WILL GREECE BE FIRST IN EUROPE TO JOIN THE BRICS ?

re-posted from EIR Feb 6, 2015

Will Greece Be First in Europe
To Join the BRICS?
by Dean Andromidas

Feb. 2—The Greek people gave Syriza and the Independent
Greeks an overwhelming mandate in the July
25 elections to say “ochi” (“no”) to their foreign oppressors.
The performance of the new government, led
by these two parties, in its first week in office, demonstrates
that it is fulfilling expectations—much to the
consternation of the Euro-fanatics bent on saving their
dying financial system.
This is not a “coalition” government, patched together
to implement the wrong policies. This is a government of
“national salvation” that is not intimidated by bankers in
three-piece suits, the pale-faced European Commission
bureaucrats, including EC president Jean-Claude Juncker,
or the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, let
alone the silly Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem,
who chairs the Eurogroup of finance ministers,
who claim to be the “partners” of Greece, but in reality, are
in the thrall of the hopelessly bankrupt European banks.
Just as important as this government’s gutsy defiance
against the financial imperialists, is the real possibility
that Greece could become the first European
country to join the BRICS. If Greece’s European “partners”
attempt to carry out the threats they have made,
Greece—despite its determination to convince them
that it is in the interest of all of Europe to cut Greece’s
debt in the context of a “New Deal-style” policy—has
the ability to turn to new allies: Russia, China, and the
emerging new economic order being created by the
BRICS and allied countries.

The new government, headed by Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras, has already declared, loud and clear, that the bailout debt of over EU246 billion, or 180% of the country’s
rapidly shrinking gross domestic product, cannot,
and will not, be paid. As for the infamous “memorandum”
of the Troika (European Commission, European
Central Bank, IMF) and its brutal austerity and so-called
“structural reforms,” which have left Greece suffering
in a humanitarian catastrophe, it is now history. The
government immediately began implementing its program
of reversing the most brutal of measures.
Just as important, the Tsipras government has reiterated
its proposal for a European Debt Conference modeled
on that which led to the German Debt Agreement
of 1953, which cut Germany’s pre-war foreign debt by
more than half, and stipulated that payments could
come only from surplus revenues from returns on exports.
(1) Further, the government is calling for a “New
Deal” for Europe, with credits going to infrastructure
and other projects to relaunch the European economy.
In fact, both Syriza and Independent Greeks support
Glass-Steagall-type legislation to separate commercial
and investment banking, which has to be implemented
if Europe is to be saved.

(1.) See Dean Andromidas and Paul Gallagher, “A Greek Proposal: Convene
a European Debt Conference for 2015,” EIR, Jan. 23, 2015

The Greeks Say No
Even before his first cabinet meeting, Prime Minister
Tsipras issued an unequivocal “no” to an attempt by
the Euro-fanatics to bulldoze ahead with new sanctions on Russia. When EU president Donald Tusk of Poland,claiming to speak for all 28 member-nations, threatened Russia with new sanctions over Ukraine, Tsipras issued a statement declaring, “We underline that it does not have our country’s consent.” And indeed,when the EU foreign ministers met the next day (Jan.29) to deliberate on new sanctions, Greece reportedly rallied other countries, including Austria, Italy, and Hungary, to block them, although the old regime of sanctions was extended until September.

The second “no” came on Jan. 30, when Dijsselbloem,
president of the Eurogroup, arrived in Athens to
read the riot act to Prime Minister Tsipras and Finance
Minister Yanis Varoufakis, demanding that they stick to
the poisonous memorandum, and to “the [austerity]
agreements.” The meeting lasted less than 30 minutes.
In the press conference that followed, the silly Dutchman
said a debt cut was impossible, and pooh-poohed
the idea of a European debt conference, claiming that
his Eurogroup was the only venue for talks, and repeated
the mantra that Greece must keep to its “commitments.”

Varoufakis then announced that Greece will only
speak directly to the legitimate institutions of the EU,
and the IMF. As for the EU7 billion tranche of the bailout
Greece was supposed to receive only after it implemented
all of the new conditions, Varoufakis rejected
that as well. He added, referring to the new government’s
policy of breaking with the Troika, “This
platform enabled us to win the confidence of the
Greek people. Our first action as a government
will not be to reject the rationale of questioning this
program through a request to extend it,” and that it
would not accept a “self- fed crisis” of deflation and
non-viable debt. This resounding “no”
to the “arrogant Dutchman”pleased Greece’s
cultural and political patriarch, world-famous composer
and resistance fighter Mikis Theodorakis, who,
after five years of witnessing the Greek people turned
into “second-class citizens” in Europe, likened the outcome
of the meeting to a “miracle,” declaring in a statement
posted on his website:

“Two representatives of these second-class people,
Tsipras and Varoufakis, with a rare calm and coolness,
presented him [Dijsselbloem] with two luminous, yet
kind ‘no’s’ that angered him to the point of forgetting
his role as a ‘European nobleman’—prompting him to
storm away looking for the fastest exit.
“It is at this point that all is forgotten. We once again
become beautiful Greeks. We stand taller. How and
why it happened, and where it will lead, are details for
the Greeks who have lived and survived with symbolism.
And I consider it cowardly to focus on trivialities
in a moment of national pride.”

Ripping up the Memorandum
The government is now ripping up the memorandum—
but make no mistake, this is not a government of
naive radicals. A look at the new cabinet finds a group
of men and woman with the strong convictions, determination,
and capabilities to carry out a policy that will
regain the country’s sovereignty and reverse the catastrophe
its “European partners” have inflicted on it.
Reportedly, the number two in the government is
Deputy Prime Minister Yanis Dragasakis, who, as overall
coordinator of economic policy, will also oversee
negotiations with the EU. He is a former leader of the Communist Party and a longtime leader of Syriza. As a student, he resisted the military dictatorship that ruled Greece between 1967 and 1974.

The outspoken Finance Minister Varoufakis was a
professor of economics, and has taught at the University
of Athens, and at universities in England and Australia,
and more recently, at the University of Texas in
Austin. He is a supporter of Glass-Steagall-type legislation,
a policy which is included in the Syriza program.
He sees infrastructure development, especially railways,
as crucial for a Greek economic recovery.
The first announcement of the Minister of Productive
Reconstruction, Environment, and Energy, Panagiotis
Lafazanis, was the cancellation of the privatization
of the state energy companies, electricity, gas, and petroleum,
to the great dismay of the Troika. He expressed
Greece’s support for Russia’s proposal for a new gas
pipeline through Turkey, which will then pass through
Greece. This new pipeline would replace Russia’s proposal
for a South Stream pipeline through Bulgaria, and
thence to Central Europe, which the European Union
killed. The new pipeline could make Greece an “energy
hub,” leading to Italy to the west, and the Balkans and
Central Europe to the northAs a student, Lafazanis was imprisoned by the military
dictatorship for organizing anti-junta student
strikes at the university. It is said that he is not intimidated
by threats that Greece will be thrown out of the
Eurozone.
Minister of Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping, and
Tourism, George Stathakis, and his undersecretary for
Shipping and the Aegean, Thodoris Dritsas, announced
the cancellation of the privatization of the Pireaus Port
Authority. The move has no effect on agreements with
the Chinese State Cosco shipping company, which
holds a 30-year lease on one of the port’s container terminals.
In fact, both ministers met with China’s Ambassador
to Greece, Zou Xiaoli, and made it clear that China’s
interest in the port will not only be protected, but
expanded. Over the last three years, China has made
Piraeus its number one port of entry for its exports to
Central and Eastern Europe, and is engaged in a second
expansion project at a cost of EU250 million.
Another senior member of Syriza, Giorgos Stathakis
has a PhD from the University of Newcastle, England,
and has been a research fellow at New York University
and Harvard. He is an expert on the Marshall
Plan.
In another reversal of policy, Undersecretary of Administrative
Reform and Electronic Government,
George Katrougalos announced the rehiring of civil
servants whose dismissals were ruled unconstitutional
by the Constitutional Court. A professor of constitutional
law, with degrees from the University of Athens
and the Sorbonne, and a human rights lawyer, he is also
an expert on institution-building, having worked on
projects in Slovakia, Uzbekistan, Syria, and other countries.
Although relatively new to Syriza, he was the party’s
representative at the European Parliament.
The new Minister of Health and Social Insurance is
Panagiotis Kourouplis, whose task will be to rebuild
Greece’s health-care system, which was all but destroyed
by the Troika, and to restore health care to the
hundreds of thousands of Greeks who have been thrown
out of the system. One of the most respected political
figures in the country, Kourouplis, who is blind, has
been a fighter for the rights of the disabled since his
days as a student in the School of the Blind. He holds a
PhD in sociology and is an attorney.
He is joined by his Deputy Minister Andreas Xanthos,
who served many years as a medical doctor in the
National Health system. An expert on health-care systems,
he has participated since 2008 in a community
clinic offering services for the thousands who have no
access to private or public health care.

Will Greece Join the BRICS?
The Greek government will be implementing a
“multi-dimensional” foreign policy in which the BRICS
are expected to play a leading role.
Shortly after the election, Tsipris paid a visit to the
Russian Embassy, thus making Russian Ambassador
Andrey M. Maslov the first foreign envoy to have met
him. The visit prompted a congratulatory message to
the prime minister from Russian President Vladimir
Putin, who expressed his “confidence that Russia and
Greece will continue to develop their traditionally constructive
cooperation in all areas, and will work together
effectively in resolving current European and
world problems.”
Later in the week, Russian Finance Minister Anton
Siluanov told CNBC that if Greece made a formal proposal
for a loan, Russia would certainly consider it.
Tsipras and other leaders of his party have denounced
the “Nazi coup” in Ukraine, and the sanctions
imposed on Russia. Last year, he paid a visit to Russia
where he met political leaders in Moscow.
In congratulating Syriza on its election victory, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said: “The Chinese side expresses its congratulations.
China and Greece enjoy a long-standing friendship,
with the two peoples closely attached to each other. The
Chinese side highly values relations with Greece and
hopes to work together with the new Greek government
to deepen exchanges and cooperation in various areas
and keep advancing the comprehensive strategic partnership
of China and Greece. . . .”
It would be hard to find anyone in the cabinet who
has any reservations about expanding relations with
China, Russia, or the other BRICS nations—Brazil,
India, and South Africa. For example, Defense Minister
Panos Kammenos, leader and founder of the Independent
Greeks, addressed the Schiller Institute conference
on “The New Silk Road and China’s Lunar Program”
held in Frankfurt, Germany last October, where he laid
out his party’s perspective of developing relations with
China and Russia (see EIR, Nov. 7, 2014).
Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias is an expert on the
BRICS, a former professor of foreign policy at the
University of Piraeus, where he was instrumental in
developing programs on China, Russia, and the
BRICS. In an interview given last September to the
China and Greece website (http://chinaandgreece.com/), he said he teaches the course Society and Foreign Policy of China because “China, the fastest growing economy inthe world, is the most important one. . . .Moreover, the Chinese civilization has almost a brotherly likeness with the Greek one. Greece invented democracy and China invented the organized state. The people of both countries have important traditions, as well as common elements in their ancient civilizations, and the philosophical and ethical questions they asked themselves approximately 2,500-3,000 years ago. . . .”

He continued, “The role of China in the world is crucial. China is a great economic
and cultural power, which seeks to achieve its harmonious development. It is important
to mention that although China had controlled culturally inferior states, it
never created colonies in the Western way. . . . Moreover, China understands the
requirements of the multipolar world, it pays attention to respective balances,
avoids interference in other countries, and respects all players of the international system.. . .”
Greece, Kotzias said, “can become the bridge between
China and the EU.”

The Financial Times Jan. 31 reported that the head
of the China Pacific Construction Group (CPCG), the
company that is constructing the Nicaragua Inter-Oceanic
Grand Canal, announced CPCG’s intention to
invest in infrastructure in Greece and other countries of
the Balkans.
Yan Jiehe, founder of CPCG, told the Financial
Times, “I will soon go to eastern Europe; FYROM
[Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia], Albania,
and Greece. I want to invest in infrastructure there and
intend to buy construction companies.”
Greece has managed to establish a beachhead
against the financial oligarchy in Europe. It must do
whatever is necessary to regain its sovereignty and to
roll back the catastrophe inflicted on it by the Troika
and the Eurogroup. The big question is whether the rest
of Europe and the United States will rise up in a similar
manner against the financial oligarchy that is driving
the world to war and devastation, force the implementation
of Glass-Steagall, establish a Hamiltonian credit
system, and join the BRICS.

re-posted from Executive Intelligence Review  6 Feb 2015