Gianluca Solera - 03/07/2015
The Treaty of the European Union says: «The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail». «It shall promote economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity among Member States», and «It shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights» in its relation with the wider world.
Solidarity and democracy are founding values of the European Common House, and these have been the values which have made of this transnational institution a stabilizing force and a model for the neighbouring peoples. When these values do not inspire any more political courage and vision, the EU as a political project is at stake.
Syriza, the coalition of leftist political groups who has recently won the Greek elections, certainly lacks of ministerial experience and European diplomacy, and its unconventional political performance bothers the EU administration. During a recent visit in Greece, a group of German journalists was highlighting the fact that in the first three months of its mandate, the new Greek government was only able to issue two (2) laws – the first one to alleviate the internal humanitarian crisis (for instance, discounting the arrears owed by families not being able to pay their energy bill), and the second one to soften charges and fines applied to dilatory tax debtors – while a third one on the living conditions in Greek prisons and the release of debtors from detention was on the parliamentary agenda. However, is not it better no new laws than bad laws? However, haven’t we forgotten that oweverHoHHSyriza has not produced the crisis of the Greek State, its corrupt system, its burden of privileges and injustices, its easy expenses? Other political parties, affiliated to the governmental forces leading the chancelleries of countries such as Germany or France did.
Why should Syriza then be accused of the current budgetary disaster of Greece? Why should it be forced to apply the same measures which have not helped to redress the course so far? Between last Tuesday and Wednesday, the Greek Prime Minister asked for a package of 30 billion € coming from the European Stability Mechanism to avoid the default and restructure the public debt within two years, but the EU leaders did not take it on board. In the same hours, the European stock exchange markets burnt off almost 290 billion € of capitalization, almost 10 times more than the last Greek offer for a reasonable deal! Bank rescue operations in Europe have been the rule since 2008; why such an iron fist against the Hellenic nation?
Greece is on the same time the patient and the doctor, who is forced to take drugs delivered by a multinational pharmaceutical company who look at symptoms but does not care about the causes and the effects. Nobel prizes such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz have in the last hours defended the line of the Greek government, appealing to the Greeks’ historical mission to oppose democracy to the project of a Europe of winners and losers, a Europe of non-solidarity. Can you believe that the man in charge of convincing the Greek government to stay within the lines of the austerity doctrine, the president of the European Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, during twenty years channeled Luxembourg toward making its fortune out of the robbery of European industrial gains, upon the shoulders of workers and public administrations, reshaping the Grand-Duché as Europe's largest tax haven? Can we really forget that the role of victim nowadays played by the German Chancellor does not honour her country for the debt relief it enjoyed after the end of the two World Wars, and which contributed to lay the bases of the current German economic primacy?
«More than a partisan and cynical choice» says prof. Georges Prévélakis «for Syriza, breaking-up with Europe would stand for the refusal to betray the deads [the tradition of egualitarianism and the struggle against authoritarianism and fascism] for the well-being of the alives. For a Europe accostumed to economic rationalism, these aptitudes might look irrational. This story reminds us that political life is not only made of digits and calculations, but also of history and culture».
The project of a Europe of winners and losers is the same which is inspiring slogans and policies (or non-policies) with respect to refugees and migrants, the same which has let post-Arab Spring countries slipping into disorder and renewed authoritarianism.
Take Egypt. If less than two years ago the current president al-Sīsī was depicted as a putschist, he is now considered the best political and commercial partner in the Mediterranean Arab region. Italian company ENI signed last March a cooperation and development agreement for oil and gas exploration for the value of 4,5 billion € with the Egyptian authorities. Two months later, it is the time of the German company Siemens to be awarded record energy orders that would boost Egypt's power generation by 50%, for a total value of 8 billion €. And this while freedoms are violated, media scrutiny and political opposition screwed up, justice has not yet been made on the killings perpetrated against the youth of the 2011 Revolution, the number of political prisoners is estimated between 20,000 and 40,000, and the struggle against corruption spares military intelligence and security forces . Even South-Africa, with its extraordinary experience of post-Apartheid reconciliation, acts more courageously than Europe, and last June, al-Sīsī cancelled a visit to attend the African Union Summit in Johannesburg, after a lawyer’s association in the country filed an official request for his arrest upon arrival, for war crimes and crimes against humanity for the killings that resulted from the 2013 regime change.
Take Syria. While the political narrative is focusing on the threat posed by the Islamic State, we as Europeans have left the democratic opposition alone, and allowed Damascus’ regime to militarize the 2011 protest, escalate into a civil war and encourage the Islamization of the opposition camp. There is no talk any more of a no-fly zone on the Syrian cities which are the target of horrendous daily barrel-bombs campaign by Damascus’ regime . It is proved that there are connections and shared interests between al-Asad’s establishment and the Islamic State. The Islamic State sells oil to Damascus and Damascus is helping to operate the terrorist movement’s oil and gas facilities via regime close characters such as businessman George Haswānī, whose assets have been recently frozen by the EU. Any strategy to dismantle the Islamic State which does not target Damascus regime is almost certainly meant to fail, and leave the Syrian people to his own desperate fate. The same fate which made that 20% of the whole refugees population reaching the EU last year were of Syrian nationality, by far the largest refugees incoming community.
Even the Tunisian State, after the terror attack in Sousse of last June 26, is tempted by the will to restrain freedoms and put under scrutiny the civil society, therefore to enforce severe security measures as «the» response to terrorism, with the risk to stigmatize the watchdog role played by the country’s independent civil society. Tunisia does not need a generalized crackdown on Islamic movements, which would further radicalize the context, but a dialogue with non-violent Islamic groups.«No attempt, even approximate, to analyze the connections existing between Islamic radicalization in society and security forces abuses has been made, nor to analyze the connections with the lingering injustices that the current government has not addressed and does not want to, and the rights neglected or the dignity violated by the institutions. No attempt to explore the reasons why an important number of youngsters move toward the most radical alternative, and often the only one, in a phase characterized by a fragile revolutionary process and the return of ancient regimes » notes Tunis-based activist Debora del Pistoia . We, as Europeans, who were able to overcome the injuries of the last World War, should facilitate this dialogue, support the democratic transition, and the consolidation of the rule of law and of fundamental freedoms. We should listen to the cry of pain of the Syrians. We should not fall in the trap of feeding the collective imagination of an hopelessly cursed triangle between terrorism, migration and Islam. We deserve a contemporary foreign policy worthy of the values our continent has offered his blood for.
This week, an extraordinary astronomical event has happened in the sky: the conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter, drawing closer together. Venus is the Roman counterpart of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, whose functions encompassed beauty, love and prosperity. Jupiter was instead the Roman counterpart of the king of gods Zeus, the god of sky and thunder. It is fascinating to evoke the inextinguishable presence of ancient Greek culture in our modern times, and this conjunction between the symbols of beauty and authority seems indicating the speciality of our times, where the relation between citizens and power needs to be reshaped. Newspapers, politicians and analysts talk about the Grexit risk. Personally, I wonder whether what scares the most certain circles is the possibility that Grexit ends up in a success story, no financial cataclysm takes place, and one can prove that you can access or quit a monetary union democratically, depending on the conditions that are imposed on your own people. For me, we should be more concerned about another kind of «exit» that we can name Eurexit, the departure from a vision of a cohesive, democratic and just Europe. A Europe of winners and losers, a Europe built on competitive interest, deprived of its spirit of solidarity, would mean the end of the European dream. Eurexit is what we should denounce and challenge, in the name of the Greek people and of the neighbouring peoples striving for freedom, democracy and social justice.
1 - Respectively art. 2, 3.4 and 3.5 of the Treaty (Official Journal C 326 , 26/10/2012).
2 - See J.Bittner, M. Krupa, M. Schieritz, M. Thumann, «Und was machen die sonst so? [And what do they do instead?]», Die Zeit, 23 April 2015.
3 - Between 2008 and 2011, public rescue operations in favour of banks have absorbed 1,148 billion € in the UK, 418 in Germany, 196 in Belgium, 159 in Ireland, 144 in the Netherlands, and 128 in France, just to mention the most expensive measures, where in Greece such a figure did not exceed 3,4 billion € (source: Mediobanca). Furthermore, last December 2009, just before the Greek bailout, the exposure toward Greece in France and Germany was not a public exposure, but a private one. Private French and German banks had ruthless lent money to their Greek counterparts, and with the subprime crisis claimed their money back, forcing Greece to its knees: the rescue plans of that period were a classical operation of privatization of the benefits and socialization of the losses (source: Non con i miei soldi campaign, 20 June 2015).
4 - See Nick Cohen, «Jean-Claude Juncker's real scandal is his tax-haven homeland of Luxembourg», The Guardian, 12 July 2014. By the way, on June 7, 2015, Luxembourg massively voted against the right to vote at legislative elections for foreigners living in the country since more than ten years. We are talking about a country where 46% of the residents are foreigners, representing 75% of the private sector active population. Juncker’s party has campaigned for the «no». Is this the social model he stands for?
5 - See Georges Prévélakis, «Syriza: la tentation de la rupture [Syriza: the temptation of rupture», Libération, 22 June 2015.
6 - See Joe Stork, «Egypt’s Political Prisoners», Human Rights Watch, 6 March 2015.
7 - See the interesting research on Egypt’s anti-corruption policy by Nizar Manek and Jeremy Hodge on Foreign Affairs («Sisi and His 40 Thieves», 26 June 2015).
8 - See Ramadhān ʿAbdallah, « لماذا اعتذر السيسي عن القمة الأفريقية؟ [Why has al-Sīsī apologized for not going to the African Summit?], Al-Jazeera Net, 14 June 2015.
9 - Just go on Internet to check the daily list of Syrian air force attacks on liberated Syrian cities, mainly targeting the local population. Ex.: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Syrian_Civil_War_barrel_bomb_attacks
10 - Source: David Blair, «Oil middleman between Syria and Isil is new target for EU sanctions», The Telegraph, 7 March 2015.
11 - See Debora del Pistoia, «Noi stiamo con le libertà [we stand beside freedoms]», Tunisia in Red, 29 June 2015.