Greece: “A promise from the army has been obtained to not intervene against a civil uprising”

Interview with former Greek ambassador was published in the New Statesman on 24 February, 2013.

It is always enlightening to hear the frank assessment of a diplomat upon leaving the service, once unshackled from “the patriotic art of lying for one’s country”, as 19th Century American journalist Ambrose Bierce described the craft.

Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos was a career diplomat with the Greek foreign ministry. As a junior officer with the service in the 1970s, he helped assure the then freshly democratic nation’s accession to the European Union (at the time the EEC). He was at different times Athens’ ambassador to Poland, Albania and Canada, and finally the director general of EU Affairs in the ministry.

Last year, he finally resigned as secretary general of the Black Sea Cooperation organisation, and entered the private sector, and now feels free to speak openly about his fury at what he says Europe and international lenders are doing to his country.

“At a certain moment, quite soon, there will be an explosion of social unrest. It will be very unpleasant,” he says, referring to 15 armed incidents in the previous ten days. Continue reading →

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Eastern Europe and the push for ‘double genocide’ laws

News article originally published in the Guardian on Tuesday 21 December 2010.

The European commission has rejected calls from eastern Europe to introduce a so-called double genocide law that would criminalise the denial of crimes perpetrated by communist regimes, in the same way many EU countries ban the denial of the Holocaust.

Last week six countries wrote to Viviane Reding, the European justice commissioner, calling for the “public condoning, denial and gross trivialisation of totalitarian crimes” to be punished.

Foreign ministers from LithuaniaLatviaBulgariaHungaryRomaniaand the Czech Republic said communist crimes “should be treated according to the same standards” as those of Nazi regimes, notably in those countries with Holocaust denial laws. Continue reading →

EU raids ebook publishers in price fixing investigation

News article that was originally published in the Guardian on 4 March, 2011

The European commission has launched morning raids on several publishing houses suspected of fixing the prices of ebooks, as a huge battle for the future of the sector is fought within the publishing and technology industries.

Officials in Brussels have refused to say how many or which publishers were targeted although a spokesman for Hachette, famed for its dictionaries, confirmed that it was among them. The inquiry is understood to be focused on French companies.

In a statement, the commission said that it “has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated EU anti-trust rules that prohibit cartels and other restrictive business practices”. Continue reading →

EU bans GM-contaminated honey from general sale

News article originally published in the Guardian on Wednesday 7 September 2011

The European Union’s highest court on Tuesday ruled that honey which contains trace amounts of pollen from genetically modified (GM) corn must be labelled as GM produce and undergo full safety authorisation before it can be sold as food.

In what green groups are calling a “groundbreaking” ruling, the decision could force the EU to strengthen its already near-zero tolerance policy on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Bavarian beekeepers, some 500m from a test field for a modified maize crop developed by Monsanto – one of only two GM crops authorised as safe to be cultivated in Europe – claimed their honey had been “contaminated” by pollen from the plant.

The European court of justice found in their favour, a ruling that should offer grounds for the beekeepers to claim compensation in a German court. Continue reading →

Ship Ahoy! Lobby firm buys up EU maritime officials

Investigation originally published in the EUobserver 12.07.10

Transparency campaigners are worried that a PR outfit that lobbies the EU on maritime issues has “bought up the top of the EU’s maritime department lock, stock and barrel.”

The alert comes as Malta’s Joe Borg, the commissioner responsible for maritime affairs and fisheries until last year, gets set to start work with Fipra, a PR consultancy actively lobbying on maritime issues, whose main office is about 100 yards from the commission’s headquarters in Brussels.

On 11 June, the commission gave Mr Borg the green light to work at the firm, saying: “In view of the fact that Mr Borg’s envisaged activity falls outside the scope of his portfolio during his time in office,” it did not even need to convene its Ad Hoc Ethical Committee, a body which examines potential conflict of interest when commissioners leave the EU. Continue reading →

The EU’s ‘very odd’ atheist and freemason summits

In 2010, under pressure to balance the EU’s treaty-required regular consultations with religious leaders with those without faith, Brussels launched an annual summit between the three Roman Catholic presidents of the EU and representatives of atheist organisations. Oh, and freemasons too.

I first broke the story in ahead of the first summit and have followed the issue since in a series of three articles so far.

Full text of the three articles follows these links to the original texts:

EU to hold atheist and freemason summit

EU atheist-freemason summit ‘very odd’, says Europe’s chief unbeliever

Atheists say EU privileging religious leaders over non-believers Continue reading →

The EU’s ‘techno party’ is hollowing out democracy

Opinion piece originally published in the EUobserver on 30.11.11.

Not everybody’s into techno music. Some folks are a little bit country; others a little bit rock and roll.

But under what one Brussels wag recently called the EU’s ‘techno-party’ strategy – replacing elected representatives with technocrats and an end to consideration of fiscal policies by parliaments in favour of fiat by civil-servant ‘experts’ – nobody has any choice any more about what kind of music they want to listen to.

Economic policies will be decided for them, by the experts, by, if you will, those bangin’ bureaucrat and banker DJs in Brussels and Frankfurt.

Fiscal policy, like monetary policy, is simply too important for it to be ‘politicised’, the argument goes. The eurozone cataclysm is so serious that we no longer have time for “political games”, as European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso put it last Monday (21 November), speaking alongside Greece’s new unelected leader, ex-European-Central-Bank (ECB) man Lucas Papademos. Continue reading →