Germany, Greece urge EU reboot in face of populism

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, left, shakes hands with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier prior to their meeting in Athens. (AFP)
Updated 11 October 2018

Germany, Greece urge EU reboot in face of populism

  • Steinmeier and his host Tsipras called for a new chapter in bilateral relations, to leave behind tensions caused by tough German demands for Greek austerity
  • Tsipras did not mention the thorny issue of war reparations, which Greece has been seeking since the 1990s

ATHENS: German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday urged further European Union integration in the face of rising populism.
Steinmeier and his host also called for a “new chapter” in bilateral relations, to leave behind tensions caused by tough German demands for Greek austerity to accompany EU bailouts for Athens.
Noting Greece is on the front line of migration flows to Europe, Steinmeier said any “consensus” on migration policy “is not possible without solidarity.”
He said he shared Tsipras’ fears over the dangers that nationalism could pose to the future of the bloc.
“We must take steps to convince European citizens that is it possible to emerge, together, from crises — we must keep extreme and populist voices at bay.”
Tsipras said Greece wanted to move on from the “difficult moments between our two countries during the (financial) crisis... and the stereotypes which poison our relations.”
German insistence on financial rigour and eight years of austerity measures to accompany three EU multibillion rescues of the Greek economy soured relations in a country which has not forgotten the Nazi-era occupation during World War II.
“We are at a moment where we can open a new page in our relations,” Steinmeier said.
Relations have improved over the last three years after Tsipras’ government endorsed conditions linked to satisfying its creditors and Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also worked closely on finding common ground on migration.
Tsipras did not mention the thorny issue of war reparations, which Greece has been seeking since the 1990s, despite the impending publication of a report by his leftist Syriza party understood to want around 270 million euros ($312 million) from Berlin.
However, Steinmeier, who arrived on the eve of the 1944 anniversary of the liberation of Athens, commented that “we ask forgiveness for atrocities” committed and “we do not want to forget the past.”
Berlin’s official position is that the issue was definitively resolved in a previous, wider post-war agreement with a number of countries, including Greece.


Taliban talks resume amid hopes of deal

Updated 2 min 34 sec ago

Taliban talks resume amid hopes of deal

DOHA: The US and the Taliban met in Doha on Thursday, an American source close to the talks said, for potentially decisive dialogue to allow Washington to drawdown militarily in Afghanistan.
The source said the talks started around 1300 GMT — the ninth time the two foes have met face-to-face.
The disclosure came in a context of ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan after NATO said two US military personnel were killed Wednesday, blasts rocked Jalalabad Monday, and the death toll from a weekend wedding bombing reached 80.
Washington’s top commander in Afghanistan General Scott Miller was at the talks venue, according to an AFP correspondent.
The US, which invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban in 2001, wants to withdraw thousands of troops but only in return for the insurgent group renouncing Al-Qaeda and curbing attacks.
Washington is hoping to strike an agreement with the Taliban by September 1 — ahead of Afghan polls due the same month, and US presidential polls due in 2020.
Taliban lead negotiator Abbas Stanikzai told AFP Thursday that overall talks had been “going well.”
The talks are expected to focus on establishing a timeline for the US withdrawal of its more than 13,000 troops in Afghanistan.
“We’ve been there for 18 years, it’s ridiculous,” US President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday.
“We are negotiating with the government and we are negotiating with the Taliban,” he said.
“We have good talks going and we will see what happens.”
But the thorny issues of power-sharing with the Taliban, the role of regional powers including Pakistan and India, and the fate of Afghanistan’s incumbent administration remain unresolved.
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad sought to bolster optimism for a peace agreement last week when he said in a tweet that he hoped this is the final year that the country is at war.