Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Poverty: from Plato to Laurel & Hardy



‘Poverty, first of all was never a misfortune for me; it was radiant with sunlight… I owe it to my family, first of all, who lacked everything and who envied practically nothing.’  (Albert Camus)

Poverty (Penia) is a goddess with two sisters, Amykhania (helplessness) and Ptokheia (beggary). In Plato’s Republic,  poverty is a terrible evil, a source of meanness, viciousness and discontent. Similarly, Aristotle, in the Politics, regards poverty as a social ill, the parent of revolution and crime. In Wealth (Plutus) – read an excellent, Australian-dialect translation here, by George Theodoridis) – Aristophanes asks what would happen to society if everyone suddenly became rich and answers, paradoxically, that inequalities, conflict and misery would increase. In the play, the goddess Penia appears as an old hag, who warns those who think bestowing wealth on all Athenians will be an unmitigated blessing that:

‘[Poverty] is the very fountain of all joy! Of all life, even!… If Wealth were to… spread himself around to everyone, who’d be doing any of the work then or even any of the thinking?'’

The goddess then goes on to suggest that the poor are in fact more virtuous than the rich:

’And let me tell you another thing about the poor. They are modest and civil, whereas the rich are all arrogant.’

The virtues – or otherwise – of poverty become of increasing interest in Greek ethics. Although never endorsing the alleged moral advantages of penury, Socrates does make clear, in the Apology, that he is indifferent to wealth and that a preoccupation with wisdom is far more important than, and perhaps even incompatible with, any pursuit of money or luxury.

The belief that neither wealth or poverty have much to contribute to virtue is shared by the Stoics and Epicureans – who regard poverty as just one of life’s many misfortunes, fear of which should be confronted and overcome. (Seneca advocated living rough from time to time, for a period of three to four days, to get used to poverty in case we should fall victim to it).

The Cynics, however, didn’t just denounce wealth as a prohibition to virtue, they went one stage further and developed a cult of poverty, embracing indigence as a positive way of life, ‘an unending task in which one strives for a more and more complete renunciation of possessions and the desire for material possession’.* Previous Greek virtues of beauty, honour and independence were turned on their head by the Cynics, who valorised, instead, ugliness, humiliation, dishonour (adoxia) and dependence – begging and, more radically, slavery, were positively accepted.**

Finally, we note that it was not a big leap from Cynic humiliation to Christian humility, from Cynic destitution to Christian asceticism, and from the Cynic exaltation of poverty to Christian love of the poor.

 *E. McGushin: Foucault’s Askesis.
**M. Foucault: The Courage of Truth (The Government of Self and Others II).

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Cyprus Still Divided



Above is Cyprus Still Divided, a pretty good documentary on the Cyprus issue and the role the USA – and particularly the odious Henry Kissinger – played in partitioning the island. The film was made by the American Hellenic Institute with the intention of educating a US audience and, as such, has been shown on NPR stations and at various ‘Town Hall screenings’. There’s good archive footage, mostly taken from Michalis Cacoyiannis’ film Attila 1974: The Rape of Cyprus, plus more recent interviews with Paul Sarbanes, John Brademas, Nicholas Burns, Christopher Hitchens, Titina Loizidou and others.

A couple of points on accuracy and interpretation.

1. The film states that the policy of the Athens junta 1967-74 was enosis. This is not true. The junta’s Cyprus policy was partition. This is well established now. Thus, despite dressing itself up as nationalist and patriotic, the junta’s policy for Cyprus was anything but; having been persuaded by its US supervisors that the best thing for the junta, Greco-Turkish relations, the West in its contest with communism and so on, was for Cyprus to be divided between Greece and Turkey. The tension that existed between the junta and Makarios – why they tried to assassinate him and eventually overthrew him in a coup – was because they regarded the archbishop as an obstacle not to enosis, which Makarios believed in, but to partition, which he, and 99% of Cypriots, did not.

2. The film states that the junta’s purpose in removing Makarios was to unite Cyprus with Greece. But, as I’ve already said, partition not enosis was the junta’s policy, in which case the purpose of the coup was the removal of Makarios and the setting up of a subordinate regime in Nicosia, permitting Athens to open negotiations with Turkey as to how best to partition the island, along the lines of the Acheson plan. Thus, even though junta-leader Dimitrios Ioannides was stupid and a psychopath, he would not have acted against Makarios if he thought the Turks would invade. All Ioannides’ actions in July 1974 suggest he was under the impression – provided to him by the Americans – that Turkey accepted Athens’ plan to get rid of Makarios in order to expedite partition.

3. When talking about the coup against Makarios, the film shows images of Colonel Giorgos Papadopoulos, even though he had been ousted by Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannides as junta leader in November 1973 and it was Ioannides, not Papadopoulos, who initiated the coup against Makarios.

Indeed, one of Makarios’ biggest miscalculations was not to have realised that the junta under Ioannides was far more dangerous to Cyprus than it had been under Papadopoulos. Makarios always believed that, despite the constant rumours, the Papadopoulos-led junta would not be so stupid as to initiate a coup against him. Makarios mistakenly assumed that this basic level of intelligence was shared by Ioannides and his cohorts.

4. Finally, Christopher Hitchens makes his usual incisive interventions in the film; and I want to dwell on his statement that Cyprus paid the price for the fall of the junta. This is entirely accurate and, indeed, it always annoys me the way (mainland) Greeks insist they brought down the junta – and that central to this was the student uprising at the Athens Polytechnic in November 1973. All the student protest achieved was convince hard-liners, like Ioannides, that Papadopoulos wasn’t tough enough and that Greece needed a firmer hand. It didn’t shorten the time of the junta by five minutes.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Imagining a new Greece



Above and below are a couple of videos with ideas on how Greece can emerge from the crisis afflicting it.

The first, above, in Greek, has Aristos Doxiadis explaining the importance of ‘morphosis’ to society and bemoaning the fact that the acquisition of morphosis has become secondary to the attainment of the ‘diploma’, which has come to denote morphosis.

Morphosis is traditionally translated into English as ‘education’, but this doesn’t do the word justice. Morphosis, I think, has more to do with ‘cultivation’ than ‘education’ and it also has attached to it a sense of ‘becoming something different to what you were’, to ‘form’, to ‘change’ and to ‘grow’… through knowledge and learning. Think of the relatively new English verb, to ‘morph’.

(I might be wrong here, but if omorphia [beauty] and morphosis have the same root etymologically, then morphosis would also imply ‘becoming beautiful’ through learning/education/cultivation. i.e. beauty is wisdom).

Doxiadis goes on to explain the need for private universities in Greece, the importance of removing bureaucratic obstacles to Greek academics from the diaspora returning to teach at Greek universities and of Greek universities exploiting the natural advantages Greece has at its disposal to become magnets for students from northern Europe (and elsewhere) to take degrees.

Secondly, below, there’s a talk from South African-born advertising guru Peter Economides, in English, on how he believes Greece is desperately in need of ‘branding’.

Now, it’s tempting to be dismissive of Economides – ‘how dare he try to sell Greece the same way he might sell Coca-Cola’ – but, in fact, what he’s getting at, even if he doesn’t realise it, is the crisis of ideology affecting Greece. This has manifested itself as a contest – which is bitter and polarised – over Greek identity and Greek history. Indeed, Economides has a fairly traditional vision of Greece that many, particularly on the Greek left, would not share, preferring a less ethnocentric ‘brand’ or a ‘brand’ that has Greeks as unruly and rebellious Kropotkin-Guevaras. Still, Economides’ passion for Greece and his mission to ‘reimagine’ the country is admirable – even if it is from within an advertising paradigm and I fear his typically-diasporan love for Greece and Greek culture will be rebuffed.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Varoufakis: on the death of the global Minotaur and the demise of the eurozone



I hope I’m not turning this blog into something of a Yanis Varoufakis’ fan site; but I really do find his outpourings illuminating and entertaining; not that I agree with a lot of what he says – not so much his analysis of the recent history and current state of global capitalism, but the political conclusions he draws from it all. But that’s fine. Above is another interesting talk from the professor, this time from 9 November at Columbia University in New York. As well as going into some detail regarding his metaphor of the Minotaur to explain US economic hegemony post-1971, he also exposes the eurozone for what it is – a plan to create a ‘Greater Germany’, which would protect and enhance Germany’s export-led economic model – and predicts that the 26 October agreement – supposed to ‘bail-out’ Greece and insulate other debt-ridden eurozone economies – will not preserve the euro but expedite its demise. Varoufakis may be being too pessimistic – ultimately his pessimism leads him to believe that fascism in Europe will make a comeback – but you want a public intellectual to be controversial and provocative, to suggest to us that the foundations of the civilised societies we have become accustomed to are not as firm or enduring as we think they are.

Monday, 14 November 2011

‘Watch these films. We are trying to say something.’

 

Above is a good interview with Cypriot filmmaker Yiannis Economides, one of my favourite Greeks of the moment, talking about his most recent film Knifer; the precarious state of Greece; and why his three features – Matchbox (2002), Soul Kicking (2006) and Knifer (2010) – predicted that Greece was on a path towards disintegration. He says: ‘Of course, the kinds of films we make… foreshadowed what would happen in Greece. It was as if we were giving them a knock to the head, telling them “Watch these films. We are trying to say something. Something’s up.”’ 

See Economides’ latest film, Knifer, here, in full, with English subtitles.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Samaras on Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone



Above is an excerpt from a speech made by New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras at the Thessaloniki trade fair in September 2011. In it, Samaras stresses Greece’s geostrategic position, along with Cyprus, as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East and as the gateway for central Europe and Russia to the south. He denounces the Papandreou administration for cancelling the ‘pipeline diplomacy’ of the previous New Democracy government and for failing to declare Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone and secure its delineation with neighbouring countries. Greece, Samaras argues, should tap into its underwater wealth. Samaras points out that Cyprus – ‘little Cyprus’ – has done all this for itself, years ago, and has won both support and allies. Greece hasn’t done it yet but, Samaras goes on, I will do it. Not without the necessary preparation and calculation, but I will do it, as soon as possible. We have rights, which can be converted into wealth for the Greek people, he says.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Democracy and nationalism in the new Greece


Couple of points emerging from the shenanigans of last few days in Greek politics:

1. Within a week, Greece went from Papandreou’s ‘referendum/power resides with the people’ gambit to the appointment of a new prime minister that completely bypassed the usual democratic processes, plucked, as Lucas Papademos was, from teaching public policy at Harvard, and imposed on Greece without any whiff of election. But Papademos does appear to be the man Greeks want as PM, in which case his ascent indicts election as the supreme expression of democracy and exposes the (increasing) inability of democratic procedures to find the right people to direct society. Plato’s criticism of democracy is, it appears, more pertinent than ever.

2. The involvement, with four ministers, of the rightist LAOS in the new government is interesting. Just a few years ago, LAOS were pariahs, untouchable, tainted by association with the extreme right and the junta, regarded as joke figures, ultra-nationalist ranters. Now, one of those most notorious ‘ranters’, Adonis Georgiades, has been put in charge of perhaps Greece’s most important economic sector, merchant marine.

3. Despite his vitriolic and belligerent style, opposition leader Antonis Samaras is risking a lot by agreeing to this transitional government. His rival for PM has gone from the weak, unpopular Giorgos Papandreou to the ‘national saviour’ Lucas Papademos, who it might not be as easy to shift come February as Samaras thinks. What if a Papademos government manages to stabilise Greece and push through the 26 October reforms? Won’t there be a clamour for him to stay on and for general elections to be postponed? Also, we note Samaras continues to flirt with nationalism – something he’s done throughout his career – by, this time, insisting that the two ministries he wanted taken away from Pasok and put in New Democracy hands were defence and foreign affairs.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Europe delighted by new Greek government

European leaders reacted positively last night to the news  that Greece had abandoned plans for a referendum and had instead appointed a government of national unity headed by Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy.

One EU official said, ‘Thank goodness they have seen sense and given up on the referendum idea. It would have come to a pretty pass if a government had been reduced to asking its people for their opinion on their future.’

Said another top Eurocrat, ‘Greece is meant to be the cradle of democracy. What on earth did it think it was doing being democratic?

‘This is typical of the Greeks – they have a long and unfortunate history of this sort of behaviour dating right back to the 5th Century BC.’

‘Model democracies like Britain,’ said the head of unelected European Commission, Mr Van Rumpy-Pumpy, ‘do not waste time with tiresome referenda which undermine the entire democratic fabric of er…’

He continued, ‘If Greece had got its way, this terrible democratic idea could have spread throughout the Eurozone and the notion of public involvement in important decisions could have bought civilisation as we know it to an end.’

All European experts were agreed that Greece would do much better to do what they were told by the EU.


(From UK satirical magazine, Private Eye)

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Rimbaud returns to Cyprus

Interesting this new French school opening in Nicosia next September. No doubt it’s intended to rival the English School, which is traditionally where most of the Cypriot elite have sent their children for secondary education and was established in 1900 with the specific purpose of producing a class of Anglicised Cypriots better able to help Britain maintain colonial rule over the island. To a large extent, the English School, 50 years after Cyprus won its independence, still performs that function. The three poles of influence in modern Cyprus have been the British, the Greek Orthodox Church and AKEL, the Cyprus communist party. But now the French – as part of a wider strategy to re-assert themselves in the Eastern Mediterranean – are looking for a slice of the Cypriot pitta. Interestingly, President Christofias, who wouldn’t know Paris from Phnom Penh, has been instrumental in getting the proposed French School off the ground, presumably because he sees it as impinging on British influence on the island.

And the name of new French school is going to be the ‘Arthur Rimbaud’. I’ve written about the great French poet’s connections to Cyprus before. The greatest outlaw and misfit – anarchist, if you like – in modern literature is a strange person to name a school for elite Cypriot kids after; but if there is going to be a French school on the island – and, personally, I don’t know what’s wrong with Greek paideia – one who wrote the following lines, from A Season in Hell, is allright by me:


If only I had a link to some point in the history of France!

But instead, nothing.

I am well aware that I have always been of an inferior race. I cannot understand revolt. My race has never risen, except to plunder; to devour like wolves a beast they did not kill.

I remember the history of France, the Eldest Daughter of the Church. I would have gone, a village serf, crusading to the Holy Land; my head is full of roads in the Swabian plains, of the sight of Byzantium, of the ramparts of Jerusalem; the cult of Mary, the pitiful thought of Christ crucified, turns in my head with a thousand profane enchantments-- I sit like a leper among broken pots and nettles, at the foot of a wall eaten away by the sun. --And later, a wandering mercenary, I would have bivouacked under German nighttimes.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The role of Greece’s oligarchs in Papandreou's downfall

Below is a sympathetic article on Giorgos Papandreou from the Financial Times, written by Misha Glenny, which attributes Greece’s PM’s downfall to the oligarchic families that have run – and looted, according to Glenny – the Greek economy and would like nothing more for the Greek crisis to deteriorate so that they can buy up Greek state assets at knockdown prices. The article is too generous to Papandreou, but it does draw attention to some of the lesser-known culprits in the plundering of Greece. (Thanks to Maria Karamitsos for pointing article out).

The real Greek tragedy – its rapacious oligarchs
Capricious, unreliable and ideologically driven were some of the more printable epithets hurled at George Papandreou in his final week as Greek prime minister. We should look at the motives of his detractors before taking such critiques at face value. While engaged in titanic political struggles at home and abroad, he has been quietly trying to tackle one of the most intractable root causes of the Greek tragedy – crime and corruption.

As the new Greek government struggles to convince Europe of its resolve to cut the country’s bloated public sector, it also has to decide whether to face down the real domestic threat to Greece’s stability: the network of oligarch families who control large parts of the Greek business, the financial sector, the media and, indeed, politicians.

Since Mr Papandreou became prime minister, his government has been trying to crack down on habitual tax evaders. He made clear in a speech to parliament on Friday how deep his concerns are regarding the more dubious activities of some of Greece’s banks. We can only hope that the BlackRock audit, ordered by the troika, will be suitably forensic in uncovering what has really been going on in the financial system.

In the same speech, Mr Papandreou also revealed dramatic information about a pan-Balkan fuel smuggling operation which is allegedly losing Greece an estimated €3bn annually. He spelt out exactly how damaging such criminal activities have been, all but naming those involved.

The oligarchs have responded in two ways. First, they have accelerated their habitual practice of exporting cash. In the last year, the London property market alone has reported a surge of Greek money.

Second, they have mobilised hysterical media outlets which they own in order to denounce and undermine Mr Papandreou at every opportunity, aware he is the least pliable among Greece’s political elite.

Their aim is clear – they are waiting to pounce on the state assets which, under the various bail-out plans, the Greek government must privatise. With the domestic economy in free fall, the share price of these hugely valuable entities such as the electric grid and the national lottery has been collapsing steadily over the past two years. A 10 per cent stake in OTE, the Greek telecoms provider, was sold to Deutsche Telekom for around €7 a share over the summer, down 75 per cent on its price three years earlier.

The oligarch conglomerates are waiting to scoop them up at anything up to less than a fifth of their real value – a poor financial return for the state but in 5-10 years time a bonanza for the purchasers. Some have been even banking on Greece exiting the euro so that they can then use the billions of euros squirrelled away outside the country to purchase the assets for knock-down drachma prices.

If the crises in Greece and Italy tell us anything, it is that the European Union has tolerated widespread corruption, criminality and malign governance not just in supplicants from eastern Europe but in some of its core western European members. As we Europeans lecture the world on the importance of European values – transparency, good governance and competition – too often we turn a blind eye to Mr Berlusconi’s monopoly on broadcast media, the influence of the Camorra on the politics of Campania and the chronic cronyism of the Greek economy (about which the British and German governments, to name but two, are fully informed).

If anything is to come from the catastrophe facing Europe it is essential these patterns of corruption are broken. Otherwise neither Greece nor Italy will ever be free of the institutional sclerosis that allows these practices to prosper. Before we look lovingly at northern Europe for the answer, let us remember the billions of dollars in bribes of which German companies, like Siemens and Ferrostaal, have been guilty of paying their Greek interlocutors. These were made in order to secure lucrative but overpriced contracts which have been funded by those decent Greeks who earn relatively little but, unlike the country’s super-rich, actually pay their taxes.

For Greece, the big question is whether after Mr Papandreou, the country possesses the requisite political talent and vision both to introduce root-and-branch reforms in order to revive the cankerous institutions of state, and to halt the pillaging of the Greek economy by its wealthiest and most powerful citizens. This is something that the country’s international creditors might wish to ponder, too.

My guess is probably not and that Mr Papandreou’s efforts will come to be regarded as the last real attempt to save the country.

The writer is author of The Balkans: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers. His latest book is Dark Market: Cyberthieves, Cybercops and You

Monday, 7 November 2011

Rufus T. Firefly set to be Greece’s PM after Papademos bails



Now that reports from Greece are suggesting that Great Greek Hope, Lukas Papademos – the man who took Greece into the euro in the first place – is refusing to do the honourable thing and replace Giorgos Papandreou as prime minister, as was widely reported and expected, Greece is now left with three choices for national saviour.

They are: 

1. Ayios Nektarios;
2. Me;
3. Rufus T. Firefly; and
4. Ex-king Konstantine (unemployed since 1974).

The obvious choice is 2, Rufus T. Firefly. I’ve been stressing his suitability ever since this crisis broke out and I think it’s about time I was taken seriously. Please see video above in order to appreciate Firefly’s particular virtues and what he could do for our beloved country, Freedonia a.k.a. Hellas.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Papandreou pays for referendum blunder

I’ve been playing about with twitter – see here – while watching the news from Hellas. I’m not too sure how twitter works yet or its value and I’m even less certain that things for Greece are any brighter now that Giorgos Papandreou, after his massive referendum blunder, has agreed to step down and the man who took Greece into the euro, former head of the Bank of Greece, Lukas Papademos, who said the best thing about the euro was how it protected its weaker economies from global shocks, will (apparently) take over as PM, albeit temporarily, until the 26 October haircut deal is secured after which general elections will be held, in February or March. I don’t like the idea of national unity or coalition governments – conflict and disagreement are the be all and end all in politics –  and am not impressed by the way the one taking shape in Greece has essentially been foisted on the country by the European Union, which demanded that the two main parties, at least, support a new government to prove that Greece was serious about implementing its ‘obligations’ arising from the 26 October deal.

* The photo above shows Papandreou, President Karolos Papoulias and opposition leader Antonis Samaras discussing today how exactly to bring about the demise of the Pasok government.



Saturday, 5 November 2011

The method behind George’s madness

One of the most striking moments in Giorgos Papandreou’s vote of confidence apologia last night was his effort to justify the proposed bailout referendum on the grounds that it represented, in his mind, an attempt to change the way politics is done in Greece, to move the country from its ‘Byzantine tradition’ of murky deals done behind closed doors without the involvement of the citizenry to the ‘Athenian tradition’ of direct democracy.

Now, of course, one could argue that it’s a funny time for Papandreou to have decided that he wants to be Pericles and we won’t go into his sincerity and the other, colder political calculations that contributed to the ill-fated referendum plan; but if we consider the prime minister’s ‘Athens-Byzantium’ dichotomy alongside the RIEAS analysis – which emphasises the influence of the Scandinavian democratic model on Papandreou – and this piece by Anthony Barnett – which reminds us of Papandreou, the man behind the Symi symposia – then we begin to see that there is a certain method to George’s madness.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Papandreou survives vote of confidence

The Pasok government has won its vote of confidence, comfortably in the end, without defections – 153-144 –  after a very good apologia from PM Giorgos Papandreou, in which he said he would try and form a coalition government – and accepting the possibility that it would be without him at the helm; a government that would see through the 26 October haircut agreement before resigning – February-March time – when a general election would be held. Antonis Samaras, the appalling leader of the conservative opposition, New Democracy, immediately ruled out participating in such a coalition government and insisted on elections being held on 4 December. So, if it’s not possible to form a coalition government – and the vitriolic Samaras was adamant that it was not – then presumably Papandreou will have the constitutional and political authority to continue as prime minister – until March, and beyond? After the humiliating week he’s had – in which his resignation appeared imminent and inevitable – Papandreou’s success tonight is remarkable, even if, given the multiple crises facing Greece and the inherent weakness of the government in dealing with them, it proves to be only a fleeting triumph.

* I note Yanis Varoufakis is calling Papandreou’s plea – allow me to continue as PM while I (pretend) to usher in a more broadly-based government – his ‘Mubarak Strategy’ and suggesting that the idea of a national unity government will go the same way as the referendum. 

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Franco-German ultimatum spells end for Papandreou

Extraordinary the spectacle last night of Sarkozy and Merkel dictating to Greece the actual question they expected to be asked in Papandreou’s proposed referendum, i.e. Greeks should be asked to judge whether they should or should not remain within the eurozone. Sarkozy went one step further in humiliating Greece by castigating the country’s political system for failing to produce consensus and solidarity – EU trademarks – and compared this unfavourably to what had happened in Ireland, Portugal and Spain, where similarly difficult austerity measures have had to be implemented.

Now, when Papandreou came up with the idea of a referendum – without consulting his cabinet, let alone Greece's EU ‘partners’ – he must have thought that the question would relate to the latest bailout deal agreed on 26 October, providing Greece with a 50% debt haircut; but the French and Germans made it clear to him that such a question would effectively be translated as a referendum on in or out of the euro. But, in Greece, apart from the extreme left and extreme right, there is absolutely no desire to leave the euro – in fact, Greeks are ardent supporters of the euro and of the European project in general – so a referendum on returning to the drachma would be not only a pointless distraction but also put into question the entire strategic basis on which Greece has operated since 1974, and no Greek parliament is going to approve legislation for such a poll. Indeed, reaction among Pasok MPs and cabinet ministers this morning has been horror – at the humiliation heaped on Greece by the Franco-German ultimatum – and revulsion – at Papandreou’s disastrous miscalculation and ill-thought out plan for a referendum – and it is only a matter of time before Papandreou resigns

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Is Papandreou’s referendum idea so bad after all?

I don’t like all this the ‘French and Germans are warning Greece to accept the bail out or else’. Or else what? The French and Germans can go get stuffed. We all know that the bailout has nothing to do with saving Greece and everything to do with protecting the quasi-insolvent French and German banks, so it’s hard to accept the strictures of Merkel and Sarkozy, demanding Greeks sacrifice themselves for the sake of their political careers and Franco-German financial institutions. In which case, I’m warming to the idea of a referendum and a ‘no’ vote. If we accept Yanis Varoufakis’ logic that Greece will never be forced out of the euro (stated here as the Eagles’ doctrine, ‘You can check out any time but you can never leave’), because Greece leaving the euro would bring the whole eurozone project down in double quick time, then what might occur – after a Greek ‘no’ – is that the eurozone leaders will abandon the current 26 October deal, which envisions Greeks suffering for 20 years to save the banks, and come up with ideas for emerging from the crisis based on investment and growth.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Referendum rebellion hots up

Very interesting day in Greek politics after the prime minister called for a referendum on the debt bailout. Left are three prominent members of ruling Pasok who came out against Giorgos Papandreou’s decision to put a gun to the head of the Greek people. They are Eva Kaili, Milena Apostolaki and Hara Kefalidou. I’m willing to wager that the referendum won’t happen, but that elections will.

Also, Cyprus’ lamentable president, Demetris Christofias, finished the ‘summit’ in New York with the UN and Turk Cypriots aimed at revivifying the Annan plan. The talks made some progress, according to the UN, on secondary issues related to a future united Cyprus economy, EU relations and internal security; but on matters that count, particularly to Greek Cypriots – return of property and territory and deportation of Turkish settlers – they went nowhere, and are unlikely to. After, Christofias tried to deflect from his own failings by blaming an increasingly hostile opposition at home for undermining his efforts to ‘save’ Cyprus. Another summit in New York was set for January.

Better news for Cyprus is the continuing performance of APOEL in the Champions League. Tonight, they beat Europa League champions Porto 2-1 in Nicosia and are now, amazingly, after four rounds, top of their qualifying group with eight points, ahead of Zenit St Petersberg, Porto and Shakthar Donetsk.