Tag Archives: greece

Visiting the Northern Greece refugee camps with Tim Farron

Refugee camp Northern GreeceOn Monday I flew out to Greece with Tim ahead of his visit to the camps in the North on Tuesday. Hours earlier UNHCR informed us they would no longer be able to facilitate the visit of a ‘high-profile’ individual given the security concerns after the clashes the day before. I tried desperately to reassure them that it was not exactly a ‘high profile’ visit, there would be no security team, huddle of staff and no media crew following him around– something that I don’t think they really believed.

So we flew into Greece with ‘fluid’ plans let’s say.

I spent Monday night manically emailing all the contacts I had working in the field to see if we could line up briefings for Tim the next day and had a surprising response. Everyone was very keen to meet Tim to tell him what they were doing and what they needed from the UK Government. One organisation who wasn’t even currently in Idomeni, the informal camp we visited on Tuesday morning, came over especially to give Tim and an overview of what was happening on the ground day in, day out.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 1 Comment

Tim Farron visits refugee camps in Greece – “Real people in desperate circumstances fleeing war”

The news is constantly full of big numbers, thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people heading to Europe to escape war and destruction. Tim Farron is in Greece today, talking to some of them. What’s very clear is that behind those big numbers are individual people and families, just like ours, who had been living peaceable lives, getting on with their jobs, sending their children to school, just like the rest of us. They have been displaced by events beyond their control, war, violence, destruction and seek a place of safety where they can contribute to society and get on with their lives.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 10 Comments

Opinion: Historia est Magistra Vitae: no Grexit, no Greece

The last few days showed the EU as a very resilient organisation: the Bundestag had just approved the Greek bailout, after Finland, France and Austria. But it also showed EU stretched to the breaking point: there is no Grexit but there is no Greece either.

Let us step back and look at the recent past from the future perspective through the prism of the UK. 100 years hence the history of the UK could read like this:

At the beginning of the 21st century the UK was the only state able to offer an alternative to the Franco-German concept of unified Europe. But, rather than introducing UK’s own concept based on liberal values, individual independence and social liberal policies, the UK spent its energy on questioning the EU concept (so called ‘opting out’) and fighting in-between themselves under the then Conservative leader Cameron. This meant that the UK was not offering any viable alternative and completely lost its direction. With the diminishing role of the USA, the Anglo-Saxon governance model, so prevalent during 19th and 20th centuries ceased to play any meaningful role as ‘the bureaucratic super-state’ took on an ever increasing role.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

Opinion: Has the EU just come of age?

It sounds a daft question, given the number of articles critical of the solution to the Greece crisis which have been appearing in my Facebook and Twitter feeds, but things are not always what they seem. Looking at unconscious processes in organisations, the things that people act out without naming tend to be the really important ones

My sense is that we might just have tipped into the space where the EU functions like a truly federal entity — albeit with a deep faith in subsidiarity — and the griping is the griping one has when a government makes a difficult decision, not when it is seen as illigitimate.

What first sent my mind in this direction was the Greek referendum. Far from being an “in/out” referendum, this was one that assumed Greece was inevitably part of the EU, woven in so tightly that this bizarre stunt could not cause them to leave. The “no” vote was strong, but so was the desire to remain in the Eurozone and the EU. For Alexis Tsipras to have made such a fuss about democracy, and then ignore the referendum could seem bizarre, but it makes more sense if I compare it with the antics of a 1970s-style shop steward garnering the support of the workers as a negotiating tactic, or the rebellions of Liverpool City Council at the height of the Militant Tendency. In both cases, quite extreme behaviour is possible because people assume an underlying unity — the shop steward does not want their members to lose their jobs, and Liverpool was not going to cease to be part of the UK. As with Greece in the EU, the strong behaviour is possible because they feel they belong.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged and | 39 Comments

In pictures: Today in Athens

Scenes from Athens today, as momentous discussions take place in Brussels. Scroll down to view. Hover your mouse or finger over the photo to read the caption, and/or double-click on the image to see it in context on Getty Images.

Posted in News and Photo feature | Also tagged and | 45 Comments

Guy Verhofstadt tears into Greece/Alexis Tsipras in the European parliament – and the reply

Newshound covered this on Thursday, but here’s a second chance to view Guy Verhofstadt, Member of the European Parliament and leader of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, telling Alexis Tsipras very precisely and passionately what Greece has to do. It’s a real zinger of a speech (and much better than Nigel Farage’s foghorned nonsense).

If you haven’t seen this, it’s well worth looking at. It’s the one commentary on the Greek situation which, for me, has made real sense:

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 27 Comments

Guy Verhofstadt tells it to Greece and the EU like it is

Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament, has set out a potential solution to the Greek crisis in an article for Politico. He makes it clear that there are faults on both sides and both sides need to take constructive action to resolve the crisis fairly for everyone.

We are in this mess because the Greeks never made a real reform package, or a clear break with their mistakes from the past. But also because Europe has followed wrong policies — policies of pure accountancy that slowly but steadily choked the Greek economy. Everybody can make the wrong policy choices, but we have been clinging on to them far too long.

He implores people to stop the scaremongering:

Posted in Europe / International and LibLink | Also tagged and | 16 Comments

Opinion: Lessons from Greece: why Liberal Democrats need to rethink their enthusiasm for the Euro

I can’t help but sympathise with Greece. In responding to the Eurozone’s latest debt offer, its people found themselves choosing between a rock and a hard place. The referendum was a bit like asking a vegetarian to choose between beef or chicken. The overwhelming rejection of the Eurozone’s proposals is the act of a nation with nothing left to lose: vote ‘yes’ and you sign up to breathtaking austerity and misery; vote ‘no’ and you take a huge step into the unknown that may take you down the same path, but one which also causes your creditors some pain, too.

The whole debacle clearly underlines why currency union without fiscal union does not work. It was something that Danny Alexander seized upon during the Scottish Independence referendum when he rightly pointed out that Scotland would have limited control over the direction of its economic policy if it kept Sterling in a post independence scenario.

And so it has proven to be the case with Greece. Faced with a single currency, and member countries with varying credit ratings under their old currencies, the banks concluded that all member nations should be offered the same one as the higher-rated nations. The seduction of cheap credit proved too much for Greece, which borrowed way beyond its means. A credit crunch later, and the wheels have well and truly come off.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 36 Comments

Opinion: A liberal postcard from Athens #2

I sent a postcard from Athens to LDV six months or so ago as we waited for the Greek people to elect a new government – bringing to power the curious mix of Syriza (a collection of hard left factions that would make the People’s Front of Judea blush) and the Independent Greeks (representing the Greek chauvinistic right). This odd mix of nationalism and hard –left rhetoric has been colourfully described by one academic as “ethno-bolshevism”. Since then, it has certainly been eventful and I have been very much aware that political choices have consequences.

In the Greek election campaign, Syriza promised to free Greece to make its own financial decisions without interference form the much hated “Troika” (the IMF, the Eurozone and the European Union) while, at the same time, ensuring Greece could stay within the security of the European monetary union – even receiving debt relief from its other members. Greece duly voted to have its cake and to eat it.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 55 Comments

Opinion: A liberal postcard from Athens

Sunday morning in Kifissia, one of the leafy northern suburbs of Athens, and the view from my bedroom balcony is blue sky with dark clouds looming – a fitting scene for this very important Greek Election Day.

A product of the oil industry in Aberdeen, I am one of many Scottish expats supporting the oil and gas industry around the world (and lets not mention oil prices!). I have been working in Greece for a little over a year and after commuting between the Athens of the North and the real Athens for a year, I have been resident (and paying tax!) in Greece since November.

Greece has been going through a tough time in the last five years, unemployment is high and wages are low. Though there are few signs of austerity in the posh northern suburbs, my Greek colleagues (I am a lawyer) have lost faith in their politicians and their economy. Much though they love their country, pessimism is rife.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 27 Comments

Greece – a victory for all Europe?

Hardly had the first exit polls in Greece’s latest general election appeared last night than the euro rose on currency markets and shares in Asia rallied. As far as financiers around the world were concerned, Greek voters had got it right. The conservative New Democracy party had come out in front, albeit by a narrow margin. And the threat of a Greek exit from the eurozone, with possibly dire consequences for the world economy, had been averted, at least for the time being.

Posted in News | 20 Comments

Nick Clegg: Europe’s future is our future

Nick Clegg has been in Berlin today, along with Vince Cable. to meet with German ministers and launch the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, a £1 million reward for an invention that’s changed the world and benefitted humanity.

He took the opportunity to talk about the economic crisis engulfing Europe, making the point that Europe has to work together to sort it. There were no diplomatic niceties in his language as he criticised the failure to find a solution so far:

…our response to this brewing crisis has been woefully fragmented. We have failed on a number of fronts. We have

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged , , and | 5 Comments

French and Greek election results open thread

Francois Hollande has been elected French President, after promising to work for more growth and to renegotiate the EU fiscal compact.

Initial results from the Greek parliamentary elections suggest a shake-up, with the left-wing Syriza party and a neo-Nazi party gaining ground at the expense of the two old coalition parties, New Democracy and Pasok. There is talk of the new government (when and if it emerges to be sworn in by the men in beards) seeking to “amend” the …

Posted in Europe / International | Also tagged | 15 Comments

Opinion: Another Greek tragedy? Time for Europhiles to admit the dream is over

In case you wouldn’t have noticed, another crisis has come on top of the big one.

For those who understand French, read carefully this article in the March 5 edition of French daily “Le Monde” . A former German finance vice-minister buries the euro as it is now and advises all Southern-Europe economies (including France) to get out of the Eurozone if they don’t clean up their act, behave more like Germany and adopt many unacceptable social measures. Some German backbenchers have suggested these might include selling off some islands (who would buy these? You guess).

That doesn’t yet …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , , and | 56 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarThomas 15th Oct - 10:11am
    Is this different from a national carbon tax with rebates scheme, like, for example, the one in Canada?
  • User AvatarRuth Bright 15th Oct - 9:56am
    Throroughly agree Caron. She was a bright and modern presence during all the ceremonial guff (tucked menacingly behind the PM in all the TV shots...
  • User AvatarAndy Hyde 15th Oct - 9:18am
    As someone who worked in a nationalised and the privatised utility, CEGB-NG, I can say despite much misgivings at the time, I was glad we...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 15th Oct - 9:07am
    @ Frankie, Please go away and annoy someone else. I have answered your question many times.
  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 15th Oct - 8:57am
    @ expats, He has been on 'a journey'. @ Richard Easter, I really think that the Liberal Democrat party needs to stop pretending to have...
  • User Avatarfrankie 15th Oct - 8:42am
    As to nationalising at least you would be gaining an assets, if you could actually get the assets to make a profit over the long...