Tag Archives: european union

The Clash of the Titans—How Greece became the target of an epic energy struggle

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. Continue reading The Clash of the Titans—How Greece became the target of an epic energy struggle

Advertisements

New Austerity measures bring fierce opposition in Rome

The Last Defense
Haneul Na’avi
13 April 2014

April 12 saw violence break out in the capital of Italy as protesters responded to new reforms proposed by current Prime Minister Matteo Renzi that would create significant reductions to public sector spending. Russia Today reported that clashes between demonstrators and the police resulted in around 80 injured citizens on both sides, including one protester that lost several fingers from a prematurely exploded firecracker.

image

Clashes erupted between protesters and riot police near Rome’s Ministry of Industry on April 12, 2014. [Photo: APF]

The protesters, a combination of workers, students and activists, gathered at Rome’s Porta Pia and marched throughout the city, chanting in unison and waving Italian flags. The crowd convened in order to demand that the government introduce economic reforms, provide access to affordable housing, and reduce the current unemployment rate, which stands at 13% as of February. Many of the attendees donned Autonome-styled black outfits, hoodies, and Guy Fawkes masks, a common symbol of the Occupy movement, and marched until reaching the Ministry of Industry where the protest became violent.

The incident was the most recent of demonstrations since December 2013, in which supporters of the Forconi (Pitchfork) Movement assembled to protest Enrico Letta’s economic reforms which imposed further austerity, rising living expenses and taxes, and corruption within the Italian government and European banking system. Demonstrators blocked railway passages and governmental buildings in Venice, Bari, Milan, Turin and Palermo, and cities became embroiled in clashes between police and activists.

Italy has seen in recent months a surge in protest and secession movements that have threatened the country from several positions, and Renzi’s introduction as Prime Minister has inherited a host of problems from the former Berlusconi administration and global financial crisis.

image

[Photo: Gregorio Borgia, AP]

Just recently, the northeastern city of Venice voted in a referendum to secede from the country in defiance of Italian officials, which prompted police officers to arrest several “secessionists” on April 2nd. Alberto Mingardi of the Library of Economics and Liberty states, “You could describe Italy as a country where the North pays taxes and the South consumes taxes […] The gap between the two parts of the country has been there for ages, and it did not narrow, in spite of the fluxes of transfers. It is only natural that economic stagnation exacerbates the problem.”

Rome has also seen severe difficulties after Renzi failed to secure a rescue package that would help prevent the municipality from defaulting on its current debt in a manner similar to that of Detroit. Regarding mayor Ignazio Marino’s lingering crisis, Z News writes, “the newly-elected mayor faces a budget deficit of 816 million euros ($1.1 billion) and the city could be placed under administration if he does not manage to close the gap with measures such as cutting public services.”

 image

Renzi speaking at a conference at the Senate in Rome [Photo: Remo Casilli, Reuters]

In a foreboding February 28tharticle from the Independent, the author illustrates the mayor’s sentiments. “Without the stop gap injection of €500m (£406m), Mr. Marino predicted chaos would ensue. ‘In March there won’t be money to pay 25,000 city employees, to pay for fuel for the buses, to keep the nurseries open, to collect rubbish or to organise the canonisation of the two popes, an event of a planetary scale,’ he [Marino] said.” Mayor Marino’s fears were realized with the outbreak of riots last Saturday.

A Reuters article details Renzi’s economic reforms, which were outlined in his Economic and Financial Document (DEF) and included a rescue package of 6.7 billion euros funded by 4.5 billion in public sector cuts, higher VAT taxes, and “indirect” taxes on banks. “His DEF, approved Tuesday by cabinet, includes plans for annual income-tax cuts of 10 billion euros targeting low earners, a cap on the salaries of top public-sector managers and higher capital-gains tax for banks,” Gazetta del Sud reports.

Renzi’s new economic policies have come under extreme criticism from colleagues and opposition parties for further impoverishing the middle and lower classes, and exacerbating current austerity measures already in place from institutions such as the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund. Democratic Party (Partido Democratico) member and former junior economy minister Stefano Fassina complained that the DEF did nothing to change the current economic problems of Italy and would result in “less growth, fewer jobs and more public debt”, Gavin Jones of Reuters reports.

3rd Bi-Annual Nuclear Summit to Take Place at The Hague, Netherlands

Haneul Na’avi | 2014 March 21

The third bi-annual Nuclear Security Summit will take place at the World Forum in The Hague, Netherlands from March 24th -25th, 2014.

The Hague was chosen as a host location due to its major hubs Schiphol and Rotterdam, in addition to housing the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court. The official website of the summit reports that The Netherlands is symbolic due to “its global reputation as a country of peace, justice and security”.

image
Courtesy: Nuclear Security Summit 2014

The forum highlights three key goals, which include reducing nuclear materials around the world, improving the security of all current nuclear materials, and strengthening international cooperation between countries. The summit will also focus on multilateral cooperation between nation-states in order to achieve these aims. In an article by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, seven countries—Austria, Czech Republic, Sweden, Ukraine, Vietnam, Mexico, and most recently, Hungary—have completely or nearly removed all of their weapons-useable materials from their countries, and that the US Department of Energy’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative has been instrumental in achieving this goal.

//player.vimeo.com/video/88443526

In a document by the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, whom the Russian Federation and the United States are co-Chairs, the organization stresses that “[…] the GICNT leadership will seek to engage partner nations in practical exercises and workshops that enable them to prepare for and practice responding to nuclear security events. Such activities will focus on encouraging interagency, regional, and international cooperation and communication, in accordance with the proposals for GICNT work endorsed by the partners at the 2013 Plenary meeting in Mexico City”.

Diplomats from around the world are expected to attend, including ambassadors from 53 nations and observers from the European Council, the European Commission, INTERPOL, and the United Nations. President Barack Obama of the United States, PM Shinzo Abe of Japan, President Xi Jinping of China, PM Stephen Harper of Canada, Vice President Jejomar Binay of the Philippines, and President Francois Holland of France are also expected to participate in the meeting. Thousands of delegates and journalists will join to provide coverage of the event.

Increased traffic and safety precautions have been implemented as a result of high-profile diplomats arriving in The Netherlands. Visits to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam by President Obama and other political figures have also heightened security, and Dutch newpaper Parool reports that, “On Thursday afternoon, eight US military helicopters were spotted circling over the city checking out security issues and potential escape routes.”


Photo credit: Marco De Swart, Global Zero, 2014

In addition, non-government organizations such as Global Zero, a Paris-based and internationally endorsed movement, will also take part in the conference to protest against the possession of nuclear armaments. Participants from around the world will cycle approximately the radius of a nuclear blast around The Hague on the eve of the summit as a symbolic reminder of the dangers that nuclear weapons pose to entire cities. Members of Global Zero, including Lauren Zingarelli, wish to send a clear message that there are “more than 17,000 nuclear weapons in the world, [and] the only way to prevent this urgent global threat is to eliminate all of them.”