Tag Archives: Greece

Sunday Surprises – European&Ukraine elections, prayers and similar work – visits

Pope, Palestine, Prayers – the pacifist P….

Panoramic watching the events was a Sunday hectic and full of surprises. Pope Francis stopped his motorcade between scheduled events in Bethlehem on Sunday to pray before the massive concrete separation barrier that divides the Palestinian city from Israel, which erected the controversial wall a decade ago.

The surprise stop was the latest signal that the Pope backed what the Vatican had indicated in 2012 with its support for a United Nations vote to make Palbildeestine a non-member state: That it regards it as a sovereign state. In a speech earlier on Sunday the Pope called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a “man of peace” after paying him a courtesy visit, and referred to the Vatican’s good relations with the “state of Palestine”.

According Time Magazine, Francis was scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem later on Sunday, and — in part because of official concerns about religious extremists, security preparations were extraordinary even by Israeli standards, outstripping even precautions taken for President Obama’s visit last year, according to organizers.

Pope’s Agenda for Monday includes deep bows to the Israeli narrative, including a visit to Yad Vashem, the museum of the Holocaust, and to the Wailing Wall, the last remaining piece of the Temple in place at the time of Christ. In a gesture that unsettles Palestinians, Francis will also be the first pontiff to lay a wreath on the grave of Theodore Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement that envisioned a future state on the land hundreds of thousands of Arabs called home.

European Election, the sad E: Extremism & Euroscepticism, ‘Earthquake’ win

Marine Le Pen‘s far right National Front scored a stunning first victory in European Parliament elections in France on Sunday as critics of the European Union registered a continent-wide protest vote against austerity and mass unemployment. Cf. Reuters, without waiting for the final result, a somber French Prime Minister Manuel Valls went on television to call the breakthrough by the anti-immigration, anti-euro party in one of the EU’s founding nations “an earthquake” for France and Europe.People watch a board displaying provisional results of the European Parliament election at the EU Parliament in Brussels

Denmark‘s anti-immigration far right People’s Party was set to top the poll with an estimated 23 percent and the extreme-right Jobbik, widely accused of racism and anti-Semitism, was running second in Hungary with 15 percent.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP), which campaigns for Britain to leave the EU, was set for a strong score after making big gains in local elections held at the same time on Thursday, raising pressure on Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of a general election next year.

The anti-euro Alternative for Germany (AfD) won parliamentary representation for the first time with an estimated 6.5 percent, the best result so far for a conservative party created only last year. In Greece, epicenter of the euro zone’s debt crisis, the radical left anti-austerity Syriza movement of Alexis Tsipras was set to win with 26.7 percent, pushing governing New Democracy into second place on 22.8 percent. That reflected popular anger at harsh spending cuts the government has adopted in recent years to meet the terms of its EU/IMF bailout program. It means that far right and hard left parties, their scores magnified by a low turnout of 43.1 percent, gained ground in many countries although in Germany, the EU’s biggest member state with the largest number of seats, the pro-European center ground held firm, according to exit polls.

Ukraine: again P, winner P… Petro Poroshenko wins  presidency

Because we speak about election… Exit polls suggested candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko won Ukraine’s presidential election in the first round Sunday, a ballot that took place amid weeks of fighting in eastern regions where pro-Russia separatists have seized government buildings and battled government troops.

Exit polls gave Poroshenko more than 55 percent of the vote, well ahead of petro_poroshenkoformer Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in second place with just over 12 percent. “I would like to congratulate Ukraine with the fact that despite the current aggression by the Kremlin and the desire to break this voting, the election happened and was democratic and fair” Tymoshenko said after the polls closed. If Poroshenko majority is confirmed by results on Monday, there will be no need for a runoff vote on June 15.

Cf. Reuters, Russian president Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that he will respect the voters’ will. He has announced the pullback of tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the border. But the absence of more than 15 percent of the potential electorate from the election could give Moscow an excuse to raise doubts about the victor’s legitimacy and continue applying pressure on the new president in Kiev.

The White House – two similar surprise work – visits

Leaders of the two White House from Washington and Moscow (government headquarters) have spent Sunday making surprise visits. One – President Barack Obama in Afghanistan. Second – Prim-minister Dmitry Medvedev in Crimea.

President-Obama-in-Afghanistan_5_1President Barack Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Sunday, his first visit to Afghanistan in two years and his fourth trip as president overall, and pledged a “responsible end” to the war there by the end of 2014. During the visit, Obama spoke to troops, visited a base hospital and met with military officials to discuss troop presence in Afghanistan as the country’s longest war comes to a close. Also Obama said on Sunday that his administration would likely announce soon how many troops the United States will keep in the country, as it winds down its presence after nearly 13 years of war.

Speaking at a briefing by military commanders at Bagram Air Base, Obama said one reason for his trip was to discuss the U.S. footprint for the rest of this year – when the bulk of troops are scheduled to be withdrawn – and afterward. “We’ll probably be announcing some decisions fairly shortly” said US president.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has arrived Sunday in Crimea for a Dmitry Medvedevtwo-day working trip. It will be Medvedev’s second trip to Crimea since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula in March in a move that has not been recognized internationally.
Medvedev was expected to visit immigration offices in the city of Sevastopol, where Russian passports are being issued to local residents. Medvedev’s office said he will also visit the Artek children’s center on the Black Sea on May 26.

Medvedev will then chair a meeting to discuss a plan for organizing children’s vacations. Russian prime minister will hold a traditional meeting with his deputies on Monday, visit the Olympic sport center “Spartak” and meet with Crimea’s acting Governor Sergei Aksyonov.

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Russia – EU relation and strategic nature of hypocrisy

Speaking into an interview given to the Serbian newspaper ”Politics”, Russian Minister of FR, Sergey Lavrov noticed: ”Many questions have accumulated in the relations between Russia and the EU, including those related to the implementation of the Eastern Partnership policy. We note that there is no adequate reaction by the EU to Ukrainian events, primarily the occupation of local administrations by opposition groups in several regions of Ukraine. There was a comprehensive and fair talk on a broad spectrum of topics at the EU-Russia summit on the 28 January. It is important that it has confirmed the strategic nature of the Russian-European Union partnership.”

About what kind of ”comprehensive and fair talk” we are speaking ? Remember that the long-planned and publicized summit – planned to take place over two days (27-28 January) was meant to a few hours restricted meeting among principles and key advisors (mainly Vladimir Putin, Catherine Ashton, José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, and Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister), decision that would have been taken “in light of the recent developments”.

29putin_cnd-superJumboVladimir Putin’s meeting with European leadership was dominated by Ukraine’s political crisis and if Russian leader said Russia will honour loan to Ukraine (after a new government will get in power, course ?!), we can observe that in the EU vision there is nothing remarkable. It seems that it is the duty Russia to help Ukraine. Rompuy said it ”between the lines” when he is speaking in his press release following the 32nd EU-Russia Summit about ”a concrete and telling example of the huge potential for all – I will repeat what I said last Saturday in Warsaw. In 1990 the prosperity levels were the same in Poland and Ukraine. Today, Poland is three times more prosperous than Ukraine. And here I am only talking of the economic dimension”. More specifically, it leads to the idea that Poland (under the influence of the West) has prospered and Ukraine (the sphere of influence of Russia) reached poverty. So, Russia must to pay for… ? Literally. And figuratively speaking. EU reluctant to remember the brilliant “achievements” on the road of prosperity of countries in its sphere of influence. Such as Romania and Bulgaria, in the East and around Ukraine and Poland. How about Greece ? Or Spain ? Who must to pay for? Just ask… 🙂

Oh, Mr. Rompuy, you are right ! when we are speaking about Eastern Partnership, is clear like the light of day that each understood what was required of their own interests… Mr. Rompuy admits that ”there can be different interpretations and misunderstandings on the association agreements and that is why we both agreed to pursue bilateral consultations at experts level on the Eastern Partnership Association Agreement and the economic consequences on both sides”. But if that there is just an propagandistic and unfortunate way to hide the lack of well-defined economic opportunities that the EU should offer Ukraine ?

France, Greece, Serbia – elections under the impact of austerity

The first weekend of May is proving extremely eventful. Let’s take a look around…
Sunday, 6 May 2012, the main event will be, of course, France presidential election.  Some 46 million French will decide who will be their new President: Sarkozy or Hollande. Elections are running in Serbia and Greece, too. About the elections in France I will refer in a separate post.

Belgrad – Tadic’s strategy may works ?

Also Serbia is to hold presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections on Sunday. Tadic’s surprise resignation in April paved the way for early elections. But, according Businesswek, “the Serbian Democratic Party may lose May 6 general elections, while its leader, President Boris Tadic, will be forced into a runoff as voters reject moves to bring the former Yugoslav republic to the European Union. As governments from Ireland to Italy fall in a wave of anger over austerity, Tadic’s strategy to link a presidential vote to general elections to help his party may have fizzled.”. The build-up to the marathon vote has been dominated by economic issues, overshadowing debates about the country’s bid to join the EU. A struggling economy, growing joblessness (Serbia is plagued by unemployment of 24% and foreign debt of 24bn euros (£19.5bn; $31.5bn) and widespread discontent over falling living standards have taken center stage in Serbia’s election campaign, pushing aside debates over the country’s EU ambitions. Although is the main priority of Serbia’s foreign policy, European Union integration was outdated and uninteresting in the election campaign, even if Serbia was declared an official candidate for EU membership in March. Another central political issue in Serbia, which has hardly been mentioned in the election campaign, is the dispute over Kosovo. Serbia still refuses to recognize the sovereignty of the breakaway province (which declared independence in 2008), but pressures are rising from the EU on this issue. Notice that most political parties agree on this position towards Kosovo. But experts believe it will reach a compromise, both leading candidates, Boris Tadic from the reformist Democratic Party and his closest rival, opposition leader Tomislav Nikolic from the nationalist Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), want to steer Serbia towards the European Union. According Reuters News Agency, their parties are expected to form the strongest political groups in the future Serbian parliament.

Athena – Nothing new under the sun of Hellenic Republic

Also, the Greeks will choose Sunday between IMF-imposed austerity measures and leaving the euro. Will be the most disputed elections since 1974, and will mark a dangerous revival of extremist parties and decide the future single currency. Economic crisis and corruption among the political class have made as the surveys to show that in parliament will get about ten political parties (of the 32 formations entered in the electoral competition) from just five, at the previous election. Experts believe that the new extremist parliamentary parties will be the big winners of elections in Greece. With regard to post-election scenarios, Business Insider claims that Greece will be conducted after elections by the same coalition of conservatives and socialists, but the head will be another leader. As the threshold is 3% and competing 32 parties, many votes will dissipate, and the two big parties will get more seats than votes received would indicate. Since the restoration of the democratic regime in Greece, in 1974, conservatives and socialists were obtained with between 70 and 80% of votes, but polls now show a fall to below 40%.

UpdateFirst Official Greek Exit Polls – according to exit polls from NET TV, the results are as follows:

  • New Democracy: 17-20%
  • Pasok: 14-17%
  • In a stunner, Syrizia, or the coalition of the radical left – a vehement anti-Bailout party – gets more votes than the ruling PASOK party: 15.5%-18.5%
  • Independent Greeks: 10-12%
  • Finally, and not surprisingly in the aftermath of the French results, the ultra right Golden Dawn gets 6-8% of the vote and will make it into Parliament
Update_2: Early results in Greece’s parliamentary election suggest the two main parties have suffered dramatic losses. With 11% of the vote counted, centre-right New Democracy is in the lead with 22%, down from 33.5% in 2009. Centre-left Pasok is in second place with 16%, down from 43.9% in the last elections. Syriza, a left-wing coalition, is in third place with 15%. It could rises the instability for Greece. New Democracy may be unable to form a government, there may be calls for a fresh election and possibly even anti-bailout parties from the left and right may attempt to form a coalition.
Update_3: A new election seems increasingly likely within weeks after two days of failed efforts to reach an agreement among parties deeply divided over whether to stick to a program that saved Greece from bankruptcy but caused steep economic hardship.