Greece Should Recongise Kosovo

This article was published by Ekatherimini 18 August 2015

All eyes in Europe have been on the men in charge of Greece’s finances but this has obscured the extent to which the country is now emerging as a serious foreign policy player under the energetic leadership of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.

The German-speaking Kotzias, who has translated Europe’s leading political philosopher, Juergen Habermas, together with his No 2 Sia Anagnostopoulou, educated in France, are Europe’s most European foreign ministry team.

Greece’s foreign policy is condemned to be European. Unlike the Baltic and former Central European communist states whose ministers are forever lecturing Greeks on the need to follow the example of their austerity policies, Greece has no powerful, rich, friendly European Union neighbors like Germany or the Nordic states who have helped develop the post-Soviet states into successful growing market economies.

Greece is isolated from the rest of Europe by the non-EU region of the Western Balkans from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to Slovenia. Bulgaria is Greece’s only EU neighbor but the choke point region of the Western Balkans cuts Greece off from direct business and people-to-people contact with the EU.

Nor do these EU states further north face the irredentist claims on Greece’s territorial integrity or relentless provocation of a regional power. Western defense experts rightly pay a lot of attention to Russian warplanes flying close to EU borders. The Royal Air Force and other EU airplanes have deployed to the Baltic states to show solidarity against Putin’s relentless probing of Northern Europe’s air defenses.

Yet the Russian planes rarely cross international borders, unlike the more than 2,000 incursions by Turkish warplanes into Greek air space in the past 12 months. The almost total focus on Greek economic and internal politics means that the permanent challenge Greece faces from Turkey’s very powerful military gets little attention.

Kotzias was one of the intellectual architects of the Greek-Turkey rapprochement 15 years ago which allowed Turkey to profile itself as a serious future EU partner, indeed member. The turn to nationalism, religious populism and internal authoritarianism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken the shine off Turkey’s European opening but Greece is wise to maintain a broad pro-Turkey policy.

Kotzias has been remarkably energetic, visiting all but one of the eight Western Balkan states, including the first visit to FYROM by a Greek foreign minister in 11 years. The identity theft of the name Macedonia and the comic notion that Alexander the Great was a Slav-Albanian hero causes puzzlement in Northern European capitals and Brussels, but Kotzias is right to open a dialogue.

As he correctly says, “Greece, despite its weakness in the economic sector, remains the country with the greatest potential in the Balkans. Greece is returning to the Western Balkans.”

Kotzias can play a pivotal role if, like Alexander, he is prepared to cut some Gordian knots. The one that would have the most impact internationally would be if Greece could join France, Italy, Britain and other main EU nations and recognize Kosovo. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been very tough with Belgrade over its obsession with pretending that Kosovo will one day return to the Serb fatherland. One can only imagine the expression on her or German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble’s face if they opened their Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitungs and read an article by Kotzias saying Greece’s refusal to recognize Kosovo would end.

It would be the best foreign policy present Merkel could have as she celebrates her 10th anniversary as chancellor. Good foreign policy is about movement, taking conventional thinking and standing it on its head, as Kotzias did with George Papandreou on Turkey.

Twenty years after 1945, Western Europe was back on its feet. Twenty years after Srebrenica and 15 years since the brutal Kosovan war of liberation ended, the Western Balkans remains mired in past hates, and blocked mentalities.

Can Greece be the driving force for bringing the Western Balkans into Europe? The previous governments in Athens were locked in old thinking. Greece shares with the EU a need to move the Western Balkans out of its old hates and desire for revenge for the disasters of the 1990s which still prevail today. Can Kotzias get the Greek Foreign Ministry and its highly rated diplomats to start adding value to Greece at a crucial time in the nation’s history? A modest start which would win plaudits from Washington to Tokyo as well as Brussels and Berlin would be for Greece to normalize relations with Kosovo and urge a new deal for the Balkans aimed at creating a European future for the region.

* Denis MacShane is a former minister for Europe in the UK government and is a specialist in the Balkans.

Eureporter 5 August 2015

Compare West Balkans 1995-2015 with West Europe 1945-1965 and despair
Denis MacShane | August 5, 2015 | 0 Comments
Imagine 1965 and there were no diplomatic relations between key West European states; public opinion was dominated by claims over who was responsible for wartime atrocities; the US insisted on setting up war crimes courts on an extra-territorial basis to deal with allegations of brutality by liberation movements; and criminal economic activity – drugs, people trafficking, prostitution, money laundering, cigarette smuggling was more important than reconstruction while mass unemployment and poverty were the social norm?
In 2015, twenty years after Srebrenica and 16 years since the fighting finally stopped in Kosovo, that is a rough but not unfair description of the Western Balkans, which from Greece to the Alps is Europe’s failure zone.
Unlike after 1945, no-one seems to know how to make a new start. The eurozone’s handling of Greece remains as intractable as ever. To relaunch post-war Germany, its debts were written off as happened to Poland in 1991 but this is verboten for Greece.
Equally within a few years of the war’s end in 1945, France and Germany were on the path of reconciliation. Embassies were opened in Bonn and Paris. The first European Treaty transferring sovereign national control over steel and energy – the key industries of the day – was signed in 1950, leading to the Treaties of Rome and Paris when General de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer buried the past in 1963.
To be sure there were court cases for the worst of Nazi war crimes but no-one tried to place on trial the war-time resisters who committed the most brutal crimes not against the occupier so much as against rival factions.
Contrast this with the Western Balkans. Serbia refuses to accept the existence of Kosovo and Russia backs Serb revanchism as part of Putin’s need to find any opportunity to challenge the US and EU.
There are voices in Kosovo who refuse any negotiations with Belgrade and call for the creation of Greater Albania. That is a nightmare for the Slav majority in Skopje who in turn have indulged in identity theft by claiming that the Hellenic hero, Alexander the Great, was somehow a forefather of the Slavs who arrived in the region a thousand years after Alexander fought his campaigns.
Greek nationalists made the Macedonia name issue a rallying cry in the 1990s and are now trapped in a diplomatic cul-de-sac as Athens refuses to recognise Macedonia just as Greece refuses to recognize Kosovo. Greece needs to build an economic lifeline to the EU but this won’t happen without normal state-to-state relations with the countries in the Western Balkans to the north of Greece.
Tensions are growing with Turkey with more than 2,000 Turkish incursions into Greek airspace in the past 12 months. That might spur Athens to make more diplomatic friends and join major EU countries, the US and 100 other states in recognizing Kosovo.
The Syriza Foreign Minister, Nicolas Kotzias, was recently warmly received in the Kosovo capital, Pristina and it remains to be seen if the Syriza government can cut the Gordian knot of non-recognition bequeathed to it by the diplo-nationalism of New Democracy and Pasok. A move on Kosovo recognition by the Tsipras government would transform its image in Brussels.
Greeks advance all sorts of reasons why they cannot move on Kosovo. But Greek MPs faced down the church’s opposition to removing religious identity on passports and ID cards. Compared to that recognising Kosovo is a bagatelle.
Belgrade makes life as difficult as possible for Montenegro and relations with Croatia while correct are not friendly. Now there is a demand for a special extra-territorial court to try Kosovans who took part in the short sharp and brutal war of 1998-99. Monstrous things happened as they did in Northern Ireland. There are lurid allegations of organ harvesting aimed at discrediting current Kosovan leaders. No one can find a shred of evidence that in the middle of hiding from Serb patrols or negotiating at Rambouillet the young Kosovo fighters were also wielding scalpels in sterile operating theatres to extract livers and kidneys for sale.
The EU has tried to bang heads together but nothing will change until politicians from Athens to the Alps are willing to learn the lessons of post-1945 Europe and think about the future instead of replaying the hates of the past.

This letter was published in Guardian 3 July 2015

The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, makes a constructive case for a new dialogue between Iran and other nations. (Guardian Comment 31 July) But his argument would be all the stronger were it not for the pervasive Jew-hate emanating from Iran and calls by its leaders for the destruction of the one nation-state in the world where Jews face no persecution.
Here, for example, is the Ayatollah Khamenei last year: “This barbaric, wolflike & infanticidal regime of Israel which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated.”
Or Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guard who said earlier this year “The Revolutionary Guards will fight to the end of the Zionist regime … We will not rest easy until this epitome of vice is totally deleted from the region’s geopolitics.”
There are many more examples of such vile, racist, eliminationist language from senior Iranian leaders or their allies in Hezbollah.
We may all welcome the Iran deal and hope it works but until Iranian leaders repudiate their anti-Jewish ideology and their persistent eliminationist talk about Jews in Israel it is hard to see where much common ground between democracies and Iran is to be found.

Tribute to Don Stillman

Don Stillman is one of the luckiest men of his – and my – generation. I sometimes think we may have had the best seven decades in human history. Bliss was in that dawn of the 1960s to be alive and to be young was very heaven. Our fathers had gone to war, like their father before them. Our mothers had grown up in a world were women had to limit their femaleness in every way.
We made love not war. In fact, for the first time ever the ordinary Joe and Jane activist stopped wars especially the last great foolish war of imperial colonialism, the war of Vietnam.
Each summer I took one of my four children to Washington to stay with Don and Judy. I did so just before they got to age 12 and air fares went into adult prices. I wanted them to see, taste the US as early as possible and Washington DC is one of the most amazing tourist traps in the world with everything joined up, everything free, and since in those days I had a little pull, a free trip around the White House as well.
Don and Judy and Sarah and Scott made them all so welcome because as we all know underneath the tough highly political trade unionist and activist journalist lies an adoring papa who cannot do enough for any friend’s children.
Anyway to return to Don’s story, there I was with Laura 11, in front of Maya Lin’s Vietnam war memorial – still for my Euro the best war memorial ever. Laura’s grandfather was Vietnamese and will be celebrating his 90th birthday in France about the time Don is enjoying his 70th. As we walked along the black marble looking at the names of those brave men whose lives were sacrificed on the altar of the vanity of powerful men in Washington I was explaining to Laura the history of Vietnam and why there were two long wars against the two revolutionary republics of France and America she turned to me and knocked me out with her question.
“Yes, Daddy, but what was communism?”
What indeed? Her question ended the 20th century for me there and then and of course she might have asked “What was apartheid?” or “What were military dictatorships in South Korea, or Latin America?”
Don Stillman can answer those and other questions because he played a role, at times a significant role, in putting communist rule in Poland, or apartheid rule in South Africa, or military rule in Brazil or death squad rule in Guatemala into the dustbin of history.
But let’s not run ahead of the story. Don like me is part of the 1968 generation. Soixante-huitardes as the French call us. One number short of something else. Achtundsechsigers in German. If you can remember the 1960s you probably were there. Well I went up to Merton College, Oxford in 1966. We had to wear short-ass gowns, suits, white shirts, ties, the college gates were shut at midnight and woe betide anyone caught with a girl in their room. You’d have to ask an Old Etonian like David Cameron or Boris Johnson if there was a problem with boys. Warm beer and cheap Yugoslav wine were the mind-changers of preference. Oxford hadn’t much changed from the description in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.
By the time I left in the summer of 1969, a revolution had occurred. You dressed as you wanted, the college doorkeeper sold very good quality dope, the gates never shut and you could have as many girls (or boys) to stay overnight as might be managed. Bill Clinton was there and no, he never inhaled. His asthma made puffing weed impossible. Ask however if he ingested as in hashcake and the great dissimulator might be troubled to find the right swerve-around words.
Tabs of acid were dropped to climb over chapel walls to gatecrash college balls at which the Stones or the Who played. With friends like Christopher Hitchens, who later became a big friend and fan of Don’s in Washington DC or Martin Amis we occupied the university administration blocks, sent coaches to London to add to the half million in Grosvenor Square saying No to the Vietnam War and read everything and anything except maybe the books our bemused professors thought were good for us.
Bob Dylan was the singer of choice. Last Thanksgiving 2014 Don and Judy took me see him in Washington. Oh dear. He has not worn well. The voice has gone. His new songs forgettable. There was one croaked-out “Blowing in the Wind” but it didn’t take me back.
Now the oddest thing about that 1968 generation that saw itself as a new left was that it gave birth to the long neo-liberal years of Reagan-Thatcher globalisation. Richard Branson and Bill Gates went off not to change the world but to make money. We poured into banking, the law, the professions, journalism and reinvented everything. But the triumph of possessive individualism, of accumulation grew dominant as the economy the 1968ers shaped grew more unequal.
There was one area where 1968 progressives especially those with a way with words could make a difference and that was in the labor movement. By 2020 in the US there will be more self-employed workers than men or women in waged or salaried jobs. If trade unions do not massively reinvent themselves they will dwindle in importance and relevance. Labor unions came in with the 20th century and historians may judge they went out with the 20th century.
Don Stillman played a key role in the late flowering of US industrial unionism. While the UAW, and other mid-century unions like the Steelworkers or Machinists, struggled inside America against Reaganism and globalisation, plus Republicans and their cheerleaders under ringmaster Rupert Murdoch, the 1980s saw an extraordinary reach-out by the UAW to support historic change around the world.
From Solidarity in Poland to Nelson Mandela and black trade unions in South Africa, the 1980s saw the twin evils of apartheid and Soviet oppression dismantled without any recourse to violence. In both countries, the trade union as a political organisation was pivotal. And the leadership of Don Stillman was essential in leveraging American support when it really mattered.
The US had a long sad, bad history of trying to steer developments in faraway nations in a direction Washington liked. It was not that the goal of regime change was undesirable. Nor was Soviet communism quite the cuddly Winnie-the-Pooh politics that its and its useful idiots in parts of global left proclaimed. But too often a crude red-baiting style or a demand that anyone Washington or the AFL-CIO was going to help had to sign up to ideological verities that made no sense to the local struggle meant that made-in-16th-St international labor activity produced resentment and was even counter-productive.
Luckily, the UAW had a tradition of internationalism shaped under the Reuther brothers, Walter and Victor, and maintained by UAW presidents like Doug Fraser and Owen Bieber that Don Stillman was able to articulate as the UAW point-man in so many key countries in the 1980s where trade union organisation and politics were crucial to vital change.
The details can be found in Don Stillman’s book “We Don’t Quit! Stories of UAW Global Solidarity” published in 2015. This is far more than just another labor self-glorification exercise. It is an extremely well-researched and well-written account of the many changes for the better in world politics in which the UAW played a significant role.
Of course, as the author, Don Stillman, cannot toot his own toot and of course due tribute is paid as it has to be to the wisdom and leadership of the UAW and its leaders. But at each stage of deciding what to do Don Stillman was there using his impressive writing skills to produce a paper, or just bullet points that guided UAW presidents to be on the right side of progressive history.
You all know Don – jokey, easy to like, ready with a story or a glass, putting himself out to be helpful. It’s called spreading bread upon the waters or what goes around comes around and so when Don needed a favour or a door opened or an introduction in so many far-flung corners of the world he had already made a useful friend.
He was there as Lula moved to end military rule in Brazil or Kim Dae-Jung did the same in South Korea. I will never forget being with Don in Durban for a May Day back in the eighties when a ugly Zulu boss-man called Chief Buthelezi had announced he was launching his own trade union as a rival to the progressive South African trade union, Cosatu.
The launch rally was due to be held in a soccer stadium in Durban and our taxi-driver refused to take us there as thousands of Buthelezi militia thugs in green fatigues carrying pump guns surrounded the stadium barring access to anyone opposed to the Chief’s pro-apartheid politics.
I was pretty sure that two guys, a Brit and an American, were not going to face trouble – I hate to say it but this was apartheid and we were white – and I told Don just to walk with me steadily towards the stadium entry, not to look left or right, and no backchat.
Like the Red Sea parting for Moses, the armed horde opened up and we walked through them to get into the stadium and listen to the ranting of hate against progressive anti-apartheid trade unions from Chief Buthelezi who today does not even merit a footnote in history.
I think we had earned ourselves a drink by the time we got back to the hotel. But later Don took Owen Bieber down to South Africa and one of his proudest possession is a dedicated signed photo of Nelson Mandela as Don Stillman deserves far more than a footnote in the story if how South Africa became free of apartheid rule.
For me he just became a friend, as did Judy. I got Sarah to wear a soccer shirt of my home town team, Rotherham United, and it was published in the team’s programme. Scott and Sarah were so kind to all me four children and to stay in 2007 Plymouth Street was to share a home from home and to be made as welcome as any other friends I have in my life.
I guess we will have to wait a while to write it all over again for Judy but all I can say what a couple! I am not the best organised when it comes to books, and papers, half-written sheets but the Everest of paper that is a Don Stillman office, or den, or study is something to be seen! Yet underneath the piles of yellow pads, conference bags, boxes of books, camera and computers lay an enormous breadth of reading. I think that’s why my Oxford pals, Christopher Hitchens, and the Guardian’s legendary foreign correspondent, Martin Walker, liked Don’s company so much because he had read as much, sometime more than they had.
Don’s period as a visiting fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford, the most prestigious and stylish of all the Oxford colleges was a mark of respect that the elite professors of Oxford who specialise in labor relations held him in.
Luckily after I went into the House of Commons and became a Labour government foreign minister there were plenty of reasons to come to Washington or for Don and Judy to visit London. Luckily his sleeping-waking hours fit the UK clock perfectly so there was often time for long telephone talks on US politics where Don’s insights together with his network of 1970s mineworkers’ campaign activists like Frank Greer and Ed James were invaluable as they helped me tell Tony Blair and others what really was going to happen in US politics.
It was thanks to an August 1999 stay in Plymouth Street and meeting with some of his network that I felt confident in writing a memo for Prime Minister Tony Blair entitled “Why George W Bush Will Be the Next US President”. Not what I wanted but the left gets nowhere if it fails to understand what the right is doing in real time and real terms not just in the condemnatory columns of The Nation.
To put it mildly I have had ups and downs in my life, sometimes bad, very bad moments. But Don has always been there with great advice on how to handle a problem and true friendship and solidarity when I needed it.
When my daughter, Laura graduated from McGill three years ago we came to Orcas and there up on the front wall was a huge congratulations “Well Done, Laura’ poster with the McGill heraldic shield in the centre.
I love visiting Orcas and the way Don has returned to his north-west roots and built this extraordinary home in this extraordinary place is something to be marvelled. Cost and time make it not as easy to reach as Washington DC but definitely as the Michelin guide might put it il vaut le détour.
And of course one of my strongest bonds with Don is love of cooking and good food. I hesitate to reveal all the great meals eaten on the shore of Lake Geneva where Don found a special hotel at Coppet, a lakeside town down the road from Geneva where I worked for the International Metalworkers Federation to which the UAW was affiliated.
It is probably better in these prim abstemious days not to dwell on great restaurant meals eaten on expenses and in my case the less said about expenses the better. But with Don cooking you know you are going to get a great dinner and the best barbeques I’ve had have come from his decking in Plymouth St or Orcas. For years my bottle was Chablis or Sancerre and Don’s was Jack. Until at one restaurant in Marseilles just after I was elected an MP in 1994 there was no more Jack. I admired that change of direction as I saw in friends like Christopher Hitchens and other 1968ers just where an alternative path might lead.
For Don, Judy, Sarah and Scott were all the mattered and I admire his decision to forget Jack in order to be a strong father and writer as well as an important UAW official.
Now of course with Don there is so much laughter, so many jokes, so many stories and as Gibbon said when he switched to Latin in “Decline and Fall” when describing a very salacious tale of Roman decadence it may be necessary to draw the veil of antiquity over what happened in order to protect more innocent, unformed readers.
My son Benjamin celebrates his 21st birthday in mid-August at the same time as his Vietnamese grandfather holds a 90th birthday party at the family home in France so I will be there and not in Orcas. But I hope there are many more Orcas or DC trips to come and any lawyers reading who can do pro-bono advice on US visa rules, please give me a call.
I am just back from Greece after 3 weeks of the most intense pressure-cooker politics I can remember since being in Poland in 1980-1981 or with Don in South Africa 30 years ago (Christ 30 years?! It was only yesterday!).
The struggle goes on and I am proud to have marched with Don Stillman in the ranks of those ready to take big risks and make big sacrifices to change the world for the better. He never forgot that while he and I could always get a plane back there were trade unionists staying udner condition of great risk. And while Wall Street and Forbes or Fox worship at any instance of exploitative capitalism Don Stillman has been there to point out that in China and other countries the doors of prison and gulags slam shut on those who carry the torch of freedom, democracy and social justice. La lotta continua.
There has been loads of laughter and the love of family and friends en route but the core of Don Stillman’s life well-lived is that desire – almost a sense of duty – to leave the world a better place than how he found it.
I am proud to have known Don Stillman and drawn so much from our friendship. In the Benedictine school I went to the toast for a monk on his birthday was Ad multos annos (Many more years). In Polish, the tongue of my long-dead father, the birthday toast is Stolat – May you live 100 years.
So Ad multos annos and Stolat to Don Stillman and see you soon.

Denis MacShane London July 2015

Regime change in Greece can happen under Tsipras
EU Reporter Correspondent | July 22, 2015 | 0 Comments
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london_greece_rally_3Opinion by Denis MacShane

So, once again, the Greek banks are open for business. But not really. For the last three weeks, Greek citizens have been allowed to take out €60 ($65) a day. Now they can take out €420 a week and capital controls will remain in place.

The European Central Bank has provided emergency assistance to Athens to allow bank doors to re-open and allow Greece to spend the rest of the vital tourist season to operate normally.

But nothing has been resolved. The contagion from Greece is spreading northwards. In Britain, the advocates of of a ‘No’ vote in the forthcoming referendum on UK membership of the EU are filling news pages with articles citing Greece as proof that the euro is a disaster and the EU incapable of sorting out a backyard problem.in Europe there is a venomous criticism of Germany’s handling of the crisis. President Hollande is preening himself as the man who saved Greece for Europe as the Berlin barbarians were ready to storm the Parthenon.

France has not balanced its budget since the mid-1970s and debt in Italy under its young left leader, Matteo Renzi, is not far short of Greek levels.

The EU is asking more of Greece than it delivers itself. Supermarkets are told to open on Sunday which does not happen in Germany. Pensions are meant to be reformed in a way that has not been achieved in most other EU states.

Greece is still in the dock, handcuffed to its Brussels warders, and a long way from being fully in charge of its own destiny. The United States has dramatically brought geo-politics into play telling the Europeans via the IMF that Greek debt was unsustainable and needed to be written down much as German debt was dropped in the 1950s or more recently Poland and Finland after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990.

There is as yet no Obama doctrine echoing the 1947 Truman doctrine when the US asserted its duty to save Greece for the EuroAtlantic community but Greece remains the weakest link on the southern flank in the NATO-EU alliance.

Now attention turns to Greek internal politics. Three figures matter. 36-60-80. As Greece and Europe wakes up to a reshuffled Greek government and the strong chance of September elections these are the key figures to keep in mind on Greece.

Alexis Tsipras and Syriza got 36% of the vote in January. His 36 per cent vote appeared to make him a prisoner of his party but it also made his party a prisoner of Tsipras as without him they would still be shouting in the streets or writing columns for the left-liberal press instead of sitting in ministerial offices, in charge and doing rather than talking.

That is why the 60 per cent who voted for his referendum matter. Syriza covered Greece with posters urging a vote to say Yes to Europe and No to austerity.

It the first time in any referendum in which voters could vote Yes-No, or No-Yes. So they did. And with one bound Tsipras was free. Using his 60% referendum vote he could go to the Greek Parliament and say it was time to go for reform, not leftist utopianism, which makes a great article but has little to do with governing a modern state.

And Tsipras also speaks for the 80 per cent of the Greeks who refused flatly the offer from all the elites in London and Berlin who patronizingly told the Greeks their problems would be over if they just reverted to the Drachma, to devaluations, and accepted their lot as a failed Balkan state.

That also is Tsipras’s trump card. He is the man who stands for staying in the Euro unlike his dismissed finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who it is now revealed was willing to issue a parallel currency as if Greece was a throw back to some impoverished communist state where the dollar or Deutschmark ruled and the local currency was a joke.

Tsipras speaks for the 80 per cent of Greeks who want to keep the Euro and the 60 per cent who supported his Yes-No referendum. His position is stronger today than when just 36 per cent voted for him in January.

His weekend reshuffled has strengthened the can-do rather than the will-say left in Greece. If he is forced to an early election he can put pro-Alexis candidates on the list and given his popularity he stands a good chance of winning a majority based on a reformist rather than rejectionist left.

Whether the ruling centre-right in the EU is big enough or smart enough to overcome its personal dislike of Tsipras and act in the interests of Europe is another question.

But after the most tumultuous weeks in European politics since the fall of the Berlin wall Tsipras has embarked on the path of reform. To govern is to choose. Tsipras is choosing to govern.

Denis MacShane is the UK’s former minister for Europe and has just returned from three weeks in Greece. The updated edition of his book Brexit: How Britain Will Leave Europe will be published by IB Tauris next month.

@denismacshane www.epi-c.net
Brexit: How Britain Will Leave Europe www.ibtauris.com/brexit Code AN2 £9.10

Labour’s Old Love

The left returns to an old love – saying No to Europe
DENIS MACSHANE 15 July 2015
It is the politics of Europe’s current rulers that must be challenged, not the UK’s membership of the EU.
It is not often given to one to see one’s political youth replayed decades later. Reading Owen Jones appeal to quit Europe in the Guardian was to bring back so many memories.
The first Labour conference I ever attended as a constituency delegate barely out of university was the 1971 Labour special party conference to adopt a position on entering the EEC. I sat enthralled as the great orators of Labour – Michael Foot, Barbara Castle, Denis Healey, and Tony Benn – roared out their contempt for Europe, deploying arguments that Owen uses four decades later.
After all had not Labour’s lost leader, Hugh Gaitskell, the John Smith of his day, felled just before he could enter No 10, declared that to sign the Treaty of Rome ‘meant the end of Britain as an independent nation-state. It would mean the end of a thousand years of history. It would mean the end of the Commonwealth.’
Had not Denis Healey in 1950 explained in his Labour pamphlet, European Unity, that ‘No Socialist Party with the prospect of forming a government could accept a system by which important fields of national policy were surrendered to a supranational European representative authority.’ For Healey, British coal-miners’ and steelworkers’ jobs would be safe just as long as we kept a distance from Europe.
There was one voice of dissent. Tony Benn noted in his diary in April 1970: ‘If we have to have some sort of organisation to control international companies, the Common Market is probably the right one.’
On going into opposition, Benn’s line changed and after 1979 he led the charge to make withdrawal from Europe official Labour Party policy. In the 1980s he became the champion of Lexit, Owen Jones’ neat formulation for left anti-Europeanism. The result was 18 years of Tory government.
As the wheel of history turns, there can be no surer way of keeping the Tories in power than lining up with UKIP and championing the cause of English isolationism. Because one thing did not exist in the 1970s and 1980s, namely that if we vote to quit the EU, the Scots will vote to quit the UK and progressive politics will never win a majority alone in England.
All of Owen Jones’ criticisms are valid but little to do with the EU. No EU rule prevents Germany from having an industrial policy. No EU rule stops progressive trade union organisation in Sweden, where the prime minister is a metalworker unlike the scions of Oxbridge vying to be Labour leader.
No British government would ever dare take on Microsoft, Google, or impose a cap on bankers’ bonuses as the EU has.
Owen Jones cites George Monbiot, but surely even our great green guru accepts that environmental policy in one nation is nonsense. Acid rain and global warming do not stop at frontiers to show their passports.
Of course Owen Jones is right to condemn the handling of the Greek crisis. But having spent three weeks late in June and into July travelling in Greece, especially outside the Athens political-media bubble, I found no evidence that any Greek on the left thinks quitting the EU is an answer.
On the contrary, the Syriza poster that covered every wall said “Yes to Europe. No to austerity.” The 60 per cent vote Alexis Tsipras won was a vote to say Yes to Europe as much as it was a vote to reject the proposals from the ruling centre-right politicians who have made such a disaster of handling EU economic policy since the banksters’ crash.
In fact, 80 per cent of Greeks polled regularly say they want to keep the Euro. They say ‘Oxi’ to the wiseacres of the Anglo-Saxon commentariat who regularly preach that the Euro must go and we would all be better off back with drachmas, francs, lire, pesetas or punts all merrily devaluing against each other as the forex speculators made their killings.
The insane stupidity of how Brussels, Berlin and the IMF have handled Greece is about the poor quality of the small-minded conservatives who dominate the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament as well as their helpmates like the conservative tax lawyer Christine Lagarde of the IMF.
It is the politics of Europe’s current rulers that must be challenged, not the UK’s membership of the EU. I fear however, Owen Jones is on to a winner as the forces for Brexit grow daily and no-one challenges them. Time will tell whether an England isolated from Europe is as progressive as Owen hopes.

How to Put Parliament in Charge of Europe

 

 

One of the reasonable demands David Cameron is presenting to the rest of the European Union is that national parliaments should have more say in how Europe is run. There are roughly 10,000 national parliamentarians – lower and upper houses – in the 28 EU member states.

Instead 750 members of the European Parliament claim exclusive elected and parliamentary oversight and jurisdiction over any legislation emanating from Brussels.

Given that about up to 150 of the MEPs are – to use Nick Clegg’s immortal description ‘nutters, anti-semites and homophobes’ – the assertion that the rest of the MEPs represent the European demos is not convincing, all the more so as participation in European Parliament elections has fallen at every election since the first one in 1979.

There are many dedicated and skilled men and women in the European Parliament and there are more women MEPs as a share of the total than there are women MPs in the Commons, so Westminster is in no position to lecture.

British Labour and Tory MEPs, and in their time Lib Dem MEPs are particularly assiduous, hard-working and promoters of the UK national interest as well as wider European needs.

But there are also able national MPs who could contribute to European Policy making and ensure that the House of Commons and other national parliaments to do not feel excluded from decisions taken at an EU level which impact their constituents.

Of course the idea that every national parliament can veto any bit of EU legislation is does not like (even if 27 other member states are content) is a nonsense. The UK has formed coalitions to force through EU directives and laws that supersede national customs and practices, often protectionist.

If each of 27 national parliaments could veto EU measures in Britain’s interests the UK would be the first to protest.

The call by the CBI for more single market or the proposed Capital Markets Union which the UK Commissioner, Lord Jonathan Hill, is working on cannot happen without more Europe, in the sense of rules from Brussels which take precedence over national laws and practices.

But here are ten measures David Cameron, working with Speaker John Bercow and the all Commons parties could introduce tomorrow to give the British parliament more power.

1) Re-introduce the full-day debate on the EU at the time of the EU Council meeting. This was oddly abolished by Cameron when he became Prime Minister.

2) Ensure that all Select Committees have a EU sub-committee properly staffed and that Ministers go before such committees before travelling to vote in Brussels on EU policy and directives.

3) Create working parties of MPs and MEPs to produce reports on specific problems like handling migration, car emissions, policy towards Russia and so forth. These can be laid before the House and be factual investigations avoiding either party polemics or pro- or anti-EU position taking.

4) Increase support for bi-lateral All Party Parliamentary Group with the 27 other EU members states or widen it to include Council of Europe member states. Most of these groups consist of the same people on the same circuit with only as much support as some outside sponsor will provide. MPs should be tasked to become knowledgeable about the politics of other EU member states.

5) Provide European short-style money for all parties in the Commons to strengthen inter-party links. The main parties are woefully under-staffed and under-funded for doing core party networking with sister parties in the EU. Germany, France, and Nordic countries all provide modest public funding for this work as a way of increasing the political knowledge base of their parliamentarians and parties.

6) Stop treating any trip by an MP abroad as a junket or suspicious. Under extended travel provisions, MPs can go on any number of visits inside the UK to places where they have an interest and of course use the different allowances to hire staff or buy in research on domestic issues.

7) Invite MEPs to sit on Select Committees as non-voting members.

8) Encourage language learning with time off the whip, save in emergencies to go on insertion language training courses paid for as part of a professional training scheme.

9) Place younger MPs with a future on the Council of Europe delegation as a way of learning about other European nation-states and their politics.

10) Put copies of main European newspapers in the tea-room newspaper racks as well as weeklies like Politico. Le Monde is available but if you want to find out about Germany, Spain, Italy it is difficult.

Interview in Polish in Gazeta Wyborcza

Były brytyjski minister MacShane: Nie będzie Grexitu, ale będzie Brexit

PAP

11.07.2015 16:29

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Prawdopodobnie Grecji uda się zostać w strefie euro, natomiast szanse na to, że Wielka Brytania opuści Unię Europejską są coraz większe – powiedział PAP Denis MacShane, były brytyjski minister ds. europejskich.

Artykuł otwarty w ramach bezpłatnego limitu prenumeraty cyfrowej

Zdaniem MacShane’a, z wykształcenia ekonomisty, Grecji nie można trzymać latami w więzieniu za długi, jak jednej z postaci w powieściach Charlesa Dickensa. Premier Grecji Aleksis Cipras poddał się żądaniom eurolandu i zrobił to dla dobra Grecji. Należy go za ten pragmatyzm cenić – dodał były minister.

“Cipras skapitulował i przyjął wszystkie warunki jakie postawiły przed nim instytucje. Zrobił to dla dobra Grecji, aby mogła pozostać w strefie euro i aby Grecy mogli dalej używać tej waluty” – twierdzi MacShane.

Gdyby Cipras tak nie postąpił, od przyszłego tygodnia greckie banki musiałyby zacząć posługiwać się pieniędzmi podobnymi do tych, których używa się w grze Monopoly. Nie byłaby to nawet nowa drachma, bo włączenie w obieg prawdziwej nowej waluty zajęłoby co najmniej pół roku. Grecja w praktyce zostałaby więc usunięta z ekonomicznej mapy świata – uważa MacShane.

Jego zdaniem Cipras odniósł pewien sukces, bo sprawił, że wreszcie w Paryżu, Madrycie, Brukseli, a nawet w Berlinie przyjęto do wiadomości, że dług grecki jest nie do spłacenia i musi być poddany restrukturyzacji.

“Co prawda z Berlina wciąż dochodzą do nas pomruki, że jakiekolwiek porozumienie z Grecją powinno być oparte na niemieckich zasadach, ale powiedzmy sobie wprost, przecież Niemcy też mieli swoje długi umorzone w latach 50., zresztą tak samo Polska w latach 90.” – przypomina MacShane, którego ojciec był Polakiem.

MacShane uważa, że do Grexitu nie dojdzie z kilku powodów. Po pierwsze, gdyby tak się stało wzbudziłoby to w Europie silne antyniemieckie nastroje i z tego zdają sobie sprawę w Berlinie. Po drugie, we wrześniu Angela Merkel będzie obchodzić 10. rocznicę piastowania urzędu kanclerza i MacShane nie wierzy, aby naprawdę chciała przejść do historii jako “polityk, który wyrzucił Grecję z eurolandu”.

Po trzecie, autor popularnej książki “Brexit: How Britain Will Leave Europe” (Brexit: jak Wielka Brytania opuści Europę) jest przekonany, że w przypadku Grexitu, Brexit byłby nie do uniknięcia, ponieważ od czasów poety lorda George’a Byrona Brytyjczycy jako naród są hellenofilami i mają dla Greków wiele współczucia, co przełożyłoby się na znaczny wzrost antyeuropejskich tendencji. Po czwarte, przeciwne Grexitowi są USA, ponieważ oznaczałby on, że bardzo słaba południowa flanka NATO mogłaby się dostać w ręce Rosji, a do tego Amerykanie nie chcą dopuścić.

Były laburzystowski polityk ma też sporo słów uznania dla premiera Grecji. Według MacShane’a Cipras jest zręcznym politykiem, który szybko się uczy. W ciągu ostatnich kilku tygodni okazał się też taktycznie lepszy niż większość jego unijnych partnerów, często zaskakując ich swoimi politycznymi woltami.

“Polityka jest oparta na oportunizmie, uprawianie polityki można porównać do tego, jak zachowuje się dobra drużyna piłkarska: trzeba znać słabości swoich przeciwników i własne mocne strony, a kiedy jest okazja, umieć słuchać swojej intuicji i strzelić bramkę” – uważa MacShane. Dodaje, że dobrym przykładem politycznych umiejętności greckiego premiera jest sposób, w jaki użył on niedawnego referendum i jego wyników.

Przyjmuje się zwykle, że podstawą referendum powinien być wybór: czarne albo białe, wewnątrz czy na zewnątrz, za albo przeciw, ale tu było inaczej. Kampania Ciprasa przed referendum głosiła “nie dla oszczędności, ale tak dla Europy”. “Slogan Ciprasa był więc dwojaki. Szczerze mówiąc, nigdy takiego czegoś przedtem nie widziałem. To było bardzo wygodne, bo oznaczało, że cokolwiek odpowiesz, głosujesz jednocześnie i na tak i na nie. Cipras swoim referendum dowiódł, że można jednocześnie całować żonę i kochankę” – powiedział MacShane.

“Teraz Cipras używa tego dwojakiego rezultatu i mówi Grekom: +dostałem od was dwie wiadomości – po pierwsze, nie chcecie więcej oszczędności i cięć, a po drugie, chcecie zostać w euro i Unii; dobrze usłyszałem tę drugą informację, bo była bardzo głośna, więc tym zajmę się teraz, a jeśli chodzi o pierwszą, to musicie trochę poczekać”.

Jeśli Grecja pozostanie w eurolandzie, a Ciprasowi uda się przeprowadzić reformy, o których mówi, to może się jeszcze okazać, że stanie się jednym ze “złotych chłopców” europejskiej polityki. Ma na to duże szanse, ponieważ w Europie wkrótce będzie musiała nastąpić polityczna zmiana warty i 40-letni grecki premier w pewnym sensie jest awangardą tej zmiany.

MacShane uważa, że to, co się w tej chwili dzieje z partią Ciprasa Syrizą można w pewnym sensie porównać do tego, co właśnie miało miejsce w Wielkiej Brytanii, gdzie konserwatywny rząd Davida Camerona obiecał w czwartek 40-procentowe podniesienie minimalnej stawki godzinowej. “Pragmatyzm jest w tej chwili ważniejszy od ideologii. Margaret Thatcher (była konserwatywna premier W. Brytanii) pewnie się w grobie przewraca, ale torysi robią to, bo chcą się utrzymać u władzy. Cipras też jest pragmatyczny i też chce pozostać u władzy, bo wierzy, że Grecja potrzebuje reform i że on jest człowiekiem, który może je przeprowadzić. Ponieważ nie może tego zrobić na platformie pozbycia się euro, będzie musiał oczyścić szeregi swojej partii z tych, którzy do tego nawołują” – przewiduje MacShane.

Będzie to wymagało od premiera bezwzględności, ponieważ będzie się musiał odciąć od dawnych sprzymierzeńców. Weteran brytyjskiej polityki wierzy jednak, że jest to możliwe, ponieważ tylko wtedy Cipras będzie miał szanse na sukces.

“Jeśli chcesz być politykiem, który odniesie sukces, musisz być totalnie bezwzględny. To jest ziemia Edypa, jeśli nie jesteś gotowy zabić swojej matki i ojca, nie powinieneś być w polityce” – mówi MacShane. Dodaje jednocześnie, że wierzy, iż większość przywódców Syrizy zaakceptuje stanowisko premiera, gdyż także będzie im bardziej zależało na władzy niż na “przekształceniu Grecji w Wenezuelę”.

MacShane powiedział też, że to, co się dzieje przez ostatnie tygodnie w Grecji, będzie miało głębokie reperkusje, jeśli chodzi o zaplanowane na rok 2017 referendum w sprawie wystąpienia Wielkiej Brytanii z UE.

“To, co się działo w Grecji było manną z nieba dla brytyjskich eurosceptyków. Od tygodni obrazki z Grecji są przez nich używane jako antyreklama Unii. Kolejki do bankomatów po 60 euro dziennie, rekordowe bezrobocie, minister finansów Grecji Janis Warufakis oskarżający Brukselę i Berlin o próbę uduszenia jego kraju. To młyn na wodę dla tych, którzy chcą, żeby Wielka Brytania wyszła z Europy” – mówi MacShane.

Według niego Brytyjczycy, którzy myślą praktycznie, nie mieli nic przeciwko UE póki działo się tam ekonomicznie lepiej niż w Wielkiej Brytanii. Teraz jednak jest odwrotnie, czego dowodzi nie tylko sytuacja z Grecją, ale generalne kłopoty Unii na wszystkich frontach, więc zwolennikom członkostwa trudno jest używać tego rodzaju argumentu. Coraz więcej Brytyjczyków patrzy na kraje takie jakSzwajcaria i myśli, że tego rodzaju połączenie z UE byłoby o wiele bardziej korzystne. Co więcej, eurosceptykom w swojej kampanii udało się połączyć przynależność do UE z problemem imigracji.

“Obecnie ani konserwatyści, którzy zresztą od 20 lat prowadzą antyeuropejską politykę, ani laburzyści, którzy uważają, że jeśli chcą odzyskać władzę, muszą zaostrzyć swoją politykę wobec imigrantów, nie ośmielają się powiedzieć niczego pozytywnego o członkostwie w UE. Jedyną osobą, która opowiedziała się za Brukselą była królowa w czasie swojej wizyty w zeszłym miesiącu w Berlinie. Moje prognozy jeśli chodzi o Brexit są fatalne” – mówi MacShane.

Z Aten Agnieszka Rakoczy
http://wyborcza.pl/1,91446,18342982,byly-brytyjski-minister-macshane-nie-bedzie-grexitu-ale-bedzie.html

 

Going to Greece? Take a Book to Read in ATM Queues

Denis MacShane

The most important thing in Greece today is to have a book. The endless queues to draw the meagre daily ration of money the Oxford-educated Greek aristrocrat, Euclid Tsakalotos, the nation’s new finance minister allows each citizen to withdraw tries everyone’s patience. Having a book to read passes the time.
Waiting in line for the most necessity commodity in the world – cash – is reminiscent of pre-1989 communist Europe’s queues for food. Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras joined the Greek communist party after 1989 and his finance minister’s last book was published by Pluto Press, the veteran Trotskyist London publishing house.
So far Greeks have drawn on millennia of stoicism and shown little anger. Syriza has been brilliant in channelling Greek discontent against two easy and culpable targets.
The first is the old guard of Pasok and New Democracy who must accept much of the responsibility for the disastrous wrong turns of Greek economic management. Curiously, the first book Tsakalotos wrote was a defence of Pasok’s clientalism as practised by Andreas Papandreou. He wrote it after spending his twenties as a full-time Oxford student doing his first degree then a doctorate in the feverish university leftism of the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher re-invented class war as she set about destroying the post-1945 social contract, savagely attacked trade unions and launched her latter-day version of Guizot’s Enrichissez-vous.

Syriza is no less clientalist than the old parties and has used government power to reward its supporters. Currently all metro and bus services in Athens are free and the night-time streets are full of young revellers.
It is only as the sun rises that their grandparents begin queueing for money to buy some food for their sons and daughters left without work. 82 per cent of young Greeks voted No in Sunday’s referendum. They are not yet tied to ATMs or worried about their savings. But one day and soon the Syriza fiesta will end.
Culprit number 2 for Syriza are the Europeans. The term ‘Europeans’ is spat out with contempt rather as it is by English Europhobes. Syriza is right that the European banks which lent recklessly in the first decade of the Euro have much to answer for. If the drug addict is responsible so is his dealer.
The state take-over of banks orchestrated in 2010 and cheered on by economists like Paul Krugmann meant that private sector loans to Greeks became public liabilities. In a brilliant sleight of hand the private banks off-loaded their foolish and unrepayable Greek debt on to the backs of taxpayers.
As a Eurozone member Greece could not default and devalue the traditional way out of state indebtedness. In 2011, George Papandreou, a US-trained moderniser, wanted to hold a referendum to force the Greeks to decide whether they would accept reforms or return to the Drachma. In a monumental error of judgement, Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and Christine Lagarde refused Papandreou’s offer to cut the Gordian knot.
Instead Greece limped on with a centre-right government under Angela Merkel’s protection. One unsung hero of the Greek crisis is Harry Theoharris who was named Tax Collection Tsar and set about this job with gusto until fired by New Democracy prime minister, Antonis Samaras, because he tried to collect taxes from New Democracy oligarchs. Finally the crisis produced the Syriza government.
So the Europeans have to accept some blame and are now in a quandary as neither Washington nor any intelligent Western geo-strategist wants to see Greece cut loose on the most troubled flank of the entire EuroAtlantic alliance. Of course Greece can be forced out of the Euro as Britain was forced out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992 in similar humiliating circumstance. But then who is next? ‘If the Euro fails, Europe fails’ is Mrs Merkel’s favourite maxim. In her tenth year as Chancellor she faces a decision that will define her place in history. The woman who booted Greece, the cradle of democracy, out of Europe? Or the statesperson who found ways to prevent this and keep Europe whole and together?
Her life is being made difficult by the impossiblism of Tsipras and Tsakalotos. Their refusal to countenance real reform like cutting the bloated Greek military budget which pays for 1300 tanks, twice as many as the Britiah Army has, or calling European finance ministers ‘terrorists’ as the ousted former finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, did in the referendum campaign has created a chasm between Athens and the rest of Europe.
Maybe that is what Tsipras-Tsakalotos want as they dream of engineering the perfect socialist society and economy of their student days. Tsakalotos has now found a new ally in Sinn Fein, the Irish nationalist party. Sinn Fein means “Ourselves Alone” and Taskalotos addressed its annual conference in April. For Sinn Fein the eternal enemy are the Brits just as the Europeans are for Syriza.
Sinn Fein’s founder and leader during the Irish War of Independence was Eamonn de Valera. He refused to accept any compromise with London and launched the Irish civil war against those ready to do a deal. He finally accepted reality and became president of Ireland but with a backward looking autarchic economy that kept Ireland in poverty for decades.
Is Syriza a reincarnated Sinn Fein? Does the spirit of De Valera who wanted Ireland to have a strong church reign over Greece where Syriza refuses to make the wealthy Greek orthodox church pay any tax?
As Greeks sweat in the sun to get out their Euros perhaps Tsakalotos can write a quick history of Ireland and the glories of standing alone, no compromise, an external enemy to blame and hate, and why economic reality is a chimera a proud nation can wish away.

Denis MacShane, currently in Athens is a former UK Minister for Europe. A revised edition of his book Brexit: How Britain Will Leave Europe will be published next month by IB Tauris.

Eureporter 3 July 2015

EU Reporter Correspondent | July 3, 2015 | 0 Comments
Sitting in Athens airport the wifi access is fast, free for an hour and much less complicated than most other airports in Europe. Once again the paradox of Greece where so much is better than elsewhere and so much infinitely worse than the rest of the EU.
Clichés about Greek drama and tragedy abound and at times it is hard to keep up. Greece’s flamboyant Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, famed for his bling poses in Paris Match, and roaring up to his ministry on a motor-bike stunned Greece yesterday by announcing he would resign if the nation voted Yes in Sunday’s referendum.
Then the IMF dropped its own bombshell. It conceded 50 per cent of Greece’s case by saying that the nation’s debt was unsustainable and needed to be written off or pushed back for payment to the famous Greek Kalends – i.e. never.
That point has been made in recent years by every serious economist, right, left, with or without a Nobel prize. Read top UK economist Vicky Pryce’ Greekonomics (2013) or Greek journalist Yannis Paliaologos’s The 13th Labour of Hercules (2014) for all the arguments.
The only people to deny this self-evidence truth have been the finance ministers of the eurozone.
The IMF has now made clear they need to revisit their ideology. Through the IMF one can discern the hand of the White House as well as the personal ambitions of Christine Lagarde who is looking for a second term as IMF boss which requires US endorsement.
Washington looks at the southern Mediterranean flank of the EuroAtlantic world and sees its weakest link. There are Greek islands barely a drone’s fight from Islamic state militants and with the eastern and north African Mediterranean coastal states aflame with violence, terror, as well as a new Perso-Arab, Shia-Sunni war and through which scores of thousands of unwanted refugees and economic migrants flow to angry anti-migrant EU states the idea of expelling Greece is every geo-political planners nightmare.
Hence the new message from Washington via the IMF to dump the debt. But that does not avoid the need for serious deep reform in Greece, also outlined in the Pryce and Paliaologos books and something that the new Greek government refuses to embark on.
Instead it has reverted to the worst of the clientalism of its predecessors, roaring out pro-government propaganda via the resurrected ERT state TV channel which was closed down for sheer inefficiency and pay-roll padding.
Visitors to hospitals have been surprised to see notices up on the walls as they wait for appointments instructing them to vote Ohi – ‘No’.
This is the most shameless stunt referendum called in European history and the Council of Europe with its European Court of Human Rights has said it does not meet any of the criteria for a fair, democratic referendum.
If the Greek Supreme Court had integrity it would cancel the referendum which defies all democratic norms. In a week far from Athens in up-country Greece it was impossible to find no-one who really know what the referendum is about.
It belong to the kind of votes one sees at university students’ union gatherings and indeed it is in student politics that Syriza leader, Alexis Tsipras made his political name. The pro-‘Yes’ oligarch-owned TV stations are pumping out anti-Syriza propaganda and former Greek prime ministers are telling everyone should vote ‘Yes’.
If they had any self-awareness they might ask who was in charge when Greece lied, lied and lied again about its public finances and refused the most modest reforms, notably on tax collection, public sector payroll padding, bloated military budgets, or asking priests and oligarchs who pay nothing to their nation to match their prayers and profits with a little payment of taxes.
Being in Greek politics means never having to say sorry.
The rest of Europe is fed up with the insults from the Greek prime minister who treats his fellow EU leaders – each with as much democratic mandate as he claims – with a contempt like an angry Arab throwing his shoe at politicians he dislikes.
A No vote will grease the slipway to Grexit from the Eurozone and possibly the EU. A Yes vote and finding more able compromise-ready negotiators than Professor Varoufakis combined with a start point of the IMF debt write-off opens the possibility to Greece staying in Europe. Varoufakis has made every mistake in the Brussels playbook and the quality of his outside technical advice is lamentable. There are plenty of Brussels insiders ready to help Greece and a post-referendum negotiating strategy should use their abilities.
But it will require a new politics that is post-Pasok, post-New Democracy and post-Syriza to emerge before the corrupt clientalism and loud-mouthery of Greek traditional politics can be replaced by European modernity.