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Polish and Greek claims to Berlin exceed one trillion euros

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The issue of paying compensation to European countries, which fell victim to the Nazi aggression, is gradually becoming one of the gravest on the EU agenda. The compensation issue is high on the agenda of Polish and Greek politicians, including the presidents of Poland and Greece. Although these countries do not openly reveal their hostile feelings towards Germany, it is clear that the current differences within the European Union have been triggered by the idea of collecting hundreds of billions of euros in “underpaid” reparations. The attempt on the part of the leadership of these countries to charge the “underpaid” funds to Germany is clearly intended to win over Polish and Greek people, who put the blame for all their troubles on Germany.

Such accusations are not groundless. Since 2014 it is Germany that has played a key role in the “European troika” (European Central Bank, European Commission and the IMF), which restricted Greece’s budgetary spending on social welfare, explaining such moves by the need to maintain a normal balance of payments in Greece. In Poland, the Law and Justice Party, as well as a significant numbert of the media, are expressing discontent over threats from the European Commission supported by Germany to begin the procedure of imposing sanctions on Poland under Article 7 of the European Union Treaty for attempting to change the composition of the country’s Supreme Court. Such sanctions are so far not fraught with economic pressure on Poland from the EU, but in the near future could deprive Warsaw of the right to vote in the European Council. The European Council (not to be confused with the Council of Europe) is an important body that passes decisions on pan-European policy that directly affects the well-being of citizens of Poland.

The German government refuses to take Poland and Greece’s “reparation” claims seriously. The question that arise is to what extent these claims hinge on the law and to what extent they are the result of emotional reaction to the truly horrific losses and destructions inflicted by the Wehrmacht and other security structures of Nazi Germany? The Polish president, Andrzej Duda, who recently delivered a most vivid speech on this topic, has not yet provided any legal grounds to justify Polish claims to Germany regarding the damage caused to Poland during the war. Meanwhile, the Polish side is claiming significant sums: the PAP agency reports citing a document of the Polish Sejm that landed at the disposal of journalists that Poland has a reason to demand $ 48.8 billion in reparations from Germany. According to the Hamburg magazine Der Spiegel, if you follow the logic of  calculations by “experts” of the Law and Justice Party, Polish claims can grow to 840 billion euros.

As he spoke on the issue of reparations, President Duda, known for his blunt statements against Russia, did not go farther than giving an emotional recount of  well-known historical facts: “Reparation is not a closed issue,” said Duda in an interview with the newspaper Bild am Sonntag. – “A group of our experts is working on this in the Polish Parliament. Members of the Sejm will hold a debate to decide on our next moves. Let me remind you that Warsaw was razed to the ground. And research by our experts shows that we never received compensation for this. ”

Greece’s claims also amount to hundreds of billions. However,  Greek experts, unlike their Polish colleagues, have already presented detailed calculations to this effect. According to the EU-Observer, an Internet resource close to the E,uropean Commission, a group of Greek parliamentarians from different factions has prepared a report which requires Germany to pay 299 billion euros in compensation for several years of German occupation of the Greek territories.

Kostas Douzinas, a representative of the ruling Syriza Party, said in an interview with The Guardian: “This is an emotional issue that continues to trigger a strong public outcry in our country, and as representatives of the government, we are determined to bring it up for consideration.”  Mr Douzinas, who worked for many years as a law professor at Birkbeck (University of London), remarks that until recently Greece did not raise the issue of compensation because it had been under the EU’s “financial umbrella”, receiving, first of all, from Germany, substantial subsidies to clear its huge 178 billion dollar debt. Now, according to Dousinas, it’s time things got settled between Athens and Berlin and Greece has no intention of giving up on it.

In accordance with inquiries conducted by Greek MPs, Athens’ reparations claims consist of two parts. Firstly, they include the damage caused by German troops and authorities during the occupation of Greece by the Third Reich in 1941-1944. This damage is estimated at 288 billion euros. Secondly, Greece demands reparation for a “loan”, which Hitler literally knocked out of Greece in 1943, forcing the Greek State Bank into paying Germany 476 million Reich marks from the bank’s foreign exchange reserves. Greece estimates this damage at 11 billion euros. Thus, the total amount of Greece’s claims to Berlin is 299 billion euros. The Greek authorities chose not to charge compensation for human losses: the total number of Greek citizens who died of starvation and deprivation caused by the war is estimated at 400 thousand. A particularly emotional point is that Greece’s Jewish community was exterminated almost completely during the war.

The answer to Warsaw’s claims from the German lawyers also consists of several elements. Firstly, Berlin says that in 1953 the government of the pro-Soviet Polish People’s Republic (PPR), refused further reparation claims against Germany. Secondly, Berlin claims that Warsaw and Athens simply missed their chance. According to Germany, the last opportunity to raise this issue for Poland and Greece was in 1990, when negotiations were held on the formula “two plus four” on the reunification of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic. At that moment, Warsaw’s efforts were concentrated on preserving the border along the Oder and Neisse Rivers, while Greece hoped to improve its positions due to what turned out to be far from “golden” European integration. For these reasons, Warsaw and Athens did not utter a single word about their complaints at the time.

Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for the German government, said: “The federal government has no reason to doubt the legitimacy of Germany’s refusal to pay reparations to Poland in 1953.” But by claiming this the German leadership could fall into a trap they set up for themselves. The fact is that for many years after the Communists left Poland in 1989, the allies of the EU and Germany in Poland said that the regime in the Polish People’s Republic was “illegal “,” occupational”, that it did not meet the needs of the Polish people, etc. Such rhetoric came handy to deprive former leaders of the Polish People’s Republic, former representatives of the judicial and security structures of the Socialist period of pensions. (To defend themselves these people logically argued that they did not breach the laws of Poland, that judging a person on the basis of AFTER laws is illegal as the law has no back power.) Back then, Germany had nothing against such an interpretation of Poland’s post-war history – moreover, it strongly supported it, even though this interpretation was at odds with the “eastern policy” of Chancellor Willy Brandt of the early 1970s, which aimed at recognizing the established regimes in Poland and the GDR.

Now, not only Poland, but also Russia, could tell Berlin about the inconsistency of its position on the legality of Poland. As it turns out, Germany considers the PPR to be a legitimate entity when it finds it beneficial and refuses to do so whenever it has an opportunity to settle scores with opponents of the times of the Cold War.

But as life shows, lenders have a better memory than debtors. So, it looks like the most significant part of the talks on this thorny issue lies ahead.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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Europe

The Name of the Rose: De-evolution of Europe

Anis H. Bajrektarevic

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“He who does not wish to speak of capitalism should remain forever silent about Nazism” – Max Horkheimer famously said. It was a clear and often repeated line of this chief architect from the Frankfurt school of Philosophy – one of the most influential centres of thought in the XX century. This school of thought was tolerant and rather forgiving towards Western societies. Most importantly, the Frankfurters were for sure physically closest one to the post-WWII ideological and geopolitical default lines. 

Even the Heideggerian run-away, Herbert Marcuse agreed. His “repressive tolerance” was probably the best indication of the possible self-entrapment of the western society, if someone in future ever attempts a dangerous and a historical equitation between Nazism and anything else, least with Communism. Regrettably enough, that future of de-evolution started pouring in by 1990s:It was this very same notion which Umberto Eco will name ur-fascism in 1995, sensing cold winds from the eastern flank of the EU and highly cynical silence of tacit approval from the central Europe.

Silence of the La(m)bs

“No one governs innocently” is a legendary diagnosis of Simone de Beauvoir about a true (Machiavellian) nature of political conduct. However, Nazi culprit; the calmly programmed concentrations camps, ruthless invasions and unprecedented scale of all-Europe suffering does not fall under this category. And will never be. This colossal evil needs its own name, its own category and our clear immortal reference to it. 

Hence, the one who is not ready to talk about the imperialism of (primarily) Atlantic-Central Europe, colonialism, as well as about racism which usually justified the first two, should not talk about the ‘true’ European values. Or, for that matter, teach any lesson Europe’s East and Southeast.

Bottom line, before any contemplation for equitation, we should openly speak up about France in Algeria and Indochina, Italy in Libya and Eritrea, Dutch in Indonesia, Spain in Latin America (and home with Franco), Germany in Namibia and repeatedly all over Europe, Britain at so many places and at so many times, etc.

More than that, the only (i) organised and (ii) permanent resistance in Europe, occupied by Nazis,before and during the WWII was made by the communists. This irrefutable fact many to the EU’s East today perceive as inconvenient truth, which – by anti/intellectual acrobatics and central EU complicit silence– should be hidden under the carpet.

That antifascist struggle does not include Soviet Union and Yugoslavia only – two countries taking up by far the heaviest burden of pan-European resistance and liberation – but other patriotic movements as well; French, Greek, Italian and Spanish communists, too. Of course, the only two counties that solely freed themselves from Nazism without any external help were the two Eastern European, and at the same time two predominantly Slavic countries, Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.

So, the equitation of Communism with Nazism deeply insults all victims, but more over it negates very antifascist fundaments of modern Europe, while being at the same time deeply anti-Slavic. Clearly, negations of Nazi horrors – and any equitation is a beginning of such a historical and racist negation – committed in camps and elsewhere in occupied Europe, is not only anti-Semitic. It is first and most of all anti-Slavic!!

It isn’t freedom From. It’s freedom To

Sadly enough, most of the popular Atlantist literature and movies elaborating on topics of the WWII are biased and misleading on the role of the Red Army, and are generally disrespectful towards the enormous suffering of the Soviet and Yugoslav peoples at that time.

Some of the constantly implied fallacies is that the US and UK equally shared the burden of WWII with the Soviets. Even the British WWII ambassador in Moscow, Sir Stafford Cripps accused – in many cables he sent – his government of fatalistic defeatism, lack of bravery and of shirking any fight. As it happens, Stalin himself shouted at Churchill when the British PM went to Moscow to meet him in August 1942: “We’re losing 10,000 soldiers a day (1 per 8 seconds!!, rem.aut.)… Are you going to let us do all the fighting?”

Relative to the 1939 size of state territory and incumbent population within, the top WWII fatalities were suffered by Poland– 18%, the Soviet Union– 15%, Yugoslavia 12%, III Reich/Germany+Austria– 10%. For a sake of comparison, the Atlantic rim suffered as follows: France– 1,3%, UK–0,9%, the US– 0,3%. In casulties, it is: 36 millions to the East(mostly civilian), versus only 1,2 of the Atlantic Europe including the US soldiers.

Indeed, Russian and Yugoslav front – as only two fronts of permanently organized military resistance on the Continent – faced nearly 90% of the total German forces deployed in Europe. Promising to open the second, western front ever since 1941, the Anglo-American army eventually managed its landing on Sicily (oddly helped – out of his prison cell – by an Italian village Don turned the US mafia boss, Lucky Luciano) but only as late as September 1943.

By that time, Tito’s Partisans already managed most of their critical offensives, while Russians won over in the biggest and bloodiest battles of the WWII. All of them were fought on the very Soviet soil; that of Moscow, of Stalingrad, of Leningrad, and of Kursk – with the last one representing the biggest battle ever recorded in history of mankind.

Also indigenously, Italian anti-fascists – organized by progressive patriots and gathered in Garibaldi brigades – significantly knocked down the Duce’s rule in Italy.

Conversely, the Anglo-American blitzkrieg up the Italian ‘boot’ turned into a blamage. German forces quickly replaced capitulating Italy’s Fascists phalanges, and easily repelled the Allies. The Western combined army will reach Rome only in June 1944. Eventually, by the time of the Normandy invasion in summer 1944, the fate of Nazism in Europe was already decided by Eastern and Russophone Europe.

Trying to answer why the so-called Anglo-American antifascist intervention in Greece and Italy was so slow, anemic and late, many scholars argue that it was never meant to fight Nazis, but to disturb the strong indigenous leftist antifascist forces and to divert them to the desired ideological orientation and Atlantist geopolitical course.  

Finally,

The name of the Rose? Well, it is Red.

Sorry, but this is how it is. Eco just recorded echo.

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Europe

Republika Srpska preparing Brexit

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The precedence of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union naturally allows other European organizations and individual countries to contemplate the previously inconceivable exit option. While at the EU level there are no indications of any other member states planning to follow in London’s footsteps any time soon, in the Balkans, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which since the 1990s has been touted as a “window of international peacekeeping,” might by weighing a similar option. In an appeal to members of the republican parliament, Milorad Dodik, who sits on the collective Presidium of this former Yugoslav republic as a representative of the Serb-led entity in Bosnia, Republika Srpska (RS), called on his fellow citizens to prepare for secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina. He argued that the terms of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, which cemented the country’s current state system, had stopped being implemented.

Deliberately speaking in English, Milorad Dodik said: “Farewell to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Welcome exit!” He added that his call had been prompted by a a recent ruling by the Bosnian Constitutional Court, which rejected a regulation passed in Republika Srpska on farmland that used to belong to the Yugoslav state as unconstitutional.
The law, adopted late last year, declared such land as property of Republika Srpska, but the court ruled that the state of Bosnia was the owner.

“With its decision on farmland, the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina went too far,” Dodik said. Emphasizing that the Dayton peace accord “has ceased to be respected,” he accused the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina of trying to “destroy the Serbian identity of Republika Srpska.”

Earlier, Milorad Dodik said that Republika Srpska “has embarked on the course of leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina and this course is irreversible.” The first step in this direction was the Bosnian Serb representatives’ refusal to work in government at the republican level.

All this being said, there is still no reason to talk about any final decision having been made in Banja Luka to withdraw from Bosnia and Herzegovina as the Bosnian Serb leaders try to leave the doors open for a possible compromise. For example, the RS lawmakers decided to ask the central government in Sarajevo to reconsider the Constitutional Court’s decision and reshuffle its lineup (three out of nine of which happen to be foreigners).

Still, the eventual breakup of Bosnia and Herzegovina looks like a pretty real scenario, primarily due to the West’s stubborn wish to draw this former Yugoslav republic into the orbit of the Euro-Atlantic partnership, against the will and interests of many of its citizens, above all the Bosnian Serbs. As frankly admitted by Avangarda, a leading Sarajevo-based publication, “Bosnia and Herzegovina’s movement into NATO is not exclusively its internal affair. This is one of the priorities of US-British policy and most of the countries of the European Union, led by Germany. Therefore, the most powerful countries of our time, primarily the United States of America, are interested in bringing Bosnia and Herzegovina closer to NATO.”

“The political structures in Bosnia and Herzegovina who oppose this process will face [these powerful countries’] uncompromising pushback, and any attempt to prevent the country from joining NATO will be suppressed and punished,” the authors warn.

All this means that the Sarajevo authorities are capable of deliberately destabilizing the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina to provoke an internal conflict and urge the United States and the North Atlantic Alliance to intervene. This also means that the Bosnian Serbs may really have no other choice but to declare their self-determination and turn to other states for support – first of all, to Serbia.

From our partner International Affairs

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‘Westlessness’: Shaping Anew the EU’s Power

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The endurance of a political order cannot be permanently measured in the absence of any instrument, neither can it be substantially responded to at any given point and time. Similarly, the collapse of a system does not require any clear or prolonged warning. The world has experienced a relatively stable bi-polar system for several decades in the post-Cold War era, gradually replaced by the US dominated neoliberal post-Cold War era which is now being succeeded by a multi-polar world. This is accompanied with shifting alignments.

In the same vein, the debates at the 2020 Munich Security Conference (MSC) provided new insights into the shifts currently underway within the EU.In the most expansive sense of that term: ‘Westlessness’ reigned throughout the MSC despite the fact that it had played a vital role in world affairs after World War II. Earlier, marking the seventy fifth anniversary of the end of the World War II, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, President of Germany, warned that the erosion of international cooperation was evident in the US’s growing interest in Asia at the expense of its transatlantic relations. Will Europe come up more integrated in this shifted paradigm? How would a more sovereign Europe become a better partner to a more socially equal United States on global problems?  The technological giants have also disrupted major economies, societies, and political systems.

Historically, Germany as a core EU country has been the largest and most successful economy with a gdp of almost $4 trillion under Angela Merkel, since 2005. Germany sends the most members to the European Parliament. It has efficaciously maintained stability during the euro crisis,  the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014 and her open-door policy of 2015, in which over 1 million refugees were given shelter in Germany, was built on those premises. Germany provided an example of how to deal with a difficult past. However, using the legacy of the Holocaust, Germany has craftily absolved itself from the responsibility of security, defense, and leadership precisely. Will it continue to be the same in the post-Brexit paradigm? Steinmeier warned that, “if the European project fails, the lessons of German history will be called into question.”

Merkel’s Germany is already being criticized for not being able to provide international leadership. The objective of an integrated economic and political Europe is similarly unclear.  Merkel has also not been able to fend off criticism that Germany has failed to meet the NATO commitment to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, although it is already spending about 1.36 per cent of its GDP.

Within Germany, the ever-growing popularity of the far-right, anti-immigration, and anti-Semitic Alternative for Germany (AfD) has remained increasingly cumbersome for Angela Merkel. It is creating a leadership crisis for Germany.  On February 10, 2020, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, as Merkel’s designated successor has also resigned as a leader of the governing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. This leadership crisis has emerged at xenophobic times of nationalism and populism espoused with the state of anomie, in Europe. The strains in the transatlantic relations and the rise in China’s global role have afflicted this specter further afield.

Speaking pronouncedly, the French President Emmanuel Macron also talks about the need for a more integrated Europe by exercising responsibility for Europe’s future. “This united Europe will only survive if we regard it as the most concrete repository for German responsibility . . . of all the dangers I sense facing Germany, I see none greater than that our German narrative of the future dispenses with the united Europe, whether as a result of a lack of insight, because of indifference, or in some people’s eyes even through intent.”

The panacea lies in strengthening European security and defense policy as suggested by Steinmeier. He however, distinctively speculated that it would be opposed by the Central and Eastern Europeans. Besides, the fear is that Europe is no longer relevant for the US in great power competition. “Only a Europe that can and wants to protect itself credibly will be able to keep the U.S. in the alliance,” was a major concern of Steinmeier.

The French President Emmanuel Macron was yet another person at the MSC who supported and rejected the idea of subordination to America in its new role. He even suggested a smaller “core” group of EU nations moving towards a military union. Macron even raised the prospect of France helping this military union by sharing its own nuclear weapons. He suggested ending the dependence of several countries on the US nuclear umbrella and recommended to think in a European way as well. Macron even invited Germany for talks on the subject of nuclear weapons with France. The French leader had earlier asked Merkel for a financial and military contribution to a joint anti-‘jihadist regional force’ under the rubric of G5 Sahel made up of forces from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Already, the “Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy” presented by HR/VP Mogherini in June 2016, had laid down the foundations for a comprehensive package of measures in the areas of security and defence. It consists of three major pillars:

New political goals and ambitions for Europeans to take more responsibility for their own security and defence.

New financial tools to help Member States and the European defence industry to develop defence capabilities (“European Defence Action Plan”).

Set of concrete actions as a follow up to the EU-NATO Joint Declaration while identifying areas of cooperation.

Though, this siding of Macron with Germany by indicating the emergence of two blocs – the German led block vs the US led Britain, Australia and New Zealand bloc, shows an obvious lineage in global power trends. The objectives of the two are opposing while the NATO from which France benefitted the most, is almost obsolete for France. Similarly, the time of US-Europe cooperation against Russia also appears to be over.

Notwithstanding, apart from Macron’s closer alliance with Germany, he is also encouraging Europe’s oldest institution: the Roman Catholic Church. Would it mean the Resurrection of the Roman Empire and hence, the church states in the backdrop of rising Islamophobia? This certainly leads to several more questions.

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