By Haneul Na’avi
Greek-EU relations parallel the epic battle of Hesiod’s Theogony, in which Kronos (Saturn/ restriction) overthrows his father Uranus (innovation) to become ruler of the Cosmos, and then devours his five children save for Zeus (Jupiter/ expansion) to prevent their future uprising.
Similarly, the trade bloc has done the same by devouring Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Portugal, and Greece in order to cement dominion over Europe, using the global financial crisis as an impetus.
1. “[…] the son from his ambush stretched forth his left hand and […] swiftly lopped off his own father’s members…”
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ struggle with the bureaucratic Cerberus known as the European Troika—the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—failed after he betrayed former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who sought radical fiscal options to rescue Greece’s economy.
Tsipras later signed the 2015 Supplemental Memorandum of Understanding, which claimed to “tackle tax evasion, fraud and strategic defaulters”, but in reality, shackles the country to another immovable €85 billion bailout and imposes a neoliberal, graduated privatisation scheme.
Unsurprisingly, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein was the architect of Greece’s calamity, where in 2001 he feloniously hid Greece’s debts using complex credit default swaps in order to meet Eurozone requirements set by the Maastricht Treaty, but the spell did not last long.
“After the 9/11 attacks, bond yields plunged, resulting in a big loss for Greece because of the formula Goldman had used to compute the country’s debt repayments under the swap. By 2005, Greece owed almost double what it had put into the deal, pushing its off-the-books debt from 2.8 billion euros to 5.1 billion,” Salon reports.
“[…] as interest rates plunged and the swaps turned out to cost far more, Goldman and the other banks refused to let the municipalities refinance without paying hefty fees to terminate the deals.”
Since then, Hellenic ministers have desperately sought options to revitalise its economy whilst battling austerity, but even rational measures to save it have come under fire from Brussels.
In 2008, Greek ministers tried to bail out its national industry Hellenic Shipyards before selling it to a German enterprise, which was later declared an “illegal move under Brussels law”.
EU technocrats imposed “a six million euro upfront penalty on Greece’s cash-strapped government, to be followed by a daily levy of 34,974 euros,” the Express highlighted.
“[…] Greece will be required to pay 34,974 euros to Brussels every day until it has recouped all of the 250 million euros it used to bail out Hellenic Shipyards”.
The country continues to battles a Hydra of problems, and despite slow gains, very few options remain within the EU framework. Fortunately, it is not alone and there is still hope.2. “[…] and these goddesses never cease from their dread anger until they punish the sinner with a sore penalty…
The Eurozone debacle raises eyebrows regarding the Troika’s real intentions, as scapegoating continues to pervade mainstream media headlines without explaining the attacks and bailouts.
Paradoxically, underneath the miasma of lies and finger-pointing, a truth emerges: The Eurozone’s power rests in keeping Greece within its geopolitical orbit at all costs, and does so by exploiting Greek debt and “corruption”, which it consciously ignored in 2001.
Greece is one of the most geopolitically strategic energy transit hubs in Europe, which two multinational energy corporations—The European Commission Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) and Gazprom’s TurkStream Pipeline, fully understand.
“[The SGC] is arguably the global oil and gas industry’s most significant and ambitious undertaking yet […] – [involving] seven governments and 11 companies,” BP expressed.
Investors plan to construct the 550 km-long Trans Adriatic Pipeline through Greece, starting at Kipoi to connect to the Turkish Trans Anatolian Route (TANAP), and proceed to Albania and Italy. “Athens is vital to the success of the project, since the largest part of the pipeline crosses through Greece,” World Policy echoed in 2014.
Azerbaijan has been exploiting its Shah Deniz gas reserves in the Caspian Sea since 2006 and serves as the SGC’s main oil rig, and along with Western vassal state Georgia, earns significant transit revenues via the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCPX).
Unfortunately, Azerbaijan depends on disputed reserves, and other stakeholders—neighbouring Russia, Kazakhstan, and Armenia—are members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and expect the largest share, which further complicates matters.
[…] there are disputes between the five bordering states over where to demarcate the maritime borders and how to split up the energy resources,” Stratfor mentioned in a report.
“This has created a tense geopolitical environment in the region, with the Caspian Sea serving as an important area of competition between Russia and the West,” it continued.
Furthermore, Iran has also expressed interest in joining the EEU, compounding the EU’s troubles. “President Vladimir Putin […] has expressed hope that a free trade zone can soon be established between Iran and the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union,” the Tehran Times highlighted.
To date, Russia has had difficulty incorporating Greece into the TurkStream project after Western sanctions followed the Kyiv coup and MH17 sabotage, forcing EU member states into a common position policy, which has severely limited Greece’s political decision-making.
After Kyiv received a 17.5 billion IMF stabilisation package, it officially became a vassal state of the Eurozone, and unfortunately, the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline, the world’s largest pipeline network, lost its southernmost flank. Additionally, Kyiv refuses to pay back its 3 billion USD debt to Russia.
Sanctions also forced Gazprom to divert its attention from the defunct South Stream pipeline to the TurkStream, bypassing Bulgaria and Ukraine after they rejected the project due to EU pressure.
“Last year, Russia scrapped South Stream because of objections from the EU over its construction. It was to supply gas to Southern Europe via Bulgaria, avoiding Ukraine.” RT commented.
3. “Therefore he kept no blind outlook, but watched and swallowed down his children…”
Greece shares its concerns with other Southern European countries seeking to diversify their energy security, but have found it painstakingly difficult to accomplish. Christopher Coats of the London School of Economics goes into explicit detail:
The EU’s current approach to energy policy limits itself to issues of connectivity, energy security and the harmonisation of member states’ fragmented markets, and it is unlikely that the EU will seek to incentivise new hydrocarbons exploration and production.’ […] However, [its] weakened financial standing has made funds increasingly elusive.
Governments found quick targets for spending cuts in the state subsidy systems for renewable energy as the 2008 crisis took hold. Such cuts slowed interest in the sector, making it a far less attractive investment and hindering future planning […] Spain went from being a global leader of solar development and installation to a pariah of foreign investors in a matter of months.
Rather than compensating countries for lost green initiatives, the Commission simply demanded austerity. Despite this, EC parliamentarians continue to enjoy generous salaries and benefits.
Furthermore, the implementation of the COP21 Paris Agreement, which targets anthropogenic climate change, adds further bureaucratic obstacles to hydrocarbons exploration. According to it, “governments and investors will need to manage an orderly transition away from a fossil fuel dominated economy,” implied the Institution of Civil Engineers.
A 2009 European Commission document, “Second Strategic Energy Review” (COM/2008/781), reiterates this strategy, demanding to “identify and remove barriers to investment, including by means of streamlining of planning and consultation procedures or by appointing European coordinators, in particular for projects which improve interconnection.”
Greece, therefore, cannot exist independently, as the EU desperately seeks to prevent Athens from pivoting eastward, which challenges the Commission’s objectives. “[It] relies on the stability that Greece can offer as a mediator country […] thus bypassing Russian gas supplies,” World Policy continued.
Together, these legislative barriers favour EC agendas at the expense of state rights. “Greece is interested in building a gas pipeline, we are ready to take part in it, but everything depends on Europe,” Greek Energy Minister Panos Skourletis remarked about his interest in the TurkStream.
EU pundits have also voiced concerns over Greece’s pivot to Russia, insinuating that it could form an interregional coalition to strengthen non-EU energy partnerships. “It will try to form a common EU bloc with other member states that share the same position […] such as Italy, Austria, Slovakia, Cyprus and Hungary,” Professor Konstantinos Filis replied during an interview.
4. “Him did vast Earth receive from Rhea in wide Crete to nourish and to bring up.”
Fortunately, the ongoing Moscow-Ankara-Greece detente has yielded positive results.
Western attempts to court Turkey have backfired, especially after denying Ankara EU accession, Germany’s Bundestag recognised the Armenian genocide, and later, military coups occurred in Ankara and Istanbul, which PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames on US-asset Fethullah Güllen.
After the Russian Sukhoi conflict in Syria, Russia froze production on the TurkStream, but new developments now point to reconciliation; notwithstanding several demands from the Kremlin.
On August 31st, “a working meeting between Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee, and [Turkish Energy Minister] Berat Albayrak, took place today in Istanbul, [and that] negotiations on Russian gas supplies to Turkey will continue,” Gazprom highlighted.
Conversely, Greece and Russia have begun their long-awaited rapprochement in late May, when President Putin and PM Tsipras offered their groundbreaking joint statement in Athens.
Dubbed the historical Year of Russia held in Greece and the Year of Greece held in Russia, both figureheads communicated their hopes of new ambitious joint projects in agriculture, science, tourism, security and technology.
Over the years, trade between the two countries fell sharply, and measures to correct this were discussed at the 2015 Russian-Greek Intergovernmental Commission, along with the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in Sochi, Russia.
The SPIEF RosCongress Foundation explains:
Foreign trade between Russia and Greece totalled USD 866.7 million over January–April 2015, with Russian exports amounting to USD 793.1 million (a drop of 42.3%), and imports from Greece standing at USD 73.6 million. Russia’s trade surplus with Greece stood at USD 719.5 million.
Reflecting on this shortcoming, Greek Minister of Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping, and Tourism Giorgos Stathakis boldly stated, “As all of you are fully aware, we currently stand at the centre of a storm, but we are a seafaring people, so we are not scared of storms”.
“[…] we have recognized that it is easy to talk to our Russian colleagues. We are ready to move beyond the problems facing us and create new opportunities”, Secretary General for International Economic Relations of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs Yiorgos Tsipras added.
5. “[…] And through your devising we are come back again from the murky gloom and from our merciless bonds…”
The most salient opportunity was, of course, revitalising cooperation in the energy sector. “We expressed our satisfaction with the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the Russian Energy Institute and Greece’s Centre for Renewable Energy Sources (CRES) as well as an agreement between Hellenic Petroleum and Rosneft,” Tsipras addressed.
Just before the visit, Vladimir Putin clearly stated in an Ekathimerini article that Greece was “Russia’s important partner in Europe”. “Issues relating to southern routes of energy shipment to the European Union states are still on the agenda,” he added.
This was apparent a year ago in Moscow, where Greek Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis stated Greece would “receive significant financial dividends for the pipeline’s operations,” after signing a Russian-Greek MoU on the TurkStream.
Most importantly, it would provide Greece with a portion of 63 billion cubic metres per annum, immense compensation in transit fees, as well as creating jobs. “[…] construction will start in 2016 and be completed by 2019”, the article continues.
This is the path that Greece must pursue—an independent one with like-minded partners for growth and prosperity. The rest of Southern Europe should follow suit to promote jobs, lower energy prices, and pay off outstanding debts to the Eurozone.
To do this, Mediterranean states (Turkey included) must create a common platform for dialogue, with clear goals and channels to mediate disputes, outside of the EU framework.
No matter what, there will be a pipeline running from Athens to Rome, constructed by either Moscow or Brussels, but only one benefits Greece long-term. Greek ministers should prioritise the TurkStream and reclaim its bargaining power within the “EU framework”.
Greece must be allowed into the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to finance the project and remove Western currencies from controlling its financial decisions. Putin should facilitate their entry into the AIIB to counteract Goldman Sachs and the EU bureaucracy.
Greece, like Zeus, must face its enemy without fear to restore order. Conversely, the EU, like Kronos, has empowered its greatest fear through its authoritarian reign.
Greece and her siblings must grab the BRICS emetic and set themselves free.