Greece is no place for refuge

It has been nine months since the introduction of the EU-Turkey deal, under which refugees arriving on Greek islands face the threat of deportation back to Turkey. Since then, thousands of refugees have been stuck in inhumane conditions, in camps lacking basic resources like heat and electricity, as they await to have their asylum requests processed. With the arrival of winter, the situation continues to deteriorate.

Meanwhile, UNHCR and the EU’s aid department (ECHO) have been accused of mismanaging millions in emergency funding earmarked for upgrading shelters, leaving thousands sleeping in freezing conditions in camps across Greece. On Chios, refugees have begun to protest against these intolerable conditions. ‘We all are fighting this battle with the leaders of Europe’s non-humanists. Yes, we are now one team fighting the lies and hatred, racism and the enslavement of human beings and the imprisonment of freedom,’ writes Mohammed, a refugee from Deir ez-Zor.

The following commentary, originally published in Politico last week, was written in response to the European Commission’s proposal to resume ‘Dublin transfers’ back to Greece.    

By John-Mark Philo & Ludek Stavinoha

In the same week as the world marked Human Rights Day, the European Commission announced its plans to resume the so-called “Dublin transfers” of refugees back to Greece. If the recommendation is adopted at Thursday’s meeting of European leaders in Brussels, EU member countries will be able to start returning refugees who arrive on their territory back to the country of their first entry into the European Union, wherever that may be.

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Greece: The Hidden War

Greece: The Hidden War is a 1986 television documentary series about the background to the Greek Civil War. The series, which explores the contribution of British policy and actions to the civil war, gave rise to the biggest uproar in the history of British television: the series was banned, all but one copy destroyed, and letters were written to major newspapers in defence of Britain for months afterwards. Continue reading on Wikipedia.

On the ‘Keynesian Neoliberalism’ of the New York Times

by Costas Panayotakis

This article first appeared at the NYTimes eXaminer.

One of the regions of the world most severely hit by the current global capitalist crisis is Europe.  The European crisis has been rendered even more severe by a regression to a pre-Keynesian outlook that, as Paul Krugman has pointed out in his New York Times columns, is reminiscent of the outlook of Herbert Hoover and other political leaders in the early stages of the Great Depression. In today’s Europe this regression takes the form of brutal austerity measures that drastically cut government expenditures and attack ordinary workers’ and citizens’ salaries and pensions.  The ostensible purpose of these measures is to reduce government deficit and debt and to alleviate the sovereign debt crisis that is posing a threat to the future of the eurozone and the European project alike.  In fact, however, these measures are proving counterproductive, thus leading to some debate even within the still dominant neoliberal camp.  Against the ‘budget slashing’ neoliberalism favored by Angela Merkel and the European economic and political elites a more subtle ‘Keynesian neo-liberalism’ is making its appearance.

A recent New York Times editorial on the European austerity programs illustrates this alternative approach. The editorial begins by pointing out that two years “of unrelenting fiscal austerity … have brought [Europe] nothing but recession and deepening indebtedness.”  As the editorial explains, this is due to the ‘growth-killing’ effect of ‘spending cuts and tax increases’ at a time of economic crisis.  As the economy shrinks and unemployment soars, the editorial suggests, government tax revenues suffer, making the austerity programs counterproductive even from a narrowly fiscal point of view.

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Cristina Kirchner and Argentina’s good fortune

(Photo: Marcos Brindicci, Reuters)

by Mark Weisbrot

This article was written for the Guardian’s Comment is free prior to Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s reelection yesterday.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is expected to coast to re-election as president of Argentina on Sunday, despite having faced hostility from the media for most of her presidency, and from many of the most powerful economic interests in the country. So it seems a good time to ask why this might happen.

Yes, it’s the economy. Since Argentina defaulted on $95bn of international debt nine years ago and blew off the International Monetary Fund, the economy has done remarkably well. For the years 2002-2011, using the IMF‘s projections for the end of this year, Argentina has chalked up real GDP growth of about 94%. This is the fastest economic growth in the western hemisphere – about twice that of Brazil, for example, which has also improved enormously over past performance. Since President Fernandez or her late husband Nestor Kirchner, who preceded her as president, were running the country for eight of these nine years, it shouldn’t be surprising that voters will reward her with another term.

The benefits of growth don’t always trickle down, but in this case, the Argentine government has made sure that many did. Poverty and extreme poverty have been reduced by about two thirds since their peak in 2002, and employment has increased to record levels. Social spending by the government has nearly tripled in real terms. In 2009, the government implemented a cash transfer program for children that now reaches the households of more than 3.5 million children. It is probably the largest such program, relative to national income, in Latin America.

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Playing with Political Fire

by Brenda Heard

The timing of political manoeuvring often reveals the stark business of domination.  Sometimes the timing is flagrant, like the recent commotion in Greece.  In the very hours of forbidding the passage of the aid flotilla to Gaza, the financially strapped Greek government welcomed the approval of an €8.7 billion aid payment from the European Union.  With Israel’s position as an EU-groupie, even the Associated Press couldn’t resist smirking at Greece’s underlying ‘incentive to cozy up to its rich Mediterranean neighbor’.

Political manoeuvring also thrives on more subtle timing, as for example in the case of the notorious indictments of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Widely announced as imminent in December 2010, they somehow found themselves on the backburner when the Arab uprisings claimed every corner of Middle East news coverage.  Some six months later, on the heels of the formation of a Lebanese government non-hostile to the targeted Hezbollah—in the very hours between finalising the government’s policy statement  and its being subject to a parliamentary vote of confidence—only then were the indictments set into motion.  Bored of battling the credibility of Arab protests, international media eagerly shifted to the new sensational headlines.

Particularly when it comes to the Zionist project, the Western Israeli Alliance has often banked on timing—on distraction and exploitation. Five years ago, for instance, Israeli forces repeated the pretext-invasions of 1978 and 1982.  Five years ago, Israeli forces renewed their aggressive campaigns of 1978 and 1982.  With the full backing of their Western allies, five years ago Israeli forces again attacked Lebanon.

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