may have been a shopping trip to London, a vacation to the tourist attractions of Paris or Rome, or a few years spent in the artificial bubble of the “ivory tower” of academia, studying at a foreign university campus.

Exceptions do exist, and where they do, ridicule oftentimes follows. In a 2011 interview, Greek-American actress and television presenter Maria Menounos, who resides in the United States, stated her desire of eventually making Greece her permanent home. Reporting on this interview, privately-owned national broadcaster Alpha TV—at the time owned by the German RTL Group—heavily ridiculed Menounos for her interest in moving to a country whose residents all wish to leave. Through the tone of its report, Alpha TV portrayed Menounos (and by extension, anyone else who might harbor similar thoughts) as delusional, while reflecting the status quo school of thought that people are better off leaving the country, rather than staying – or, for that matter, moving to Greece from abroad.

In another example from 2012, Greek actress Katerina Moutsatsos, who also resides in the United States, produced a YouTube video titled “I Am Hellene,” a production which was meant to raise the spirits of the Greek people and to express some pride that was (and still is) sorely lacking. The video quickly went viral, soliciting a tremendous response from the media and the public – largely consisting of derision, insults, and vitriol. Some accused Moutsatsos of being a “fascist,” others mocked anyone who would even consider saying anything positive about Greece.

One particularly insidious form of conditioning is performed by Greek sports journalists. Knowing that they are reaching a demographic largely comprised of young men who are often frustrated and jobless, and resentful towards the Greek state for obligating them to spend nine months performing useless and menial tasks as military conscripts, these journalists, somewhat subliminally, use their platform to play with their audience’s frustration while delivering messages meant to further perpetuate the Greek inferiority complex.

For instance, the beautiful football palaces of England or Spain, the “well-behaved” spectators, the amazing and superior athletes, are all touted ad infinitum, which constant references to “corrupt Greek athletics” and “decrepit stadiums” and “incompetence,” messages which are taken to heart by a demographic that likely doesn’t watch television newscasts or regularly visit online news portals. The behavior of, say, British or German or other European football fans outside the stadium and outside the country is conveniently overlooked, while Greek spectators are lectured about their “lack of civility,” criticisms then parroted by legions of sports fans across Greece.

Devaluing the domestic, lionizing the foreign

The cultural and mental colonization of Greece has also resulted in the phenomenon of mimicry. The behaviors and habits of the “civilized West” are increasingly being adopted and naturalized, at the expense of anything Greek. Domestic products and culture are often viewed as passé, old-fashioned, or outdated.

The examples are numerous. For instance, it is fashionable for Greek women to ensure their skin is as white and pale as possible—quite an accomplishment in a Mediterranean climate and with a Mediterranean skin tone—while blonde is the hair color of choice. Young men have fully adopted hipster fashion, including full beards and “retro” mustaches, in another trend that has arrived from abroad.

In the movie “National Lampoon’s European Vacation,” a stereotypical French waiter snidely remarks in French, “two American champagnes” when the Griswold family orders two Coca-Colas. Today, a more apt description might be “Greek champagne.” Attentive guests at restaurants in Greece, in observing the habits of Greek patrons, will notice that Coca-Cola products are consumed at practically every table, while beer, instead of wine or retsina or ouzo, is overwhelmingly the alcoholic beverage of choice.

Greek commuters stand near a McDonald's restaurant in Marathon, Greece. (AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Greek commuters stand near a McDonald’s restaurant in Marathon, Greece. (AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)

In everyday conversation, more and more English words are making their appearance, not just in order to describe new, foreign concepts or ideas for which there may not necessarily be a Greek translation, but also words for which there is a perfectly ordinary Greek equivalent. For instance, “live” is now used to denote a live broadcast or a live concert, instead of the Greek equivalents of “live.” “Off” is uttered instead of the Greek equivalent, while other words and phrases such as “air conditioning” or “parking” are now far more commonly used than their well-known and easy-to-remember Greek language versions. Looking at Greece’s burgeoning startup scene, the lingua franca is English, even in social media conversations between Greeks, residing in Greece, who are active in this sector. Insisting on speaking only in Greek is a surefire way to be branded “old-fashioned” or “nationalist.”

An examination of storefronts in any city, town, or tourist resort in Greece will show that the majority of business names are non-Greek. Most television and radio stations have adopted foreign or transliterated names: “Skai” (Sky) TV and Radio, Star Channel, Antenna TV, Alpha TV and Epsilon TV (written in English), Real FM, Athens Deejay, Sport FM, Kiss FM, and numerous others. Foreign names are considered “hip” and “marketable,” Greek names old-fashioned and backward.

Indeed, as a radio producer, I’ve found that scanning a city’s radio stations often provides great insights into the local culture and tastes. In Athens, more radio stations play non-Greek music than Greek music. More radio stations in Athens play American and British pop and rock music, than in New York City or London. The aforementioned “xenomania” in all its glory.

The pale-skinned women and the men with bushy hipster beards and Uncle Pennybags mustaches are often seen adorning apparel and accessories, such as t-shirts or handbags, which prominently display the British or American or even German flags. Wearing anything depicting the Greek flag, however, is a swift and certain way to be branded a member of the “far-right,” a “nationalist,” an “ethnocentrist,” a “racist,” and a “xenophobe.”

In Athens and in all cities and towns throughout Greece, many of the major thoroughfares are not named after prominent Greeks of the country’s ancient and modern past (save for politicians, who ensured certain roads were named after themselves), but are named after members of Greece’s foreign-imposed and long-abolished Bavarian royalty, such as Queen Amalia and King Constantine. These street names serve as everyday reminders of Greece’s neo-colonial past. Famous ancient Greek figures such as Socrates and Plato are typically relegated to the names of secondary thoroughfares and back streets.

Divide and conquer in action

Divide and conquer is a technique that historically has been utilized by colonizers to weaken colonized peoples, turning native populations against each other instead of against their conquerors. However, this is a technique which is equally effective in countries which are nominally independent, as in the case of Greece.

Employed to perfection by Greece’s “guardians,” such as the British and the Bavarians, in the early years following independence from the Ottoman Empire, divide and conquer has been employed repeatedly since then, such as in the aftermath of World War II, when the main Greek resistance movement, accused of supporting communism, was pitted against far-right collaborationist forces, resulting in a two-year civil war. The collaborators, with the help of “allies” such as the British, emerged victorious and asserted their control over the country.

Divide and conquer is still used in a number of clever and carefully cultivated ways in Greece today. One of the main dividing lines that has been developed over a series of decades is that between the public and private sectors. Fueling this division has been decades of public sector ineptitude and inefficiency. Public sector employees have been viewed as privileged, coddled, and corrupt; public services and utilities have themselves been considered spendthrift, mismanaged, and havens of corruption and nepotism.

Employees in the private sector are resentful of these public sector privileges and advantages, real or imagined, and the media and politicians have gladly taken advantage of the divide. When, for instance, wages in the private sector are slashed, at the insistence of the troika, private sector employees, instead of questioning why their salaries should be cut, openly question why the public sector is not subjected to similar reductions (even if, in reality, public sector wages have also been repeatedly cut).

What nobody seems to ask or understand is exactly why the Greek public sector operates in the manner in which it does. Instead, it’s assumed that it’s the result of some sort of general deficiency of the Greek populace – the “lazy Greeks” meme that is also often repeated in the foreign press. The true answer, however, may be hinted at in an intriguing document, openly featured by the CIA on its website, titled “Timeless Tips for Simple Sabotage.”

In this manual, strategies to destabilize adversaries from within via their public sector and bureaucracy are outlined. Some of these strategies may seem familiar to anyone who has dealt with Greek bureaucracy: lowering morale by issuing undeserved promotions while discriminating against efficient employees, making simple tasks and processes as complicated as possible, and putting off more pressing priorities for endless meetings of “committees.” While this document supposedly is no longer in use, there is no reason to believe that its strategies were not, and are not, still utilized – or that such methods were only used against “enemy” states.

Still, the damage has been done, and the hatred and disgust which many in the Greek private sector and the populace at large feel towards the public sector and its employees has helped pave the way for the tacit acceptance of privatizations of key public assets, utilities, and services, such as airports, harbors, and telecommunications infrastructure.

A simple example suffices to illustrate just how deeply ingrained this divide is. While 90 percent of OTE, the former state telecommunications monopoly, is now owned by Deutsche Telekom and other private investors, and while the privatization of OTE began in 1996, it is still largely considered state-owned (the state actually owns only 10 percent of OTE) and its employees “public servants.” In a recent visit to an isolated Greek island where OTE was the only broadband provider, Internet access was consistently “down” for at least 16 hours per day. Locals I spoke with blamed “lazy public servants” for the problem – but were unaware that OTE has, for over 20 years, been privatized.

“We don’t produce anything”

Contributing further still to the misery and defeatism in Greece is a commonly-held perception that the country “doesn’t produce anything.” And this ostensibly being the case, it means that Greece is in a helpless position, reliant upon foreigners and particularly the EU. It is not unusual to hear Greeks talk about how “we are the beggars of Europe” and how “we cannot survive” without the EU.

The reality, however, is far more complex. It is certainly true that Greece’s productive base has diminished since the early 1980s (Greece entered the EU in 1981). There are several reasons for this. Some of these reasons have to do with the EU and its regulations, such as its common agricultural policies, which dictates to member-states what to grow, what not to grow, what seeds and crop varieties are permitted or prohibited, where to export and at what prices, and where not to export. Greece’s agricultural base has, as a result, been battered since 1981.

During this same period, increased foreign influence and the arrival of “easy money” from “Europe” led more and more people to desire what they perceived to be a more “European” lifestyle and career. Working the land was old-fashioned and backwards; a desk job or studying to become a lawyer or doctor was the thing to do. Never mind that even if there was no economic crisis, Greece could not possibly absorb so many doctors and lawyers – and even more so when very few doctors, if any, are willing to go to smaller islands and rural regions which are truly in need of their services.

A tractor carries crates of grapes at a vineyard in Tirnavos, central Greece. The European Union has given Greece two months to double taxes on tsipouro, arguing it does not have the right to keep a reduced duty that is reserved for some traditionally made products. (AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

A tractor carries crates of grapes at a vineyard in Tirnavos, central Greece. The European Union has given Greece two months to double taxes on tsipouro, arguing it does not have the right to keep a reduced duty that is reserved for some traditionally made products. (AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

These areas, unfortunately, did not offer the “European lifestyle,” complete with hipster pubs and sushi bars, that the new generation, encouraged by their parents, craved. Even in cases where young adults are in a position where they can take over a successful family-owned business, they often opt to pursue a profession seen to deliver more status and prestige – even if it means leaving Greece in the process.

Since the early 1980s, Greece’s borders were also opened up to imports from other EU member-states, particularly Europe’s export powerhouse, Germany. Greece’s previously successful industry, producing everything from buses and tractors to refrigerators and stoves, was wrecked. Many industries were bought out, shuttered, or operations were outsourced. Under the dictates of Greece’s so-called “bailout” agreements, many remaining industries, including the Hellenic Vehicle Industry (which, for example, produces buses, trolleys, and military vehicles) and the Hellenic arms and defense industries are slated for privatization or closure.

Meanwhile, a visit to any supermarket and careful observation of the purchasing habits of ordinary Greeks reveals a marked preference for foreign products, even when similar (and often higher quality) domestic products are available. Oftentimes, Greek products simply go unnoticed. At other times, they are considered old-fashioned, while many shoppers complain that they are expensive – which, actually, is frequently not the case.

This author, in keeping with a “shop local” philosophy which was also practiced in the United States, purchases almost exclusively domestically-produced products without breaking the bank. According to many, this is simply not possible, for “we don’t produce anything,” and as one purportedly “anti-EU” activist once told me, “we need to buy [European] cheese for our kids’ sandwiches.”

Such “European cheeses” are found at the breakfast buffets of most Greek hotels, very few of which engage in any effort to promote domestic dishes and products to foreign visitors who, perhaps, might be interested in trying something different from what they are used to – or at least having something authentically Greek available as an option. Instead, one will invariably find butter from Denmark, marmalade from Bulgaria, milk from Germany, cheese from Holland and honey from Turkey. Locally-produced fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh-baked breads and pies, local juices and beverages, Greek yogurt and cheeses, and a host of other high-quality and widely-available domestic products, are not so widely available precisely at those locations where they should be exposed to the country’s visitors: hotels.

As one hotel owner in the island of Karpathos is said to have uttered, regarding the lack of local goods offered: “why should I make [local producers] big shots by offering their products?” Divide and conquer in action.

This fear of leaving Europe extends beyond just the material world. Academics at all educational levels are infamous for their love and support towards the EU. Many of them are beneficiaries of various European funding and grant programs or of scholarship and mobility programs such as Erasmus+, and are terrified of losing such privileges. What these educators fail to realize is that Erasmus+ is not limited to EU member-states, and that international and academic cooperation is not something that cannot exist independently of the EU.

In keeping with “European” norms, it should be no surprise, then, that changes to the educational curriculum have consistently reduced the emphasis on the Greek language, Greek history and ancient Greece, while since the 1980s, students are taught that they are “European first, then Greek.”

 

An abject lack of pride

In crisis-hit Greece, seemingly any positive statement about Greece or any refutal of “woe is me” statements such as “we’re the worst in everything,” is met with an immediate response, ranging from jeers to personal attacks and insults. Any expression of pride in anything pertaining to the country is construed as “ethnocentrism” and “nationalism.” Even insisting on speaking proper Greek, instead of throwing in English for every second word uttered, is clearly a sign of “nationalism” and “far-right” tendencies. Wanting to stay in Greece for anything more than summer vacation is met with astonishment, while any suggestion that other “civilized” countries are not as perfect as thought, is met with anger.

If, like this author, the individual delivering that message happens to be, say, a Greek-American, diminutive remarks about “hazoamerikanakia” (gullible little Greek-Americans) who “don’t know anything about Greece” swiftly follow. Interestingly, a lack of knowledge about life abroad does not prevent the same individuals from relentless insistence about the perfection of “civilized” countries.

A man walks next a graffiti in central Athens on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

A man walks next a graffiti in central Athens on, June 19, 2012. (AP/Petros Giannakouris)

This lack of pride is reflected in more mundane everyday realities as well. Approximately half of Greece’s population has piled into the greater Athens area. Internal migration led to the population of the city skyrocketing in the postwar period. Built (very much intentionally) without any planning, zoning, or suitable infrastructure to handle this influx, the urban area faces a number of problems, from a lack of green space to crowded narrow streets, and for many decades, smog and pollution (though public transportation projects such as the metro system, and now the economic crisis, have minimized this problem).

Athens is a city where practically everybody is from somewhere else. And even after two or three generations of residing in Athens, most inhabitants don’t consider themselves Athenians, but instead, part of whatever region of Greece they trace their roots to. Since Athens is not “their” city, little emphasis is placed on striving to improve quality of life and living conditions in the city – such as cleaning up garbage, removing ugly graffiti, or repairing the city’s often tumultuous sidewalks.

A great deal of emphasis, however, is placed on grumbling about these quality of life issues. And, at the same time, most Athenians insist on remaining in Athens (even if jobless), and bristle at the suggestion of returning to their region of origin, even if they consider themselves members of that community and not Athenians. If they must leave, they’d rather emigrate abroad. It’s a complex mentality that an outsider cannot explain with anything resembling logic.

Of course, many do choose to leave – the country, that is. And if one thing is certain, it’s that many of the 600,000 or so who have departed Greece during the crisis have no intention of ever repatriating. Indeed, many Greeks who have left for “greener pastures” have actively attempted to conceal their Greek identity. This author has encountered numerous Greek students studying overseas – almost none of whom have any desire to return – who deliberately make efforts never to speak Greek or to ever associate with others of Greek origin.

Older generations of the Greek diaspora, in turn, often view Greece not much differently from many scholars of the classics and archaeology – that is, that nothing good has happened in Greece in 2,500 years. Many are highly critical of every aspect of Greek society, crossing the boundary from “tough love” to invective, while wearing permanent “blinders,” extolling the virtues and conveniently ignoring the deficiencies of their new homelands. Other members of the diaspora restrict their connection to Greece to summer vacations, folklore and partying. Interestingly, many are just as fanatical and divided along the lines of the corrupt political party system of Greece as their counterparts in the motherland.

 

A losing battle

Greece, like other countries of the Mediterranean, is a country whose people have a flair for the (over)dramatic. Sensationalism rules the roost, and in times of crisis, that sensationalism is of a highly negative, toxic nature. A brush fire near a historic site, for instance, is portrayed by yellow journalists and bloggers as the “DESTRUCTION OF A HISTORICAL MONUMENT.” An increase in imports of seafood—likely due to overfishing in the Greek seas—is headlined as “THE DEATH OF GREEK FISHING.” This scaremongering easily permeates the psyche of ordinary Greeks.

Exaggerations in the opposite direction are made about everything happening in the “civilized” countries. There is no crime – police officers patrol every corner. There is no nepotism or corruption – all these countries operate as total and complete meritocracies. Public works projects never go over budget, media outlets aren’t irresponsible, football fans never turn violent, higher education and university campuses are models of perfection, and all these countries are, of course, fiscally responsible and elect only politicians who care, first and foremost, about the best interests of their country and their people.

Constant comparisons are made to the perceived or real shortcomings of anything that is done in Greece with statements such as “oh, in the civilized countries, this is how it’s done.” In none of these countries are there economic difficulties, poverty, or homelessness, while Greece is, as one individual recently kept insisting to me, now a “third-world” basket case for these very reasons. I must have imagined all the homeless people that were an everyday part of life during my years in New York City or, say, my 2013 visit to Brussels!

In such an atmosphere, it’s no surprise that most faces I see on the street in Athens seem to have etched into permanent frowns. It’s not a shock that suicides – once rare in this sunny Mediterranean nation with a pleasant climate – have skyrocketed and are in a sense lionized, viewed as an unavoidable inevitability and a heroic act of “resistance.”

A man sleeps at the entrance of a bank branch in Athens, July 24, 2017. (AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

A man sleeps at the entrance of a bank branch in Athens, July 24, 2017. (AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Meanwhile, real resistance on the streets and the picket lines is conspicuously lacking, as it mostly has been since early 2012, when the second memorandum was rammed into effect. Five years later, Greece has now enacted its fourth memorandum, or “bailout.” Protests are largely confined to spasmodic, isolated grievances – such as over measures permitting retail shops to operate on Sundays – which are ineffective, quickly forgotten, typically have low turnouts, and easily broken up by riot police if needed.

The entirety of the political representation in the Greek parliament is pro-EU and pro-Euro, even if this is couched in slightly different rhetoric from one party to another. Voter abstention has sharply increased in Greece and is likely to increase further. A significant amount of voters have given up – and many are simply waiting for a “savior” to arrive, or be imposed – from above, or from outside the country’s borders.

Here, divide and conquer rears its head again: between “Europhiles” who believe Greece’s place is “in Europe” (where would it go, Antarctica?); those who desire closer alignment with the United States, NATO, and Israel; those who fall into some combination of the first two categories; and those who believe that Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the BRICS countries are Greece’s “saviors” despite there being absolutely no evidence that this is the case.

This divide mirrors, in many ways, the post-war left-right, fascist-communist dichotomy which resulted in the civil war and the deep societal wounds which followed, which was further exacerbated by regimes such as the U.S.-backed “regime of the colonels” between 1967-1974. Notably, none of these positions foresees a Greece that will stand up on its own and assert its sovereignty. It’s assumed and ingrained in the national psyche that Greece must be aligned with some power, operating as a vassal state in exchange for some marginal benefits and “protection.”

Just as with the claims that Greece “doesn’t produce anything,” we see nationwide Stockholm Syndrome in action again: Greece cannot survive without being ruled from outside. In the meantime, collective guilt abounds in Greece; guilt that frequently leads to shame, which often results in hopelessness or depression, as evidenced by the alarming increase in suicides. Throughout Greece, one encounters abandoned automobiles and motorcycles, left on the street, often with personal belongings still inside and license plates still attached. No effort is made to even attempt to sell these vehicles, even for scrap.

Storefronts are abandoned, often for years at a time. Mail piles up inside, garbage piles up outside, and the owners of these properties can’t be bothered to make an effort to clean these properties and make them presentable, if for nothing else than out of respect for neighbors and to prevent the neighborhood’s further decline into blight. Just in my neighborhood in Athens, a bookstore has been closed for a year or more, its books still on display in the window, covers slowly fading from exposure to sunlight. Nearby, increasingly petrified baked goods remain in the window of a suddenly shuttered bakery. Newly-closed businesses invariably post signs in their window announcing “renovations.” This is an attempt to “save face,” as these signs are quickly replaced by “for rent” signs. Increasingly, Greeks are not just giving up, they’re throwing in the towel.

Jean-Paul Sartre once famously stated that “a lost battle is a battle one thinks one has lost.” The tragic reality in Greece today, most Greeks, beaten down by the crisis and by the effects of what can be described as savage globalization, are plagued by feelings of collective guilt, self-loathing, hopelessness, feelings of inferiority, and apathy. The “inferiority” of Greece and the Greek people, and their “guilt,” are accepted as “facts of life.” It is, therefore, no surprise to see Greece ranked fourth worldwide in Bloomberg’s misery index for 2017.

When one believes they have lost a battle, that means that they also recognize some other entity as the victor. In the case of Greece, that victor could be recognized as the EU and countries considered by average Greeks as “superior” and “civilized.” Writing in 1377, North African historian and historiographer Ibn Khaldun provides us with insights which could help explain Greece’s “xenomania” and nationwide Stockholm Syndrome today:

The vanquished always want to imitate the victor in his distinctive mark, his dress, his occupation, and all his other conditions and customs. The reason for this is that the soul always sees perfection in the person who is superior to it and to whom it is subservient. It considers him perfect, either because the respect it has for him impresses it, or because it erroneously assumes that its own subservience to him is not due to the nature of defeat but to the perfection of the victor. If that erroneous assumption fixes itself in the soul, it becomes a firm belief. The soul, then, adopts all the manners of the victor and assimilates itself to him. This, then, is imitation.

It is, unfortunately, this very imitation that one observes in crisis-stricken Greece today. A society where the majority whines and complains, or simply gets up and leaves, but does not demand. A nation that is demoralized; defeated; consumed by hopelessness; devoid of pride, self-respect, and self-confidence; paralyzed by fear; hampered by ignorance; and gripped by feelings of inferiority, cannot deliver change.

This situation, of course, suits the powers that be magnificently. A society of self-loathers, a nation that is defeated and demoralized, will not pose a threat to those responsible for that oppression, while other “civilized” countries reap the ancillary benefits of the crisis, as the economic beneficiaries of the mass exodus and “brain drain” from Greece. This is savage globalization in action.

In other words, Greece is a prime candidate for, in the words of Oscar López Rivera, the kickstarting of a decolonization process. His words may have been intended for Puerto Rico, but they are similarly applicable to Greece. But will the people of Greece heed Oscar’s words?