Saturday, July 11, 2015

Serbian Prime Minister Pelted With Stones at Srebrenica Memorial

Bodyguards try to protect Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic (C) from stones hurled at him by an angry crowd at the Potocari Memorial Center, near the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica on July 11, 2015

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The attack forced Alexander Vucic and the Serbian delegation to flee the ceremony held at the Potocari Memorial Center in Srebrenica.
Serbian Prime Minister Alexander Vucic was attacked at the commemoration of the Srebrenica tragedy on Saturday, when he and the Serbian delegation had stones and other objects thrown at them by an angry crowd. A number of individuals from the crowd that gathered at Potocari attacked the security of the Serbian delegation in an attempt to reach Vucic, leading to a physical altercation. According to reports, Prime Minister Vucic was hurt when a stone hit him in the face breaking his glasses before being leaving the ceremony, held at the Potocari Memorial Center at Srebrenica.
"The Prime Minister was hit in the face by a stone, he is injured, but it's not serious," a member of the Serbian delegation told the Serbian Blic newspaper.
"They were throwing stones, shoes, whatever they came with."
Bosnian newspaper Dnevni Avaz reported that Bosnian police arrested a member of the group which attacked Vucic and the Serbian delegation as they passed by a crowd of people at the Potocari Memorial Center, where the remains of the victims of Srebrenica are buried.
The ceremony at Srebrenica was also attended by the presidents of Croatia, Slovenia and Montenegro, the prime ministers of Albania and Turkey and former US President Bill Clinton, who commended Vucic and the President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic for coming to the ceremony. "As a friend of Bosnia I would like to thank the premier of Serbia for showing the courage to come here today," said Clinton. After he arrived at the memorial ceremony, Vucic wrote a message in the book of condolences, and was greeted by the organization 'Mothers of Srebrenica.'
"Thank you for coming," said president of the organization Hatidza Mehmedovic to Vucic, who pinned the Flower of Srebrenica, a symbol of remembrance, on the lapel of the Prime Minister's jacket.
Before arriving in Srebrenica Vucic had issued a statement which he condemned the "terrible crime" which happened at Srebrenica, and explained his reasons for attending the memorial, which marks 20 years since the tragedy in 1995.
"Twenty years have passed since the terrible crime that happened at Srebrenica. There are no words which can express the sorrow and sadness for those who suffered, and the anger and bitterness towards those who committed that monstrous crime. Serbia, clearly and unequivocally, condemns that terrible crime, abhors those who took part in it and will continue to bring them to justice."
"It is my responsibility to bow before the victims, an act with which we can move towards the future," said Vucic.
On Friday, Russia called on the UN to bring the perpetrators of the Srebrenica massacre to justice.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Grexit Creates Wider Threats for EU, Mediterranean Nations - Analysts


© REUTERS/ Wolfgang Rattay
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Greece's Gordian Knot: Syriza Tackles Austerity (227)
Shortly before the Greek crisis summit in Brussels, analysts told Sputnik that Greece with its geopolicatal location, IO's membership and southeastern Mediterranean's turmoil poses threat to the EU destabilization, impacting largely the Mediterranean nations.
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — A Greek exit from the Eurozone, or Grexit, could set off destabilizing consequences for Europe, especially in its southern, Mediterranean tier because of Athens’ strategic position, experts told Sputnik. “Currently, it is safe to argue that Greece’s stability is probably as important to the United States and the European Union (EU) as [it was] in the Cold War years,” International Telematic University Professor of International Relations and European Integration Kyriakos Kouveliotis told Sputnik.
Greece’s continuing crucial role is based on three “very important” factors, Kouveliotis said.
The first, he said, was the geopolitical location of the country in the crossroads between East and West, North and South, Europe and Asia and between Europe and Africa.
The second was the strategic role Greece plays to the current turmoil in southeastern Mediterranean, while the third was the fact that Greece is an active member in all major international organizations. Greece’s exit from the euro could unleash “a nightmare scenario,” the professor warned.
The destabilization of the country will lead first to a humanitarian crisis and then to political turmoil and hostile attitudes toward the EU and the United States, he continued.
“This will be an issue for the United States and it will negatively affect their free trade talks with the EU,” the analyst said.
University of Scranton Professor of Economics and Finance Iordanis Petsas agreed that if the crisis was allowed to get out of hand, far graver consequences could follow.
“This week’s final negotiations between Greece and the rest of the EU countries will point toward an agreement or the beginning of collapse of EMU [European Monetary Union] or even the beginning of the EU collapse,” Petsas warned.
Ripple effects from a Grexit could spread across the EU, he feared.
“Greece is a small country when it comes to international trade. Therefore, the trade impact of a possible Grexit on the rest of the world is very small. However, the EU will be more fragile,” the economist cautioned. Currently, Greece remains in a very difficult position, Petsas noted. Its banks are closed and capital controls are in place. “There is big uncertainty as to when the bank holiday will end,” he said.
A major US concern is that a sovereign default by Greece or other Eurozone member or the failure of a major European financial institution could reverberate throughout the global economy in much the same way as the US sub-prime crisis did in 2008, the economist warned.
“I hope that there is sufficient determination among the European governments to follow the right policies and maintain a single currency at least for the foreseeable future,” he said.
Professor Kouveliotis said US policymakers saw Greece in the context of continuing instability across the neighboring Middle East. Consequently, “I think that [US] interest lie mainly on the political domain and not on the economic one,” he remarked.
Kouveliotis emphasized that the main implications for the Western world from continued crisis in Greece would be more political and less economic.
“We should also take into consideration that there is currently a huge illegal immigration stream from the east to the Aegean Sea and the Greek islands,” he said. “This poses a potential security threat for the United States and it is the main reason why they are against Grexit from the Eurozone.”
Leaders from all 28 nations in the European Union will discuss the Greek crisis at a summit meeting in Brussels on Sunday.

Tsipras ups stakes in stormy Syriza session, says he won't accept loss of majority

First entry: 10 July 2015 - 20:13 Athens, 17:13 GMT
Last update: 10 July 2015 20:13 Athens, 17:13 GMTPolitics
Tsipras ups stakes in stormy Syriza session, says he won't accept loss of majority
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday upped the ante during a stormy session of the SYRIZA party's Parliamentary group, warning MPs that he will "not accept a loss of the Parliamentary ruling majority" during the vote concerning Greece's proposal to the lenders, even if the motion is passed.
"Let each of you take the measure of yourself and of your history," he told MPs at the close of the session, according to sources.
Earlier, a conference call to discuss Greece's request for financial aid from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the accompanying reform proposals, between the heads of the three institutions asked to assess the Greek request, ended after the three sides agreed on a joint position.
The meeting was between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem.
According to a European Commission spokesperson, the common position of the three institutions was now being written up and will be sent to the Eurogroup.

Albania handed victory in drone incident qualifier

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne on Friday announced it has handed Albania a 3-0 victory in the abandoned qualifier played in October.
Source: B92
(Starsportphoto, file)
(Starsportphoto, file)
The European Championship qualifier was played between Serbia and Albania in Belgrade, and was abandoned after a map of "Greater Albania" was flown over the pitch, prompting brawls between the players and a fan invasion of the pitch.
The provocative map showed Albania's borders expanded to include parts of four neighboring countries: Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Greece.

CAS has also docked Serbia three points, ordered the team to play the next two games in front of an empty stadium, and pay a fine of EUR 100,000.

The Lausanne court thus rejected Serbia's appeal, and accepted that filed by Albania, "because it found no evidence that Albanians refused to resume the match," while its considers the interruption to have occurred "due to the bad organization of the game and the violent invasion of the pitch of fans who attacked the guests."

The Albanian team was fined EUR 100,000 "for responsibility for the drone released during the game that carried a flag with nationalist and patriotic symbols."

Reacting to the news on Friday, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama - whose brother the authorities in Belgrade initially suspected of being behind the drone incident - posted on Twitter, "Supeeeer! This is European justice! Three points for red-and-blacks in Belgrade!!!"

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic responded with two tweets in which he decried "European justice turning into global injustice for the umpteenth time," and also said that "those who caused the incident have been rewarded, while the victim has been punished."

"Lausanne Court decision is an embarrassment for justice, judiciary and an insult to all normal people," according to Vucic's tweet.

The CAS decision should now be registered by UEFA, whose disciplinary commission in October awarded Serbia a 3-0 victory in the canceled qualifier, docking the team at the same time three points.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

U.S. House of Representatives adopts Srebrenica resolution

The House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress has unanimously adopted a resolution on Srebrenica.
Source: Dnevni avaz
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
It defines the crime committed in July 1995 as "genocide," the Sarajevo-based daily Dnevni Avaz is reporting, and adding that the document "condemns all statements that challenge that term."
The resolution "stresses that it is important to recognize the signs of genocide in future conflicts and prevent such crimes, especially given the conflicts in the Central African Republic, Burundi and Syria."

The resolution was proposed by Republican Congressman Christopher Smith, who in his speech "stressed that the international community is almost unanimous when what it calls what happened in Srebrenica a genocide."

The paper quoted him as saying that "20 years ago by Bosnian Serb soldiers systematically killed more than 8,000 people in an area that was designated a UN safe haven."

"These brutal murders were not committed in combat, but against unarmed and defenseless people whom Dutch peacekeepers assured they would be safe if they surrendered," Smith said.

He said that UN troops were "under obligation according to UN Security Council Resolution 836 to protect civilians, even by use of force," but that "when the moment came, they offered very little resistance because military commanders had protection of UN troops and not civilians as their primary goal."

"Everyone got scared. It is easy to die in such an operation. To my knowledge, they did not send us to Srebrenica to protect the enclave, but as some kind of observers," Smith quoted a UN peacekeeper.

He expressed disappointment with such developments.

"These peacekeepers became observers of genocide, and soon they were more than that. Specifically, on July 13 Dutch peacekeepers handed over to the Serbs Bosnian Muslims who sought protection from them. They watched the men being separated from women and children, and in Bosnia, this process was already known as a sure sign of danger of death. No one ever saw or heard of these men again," said Smith, according to the article.

Albania's GDP grows 2.82 pct in first quarter of 2015

* Financial sector and manufacturing boost growth
(Reuters) - Albania's economy grew 2.82 percent in the first quarter of 2015 from the same period a year before, shrugging off the impact of February floods as activity in the financial and insurance sector surged.

The Institute of Statistics also said on Thursday that gross domestic product had grown 0.32 percent in the first quarter of 2015 from the last three months of 2014.

That was in line with official forecasts for growth in 2015 despite damage to agriculture from flooding in the south of the Adriatic Sea state in February.

Last week, Albania and the International Monetary Fund cut their growth forecast to 2.7 percent from 3 percent for 2015, mainly because of lower prices in world markets for Albania's exports of minerals and oil.

The central bank expects the economy to expand more in 2015 than 2014's 1.89 percent although that could change if the crisis in neighbouring Greece, home to more than 600,000 Albanian migrant workers, worsens.

The financial and insurance sector led growth in the first quarter, expanding by 13 percent compared to the same period last year, with activity in the manufacturing, energy and water industries 7.64 percent higher.

Household spending fell by 1.22 percent while government expenditure fell by 0.01 percent, the Institute said. (Reporting by Benet Koleka; Editing by Catherine Evans)

In letter to Putin, Nikolic warned about "brink of war"

In a letter to Vladimir Putin, Tomislav Nikolic stated that the Balkans will be on the brink of war if a British resolution on Srebrenica was adopted in the UN.
Source: Beta, Politika
(Beta, file)
(Beta, file)
In addition, the Serbian president said that he saw the document as a political instrument whose final outcome would be to weaken Serbia's position and threaten the region.
The Belgrade-based daily Politika said it saw the letter that was sent to the Russian leader "during the time of the preparation of the British resolution." The resolution was on Wednesday vetoed by Russia at the UN Security Council.

Asking Putin to use his authority to prevent the text of the resolution prepared by Great Britain "from arriving to the UN Security Council," Nikolic, according to the daily, wrote that if with this resolution only one, the Serb people, were to be condemned for nothing less than genocide of global proportions - "then the efforts of Serbia, the Serbian government and his own to live as good neighbors will be futile."

In this case, "the Balkans will be on the brink of a new war," he said.

The Serbian president also pointed out that the resolution "is seen as a political instrument, whose final outcome will be the weakening of the position of Serbia, endangering the stability of the region that was created with great effort and commitment of all of us."

It is a great injustice, and false and irresponsible, wrote Nikolic, to reduce the horrors of genocide to the war crime committed in Srebrenica.

The president reminded that in Srebrenica and its vicinity Bosnian Muslim forces and jihadists who joined them killed in cold blood thousands of Serb children, women and elderly, razing 39 villages to the ground.

"No one has been held responsible for it, and in this region alone almost 5,000 Serb civilians have been killed. How, then, can justice be sought for them, will will submit draft resolutions to the UN Security Council for them. 500,000 Serbs have been driven out of their ancestral homes from the territories of Croatia and Kosovo. Who will propose a UN Security Council resolution for them" - asked the Serbian president in his letter to the Russian counterpart.

Nikolic also asked Putin to stand against those moves "focused on opening old wounds, and not on creating the basis for a better future for the Balkans and true reconciliation of nations that made up the former Yugoslavia."

"We all need the timely support of the wise and the powerful so that we can embark on an era of peace and development," concluded the letter, as cited by the Politika daily.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What was good for Germany in 1953 is good for Greece in 2015

Economic assistance under the Marshall plan was important to both countries, but it was the granting of debt relief that made a difference to the Germans
A word in your ear. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, with the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, in Berlin earlier this year.
A word in your ear. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, with the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, in Berlin earlier this year. Photograph: Stephanie Pilick/EPA
The arguments being used by the Greek government to secure debt relief can be traced back to a little-reported speech made to the students of Harvard University on 5 June 1947.
It was there that George Marshall, the then US secretary of state, floated the idea of a European programme of economic reconstruction. The Americans saw that Europe was on the brink of economic collapse. Industrial capacity had been wiped out. Trade had ceased. People were going hungry and, in Marshall’s view, at risk of turning to communism.
Despite being the turning point for Europe’s economies after the second world war, Marshall’s speech was not considered as especially important at the time. The State Department did not bother to tell anybody in Europe about what he was about to say and the British embassy in Washington did not think it worth the cost to send a cable with an advance copy of the speech to London.
But the speech was covered by the BBC’s Washington correspondent and, by luck, his report was heard by the then UK foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, in a wireless set he kept by his bedside. Bevin seized on the opportunity provided by the Americans, who said the Europeans had to organise their own plan for disbursing the money. “It was like a life line to sinking men,” he said later. “It seemed to bring hope where there was none.”
Lessons had been learned from the mistakes made after the first world war. Then, the victorious Allied powers had imposed a punitive peace on Germany, demanding heavy reparations that bred resentment.
Marshall tried a different approach. Over four years, the US pumped $13bn into Europe (the equivalent of more than $150bn today) in the hope that it would rebuild economic capacity, enable countries to trade with each other, and rebuff the threat from Stalin’s Soviet Union. It was not an entirely selfless act. The US at the time accounted for 50% of the world’s output, and needed to find markets for its exports. The lack of demand in countries such as France, Italy and Germany in 1947 meant this was not possible.
Britain was the single biggest beneficiary of Marshall aid, receiving more than a quarter of the total. Germany took $1.4bn (11% of the total), four times as much as Greece received.
Hans Werner-Sinn, the president of the IFO thinktank in Munich, noted three years ago that Marshall aid accounted for 4% of German GDP at the time, while Greece had, even then, received economic assistance worth 200% of its national output.
This, though, overlooks two points. The first is Greek resentment at the German occupation during the second world war. As Bevin’s biographer Alan Bullock put it: “Greece was a poor country at the best of times and her economy had been wrecked by the sequence of invasion, occupation, resistance, reprisals and civil war. Eight per cent of the population of seven million had been killed, 10 times the death rate for the UK during the war. The Germans stripped the country of livestock and everything else that could be moved; railways, roads, bridges, ports, had been destroyed.”
The second is that direct transfers of money were only part of the help Germany received through the Marshall plan. Far more important than the $1.4bn was the granting of debt relief at the London conference of 1953.
Writing in the Economist magazine in 2012, Albrecht Ritschl, a professor of economic history at LSE, said: “The Marshall plan had an outer shell, the European recovery programme, and an inner core, the economic reconstruction of Europe on the basis of debt forgiveness to and trade integration with Germany. The effects of its implementation were huge. While western Europe in the 1950s struggled with debt/GDP ratios close to 200%, the new West German state enjoyed debt/GDP ratios of less than 20%. This and its forced re-entry into Europe’s markets was Germany’s true benefit from the Marshall plan.”
In the days to come, the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, will be arguing that was good for Germany in 1953 would be good for Greece in 2015.

Angela Merkel arrives in Albania amid Greek crisis

German Chancellor Angela Markel has arrived in Albania on a two-day visit, which includes Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The countries' desire to join the European Union has been complicated by the ongoing Greek crisis.
Angela Merkel was to hold meeting with Albanian President Bujar Nishani later on Wednesday and was also scheduled to address a conference of German and Albanian businessmen.
Earlier in the day, Merkel met with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in the capital Tirana, confirmed Steffen Seibert, the German chancellor's spokesman, via Twitter.
Merkel is the second German chancellor since 1999 to have visited Albania, one of the poorest countries in Europe.
Albania, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have long been campaigning to join the European Union, but the three countries' mutual rivalries have complicated matters, as has the current crisis in Greece. In the wake of the debt dispute with Athens, EU officials are expected to lay out tougher conditions to accept countries with troubled economies.
The Greek debt crisis has also affected the economies of the poor states in the Balkans, which are economically dependent on Athens. The potential impact of the crisis is likely to be on Merkel's agenda during her meetings with the leaders of the three nations. Trade, energy and bilateral and EU relations will also be discussed.
In her weekly video address on Saturday, Merkel, however, said the Balkans states had a good chance of joining the EU.
The German chancellor's schedule in the Balkans
"In all the difficulties that we currently have, there has been progress," she said, adding that the prospects for EU membership would also help these countries resolve their inter-regional disputes.
Merkel is expected to arrive in the Serbian capital Belgrade on Wednesday evening where the Serbian president, Aleksandr Vucic, is to receive her, the statement from Berlin said. She would also talk to civil society representatives at a breakfast meeting on Thursday.
Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina would be Merkel's last stop in the Balkans visit, where she will hold crucial talks with President Denis Zvizdic and visit an exhibition on the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.
shs/kms (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has assured Albania and Western Balkan countries there is no artificial delay in their EU entry prospects but says they should deepen reforms to achieve the required standards.
Merkel on Wednesday started a two-day tour of Albania, Serbia and Bosnia focusing on their EU integration progress as well as economic and energy issues.
Albania, which was granted candidate status last year, must fulfill five categories regarding its public administration and justice system ahead of launching full membership talks.
Earlier this week the German government, one of the biggest donors to post-communist Albania, gave 107.5 million euros ($119.3 million) to promote the country's energy and water supply sectors.
The chancellor continues her trip to the Serbian capital, Belgrade, later Wednesday and to Sarajevo, Bosnia, Thursday.

The Greek Escape?

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A question on Greece's membership in the Eurozone has become the main concern for Europeans nowadays.
The Greek Escape?
On July 8, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has taken to the European Parliament stage in Strasbourg that he has "very specific" proposals on Thursday to solve the country's debt issue.
"All of the political forces in Greece, the leaders, came around the same table, and we came up with a framework on the basis of which tomorrow we are going to, once again, to come up with some very specific proposals for a fair and sustainable solution which will bring about fair reforms as well," Tsipras said in a statement.
Tsipras was met with applause after his speech in which he praised the courage of the Greek people and pledged to continue to negotiate with Europe.
But it's still unclear what future awaits the Eurozone.

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Tsipras tells EU parliament will reform for aid

First entry: 8 July 2015 - 11:35 Athens, 08:35 GMT
Last update: 11:35 Athens, 08:35 GMTPolitics
Tsipras tells EU parliament will reform for aid -VIDEO
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras assured the European Parliament on Wednesday that he would deliver sweeping reform proposals this week to secure a bailout funding deal that can keep Greece in the euro zone.
Greeted with cheers to a packed chamber in Strasbourg, from fellow leftists but also from anti-EU members on the far-right, the 40-year-old premier said he was determined to fix years of bad government as well as reverse the increasing inequalities caused by five years of creditor-imposed austerity.
"Let me assure the house that, quite apart from the crisis, we will continue with our reform undertakings," Tsipras said after flying in from Brussels where euro zone leaders handed him a final deadline of Sunday to agree to terms for a new bailout.
"We demand an agreement with our neighbours," he said. "But one which gives us a sign that we are on a long-lasting basis exiting from the crisis, which will demonstrate that there's light at the end of the tunnel ... Our prime objective must be to combat unemployment and to encourage entrepreneurship."
What follows is a report from Athens News Agency on Tsipras' address.
I am here, a few days only after the referendum in Greece, a few days after their mandate to intensify our efforts towards a viable solution, said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in his address on Wednesday to the European parliament.
“The Greek people's decision does not mean rift with Europe but the return to the European values. I assume full responsibility for what happened in the last five months and I want to reassure you that the Greeks in the last five years have done a tremendous effort that has worn them out. We want an agreement that will foresee credible reforms and with the least possible recessionary measures with a growth agenda. Our proposal also foresees the debt restructuring issue. We should not consider it a taboo. I want to be clear”, said Tsipras
“The proposals for the debt restructuring do not want to burden the European citizens. The money from the loans never came to the Greek citizens but went for the banks' rescue,” the Greek premier added.

Theater of the European Parliament: All Eyes on Tsipras

Plenary debate on European Council and Euro Summit

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has taken to the European Parliament stage in Strasbourg to say he has been given a mandate from his people to "redouble our efforts to get a socially just and economically sustainable solution to the Greek problem without repeating the mistakes of the past, which condemned the Greek economy."

Tsipras was met with applause after his speech in which he praised the courage of the Greek people and pledged to continue to negotiate with Europe.

"The courageous response by the Greek people at a time when there was such pressures with the banks closing, with the campaigns in the media terrorising them into feeling that a No means an end to talks with Europe and end to negotiations with Europe," said Tsipras.

"This is not a decision of breaking off negotiations with Europe, it’s one of going back. It’s a return to the informing principles, the founding principles of European unification."

But stealing the show was Britain’s MEP Nigel Farage whose red-faced rhetoric divided the audience.

"What we’re seeing in this chamber this morning and indeed across the whole of Europe is irreconcilable cultural differences between Greece and Germany, a split between the north and south of Europe. The European project is actually beginning to die."

"The continent is divined from north to south, there is a new Berlin Wall — and it’s called the Euro."

Adressing Alexis Tsipras directly, Nigel Farage said Greece "should never have joined the Euro. The big banks, forced you in and when the bailout began – they bailed out the French, German and Italian banks. They haven’t helped you at all."

"Sir, you cannot have your cake and eat – if they give you more, they have to give other EU countries more. You should lead the Greek people out of the Eurozone with your head held high. You will recover."

Farage sat down to a rousing applause from some members of the European Parliament.

Tsipras stared straight ahead while dramatic speeches were delivered by MEPs.

"You used the most powerful weapon in the world, democracy," shouted Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson. Thanking Tsipras, Anderson said:

"The Greek government has stood up for Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, more than any other government has ever done."

Also lavishing Tsipras with praise was Matteo Salvinini, Italian Nationalist, who referred to Europe as a "cage".

"The ceiling is falling in. Thank you, Mr Tsipras and the Greek citizens, who with such guts wanted to break out of this cage. I don’t want to leave my children in the hands of people who do not respect democracy."

But not impressed with the proceedings was Polish Center Right MEP Jan Olbrycht, who said inviting a Prime Minister to discuss a crisis at the European Parliament sets "a certain precedent."

"It is a political mistake to organize it this way."

British Conservative MEP Ashley Fox used the political setting to address Tsipras directly, accusing him of knowing that Greece has to lose the euro "but you don’t want to admit it".

"You should organize an orderly exit from the euro."

Bursting with resentment for the euro, Czech Eurosceptic, Petr Mach told Tsipras: "I bow to you; you have let the people make a democratic decision. Other politicians should allow their citizens to decide. Put the question to the Germans, to the Slovaks, to the Finns.

"You will become competitive again, your economy will be thriving and your people will find more work."

But suggesting Tsipras has rejected his olive branch, French Center Right Francoise Grosstete said:

"Game over Mr Tsipras. You didn’t want to trust Junker who held out Europe’s hand. There is no room for ideology at the table."

Swedish Nationalist Peter Lundgren, sympathetically spoke, saying what had happened to Greece was "tragic".

"The Greek people and tax payers will lose out."

Meanwhile Italian Centre Right MEP, Elisabette Gardini, accused Alexis Tsipras of divine arrogance.

"If this was the theater, you would be a tragic example of hubris."

But Prime Minister Tsipras remains hopeful that he will reach an agreement in interests of both the Greek people and the Eurozone.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Obama Discusses Anti-ISIL Strategy With National Security Team at Pentagon

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, July 6, 2015 – President Barack Obama discussed the strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant with civilian and military leaders of his national security team at the Pentagon today.
Click photo for screen-resolution image
President Barack Obama addresses reporters at the Pentagon, July 6, 2015, after meeting with Defense Secretary Ash Carter, left. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff, stands at right. DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The president spoke to the press following the meeting. He stressed that the strategy will take time to work, and that there is no substitute to working through indigenous forces in the region.
The strategy harnesses all elements of American power including military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic development, “and perhaps most importantly the power of our values,” Obama said.
Long-Term Campaign
The strategy envisions a long-term campaign, he said.
“ISIL is opportunistic, and it is nimble,” the president said. “In many places in Syria and Iraq, including urban areas, it’s dug in among innocent civilian populations. It will take time to root them out.”
American and coalition partners will help out with training and air support, but it must be local fighters who take the fight to the terrorists, he said.
“As with any military effort, there will be periods of progress but there are also going to be some setbacks, as we’ve seen with ISIL’s gains in Ramadi in Iraq and in Central and Southern Syria,” Obama said.
There Has Been Progress
Still there has been progress, he noted, with more than 5,000 airstrikes that have taken out thousands of fighting positions, tanks, vehicles, bomb factories and training camps.
“We’ve eliminated thousands of fighters, including senior ISIL commanders,” the president said. “Over the past year we've seen that, when we have an effective partner on the ground, ISIL can be pushed back.”
ISIL lost the Mosul Dam, Mount Sinjar and Tikrit.
“Altogether, ISIL has lost more than a quarter of the populated areas that it had seized in Iraq,” he said. “In Syria, ISIL lost at Kobani. It's recently endured losses across Northern Syria, including the key city of Tal Abyad, denying ISIL a vital supply route to Raqqa, its base of operations in Syria.”
The terror group is vulnerable and with help local forces can push back the extremists, Obama said.
Intensifying Efforts
“ISIL’s recent losses in both Syria and Iraq prove that ISIL can and will be defeated,” he said. “Indeed, we're intensifying our efforts against ISIL’s base in Syria. Our airstrikes will continue to target the oil and gas facilities that fund so much of their operations.”
The coalition – including many local nations – will continue to go after ISIL’s leadership and infrastructure in Syria, he said.
“Partnering with other countries, sharing more information, strengthening laws and border security allows us to work to stem the flow of foreign fighters to Syria as well as Iraq and to stem, obviously, the flow of those fighters back into our own countries,” the president said. “This continues to be a challenge. And working together, all nations are going to need to do more. But we’re starting to see some progress.”
Ramping Up Training
The United States is ramping up training and support of local forces, he said. “As I’ve said before, this aspect of our strategy was moving too slowly, but the fall of Ramadi has galvanized the Iraqi government,” Obama said.
In Anbar province, Iraq, more Sunni fighters are coming forward and they are being supplied. The president told his team to do more to train and equip anti-ISIL forces in Syria, too.
Again, the president called for a broader political effort in the region.
“Now all this said, our strategy recognizes that no amount of military force will end the terror that is ISIL unless it’s matched by a broader effort, political and economic, that addresses the underlying conditions that have allowed ISIL to gain traction,” he said.
“So as Iraqi cities and towns are liberated from ISIL, we’re working with Iraq and the United Nations to help communities rebuild the security, services and governance that they need, and we continue to support the efforts of Prime Minister (Haydar) Abadi to forge an inclusive and effective Iraqi government that unites all the people of Iraq, Shia, Sunni, Kurds and all minority communities,” the president said.
In Syria, Obama called for the Syrian people to unite against ISIL and begin the “political transition to a new government without Bashar al-Assad, a government that serves all Syrians.”
Security Team Members
The national security team met in Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s conference room. Meeting with Obama and Carter were: Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work; Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Navy Adm. James Winnefeld, the vice chairman; Marcel Lettre, the acting undersecretary of defense for intelligence; Gen. Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff; Gen. Joseph Dunford, Commandant of the Marine Corps; Army Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the commander of U.S. Central Command; Army Gen. David Rodriguez, the commander of U.S. Africa Command; Army Gen. Joe Votel, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command; Adm. Michelle Howard, the vice chief of naval operations; Gen. Larry Spencer, the Air Force vice chief of staff.
Also included were U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, CIA Director John Brennan, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism.

Merkel: no basis for negotiating new baillout program

First entry: 7 July 2015 - 18:29 Athens, 15:29 GMT
Last update: 18:29 Athens, 15:29 GMTPolitics
Merkel: no basis for negotiating new baillout program
Greece's second bailout aid program has expired and, so far, there is no basis for negotiations on a new one, German chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters on arriving for the eurozone leaders' summit in Brussels.

Tsipras calls Obama before Eurosummit

First entry: 7 July 2015 - 20:14 Athens, 17:14 GMT
Last update: 20:14 Athens, 17:14 GMTPolitics
Tsipras calls Obama before Eurosummit
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke to U.S. President Barack Obama by telephone on Tuesday shortly before an emergency euro zone summit and briefed him on Greece's request for a rescue loan, a Greek government official said.
The official said Obama had voiced strong U.S. hopes for a successful outcome to the negotiations. The United States has said it wants an early solution to Greece's debt crisis that keeps Athens in the European currency area.

Greek troubles prompt Skopje NATO push

First entry: 7 July 2015 - 16:37 Athens, 13:37 GMT
Last update: 16:37 Athens, 13:37 GMTWorld
Greek troubles prompt Skopje NATO push
Greece’s growing political and economic problems have its small neighbor Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) sensing an opportunity to push hard for joining NATO, a move that has been stalled for years thanks to Athens’ opposition because of disputes over FYROM’s name.
Defense Minister Zoran Jolevski told POLITICO his country would be prepared to apply to join NATO using the ungainly name “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” which is insisted on by Greece.
“All NATO member countries recognized that Macedonia had by that point met the NATO membership criteria,” said Jolevski. “Unfortunately our southern neighbor added one more criterion to that summit, the name.”
Greece argued that its northern neighbor should instead be called New Macedonia or Upper Macedonia, whereupon Macedonia sued Greece at the International Court of Justice and won in 2011. But its moment had passed.
The alliance’s formal position is that the country “has to find a mutually acceptable solution with Greece to the issue over its name before it can be invited to join NATO.”
But with Greece in meltdown, Skopje sees a chance to break the stalemate by announcing that it’s willing to join NATO as FYROM, while pointing out that its forces have served alongside NATO forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

President asks Russia to veto British resolution

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic has asked Russia to veto at the United Nations Security Council a British resolution on Srebrenica
Source: B92, Tanjug
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
Nikolic made the request in a letter he sent to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, B92 has been able to confirm on Saturday.
The British draft has had four versions so far, but Belgrade considers the document unacceptable.

The latest version was described as being "closer" to another resolution submitted to the UN - one drafted by Russia - but Serbian officials said the changes were "merely cosmetic."

Nikolic also sent a letter to all other heads of state of Security Council member-countries. In it, the president stresses that the proposed resolution does not contribute to reconciliation, and is instead putting the blame only on one side.

Nikolic sent the letter to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as well.

The Security Council will most likely debate the British draft on July 7. Serbia has not yet been officially invited to attend this session.

Greeks defy Europe with overwhelming referendum 'No'

First entry: 5 July 2015 - 22:55 Athens, 19:55 GMT
Last update: 22:55 Athens, 19:55 GMTPolitics
Greeks defy Europe with overwhelming referendum 'No'
Greeks voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to reject terms of a bailout, risking financial ruin in a show of defiance that could splinter Europe.
With almost 70% of the votes counted, official figures showed 61 percent of Greeks rejecting the bailout offer. An official interior ministry projection confirmed the figure as close to the expected final tally.
The astonishingly strong victory by the 'No' camp overturned opinion polls that had predicted an outcome too close to call. It leaves Greece in uncharted waters: risking financial and political isolation within the eurozone and a banking collapse if creditors refuse further aid.
But for millions of Greeks the outcome was an angry message to creditors that Greece can longer accept repeated rounds of austerity that, in five years, had left one in four without a job. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has denounced the price paid for aid as "blackmail" and a national "humiliation".
Hundreds of Greeks began pouring into the central Syntagma square in front of parliament to celebrate, after a week of building desperation as banks were shut and cash withdrawals rationed to prevent a collapse of the Greek financial system.
Officials from the Greek government, which had argued that a 'No' vote would strengthen its hand to secure a better deal from international creditors after months of wrangling, immediately said they would try to restart talks with European partners.
"I believe there is no Greek today who is not proud, because regardless of what he voted he showed that this country above all respects democracy," Labour Minister Panos Skourletis said.
"The government now has a strong mandate, a strong negotiating card, to bring a deal which will open new ways."
But eurozone officials shot down any prospect of a quick resumption of talks. One official said there were no plans for an emergency meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Monday, adding the vote outcome meant the ministers "would not know what to discuss".
Many of Athens' partners have warned over the past week that a 'No' vote would mean cutting bridges with Europe and driving Greece's crippled financial system into outright bankruptcy, dramatically worsening the country's economic depression.
The result also delivers a hammer blow to the European Union's grand single currency project. Intended to be permanent and unbreakable when it was created 15 years ago, the eurozone could now be on the point of losing its first member with the risk of further unravelling to come.
Greek banks, which have been closed all week and rationing withdrawals from cash machines, are expected to run out of money within days unless the European Central Bank provides an emergency lifeline. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is due to meet top Greek bankers later on Sunday and State Minister Nikos Pappas, one of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's closest aides, said it was "absolutely necessary" to restore liquidity to the banking system now that the vote is over.
    However the European Central Bank, which holds a conference call on Monday morning, may be reluctant to increase emergency lending to Greek banks after voters rejected the spending cuts and economic reforms which creditors consider essential to make Greek public finances viable, central bankers said.
First indications were that any joint European political response may take a couple of days. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande will meet in Paris on Monday afternoon. The European Commission, the EU executive, meets in Strasbourg on Tuesday and will report to the European Parliament on the situation.
"EU leaders must get together immediately, even on Monday. The situation is too serious to leave to finance ministers," said Axel Schaefer, a deputy head of the Social Democrat (SPD) group in the German parliament.
"You have to have confidence in the ability of the ECB to act. We must use all the possibilities in the EU budget to help Greece, which is still a member of the euro and the EU."
A 'No' vote puts Greece and the eurozone in uncharted waters. Unable to borrow money on capital markets, Greece has one of the world's highest levels of public debt. The International Monetary Fund warned last week that it would need massive debt relief and 50 billion euros in fresh funds.
Greek officials see the IMF report as a vital support for their argument that the bailout terms as they stood would merely have driven Greece further into depression.
Tsipras called the referendum eight days ago after rejecting the tough terms offered by international creditors as the price for releasing billions of euros in bailout funds.
He denounced the bailout terms as an "ultimatum" and his argument that a 'No' vote would allow the government to get a better deal appears to have convinced many Greeks, particularly among younger voters who have been ravaged by unemployment levels of nearly 50 percent.
Opinion polls over the months have shown a large majority of Greeks want to remain in the euro.
But, exhausted and angry after five years of cuts, falling living standards and rising taxes imposed under successive bailout programs, many appear to have shrugged off the warnings of disaster, trusting that a deal can still be reached.
Photo source: Yannis Kolesidis/EPA

Samaras resigns from New Democracy leadership

First entry: 5 July 2015 - 23:12 Athens, 20:12 GMT
Last update: 23:12 Athens, 20:12 GMTPolitics
Samaras resigns from New Democracy leadership -BREAKING
Former PM and leader of New Democracy Antonis Samaras has announced that he is resigning form the leadership of the party after the referendum vote.

The Pan Epiriotic Federation President of USA Nik Gage, inreviste on CNN about OXI Victory in the Greek Referendum: We Hope some fondamental changes as likes Israel to next New Greece


Dazed and Confused: Pentagon Sees Future as 'War, War and More War'

US soldiers use AT-4 anti-tank rocket launchers during a military exercise

© AP Photo/ Katsumi Kasahara
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The United States is determined to "unilaterally pursue [its national] interests through extreme violence," Mike Whitney wrote in an opinion piece on the Pentagon's 2015 National Military Strategy (NMS) in the left-leaning website Counterpunch.
Whitney claims the document is surely more subtle in language than its predecessors but quite precise in its gruesome message. Washington will try "to maintain its tenuous grip on global power by maximizing the use of its greatest asset; its military," Whitney observed, adding that anyone deemed to be a threat to US national interests is viewed as an adversary.
To borrow the formula from the Washington's anti-Islamic State playbook, the ultimate goal is to "degrade and destroy" any country that challenges US global dominance, including those states that pose no danger to the world or their neighbors.
As for the consequences of such a military strategy, "readers will not find even a hint of remorse in the NMS for the vast destruction and loss of life the US caused in countries that posed not the slightest threat to US national security," Whitney said.
What is the US vision of the future?
In Whitney's opinion, it is war. He believes the US has no vision of a bright future and seems to be unable to offer a constructive agenda.
"Unlike Russia or China which have a plan for an integrated EU-Asia free trade zone (Silk Road) that will increase employment, improve vital infrastructure, and raise living standards, the US sees only death and destruction ahead," Whitney observed.
Who's the enemy?
The 2015 NMS addresses China, Iran, North Korea and Russia. Although the document clearly states that neither country wants to engage in a direct military conflict with the US or its allies, they all somehow "pose serious security concerns." Whitney believes, this is code-speak for the US contemplating a military engagement, which in the eyes of Washington is justified because these countries are rich in resources, possess large or potentially large industrial capacity or happen to occupy a territory that interests the US geopolitically.
Another reason amounts to nothing less than a heinous offense in the eyes of Washington: some countries "simply want to maintain their own sovereign independence which, of course, is a crime," Whitney said.
All Washington's eyes are on Russia
The journalist calls Russia "Washington's flavor-of-the-month enemy," which must be punished for its audacity to defend its own security interests.
"Russia is an evildoer because Russia refused to stand by while the US toppled the Ukrainian government, installed a US stooge in Kiev, precipitated a civil war between the various factions, elevated neo Nazis to positions of power in the security services, plunged the economy into insolvency and ruin, and opened a CIA headquarters in the Capital to run the whole shooting match," Whitney said.
The journalist comes to the disturbing conclusion that Washington is considering waging a war on Russia.
"It sounds to me like the Washington honchos have already made up their minds. Russia is the enemy, therefore, Russia must be defeated," he noted.
To that end, the 2015 National Military Strategy serves a specific goal. The document is meant to sell an idea that "whatever the US does is okay, because it's the US." One can only hope that at least some will refuse to buy into it.