Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Should Greece Give Up Sovereignty Regarding Border Controls?

Observing how Greece gets overwhelmed by the refugees, I asked two of my English-speaking friends in Greece for their opinion why Greece wouldn't say something like the following to the EU:

„Friends, we have reached the end of the line as far as the refugee problem is concerned. We no longer have answers and we certainly no longer have the capability to do what everyone says we ought to be doing. As you may recall, we have been bankrupt for a number of years, and still are. Since you have all the answers and all the resources, we pass the buck on to you. You are herewith authorized to do everything on Greek territory which you think must be done. Protect the borders better than we have done? Fine. Build more refugee homes than we have built? Fine. Make better registrations than we have made? Fine. If you want to have your ships in our waters to defend the border, fine. If you want to have tanks on our territory to shoot the refugees, fine. There is only one request (‚condition‘ is such a harsh word) we attach to our offer: please get rid of all refugees on our territory. We have never invited them nor do any of them want to be in our country. In fact, they see us as part of the problem and not the solution. And we certainly can’t afford to house and feed them.

Below are their reactions. As one may note, they seem to be saying the same thing but their conclusions are diametrically opposite.

Friend #1, a Brit living in Greece
„You mean that Greece should trade what little remains of its independence in order to survive? No, the Soviet Union of Europe would not agree to that. Far more likely is that it will unhinge Greece totally from the EU. After all, just look at a mapGreece is already totally detached geographically from the Eurozone, and Schengen. Even its only land border with the EU is Bulgaria, and they are not exactly totally enamoured with Greece at this point. Greece is not only currently being attacked by refugees emanating from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, it will shortly be attacked by an even greater volume from Africa. In my view, this will be the next calamity as Africans run increasingly from hunger, disease and political/religious turmoil. Where will they run to? Wealthy Europe, of course. Ok, many will aim directly for Italy or Spain but have you looked at a map of the Eastern Mediterranean to see how close Libya is to the southern coast of Crete? Why do you think that the water between the two shores is called The Libyan Sea?!? Look at Africa! Even Egypt is a domino ready to fall when the next revolution arrives. With a population of 80 million+, and growing by 2 million a year, and all packed like sardines in the Nile Valley. I remember that even when I worked in Cairo (2005-7), there were many sub-Saharan Africans there. Egyptian friends of mine merely said that they were Nubians from Northern Sudan, but I think that many were from further south. No, Klaus, the EU SSR will not entertain such a request from Greece nor will Greece openly kowtow to them. Greeks, I believe, will always want to retain some sense of independence, although this will be at a tremendous economic - and political - cost.“

 Friend #2, a Greek
"Couldn't agree more with Klaus' proposition and what David describes as the near- and midterm future to come is all the more reason to see Klaus' thinking as very logical!"


  1. There is an English proverb about the devil being in the details. For two questions must be answered before this arrangement becomes reality. a) is this putative EU force willing to open fire (use lethal force more generally) and kill refugees or other undesirables? I highly doubt it. Given this and the difficulty of guarding the Aegean sea I mentioned in my last post I think that nobody, especially "hard" guys like the Hungarian PM, will agree to guard the Greek border.Find an Austrian politician, ask him this question precisely for Austrian forces and watch the contortions. b) The practical point at which modern war starts is when the Air Force Tactical Command allows fighter planes to cross the borderline without permission. Who will have that authority and whose planes will carry out the operation when it becomes necessary? If it stays with Greeks the EU force ain't guarding much. If it moves to the EU then we are talking about war making authority. In essence you are asking for the EU to acquire war starting and war fighting authority and ability. Highly unlikely at the present time, although I am sure that Brussels is already using the refugee crises to move the European project in this direction.
    So the question is not well thought out. Any plan to guard the Aegean, by necessity, will be complex, very low key and of limited scope operationally. But the answers were very illuminating. The English guy pushed the English delusion that the EU is disintegrating and the British Empire will rise again afterwards (sense if independence etc) while the Greek pushed the Greek delusion that we can find some suckers (Austrians?) get them to do the difficult job while we go to the beach for some ouzo. Preferably bitching about the lousy job these new arrivals are doing.

  2. You know, it wasn't so long ago that various politicians in Greece were opining wisely about how the country's geographical position gave it immense strategic importance, allowing it to play off Russia, the USA and the EU.

    The geographic position remains the same. Only now it's a disadvantage. And the fact that Greek politicians are very good at angering their allies means that the solidarity required to support the country in its misfortune has suddenly evaporated.

    But the Sovereign Hellenic Republic is going to remain sovereign. There would be no takers for running the borders, just as there were no takers for running the economy.

    That's the job of the government elected by the Greek Sovereign Electorate. All whining and conspiracy theories notwithstanding.

    I suppose a bit of gratitude in Merkel's direction, as Greece's one ally on this issue, is completely out of the question?

    1. The geographical position allows to play off the various powers. It is the most strategic point on earth. However all things have a downside:if you overdo it the whole world will turn against you. The Greeks have forgotten a legendary Greek saying-Hubris is inevitably followed by nemesis. And nemesis has arrived in the form of everybody turning against them.

    2. Sadly, that's exactly what I told my Greek wife at breakfast this morning. Namely that my sense was that the Europeans have, at long last, finally 'had it' with Greece. There is real drama unfolding in Greece right now and yet, I don't see any expressions of sympathy from Europeans (except for a few Merkelisms...).

    3. One would simply have thought that it is just so damn convenient to turn Greece into a prisoners' camp; but then one would have forgotten that in power politics moral posturing is everything: should one call it crime and punishement, atonement, moral hazard, Swabian housewife, Hubris or whatever, peu importe, they are interchangeable, cause it's all essentially the same.
      By the way, @ the Athensdog, "Hubris" origianally meant to kick somebody, ex. your opponent, when he is down, and it was punishable as such by death according to the Athenian law; the "arrogance" connotations are, for their most part, a christian interpretation - appropriation of the term and the literature ...
      And don't you just find it a "delicious" irony all these people putting forward masked christian ethics given what is the subject matter?

    4. Actually the phrase does not exist in the ancient Greek cannon. It probably is of English or Latin progeny. The Ancient Greek works included many sentences to that effect, but not the phrase itself. It is not the only commonly used phrase that is misattributed. Beware of Greeks carrying gifts is from the Virgil's Aeneid, not from Homer. THe original reads "Timore Danaos et donna ferentes".
      Hubris, to use comprehensible English, meant to piss off the Gods. Part of it was kicking somebody when down as you say. However under the same roof of hubris, punishable by death, we also find stealing public funds. Hmmm some things never change.

    5. For as long as I remember, the Greeks have been considering the geopolitical location of the country a misfortune and a burden. "If only we were bordering Belgium, Sweden or Switzerland!" is a common Greek lament. The only reason the Greek politicians tried (naively) to play the geopolitical card now is that they had no other cards left. As a Greek saying goes: “A drowning man will try to hold even on his own hair (if nothing else is available)”. Let's be honest here. The once "aggressive" negotiating tactics of the Syriza-ANEL government were actually politics of despair. Greece is not Turkey, i.e. a country in a position to drive hard bargains, play games and blackmail the whole EU.

    6. @ theAthensdog
      I'm affraid you are mistaken. The word is of Greek progeny (certainly not English)and well established by the time of Aristotle as a legal (ὕβρεως γραφή), ethical and even "aesthetic" term.

      Perhaps more illuminating is the following:

      And the "Vade mecum" for the ancien usage of the term and its subsequent but essentially always christian transformations:

      For ancient Greeks, Hubris = to humiliate an (already defeated) opponent
      For Christians reading the Greeks, Hubris = arrongance surpassing human limits and offending the Gods (i.e. The God)
      The distiction might be more fluid(ex, in Aeschylus) but its outline stands.

    7. @ theAthensDog
      Forgetful me! If you have the time, it's well worth reading:

  3. With Russia and the EU in dire straits, and a good chance of the madman Trumf taking over the USA, Greece will again be left to play their friendly neighbors off against each other. "That's what friends are for".

  4. Dear Mr. Kastner,

    In what way is Greece realistically a sovereign state, when we are dictated as to what to do on everything in Greece. Even if we did not have the economical crisis, again we would be dictated what to do. The refugee crisis is simply another example.

    Good or bad however we manage or mismanage our issues, is constantly redirected and corrected based on what non greeks think, how should we manage our problems. The general Greek population, again will simple adjust again and in the meantime be scorned and frowned upon by any hypocrit or half wit. I will not generalize that all our compatriate europeans, frown upon greek. But even if there is sympathy for greeks they simply turn there cheecks and say, "Shame, but its not my problem" or "Better them than us."

    As this drama continues to unfold it is shocking how the EU, the world powers and turkey are dealing their cards and considering the people of this refugee crisis as numbers. Almost as if is an accounting problem similar to that of the economical crisis. I can not express the amount of disgust i feel right now for the EU. People really forget what happened 80 years ago. The marks are everywhere but they do not see them. The new marks are evident as well but those are invisable under the blanket of the eu.

    As for the proposal, well why will it ever be necessary, hypotyhetically, to make such a question, when supposedly the solution to the problem is being implemented? Patroling of the waters by Greeks, Turks, Nato and Frontex? Its because they already know it won't work. The agreement of exchange is made so that it will be worth the refugees efforts to come to Greece, be ID eed, sent back to Turkey and as to be exchange to the EU. Even this will fail because the EU still does not understand that Turkey will simply change the rules, constantly as to have a continuous favourable position for their own countries desires. And they will get everything they want.

    I do not need frontex to tell me that by July that we will have 500,000 refugees in Greece. And who will the people of the EU blame? Greece. Not NATO, Not Frontex god forbid, but Greece. Nobody even mentions Turkey because we (as Europeans) are begging and kissing their feet to please please keep as many of those "numbers" as you can.

    Would the eu be interested in after 500,000 refugees coming to Greece to "handle the situation," as Greece gives up its sovereignty? No they are not interested because it is a cost which provides no income.

    Now whether Syriza brought this on us or not is a different issue. But how Greeks have come together to help these people, regardless of how we feel for our own future, nor do we care where they came from, we greet them with what no other nation of people know how to do. Hospitalitiy and compassion. Here is one nice example.

    In everyday greek people may discuss and complain about the economical measures, crisis etc. When it comes to the refugees there is no complaints. Maybe some allegations of mismanagment but only to that extent. The everyday people are coming together to help give to people who dont have. Isn't it ironic the poor greeks giving to the poorer refugees.

    And something finally. Mrs. Merkel is not expressing sympathy. She is surprisingly expressing humility. Good for her. Cant say much for the rest of the eu politicians.



  5. Fine by me. It's what I've been saying all along. Let this be a step towards the Eurozone becoming a federation. It's what needs to be done if it is to survive anyway.

    Sadly, I doubt the Europeans are interested. Everybody wants to retain sovereignty where it suits them. They're just not interested in sharing and pooling, which is why the euro is gonna break up. It's just a matter of time. It's going to be a death by a thousand cuts, and the first cuts were done by the response to the financial crisis in 2008. We're halfway there now.

    What sorts of conceals the problem is that the global economy isn't doing much better, nor will it until the issues of excessive debt and current-account imbalances are dealt with in a decisive manner.

  6. You may have not heard that NATO IS operating inside greek waters too, headed by the pride of German Navy, the "Bremen". You may not have heard also, that Frontex have been operating in Greece since the start of the crisis, with its own means.

  7. This is interesting!

  8. For 7 years Europe has been told of the humanitarian crises in Greece. It has been used about petrol prices, tobacco taxes, school meals, capital controls, a dear friend of mine has even used it to describe her daughters despair at giving up her private ballet lessons. Now it is here, not the relative (perceived) poverty, but the absolute. Not yet for Greeks, but for the migrants.
    For 7 years Europe has been told how it should change to save Europe, mainly by financing Greece. In that period Europe has not seen any Greek attempts at facilitating their own recovery.
    You may say that Greece has fallen out of favor with Europe.

  9. @ Lennard
    To belittle the efforts by the Greek people by saying there is no humanitarian crises is a gross insult for people who has had their pensions cut 11 times in 8 years. The arrogance of denying the rising poverty in Greece when everybody know that the austerity has caused the poverty to go up to record breaking numbers like in developing countries. All international institutions acknowledge that poverty in Greece has gone up and is now critical. The latest OECD report show that poverty has gone up from 11 to 35% in the last 8 years. You sir, excel in Greek bashing even for a foreigner.

  10. I try to say things the way I am "Observing Greece".
    As for the humanitarian crises I tried to get a sense of proportion back into the use of it. To pay a few cents extra for your gasoline can hardly be compared with being a migrant at the border of Macedonia. I do not begrudge Greeks their pensions, other social benefits, or cheap tobacco and gasoline, in fact I think that they should have as many of life's good things as they can afford.
    I am aware of the rise of relative poverty and, as you, I find it horrible. The poverty is however self-imposed. Poverty (relative, perceived, OECD poverty) is an expression of the wealth distribution in a country. In simplified terms it expresses how many percent of the population that has an income lower than a certain (60?) percentage of the average national income. So, if you wish to complain about the poverty rate, contact your government, not your creditors.