Friday, March 29, 2013

A European Ministry of Finance?

The ongoing economic crisis in Europe and its currency creates an unprecedented need to find solutions. Yet somehow the way our leaders are dealing with it, has only caused a great divide among the European nations. There has been widespread criticism about the decisions our leaders took and the recent developments in Cyprus are just one example. 

  “I cannot remember that European policy makers have seen anything coming throughout the euro crisis,” said Paul de Grauwe, a professor at the London School of Economics and a former adviser at the European Commission. “The general rule is that they do not see problems coming.” (

If that is true, then how can we trust our leaders to come up with a plan that actually works? Our future is in their hands and they are seen to constantly disagree, bicker with each other while playing dangerous power games. The German leadership is pulling its weight in the euro club and we see Mrs Merkel and her finance minister Mr Schauble, expressing their opinions on what other states must do. As if they were elected by every European to lead them, so they think that they can speak for us all.

If anything else this crisis just exposed all weaknesses of the European elites and the real "state of the Union!" It is clear now that the only solution to save the euro and Europe's economy, would be something that our governments are trying so desperately to avoid. More "European" governance and a harmonized European economy. 

This is not a new idea. In 2008 and the beginning of the crisis French President Nicolas Sarkozy, called the Eurogroup to be replaced by a "clearly identified economic government" for the euro-zone. Stating it was not possible for the euro-zone to continue without it. The euro-zone economic government would discuss issues with the European Central Bank, which would remain independent.

This government would come in the form of a regular meeting of the euro-zone heads of state and government, similar to the European Council. Rather than simply the finance ministers which happens with the current Eurogroup. He said that "only heads of state and government have the necessary democratic legitimacy" for the role. This idea was based on the meeting of euro-zone leaders in 2008 who met to agree a coordinated euro-zone response to the banking crisis.

This is in contrast to an early proposal from former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt who saw the European Commission taking a leading role in a new economic government, something that would be opposed by the less integrationist states. Sarkozy's proposal was opposed by Eurogroup chair Jean-Claude Juncker, who did not think Europe was ripe for such a large step at the time and opposition from Germany killed off the proposal. 

Mrs Merkel approved of the idea of an economic government, but for the whole of the EU, not just the euro-zone as doing so could split the EU and relegate non euro-zone states to second class members. (

I agree with Mr. Verhofstadt's and Mr. Sarkozy's proposal, but I disagree that the control of the euro-zone governance should be given to the hands of the EU Commission. In my opinion we need an EU or euro-zone ministry of finance. The Commission is not elected by the citizens and should not have so much power, it is not accountable to us. If this new body will have to answer to any EU body, that should be the European Parliament. 

We should have a legitimate and elected by the people head of this new "ministerial" position, so that it would be answerable to them. Right now we give way too much power and importance to the banks and look where they got us. Do I want a strong powerful European Central Bank with no control by the European Parliament, or at least some accountable elected politician? No.

It was that absolute freedom of all the Central Banks across Europe that lead us to this crisis. In Ireland, many scandals came out of the corruption and tragic mistakes that the officers of the Irish Central Bank made. They were simply not doing the job they were appointed to do, they were not regulating the banking system. And in many cases they were turning a blind eye to what was happening in the country. 

I agree that we need to keep the euro but only if the euro-zone becomes more transparent and democratic. Why have a super powerful ECB that will answer to no elected accountable politician? A European "Ministry" of finance would be a solution, thus further unification. Otherwise let's forget the whole thing as it does not work, for the people at least. We have set up the euro while having no single government or economy in Europe.

There are of course already two  bodies that are helping Europe manage its finances. The so called Eurogroup and the Ecofin. Prior to the Lisbon Treaty, the Eurogroup had no legal basis. This had some advantages as, because it was not a Council formation, it is smaller and more informal resulting in more constructive and confidential discussions than the full Ecofin Council. It also means that it does not have the usual rotating six-month presidency meaning its work is streamlined and strengthened when compared to the other institutions. (

The Eurogroup sounds like a good potential basis for the formation of this new "ministry." Unlike the Ecofin that meets once a month and its presidency is rotating every six months, the Eurogroup has a permanent president. The only trouble with both groups is that they are comprised by ministers of our governments. So inevitably there will be a certain amount of antagonism among the ministers. Is this perhaps the true reason that the Eurogroup came under so much criticism over its handling of the Cyprus financial crisis?

We will have to create a body that is independent from our national governments and answerable to the European Parliament. The Ecofin group is a part of the European Union Council, thus is controlled by them. If Europe has managed to agree on a permanent representative of a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CSFP), then why not do it for its economy that is in tatters for almost 4 years?

A few years back Europe was not ready for such move, as Mr. Juncker stated. But the crisis seems to be worsening and engulfing one by one all EU states. We feel that our national governments are more trustworthy to deal with it and we are becoming more and more skeptical of the EU institutions.

But if we really have a closer look, it was actually our national governments and politicians that did and keep doing the worse damage to our economies. We should not have any country and its government or minister of finance, notably Germany, dominating European politics.

For smaller states a better deal is in hand in the form of a federal formation. Either we all decide the future of our economies together, or we are told what to do by the leadership of one or two powerful European "partners." What do you think is best?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Defending European values and culture.

I grew up in a Europe dominated by American or "Anglophone" songs and movies. But I remember when I was young, I was exposed at home to music from France, Italy and Greece, apart from the popular English speaking
one. So what ever happened to European music and movie industries now-days?

When you are exposed to music or any form of art other than your native from a young age, you eventually become "bi-cultural." So when most of Europe is consuming mainly American music, films, television programs and series, then how will our future generations identify themselves?

In the past Europe was the birth place of the so called "Western civilization," with centuries old creativity and heritage so abundant, that made our continent dominant in most arts. Europe contributed to the global heritage hugely, but now it is merely a follower.

The "Western" culture is today  mainly expressed by the American or Anglophone productions, while the rest of Europe is apparently the consumer of these products with few exceptions. Our ruling elites possibly believe that by "Americanizing" us all, they create a common culture for Europe to help with its unification.

If I was exposed in Romanian movies when I was a young kid for example, possibly I would speak Romanian by now. Or at least I would have a very close affiliation with anything coming from that country. But I was exposed in American movies, so I am writing this article in English. When you come in contact from a young age with another culture, by watching movies and TV series produced by this culture, then you adopt it.

In many countries of Eastern Europe that were under Soviet influence, the affirmation that they are now "Western" comes with a flood of Anglophone songs and movies into their market. Just as it happened in Greece in the past, when the country needed to be "Westernized" and stay under European or American influence.

But why don't we instead of relying on USA to "Westernize" us, promote our own arts and heritage by selling it from one to another? Besides, aren't we Westerners already? We know more about New York from all the films we are watching, than Warsaw, Prague or Milan for example.Never mind the fact that we do not know much about some of the new EU states that joined recently, or are going to join soon.

European integration should not be just financial or political. If we want to succeed in it, we will also have to invest in culture as well. Culture and heritage is what binds people together, not an economy. We could start watching each others cinema and television programs. Listen to each others music. Organize pan-European art festivals, promoting and investing in art in all EU states.

We invest and subsidize almost everything in Europe, why can't we treat our art as a commodity as well? The Americans are making millions in revenue from selling their films and music to us. From royalties to everything that is attached to their entertainment industries.

If we do so we enforce and safeguard our arts, culture and heritage, individually as countries but also as a continent. We ensure the continuation, revival and influence of European arts in the world stage, but also that of our values. Our values are reflected in our arts and passed on through them.

And by exposing ourselves to each others culture we get to know each other too, promoting European integration. Perhaps in the end, we will create a common European heritage that will have a little bit from every corner of Europe. And that can be far more binding, than any currency or single market.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Irish position of the new CAP.

Roughly 40% of the annual EU budget is currently taken up by CAP, the well-known system of agricultural subsidies and programs that first came into force in 1962. The EU’s new budget for 2014-2020, the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), is currently under discussion. The Commission has proposed funding of almost €383 billion for CAP funding for this period, which is significantly less than the €410 billion allocated under the 2007-2013 MFF.
For Ireland, along with many other EU Member States, adequate EU CAP funding is crucial, as it provides an essential support for the agriculture sector in the respective economies. In Ireland, this sector provides an essential platform for our largest indigenous industry, the agri-food and drinks sector, which accounts for 18% of our total industrial output, employs approximately 150,000 people, and generates an annual output of about €24 billion. This sector also makes a significant contribution to our exports. For this reason, the Irish Government is trying in current MFF negotiations to protect CAP funding and keep it more in line with current levels.
Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) Negotiations
It is important to note that CAP negotiations can only take place within the general context of MFF discussions, as the vast majority of payments awarded under Heading 2 of the MFF are, in practice, given to the agriculture sector and CAP funding. This is due to the fact that Heading 2 addresses the use of natural resources in sustainable growth. With this in mind, the recent special Summit of the European Council on the 22 and 23 November must be considered. The positions of the various Member States were found to be too far apart to allow a budget to be drafted that was an acceptable compromise to all 27 Member States. The MFF will be discussed again at the European Council in early February 2013, and will therefore have a key bearing on the prospects for agreement on CAP reform during the Irish Presidency.
No consensus position was reached at the special Summit largely because the current economic crisis has seen the positions of various Member States split into two camps: those proposing cuts to EU contributions, and against the EU cutting the rebates returned; and those opposing any cuts to cohesion and other funding, such as agricultural. Ireland is firmly in the latter group. In practice, most funding under Heading 2 is allocated to the CAP, under Pillars 1 and 2. Pillar 1 covers ‘Direct Payments and Market Supports’, and Pillar 2 covers ‘Rural Development’. This briefing will examine Ireland’s position under these separate headings.
Implications for Ireland
By this time next year, Ireland will have received more than 1.4% of the total EU budget (over €14 billion), for the 2007-2013 period. Of this, €12 billion will come under the CAP, including over €1 billion per annum in Direct Payments to farmers under Pillar 1, and roughly €348 million in rural development funds under Pillar 2. When the Commission budget blueprint was released in 2011, Ireland was of the view that it represented a good starting-point for negotiations. However, there was concern that the amount of money proposed in the blueprint for agriculture spending was the minimum amount that would be necessary. These concerns still hold.
The Irish Position on Pillar 1 (Direct Payments and Market Supports)
For Ireland, the key issues relating to Pillar 1 in the MFF and CAP reform are:
The size of the CAP budget
From the outset the amount of money proposed for agriculture spending was viewed as the minimum necessary. In this context, throughout these negotiations Ireland has continued to resist pressure from some Member States for further cuts in the agricultural budget.
How the EU will allocate the CAP funds between Member States
Ireland is generally happy with the method proposed for the distribution of direct payments between Member States. The Commission has not yet indicated how it will distribute rural development funds, and Ireland is arguing that it should get its fair share, based on past performance.
Commission blueprint proposals for connecting CAP funding to environmentally friendly practices in the agricultural sector
The Commission blueprint states that 30% of CAP funding should be tied to ‘greening’ efforts in the agricultural sector, and that it should be flat rate in nature. Ireland would have concerns about the accelerated move towards flat rates that this would involve, and instead of a separate payment would prefer the ‘greening’ element to be a percentage of each individual farmer’s overall direct payment. Ireland would also like to see changes made to the three individual ‘greening’ criteria (permanent grassland, crop diversification and ecological focus areas) so as to make them more operable across all Member States.
Distribution of payments within Member States (internal convergence)
The Commission’s proposal to move to flat national or regional rates by 2019 would cause very significant transfers of funding between Irish farmers. Ireland, supported by other Member States who would similarly be adversely affected by such a move, has called for a more measured approach based on the Commission’s own method for the distribution of direct payments between Member States. This would limit the losses suffered by individual farmers by moving only part, rather than all, of the way to the average payment per hectare over the period.
Definitions of an ‘active farmer’ and a ‘young farmer’
Ireland’s priority is to ensure the avoidance of payments to non-farmers in a way that does not create additional bureaucracy. Furthermore, Ireland holds that Member States should be allowed to identify objective criteria – for example, a minimum standard of agricultural education – in order to ensure that the young farmers’ scheme can be targeted at genuine young farmers. On small farmers, Ireland would prefer that this scheme is optional for Member States.
The Irish Position on Pillar 2 (Rural Development)
For Ireland, the key issues relating to Pillar 2 are:
  1. Apart from the overall funding for rural development mentioned earlier, the main concern arises in relation to the incorporation of rural development funding into what is known as the Common Strategic Framework, with other structural funds.
  1. Other issues such as the restriction of investment to farms of a certain size, the absence of a forestry premium for loss of income, the designation of areas of natural constraint and the potential effects of Pillar 1 greening payments on agri-environment payments are also of concern to Ireland.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, has stressed that the full realization of Ireland’s agri-food potential hinges on the attainment of a well-funded CAP and a measured reform package that will continue to provide the basis for the sustainable development of the Irish agriculture sector. The next number of months will be crucial to the future of the Irish agricultural industry and negotiations on an agreement will most likely conclude during the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU.

 - The Team at European Movement Ireland


Monday, March 18, 2013

Cypriot Bail-Out: Seriously Mrs. Merkel?

The drama that unfolds in the Euro-zone seems to be never ending. This weekend another member of the block has applied for a bail out. One of the Mediterranean nations-Cyprus, applied for a 10 billion € bail out, but that is not where the shock ends!

Cyprus had a very strong currency and a thriving economy before it joined the Euro-zone, but just like Ireland is now forced to a humiliating bail-out. Only this time the European leaders have agreed that it must be the bank account holders that will take the burden of the loans' repayments.

The inhabitants of the island nation will see their savings in the Cypriot banks be a subject to taxation, in order to pay for the bail out. Such move of course has been suggested by Mrs. Merkel and her party in Germany, in order to reassure the German voters that they won't be the ones who will pay the bill again.

Mrs Merkel made it clear that every depositor in Cyprus is responsible for the situation the country is in now, so they should be the ones who must help the country now with their savings. That reminds of the constant smear campaign against another two nations that were bailed out, Greece and Ireland.

The Greeks were lazy and tax evading, while the Irish overspending so it is justified for them to go through the harsh austerity that has been imposed on them. All with the cooperation and tolerance of these two countries' leadership! Nations that receive a bail out from their "partners," must be forced to be responsible and abide to the rules they have signed; that is the excuse the European leaders are giving us, for the harsh measures that some Europeans have to live with now days.

What I long to hear coming out of any European leader's mouth is a word that will place some blame on the European banks and bankers. And of course the real perpetrators of this crime, the European governments themselves. Both of them are to blame for the irresponsible practices and policies that led Europe in this mess, yet they have the nerve to blame the ordinary people and ask of them to pay for their mess.

Forcing people to pay out of their bank deposits, their life long savings, is a practice that fits better to a tyranny not a democracy. And the same scaremongering tactics that were applied on Greece and Ireland, are applied on Cyprus now too.

"If you vote no and reject our deal, we won't give you the money that you so much need!" Well I will remind the German and other rich investor countries' voters that the bail outs that they are giving to "poor" and "irresponsible" countries are not tax free. They come with a huge interest attached, so they are not a "gift" rather an investment that will have to be repaid with a huge profit for Germany and the other "donors."

Not to mention that Germany is gaining hugely by a weaker Euro. It is clear to me that all this is nothing but a war of interests among the European elites. And the Cypriot President Mr. Anastasiades just confirmed that, by claiming that he was "bullied" by Brussels and given no choice but to accept such terms for the bail out.

What Mr Anastasiades forgot to mention, is who "bullied" him in Brussels. Was it some EU officials or the other European leaders and diplomats, just like Mrs Merkel and Mr Schauble, Germany's finance minister? Because by saying "Brussels," our leaders are placing the blame to some invisible corrupt EU officials, when the reality is that the blame falls right into our government's lap.

A great way of shifting the blame to EU, raising the anti-EU sentiments among the European population, while the decisions are obviously taken by our governments on a inter-governmental and non transparent level. Decisions are taken behind closed doors remember, in all those EU summits.

The reality is that the European elites want to end Cyprus' status as a tax haven and kick out the Russians and other non Europeans who use the island for money laundering. Russian investors have for long now investing in the island and moving their wealth over there. Europe wants to clear its banks from the Russian influence and potential "dirty money."

In this case why don't they call a spade a spade, rather prefer to blame the ordinary citizens of the country and force everyone to bear the same consequences? Not everyone is responsible for the shortfalls of the Cypriot and European banks. Why no bank was ever held responsible for money laundering, if that is the case?

And the question is, will Europe help Cyprus deal with the aftermath of such action? Not by pouring bucket loads of money and keeping the Cypriot economy on life support as they did for Greece. But as soon as they kick the Russians out, their money and their investments, will Europeans rush in to fill the gap?

By forcing Cyprus to enter that dangerous power game, it is exposing it in complications with Russia and its rich elites that have been investing in their economy. Russia already reacted negatively on the news, with its Prime Minister Mr Medvedev stating : "“This simply looks like the confiscation of other people’s money. I do not know who the author of this idea is, but this is what it looks like. We are unfortunately acquainted with such practices from Soviet times.”

And he is right! If Europe wants the Russians out of its banks, then what compensation will they give to Cyprus in order the country to follow Europe's orders? Will Europe invest in Cyprus creating jobs and boosting its economy? And what are they going to do for other tax havens in the Union, like Luxembourg for example.

Why are they being treated differently, perhaps just because they are one of the founding members of the EU? The Germans and French are quick to bash Ireland for its lower corporate tax rates and now are keen to end Cyprus' tax haven status, but they do not have the same attitude towards Luxembourg. Is it because it is them who tax evade in their neighboring country and not Russians, just like the Cypriot case?

I find it outrageous what is happening right now in Europe, when the people are being forced to pay for our elites' games of  power. It is not clear yet if all the account holders in Cyprus will be affected, or just those with a certain amount or over, type of account or financial activities. But I suspect that will be the ordinary hard working citizens that will bear the burden, while the rich tax evaders will escape unscathed again. Just what has happened in Greece.

Europe's policies and plans are not working! They have already created a divide and hatred between the Northern sates and the Southern. How long before they tear Europe apart?

Monday, March 11, 2013

It is a banker's world!!!

As if they did not have enough nerve to demand to be bailed out with public money, now some banks in Europe are bank in business as usual.

Our whole lives were changed because of the crisis, that is a crisis of credit. Many of us had to go through very tough austerity measures and all that so that Europe's banking system could be saved.

We were blamed for the mistakes that our governments did and the risks that these banks took. One would think that the banks would face the music at some stage, but no. Even a recent proposal to cap the banker's bonuses, found opposition from Britain. 

 One must really read the following article from the Irish Independent that was published on the 3rd of October 2012, to realize the level of betrayal that the Irish and every European must tolerate from their governments.

"Bailed-out AIB Bank in Ireland, is to hit 70,000 customers with a second rise in mortgage costs in just three months. Owner-occupiers will have their standard variable mortgage cost increased from 3.5pc to 4pc.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Finance said it had been informed in advance by AIB about the rate rise. The spokesman said mortgage rates were a "commercial decision" for banks, even though they were bailed out by the State and AIB had been pressurized to cut rates when the Government came to power.

But since then a relationship framework had been signed with the domestic banks. "We now don't get involved in day-to-day banking. The Government would have no role in it," he said.

( "

If you read the above article correctly, you will realize that what is actually saying is that the bailed out by the public banks, will now start charging the public for their services. And the Irish Government will have absolutely no say in what AIB does.

In other words, the people of Ireland bailed out this bank with their own money and now the same bank will start charging them as usual. While their government won't get involved and allow this bank to do "business as usual." Who rules Ireland and in extension Europe then?

Perhaps we do not need the European Parliament anymore, we should just allow the ECB to rule Europe. And on national level our governments will be just care takers, doing the work while the orders will come from Europe's banks! Not the Europe that I was dreaming of.

Just today, European Parliament's President Mr. Martin Schulz gave an interview to Reuters, stating that Europe saved its banks by losing a generation of people. And that is so true. Unemployment in some parts of the continent has reached a crisis point and it threatens the very social cohesion and stability of these nations. And of course Europe' stability in extend.

I am glad that Mr Schulz and other leading European politicians are realizing this fact. But now it is time for an urgent action and less words. In his interview Mr. Schulz pledged for investments and the need for direct links between Brussels and the local authorities, to speed up the process of direct investments from the EU.

Well really looking forward to see that Mr. Schulz and perhaps you could also do something about preventing the banks from messing European people's lives again in the future. Thank you.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Why have gender quotas in Europe?

Today is International Women's Day and there is a great focus on getting women across Europe becoming more involved in politics and other top leading positions in business and trade. It is a part of a greater effort in closing the gap between gender inequality in Europe in all aspects of our working lives.

The plan was launched by the EU Commission and championed by Mrs Viviane Reding, the European Justice Commissioner. It is inspired by similar plans in the Scandinavian countries, that proved very successful in placing more women in their company boards, though they have still failed to increase the number of female CEO's and Chair people.

Following weeks of dispute, the European Commission on Wednesday proposed a gender quota for non-executive directors of companies that are listed on the stock markets in the 27 member states. The plan has already seen strong opposition by Germany, that claims it will be bad for business.

The new regulations, if approved, would stipulate that women occupy 40 percent of the seats on the non-executive boards of Europe's roughly 5,000 publicly traded companies. In instances where candidates' professional qualifications were the same, women would also be given preference, should they be under-represented in that company. Companies that did not adhere to the rules could be sanctioned. (source:

I absolutely agree that we need more women involved in Europe's politics and business. They form around 50% of Europe's population, so they should have a larger voice and part in its governance and business activities. But I just do not think that placing quotas is the right way of doing it.

Women do have more to offer and certainly we need their creativity and way of thinking in creating a more balanced society. Remember in nature, it takes the unification of both female and male in creating perfection. But by placing quotas, we are only creating more complexities. With quotas many that deserve the position will be left out, simply because of their sex. That of course you will say it has been happening already in most European states, at the expense of women.

But why complicate things when trying to fix a problem? If you want to have more women involved in politics and the European boardrooms, then give them more free time and lift the weight of the house keeping and child raising off their shoulders. It is true that many women are losing job opportunities, just because companies won't employ them. They simply try to avoid paying for the maternal leave and absence during the months following the birth of their child.

And that means that we need to start giving more rights, or obligations for men in the family. Until now it was mainly women that had to leave work to raise their children. House keeping is mainly a woman’s responsibility. If you are a stay-at-home-dad is still seen as laughable for most Europeans.

Perhaps that is what we need to change. Why women who want to have high ranking jobs must leave for around 6 months to raise a child? Couldn't this time be split between the partners, so while the mother takes the first 3 moths off work and if she wishes to continue her career, her partner could take over for the rest of the time?

In that way, women won't be seen as the only ones who will have to be on paid leave for months because of pregnancy or having a child. Men who want to become fathers will have the same rights, or if seen from a business owner's perspective, the same amount of "awkwardness" for the business.

We simply need to change attitudes and mentality as a society. If we see women as equals, then we will inspire them to get more involved and if we give them the initiatives to do so, I believe they will. If we promote the right role models to our young, attitudes will change. No quota can ever achieve that as harmoniously. That is clearly a bureaucratic way of solving a problem.

Here is how I see it: if one company advertises for three top positions and 10 people apply, that only three of them are women. But it just happens that the three best candidates are men. There is a quota that one position must go to a woman. Then who loses out, the man who lost his position, the company or both?

Why not try to attract more women applying for the position and make the ratio of applicants almost 50-50. Then it is bound that more qualified women will be in this bunch and take not just one but even two of the positions offered- or perhaps all of them, if they are indeed the best candidates.

In my opinion a quota is not right way, though it is done for a right cause and I applaud the people involved in this effort for daring to raise this issue of inequality and acting on it. But for encouraging more women to go for these positions we need to change attitudes and perceptions about them and offer our societies different role models. And of course different business ethos and initiatives towards them.

Perhaps the easiest and fastest way for results is to place quotas. But then that is sad because it shows that we, as humans are not ready yet to change mentality about half of our population and we need to place laws to enforce righteous changes for the better.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Oh, for the love of Gold, Greeks.. Give us a break!

Recently another riddle baffles me, coming  from my native Greece. There is an on-going protest taking place back home about the opening of the gold mines in the northern Greek region of Halkidiki.  

People protest against it, claiming national, environmental or political and economic reasons on why the mines should not be opened. 

In my opinion the whole fuss about it is for the following reasons:  a) Because the mines are sold out very cheaply to foreign companies. b) For environmental purposes c) Because the locals just do not like the idea of living near the mines. d) There is not a satisfactory agreement with locals for land compensation, if any f) Because just some lost their kickbacks from land deals e) Because it is not what the local government was planing for the area. Planning deals and contracts, often illegal were common in Greece. g) More than one of the above reasons. 

 For the only reason that I would support these protests are the reasons a) and d). It is unacceptable for a country's natural resources to be sold to foreign multinationals for scraps, due to the country's financial difficulties. These resources must stay under the control of the nation and be used for the benefit of the people, not of the multinationals.

But for the rest of reasons or excuses they give us, please Greeks, give us a break! The Halkidiki region was burned twice as far as I can remember as a child, to be used and developed as land and arbitrary estates. Now for the locals to suddenly have their environmentalism awaken, is too little too late, never mind farsical.

The country needs all the resources that it can find to change its economy. We must start extracting and exploiting everything that we can, either it is gold, uranium, oil, etc . And we must understand that as a country and as an economy Greece must change. We can not just be an agricultural and tourist country anymore. We need to diversify the Greek economy, produce and export!

With tomatoes and olive oil as exports, how can we compete with other countries that produce cars, mobile phones, lap-tops, etc. And since at the moment we do not have any funds, or perhaps the other leading industrial European nations do not allow us to become an export country in such goods, then what exists already in the soil of our country, is excellent for a good start of exporting!

Provided of course that we do not sell our resources out for peanuts to the big multinationals. But if it is for the good of the country, then I'm sorry if some feel unsettled because they will lose their grandmother's tiny piece of land, who do not intend to cultivate. Or because some wanted to develop nearby sites for residential and arbitrary developments and they are going to lose their kickbacks.

If the above are anywhere near the real reasons that people oppose this development, then not only we should be ashamed of ourselves, but we are also a very sad nation! Why can't Greece become a leading European gold exporter? Should we think collectively or individually? If we discover an area full of deposits of minerals of any kind, why not exploit it for God's sake?

We want jobs in Greece, we want development! Well here is the development and the jobs but people protest against them. In China they sunk entire cities to proceed with the planned developments and better their economy. And look where they got! We should not reach to that point of course, but we are going to the other extreme entirely!

Today the police went to investigate in Ierissos town, possibly even capturing people who have recently rioted and destroyed public and private property in Skouries village (and doused with petrol guards leaving them by the fire that had been lit earlier). Some set fire to tires, creating massive air pollution, just five hundred meters from an elementary school, but protested vigorously when the police made ​​limited use of chemicals, but not tear gas (as it was stated by the police).

The land that the mine is located apparently does not belong to anyone other than the Greek state and is set there for more than 30 years.  Plus when the locals elected their Mayor during the last elections, the main subject of his campaign was the reopening of the gold mine. So it is not anything new. It has been going on for sometime already, but why so much unrest now that the country needs all the resources it can find?

According to one version of the events, the problem is the SYRIZA party that is using anything that can destroy the government's efforts to bring money into Greece. Don't forget that the main body of supporters of this party comes from PASOK, which collapsed when it started ending its close connections with the civil service and the syndicates ( the same groups and people that managed to overthrow the Mitsotakis government 1992 ).

So now SYRIZA has by its side the civil servants that in past were with PASOK and they use their power to manipulate the government for their own interests and benefit. By using populism, they manage to gain the support of the ordinary folk as well and proceed to acts that sometimes are not for the best interests of the country in general.

The problem is, will the ordinary Greek folk be able to wake up and smell the coffee before it is too late? Greece must change, as the World is changing. We can not remain forever in a fantasy nationalist or socialist land, we need to proceed with the necessary reforms in order to catch up with the rest of the World. 

Now, all Greece is doing is moving backwards. We have already reached the days of the '60s-'70s and if this crisis continues we will go backwards even further. No, I do not support austerity and I have many times criticized the European elites for imposing it on us. And I do not want the sell out of my country's resources, or any of the worker's hard won rights either. 

But this sworn idealistic and everlasting war between the Left and the Right, or the public sector and the government in Greece is getting sickening. We are like a dog that while is trying to bite and punish its own tail, it keeps going in rounds remaining forever in the same spot. But the rest of the World is leaping over us and ever forwards. 

So for the love of Gold, Greeks!! Give us a break!!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Italian Election results, 2013... A deja vu!!

It is the talk of the week! The Italian elections have rocked Europe and sent shocks across the continent and the Markets. The result was much feared, but expected.

Mario Monti's party failed to gain any significant support, while more populist parties like the comedian's Beppe Grillo's 5 Star Movement, thrashed to the third place with 25% of the votes.

It has brought political uncertainty back to the Euro-zone and it may have even contributed to the recent volatility in the global financial markets.

The results show that  in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, the hopeful and favorite of the European elites Mr. Mario Monti and his Centrist Coalition, just got 10.4% of the votes. The Centre-left coalition of Mr. Bersani got 32%, while Mr Berlusconi made a come-back with his Centre-right coalition and 26.6% of the votes. The Five Star Movement of Mr. Grillo came third party with 25.6%.

Similar results the parties had for the Italian Senate. These elections may have sparked a period of uncertainty and instability for Italy and ultimately Europe, but it is not the first time that European people chose to give a message to their leaders, by voting for outsiders in their national elections.

In Greece we saw a similar drama unfolding recently, with people moving away from the established political parties that the European elites preferred, only to give their votes for the far right and far left. The rise of SYRIZA gave the same shivers down the spine of many European elites and EU officials, while the rise of the Golden Dawn echoes similar events in Germany seven decades ago.

So why don't the European elites ever learn? The European people are responding to our leaders actions, with the only weapon they have: their votes. The citizens are fed up with austerity, especially when they have to endure years of it so that the banks and the financial establishment can be saved.

Judging from what I had experienced from family confessions in Greece, a large part who voted for the Golden Dawn party, did so in protest. Some people admitted doing so and gave as reasons various facts. When all other parties used money to print brochures for their electoral campaigns, in a time that many Greek schools did not have money to print books for the children, the only party who did not send brochures was the Golden Dawn party.

They gained votes among the ordinary folk, by just doing what the established parties have never thought of doing so; being considerate. You see, populism works in dire times as these we are living. The Italians voted with the same mind frame and we see the results. They reject the continuous austerity and voted in parties that promised some relief, no matter if they will be able to keep their promises. 

But the danger here for Europe or the euro is not the Italian people, or Grillo and Berslusconi. The real danger are our national politicians that are happy to play with the fortunes and future of their people plus that of Europe, in order to satisfy their need to stay in power for longer. By making sure they promote policies that please those who finance their political careers, not those who vote for them and give them the power to create those policies.

The Greeks, the French and now the Italians are making clear their dissatisfaction with the continuous austerity imposed on them and their desire for change. Some of the European elite politicians are not amused.

Mr. Peer Steinbrueck, a former finance minister and challenger of Mrs Merkel's position in the upcoming German elections, said he was "appalled that two clowns have won" and made it clear he was referring to Grillo and to Berlusconi, calling the latter "clearly a clown with a testosterone boost".

I am sure he is not the only one who has these views. But perhaps the real "clowns" are the established politicians, that have the nerve to ignore the wishes and needs of the people. They failed them once by pushing their countries into this crisis and promoting irresponsible policies. Now they are failing them for the second time by ignoring their calls on lifting the tough austerity and their need for real, long lasting solutions. 

So here come the populist politicians like Grillo or Tsipras that  just say what people want to hear, in order to gain votes. What are they going to do in reality, if they are really able to do or change anything is another matter. But I do not blame the people for voting for them, they are desperate. So why not vote for a real comedian, a "clown" as Mr. Steinbrueck called Mr Brillo, than vote for the clowns that so far were ruling them?

Personally I hoped that Mr Berlusconi never made a comeback in Italian or European politics. He is a major factor in why Italy's economy is in the state it is at the moment, how can the Italians vote him back in power? Well the Italians are not alone in this tragic mistake. 

Recent polls in Ireland too, show that the Fianna Fail party tops the popularity polls. The same party that drove the Irish economy from being one of the most successful to one of the troubled in Europe. People in desperation for change and fed up with austerity are ready to vote back parties, or bring in new ones that are clearly not the best choice. 

Is this a sign of a deeper European crisis, that is not confined just in its economy? If we are lacking of politicians with a vision, but also respect for the people and solutions to their problems. If our leaders answer to the global financiers rather their voters, then Europe is indeed in trouble.

And when people like Berlusconi are propelled into prominent positions, is a clear manifestation of Europe's political, social and financial decline. Perhaps we need parties like the 5 Star Movement in the end, who advocate the end of "career politics" and the limitation of how many terms can a politician be elected. Possibly the solution in Europe's political crisis, will come from populism in the end!