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.


More than 60 dead in South Africa flooding after heavy rains

Updated 24 April 2019
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More than 60 dead in South Africa flooding after heavy rains

  • Rescue workers were digging through collapsed buildings on Wednesday
  • The rains mainly hit areas around the port city of Durban

DURBAN: At least 60 people have been killed and more than 1,000 have fled their homes after heavy rains caused flooding and mudslides along South Africa’s eastern coast, authorities said on Wednesday.
Most of the deaths were in KwaZulu-Natal province. Flooding also killed at least three people in neighboring Eastern Cape province, state broadcaster SABC said.
The rains mainly hit areas around the port city of Durban. Multiple dwellings collapsed in mudslides, said Robert McKenzie, a KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Services spokesman.
Rescue workers were digging through collapsed buildings on Wednesday.
Victor da Silva, a resident of the coastal town of Amanzimtoti, said his family managed to evacuate before the floods destroyed their home and cars.
“On Monday, the water was just crazy. And yesterday morning I got here, everything was fine, my garage was still here, the other part of the house was still here, and it just couldn’t stop raining,” Da Silva said. “And then an hour and a half later, everything poof (vanished) because the rain just hasn’t stopped.
Authorities in southern Tanzania ordered evacuations of residents from low-lying areas and the closure of schools and offices ahead of landfall of Tropical Cyclone Kenneth on neighboring Mozambique’s coast on Thursday.
“We’ve decided to evacuate all residents of valleys and other low-lying areas and we advise them to seek refuge at public spaces,” Mtwara regional commissioner Gelasius Byakanwa, told reporters.
Johan Fourie said he fled his home in Amanzimtoti, Kwazulu-Natal, just before part of it collapsed.
“I nearly lost my life, and my neighbor, I believe, is in hospital,” Fourie told eNCA television.
The region had been hit by heavy rains for days, but authorities did not foresee the extent of the downpour late on Monday, said Lennox Mabaso, a spokesman for the provincial Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs department.
“As a result, there was flooding and some structures were undermined and collapsed on people,” Mabaso said.
Some people were swept away by the water, he added.
President Cyril Ramaphosa visited affected communities in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday and was expected in the Eastern Cape in the next few days.
“This is partly what climate change is about, that it just hits when we least expect it,” he said.
Last week, 13 people were killed during an Easter service in KwaZulu-Natal when a church wall collapsed after days of heavy rains and strong winds.