For a new policy towards Greece and Russia

by Karl Müller

On 12 February, the Presidents of Ukraine, France and Russia, together with the German Chancellor, agreed on signing a joint declaration containing a package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk Agreement (cf. box on page 1). They put into words very important statements which might initiate a turning point in the current relationship between East and West. The declaration points out that all signatories “firmly believe that there is no alternative to an exclusively peaceful settlement.” The signatories “share the conviction that improved cooperation between the EU, Ukraine and Russia will be conducive to the crisis settlement.” To this end, they support “trilateral talks between the EU, Ukraine and Russia in order to achieve practical solutions to concerns raised by Russia with regards to the implementation of the […] Free Trade Agreement between Ukraine and the EU”, and they remain committed  “to the vision of a joint humanitarian and economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific based upon full respect for international law and the OSCE principles.” All those involved but likewise all other responsible persons in East and West are called upon to let deeds follow words. In this context it is important to look at the situation in Europe as a whole.

Also in week 7 of 2015, the best seller list in the German SPIEGEL contains a book that many politicians in the EU states and many responsible journalists in the leading European media will not be pleased with. The book’s title is “Wir sind die Guten. Ansichten eines Putin-Verstehers und wie uns die Medien manipulieren”. (We are the good ones. Views of somebody who understands Putin and how the media are manipulating us ISBN 978-3-86489-080-2). Authors are the journalists and publicists Mathias Bröckers and Paul Schreyer. The book is battled by the main-stream media. But apparently this takes no longer effect. The book which appeared in September 2014 is now in its fourth edition. Those who read the book – and it is very readable, plausible and well documented – wonder once again what is going on in Europe. How can it be that so many EU politicians and those in responsible media positions are so irresponsibly dealing with the truth, like gamblers driving the whole continent into a highly dangerous political and economic power struggle with Russia?
And what about the EU policy towards Greece?
Here the record is a sobering one, too. On 25 January, after five years of “Help for Greece” by the EU and its institutions, the Greek voted down – in rarely-observed markedness – those politicians who negotiated and supported this “help” in the past. They voted for a party that was insignificant until only a few years ago. Now the majority of the Greek population is placing their greatest hopes on it.
The “rescue” of Greece so far through the EU states’ governments, through EU institutions and the IMF had been coupled with programmes and restrictions of sovereignty which have become unbearable for the people in Greece, just like they would be unbearable for any other people. In all areas relevant for a good quality of life, things have gone downhill in the past five years: less and less jobs, less wages and pensions, less social security, decreasing economy, increasing total state debt, no money for visits to doctors and medicine, no money for necessary food, increasing suicide rate etc. etc. In November 2014, 50% of the Greek between 15 and 24 were unemployed, that is, every second young Greek.
The financial institutions [banks, hedge fonds etc.] which had lent money to the Greek state were not willing to accept a Greece that would no longer be able to pay its debts. In that case they would have had to bear themselves the risk of their continuously inconsiderate manner of credit extension. This is why they wanted Greece to remain depending on credits and the European states, that is, the European tax payers, to take over the banks’ receivables, that way becoming Greece’s new creditors. Since 2010, the financial institutions have been very successful in this manoeuvre.
What was the reaction of those responsible for EU policies? “Pacta sunt servanda” was the common theme of the statements. That means: Agreements that have contributed to ruin the country must still be fulfilled. Here we obviously have another case of double standards: The Maastricht Treaty, which has formed the basis of the Euro regime, was broken some 80 times – a CDU parliamentarian in the German Bundestag worked this out. And we need to add: The new Greek government has not announced that it intends to break existing agreements. It wants to renegotiate because the existing agreements are no longer bearable for the country.
Weeks ago, the new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addressed the German people, pointing to the irrationality of the current “aids” (see page 4).
What are the possible steps towards a recovery of the European politics’ credibility with respect to Greece?
A lot could be gained if those responsible for past years’ policies in the EU states would concede that things cannot continue this way and that now the time has come to re-think and re-adjust direction. Moreover: if they stopped once and for all presenting their policies as “without alternative” and instead invited all citizens to enter into a dialogue on equal footing to search for ways out of the crisis. And: if they opened up for the idea that direct democracy and the recognition of the citizens as the sovereign would provide a magical cure and offer a sustainable future perspective.
The same is true for Russia.

How much would we all wish that our politicians would listen more to the citizens. How much would we all wish that those in responsible political and media positions would only once be responsive to what the Russian side has put forward over and again. A recent example is Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s speech at the Munich Security Conference (see page 5).
How much would we all wish that a halt would be put to demonizing Russia. And how much that also the unjustified economic sanctions fatal for both sides would be stopped. It is good if European politicians like the French President and the German Chancellor declare that the conflict in Ukraine cannot be solved by military means that arms shipments for the Ukrainian military are not an option. And it is a silver lining on the horizon that there is now an agreement negotiated by the Presidents of France, Ukraine and Russia and the German Chancellor which calls for an armistice in eastern Ukraine and makes very important fundamental statements. But it would also be good if western politicians would counter the demonization of Russia and help our media to a more realistic presentation of events and contexts.
This year, Europe is observing the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. European people still possess an active knowledge and awareness that peace in Europe is indispensable and that for this peace, international understanding and equality between states and peoples is a prerequisite. This is not only true when dealing with Greece or Russia but also for the interaction between and within all countries.    •