Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
from Jeremy Gaunt:
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.
Investors are hoping for something big from European leaders at the EU summit on Oct. 23 and of the Group of 20 on Nov. 3. But they also know the 17 nations of the euro have a habit of offering delayed, half-hearted rescues that have cost them credibility.
So there’s been a lot of “urging” and “warning” in Brussels lately — politicians and central bankers have all been demanding Europe act as international alarm grows that its sovereign debt problems may drag the world into recession. “Further delays are only aggravating the situation,” said European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet on Tuesday in his last appearance at the European Parliament, before he hands over the post to Mario Draghi on Nov. 1.
The European Union talks frequently about wanting to be a bigger player in the world, about making its political influence match its economic weight and the need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States.
And at least in one respect it can now say it’s America’s equal – both have a State of the Union address.
If people stop commenting on the financial crisis, does it still exist?
A month ago, Europe was in the throes of fretting about Greece’s debt problems and whether they were going to spill over to Portugal and Spain, bringing down the euro and a decade of monetary union with it. At the same time there was intense anxiety about impending results from stress tests on nearly 100 European banks.
Every day — and sometimes several times a day – European Union officials, ministers, leaders or central bank governors would say something about the crisis, providing more fodder for frazzled financial markets to make another round of cliff-hanging calls over whether things were getting better or worse.
Top European Union officials held talks this week with religious leaders, part of a policy of holding consultations with religious groups that was enshrined in the EU’s Lisbon reform treaty, which came into force last December. But not everyone supports the move.
More than two dozen Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders — joined by a representative each from the Hindu and Sikh communities — met the presidents of the European Parliament, European Commission and European Council on Monday to discuss how to fight poverty and social exclusion.
It was the the sixth such consultation since 2005, but the first to take place in the context of the Lisbon treaty, the EU’s latest collective agreement. Article 17 of the treaty commits the EU to maintaining “an open, transparent and regular dialogue with … churches and (non-confessional and philosophical) organisations”.
Times are hard in distant corners of the European Union, even when the sun is shining and the euro zone’s debt problems are thousands of miles away.
Leaders of nine regions on the edges of the EU are asking the rest of the 27-country bloc to pay more attention to their needs and shape investment policies better to their problems, exacerbated in some cases by the global economic crisis.
Who do you call when you want to speak to Europe? The question, long attributed to Henry Kissinger, has yet to be answered convincingly by the 27-country European Union.
Six months ago, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told a news conference the person to call on foreign policy issues was Catherine Ashton, who had just been chosen as the European Union’s foreign affairs chief. The “so-called Kissinger issue is now solved”, he said.
Greece and the euro zone are still very much in the midst of a debt and deficit storm, with not just Athens but possibly Portugal and Spain at risk of being swept up in the maelstrom.
But that hasn’t stopped economists and political analysts looking for a silver lining in this unprecedented meltdown.
All institutions have their gibberish and jargon, but the European Union really does take the biscuit sometimes.
Whether it’s endless acronyms that tumble out of press officers’ mouths without the faintest irony, or stock phrases that ministers, commissioners and assorted lower-level officials just can’t stop themselves from using, the EU and its institutions have given rise to a plethora of empty or confusing verbiage.