Anti-austerity demonstration in front of the Greek embassy.

PLEASE SUPPORT THE GREEK PEOPLE
In response to an appeal by EPAM,
the United People’s Front
THE CAMPAIGN FOR AN INDEPENDENT BRITAIN
(Cross- Party)
INVITES FELLOW PRO BREXIT CAMPAIGNERS
TO ASSEMBLE
at 12.00 noon Saturday 25 March
outside the Greek Embassy
1a Holland Park, London W11 3TP
(nearest Tube Station Holland Park)
IN SILENT PROTEST AT THE LOSS OF
BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS, IMPOSED BY THE EU’S AUSTERITY PROGRAMME,
as evidenced by the UN Human Rights Council Report,which proves DENIAL of
THE RIGHTS TO
WORK, SOCIAL SECURITY, FOOD,
HOUSING & HEALTH CARE.
LIVES ARE BEING LOST.
THE DEATH RATE HAS SHOT UP,
as a result of Euro Austerity &
COLLAPSE OF GREEK HEALTH SERVICE.

 Leonidas Chrysanthopolous writes:-

We are calling for the restoration of human rights to the people of Greece who have been deprived of them because of the austerity measures imposed by the EU and the IMF. Our requests are based on the report that was published in February of last year by the independent expert of the UN and submitted to the Human Rights council in Geneva. We have chosen that date since it is the National Day of Greece and we celebrate the proclamation of the war of independence against the Ottomans.

State of the Disunion as 60th anniversary celebrations approach

No doubt there were huge sighs of relief in Brussels that fewer Dutch voters than expected supported Geert Wilders’ anti-establishment PVV in the country’s recent General Election and that the VVD (Liberal) party, led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte gained the most seats.

A few days before the European Union’s 27 remaining members meet to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of  Treaty of Rome, they can breathe more easily – at least for now. However, Mr Wilders was never going to become Prime Minister due to the multiplicity of political parties in the Netherlands, virtually all of which ruled out going into coalition with his party. If the PVV had become the largest party in the Dutch Parliament, it would have nonetheless emboldened anti-EU parties in France and Germany, where elections are also due later this year.

Even so, next weekend’s festivities cannot disguise the harsh fact that the EU is becalmed, with no clear sense of direction. Eurosceptic parties may not yet be on the verge of forming governments in Western Europe, but their support is growing steadily. In response, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, has recently published a white paper offering five different future scenarios for the bloc’s future.

In a nutshell, these range from pressing on with ever closer union (Scenario 5) at one extreme to a reduction to nothing more than a Single Market (Scenario 2) at the other. The other three options are a two-speed Europe (Scenario 3), with some countries integrating faster than others, “Doing less more efficiently” (Scenario 4) and “Carrying on” (Scenario 1).

The ever-closer union option is unlikely to gain much favour in Eastern Europe, especially Poland and Hungary. The current Polish government is a supporter of repatriating power from Brussels and the recent reappointment of Donald Tusk, a member of Poland’s biggest opposition party, as President of the European Council against the wishes of Poland’s government, is not going to improve relations between Warsaw and Brussels. Poland’s foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski said that his country will “play a very rough game” in the European Union.

Hungary has no appetite for interference in its internal affairs by Brussels. The European Commission has criticised the construction of a razor wire fence on the border with Serbia, but Hungary has ignored the criticism and pressed on regardless.

Then there are Greece’s problems. Our friends in EPAM, a Greek Eurosceptic organisation, are organising protests against austerity outside several Greek embassies, including one in London, on Saturday 25th March. The organisation claims that austerity has bitten so deep into Greece’s fabric that lives are being lost as the country’s health service has reached the point of collapse. One article recently brought to our attention claims that “The country is rotting inside the EU and the eurozone. The Greek people have crashed economically. Greek cities, because of massive illegal immigration, look less like cities in Europe and more like cities in Afghanistan. Banks have begun the mass-confiscation of residences. The people are on the verge of revolt.

Of course, it is the Euro, one of the EU’s flagship policies, which has put Greece into its current straitjacket. Until recently, however, support for both the Euro and EU membership was remarkably strong. Almost two years ago, at the height of the last financial crisis, over 69% supported remaining within the Eurozone, with 56% wanting to keep the single currency even if it meant harsh austerity measures being imposed.

Such statistics act as a reality check to those of us in the UK whose dislike of the EU is so intense that we find it hard to figure out why other countries are not preparing to follow us out of the exit door.  We have never been keen on pooled sovereignty and for us, the EU’s “Ring of death” flag is a badge of shame. Across the Channel, things are viewed differently. Member states which suffered years of Soviet rule or military dictatorships view EU membership as a symbol break with a past they are all too keen to forget. While not all the EU’s leading lights are such gushing  federalists as the Belgian MEP and former Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt,  there are still plenty of enthusiasts for the project. For instance the Spanish MEP  Esteban González Pons who called Brexit “selfish”, claimed that the EU was the “only alternative” in an increasingly globalised world and expressed the hope that one day, we would one day “come home”  – re-join the EU in other words.

Such sentiment seems almost laughable given that others in the EU clearly view  Brexit as a great opportunity to press on with closer union now the pesky foot-dragging Brits are going their own way.  We will no doubt hear much about how wonderful the EU is during next weekend’s celebrations, but once the festivities are over, the leaders of EU-27 will have to look long and hard at Mr Juncker’s five options for the EU’s future and coming to a consensus isn’t gong to be easy. Geert Wilders may not have achieved the breakthrough for which he hoped, which in turn has made Marine le Pen’s already difficult path to the Elysée Palace even harder, but the EU has only won a short-term reprieve.  A big fireworks display in Rome cannot disguise the fact that it faces a serious identity crisis which it shows little sign of being able to resolve.

Photo by Christopher Lotito

Support the Greek people – demonstration on March 25th

If you are in London on Saturday March 25th, you are welcome to join us as we support our friends in EPAM, a Greek Eurosceptic organisation, who are demonstrating against the austerity imposed on their country. You can find full details of the event here.

You may also wish to download this flyer even if you can’t come. It lists how human rights are being violated as a result of the austerity measures imposed on them.

Greece may have dropped out of the news in the last couple of years, but the situation  in the country remains dire. This article explains in graphic detail just how dismal the country’s prospects are.  The Campaign for an Independent Britain is keen to work with like-minded people in Greece to draw the world’s attention to their country’s plight.

Don’t undo democracy – a letter from our President to the Leicester Mercury

The beaming photogenic chairman of Loughborough Lib Dems (First Person 17th May) started his column by referring to the roots of the EU that are actually the cause of subsidence and collapse of democracy. The “great work of democracy” to which he refers was undone at the stroke of midnight 1st January 1973 when our Members of Parliament sub-contracted their work to Brussels.

When reading what he wrote and reaching the passage “Europe now is peaceful, economically successful and a beacon of democracy in a troubled world” I wondered whether his television set needs re-tuning. The evidence to the contrary fills our screens almost daily ranging from labour reform riots across France, Greek people crushed by austerity measures and people injured by riot police. I have not known lasting peace in Europe for the past forty years. There have been attacks upon us by IRA, war in the Balkans, bombings in Madrid and, more recently, slaughter in European capitals. As for the economic success to which he refers, the euro single currency is a failure predictably doomed from the outset and unemployment queues amongst younger people across the continent grow ever longer.

No wonder I have never voted Lib Dem as a party seemingly so divorced from reality and never will. The prospects for a brighter future rest in re- joining the wider world and stepping off the gravy train driven by unelected bureaucrats to an unpredictable and worrying destination

 

George West

Greek worries return as support grows for referendums elsewhere in the EU

Compared with the high drama of last year when Yannis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the President of the Euro group, came close to a punch-up at a Eurozone ministers’ meeting in the run-up to a deal over the country’s debt,  Greece has not been hitting the headlines to anything like the same degree – yet.

However, its intractable debt problem has not gone away. On the face of it, things look a bit better. Compared with the corresponding period in 2015, more tax has been collected while governemt expenditure has not risen very much. The country is therefore running a healthy fiscal surplus.

But at what cost? The anti-austerity Syriza-led government of Alexis Tsipras has been utterly humiliated. A report in the Guardian paints a bleak picture of the mood in the country after the Greek Parliament approved the toughest austerity measures to date – €5.4 billion in savings, meaning pension cuts and further strains on the already creaking Greek health service. Greek government debt still stood at a whopping 176.9% of GDP at the end of 2015, slightly down on 180.1% a year earlier, but still unsustainably high in spite of years of punishing austerity measures.  ““It can’t go on for ever,” said Stergiou, a student interviewed by the Guardian’s reporter. “Greeks are running out of stamina, they are running out of endurance.”

This speech by Steven Woolfe MEP on the same subject is worth listening to. The statistics he spells out are quite frightening.  His proposal, that Greece should leave the EU, may sound far-fetched, but in view of the widespread public anger that a party elected on a ticket of hope has now become as unpoplar as its predecessors, nothing is impossible.

Greece isn’t alone with its problems. A Maltese bank, Nemea Bank, has been placed in administration. Admittedly, it is only one of 24 banks in operation in this small country, but nonetheless a further sign that beneath positive money figures for the Eurozone as a whole, all is not well in several peripheral countries.

Furthermore, it’s not only people in financially troubled countries who are becoming increasingly unhappy with the EU. David Cameron’s decision to call a referendum on UK membership has let a very unwelcome cat out of the bag as far as the EU is concerned. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard analyses a MORI opinion poll showing how widespread the demand for similar referendums is becoming in other countries. Over 50% of the electorate in both France and Italy support such a move and were the Italians to agree to such a referendum, it could be quite a close run thing.

What is more, only a minority of those surveyed expected the UK economy to suffer if we left.

The thought of a “domino effect” has always worried the EU’s élite. However, the response of Jean- Claude Juncker, the Commission President, indicates just how out of touch these people are from the real world.  With David Cameron clearly in mind, he said “Too many politicians are listening exclusively to their national opinion. And if you are listening to your national opinion you are not developing what should be a common European sense and a feeling of the need to put together efforts. We have too many part-time Europeans.” More Europe has always been the EU’s usual answer to any problems. Even Mats Persson, the  former director of Open Europe who is now advising  David Cameron recongises the folly of this approach. “If European voters always face the choice between ‘more Europe’ and ‘no Europe’, then “sooner or later, they will pick the latter”, he said.

Lord Lawson said a while ago that the EU was past its “sell-by date”. One of the many government scare stories currently doing the rounds is that Brexit would pose problems for the EU. However, if Lord Lawson is correct, it could in fact create an opportunity. The EU has no divine right to eternal life. If withdrawal precipitates its demise in a piecemeal but orderly way, this may be preferable to the sort of sudden collapse that marked the end of Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union.  If we believe that our country deserves something better than miserable subjection to an unelected supranational bureaucracy, why should not our European neighbours seek a better future too?

Europe’s woes

It is now six months since elections to the European Parliament returned the highest percentage ever of EU-critical MEPs of varying hues. Since then, for the UK electorate, the focus has been on UK withdrawal and the torrid time David Cameron has had to endure. He opposed the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission but found no real allies, he lost two MPs to UKIP and then lost the resultant by-elections. A former Cabinet minister has called for him to invoke Article 50 and begin the withdrawal process and his speech on immigration went down like a lead balloon. With so much happening so quickly on the debate about our future relationship with the EU, it has been easy to overlook a number of developments across the Channel.

When we do so, the picture is quite alarming. “Sooner or later, there won’t be a Europe to be part of” wrote Jeremy Warner in a rather apocalyptic piece in the Daily Telegraph last month. “It’s not a question of in or out, but of whether Britain can avoid the flames of destruction”, he continued. “Politically and economically, Europe is sinking fast.”

The economic data make grim reading. Deflation is entrenched in six Eurozone members – Greece, Cyprus, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Portugal. Belgium and Italy are in danger of joining the club, especially given the recent and ongoing fall in commodity prices. Unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, remains stubbornly high. It may have fallen in Spain recently, but this is as much due to emigration of younger workers as to any real improvement in the economy.

The cutbacks imposed by the “troika” – the European Central bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund – have been imposed on countries which are still struggling to pull themselves out of the Great Recession which began six years ago. Incredibly, in spite of the resentment this has generated across “Club Med”, the Eurozone has held together. “Grexit” was averted in 2012 and talk of other countries leaving has faded away. Significantly, during the height of Greece’s problems, it has recently been revealed that the Dutch Government conducted a study into the costs and practicalities of bringing back the Guilder.

Will it ever be dusted off the shelves? Who knows. If elections were held today in either the Netherlands and France, the parties currently registering the largest support in both these countries – Geert Wilders’ PVV and Marine le Pen’s Front National, – have talked of leaving the EU. Spain, which appeared to take the Troika’s medicine without complaint has recently spawned a left-of-centre anti-austerity protest party Podemos, which has seen spectacular growth in the space of less than 12 months it has been in existence. In Greece, another left-of-centre anti-austerity party, Syriza, has topped a number of recent opinion polls. Both these parties loudly assert their pro-EU credentials, but were either of them to be elected to government and to tear up the agreements with the troika, the consequences would be very unpredictable. Meanwhile, Germany’s anti-euro party Alternative für Deutchland, rises higher and higher in the polls. The German mainstream parties, both on the centre left and centre right, look with horror on this party which is challenging EU orthodoxy in its very heartland, but for how much longer will they be able to shun any sort of coalition with AfD and dismiss them as “a people locked into the past?”

Meanwhile, outside the Eurozone, the Swedish government has collapsed after only two months in office when the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna) voted with the mainstream opposition to defeat the government’s budget.

All this only six months after the European Parliamentary elections and the record number of MEPs either committed to outright withdrawal or else hostile in varying degrees to the Single Currency or further integration. The response by the mainstream political groups to the rise of such parties was to coalesce around a candidate for President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, who epitomises everything the assorted protest parties dislike about the EU. It is as if they were saying “Blow the electorate; let’s carry on with business as usual.”

As the Eurozone limps from crisis to crisis, the reverberations are being felt across the whole EU. Forget the upbeat media reports about the Eurozone’s alleged “recovery”. “Business as usual” may not be an option for much longer.