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.


Pelosi scrapped Afghan trip after Trump ‘leaked’ details

Updated 45 min 47 sec ago
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Pelosi scrapped Afghan trip after Trump ‘leaked’ details

WASHINGTON: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday excoriated her political nemesis, President Donald Trump, for “outing” her commercial trip to Afghanistan after barring her from using a military aircraft, forcing her to scrap it entirely over security concerns.
The brawl between the no-nonsense Republican leader and the take-no-prisoners Democrat — who is now just two heartbeats away from the presidency — is the latest round in their shutdown showdown.
The federal government has been shuttered for four weeks over Trump’s insistence that a wider budget measure include billions of dollars for a wall on the border with Mexico — and Pelosi’s refusal to do so.
Their spat spilled into the diplomatic arena on Thursday when, after Pelosi suggested that Trump postpone his State of the Union address until the government reopens, the president grounded her military flight.
Pelosi accused Trump of being “very irresponsible” in breaching security protocol.
“We had a report from Afghanistan that the president outing our trip had made the scene on the ground much more dangerous because it’s just a signal to the bad actors that we’re coming,” she told reporters.
The administration strongly denies that it “leaked” any plans about the trip to a war zone.
“The idea we would leak anything that would put the safety and security of any American at risk is a flat-out lie,” a senior White House official said.
The US government shutdown, which has left about 800,000 federal workers without a paycheck, is now the longest in the country’s history — and there is no sign of a compromise.
The Office of Management and Budget reportedly issued a memorandum saying that “under no circumstance during a government shutdown” can a congressional delegation use government aircraft for travel.
However, Republican Representative Lee Zeldin led a delegation to Iraq and other countries since the shutdown began.
Pelosi’s office sounded off on the administration’s handling of her trip, which had not been announced for security reasons.
The State Department released an updated assessment stressing that Trump’s announcement of the Pelosi travel “had significantly increased the danger to the delegation and to the troops,” her spokesman Drew Hammill said.
“This morning, we learned that the administration had leaked the commercial travel plans as well.”
Democratic lawmakers have expressed outrage.
“As a former member of the Intelligence Committee who has traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan, disclosing ANY Members’ travel into a war zone is disgraceful and dangerous,” tweeted House Democrat Jan Schakowsky.
“This is unprecedented.”
Trump lashed out at Pelosi once again on Twitter, asking why she and other Democrats would leave the country “on a seven day excursion when 800,000 great people are not getting paid.”
And then his re-election campaign team released a tongue-in-cheek shutdown-related campaign fundraising request.
For a contribution of $20.20, a reference to the next election year, the campaign told supporters it would send a fake red brick to Pelosi and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — to build a wall.