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Clashes broke out after a counter-demonstration staged by a group opposed to Golden Dawn [AFP]
|Riot police and anti-fascist protesters in Greece have clashed in central Athens, leaving at least two people injured.
Police said more than 3,000 supporters of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party held a rally on Saturday to commemorate a 1996 dispute over an uninhabited Aegean Sea island that brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war.
Saturday’s rally was largely peaceful, but violent clashes were triggered by the counter-demonstration, staged by leftist groups protesting against the Golden Dawn rally.
Last November, the government began a crackdown on Golden Dawn following the fatal stabbing of an anti-fascist musician in Athens.
The fate of the party is being closely watched ahead of the May vote – where it is expected to perform strongly due to a wave of anger against government cuts – amid speculation of new efforts to rein in the group, which denies it is neo-Nazi.
Despite the crackdown, the party has said it will find a way to contest local and European elections in May, a senior Golden Dawn MP told a defiant crowd of a few thousand supporters in central Athens.
Party closely watched
“We will participate in the elections, one way or another,” Ilias Kasidiaris told about 3,000 supporters rallying in Athens.
Kasidiaris is the most prominent public face of the party since the arrest of its leader, Nikolaos Mihaloliakos.
Golden Dawn remains Greece’s third-most popular party. Two polls published last week showed the party would get 8.9 percent to 10.3 percent of the vote if elections were held now.
Kasidiaris, who plans to run for Athens mayor in May, suggested that a new party, National Dawn, could replace Golden Dawn if it was prevented from running in the election.
Black-clad supporters waved Greek flags and unfurled a banner with the face of Mihaloliakos and chanted “traitors” against the government. Some handed out leaflets advertising National Dawn.
Golden Dawn entered parliament for the first time in 2012, tapping resentment against illegal immigrants and politicians blamed for a crisis that has forced millions out of work and plunged the economy into a six-year recession.
Six of the party’s 18 MPs, including Mihaloliakos, are in pre-trial detention over a probe into Golden Dawn and a string of attacks against immigrants and political opponents.
Can We Avoid the “Thucydides Trap” with China?
Top economic advisers are forecasting war and unrest.
They give the following reasons for their forecast:
- Countries start wars to distract their populations from lousy economies
- Currency and trade wars end up turning into shooting wars
- The U.S. is still seeking to secure oil supplies, and the U.S. doesn’t like any country to leave the dollar standard
Additionally, the American policy of using the military to contain China’s growing economic influence – and of considering economic rivalry to be a basis for war – is creating a tinderbox.
As the New York Times noted in 2011:
For a superpower, dealing with the fast rise of a rich, brash competitor has always been an iffy thing.
Just ask … Thucydides, the Athenian historian whose tome on the Peloponnesian War has ruined many a college freshman’s weekend. The line they had to remember for the test was his conclusion: “What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta.”
So while no official would dare say so publicly as President Hu Jintao bounced from the White House to meetings with business leaders to factories in Chicago last week, his visit, from both sides’ points of view, was all about managing China’s rise and defusing the fears that it triggers. Both Mr. Hu and President Obama seemed desperate to avoid what Graham Allison of Harvard University has labeled “the Thucydides Trap” – that deadly combination of calculation and emotion that, over the years, can turn healthy rivalry into antagonism or worse.
Indeed, Allison writes:
The defining question about global order in the decades ahead will be: can China and the US escape Thucydides’s trap?
China is certainly aware of this potential dynamic for world war … and is eager to avoid it. As Xinuanoted last July:
Greek historian Thucydides described the situation between Athens and Sparta as a combination of “rise” and “fear,” which inevitably resulted in war about 2,400 years ago. Over the past 500 years, when a rising power has challenged a ruling power, war has often followed, reinforcing the concept of “The Thucydides Trap.”
In the 21st century, however, China and the U.S. could and must avoid falling into this trap, especially against the backdrop of ever-deepening economic globalization and interdependence.
“The Thucydides Trap” offers a worthy caution, but it is not a tragedy that can not be avoided.
The 21st century will not necessarily mark the rise of China alongside the fall of the U.S., rather, through joint efforts, the two sides can see the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, U.S. recovery and a developing world, simultaneously.
And the China Post made a similar point last June.
Obviously, the dispute between China and Japan over oil-rich islands – with the U.S. backing Japan – is a complicated one. Indeed, Japan is threatening to seize another 280 islands whose claim is disputed.
Given that China passed Japan as the world’s second biggest economy in 2010, Thucydides’s trap could very well apply to Japan’s fear and hatred of China’s economic growth.
And China’s threat to “take back” an island occupied by another close U.S. ally – the Philippines – could be another potential flashpoint in Chinese-U.S. relations.
It seems like the U.S. and China are drifting towards war over the long-term, as proxy disputes with Japan, the Philippines and other countries cannot remain cool forever without accident or incident.
Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail on all sides …
This morning we were treated to the usual stupifying comments from Greek leadership that “Greece won’t need more loans,” and will “start becoming a normal country,” because the Greek ‘recovery’ is “built on solid foundations.” However, it appears the public-at-large is not so happy as the BBC reports shots were fired at the German ambassador’s residence in Athens. Samaras said Greeks “have gone through hard times.” With over 60 bullets fired, it seems the someone is upset that their union overlords won’t lift those hard times anytime soon…
Shots were fired at the German ambassador’s residence in Athens early on Monday, without causing injury.
Bullets were found embedded in the steel gate, Greece’s Kathimerini news website reports.
Ambassador Wolfgang Dold’s residence is in the Greek capital’s Halandri district. The raid took place at around 03:30 local time (01:30 GMT).
It is not clear who the attackers were. Germany’s insistence on budget cuts has caused much resentment in Greece.
At least 60 spent bullet casings were found at the scene of the attack. Police say the bullets came from two Kalashnikov assault rifles.
So far no-one has admitted carrying out the attack.
In a message to the unidentified perpetrators, Mr Dold said “whoever is responsible for this act: you will not succeed in disrupting the close and friendly relations of our two countries”.
He was in the residence when the shots were fired.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Berlin took the attack “very seriously” and “nothing, absolutely nothing, can justify such an attack”.
The Greek government called it a “cowardly terrorist action” aimed at undermining Greece’s six-month presidency of the EU, which begins on 1 January.
Germany is the biggest lender involved in the Greek bailout – a 240bn-euro (£200bn; $331bn) rescue for the debt-laden country that started in 2010.
The bailout conditions require Greece to rein in public spending, and that has meant hardship for Greeks who have lost their jobs or who now pay more for essential services.
In 1999 the ambassador’s residence was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, in an attack claimed by the now defunct radical left-wing group November 17.
Yannos Papantoniou warns that the widening economic gap between the eurozone’s northern and souther members could lead to the monetary union’s collapse. – Project Syndicate
ATHENS – As the eurozone debt crisis has steadily widened the divide between Europe’s stronger northern economies and the weaker, more debt-laden economies in the south (with France a kind of no man’s land economy in between), one question is on everyone’s mind: Can Europe’s monetary union – indeed, the European Union itself – survive?
While the eurozone’s northern members enjoy low borrowing costs and stable growth, its southern members face high borrowing costs, recession, and deep cuts in incomes and social spending. They have also suffered substantial output losses, and have far higher unemployment rates than their northern counterparts. Unemployment in the eurozone as a whole averages about 12%, compared to more than 25% in Spain and Greece (where youth unemployment now stands at 60%). Indeed, while aggregate per capita income in the eurozone remains at 2007 levels, Greece has been pushed back to 2000 levels, and Italy today finds itself somewhere in 1997.
Europe’s southern economies owe their deteriorating circumstances largely to excessive austerity and the absence of measures to compensate for demand losses. Currency devaluation – which would boost the competitiveness of domestic industry by lowering export prices – obviously is not an option in a monetary union.
But Europe’s stronger economies have resisted pressure to undertake more expansionary fiscal policies, which would lift demand for its weaker economies’ exports. The European Central Bank did not follow the lead of other advanced-country central banks, such as the US Federal Reserve, in pursuing a more aggressive monetary policy to cut borrowing costs. And no financing has been offered for public-investment projects in the southern countries.
Moreover, fiscal and financial measures aimed at strengthening eurozone governance have been inadequate to restore confidence in the euro. And Europe’s troubled economies have been slow to undertake structural reforms; improvements in competitiveness reflect wage and salary cuts, rather than productivity gains.
While these policies – or lack thereof – have impeded recovery in the southern countries, they have yielded reasonable growth and very low unemployment rates for the northern economies. In fact, by maintaining large trade surpluses, Germany is exporting unemployment and recession to its weaker neighbors.
As Europe’s north-south divide widens, so will interest-rate differentials; as a result, conducting a single monetary policy will become increasingly difficult. In the recession-afflicted south, continued fiscal consolidation will demand new austerity measures – a prospect that citizens will reject. Such impasses will lead to social tension and political crisis, or to new requests for financial assistance, which the northern countries are certain to resist. Either way, financial and political instability could lead to the common currency’s collapse.
As long as the eurozone establishes a kind of wary equilibrium, with the weaker economies stabilizing at low growth rates, current policies are unlikely to change. Incremental intergovernmental solutions will continue to prevail, and Europe’s economy will soldier on, steadily losing ground to the US and emerging economies like China and India.
For now, Germany is satisfied with the status quo, enjoying stable growth and retaining control over domestic economic policy, while the ECB’s limited powers and strict mandate to maintain price stability ease fears of inflation.
But how will Germany react when the north-south divide becomes large enough to threaten the euro’s survival? The answer depends on how Germans perceive their long-term interests, and on the choices of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her recent election to a third term offers room for bolder policy choices, while forcing her to focus more on her legacy – specifically, whether she wishes to be associated with the euro’s collapse or with its revival.
Two outcomes now seem possible. One scenario is that the economic and political crisis in the southern countries spreads, inciting fears in Germany that the country faces a long-term threat. This could drive Germany to withdraw from the eurozone and form a smaller currency union with other northern countries.
The second possibility is that the crisis remains relatively contained, leading Germany to pursue closer economic and fiscal union. This would entail the mutualization of some national debt and the transfer of economic-policy sovereignty to supranational European institutions.
Of course, such a move would carry considerable political costs in Germany, where many taxpayers recoil at the notion of assuming the debts of the fiscally profligate southern countries, without considering how much Germany would benefit from a stable and dynamic monetary union. But a new grand coalition between Merkel and the Social Democrats could be sufficient to make this shift possible.
Even so, there could be victims. Indeed, the continued failure of smaller countries like Greece and Cyprus to fulfill their commitments reinforces the impression that they will forever be dependent on financial assistance. The exit of one or two of these “undisciplined” countries could be a requirement for the German public to agree to such a policy shift.
Europe’s north-south divide has become a time bomb lying at the foundations of the currency union. Defusing it will require less austerity, more demand stimulus, greater investment support, deeper reforms, and meaningful progress toward economic and political union. One hopes that modest recovery in the south, aided by strong German leadership in the north, will steer Europe in the right direction.
Following the slaying of two members of Greece’s far-rght Golden-Dawn party (and wounding of a third) on Friday evening, the Greek government’s crackdown on the country’s ‘extremist’ party has revived a vexing question that seemed to have disappeared with the Cold War’s end: Is there a place within liberal democracies for apparently anti-democratic parties?
Police investigating the slaying of two members of the far-right Golden Dawn party and the wounding of a third say the gun used in the Friday evening attack had not been used in previous terrorist attacks.
The assailant fired 12 rounds from a Zastava Tokarev type semi-auto pistol, police say.
A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity because officers were not authorized to comment on the ongoing investigation, said Saturday that a video from a nearby security camera confirmed accounts from Golden Dawn lawmakers that the assailant started firing from 15 meters (yards) away and finished off his victims from point-blank range. The gunman fired at a fourth Golden Dawn member, who managed to enter a building unharmed.
One can’t help but get the sense their is a growing ‘instigation’ of more killing in Greece, which got us thinking of the following discussion…
Authored by Jan-Werner Mueller, originally posted at Project Syndicate,
Should Extremist Parties Be Banned?
To be sure, liberal democracies have felt threatened since communism collapsed in 1989 – but mostly by foreign terrorists, who tend not to form political parties and sit in these countries’ parliaments. So, should extremist parties that seek to compete within the democratic framework be outlawed, or would such a restriction on freedom of speech and association itself undermine this framework?
Above all, it is crucial that such decisions be entrusted to non-partisan institutions such as constitutional courts, not other political parties, whose leaders will always be tempted to ban their competitors. Unfortunately, the moves against Golden Dawn are mostly identified with the government’s interests, rather than being perceived as the result of careful, independent judgment.
On the face of it, democratic self-defense seems a legitimate goal. As US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson (who was also the chief US prosecutor at Nuremburg) put it, the constitution is not “a suicide pact” – a sentiment echoed by the Israeli jurist Aharon Barak, who emphasized that “civil rights are not an altar for national destruction.”
But too much democratic self-defense can ultimately leave no democracy to defend. If the people really want to be done with democracy, who is to stop them? As another US Supreme Court justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, put it, “if my fellow citizens want to go to Hell, I will help them. It’s my job.”
So it seems that democracies are damned if they ban and damned if they do not ban. Or, in the more elevated language of the twentieth century’s most influential liberal philosopher, John Rawls, this appears to be a “practical dilemma which philosophy alone cannot resolve.”
History offers no clear lessons, though many people like to think otherwise. In retrospect, it appears obvious that the Weimar Republic might have been saved had the Nazi Party been banned in time. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, famously gloated after the Nazis’ legal Machtergreifung (seizure of power): “It will always remain one of the best jokes of democracy that it provided its mortal enemies with the means through which it was annihilated.”
But a ban might not have halted the German people’s general disenchantment with liberal democracy, and an authoritarian regime still might have followed. Indeed, whereas West Germany banned a neo-Nazi party and the Communist Party in the 1950’s, some countries –particularly in Southern and Eastern Europe, where dictatorship came to be associated with the suppression of pluralism – have drawn precisely the opposite lesson about preventing authoritarianism. That is one reason why Greece, for example, has no legal provisions for banning parties.
The fact that Greece nonetheless is effectively trying to destroy Golden Dawn – the parliament just voted to freeze the party’s state funding – suggests that, in the end, most democracies will want to draw the line somewhere. But just where, exactly, should it be drawn?
For starters, it is important to recognize that the line needs to be clearly visible before extremist parties even arise. If the rule of law is to be upheld, democratic self-defense must not appear ad hoc or arbitrary. Thus the criteria for bans should be spelled out in advance.
One criterion that seems universally accepted is a party’s use, encouragement, or at least condoning of violence – as was evidently the case with Golden Dawn’s role in attacks on immigrants in Athens. There is less consensus about parties that incite hatred and are committed to destroying core democratic principles – especially because many extremist parties in Europe go out of their way to emphasize that they are not against democracy; on the contrary, they are fighting for “the people.”
But parties that seek to exclude or subordinate a part of “the people” – for example, legal immigrants and their descendants – are violating core democratic principles. Even if Golden Dawn – a neo-Nazi party in appearance and content – had not engaged in violence, its extreme anti-immigrant stance and its incitement of hatred at a moment of great social and economic turmoil would have made it a plausible candidate for a ban.
Critics warn of a slippery slope. Any disagreement with a government’s immigration policy, for example, might eventually be deemed “racist,” resulting in curtailment of freedom of speech.Something like the classic American standard – the speech in question must pose a “clear and present danger” of violence – is therefore essential. Marginal parties that are not connected to political violence and do not incite hatred should probably be left in peace – distasteful as their rhetoric may be.
But parties that are closer to assuming power are a different matter, even if banning them might automatically appear undemocratic (after all, they will already have deputies in parliaments). In one famous case, the European Court of Human Rights agreed with the banning of Turkey’s Welfare Party while it was the senior member of a governing coalition.
It is a myth that bans turn leaders of extremist parties into martyrs. Very few people can remember who led the postwar German neo-Nazis and Communists. Nor is it always the case that mainstream parties can cut off support for extremists by selectively coopting their complaints and demands. Sometimes this approach works, and sometimes it does not; but it always amounts to playing with fire.
Banning parties does not have to mean silencing citizens who are tempted to vote for extremists. Their concerns should be heard and debated; and sometimes banning is best combined with renewed efforts at civic education, emphasizing, for example, that immigrants did not cause Greece’s woes. True, such measures might come across as patronizing – but such forms of public engagement are the only way to avoid making anti-extremism look like extremism itself.
- Two Members of Greek Neo-Nazi Party Killed in Drive-By Shooting – Voice of America (voanews.com)
- Golden Dawn members killed outside party office (telegraph.co.uk)
- 2 members of Nazi-inspired political party killed in Greece (cbsnews.com)
- Shooting kills two Golden Dawn members in Greece – Times of India (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)
Six lawmakers from far right Golden Dawn party have their immunity from prosecution revoked as part of crackdown.
The probe into Golden Dawn was prompted by the murder of a hip hop artist by a self-confessed neo-Nazi supporter [AP]
|Greece’s Parliament has voted to lift the immunity from prosecution of six lawmakers from the far right-wing Golden Dawn party, as part of a crackdown into the party’s activities after the murder of an anti-fascist musician last month.
A majority of over two-thirds in the 180-seat chamber voted to lift the immunity of George Germenis, Efstathios Boukouras and Panagiotis Iliopoulos on Wednesday.
In addition, party spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris and fellow lawmakers Ilias Panagiotaros and Chrysovalantis Alexopoulos will be called to answer lesser charges, a process that will first require parliamentary approval.
Kassidiaris and Panagiotaros were already indicted earlier this month, and conditionally freed, on the charge of belonging to a criminal organisation.
Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos, his deputy Christos Pappas and lawmaker Yiannis Lagos are already being held in Athens’s high security Korydallos prison over the case.
The probe into Golden Dawn was prompted by the murder of hip hop artist Pavlos Fyssas by a self-confessed neo-Nazi supporter in September.
Witnesses have since testified that senior party members were involved in migrant beatings, extortion and possible arms smuggling.
The authorities are also moving to cut the party’s access to state funding, in a vote to take place on Thursday.
- Greek neo-Nazi MPs lose immunity (rinf.com)
- Greek Parliament Lifts Immunity for 6 Golden Dawn MPs (voanews.com)
- Greece cracks down on Golden Dawn MPs (skynews.com.au)
- Greek Parliament lifts 6 MPs’ immunity (cnsnews.com)
- Greek police arrest Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos (theguardian.com)
- Greek far-right leader, others arrested (news.yahoo.com)
- Greece: Golden Dawn leader and MPs arrested (wdsu.com)
- Hundreds of Nationalists outside the Courts. Nobody can stop Golden Dawn’s determination! (xaameriki.wordpress.com)
- Greece: Golden Dawn leader and MPs arrested (wyff4.com)
- Greek far-right leader, other legislators arrested (news.yahoo.com)
- Greek police arrest far-right Golden Dawn party leader (euronews.com)
- Greek police arrest leader, lawmakers of far-right Golden Dawn (reuters.com)
- Greek Far-Right Leader Arrested; Warrants for More (abcnews.go.com)
- Greek police arrest senior members of far-right Golden Dawn party (irishtimes.com)
- Greek far-right leader arrested (bbc.co.uk)
- Special forces reservists call for resignation of government (realdemocracybristol.wordpress.com)
- Greece probes blog post calling for gov’t change (thenewstribune.com)
- Greek special forces website calls for coup (thetimes.co.uk)
- Greek Week Of Strikes Begins (greece.greekreporter.com)
- Greek public sector shuts down for 2-day strike (bostonherald.com)
- Doctors at Greek hospitals join strikes (thehindu.com)
- Greek workers plan nationwide strike (rinf.com)
- Indefinite strikes spread in Greek sackings battle (socialistworker.co.uk)
- Greek public sector shuts down for 2-day strike (star-telegram.com)