Saturday, November 15, 2014

Golden Dawn MP cancels trip: Georgios Epitideios abandons Australian visit after visa application stalls

By the National Reporting Team's Dan Oakes Saturday 15 November 2014

General Georgios Epitideios

Related Story: Greek far-right group members to visit Australia

Map: Greece

A member of parliament for the ultra-right Greek political party Golden Dawn has cancelled his visit to Australia after his visa application was stalled.

The ABC revealed earlier this year Georgios Epitideios, a former army general, was coming to Australia to raise money and address supporters of the controversial Greek political party in Melbourne and Sydney.

"Pressure was applied to the Australian Government by a number of individuals, and it looks like that pressure has paid off," Golden Dawn's representative in Australia, Ignatius Gavrilidis, told the ABC this morning.

The proposed visit by General Epititdeios and another member of the European parliament had drawn sharp criticism from a range of sectors of society, including members of the Greek and Jewish communities.

Victorian state MP Nick Kotsiras said in August Golden Dawn had no place in Australia and was not representative of the broader Greek community.

Golden Dawn has been condemned in Europe for its anti-immigrant policies, violence against leftists and immigrants and use of Nazi imagery.

The party's leader and other members of parliament were arrested and charged last year with membership of a criminal organisation after a party member stabbed a left-wing activist to death outside an Athens cafe.

Mr Gavrilidis told the ABC Australian officials in Europe had not granted General Epitideios a visa in time for his visit to Australia, and the General had consequently cancelled his trip.

He said the officials had "asked the General to fill in different forms, apply for different visas" and that it was clear the process was being deliberately complicated.

"The General will be lodging a complaint with the Australian Government and with the European human rights body," Mr Gavrilidis said.

"The Zionists in Australia do fear Golden Dawn, the Greek community leaders have a lot of fear, but I don't know why.

"The General was coming here to inform Australians of Hellenic origin, and Australians generally, about the truth of what is occurring in Greece, but people sometimes fear the truth."

In an interview with the ABC in August, Mr Gavrilidis denied the party was Neo-Nazi, but said some members admired Adolf Hitler as a "strong leader", just as they admired Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu.

He said the party had considerable support among Greek Australians, particularly younger people, which was measured not by actual membership numbers but by popularity on social media.

Mr Gavrilidis said Golden Dawn in Australia shared the concerns of fellow far-right parties about Muslim immigration in particular.

Golden Dawn MP cancels trip: Georgios Epitideios abandons Australian visit after visa application stalls - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Greece, Cyprus to represent Egypt’s interests in EU

Daily News Egypt   November 8, 2014 

The three leaders discuss deepening cooperation in various fields

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi (C) shakes hands with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades (L) and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras following their trilateral meeting in Cairo on Saturday (Photo Egyptian Presidency handout / Mohamed Abdel Maaty)

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi (C) shakes hands with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades (L) and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras following their trilateral meeting in Cairo on Saturday (Photo Egyptian Presidency handout / Mohamed Abdel Maaty)

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi hosted Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades for a tripartite summit discussing ways of deepening cooperation.

Al-Sisi described the summit as marking a “new phase of trilateral cooperation, which began over a year ago”.

Both visiting leaders, whose countries are European Union (EU) members, said they would act as an “ambassador” for Egypt within the EU. Samaras expressed to Al-Sisi that he looks forward to further cooperation “in international forums, particularly in the framework of the EU, to explain Egyptian positions”.

Al-Sisi met with both Samaras and Anastasiades separately before the tripartite summit to discuss bilateral relations, in the presence of Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry, Industry and Foreign Trade Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, and Petroleum Minister Sherif Ismail, said a Saturday presidential statement.

Anastasiades and Al-Sisi discussed ways to deepen cooperation, especially in the field of natural gas. The pair explored “the possibility of using the infrastructure and the Egyptian industry eligible to receive gas”.

The gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean have seen Cyprus begin to pursue agreements on nautical boundaries with both Egypt and Israel. In the lead up to the summit the three nations called on Turkey to stop attempts to chart gas deposits in areas claimed by Cyprus.

Turkey does not recognise Cyprus as part of the island’s Greek-Turkish ethnic divide. Turkey has occupied the northern half of the island since 1974.

Cyprus has repeatedly complained to EU institutions about the ongoing Turkish presence on the island.

The maritime border around the Mediterranean island has also been a major point of contention between Cyprus and Turkey.

Anastasiades stressed that the cooperation between Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus is “not directed against” any nation in particular, and condemned “Turkish provocations” in the region, a topic the three leaders discussed during the summit.

Egypt’s relations with Turkey are also fragile, with both countries downgrading their diplomatic presence in each other’s capitals earlier this year. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been consistently critical of the Egyptian government since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

The meeting of the three head of states in Cairo also involved discussions of regional issues including the situation in Libya, which also has a lengthy Mediterranean coastline. Anastasiades and Samaras praised Egypt’s efforts to combat terrorism, and the Cypriot president stressed the “need for stability in Egypt to be able to address regional challenges, especially terrorism”.

Al-Sisi and Samaras focussed on economic cooperation, with Al-Sisi looking to Greece’s experience in tackling economic hardship. Al-Sisi invited Samaras to invest in Egypt and to participate in the economic conference scheduled for February 2015.


Greece, Cyprus to represent Egypt’s interests in EU - Daily News Egypt

86-Year-Old Serb Guards Over WWI Dead in Greece

By COSTAS KANTOURIS Associated Press

THESSALONIKI, Greece — November 8, 2014

Greece WWI Remembrance Personified

In this photo taken on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, cemetery keeper Djordje Mihailovic tends to graves at the Zeitenlik Allied War Cemetery in Thessaloniki, Greece. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father before him the 86-year old Mihailovic vows to stay for the rest of his days, tending to the graves of Serbia's casualties of World War I. Serbia, involved in the war from the very beginning, had an army of about 350,000 soldiers, of whom some 130,000 died, outnumbered as they fought off an Austro-Hungarian invasion for more than a year before Germany and neighbour Bulgaria joined the onslaught. (AP Photo/Nikolas Giakoumidis) The Associated Press

Stooped and unsteady, Djordje Mihailovic walks among rows of discoloured marble crosses of Serb soldiers slain a century ago in the horrors of World War I.

For over half a century, the 86-year-old has been a caretaker at Thessaloniki's Allied War Cemetery in northern Greece. In the centenary year of the start of World War I, Mihailovic is ever more the embodiment of remembrance as another Nov. 11 Armistice Day approaches.

"This is my family," he said of the remains beneath the rocky soil. "I know many of the names of the soldiers here and many of their stories."

"Now I tell them to their grandchildren and the great grandchildren," he said of the Serb visitors who make the pilgrimage to the site.

Mihailovic also has real family buried here: his grandfather, a World War I veteran who became the cemetery's first caretaker, and his father, who succeeded him. Mihailovic intends to work here until he dies, and then be buried here, too.

Low-flung weeds run across the pathways of Mihailovic's grounds, unlike some Western Front battlefields and cemeteries where many heads of state this year have walked the manicured lawns. It does not detract from their significance, especially for Serbs.

Serbia, involved in the war from the very beginning, had an army of about 350,000 soldiers, of whom some 130,000 died, outnumbered as they fought off an Austro-Hungarian invasion for more than a year before Germany and neighbour Bulgaria joined the onslaught.

"A third of the army was lost," said Mihailovic. "It's a story the world should know."

The region around Thessaloniki was a rallying point for Serbia's ravaged army, which endured a harrowing retreat to join Allied troops led by Britain and France in 1916.

"Every family had a victim," Mihailovic said, sitting at the entrance of a room filled with Orthodox Christian religious icons and dedications left by visitors.

The Mihailovic dynasty of caretakers started with grandfather Sava, who took the job at the cemetery when it was built on the site of a field hospital for the wounded. Djordje's father, Djuro, took over as caretaker until his death in 1960.

Mihailovic still lives in the house built for his family on the cemetery grounds. With his bushy eyebrows and grey moustache, Mihailovic wears assorted pieces of old army uniforms, including the distinctive Serbian double-point cap. He chain-smokes Drina Cigarettes, a brand that was popular among his forebears in the trenches.

"I wear the uniform so people can recognize me, because visitors don't always know where to go," he said. Among his uniforms there "are clothes from World War I which I wear to honour the soldiers."

Some 7,500 Serbs are buried in Thessaloniki, where sections are also reserved for the French, Italians, British and Russians who died there. Mihailovic is caretaker only for the Serb area.

Serb visitors typically get a tour of the grounds and a shot of fiery plum brandy from Mihailovic, whose role over the decades has shifted from listener and collector of stories to guide and raconteur.

Many are eager to listen to Mihailovic's stories of how soldiers traversed freezing Greek mountain passes to bypass enemy artillery, or how a shattered army survived a typhoid outbreak when it reached Greece and was taken to the island of Corfu. Many Serbian visitors to the island still refuse to eat fish there, out of respect to the thousands of soldiers buried at sea.

Mihailovic, who has two daughters, knows that his family tradition will die with him, and is training a younger apprentice appointed by Belgrade.

"That's the toughest thing for me to accept," he said. "I was born here, raised here. We played in the fields that once surrounded this place. We had our families here. I could stop and draw my pension," he said.

"But it's not a job, it's my life."

Associated Press

86-Year-Old Serb Guards Over WWI Dead in Greece - ABC News

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Elgin Marbles belong in Britain, Mrs Clooney

By Jeremy Paxman 25 October 2014

Had the ghastly Lord Elgin not plundered his works of art, they could have ended up in the footings of some Athens kebab stand

The Elgin Marbles at the British Museum...epa04450798 A visitor takes a photograph of a sculpture of 'The Parthenon Marbles' collection, also known as the 'Elgin Marbles', at the British Museum in London, Britain, 17 October 2014. Amal Alamuddin-Clooney and British lawyer Geoffrey Robertson arrived to Greece on 13 October for a four-day visit to meet government officials, and advise on Greece's quest to have the collection of classical Greek marble sculptures returned to Athens which had been removed from the Parthenon in the early 19th century by British ambassador  Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin.  EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

Part of the Elgin Marbles collection at the British Museum Photo: EPA

Mrs George Clooney has spoken. She expects the world to listen.

It is, she claims, “an injustice” that the British Museum has not sent the Elgin Marbles back to Greece. She is the latest in a long line of glamorous dressers – Melina Mercouri, Nana Mouskouri, Demis Roussos – to demand Britain surrender objects it owns.

Half the population of the world considers Mrs Clooney one of the luckiest women alive. She may not currently be in any danger of being whisked from dock-brief obscurity to the Supreme Court. But her bosses were canny enough to put up their most junior advocate as their spokesman, because they understood that she would garner a lot more column inches than they would. “Lawyer puts client’s case” is even less of a story than “cameramen film glamorous woman”.

So, earlier this month, while the snappers clicked, the Greek authorities took Mrs Clooney on a guided tour of the splendid new museum on which their country has lavished millions it does not have. It is, apparently, a terrific museum. Uniquely among museums, it is intended not just to show off what it possesses, but what it doesn’t possess. The most significant things that it does not possess are the Elgin Marbles – the beautiful classical statues by Phidias and his pupils that once adorned the Parthenon, were removed by an early 19th century British diplomat, and are now displayed in the British Museum.

Naturally – for she is being paid by the Greeks, after all – she told the press that they had, er, “just cause” for demanding that the statuary not in the museum should be returned to Athens.


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It’s an attractive argument. Arrogant British nob plunders works of art, “vandalising” the ruins of one of the most beautiful buildings in the world in the process, ships them abroad and then flogs them to the British Museum. It’s enough to make any patriot’s blood boil. As for the British position that Thomas Bruce, Lord Elgin, had bought the statues quite legally (they ended up in the British Museum when he sold them to try to avoid bankruptcy) – well, at the time, Greece was under Turkish occupation: the rulers of the day may have agreed the deal, but the Greek people didn’t.

But what would have happened to these sculptures had they stayed in Athens? After all, at the time Lord Elgin helped himself the Parthenon was being used as a fortress. Mary Beard’s excellent short history of the building tells us that for most of the 18th century, Athenians were in the habit of grinding down marble statues to produce lime and used parts of these great classical buildings as rubble for their foundations. Had the ghastly Lord Elgin not plundered his works of arts, they could have ended up in the footings of some kebab stand.

The modern argument is really political – a poor, put-upon Mediterranean culture is demanding restitution from a fading imperial power.

Though modern, independent Greece is a world away from ancient Athens, the country was once the home of Socrates, Plato, and other founders of western thought. Indeed, many a bewildered survivor of a chaotic, Greek-organised EU conference will tell you that a tenuous connection to this resonant philosophical culture must be the only reason the country ever got into the organisation.

We are told that the Parthenon is a celebration of democracy. Actually it was built as a temple to Athena and everyone conveniently forgets that the construction was only made possible by the wealth of the ancient Athenian empire, much of which was based on protection money.

In the following centuries it was used as both church and mosque and, in 1687, was serving as a Turkish gunpowder store when incoming Venetian cannon fire blew much of the place to pieces.

The political passions attached to the Parthenon are really the work not of Greeks but of Germans. On emerging from the Turkish yoke in 1833, Greece lighted upon the 17-year old son of King Ludwig of Bavaria as suitable human expression of its new-found independence. As King Otto, he and his German advisors tirelessly promoted the buildings on the Acropolis as the supreme expression of the Hellenic state. In scenes of mummery worthy of the producers of Strictly, Otto’s men anointed the Parthenon as the supreme emblem of their new country.

Who is to decide between this cause and the high-handedness of some clown who happened to have an ancestor who was once congenial to a British monarch? Earlier this year, one of Mrs Clooney’s allies – an American academic – claimed that “the Elgin Marbles, like fox-hunting, represent an overbearing past,” that Britain is growing out of. Perhaps so, but who is to say what might be the view when another 200 years have passed?

Surely, one hears Mrs Clooney argue, it is incontestable that it is nobler to reunite the broken creations of antiquity? Yet that is not what the Greeks are demanding. They call instead for the sculptures to be sent to Athens not to be restored to their place on the Acropolis – that would indeed be reunification – but to be displayed in a museum there rather than in London.

It’s a point of view. Maybe the Benin Bronzes really would perform a greater missionary function if they were on show in Nigeria than in London, Berlin, New York and elsewhere. After all, these Western exhibitions predate air travel.

But if we were to take the restitution argument at face value, the Venus de Milo – also removed from Greece during the Ottoman empire – would certainly have to leave the Louvre. The V&A would be packing up Tipu’s Tiger for shipment to Delhi. The magnificent Assyrian galleries at the British Museum would be on their way to Baghdad. And what on earth should happen to the great altar removed from the temple at Pergamon to Berlin? Pergamon is in Turkey, but was once part of imperial Greece, imperial Rome, imperial Persia and imperial Byzantium.

An adult understanding of history recognises that things always change and that all actions are the product of their time. Actually, I think Mrs Clooney’s suggestion of some sort of agreed swap, in which the British Museum lends the Elgin Marbles to Greece and Athens lends some of its classical treasures to London, is rather elegant. It is surely preferable to the absurd international Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce, which is the alternative. Negotiations on which works of art were of comparable significance would anyway provide her firm with years of employment.

Of course, it wouldn’t satisfy those who argue that no artefact should ever leave the land of its birth. But then, by that formulation, we’d be digging George Clooney out of his new home in the Thames Valley and sending him back to Kentucky.

The Elgin Marbles belong in Britain, Mrs Clooney - Telegraph

Amal Clooney: Greece has just cause to claim return of Elgin Marbles

Nick Squires

By Nick Squires, Athens 15 October 2014

Amal Clooney, the British lawyer who married George Clooney, says the British Museum should be embarrassed about how the friezes have been split between London and Athens

Blame it on an unfortunate choice of footwear, or a late running schedule, or the media circus that shadowed her every move.

Whatever the reason, Amal Clooney cancelled a visit to the Parthenon on Wednesday, on the third and final day of her mission to champion Greece's demand that the friezes which once adorned the 2,500 year old temple be relinquished by the British Museum and returned to Athens.

According to her official schedule, the British lawyer was to have climbed up to the Parthenon, which was built on top of the Acropolis in the fifth century BC in honour of the goddess Athena, at 4pm local time, after a press conference at the Acropolis Museum.

Mrs Clooney turned up to the museum impeccably dressed in a cream cropped jacket and pencil skirt by Chanel.

She was in high heels, prompting speculation among the Greek press that later she perhaps gazed at the dusty, rock strewn path leading up the steep flanks of the citadel and thought better of attempting the climb. The prospect of being trailed by dozens of photographers, cameramen and reporters under a hot autumn sun probably did not appeal very much either.

She had, at least, seen the friezes, known in Britain as the Elgin Marbles, during a guided tour of the ultra modern Acropolis Museum led by its director and Greece's culture minister.

Mrs Clooney said Greece has "just cause" in its fight to reclaim the Elgin Marbles from Britain, blaming the "intransigence" of the UK in the decades-long stand-off over the priceless 2,500-year-old sculptures.

Speaking in the shadow of the Parthenon, where Lord Elgin removed the sculptures 200 years ago, the British lawyer wryly acknowledged the intervention of her new husband, George Clooney, in the seemingly intractable dispute.

Read more: Stolen treasures – art and artefacts that are wanted back

He spoke out earlier this year in favour of the marbles returning to Athens while promoting his film, The Monuments Men, about a team of American art experts dragooned into recovering art stolen by the Nazis in the Second World War.

"I hope that even at this very early stage of the marriage, I’m wise enough to know that it’s up to my husband to decide which causes he chooses to support," she said with a smile, insisting that she would not be enlisting the support of the Hollywood actor in the legal brief she will compile for the Greek government.

Mrs Clooney arrives at the Acropolis Museum (Rex Features)

Mrs Clooney spoke out after being shown the top-floor gallery of the Acropolis Museum where Greece displays the 40 per cent of the friezes that it retained after Lord Elgin, a British diplomat, took the remaining 60 per cent in the early 1800s.

The museum, unveiled in 2009, sits directly opposite the ancient citadel of the Acropolis, which is topped by the Parthenon, the temple dedicated to the goddess Athena.

"The Greek government has just cause and it’s time for the British Museum to recognise that and return the marbles to Greece. The injustice has persisted for too long," she said.

Mrs Clooney has been greeted with the sort of fanfare normally reserved for Hollywood stars like her husband since landing in Athens. On Wednesday she was mobbed by around 100 cameramen, photographers and reporters when she arrived at the Acropolis Museum, wearing a cream cropped jacket and pencil skirt by Chanel.

But she looked every inch the international lawyer when she arrived at the press conference.

With a pair of earphones clamped to her head to provide translation of Greek into English, she sat behind a long desk with a heavy black ring-binder file open in front of her, diligently taking notes whenever Greece’s culture minister spoke.

She and Geoffrey Robertson QC, her boss at London’s Doughty St Chambers, were first asked by the Greeks for advice on the contentious issue in 2011.

Mrs Clooney during her visit (Rex Features)

"It is sad to note that today, three years later, one of the most beautiful pieces of art in the world has still not been reunited for everyone to behold," said Mrs Clooney.

"The Greek government has the right to ask for the return of the marbles, 200 years after they were taken to the United Kingdom."

The fact that individual friezes had been split between London and Athens should be a source of embarrassment to the British Museum.

She cited the example of the figure of a horseman, "whose head is in Athens while his body is in London."

Earlier Mrs Clooney, along with Mr Robertson and David Hill, a British-born businessman from Australia who is the head of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, had a meeting with Antonis Samaras, the prime minister.

"Greece is not alone in this campaign," said Mr Hill, a former chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"Greece has many friends. We will not stop until the marbles are back here, where they belong. This is a noble and just cause. Opinion polls in Britain have shown that an overwhelming majority of people are in favour of their return."

Unesco, the cultural arm of the UN, asked the British government to enter mediation on the issue in 2013, but the UK has so far failed to respond.

The deadline for the Unesco request is next March, after which the Greek government may commence legal proceedings against the British government and the British Museum.

"The British Museum has said they will never give back the marbles, so the next step would be to go to an international court," such as the International Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights, said Mr Robertson.

He said Athens provided the cultural context for the Parthenon friezes and that those held in the British Museum, whose trustees he described as "philistines", were poorly displayed.

"They’re under bright lights, lit up as if they were corpses in a mortuary. Only 40 per cent are under the blue skies of Athens, where they can best be appreciated."

He wore a tie with an Aboriginal dot painting design – a nod to his success in 2007 in getting the Natural History Museum to return indigenous artefacts and remains to Australia.

He had a few choice words for Lord Elgin, who was serving as Britain’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire when he ordered the removal of the sculptures from the Parthenon.

"He was a bankrupt. He used his diplomatic position to get a license to take the marbles and to profit personally by selling them to the British Museum. If he did that today, he would be in prison," he said.

Supporters of Lord Elgin have argued that he was just trying to safeguard the friezes, at a time when parts of the Parthenon were being carved off and burned to produce lime by ordinary Athenians.

The British Museum declined to comment to The Telegraph, but reiterated its long-standing position that the sculptures are "a part of the world’s shared heritage and transcend political boundaries."

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "The Parthenon Sculptures are the legal property of the British Museum. They were not stolen. When Lord Elgin removed them from the Parthenon, he was acting under a licence issued by the Ottoman authorities – the legal government of the day.

"British law prevents national museums from breaking up and disposing of their collections. "Successive governments have believed that this is right in principle, and there are absolutely no plans to change the law in this respect.

"That said, the British Museum would consider any request for any part of the collection to be borrowed and returned, provided the borrowing institution acknowledges the British Museum’s ownership."

Mrs Clooney’s high-profile involvement in the dispute has endeared her deeply to Greeks, who see the return of the sculptures as a matter of national pride.

Journalists publicly thanked her for her visit and a teenage boy presented her with a bouquet of yellow roses when she arrived at the Acropolis Museum.

"It’s a big issue here. It’s part of our heritage," said Photis Kostamis, 55, a businessman strolling in central Athens. "With the economic crisis, when pensioners are struggling to survive and unemployment is so high, having the marbles back would lift the spirits of the Greeks."

Amal Clooney: Greece has just cause to claim return of Elgin Marbles - Telegraph