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
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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.


ASEAN may be forced to choose between US, China: Cambodia PM’s son

Updated 21 November 2018
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ASEAN may be forced to choose between US, China: Cambodia PM’s son

  • Cambodia has become an unlikely staging ground for geopolitical influence in Asia
  • The economic ripples of the trade spat between China and the US could destabilize global supply chain links in Southeast Asia

BANGKOK: Southeast Asian nations may soon have to “choose sides” between the US and China in their ongoing trade war, the political heir to Cambodia’s strongman ruler Hun Sen warned Wednesday in rare public comments.
Impoverished Cambodia has become an unlikely staging ground for geopolitical influence in Asia.
In recent years it has turned into a key China ally, heading off criticism of the superpower over its claims to disputed seas in exchange for billions of dollars in investment and loans.
While China has cozied up to Cambodia, the United States and the European Union have admonished Hun Sen, the nation’s ruler for 33 years, for his increasingly authoritarian rule.
In a rare speech outside of his country, his son, Hun Many warned the US-China trade spat may create lasting divisions in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“Perhaps one day ASEAN would have to choose between US or China,” Hun Many said in Bangkok.
“How would we see the trade war spill or expanded in other areas? Surely it will pressure individual members of ASEAN or ASEAN as a whole to choose sides.”
The economic ripples of the trade spat between China and the US could destabilize global supply chain links in Southeast Asia, while a slump in Chinese spending would impact its trading partners.
Cambodia’s strongman Hun Sen has welcomed Chinese investment to pump-prime his country’s economy.
At the same time, he has accused the US of trying to foment revolution in Cambodia by supporting his critics.
Both the US and EU decried the July elections, which were held without a credible opposition and gave Hun Sen another term in power.
When asked which of the superpowers Cambodia would side with, the Australian-educated Hun Many demurred.
“At the end of the day, it depends on those who are involved to take a more responsible approach for their decisions that affects the entire world,” he said.
Earlier this week, Hun Sen swatted away concerns that Beijing will construct a naval base off the southwest coast of Cambodia, which would provide ready access to the disputed South China Sea.
Beijing claims most of the flashpoint area, infuriating the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan who all have competing claims to its islands and potentially resource-rich waters.
Hun Many, who described himself as a “proud son,” is widely believed to be in the running to one day replace his father.
His elder brother, Manit, is the head of a military intelligence unit while Manet, the oldest, was promoted in September to the chief of joint staff of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces as well as the commander of the infantry army headquarters.
But Many brushed aside the notion.
“It is way too soon to say that I am in the next generation of leaders,” he said.