Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The "grey" EU brokered agreement on Kosovo.

This week after last month's negotiations, the governments of Kosovo and Serbia have finally agreed to normalize their relationship.

This is apparently great news for both countries and the prospect of their EU membership bids, as well for European integration in general. It looks also as a great accomplishment for Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and her department.

Eventually we saw European diplomacy at work, that has produced some results after decades of a deadlock. Could this be the beginning of a collective European foreign policy? It looks promising but it is too early to say. There are many other issues to resolve and the European states seldom have a unanimous agreement.

Despite the success euphoria, for the moment there is very little information given on what exactly the normalization agreement really changes. The one thing that was made clear is that Serbia agreed to dismantle all its security structures by mid-July. In other words, Serbia is letting go militarily of the Kosovo territory. This clearly brings even closer the country's opening its EU membership negotiations.

The agreement normalizes policing, judicial and local government issues, as well as the representation of the Serbian minority in the above relative institutions. You may read a further report of the agreement here.The two countries also agreed not to block each other from any future international block membership.

A Serbian diplomat though, told euronews that the accord does not amount to Belgrade recognizing Kosovo’s declaration of independence. Then clearly that is not the end of the road, as the whole agreement has many grey areas.

It mainly focuses on ending the partition of the Serb and Albanian communities within Kosovo. I wonder why Europe hasn't focused on doing so with Kosovo itself within Serbia in the first place. This agreement is trying to normalize the relationship of the new Kosovo state with its Serbian minority. Yet for many years there was no effort in trying to achieve the same for the Albanian minority in the Serbian state.

Could we end up going in circles, while trying to deal with minority issues in a previous minority problem? Europe's aim was clearly to partition Serbia's territory and create an independent Kosovo state from the beginning. Serbia needed to get on with its EU accession talks, so it decided to compromise its former nationalist stance and show Europe that is willing to work with it in order to achieve EU membership.

The compromise though leaves the Serbs of Kosovo unhappy and fearing of their future. They have threatened to leave en-mass the Kosovo territory, if the deal does not work. There is clearly a lot of mistrust between the two communities and if there is any relapse of either party, we could be faced with trying to solve the Kosovo issue all over again.

This could lead Serbia to have to accommodate increasing numbers of Serbian refugees from Kosovo, if the agreement is not occasionally respected by either side. Could we have similar incidents like those of Northern Ireland, where violence erupts occasionally despite the Anglo-Irish agreement? The segregation of the communities in this region has not ended, though clearly the political and terrorism issues have widely been resolved.

Europe has always had interests in the Balkans and especially the former Yugoslavia states. It has played an active role in shaping the region and promoting the European powers' own agendas. Their involvement and position in the Kosovo issue has been clear from the start.

Is Europe trying to create smaller, dependent states in order to fulfill its integration and expansion process? Fragmenting totally all former regions of Yugoslavia, has left some of them dependent on European aid, protection or intervention. Kosovo was certainly such case until now. Is this a better solution than trying to keep the regions together?

From history and experience we know that not always Europe's interventions were successful, or if they were they came with side-effects for the local population. Hopefully this time, the EU's foreign affairs department has taken the interests of all citizens into consideration.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Athens new Mosque amid protests!

A new day of protests in Athens today, but this time they do not come as part of a massive anti-austerity movement. The Greeks are protesting against the Government's decision to go ahead with the construction of a new Mosque, in a poor central Athenian neighborhood.

The protests are organized by the conservative group, the National Front. They represent an ultra conservative side of the Greek mentality, that found fertile ground to spread with the economic crisis. Personally I think these protests are ridiculous and shameful for the Greek people.

Athens is the only European capital that does not have a mosque yet. Not that it is "progressive" to build one, rather an obligation for every country that has immigrant citizens of any religious background, to provide for their religious practices.

The fact that the majority of the Greek citizens are Greek Orthodox, does not mean that other religious groups should not be openly accepted and flourish in a secular society.

This conservative Greek reaction reveals a complex of our nation. Some Greek nationals have never recovered from the Ottoman oppressor inferiority complex and see anything Islamic as a threat. It also has to do with an outdated agreement between the newly formed Greek and Turkish states and their arrangements to manage religious minorities.

The two countries signed an agreement that made compulsory for Greece to built mosques, but only in the Thrace region where around 100 thousand Muslims live.The agreement made clear that no mosque would ever be built in Athens or any other major Greek city. The same agreement provided with some protection to the Greek Orthodox minority in Istanbul and the existence of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.

Decades have passed since that agreement and both countries have changed a lot. Well apparently. Greece is an EU member state and Turkey an aspiring one. Both countries are secular, multiracial and multicultural. How can anyone justify such narrow minded mentality at this day and age?

As long as there are legal Muslim immigrants in Greece, that reside, work and contribute their taxes legally in the country, then the state is obliged to provide them with a mosque.

I understand that there is a general fear and mistrust among the Greeks for an "Islamic invasion," as it is currently exist in all European countries. It is also true that Greece has an extra reason to fear, as it has a large and powerful Islamic country as neighbor, contrary its most European  counterparts.

As long as the relations between the two states remain unstable, the Greeks can never really be comfortable with the expansion of Islam in their country. They have also have very bad memories in their recent history, from atrocities that the Turks committed on them during the Asia Minor disaster and the Greco-Turkish wars.

But these immigrants are not Turkish and they have clearly tried to distance themselves from Turkey. In a recent bid to interfere with the situation, the Turkish PM Mr. Erdogan offered to pay for the construction of the Mosque in Athens. The Pakistani community themselves rejected the move, as they clearly wanted to distance themselves from Turkey and disassociate the construction of the mosque as a Turkish initiative.

It is also true that not all Muslim immigrants in Athens are illegal and criminals or radicals. There have been many Muslim immigrants in Greece for many decades now, mainly from Arabic countries. My family is friends with a man from Sudan, married to a Greek woman. He has been working as a doctor in an Athens hospital for decades, but he is forced to practice his religion in private.

The Greeks also fear the radicalization of its Muslim migrants in the new mosque, like it has happened in other European countries like Britain. But there are already around 100 makeshift mosques throughout Athens, hiding from the public. Aren't these secret mosques a better ground for radicalization, rather an open Islamic institution financed by the state?

When the Greeks see the failures of other countries in integrating their Muslim immigrants, can they be willing to follow their path? In Britain we see how many terror attacks were actually committed by British-born Muslims. That is not a reason to fear a new mosque, but a reason to form better immigration policies, to attract and integrate the number and the kind of immigrants we need. Something that not just Greece, but Europe as a whole failed in doing so.

In Switzerland they banned the minarets for example, just so they do not remind them that they have Muslims in their country. While they do not mind them when they serve them their food in the restaurants they work, or clean after them in hospitals. Europe is still a conservative continent and we witness that even in countries like France, in their recent deep divisions on gay marriage.

The mosque will be built in Votanikos, a poor Greek working class area of Athens. It has no touristic importance and it won't alter the "Greek" heart and spirit of the city. Isn't it always that workers live in these poorer regions? Now that some of our workers are Muslims, shouldn't we show them that we accept them and prevent their radicalization because of our rejection and marginalization? We should learn from other countries' mistakes, not repeat them.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Έχετε δίκιο Κα. Αρβελέρ!

Πρόσφατα έτυχε να δω στο YouTube ένα βίντεο με συνέντευξη της Κας Ελένης Γλύκατζη-Αρβελέρ, της διάσημης Ελληνίδας Βυζαντιολόγου Ιστορικού στην Ελληνική τηλεόραση.

Η Κα. Αρβελέρ υποστήριξε ότι επιτέλους θα πρέπει να σταματήσουμε να αυτοαποκαλούμαστε "Έλληνες," αλλά Ρωμιοί. Διότι η Κωνσταντινούπολη και το Βυζάντιο, έχουν παίξει περισσότερο ρόλο στην πολιτισμική κληρονομιά της χώρας μας.

Το Βίντεο με την συνέντευξη της Κας Αρβελέρ μπορείτε να το δείτε εδώ.

Ναι Κα. Αρβελέρ, συμφωνώ απόλυτα μαζί σας. Έλληνες δεν είσαστε, είστε Ρωμιοί. Πολιτισμικά απόγονοι των Βυζαντινών και με καμία σχέση με τους αρχαίους Έλληνες. Και λέω "είσαστε", γιατί δεν συγκαταλέγω τον εαυτό μου ανάμεσα σας.

Διότι όσο εσείς οι Ρωμιοί, οι Χριστιανοί Ορθόδοξοι δηλαδή και εάν προσπαθήσατε να σβήσετε το Ελληνικό πνεύμα, αυτό ακόμη διατηρείται στις ψυχές μερικών από εμάς, που ουδεμία σχέση δεν έχουμε με την Ορθοδοξία σας και την Βυζαντινή/Οθωμανική νοοτροπία σας.

Εμείς λοιπόν κοιτάξαμε να μεταναστεύσουμε στην πραγματική απόγονο και συνεχιστή της Αρχαίας Ελληνικής πολιτισμικής κληρονομιάς, την Ευρώπη. Κοιτάξτε γύρω σας, υπάρχουν περισσότεροι μαίανδροι, κίωνες όλων των ρυθμών, αγάλματα του Απόλωνα και της Αθηνάς, αλλά και του Όμηρου και του Αριστοτέλη στην Ευρώπη, παρά στην Ελλάδα. Γιατί εσείς οι Ρωμιοί μισήτε κάθε τι το Ελληνικό. Από τα Βυζαντινά τα χρόνια διώξατε τον Ελληνισμό και καταστρέψατε τους ναούς του, σταματήσατε τους αγώνες του και τον αθλητισμό.

Και ενώ όπως υποστηρίζετε στο βίντεο διατηρήσατε την Ελληνική γραμματεία, τους Έλληνες τους ίδιους τους εκδιώκατε ως "εθνικούς" και κοιτάξατε να τους αφομοιώσετε στην κουλτούρα σας. Μια θεοκρατική απολυταρχική τυρρανία, όπου κάθε ίχνος ελεύθερης ανθρώπινης δημιουργικότητας ήταν απαγορευμένη. Γιαυτό και σήμερα ο Ρωμιός δεν έχει ίχνος καλαισθησίας και καλλιέργιας. Η Ελλάδα ήταν μέρος του Βυζαντίου, και όχι το Βυζάντιο Ελλάδα όπως μας έχετε εγκεφαλοπλύνει τόσα χρόνια να πιστεύουμε.Πού βλέπουμε σήμερα Έλληνες αρχιτέκτονες και σημαντικά αρχιτεκτονικά επιτεύγματα?

 Τί έχετε να επιδείξετε ώς Ρωμιοί ως έναν καινούριο Παρθενώνα? Κάθε αναπτυγμένος λαός, έχει χτίσει πολυάριθμα μοντέρνα αρχιτεκτονικά επιτεύγματα. Εσείς? Πού είναι οι διάσημοι Έλληνες μουσουργοί, σκηνοθέτες, ηθοποιοί, θεατρικοί συγγραφείς, ποιητές και φιλόσοφοι του σήμερα? Τί έχετε να επιδείξετε ώς έθνος? Ενώ έχετε καταφέρει να γίνεται περίγελος όλου του κόσμου, και από τις πιο συντηριτικές, οπισθοδρομικές χώρες της Ευρώπης. Πότε η "Ρωμυλία" σας θα γίνει μια Ευρωπαική χώρα, σύγχρονη με καινούριες ιδέες να δώσει στον παγκόσμιο πλέον πολιτισμό?

 Ότι μας έχετε αφήσει είναι εκκλησίες, και ακόμα τα μόνα κτίσματα που χτίζονται σήμερα με χρήμα και μεράκι ειναι οι Ορθόδοξες Εκκλησίες σας. Ότι άλλο έχουμε να αναδείξουμε ως χώρα μας τα έχουν αφήσει οι Έλληνες, οι Ρωμαίοι, οι Λατίνοι και οι κατακτητές μας οι Οθωμανοί. Απο τον Λευκό τον Πύργο στη Θεσσαλονίκη, τα κάστρα των Ιπποτών στην Ρόδο και τον Παρθενώνα στην Αθήνα.Τιποτα Βυζαντινό εκτός από εκκλησίες και υπολείματα τειχών.

 Ότι μνημείο και άγαλμα στολίζει σήμερα τα πάρκα μας, είναι αγωνιστών του '21 και ηρώων από τις "χαμένες πατρίδες" σας, ή ιερέων. Έτσι για να μήν ξεχνάμε την αυτοκρατορία όπου κατάγεστε και να μας κρατάτε πάντα όμηρους του παρελθόντος χωρίς να μπορούμε ποτέ να προχωρήσουμε μπροστά ώς έθνος και να εκμοντερνιστούμε. Τίποτα εικαστικό ή Ελληνικό δεν χτίζεται, και πώς να αναπτύξει ο "Ρωμιός" το αίσθημα της καλαισθησίας και της ποιότητας όταν το μόνο που ξέρει είναι η Ορθοδοξία σας και οι 'Αγιοι της θρησκείας σας.

Στα Σκόπια χτίζουν πύλες, με κίωνες και αγάλματα, και δεν τους ανήκουν. Εσείς χτίζετε ακόμα παρεκκλήσια, θαρρείς και δεν έχουμε αρκετά. Σε κάθε νέα γειτονιά που δημιουργείται, πρώτα μπαίνουν θεμέλια για μια νέα εκκλησία, και μετά για σχολεία και νοσοκομεία. "Ελλάς Πατρίς Ορθοδοξία" φωνάζουν οι ανόητοι Ρωμιοί οπαδοί σας, αχ και που να ήξεραν οτι καμία σχέση του καθ'αυτού Ελληνισμού και του Ορθόδοξου Χριστιανισμού που τους έχουν εγκεφαλοπλύνει. Και ακόμα καμία σχέση του Χριστιανισμού που δίδαξε ο ίδιος ο Ιησούς με αυτό το θεοκρατικό συντηριτικό έκτρωμα που ακολουθείτε σήμερα.

Γι'αυτό σας παρακαλώ μήν αποκαλείστε Έλληνες και μείνετε Ρωμιοί, και αφήστε εμάς τους Έλληνες στην καρδιά να ονειρευόμαστε την ημέρα που θα δούμε την πραγματική Ελλάδα να ξυπνά ξανά μια μέρα. Όταν ένας καινούριος Ελληνικός πολιτισμός θα κάνει την παρουσία του στον κόσμο.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dublin II Regulation and its impact on Greece.

One of the main reasons that parties like the Golden Dawn in Greece have found fertile ground to spread, is of course the economic crisis. But it is not the only one. Illegal immigration into Europe, puts a strain on our societies' fabric as people are watching their neighborhoods being transformed rapidly.

In Athens for example illegal immigrants are wondering without purpose, often being forced to work illegally or engage in criminal activities to make a living. Because of that, the locals are not very welcoming towards them.

It is not just the fact that the demographics of the society are changing fast, there is also a case of lawlessness and corruption, whenever people and their future are kept in limbo. The Greek state's policies on immigration are to be blamed of course, but they are not the only cause of the problem.

The Dublin Regulation (or Dublin II Regulation) was adopted in 2003 by the EU member states, plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, replacing the previous Dublin Convention of the '90s. The regulation came into effect in 2008 and since then it is the epicenter of lots of criticism.

It determines the EU Member state responsible to examine an application for asylum seekers seeking international protection under the Geneva Convention and the EU Qualification Directive, within the EU. It is the cornerstone of the Dublin System, which consists of the Dublin Regulation and the EURODAC Regulation, which establishes a Europe-wide fingerprinting database for unauthorised entrants to the EU.

Usually, the responsible Member State will be the state through which the asylum seeker first entered the EU. And that is where the first problem lies. Immigrants that enter one state do not necessarily want to stay there, rather are trying to reach the richer countries of Europe. By forcing them to remain in the bordering states, that in many cases are also "peripheral" economies, you condemn them immediately to an uncertain future.

The vast majority of illegal immigrants or asylum seekers enter Europe from countries like Greece, Malta, Italy and Spain. Some of them are too small (Malta), or economically too weak at the moment (Greece) to deal with the sheer numbers of immigrants on their own.

So instead of a pan-European reaction to the problem, with a formation of a common European immigration policy, our governments chose to create hurdles for the unwanted immigrants and more bureaucracy to manage their flow.

But they also made it very difficult for countries on the borders of Europe to deal with the problem, plus they criticize them for any failure or mishandling. One of the principal aims of the Dublin Regulation is to prevent an applicant from submitting applications in multiple Member States. Another aim is to reduce the number of "orbiting" asylum seekers, who are shuttled from member state to member state.

However since the country that a person first arrived in is responsible for dealing with the application, this puts excessive pressure on border areas, where states are often least able to offer asylum seekers support and protection. Currently, those being transferred under Dublin are not always able to access an asylum procedure. This puts people at risk of being returned to persecution.

Greece receives hundreds of  thousands immigrants, illegal immigrants and asylum seekers in its borders per year. A small debt ridden country, with borders that are difficult to guard due to the fact that most of it is vast sea areas, is forced to provide for all the immigrants while it filters them before they reach the richer countries.

Athens has been transformed by its immigrant population and not always for the better. Immigrant gang groups are roaming the city, sometimes turning against each other and so knife crimes are not unusual. Prostitution is everywhere in the city's center and with it, all the unwelcome issues of human trafficking, exploitation, violence and corruption.

For a small, conservative until recently country like Greece, this problem combined with an economic crisis and depression, is enough to trigger a rise in nationalism and xenophobia. Violence turned from between the immigrant groups, to local people against all the immigrants in general,either legal or illegal.

According to European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and UNHCR the current system fails in providing fair, efficient and effective protection. It has been demonstrated on a number of occasions both by ECRE and UNHCR,that the regulation impedes the legal rights and personal welfare of asylum seekers, including the right to a fair examination of their asylum claim and, where recognized, to effective protection, as well as the uneven distribution of asylum claims among Member States.

Application of this regulation can seriously delay the presentation of claims, and can result in claims never being heard. Causes of concern include the use of detention to enforce transfers of asylum seekers from the state where they apply to the state deemed responsible, also known as Dublin transfers, the separation of families and the denial of an effective opportunity to appeal against transfers.

The Dublin system also increases pressures on the external border regions of the EU, where the majority of asylum seekers enter EU and where states are often least able to offer asylum seekers support and protection. (As written in Wikipedia).

In other words this system is unfair both to the immigrants themselves and to the bordering countries themselves. But instead of help, our European partners only offer us with their "constructive" criticism on how we deal with immigrants.

There is no denial that the Greek policies on immigration are almost non-existent and of course they are dysfunctional. But so are Europe's. Our partners enter a blame game instead of taking responsibility and acting on the issue collectively, helping the bordering nations to deal with illegal immigration and the asylum seekers.

They prefer to sustain their own "functioning" immigration policies and control their immigrant population, while the social coherence and stability of their partners are being put under extreme pressure. The bordering countries are acting like filters of the unwanted, plus they take all the blame for any failures. Sounds like the perfect plan!

The fortunes of the people who want a better life in our continent, are colliding with the ability of Europe to offer solutions to them and the native population. Either it is about jobs, security, peace, progress, stability and prosperity, Europe's policies are lacking of the collective agreement needed, vision and fairness. So there is no surprise that our continent is in crisis, but not just an economic one.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Cyprus dispute.

Recently the EU Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs and the euro Mr. Olli Rehn, stated that "the re-unification of Cyprus would give a major boost to the economic and social development of the island."

 That is the wish of most Cypriots, both Greek and Turkish, but so far it failed to be materialized. In my opinion the majority of the inhabitants of the island are not quite ready to just "forgive and forget,"of either side.

Mr. Rehn's comments obviously tried to re-ignite the efforts for unification as the issue remains an unsolved problem that the EU inherited and a major obstacle in any effort in Turkey's EU membership. I do not think that it is a real argument, rather an effort to try and capitalize in the recent Cypriot banking crisis.

There was a same argument for the re-unification of Ireland in the past, when Northern Ireland was debating if it should remain as a part of the UK, go it alone or join the Republic. Northern Ireland relies heavily on Britain for financial support and the Republic did not show as much enthusiasm back then, while the Celtic Tiger was still "roaming."

So how can the two parts of Cyprus can be re-united, since the conditions are similar as well as the tensions. Some European states might want a quick solution to see Turkey joining the club or the Cyprus problem resolved, but I wish things were as easy. Europe must rally its best negotiators and diplomacy skills if it wants to achieve this and I haven't seen any serious will from the Europeans to do so.

I won't enter into an analysis of what happened in Cyprus, because most of us know and as a Greek I do not want to be seen that I side with the Greek Cypriot side. I will accept the facts that the Turkish side claim, that they invaded the island "to protect the Turkish Cypriots" from the violence they had to endure by the Greek Cypriots, during the events back in the '70s and the coup.

So if we accept the fact that Turkey was right to invade Cyprus, they could have invaded, stopped whatever was going on and then leave it to the UN to control the situation. The UN could then sanction the Greek Cypriots if they continued the violence, stop the island nation pursuing its unification dream with Greece and so solve the problem. The truth is that during those years of instability, both sides engaged in violent outbursts as they simply mistrusted each other, the majority still mistrusting the other side.

But the continuous illegal occupation of the island of Cyprus by Turkey is exactly that : illegal. No nation in the UN has recognized the "statelet" that Turkey has created. And that must send a clear signal to the Turkish side.

Turkey showed its true colors and intentions for the Cypriot occupation recently, when Israel and Cyprus started cooperating in the extraction of the vast amount of natural gas under the island. That is why the Turks invaded Cyprus and not because of all the other excuses. The island has a great geopolitical and strategic location with vast resources.

If we want the Cypriot problem ever to be resolved, Turkey must withdraw its troops from the island and recognize the Republic of Cyprus. It is ridiculous to want to join a international organization while you do not recognize the existence of one of its members.

The Greek Cypriots want to negotiate just with the Turkish Cypriot side, not Turkey itself that they see as an occupier. Perhaps we should leave them to it. And since Cyprus is in the EU, the EU will definitely monitor the situation to make sure that such violence never erupts again.

In fact the EU so far has not played any decisive role in the issue and I think it is about time to flex its muscle. It did so in the case of Kosovo and Serbia, why doesn't it do the same for Cyprus? Its role should not be that of telling off the Turks or making sure they comply. Rather that of over-sheering the negotiations and the situation on the island.

The problem that the Turkish Cypriots have towards the Greek side, is the lack of trust. They do not feel comfortable with a Greek Cypriot majority, that very often does not have their best interests in mind, also mistrusts them and does act always with impartiality. That is why they like the protection of their "Big Brother," Turkey.

Yet, the fears of the Turkish Cypriots could be just a past fear that is time to get over. The Republic is an EU member now, so even if the Greek Cypriots would want to treat them badly, I am sure the EU would be the first to slap the Greeks for violation of human rights. Things have changed since the '70s.

The Greek Cypriots on the other hand, must compromise with the fact that even if they are the majority of the island, others share the same land with them. Cyprus is a multicultural society, that includes many Armenians and Maronites apart the Greek and Turkish communities. Though they are the majority, sometimes they consider the island as "Greek"  only.

That hardline attitude is what fans the fears of the Turkish Cypriots, that do not generally want to be placed under the rule of the Greeks. Also the nationalist attitudes of the Greek Cypriots sometimes do not help any efforts for unification.

During the failed Kofi Annan plan for the re-unification of Cyrpus, many Greek Cypriots that supported the plan were bullied by the majority that rejected it. Some friends of mine from the island spoke of cars of people who placed "Vote Yes" signs during the referendum days, being smashed or damaged. That is not a sign of a democratic debate, or of a mature way to deal with a problem.

Of course I do not blame the ordinary citizens of Cyprus. Their then leadership, notably Tassos Papadopoulos the Cypriot PM, appeared very emotional on national television urging the Cypriots to vote NO. How could the people support the plan, even if they wanted to.

It is hard to convince people who lost loved ones and their homes, to accept that their former land and properties won’t necessarily be returned to them or get any compensation or apology. In these cases, populism prevails. History will judge the actions of the Greek Cypriot leadership and its decision to encourage their people to vote down the plan.

I also found the Annan plan unsatisfying and I would not have approved of it. Because it created a federation of two nations, with many separated and segregated zones. It would have established a limited right to return between the territories of the two communities. It would also have allowed both Greece and Turkey to maintain a permanent military presence on the island, albeit with large, phased reductions in troop numbers.

For me it is unacceptable for either Greece or Turkey, or even Britain-but that is another story, to have military bases in another EU state. And if we are talking about re-unification, then there can be no "limited return" between the territories. The plan obviously satisfied the Turkish demands for "protection" from the Greeks. And that is why it failed to convince the Greek Cypriot side.

The Greek Cypriot idea of unification is for things go back to where they were before. Perhaps a thing rather impossible after so many decades. Some compromise must come into place, if the Greek Cypriots really want to see their island as one again. They have to accept that they must give the Turkish Cypriots more guarantees of security and a greater political say and influence in the island's affairs.

But the plan appeared to them as a red flag to a bull, because it accepted the existence of a Turkish Cypriot "state," a thing that they deny. They see the territory of Northern Cyprus as a Cypriot one, occupied by a foreign military presence. Not that they ignore the existence of the Turkish Cypriots, rather they do not want to justify the existence of the Turkish settlers and the military personnel in their territory. Something that I totally agree with.

Accepting their existence, is like endorsing what happened and no Cypriot ever will do so. So the Annan plan, though having some very excellent points it failed because it ignored one major factor: the human emotions.

Should we ever try again to re-unite the island, both sides must compromise and move on from issues that brought Cyprus where it is now, issues of the past. If they start thinking as Cypriots and focus on what unites them rather what it divides them, plus if Turkey, Greece, Britain and the international community stop bringing their own interests on the table, then perhaps the dream of generations might come true.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

European Union of the people, or the elites?
It is Europe's Day today and events are happening all over Europe to remind us of our achievements as a continent, but also debate on the new direction that our continent must follow.

But most people find it hard to be convinced or bothered, after all the negative press that all European institutions had to face during the economic crisis.

Many are indifferent and others angry, so they see no point for any celebrations. How can one celebrate "European unity," since the crisis exposed some weak points in the EU structures and helped nationalism, protectionism and conservatism to surface.

It created a new division between the rich North and the poor South and it exposed all cracks, but also creating further frictions among the states, but also between the governments and their citizens. 

The truth is that when we are talking about celebrating Europe's Day, we do not celebrate the EU as an institution. There is a huge difference between the institution and the European Union as an idea or a vision, that Monnet and Schuman and other founding fathers had envisioned.

And it is also true that celebrating Europe as a continent has nothing to do with the EU. Europe's Day is not for congratulating the EU or showing our support to it. It is to show that we still believe in the ideals and visions of the Treaty of Rome, believe that we can have a united continent that will not be destroyed by war ever again.

Its nations will work and cooperate together and we can celebrate our European identity, together with our national one. It is also a day to debate and reflect on where we are going wrong and what we must correct. To discuss how happy we are or not, or how the EU is affecting our lives and the way it works. 

It is no lie that there are plenty of shortfalls in the EU and Europe as it is structured today. There is plenty of corruption, injustice, elitism, secrecy, lack of transparency. So celebrate Europe and the European Union as an idea, but not the corrupt institution that we have right now.

On this Europe's Day I am not cheering for the EU, but Europe and its citizens. The EU is being governed by a "lobbocracy." Still, European citizens must get involved,be vigilant. Demand transparency accountability and democracy. Not EU cheering or bashing, we need a constructive debate on where we are going with this project and how can we make it work.

We know that Europe, just like the US is being governed by an unaccountable plutocracy, elitism and "intergovernmental-ism". But avoiding active participation does not help; it is not constructive. If we want to have the European Union that we deserve, there is no way but to get active. Form our own lobbies to push for our rights and interests. 

On this Europe's day I urge you to watch a documentary linked bellow. It is called "the Brussels Business" and it is about how the EU works behind closed doors. The lobbies that affect its policies, that affect our lives. Will you still be passive and indifferent? 

If Europe wants change, it needs to work for it. And Europe's Day is just the day to remind us this fact, not to praise the EU Eurocrats for their work.

 The Brussels Business