Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 08.04.16

Massenbach-Letter. –à The Panama Papersß-

· News IMF Internal Meeting Predicts Greek ‚Disaster‘, Threatens to Leave Troika

· EU referendum: poll shows young voters could hold key in June vote

· Central Asia: Ethnic Fragmentation and Instability

· George Friedman (Geopolitical Futures): Erdoğan’s Not Mad, He’s Ruthless – The Strategic Importance of Greece

· DEBKAfile: ISIS forces attack Syrian army with mustard gas, sources say

· „Bewusstsein für die Vielfalt der Kirchen im Orient stärken“ – Deutsche Bischofskonferenz veröffentlicht Arbeitshilfe „Christen aus dem Orient“

Did you know: “David Cameron urged to act on Panama Papers as UK named ‚at heart of super-rich tax-avoidance network‘. Mr Cameron, who has frequently called for greater transparency to expose offshore tax avoidance and will host an international anti-corruption summit in London next month, faced personal embarrassment as the leaks revealed details of how his late father Ian ran an offshore fund that avoided all tax in the UK.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/panama-papers-david-cameron-uk-tax-avoidance-tax-havens-overseas-territories-a6968791.html

Massenbach* “The Panama Papers” – A storm is coming. All Panama Papers. ( http://panamapapers.sueddeutsche.de/en/ )

About the Panama Papers

By Frederik Obermaier, Bastian Obermayer, Vanessa Wormer and Wolfgang Jaschensky

Over a year ago, an anonymous source contacted the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and submitted encrypted internal documents from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that sells anonymous offshore companies around the world. These shell firms enable their owners to cover up their business dealings, no matter how shady.

http://panamapapers.sueddeutsche.de/articles/56febff0a1bb8d3c3495adf4/

Die Firma

Der Anblick ist schon aus der Ferne gewaltig: Dutzende Wolkenkratzer, säuberlich aufgereiht am Rande des Pazifiks. Stumme Zeugen eines Reichtums, der auch aus dem Geschäft mit dem geheimen Geld stammt. Landeanflug auf Panama City. Unten, vor der Küste, liegen die Containerschiffe, die auf die Einfahrt in den Panamakanal warten, am Horizont ist der Urwald zu erahnen. Irgendwo dazwischen, knapp hinter den Hochhäusern, liegt der Finanzdistrikt. Dort ist der Hauptsitz der Kanzlei Mossack Fonseca, die nicht nur Premierministern und Diktatoren geholfen hat, ihre Gelder zu verstecken, sondern auch Drogenkartellen, Mafia-Clans, Betrügern, Waffendealern und verbrecherischen Regimen wie Nordkorea oder Iran. Vielleicht kann man es so zusammenfassen: Mossack Fonseca half und hilft einigen der größten Schurken dieser Welt, ihre Machenschaften zu tarnen.

Im Mittelpunkt: die Kanzlei des Deutschen

Ihren Gründer Jürgen Mossack, 68, nennt dort unten im Finanzdistrikt kaum einer beim Namen. Er ist „der Deutsche“.

Er und seine Kanzlei verkaufen seit fast 40 Jahren anonyme Briefkastenfirmen, meist ausgestattet mit Scheindirektoren, um zu verschleiern, wer sich dahinter verbirgt. Mossack Fonseca ist einer der weltweit größten Anbieter dieser Dienste, und jetzt steht die Firma im Mittelpunkt der Panama Papers, eines Projekts, das bei der Süddeutschen Zeitung seinen Anfang nahm.

Beginnend vor etwas mehr als einem Jahr wurden der SZ über Monate hinweg interne Daten von Mossack Fonseca zugespielt – insgesamt 2,6 Terabyte. In diesem riesigen Datenhaufen recherchierten in den vergangenen zwölf Monaten rund 400 Investigativ-Reporter aus mehr als 80 Ländern, von mehr als 110 Medien, koordiniert von der SZ und dem Internationalen Konsortium für Investigative Journalisten (ICIJ) in Washington.

Man tut sich schwer, die spektakulärsten Fälle zu nennen. Ist es die Spur, die offenbar zu Wladimir Putins innerstem Zirkel führt – und zu Hunderten Millionen US-Dollar? Sind es die Offshore-Firmen des aktuellen Premierministers von Island und zwei seiner Minister? Ist es das Treiben der korrupten Fifa-Funktionäre, oder ist es die Briefkastenfirma von Barcelonas Superstar Lionel Messi?

Es geht aber nicht nur um die Kunden. Aus den Unterlagen geht auch hervor, dass sich Mossack Fonseca, kurz Mossfon, mutmaßlich bisweilen nicht an Gesetze gehalten hat: Unter dem Schutz von Mossfon wurden offenbar Sanktionen gebrochen, Beihilfe zur Hinterziehung geleistet und mit Geldern aus illegaler Herkunft gearbeitet. Belege dafür, dass Mossfon-Mitarbeiter über ihre zweifelhaften Kunden Bescheid wussten, finden sich an etlichen Stellen. Dafür sorgen die mehr als elf Millionen Dokumente des Leaks, darunter alleine rund fünf Millionen E-Mails.

http://panamapapers.sueddeutsche.de/articles/56f2c00da1bb8d3c3495aa0a/

Doppeltes Spiel

Es war ein hartes Jahr für die Fifa: Ermittlungen der US-Bundespolizei FBI, Verhaftungen, Sperre für Sepp Blatter – eine Menge Arbeit auch für die scheinbar letzte Bastion der Aufrechten im Fußball-Weltverband, die Fifa-Ethikkommission. Das Gremium suspendierte den Präsidenten, zog Uefa-Chef Michel Platini, Fifa-Generalsekretär Jérôme Valcke sowie etliche weitere Spitzenfunktionäre aus dem Verkehr. Auch um Franz Beckenbauer, Chef des Organisationskomitees der WM 2006, und dessen Sommermärchen-Kombattanten hatten die Ethiker sich zu kümmern.

Die Glaubwürdigkeit der Kommission lebt vor allem von der persönlichen Integrität ihrer führenden Köpfe. Der Schweizer Jurist Cornel Borbély etwa hat schon einige harte Ermittlungsverfahren geführt, und der deutsche Chef der Spruchkammer, Hans-Joachim Eckert, war Strafrichter am Landgericht München. Man könnte erwarten, dass auch die Mitglieder der beiden Kammern handverlesen sind, als Korrektiv im angeschlagenen Verband. Manche der 14 Mitglieder wurden zu Blatters Zeiten berufen, drei sind seit Kommissionsgründung am 23. Oktober 2006 dabei. Einer von ihnen: Juan Pedro Damiani.

Voruntersuchung gegen Juan Pedro Damiani

Damiani, ein einflussreicher Anwalt aus Uruguay, ist einer der reichsten Männer seines Landes und Präsident des dort beliebtesten Fußballklubs, Peñarol Montevideo. Er sitzt in Eckerts Kammer über mutmaßlich korrupte Fifa-Mitglieder zu Gericht. Nun hat er selbst ein Problem: Die Ethikkommission hat wegen der Panama Papers eine Voruntersuchung gegen ihr eigenes Mitglied eingeleitet.

Denn zu Damianis Spezialitäten zählt offenbar auch das Verwalten von Briefkastenfirmen. Seine Kanzlei J. P. Damiani ist ausweislich der Panama Papers einer der wichtigeren Kunden des Offshore-Dienstleisters Mossack Fonseca (Mossfon): Rund 400 Firmen wurden oder werden von ihr betreut, darunter etliche, die in Skandale involviert waren. Ausgerechnet der Fifa-Ethiker Damiani war demnach auch Verwalter von Firmen, über die womöglich Fifa-Leute bestochen wurden.

Die Panama Papers zeigen, dass sich unter den Briefkastenkunden seiner Kanzlei auch drei Angeklagte im Fifa-Skandal befinden: sein Landsmann Eugenio Figueredo, ehemaliger Fifa-Vizepräsident, sowie die argentinischen TV-Rechtehändler Hugo Jinkis und dessen Sohn Mariano.

Vater und Sohn Jinkis sollen, so der Vorwurf der Ermittler der US-amerikanischen Bundespolizei FBI, Millionen an Schmiergeld für hohe Fifa-Funktionäre gezahlt haben, um günstig Fernsehrechte zu bekommen, die mit hohem Gewinn weiterveräußert werden sollten – zum Beispiel die Rechte für die Copa América, das südamerikanische Pendant zur Europameisterschaft. Als Vehikel für verdeckte Zahlungen sollen die Jinkis Briefkastenfirmen genutzt haben. Das US-Justizministerium erhob im Mai 2015 Anklage gegen sie und zwölf andere Personen, im Dezember 2015 gegen weitere 16, die auch mit Korruptionsvorwürfen zu tun haben sollen.

In den US-Anklagepapieren taucht immer wieder der Firmenname Cross Trading auf. Etliche Schmiergeldtransfers für die TV-Rechte-Deals sollen demnach über Cross-Trading-Konten gelaufen sein. Die Panama Papers zeigen nun: Hugo und Mariano Jinkis haben drei Briefkastenfirmen bei Mossfon gründen lassen, alle mit dem identischen Namen – Cross Trading. Sie sitzen in drei verschiedenen Steueroasen: auf der Insel Niue im Südpazifik, im US-Bundesstaat Nevada und auf den Seychellen. Die Firmen auf Niue und in Nevada verwaltete die Kanzlei J. P. Damiani.

http://panamapapers.sueddeutsche.de/articles/56effd032f17ab0f205e637c/

Spuren in die Staatsspitze

Präsidenten, Premierminister und Könige: Die Panama Papers enthüllen, wie Politiker die Offshore-Welt nutzen.

http://panamapapers.sueddeutsche.de/articles/57003a73a1bb8d3c3495affd/

*****************************************************************************************************************************************************

IMF Internal Meeting Predicts Greek ‚Disaster‘, Threatens to Leave Troika.

Today, 2nd April 2016, WikiLeaks publishes the records of a 19 March 2016 teleconference between the top two IMF officials in charge of managing the Greek debt crisis – Poul Thomsen, the head of the IMF’s European Department, and Delia Velkouleskou, the IMF Mission Chief for Greece. The IMF anticipates a possible Greek default co-inciding with the United Kingdom’s referendum on whether it should leave the European Union (‚Brexit‘).

"This is going to be a disaster" remarks Velkouleskou in the meeting.

According to the internal discussion, the IMF is planning to tell Germany that it will abandon the Troika (composed of the IMF, European Commission and the European Central Bank) if the IMF and the Commission fail to reach an agreement on Greek debt relief.

Thomsen: "Look you, Mrs. Merkel, you face a question: you have to think about what is more costly, to go ahead without the IMF–would the Bundestag say ‚The IMF is not on board?‘, or [to] pick the debt relief that we think that Greece needs in order to keep us on board?"

Remaining in the Troika seems an increasingly hard sell internally for the IMF, because non-European IMF creditor countries view the IMF’s position on Greece as a violation of its policies elsewhere of not making loans to countries with unsustainable debts.

In August the IMF announced it would not participate in last year’s €86 billion Greek bailout, which was covered by EU member states. IMF Chief Christine Lagarde stated at the time that the IMF’s future participation was contingent on Greece receiving "significant debt relief" from creditors. Lagarde announced that a team would be sent to Greece, headed by Velkouleskou.

Thomsen said internally that the threat of an imminent financial catastrophe is needed to force the other players into a "decision point". For Germany, on debt relief, and In the case of Greece, to accept the IMF’s austerity "measures," — including raising taxes and cutting Greek pensions and working conditions. However the UK "Brexit" referendum in late June will paralyse European decision making at the critical moment. (more – see – att.)

https://wikileaks.org/imf-internal-20160319/

**********************************************************************************************************************

From our Russian news desk:see attachments.

Why did Russia Intervene in the Syrian War? *

The Capture of Palmyra: Victory in Battle, but Not a Turning Point *

The Middle East: Postmodernism Is Over *

“…..that it is a global message, which has nothing to do with the Middle East, or religion, but resonates with the social, psychological and cultural problems of the Western societies, that attracts natives of Europe and America to DAISH.

Against this backdrop, the central issue is not so much a military and or an ideological struggle against DAISH or terrorism in general, but a counteraction in terms of the value system.

Ironically, the “creative class,” whose representatives should generate and hold onto “values” by virtue of their professional affiliation, happens to lack these values itself. The jihadists operating in the region where this “creative class” is poorly represented have turned out to be the only force that generates values.

Now it is the jihadists who are shaping the discourse in the Middle East. They once proclaimed a confessional war in the region, and today the whole world is discussing the Sunni-Shiite discord, while extra-regional actors rush to throw their weight behind religious minorities.

The jihadists once set the goal of destroying the Sykes-Picot “imperialist system,” and today thousands of experts and politicians are involved in discussing the fate of the region after the collapse of the Sykes-Picot system.

Finally, the jihadists have become our enemies, and it is their aggression that we have to repel reactively.

However, this has happened before. We have witnessed ultra-left movements in Latin America: they were cruel, sometimes barbaric, but for some people quite attractive and romanticized; and they were creative too. And we have the relevant experience of dealing with them and of putting an end to violence in the region.

This experience shows that the civilized world of the West and the East will lose battles with new barbarians unless and until it stops responding to challenges and starts setting the agenda itself. And this can happen only if and when it realizes that the era of simulacra and games has passed, and it is necessary to get back to reality and, for a start, to embark on handling the acute problems of the Middle East (and other regions too).”

************************************************************************************************************************

Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* EU referendum: poll shows young voters could hold key in June vote

Leave campaign four points ahead in survey that shows just half of 18-34s are certain to cast their vote on 23 June.

An online survey by Opinium puts the Leave camp on 43%.

The decision over whether the UK remains inside the European Union could depend on whether young people shake off their apathy and vote in sufficient numbers on 23 June, a revealing opinion poll conducted for the Observer shows.

In a blow to David Cameron and the pro-EU camp, the online survey by Opinium puts the Leave side on 43%, four points ahead of Remain, on 39%. Some 18% of voters said they were undecided, while 1% refused to say.

While most of the “don’t knows” said, when pushed, that they were leaning towards Remain, offering hope to the pro-EU side, the survey will serve as a wake-up call to leaders of all four main Westminster parties, who are urging people to back their calls for continued membership.

Above all, it will be deeply worrying for Cameron, who will almost certainly have to resign as prime minister in the event of a vote to leave. But it also adds to pressure on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Only 47% of those asked said they identified him as being in favour of remaining in the EU, while 40% said they did not know his view and 12% believed he wanted to leave. Some 78% knew that Cameron wanted to remain in.

Government strategists and pollsters privately admit that the central problem for the Remain side is that its support for staying in the EU is strongest among young people, the group least likely to vote. Opinium found that in the 18-34 age group, 53% said they backed staying in, against 29% who wanted to leave. But only just over half (52%) in this age group said they were certain to actually go out and vote.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/apr/02/eu-referendum-young-voters-brexit-leave?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H&utm_term=165029&subid=620800&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Alexander Schaumburg (on Facebook)

Die Bundeskanzlerin erwähnte bei ihrer Traueransprache für Guido Westerwelle, dass sein Verhalten im UN-Sicherheitsrat während der Libyen-Krise mit ihr abgestimmt und also Kabinettsentscheidung gewesen sei. Nach meiner Erinnerung hat sie dieses Zugeständnis noch nie gemacht. Sie hätte sich aber hinter ihren Außenminister stellen müssen, als der deshalb in der deutschen Öffentlichkeit (anders als im Ausland) in übelster Weise diffamiert und begeifert wurde.

Warum hat sie den Schneid dazu damals nicht gehabt? Und weshalb kommt sie erst während der Beisetzung mit dieser Beichte heraus? Nagt das schlechte Gewissen, an der medialen Zerfleischung Westerwelles beteiligt gewesen zu sein oder ihr doch wenigstens nichts entgegengesetzt zu haben – obwohl sie das nicht nur gekonnt, sondern anstandshalber auch gemusst hätte? Späte Reue? Sie stünde ihr verdammt gut zu Gesicht.

Ich weiß aus gut informierter Quelle, dass Guido Westerwelle unter Merkel gelitten hat. Öffentlich trug man das natürlich nicht aus, aber sie hat offenbar die Angewohnheit, sich binnen 24 Stunden diametral zu widersprechen und Bündnisse, Pakte und Vereinbarungen ganz nach Gusto ohne Vorankündigung in die Tonne zu treten. Hauptsache, es dient der Stärkung der eigenen Machtbasis. Zynischer, prinzipienloser, klassischer Macchiavellismus, das ist das Holz, aus dem diese Frau geschnitzt ist. Wann und wo hat Frau Dr. Merkel ihr Herz entdeckt? Wer so mit engsten Vertrauten umgeht, übt praktizierte Fernstenliebe? I don’t bloody think so.

****************************************************************************************************************** Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* A Syrian Refugee’s Message to the European Union MARCH 31, 2016 …

If we knew how to carry weapons or wanted to carry weapons we would not have fled Syria. We want peace. We are sick of killing … We fled a war, and now the European Union is making war against us, a psychological war. When we hear rumors that we’ll be let into Europe, we celebrate. These leaders give us new hope, then they extinguish it. Why did you open the door to refugees? Why did you welcome people? If they had stopped it before, we would not have come. We would not have risked death, me and my children, and thousands of others, to make the crossing …

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/01/opinion/a-syrian-refugees-message-to-the-european-union.html

ISIS forces attack Syrian army with mustard gas, sources say

DEBKAfile April 5, 2016, 7:54 PM (IDT)

Syrian military sources and Western sources monitoring the war in Syria reported Tuesday that ISIS forces in the area of Deir al-Zor fired missiles with mustard gas warheads at besieged Syrian forces.
None of the sources specified the number of casualties in the attack in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border.

DEBKAfile sources: ISIS has been trying to capture the Syrian military bases in Deir al-Zor, especially the air force base, for more than six months but all of the attacks until now have failed.

http://www.debka.com/newsupdate/15760/ISIS-forces-attack-Syrian-army-with-mustard-gas-sources-say

George Friedman:Erdoğan’s Not Mad, He’s Ruthless.

Summary.Washington wants Ankara to lead the fight against the Islamic State, but Turkey is strong enough to keep meddling third parties at bay. Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is focused on domestic problems like curbing political opposition and making sure the Kurds cannot secede.

Yesterday, Erdoğan said that the peace process with the Kurds is over and that Turkey would crush the rebellion. He warned the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that either they surrender or they will be neutralized “one by one,” adding that there is no third option. It is interesting that this announcement follows a less than satisfactory meeting in Washington. Erdoğan attended a summit on the nuclear threat in Washington along with 50 other leaders. It would have been normal for a side meeting between Erdoğan and U.S. President Barack Obama to be scheduled. Though no meeting was scheduled, the White House press secretary hinted that an “informal” unscheduled meeting between the two would take place.

They ended up meeting on March 31, but earlier that day Erdoğan went to the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, to participate in a panel. He was greeted by hostile demonstrators protesting his policies on the media and other issues. Also present, of course, were reporters. As the demonstrators shouted slogans, Turkish security confronted them and in some cases appeared to shove them. The chaos escalated to confrontations with journalists. It was extremely unusual to have a foreign leader’s security detail engaging demonstrators. That is the job of the D.C. Metropolitan Police and the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, which is charged with protecting foreign leaders. The Turkish security officers took the responsibility upon themselves. Unfortunately, as foreign diplomatic personnel, they had no authority to do so.

There were two narratives that followed. Turkish media presented the affair as a deliberate insult to Erdoğan – deliberate because no one sought to silence the demonstrators and instead allowed them to insult the president. From the American side, the Turks showed the demonstrators in D.C. the same oppressive behavior they show in Turkey. The demonstrators argued that the behavior of the Turks in D.C. showed just a fraction of their brutality in Turkey.

At Erdoğan’s meeting with Obama, the day’s earlier incidents were not mentioned nor did the White House make a public statement about what happened at Brookings. Neither Obama nor Erdoğan was eager for another fruitless confrontation. So there wasn’t one. Instead, the two leaders had a chance to discuss their favorite topic, on which they weren’t likely to agree, the Islamic State. Obama’s position is that Turkey ought to shift its focus away from the Kurds to the Islamic State. Erdoğan’s view is that engaging IS carries substantial risks while leaving Turkey open to PKK insurgents.

The U.S.-Turkish dispute is far more critical than any informal meeting between Erdoğan and Obama. Turkey has been the victim of IS bombings in recent weeks. It has also been the victim of PKK bombings. Both pose a threat. But IS does not pose a geopolitical threat to Turkey, more of a nuisance – if deaths from bombings can be a mere nuisance. IS can’t rip the Turkish state apart. The PKK could. They dominate southeastern Turkey, northeastern Iraq and parts of western Iran, as well as a small portion of Syria. If the PKK can generate a strong secessionist movement, it would lead to a partition of Turkey, and if it joined the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, would create a new nation-state with uncertain power.

The likelihood of the PKK succeeding in generating a Kurdish secession is small. But from the Turkish point of view, the small likelihood of a disastrous outcome requires resistance. IS might create a new state to the south of Turkey, but Turkey already faces an unpleasant reality there. Getting caught up in Arab wars drained the Ottomans and is not fondly recalled by the Turks. They are more inclined to let chaos take its course than to directly intervene.

For the United States, IS is the core issue in the region now, and since it doesn’t want to deploy major forces in the region, it is seeking regional powers with a stake in the outcome to join in. It is having limited success. The Saudis do not want to activate pro-IS sentiments in Saudi Arabia by intervening. The Iranians have intervened in Iraq and Syria but in neither with overwhelming force. And the Turks, precisely because they live in the region, would rather see some limited accommodation than war. The Turks and the Americans do not see IS the same way.

This leaves the U.S. strategy of relying on proxies to fight IS in shambles since the most effective proxy is Turkey. It also leaves Turkey with an interesting problem. It has been in a confrontational position with Russia, ever since Russia intervened in Syria and Turkey shot down a Russian plane. Being simultaneously at odds with the United States seems foolhardy.

The Turks obviously believe that neither power can threaten them and, therefore, that they don’t need either one’s protection. The Turks have followed a neutral or pro-American stance since Turkey’s founding. The fact that Erdoğan is comfortable challenging the United States and Russia simultaneously gives us a sense of how he evaluates Turkish power. He sees it as substantial.

Erdoğan is presented as part dictator and part madman. He is clearly dictatorial in some of his practices, as his consolidation of power over the past few years shows. But declaring politicians mad is the standard response when they don’t behave the way observers think desirable. He isn’t mad. He understands Turkey’s geopolitical situation correctly. First, Turkey is not yet ready to engage in foreign military adventures. Second, Turkey’s strength makes it immune to foreign intervention. It follows from these two points that Turkey would use this time to handle domestic matters, which include intimidating or crushing political opposition and dealing with the Kurds. Now is the time to guarantee that secessionist tendencies will be eliminated.

Erdoğan can’t crush the PKK. However, he can impose costs on it that make its goals even more distant. He can’t eliminate domestic resistance, but he can force it underground and make it impotent. There is a sense that he is destroying Turkish liberal democracy. That is not an unreasonable view. But he is also trying to maneuver away from foreign involvement that might drain his power.
If Erdoğan is going to become the single center of power in Turkey, he must crush his domestic opposition and the PKK. And with the Europeans paying him to handle their refugee problem, he is not isolated from the world. He is not mad. He is quite calculating and logical, albeit ruthless.

https://geopoliticalfutures.com/erdogans-not-mad-hes-ruthless/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Geopolitical Futures logoThe Strategic Importance of Greece

April 5, 2016 – The country has been at the center of major crises that threaten to destabilize the European Union.

SummaryGreece is a highly strategic country where foreign powers have traditionally competed for influence. For European governments today, maintaining Greece as a member of Western economic and defense blocs and ensuring the country’s political stability is a priority. Greece’s strategic significance is shaping Europe’s response to the financial and refugee crises.

The first king of modern Greece, Otto I, was imported from Bavaria in the 1830s at the behest of three European powers: Russia, Britain and France. In 1863, a Danish prince was also invited to rule. As the Ottoman Empire’s hold on the region weakened, European powers became more involved in shaping the future of Greece, at times intervening militarily and directly influencing domestic politics. Much of Greece’s modern history is the story of its relationships with several major powers – Britain, France, Russia, Turkey, the United States and Germany. On the surface, Greece often appears peripheral to European politics. Nevertheless, Greece’s strategic geographic position has time and again put the country at the center of geopolitical crises and made it the subject of competition among different outside powers. Today, Greece’s continued strategic importance is shaping the response of outside powers to the country’s challenges, from debt and unemployment to refugee flows.

Greece’s Geographic Challenge and Strategic Significance

Greece’s geography has contributed to the emergence of significant strategic challenges for the country. Greece has a mountainous geography and includes about 2,000 islands and over 8,000 miles of coastline. The dispersed geography and long coastlines mean that Greece is highly difficult to both govern and defend effectively. Despite its chronic financial problems, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Greece still spent 2.2 percent of its GDP on defense in 2014 – a higher rate than all other NATO countries except Turkey (also 2.2 percent), the U.K. (2.2 percent) and the U.S. (3.5 percent).

However, Greece’s geography has made the country a nexus for geopolitical competition. To the north are the Balkan countries, laden with long-standing ethnic tensions and historically contested by Central and Western Europe, the Ottoman Empire and Russia. To the northeast is the Black Sea, an area where Russia and the Ottoman Empire – and now Turkey and NATO – competed for influence. For Russia, influence in the Black Sea and access to the Bosporus are critical, as the Bosporus is the Russian navy’s only point of entry to the Mediterranean Sea. To the east is Turkey, Greece’s historical rival. The Ottoman Empire dominated modern-day Greece for centuries, and while both Turkey and Greece are members of NATO and thus formally allies, tensions remain over issues such as the future of Cyprus. To the south is the Mediterranean Sea, which has connected Greece to civilizations across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The Libyan coast is less than 190 miles away from the nearest Greek territory, while the Italian Peninsula to the west is less than 120 miles away. This strategic geography has led successive generations of European leaders and regimes to become deeply involved in Greece – from directly intervening in domestic Greek politics in the 19th century to backing sides in the Greek Civil War during the late 1940s.

German and European Strategy in Greece

Germany’s strategy today when it comes to Greece is grounded in Berlin’s need to maintain the cohesion of the eurozone. This strategy involves three main objectives: keeping Greece a member of Western economic and defense blocs, ensuring Greece’s political stability and preventing other powers from gaining influence in Athens. As we have outlined, Germany’s economic growth depends in large part on access to export markets. The eurozone provides Berlin with a secure, reliable export market where partners cannot devalue their currencies to make their own products more competitive than German goods.

Greece is not a major destination for German goods. In 2015, according to U.N. Comtrade statistics, merely 0.4 percent of German exports by value went to Greece. Nevertheless, Berlin needs Greece to remain in the eurozone, which is the reason Germany ultimately agreed to three Greek bailouts at the height of the country’s financial crisis. Germany fears that a Greek exit from the eurozone could undermine the entire bloc’s cohesion and thus threaten its access to more important European markets. At the same time, despite significant measures to shield eurozone countries from Greece’s financial troubles, they are still exposed to Greece: much of the country’s debt is held by eurozone governments. In July 2015, Barclays Research estimated that the total exposure to Greece equaled 3.4 percent of the eurozone’s GDP. Greece’s economic stability, therefore, is a priority for Berlin, and Germany has shown a willingness to implement ad-hoc solutions and bend rules in order to maintain Greece as a member of the bloc.

The European Union’s deal with Turkey to address the refugee issue, which came into effect on April 4, also stems in part from German and European Union strategic considerations in Greece. Under the terms of the agreement, refugees and migrants are being deported from Greece to Turkey, and for every Syrian refugee sent to Turkey, another will be taken in and resettled in the EU. Earlier plans to relocate refugees directly from Greece and Italy to other European Union member countries failed to be implemented, and it remains unclear whether Greece will be able to send back significant numbers of refugees to Turkey in the short term. However, the deal highlights European worries about Greece’s stability and reliability. The Greek authorities have been unable to effectively house and process refugees, and after Balkan countries closed their borders, tens of thousands of refugees were stranded in Greece. The Europeans fear not only a humanitarian and administrative crisis, but a political crisis in Greece, where much of the public already distrusts and resents the European leadership. Relocating refugees from Greece to Turkey is thus in part an effort to alleviate German and EU concerns about the status of their relationships with Athens.

European governments are also engaged in a subtle competition with the Kremlin for influence in Greece. Russia has strong economic ties with Greece, as well as relationships with several Greek political parties, including the ruling Syriza party. During debt negotiations with the European Union in 2015, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras used public overtures to the Kremlin to boost his negotiating position with the Europeans. Tsipras may have attended meetings in Moscow, but his high-profile visit in April 2015 did not yield concrete financial assistance from the Kremlin. Greece remains heavily economically dependent on the European Union. Russia cannot match what the Europeans can offer in terms of funding. Nevertheless, Russian influence in Greece remains a strategic concern for Europe, and one that countries like Germany are working to counter.

Conclusion

Greece’s strategic position has long compelled outside powers to get involved in the country. For European governments, and in particular Germany, maintaining Greece as a stable, pro-Western member of the eurozone is a priority. Therefore, when evaluating decisions on the migrant crisis or the eurozone’s financial challenges, European governments are closely considering their strategic priorities in Greece. Greece’s geography and membership in Western economic and defense blocs ensure that the country will remain a focal point in the region’s geopolitical crises.

https://geopoliticalfutures.com/the-strategic-importance-of-greece/

*******************************************************************************************************************

Middle East

Where is the Beef? Chancen einer engeren deutschbritischen Sicherheitspartnerschaft

von Robert J. Rider

Bereits im Oktober 2015 hat der britische Verteidigungsminister Michael Fallon bei einem bilateralen Treffen mit seiner deutschen Kollegin Ursula von der Leyen eine engere und intensivere sicherheitspolitische Partnerschaft zwischen dem Vereinigten Königreich und der Bundesrepublik angeregt. Ende Januar 2016 haben beide das Thema wieder aufgegriffen. Was steckt hinter diesem Partnerschaftsvorschlag und welche Folgen wird er haben? In unserem Arbeitspapier Sicherheitspolitik argumentiert der britische Verteidigungsattaché Brigadier General Robert Rider, dass es hierbei um mehr als einen Akt diplomatischer Höflichkeit gehe: Er sieht in der Zusammenarbeit der beiden Länder, insbesondere angesichts der Bedrohungen durch den russischen Revisionismus und den Aufstieg der Terrororganisation IS, einen substanziellen und qualitativen Schritt nach vorn.

Brigadier General Robert J. Rider ist Verteidigungsattaché an der Botschaft des Vereinigten Königreichs in Berlin.

Der vorliegende Artikel gibt die persönliche Meinung des Verfassers wieder .

******************************

(Al Ahram)- Egypt to sign final financial agreements with Saudi Arabia worth $22bln: Officials

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi (R) and Saudi King Salman

Egypt will sign the final version of four funding accords with Saudi Arabia worth roughly $22 billion, to come into effect as of Friday, during King Salman’s first official visit to Cairo, official sources said on Tuesday.

The Saudi King Salman, who took power in January 2015, visited Egypt in March 2015 for the Arab League summit in Egypt’s southern Sinai city of Sharm El-Sheikh.

Of the four accords, the North African nation is expected to finalise two framework agreements of soft loans signed in March, with the first worth around $20 billion to finance its five-year petroleum needs from the oil-rich kingdom, and the second worth $1.5 billion for 12 development projects in Sinai, the sources told Ahram Online on condition of anonymity.

The government will also sign an agreement of a concessional loan worth 450 million Saudi riyals (around $120 million), which was approved by the Saudi Development Fund (SDF) in January to renovate Cairo’s historical Kasr El-Aini hospital.

Another $100 million loan, approved by the SDF in November 2015 to finance the expansion of the West Cairo power station to generate an additional 650 megawatts, is also among the deals to be completed, sources said.

“Other memorandums of understandings for new projects are scheduled to be signed with the Saudi side during the king’s visit,” said one of the sources.

Saudi Arabia has supported Cairo with billions of dollars in aid, grants, oil products and cash deposits to help buoy the country’s economy following the toppling of president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/3/12/198847/Business/Economy/Egypt-to-sign-final-financial-agreements-with-Saud.aspx

*********************************************************************************************************************

*Massenbach’s

Recommendation*

Central Asia: Ethnic Fragmentation and InstabilityGeopolitical Futures logo

Can the region’s strategic position and demographics help explain its instability?

This week’s map takes a look at an often under-covered region of the world: Central Asia. Our 2016 forecast predicts trouble for Central Asia – it is the only part of Eurasia not yet experiencing a major crisis. To the east, China’s slowdown affects the economies of all Central Asian countries. To the north, Russia’s economic troubles are even more of a challenge because of how much these countries depend on the Russian economy. The crisis of the exporters hits Central Asia particularly hard. Countries like Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan depend on energy exports as important sources of revenue. Other Central Asian countries without such natural resources, like Tajikistan, are highly dependent on remittances from Russia.

Centuries of invasions and foreign rule have contributed to the emergence of weak states with deep vulnerabilities in Central Asia. This is not just a region with many different ethnic groups competing for scant resources in the same territory. It is also a region where, much like the Middle East, the borders were drawn artificially – and in some places intentionally to bring Central Asian states in conflict with each other rather than the Soviet Union. The various mountains and valleys also contribute to this picture of fragmented ethnic groups.

The world is not focused on Central Asia. It is a remote region and a place from which it is hard to get information. But that arguably makes Central Asia more important, not less, and it is also why we are tracking developments there very closely. Instability in Central Asia matters. What happens there can have spillover effects in Russia, western China, Afghanistan and even Syria and Iraq, and can impact U.S. interests in South Asia and the Middle East. But before one can begin to understand the ways outside forces threaten to destabilize Central Asia and how developments there can radiate outwards, it is necessary to get a sense of the geography and demographics of the region. To understand how and why we consider this region so fragile and so important, this map is where you must begin.
https://geopoliticalfutures.com/forecasts/central-asia/net-assessment-of-central-asia/

Putin Submits Draft Law on National Guard to Russian Parliament.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday submitted draft legislation on creation of the National Guard in the country

to the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, the Kremlin said.

© REUTERS/ Maxim Shemetov

Russian National Guard to Ensure Order, Security at Public Events, Rallies

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Putin announced earlier on Tuesday the creation of the National Guard on the basis of Interior troops tasked with the fight against terrorism

and organized crime in the country.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later stressed that the National Guard, in coordination with police, will also maintain law and order at any mass public events,

including unauthorized protests.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Serbien

moderated by Srecko Velimirovic

Democracy, 25 years after Yugoslavia.

Piran, Slovenia. The country has had the most successful democratic transition of the former Yugoslav states

The wave of democratisation in Eastern Europe during the late 1980s and 1990s also affected former Yugoslavia, where the political space opened up after Tito’s death in 1980. Yugoslavia consisted of six federal Republics: Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, and two autonomous regions: Kosovo and Vojvodina. First multi-party democratic elections were held in the Republics in 1990, followed by the referenda of independence and a slow disintegration of the state.

In June 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared formal independence and a referendum was held in March 1992 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Macedonia seceded peacefully in 1991, Montenegro in 2006, and Kosovo declared its independence in 2008. Although the initial period of independence saw the rise of elected, but semi-authoritarian regimes, including Milosevic in Serbia and Tudjman in Croatia, all states are now, at least theoretically, on the path of institutional and economic reforms and accession to the European Union. Slovenia joined the Union in 2004, and Croatia in 2013.

Twenty five years after Yugoslav disintegration, all the states are formally democratic countries: there are regular multi-party elections, apparent separation of powers, established democratic institutions and democratic language. However, there is a need to distinguish between the institutions and formal procedures of democracy and actual implementation.

Accountable governments, checks and balances, rule of law and freedom of speech are largely absent from political practices in the region. Nepotism, administrative inefficiency, public spending and corruption have become the norm, and are blocking the democratic processes. Public resources are controlled by the political party elites, which hold leverage over media, judiciary and police forces.

Political parties in successor states are themselves undemocratic. Although the communist rule ended, the cult of one political leader with unlimited powers remains present, as is the case with Milo Djukanovic in Montenegro, Aleksandar Vucic in Serbia, Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj in Kosovo, Nikola Gruevski in Macedonia, and Bakir Izetbegovic and Milorad Dodik in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This absence of internal party democracy is then transferred to the wider political arena.

There are low levels of public participation in political decision-making processes, including elections, as well as low interest in participating, due to limited trust in government and democracy. Regionally, the election-turnout is low, and there is no trust in elected political representatives’ abilities or willingness to act in public interest. There is an overall dependence on foreign capital and loans, financial waste and mismanagement, widespread corruption in privatisation deals, and these states are now failing to respond to economic and social crises.

Besides for Slovenia, which had a relatively peaceful secession after the Ten Day War, and joined the EU in 2004, other countries have largely failed to consolidate democratic processes and practices. Slovenia was the most ethnically homogeneous of the republics, and it accounted for only 10% of the total Yugoslav population. On the other hand, it was economically the strongest, contributing one-fifth of the GDP, and one-third of Yugoslav exports, which certainly facilitated its successful transition.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s multi-party elections in 1990 brought to power nationalist parties, and the quest for independence resulted in a four-year conflict. After the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995, democratic institutions, separation of powers and guarantees for rights and freedoms were enshrined in the constitution. Yet, due to a range of internal and external factors, the process of democratic development has been stalled and democracy in the country is weak and fragile.

The international community, as a guarantor of the Peace Agreement has in its own way affected the development of democratic processes. The Office of the High Representative (OHR) has played a crucial role in the country, using the Bonn Powers to enforce a number of laws, regulations and reforms. Over the last two decades, no major political decision has been made without the involvement of OHR or foreign ambassadors to Bosnia. The over-reliance on international actors has affected the accountability of political leaders. Besides international influencesand omnipresent corruption at all levels, the state’s socio-economic failures and political deadlock are some of the main reasons why B&H is now largely considered to be a failed state.

Croatia, an EU member since 2013, had undergone a period of semi-authoritarian rule in the 1990s under Franjo Tudjman and the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union). Good improvements have been made since the early 2000s in the area of civil society and corruption, and the fight against corruption even saw the former Prime Minister, Ivo Sanader, sentenced over two high profile corruption cases. Overall, great strides have been made in terms of judicial reforms, transparency and civil rights, although administrative regulations are inconsistent and minority rights are not always respected.

After the 1997-1999 war with Serbia, which ended with NATO intervention, Kosovo declared independence in 2008. Following the EU brokered deals in 2013 and 2015, relations with Serbia seem to be normalising, but independence did not necessarily bring about democratic and accountable governance to the newest Balkan country.

In 2011 and 2015, Freedom House reported a decline in the area of media independence, national democratic governance and electoral processes. The country has seen numerous corruption scandals, includingjudicial bribes to the EU rule of law mission (EULEX) and corruption in the public procurement procedures. Leaders of the main political parties in Kosovo are widely seen as key figures in organised crime, and they have been involved in a number of scandals with the media, with most recent threats made by the Prime Minister, which led to massive journalists’ protests in Pristina this year.

Macedonia’s peaceful secession from Yugoslavia was followed by the 2001 armed conflict between Macedonians and Albanians, which ended the following year with the Ohrid Agreement and a NATO-led disarmament. In 2006, VMRO-DMPNE led by Nikola Gruevski came to power with the promise of economic revival and reforms, but similar to other ex-Yugoslav leaders, Gruevski is implicated in the shady privatisation deals involving the sale of the Macedonian bank, and financial mismanagement and secret deals around massive construction projects in the country. Democratic processes and principles have also been undermined by citizen wire-tapping, pressure on media and critical journalists, using judiciary and state bodies against political enemies and party- controlled public procurements.

Montenegro made a quick progress towards the European integration, after its peaceful secession in 2006. It soon became the third country, right after Slovenia and Croatia, to begin accession talks, signing the SAA in 2007, and marking its entry into force in 2010. However, in spite of what seemed as a small nation success story, political elitism and corruption in Montenegro are the reason for often used label mafia-state.

Although elements and institutions of democracy, including elections, judiciary and parliament are present, the reality is that Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and his party DPS are in charge of the country. Djukanovic has been in power since 1989 either as a Prime Minister or a President.

He has been at the centre of corruption charges over the privatisation of Niksicka Banka, now First Bank, which is owned by him and his siblings and its bailing out by the state during the financial crisis. Djukanovic was also investigated by the Italian anti-mafia unit over cigarette-smuggling operations, although charges were dropped in 2009 due to his diplomatic immunity.

Serbia’s road to democracy has been more difficult than that of other Yugoslav countries, due to Milosevic’s long rule. The 1990s conflict in B&H, Croatia and Kosovo damaged the country, and after years of civil society action against his rule, he was finally ousted on 5October 2000. In the following years, pro-Western and right-wing parties’ disagreements over the direction of the country exposed the numerous challenges Serbia was facing.

The assassination of pro-reform Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in 2003 exposed the deep links between politics and mafia. Although the democratic institutions and processes have been introduced since, the elected parties, those considered democratic, left wing and right wing alike have all been implicated in corruption during the privatisation deals. The current pro-European government has also made a number of secret privatisation deals, including the sales of auto industry, steel factories and Yugoslav Air Company.

Twenty five years after the break-up of Yugoslavia, with the exception of Slovenia, former Yugoslav Republics still have a long way to go before consolidating democratic rule. Although the prospects of EU membership serve as an incentive, and reforms are monitored by the EU, true democratic processes need to be developed from the inside, and are not enforceable.

The degree of successful democratisation process varies in each country, but corruption, nepotism, disrespect for media freedoms and financial mismanagement are present in all former Yugoslav Republics, and there is an urgent need to break the links between politics and organised crime.

Although substantial economic reforms have taken place in all countries, the failure of the social contract between the states and citizens is apparent. In spite of the presence of the democratic institutions, practices and regulations, the true understanding of democracy has not been adopted by either the political representatives or the electorate.

„Bewusstsein für die Vielfalt der Kirchen im Orient stärken“

Deutsche Bischofskonferenz veröffentlicht Arbeitshilfe „Christen aus dem Orient“ Angesichts der wachsenden Zahl von Christen, die als Flüchtlinge insbesondere aus den Ländern des Nahen Ostens und Nordafrikas nach Deutschland kommen, veröffentlicht die Deutsche Bischofskonferenz die Arbeitshilfe „Christen aus dem Orient. Orientierung über christliche Kirchen im Nahen Osten und Nordafrika und die pastorale Begleitung ihrer Gläubigen in Deutschland“. Die Arbeitshilfe bietet einen Überblick und Informationen über die orientalischen und die mit Rom unierten Kirchen, denen die Flüchtlinge zumeist angehören. Außerdem enthält sie Hinweise zur pastoralen Begleitung von Christen aus diesen Kirchen und benennt konkrete Ansprechpartner, an die man sich wenden kann, wenn Gläubige auf der Suche nach Kontakt zu einer Gemeinde ihrer Kirche sind.

„Ziel der Arbeitshilfe ist es, das Bewusstsein für die Vielfalt der Kirchen im Orient zu stärken und Orientierung für alle in der Flüchtlingsarbeit Engagierten zu bieten“, so Bischof Dr. Gerhard Feige (Magdeburg), Vorsitzender der Ökumenekommission der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz. „Wir haben eine pastorale und soziale Verantwortung gegenüber den Flüchtlingen aus dem Nahen Osten und Nordafrika, die nicht nur auf der Suche nach einer neuen Existenz, sondern oft auch nach einer neuen kirchlichen Heimat sind, in der sie Gottesdienste in dem ihnen vertrauten Ritus und in ihrer Muttersprache feiern können.“

Die Arbeitshilfe richtet sich insbesondere an die katholischen Gemeinden und darüber hinaus an alle, die sich in der Flüchtlingshilfe engagieren und nach verlässlichen Informationen über die Kirchen des Ostens suchen.

Hinweise:

Die Orientierungshilfe „Christen aus dem Orient. Orientierung über christliche Kirchen im Nahen Osten und Nordafrika und die pastorale Begleitung ihrer Gläubigen in Deutschland“ (Arbeitshilfen Nr. 283) kann unter www.dbk.de in der Rubrik „Veröffentlichungen“ als Broschüre bestellt oder als pdf-Datei heruntergeladen werden.

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

*****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*

*****************************************************************************************************************************************

UdovonMassenbachMailJoergBarandat

03-17-16 Net Assessment of Central Asia _ Geopolitical Futures.pdf

04-02-16 WikiLeaks – IMF Internal Meeting Predicts Greek ‚Disaster‘, Threatens to Lea.pdf

04-03-16-1 About the Panama Papers.pdf

04-03-16 Wladimir Putin und seine Freunde_ Spur in Panama Papers.pdf

04-03-16-2 Panama Papers_ Wie Mossack Fonseca Geld versteckt.pdf

04-03-16 -3 Panama Papers_ Fifa-Ethiker Juan Pedro Damiani im Fokus.pdf

04-03-16-4 Panama Papers_ Konkrete Hinweise auf Politiker.pdf

DBK_5283-Christen aus dem Orient.pdf

08-2016 Rider – Chancen einer engeren deutschbritischen Sicherheitspartnerschaft – BAKS arbeitspapier_sicherheitspolitik_2016_08-.pdf

04-06-16 Why did Russia Intervene in the Syrian War.pdf

Advertisements