May 16, 2012: Greece is on its way to economic collapse and a prolonged period of poverty and miniscule defense budgets. Since the May 6, Greek national election failed to give a single party control of parliament, the leaders of the major Greek political parties have tried to form a coalition government. New Democracy (conservatives), Syriza (acronym for Coalition of the Radical Left/Unitary Social Movement), and then PASOK (Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement, Greek socialist party) each tried to organize a parliamentary coalition and failed. If the party leaders do not organize a working coalition by May 17, new elections will be held in June.
This week Syriza’s leaders declared that they will refuse to participate in any government that imposes austerity measures. This may be a negotiating tactic, to see what the other parties will offer in last ditch coalition negotiations, but the smart money (what little there is in Greece) says that Syriza really wants a new election. Greek politics, frankly, are in flux, but so far the flux has only produced political paralysis. Syriza’s No-Austerity leaders are betting that the angry Greek electorate will give them more votes in a new election and end the paralysis. Austerity? Forget about it. When it comes to breaking the euro-zone France and Germany will balk. The Syriza-istas point to the recent election of a French socialist president who claimed (at least during the election) that he did not favor harsh austerity measures.
New Democracy and PASOK want Greece to remain in the euro-zone and think the Germans mean what they say about no more loans unless Greece lives within its means. Some PASOK supporters, however, also object to austerity budgets. Conservative factions who see austerity as an affront to Greek nationalism have split from New Democracy (eg, ANEL, Independent Greeks). Syriza believes it can attract enough of these anti-austerity voters in a June electoral do-over.
The policy differences between the No-Austerity and the Honest-Money politicians (these names describe the basic divide), however, remain large. Any coalition cobbled together before a new election will be fragile. The fact is, a June election could also produce an inconclusive result. (Austin Bay)
May 14, 2012: Cyprus’ president has decided to not run for re-election. President Demetris Christofias said that the failure to break the deadlocked Cypriot reunification talks has taken its toll on him. When he ran for president in 2008, he promised he would only serve one term if he failed to find a solution to the island’s division. Christofias has actually advanced the discussions. Greek and Turkish Cypriots both support reunification. However, they have failed to agree on major issues, such as compensation for lost property.
May 11, 2012: The Turks criticized the Syrian government for continuing its armed assaults on its citizens in violation of the UN-Arab League ceasefire agreement (the so-called Annan plan pieced together by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan). The Turks continue to publicly discuss invoking Article 5 of the NATO treaty (which commits NATO to defending a member that has been attacked) if Syrian forces fire into Turkish territory or attacks on Turkey are launched from Syrian territory.
May 10, 2012: The Albanian parliament has agreed (with 127 of 140 votes) to help the EU investigate claims that Kosovar Albanian fighters in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) sold human organs taken from captured ethnic Serb civilians and some Serbian soldiers during the 1999, Kosovo War. The EU's Special Investigative Task Force (SITF) will conduct an independent investigation in Albanian territory.
May 8, 2012: Bosnia is once again trying to demarcate the boundary between the Bosnian Federation (Bosniaks and Croats) and the Republika Srpska (Bosnian Serb statelet). The term for the process is inter-entity demarcation. The driving force is that people are getting fed up with dual taxation (some properties are taxed by both entities) and conflicting local regulations. That noted, this process was supposed to have begun in 1996, and been settled shortly thereafter. International arbitration has settled some boundary conflicts but neither side wants to concede any territory or perceived rights.
May 7, 2012: Former Turkish chief of staff (military commander) General Ilker Basbug has protested the inclusion of his Ergenekon trial with those of other defendants. Basbug is refusing to appear in the court room. The government claims Basbug authorized websites that ran anti-government propaganda. Basbug contends the charges against him are spurious.
May 6, 2012: Greek national elections revealed just how fractured and fragmented the nation is politically. New Democracy won almost 19 percent of the vote (108 sets of 300 in parliament). Syriza finished second with 16.8 percent (a big surprise) which translates into 52 seats. PASOK finished third with 13.2 percent and 41 seats. PASOK had 160 seats after the last election. ANEL (Independent Greeks, which calls itself populist nationalist) got 10.6 percent and 33 seats. The Greek Communist Party (KKE) got 8.5 percent and 26 seats. Golden Dawn (XA), which is a neo-fascist party (some call it neo-Nazi), won almost seven percent and will have 21 seats in parliament. New Democracy and PASOK favor the EU’s austerity measures and budget reform. Syriza, the Communists, Golden Dawn, and ANEL reject austerity.
Turkey’s leaders openly say they believe Syrian rebels against the regime of dictator Bashir al-Assad will eventually win.
May 5, 2012: The president of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) statelet (or entity) claimed that diplomatic talks between Bosnia and Turkey constituted foreign interference in Bosnia’s internal affairs.
Bulgaria condemned Macedonian nationalists for attempting to assault Bulgaria’s ambassador to Macedonia. The Bulgarian ambassador was participating in a ceremony honoring Bulgarian revolutionary hero Gotze Delchev (187-1903). Delchev is buried in Skopje, the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. A mob tried to disrupt the ceremony. Bulgaria blamed the disruption on Macedonian ultra-nationalists
May 4, 2012: Serb police arrested eight people in southern Serbia in an area near the Kosovo border. Five of those arrested were identified as ethnic Albanians accused of war crimes. One was held on suspicion of possessing illegal weapons.
May 3, 2012: The Romanian government declared that Moldova should not be viewed as a buffer state separating Russia and NATO. Romanian diplomats intend to treat Moldova as the frontier of the European Union.
Do they or don’t they? A senior member of the Turkey’s largest opposition party claimed that Turkey is arming rebel groups that are fighting the Syrian dictatorship.
May 2, 2012: Security forces manning Turkish border posts reported that several firefights between pro-Assad security forces and rebels have occurred near the Syria-Turkey border. In one incident a group of 14 Syrian military defectors fought a gun battle with pro-regime forces just across the border from the town of Oncupinar (Kilis province).
May 1, 2012: Macedonian police arrested 20 radical Muslim activists suspected of being involved in the murder of five Macedonians. The murders were committed in early April near a lake outside of Skopje.
April 30, 3012: Turkey announced that Turkey’s national oil consortium (Turkish Petroleum Corporation) will conduct oil and gas exploration activities in six new offshore blocks near the island of Cyprus. The government of Cyprus condemned Turkey’s decision and said the exploration operations would violate Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) rights. Turkey is already drilling one well off the northern Cypriot coast (Turkish Cypriot statelet).
April 27, 2012: The Romanian government collapsed after a no confidence vote. The government took power two months ago after anti-austerity demonstrations. Foreign lenders (including the IMF) said that it would review all upcoming loans, pending the formation of a new government.
April 25, 2012: NATO reinforced its Kosovo peacekeeping contingent after Serbia indicated that it might attempt to disrupt upcoming elections. Recently, 250 German soldiers arrived at the airport in Pristina, Kosovo. Another 500 are scheduled to arrive within a week.
April 23, 2012: Macedonia has asked the United States to support its attempt to join NATO. Greece continues to block Macedonia’s NATO ascension process because Greece says Macedonian cannot call itself Macedonia. Greece insists Macedonia call itself the FYROM, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
April 20, 2012: Greek political groups that oppose austerity measures are claiming that France and Germany have linked arms sales to new loans.
April 19, 2012: Turkish police arrested retired Major General Erol Ozkasnak on charges that he helped engineer the overthrow of Turkey’s government in 1997.
April 17, 2012: A group calling itself the Army for the Liberation of Occupied Albanian Lands (ALOAL), said that its cadres would begin launching attacks in Macedonia on Slavo-Macedonian military and police posts unless Slavo-Macedonians began withdrawing from occupied Albanian territory.
April 14, 2012: Macedonian security officials said that they were pursuing several leads in the murder of five Macedonians killed near a lake outside of Skopje. Four of the victims were young Macedonian Slav men. The fifth victim was a middle-aged man from a nearby village. The victims were discovered April 12. All of the victims were shot and killed execution style (point blank range). Macedonian political leaders said that the murders had heightened tension between ethnic Slavs and Albanians in the country.