The Greek tragedy deepens

Retired Greek Diplomat Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos spoke at CIB’s 2017 rally. This is a translation of an interview he recently gave to Afrique-Asie of France. Ambassador Chrysanthopoulos was the Secretary General of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization from 200 to 2012. He represented Greece at the U.N.,was director of the diplomatic cabinet of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director general of EU affairs. His diplomatic experience extends from Toronto to Warsaw and from Erevan to Beijing. He is fighting today against the policy of reducing the sovereignty of his country by the EU and NATO.

1) Last January and February massive demonstrations were held in Greece in support of the return  of national sovereignty and the protection of territorial integrity of the country. After almost two centuries from the uprising of Greece against the Ottoman occupation, it seems that your country remains to be decolonised. How have we reached this point?

The issue is that we liberated ourselves from the Ottomans only to find ourselves under the influence of the great Powers of the time. Our first leader of independent Greece was Ioannis Kapodistrias, who as foreign Minister of Russia played an important role in creating the Swiss constitution. However we assassinated him and was replaced by a Bavarian king. Our first political parties were called the Frenchofile,the Russianofile and the Englishofile – all under the influence of the country they were named after.

During WW1, Athens and Piraeus were bombed by the French fleet in order to force the pro-German king to abdicate and Greece to join the allies. Then the fascist pro-German prime minister of Greece Ioannis Metaxas on October 28,1940 opposed Mussolini when he wanted to march through Greece. Greek armed forces threw the Italians back to the sea from Albania.

All through WW2 our resistance was under British domination until the USA took over in 1947.The NATO-supported military dictatorship collapsed after seven years in 1974 but at a tragic cost since almost half of Cyprus was and still is occupied by Turkey.

In 1976 we opted to join the EEC mainly for political reasons-to protect our fragile democracy and Greece from Turkey. We joined the EEC in 1981 and right after PASOK of Andreas Papandreou came to power, for a few years Greece enjoyed an independence that it never had before. The US bases were removed, Greece  became an important actor in international politics respected by the Non-aligned movement .

Papandreou had made world headlines by organising in 1983  a meeting between Mitterand and Gadaffi  in Crete.

From the 90s onwards a united Germany became gradually the driving force of the EU  which from an EEC of the people became the EU of the bankers. And as the EU supported the bankers, Greek politicians became professional liars and were elected on programs that were never  kept. George Papandreou  was elected in 2009 with the slogan that there were sufficient financial resources to allow the country to progress, only to put Greece under IMF and EU control with the Memorandum of 2010 which never was voted by Parliament and was instrumental in bringing financial and social collapse.

 The left party SYRIZA was elected with the slogan  we will denounce the Memorandum and thus save Greece. When Brussels started blackmailing the Tsipras government ,he called for a referendum which by a large majority – 62% – rejected further austerity measures. During a Summit in Brussels right after the July 2015 referendum, Germany blackmailed Tsipras by telling him that if he did not do what Berlin wanted, then they would create a bank run in Greece and further chaos. Tsipras got scared and instead of cutting off diplomatic relations with Germany for a period, he succumbed and since then has been following orders from Brussels to the detriment of Greece and its people.

2) Why is the Turkish army once again displaying aggression towards the Greek islands of the Aegean? Do you see a link between between the Turkish officers that have asked for asylum in Greece and the Greek officers being held in Turkey?

Erdogan is taking advantage of the fact that Greece and its people are exhausted by the austerity measures imposed upon it. Furthermore he is going through a phase of illusions de grandeur and wants to recreate the Ottoman empire. Statements like “We had territories that we lost but that we may get back, we will shed our blood to make Turkey a great country again and if necessary we shall shed the blood of others” are not helpful for consolidating  peace and stability. I do not see a link between the Turkish officers who have applied for asylum and the two Greek officers that were apprehended, but I cannot exclude the thought that the Turkish authorities make such a link. The issue of the Greek islands was first raised by Turkey in 1973 when oil was discovered in the Aegean. From 1923 until then it had never been an issue. Now this aggression is within the policy of taking advantage of an exhausted Greece.

3) Why is President Erdogan opening the issue of the Lausanne Treaty by threatening directly his Greek neighbour? Is it a simple populist manoeuvre?

I think that my answer to the previous question covers this question. It is not a populist manoeuvre. The Lausanne Treaty has been violated ad nauseam by Turkey mainly as far as the minority issues are concerned. The recent invasion of Syria also constitutes a violation of this Treaty which defines the eastern borders of Turkey. Turkey thinks that by reopening the Lausanne Treaty it may get a better deal than now. A few islands for example.

4) What is the situation of the Greek Armed Forces 10 years after the gradual descent of your country to hell? Do you think that they are in a position to defend the integrity of national territory?

It is true that the eight years austerity measures have taken a toll on the Greek armed forces but not to the extent that it cannot fight. Our air force is one of the best of NATO since we have been practicing everyday chasing away Turkish warplanes violating Greek air space and our Navy is in good condition. Overall the Greek Armed forces are in a position to defend  the territorial integrity of our country.

5) What is NATO doing to help Greece and Turkey, who are both members, to find a peaceful solution to their differences?

Absolutely nothing, since NATO does not deal with differences between its members. It only deals with differences between a NATO member and a non NATO country. We saw that in 1974 when Turkey invaded Cyprus and NATO stayed out of the issue.

6) Do you think that the Greek army can play a role so that your country can recover its sovereignty or it might awaken the old demons of the dictatorship of the colonels?

The Greek Armed Forces should remain vigilant to defend our borders against external threats. And when the Greek people attempt to overthrow the Athens régime, the Greek Armed Forces should refrain from following possible orders to defend the regime.

7) Returning to relations between Germany and Greece, how would you describe them today?

I would say that they would fit more to relations between a colony and a colonial power. With one difference, of course. In the colonial period, the colonial power would defend the colony against external threats which is not the case today. But between Greek and German people there are no problems. At least for the moment.

8) Where are we on the question of German reparations for the damages inflicted during the German occupation of Greece from 1941 to 1944?

There is no movement there also. Germany considers the issue closed, since Athens did not raise it at reunification. The Athens regime does not want to anger its masters by raising it. There is, however, one item that even Germany has difficulty in avoiding .That is the loan that was imposed upon Greece by Germany and Italy in 1942. According to that, Greece was obliged to pay 1.25 billion drachmas per month for costs of occupation to Germany and Italy. In 1964 it was estimated that the total amount that Germany owed to Greece was about 400 million DM. The loan is something separate from reparations which are still outstanding according to Greece. Yet the Athens regime is not doing anything about it. .The value of the loan today, if it were to be repaid by Germany to Greece, would cover the so-called debt amounting to 300 billion euros.

9) You write: “At the moment, capitalism without frontiers is crushing everything in its passage and that our leaders have chosen for a “globalisation” benefitting only the banks and the multinationals, they are presenting the collapse of our countries as a natural phenomena that is unavoidable. At the same time they are constantly repeating to us that the “minorities” (ethnic,national, religious) of Europe “are awakening” and that their claims are legitimate but result in the weakening of the sovereignty of the State to which they belong.”

Once again the Balkans are on the verge of a war, fomented by a reunited Germany. With the objective to strangle Russia, NATO is advancing its pawns, breaking the engagement made to Gorbachev at the moment of the German reunification. The last pieces of former Yugoslavia are being integrated, one by one into NATO. You condemn the breaking up of the Balkans to non-viable client states, while at the same time pointing your finger at Germany. According to you, what is the interest of Berlin in defending such a policy since the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991?

It is actually the same policy followed by Hitler before and during WW2, to control energy resources. By controlling the Balkans, Germany has easy access to the energy resources in the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean and Azerbaijan.Not only that but it will be easier for Berlin to transfer the oil or gas to Germany.

10) Do you think that the Macedonian question is on the way to be solved since the leaders in Skopje agreed to change the name of their international airport and their highway?

No. It is more complicated than that. Already there are problems. Greece insists that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) changes its Constitution so that all nuances of irredentism are removed. Skopje refuses to do it. The vast majority of the Greek people are against ceding the name Macedonia to Skopje, a name that has belonged to Hellenism for the last three thousand years. Then if you give a country a false history, you create the conditions for a failed state. Also the politicians of FYROM do not believe in their “Macedonian” heritage. I have heard the present President of FYROM  Ivano, saying to a Georgian vice president in 2012 that the word Macedonia derives from the Turkish word dunya-which means world!!!!!!.Then why should FYROM enter NATO? What is the danger? where is the danger? Of course the West has so easily forgotten the promises given to Gorbachev in 1991 that Nato will not be enlarged  if Germany is allowed to be reunited. And we saw what happened .All the former Warsaw pact countries are today NATO members.

11)Is the current Greek Government in a position to defend Cyprus givne the ambiguous positions of prime Minister Tsipras on this issue?

Diplomatically it can but militarily it is not easy because of the distance. But that goes for all governments. We saw what happened in 1974. Itt was the coup d’état against Makarios organised by Athens that provoked the Turkish invasion. When the military regime collapsed the armed forces in Greece were in disarray and in no position to defend Cyprus. However if the circumstances were different it would have been very difficult for the invasion to have succesfully taken place, taking into consideration that the Turkish air force sank one of their destroyers.

A Customs Union with the EU is a daft idea

The latest pronouncements from Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Negotiator, provide little comfort to those of us seeking reassurance that the Government knows how to fulfil its declared aim of leaving the EU in 18 months’ time while avoiding a “cliff edge” for business.

Essentially, the rather tired “having cake and eating it” analogy sums up what Barnier sees as the root of the problem. He talked of a “nostalgia” for the Single Market and made it clear that you cannot be outside the Single Market while continuing to enjoy its benefits.  “This is simply impossible”, he said.

There is a wide range of views among Brexit supporters regarding whether or not we should stay within the Single Market. If there is a non-single market option which could provide us with something as near as possible to the frictionless trade which Business is demanding, the Government is keeping very quiet about it. This in turn is resulting in a concern that our Brexit team – and perhaps the Government as a whole – still does not grasp what it means to be a “third country” for trade purposes.

When it comes to the EU’s Customs Union, however, there is no reason to support our continued membership. It is an open and shut issue. We certainly need a Customs arrangement with the EU or else a massive queue of lorries is going to build up on the M20 immediately after Midnight on March 29th 2019, but that is not the same as a Customs Union.

A Customs Union is an area within which goods can circulate without restriction but which imposes a common external tariff on goods from outside.  The first Customs Union was the German Zollverein, established in 1834 and which gradually included most German states. Significantly, the economic union was followed by political union.

The Treaty of Rome, which established what has become the European Union, proposed the establishment of a Customs Union. By the time the UK joined, it was up and running and we had to impose the common external tariffs on all goods from outside, including those from our Commonwealth friends such as Australia and New Zealand. In other words, we surrendered the freedom to negotiate our own trade deals.

Shortly after the Treaty of Rome, the UK which at the time was not keen on joining the European project instead became one of the founder members of EFTA, the European Free Trade Association, which was not a Customs Union. It thus allowed members to negotiate their own trade agreements if they so desired, although EFTA also has negotiated free trade deals on behalf of all its constituent countries. Significantly, EFTA has never sought to create any sort of political union among its members. It was and is purely about trade.

Why then should a non-EU member want to be associated with the EU’s Customs Union? If you are a micro-state like San Marino or Monaco, you are unlikely to have the resources to negotiate your own trade deals and thus piggybacking on your larger neighbours is the best way of keeping trade flowing smoothy across your borders. This is not the case with Turkey, the only large non-EU country which has a customs union with it.

During last year’s Referendum debate, the so-called “Turkish option” received very little coverage. Being in a similar customs union with the EU was occasionally mentioned as one possible post-Brexit scenario but then almost immediately dismissed as being unsatisfactory. The Turks themselves don’t like it, which is one very good reason for rejecting it.

For starters, being a member of the Customs Union requires accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Turkey also may not negotiate trade agreements with non-EU countries but does not benefit from the EU’s Free Trade agreements. Countries who have signed a free trade agreement with the EU can export their goods into Turkey tariff free while imposing tariffs on Turkish goods.

One reason for Turkey accepting this unsatisfactory arrangement was its aspiration to join the EU. We are going in the opposite direction, so there is even less reason for us to adopt it, even as a transitional arrangement.

If further proof were needed of this argument, this article on the Kapikule Border crossing between Turkey and EU member state Bulgaria,  shows that a Customs Union with the EU does not result in quick and easy movement of goods across borders.  A Turkish lorry driver is quoted as saying that a mere 14-hour wait at the customs post constitutes a “good day”!

The article goes on to describe how “each driver clutches a sheaf of several dozen documents — an export declaration, a carnet from Turkish customs officers, invoices for the products they are hauling, insurance certificates and, when lucky, a transport permit for each EU nation they will drive through.”

No one in their right minds should be suggesting that any future UK-EU trading relationship be conducted along these lines.  Like it or loathe it, re-joining EFTA as an interim arrangement and thus accessing the Single Market along the same lines as Norway and Iceland would spare us this chaos. Maybe the Government has some better alternative up its sleeve, although if this is the case, it is playing its cards very close to its chest, but we can’t stay in the EU’s Customs Union if we’re not an EU member; we can only make a Customs Union agreement on Turkish lines and evidence strongly suggests it’s not worth the bother.

 

Photo by Peanut99

Germany will never, ever pay more than now for NATO

This post originally appeared in the Raedwald blog. The author lives in Austria but originally hails from Norfolk.

Many of us will have grown up with the BAOR (British Army of the Rhine) – either as serving soldiers or like myself as army brats. There was a time when Gütersloh, Fallingbostel or Sennelager were more familiar to us than Slough, Reading or Peterborough. The BBC even had a forces radio programme, and knowing at least half a dozen BFPO numbers was par for the course. Well, BAOR disappeared without notice in 1994. The 25,000 remaining troops in Germany became BFG, now down to about 4,000 and scheduled to pull out completely by 2020, almost exactly in line with Brexit.

The change came with the fall of the wall in 1989. Before then, our lads were to play a vital role in forming a heroic but utterly pointless sacrifice in holding up the Soviet advance through Germany to France for about 72 hours. Then we all thought it an essential sacrifice. Now we wonder, why bother? Perhaps France and Germany would be better off under Russian rule. Why shed British blood in their defence?

When Trump abstained from the traditional annual G7 offering of American blood in Germany’s defence last week he too must have felt the same. Germany has been financially raping Europe for thirty years, sitting on a vast pile of gold as she threatens, bullies and manoeuvres others to pay for everything, like some nightmare dining partner endlessly disputing the division of the restaurant bill.

Turkey is now a Salafist terrorist nation and belongs nowhere near NATO. In bullying the Netherlands into ignoring the veto of the Dutch people and extending full EU privileges to Ukraine, the EU has just given Putin another poke with a sharp stick. The UK will find it hard to mobilise even 6,500 troops – we need a standing army of 100,000 to put an adequate force in the field. Germany’s armed forces are to all purposes entirely useless. Amidst the ruins of NATO (and oh yes it’s now finished in all but name*) there’s only France to defend the EU.

Merkel may gamble that she’ll get away with it, and perhaps she will. But without British and American wealth and blood to pay for it. We’re done.

*Also proving the rule that corporations are most likely to fail at the point at which they open a spanking glossy new multi-billion dollar HQ

New paper: could we stay in the single market without re-joining EFTA?

LAst July, Professor George Yarrow of Oxford has added to the debate about future UK access to the single market with this paper, which claims that withdrawal from the EU does not automatically imply withdrawal from the European Economic Area (EEA).

This goes very much against the widely-held assumption that the EEA (or single market) is an agreement between the EU and the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) and every participant must bne a member of one or other. At the core of his argument is his assertion that the default position for a newly-independent UK is that, having been part of the EEA agreement as an EU member state, it  will remain within the Single Market and thus, we would not need to rejoin EFTA to maintain access to it.

Not everyone is convinced by his arguments, but the paper is nonetheless an interesting addition to the debate about the single market. Last week, we announced the publication of a Leave Alliance monograph which explains in detail what the single market actually is. Almost five months after the Brexit vote, there is still much confusion.  Being in the single market is not the same as being a member of the EU nor is the single market the same as the EU’s Customs Union. Turkey is a member of the Customs Union but not of the EEA while Norway is a member of the EEA but not of the EU’s customs union. This diagram is particularly helpful in explaining the complex relationships of the European nations. Quite which of these various overlapping circles an independent UK will find itself in.

It is very clear that in the medium-to-long term, the desire of virtually all leave campaigners is to be outside as many as possible. There are no disagreements here. The big issue – and one which is ultimately up to Mrs May’s government to decvide – is to come up with a seamless strategy which will see us through the EU’s exit door within the two-year timescale allowed by Article 50 while ensuring trade will continue to flow smoothly. In other words, it’s the more divisive issue of a short-term strategy which is the critical topic at the moment and Professor Yarrow’s paper is of particular relevance here.

Will Turkey ever join the EU?

A couple of years ago, the answer to this question would have been an unequivocal “no”. Austrian opposition, along with a commitment by the French government to offer its citizens a referendum on the subject virtually ensured that the stalled accession talks would never get anywhere.

Since the refugee crisis, however, Turkish membership has begun to appear less implausible than it previously appeared. Firstly, last month, the European Parliament voted to make Turkish an offical language of the EU. This is only a small step, but nonetheless an indication of support for this predominantly Islamic nation, with a population of some 80 million people, eventually joining the 28-member bloc.

After a long history of Conservative Party support for Turkey, it is encouraging that David Davies, the former Home Secretary, has expressed grave concerns. ““In supporting Turkish membership – a country with a porous border with Iraq, Iran and Syria – the EU is hardly helping British national security”, he said.

It is quite astonishing that the EU seems so willing to accede to Turkish requests. It is true that numbers of migrants crossing from Turkey into Greece have fallen since the deal between the EU and Turkey agreed in March, which allows migrants to be deported back to Turkey. However why is the EU so keen for Turkey to join? You do not have to be an expert in Turkish affairs to be aware that the secular Turkey of Kemal Atatürk has given way to a more pronoucedly Islamic country under the government of President Erdogan.  The country is facing a violent insurrection from Kurdish separatists and what is more, only a tiny percentage of the Turkish landmass is actually  in Europe anyway.

The support of successive UK governments makes even less sense. The accession of a country with such a large population would of necessity reduce our voting power in the Council of Ministers. Given the huge disparity between the UK’s view of the world and Turkey’s, it is hard to imagine that we would find Turkey to be an ally within the Council. We are already outvoted more than any other country – and this by member states whose values are less removed from ours than Turkey’s.

The only real beneficiaries will be those big businesses relying on cheap labour. It was Spain and Portugal who provided unskilled workers in the 1990s, with the former Eastern Bloc countries being the main source since 2004, but with demand seemingly insatiable, another source has to be found. As Nigel Moore has pointed out,  the UK is being turned into a low-wage economy because of the influx of so many unskilled EU migrants. Using these people is a cheap, unimaginative way of making a profit, whereas instead we should be looking to create highly skilled jobs for our own countrymen. This in turn would create a better, less crowded environment.

Nonetheless, Turkey’s prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu continues to put pressure on the EU and the EU continues to give way. He warned the migrant swap deal with the EU risks collapse unless visa restrictions are lifted on Turkish nationals by June as planned. At the moment, the official line is that these people will only be allowed to travel within the Schengen area,  but John Redwood has raised doubts as to whether we will be able to prevent them coming into the UK – or indeed, whether the Government even wants to .

While it is true that some sort of deal had to be reached with Turkey because of the migration issue, reading between the lines, the EU does seem finally, in its usual style, to be turning the migration issue into yet another beneficial crisis – at least, beneficial for big companies that pull the strings in Brussels and who want more cheap labour.

Furthermore, as EU observer reports, it is being used as an excuse for member states to be forced to give up control of migration policy to the EU – something which, thankfully, is likely to face strong resistance from some Eastern bloc countries.

Many obstacles still lie in the way of Turkish accession, but Brexit, even if it required us to accept the EEA free movement principle, would still – thanks to the additional tools available under the EEA agreement – enable us to distance ourselves further from its effects. Indeed, with one advocate of Turkish membership removed from the EU, the accession process may slow sufficiently for us to create a Europe-wide Free Trade area without free movement of people to replace the EEA before the Turks finally join.

Turkey, EU visa liberalisation and Schengen

The Government has told us that the liberalisation of visa restrictions on Turkey only appliues to the Schengen area. However, this post, from John Redwood’s blog, raises the issue of whether we are being lied to – again. 

I drew attention to the fact that the official minutes of the 7 March EU/Turkey Agreement made clear that all member states need to lift visa restrictions on Turkey by June this year. The UK government keeps saying this does not apply to the UK.  I suggested they have the minutes amended in that case.

Far from doing so, the minutes of the European Council held 17-18 March  reconfirmed the minutes of the 7 March “Following the decisions of the Heads of State of government of 7 March”  the European Council “calls for the full implementation of the EU-Turkey statement”.  So if we assume the UK is not actually going to lift visa restrictions we are left wondering why official statements of the Heads of State and government which we are asked to rely on in other contexts are wrong on this matter. We also need to remember how assurances that the UK would not have to bail out Euro countries were swept aside when it came to a new loan for Greece.

There can be no opt out for the UK when it comes to possible Turkish membership of the EU. There we are told clearly in the minutes of the Council meeting that ”the EU and Turkey reconfirmed their commitment to re energise the accession process” for Turkey to become a full member.

Visa liberalisation even if confined to the continent means many more people having easy access to the EU and possibly establishing citizenship and free movement rights to the UK  as well as the rest of the EU. Full membership of course brings complete freedom of movement. In view of the pressure on us already from the many people in the rest of the EU who want to work and live here, we do need to consider this Turkish issue more seriously. One of the failings of William Hague’s Referendum Act was it does not give the UK people a vote on new members joining the EU, though they can represent a big change to the EU and to our obligations as a result.