Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Jeremy Gaunt:

Greeks on the street

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Greeks smashing windows and setting fire to shops and banks in a fury of opposition to yet more austerity is gripping.  But it is hardly unique. A few years ago there were similar scenes for weeks after police shot a 15-year old schoolboy.  And back when I lived there, U.S. President Bill Clinton was treated to a similar welcome -- mainly because of his military assault on Serbia (a fellow Christian Orthodox nation) during the Kosovo conflict.

There are doubtless degrees. The latest level of destruction was the worst since widespread riots in 2008 -- and austerity being imposed on Greeks is very painful. But it is worth noting that there are two underlying elements than make such uprisings more common in Greece than elsewhere.

The first is a division in Greek society that goes back to at least the end of the second world war. The civil war that followed the end of the German occupation was brutal and split the country between those wanting western free market democracy and those favouring Soviet-style communism. This carried though into the 1967-74 junta.

The second element is the role of outsiders on Greek history. The Civil War brought in western intervention and the junta got U.S. support -- to the deep-seated bitterness of those on the other side. Going back further -- and Greeks have long historic memories -- there are Persians, crusaders, Nazi Germans and the particularly hated Ottomans trying to make Greeks be something other than Greek. Here is a feature on it.

Playing with inflated numbers

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Most people would agree that the European Union and the euro single currency are part of a grand political and economic vision. But at times they are also a bit of a numbers game.

As Greece has shown with its less-than-reliable economic statistics, numbers can be fiddled to get budget deficits and debts down and meet the criteria to join the euro.

The quality of MEPs is sometimes strained

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I am not a Eurosceptic, but you do sometimes question whether the billions of euros European taxpayers’ dole out each year to the European Union — and specifically the European Parliament – is always money well spent.

Those doubts came freshly to mind on Tuesday during the presentation of the European Central Bank’s annual report to the parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs.

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