Τετάρτη, 2 Δεκεμβρίου 2015

Justine Frangouli-Argyris’ Latest Novels Travel to New York !!!!

The renowned author of the North American Greek Diaspora,
Justine Frangouli-Argyris, presents her latest novels, “High Heels Foreverand Barefoot on the Sand

on Friday, December 18, 2015, from 6-8 p.m. at the Stathakion Cultural Center of New York.

The event will be held under the auspices of the Hellenic Press Office of New York with the generous support of the Lefkadian Association of New York.

The works will be introduced by journalist Dimitris Filippides and publisher Demetrios Rhobotis , while the author will be presented by publisher/philanthropist Margo Catsimatides.

Excerpts from the books will be performed by the Greek-American actor, Anthoula Katsimatides.

The Greek Press Officer, Athanasia Papatriantafyllou, will chair the panel.

A cocktail reception will follow during which the author will sign her books.



Friday, 18 Dec. 2015,  6-8 p.m

Hellenic Societies of Greater New York at:

22-51 29th St, Astoria, NY, 11105. Phone: (718) 204-6500


Biographical note:


Justine Frangouli-Argyris was born on the Greek island of Lefkada where she completed her primary and secondary education. A graduate of the University of Athens Law School’s Political Science department, Frangouli-Argyris has been a contributor to daily newspapers, radio, television and magazines in Greece and North America since 1983.


She is a member of the Union of Journalists of Athens Daily Newspapers (ESIEA), UNEQ (l’Union des Ecrivaines et Ecrivains Quebequois) and the Quebec Writers’ Federation (QWF).


Justine Frangouli-Argyris has been living and working in Montreal, Canada since 1989 as a correspondent for the Athens News Agency (ANA). During the same period, she also collaborated with local Greek-Canadian and American radio stations and publications.

She is an author of numerous best-selling works of fiction and biographies and is currently a Huffington Post blogger.


Τρίτη, 1 Δεκεμβρίου 2015

Andrianos Maris: Leader and Dreamer!!!

Justine Frangouli-Argyris
Huffington Post

One of the greatest leaders of the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal, Andrianos Maris, passed away a few days ago. He is the man who changed the root of the community's history, extending its reach and its activities beyond the borders of Montreal island proper. He left behind a great legacy, one that placed the Greek Community of Montreal on another level.

Andrianos Maris was born in 1925 and died closely after having celebrated his 90th birthday. He completed his elementary schooling in Andros, in 1937, graduated from high school in Athens in 1944 and went on to study business at Pittman's College, in England. Between 1947 and 1952, Maris worked for a shipping company based in London and Piraeus.

He subsequently emigrated to Canada, arriving in Montreal in February of 1952. In December of that same year, he joined with other post-war Greek immigrants in establishing a Greek library on Mansfield Street, in the heart of downtown Montreal.

It was precisely at this time, when the "pre-war" generation of Montreal's Greek immigrants were reluctant to accept any recent "newcomers" into their Agia Triada Community, that Andrianos' success in organizing the Mansfield library resulted in its members being incorporated into the official Greek Community of Montreal shortly afterwards.

In 1955, Andrianos Maris married Mary Campanis, in Athens, who bore him two boys, Nikos, in 1956, and George, in 1958. In 1962, he encountered the respected Archbishop, Athenagoras, to whom he expressed his concerns about the situation and uncertain future of the Greek schools in Montreal. His official involvement in community matters began in 1967 when he became a member of the College of Governors of the Greek Community of Montreal.

In 1980, he was elected president where, a short while later, he was able to realize a big dream by commencing construction on the modern and imposing community centre of the Hellenic Community of Montreal, and this, in the face of much adversity and the persistent negativism of many members.
In 1985, he brought about the much desired union of two local Greek Communities, those of Montreal and South Shore, and laid the groundwork for the construction of South Shore's community center, the church of St. John and another community school, Socrates IV.

In 1986, the famous actress and Greek Minister of Culture, Melina Merkouri, officially inaugurated Montreal's community centre. Immediately following, the Greek Community of Montreal would become a multi-task organization, housing facilities, trilingual schools, churches, institutions and social services, going on to be widely recognized as a model organization of Hellenism in the Diaspora.

I first met Andrianos Maris in 1988, even prior to my settling permanently in Montreal. I admired him for his passion and organizational skills and his great dreams about Hellenism.

Andrianos Maris will be remembered because he conceived the dream of uniting the pre-war and post-war generation of Greek immigrants under one entity, the Hellenic Community of Montreal. The creation of the Library on Mansfield in 1952 made him the first man to pierce the status quo, enabling the joining of all of Montreal's Greeks under one common umbrella.
He closely co-operated with the then head priest of St. George's Cathedral, who is, today, Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto, to promote the smooth and advantageous transition of the "Socrates" Greek elementary schools from the province's English School Board to the French School Board, enabling an agreement to be signed to this end by the President of the Hellenic Community at the time, Demetrius Manolakos.

It can be said that Andrianos Maris had his glamorous and his difficult moments as president of the Hellenic Community over the span of twelve years (1980-1992). Along the way, he made thousands of friends as well as a handful of enemies. However, he will go down in history as a dreamer, a leader of Hellenism abroad and a protector and preserver of the Greek language and culture in the new lands of the Diaspora.

He was the initiator of the "big dream" of bringing together all the communities of Greater Montreal (Montreal, the South Shore, Laval), stirring both feelings of enthusiasm as well as animosity amongst the Greeks of the city.

Andrianos Maris was a model leader, a passionate man with regards to the survival of Hellenism. Our frequent discussions, in recent years when I would visit him at home, consistently revolved around a key theme: "Will we succeed, as Greeks, in injecting our spirit into the future generations? Will our children speak our language? Will they learn about the glamorous history of Greece in depth?"

I would enjoy my coffee over endless conversations with Andrianos and his wife, Mary, who was the pillar of his existence, his steadfast rock, until his final days. Mary adored her husband. She believed in him and supported him, enduring endless hours of his absence when he was immersed in community matters. She became, in effect, the mother of the whole Greek community.
Andrianos Maris was a landmark of the Greek Community of Montreal and my personal idol, given his Helleno-centric ideas.

In the end, his body may have weakened and ceased to beat, but his spirit will forever soar above the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal. He is, and will remain, a point of reference for the post-war generation of Montreal's Greek immigrants.

May his memory be everlasting!!!
Photo courtesy of the Hellenic Congress of Quebec

Τρίτη, 17 Νοεμβρίου 2015

We are not Fearful. We are not Hateful. We are Free!

Justine Frangouli-Argyris

Walking the streets of Paris last year, after the murderous attack on the offices,I had the feeling that fear had descended like a cloud, blanketing the "city of light." The hundreds of police cars roaming the streets and the numerous blockades everywhere signified the terror felt by all Parisians. In the cinemas, detectives searched handbags while the air wafting around the Seine smelled of gunpowder. My son would head home early from work, as would his friends. 

 Sadly, Paris was well aware that another attack was taking shape, somewhere in the hollows of some deprived Muslim neighborhood.  As such, the authorities were supposedly hard at work, stepping up their checks and counter-checks on persons known to have contacts with any nefarious Islamic organization.

 The attack on the French train last summer which those brave American soldiers were able to derail given their familiarity with the fight against terror, averted another tragedy. Undaunted, the "Islamofascists" were preparing a new, more sophisticated attack with its plotters freely commuting between Paris and Brussels without anyone so much as batting an eye.

 Until this past Friday the 13th when they simultaneously hit numerous sites around the capital. At the Stade de France where President Hollande was in attendance, in the restaurant, at the bar and in the Bataclan concert hall, the terrorists struck with precision, in suicide bomber fashion, replete with explosives strapped to their bodies. The count currently stands at 129 dead, a result of the extremist religious fury of young Islamists, "heroes" of their own delusions.

 Today, Europe is, once again, stained in blood while, at the same time, thousands of boatloads of Syrians continue landing on Greece's shores without any control of note while, to no one's surprise, it was ascertained that one of the Parisian assassins had crossed into the continent < via the Aegean island of Leros.

 With Turkish traffickers guiding them westward without any regard as to who may be on board, only for what profits are to be had, it is a simple task for any terrorist to hide among the migrants. And, of course, the Greek government, saddled with the tribulations of its debt crisis, is unable to stand up to its European lenders who insist on quickly settling < 50,000 refugees in the country.

 As a Canadian citizen, on the other hand, I am troubled by the insistence of our newly elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, to make good on his promise of bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to this country by year's end. The timeframe for such an undertaking is very short in order to perform the requisite background checks of those seeking political asylum. The authorities, who normally take years to award temporary residence permits, should not view the issue on political or humanitarian terms alone.

Even before last week's tragic events, the Canadian public was clamoring for a thorough investigation of all refuge claimants to the country.  For, as we have seen, there is no room for error as even the smallest oversight can result in the spilling of innocent blood, even in this socially progressive and peaceful bastion in North America.

 As such, I will continue my relentless criticism of this massive, political and uncontrolled, invasion of refugees to Europe and America. Compassion for the migrants is undertsandable but one must weigh the risks involved.

 In any event, I must confess that I  do not fear the Islamofascists, nor will I hate them. However, I have a profound regret that the west continues to turn a blind eye to the spreading of the snake's nest in its midst with the naive immigration policies and minimal safeguards it has adopted over the years. I am saddened that Islam continues to be used by many elements, radical or not, as a homicidal religion thousands of years after its origin.

 Make no mistake. These terrorist attacks are not the result of simple religious fanaticism but, rather, a deeply-rooted hatred by Islamic extremists against the prosperity and progress of the western world. And this hatred often becomes a symbol among young migrants in their host countries. And this hatred often leads to a dance of death!

 It's time to put it bluntly. The Hydra must be beheaded, now! With weapons and war, we must make a Hercules out of Europe! We will no longer tolerate living under the threat of the ISIS.

We are not afraid. We do not hate. We are free!

Τετάρτη, 4 Νοεμβρίου 2015

Sunny Days in Ottawa!


This is the letter I received last night from our new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.
I am sharing it with you for the strong feelings of hope  it bears . I like the father-husband touch and yet the strong commitment of Justin Trudeau for a brighter future here in Canada! I like the title of his new tenure as head of this country: SUNNY DAYS!
Justine, as I write to you, evening is falling outside our new home, Rideau Cottage, on the grounds of Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
A few minutes from now, Sophie and I will put Xavier and Ella-Grace to bed (Hadrien is already fast asleep), but before I go, I want to share a few thoughts with you, to mark this moment.
Tomorrow, we take the next step in our journey together. I will be sworn in by the Governor General, and become Canada's 23rd prime minister. And I will announce the team of extraordinary Canadians who will serve as ministers in your new government.
This is all thanks to your support, and the support of millions of Canadians like you. Thank you.
On October 19, Canadians spoke loudly and clearly, that they want a government that will bring real change – in both the things that it does, and the way that it does them.
Our platform promised a new, ambitious plan for a strong and growing middle class. And you rightly expect us to fulfill that promise.
Which is why I am going to spend the next four years working harder than ever to deliver on what we promised.
Before the election, I also made a personal commitment to bring new leadership and a new tone to Ottawa. Sunny ways.
The new Canadian government will work together with our allies, with our provincial, municipal, and territorial partners so we can deliver the real, positive change that we promised you.
And we’ve already started. I just last week extended an invitation to provincial premiers, and opposition leaders to join me in Paris as part of the Canadian delegation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference at the end of this month.
Because being engaged on the international stage is important. It is critical for creating economic growth, good-paying jobs for the middle class, and prosperity for all Canadians. To that end – in addition to the climate change conference in Paris – I have confirmed that I will attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Turkey, the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in the Philippines and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta.
But we’ll also be getting straight to work at home: The first bill introduced by our government will be a tax cut for the middle class so we can get started right away growing our economy, strengthening our middle class, and helping those working hard to join it.
I am deeply grateful to have this opportunity to serve you – and every Canadian across our great country. I am committed to leading an open, honest government that is accountable to Canadians, lives up to the highest ethical standards, brings our country together, and applies the utmost care and prudence in the handling of public funds.
Thank you for putting your trust in me, and our team. We will not let you down.
Justin Trudeau
Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister-designate

Τετάρτη, 2 Σεπτεμβρίου 2015

Chronicle of a Death Foretold!

Justine Frangouli-Argyris
The legitimate grievances and protests of the stranded passengers of SkyGreece, the recently established, Greek-based air carrier, on the social and other media of Canada and Greece causes me deep sadness and much disappointment.

Sadness because SkyGreece failed in its efforts to establish itself as the national carrier of the Greek Diaspora in North America and in such a short period of time and even though it had even begun to even draw passengers from the Balkan countries surrounding Greece.

Frustration because the company that seems to have ceased operations as a result of financial difficulties was not able to rise to the occasion and meet its obligation to some 1,000 passengers who were left without any means of coming back to Canada. Indeed, the return of the last individuals back home would have closed, in a most dignified manner, the company's debt to its traveling public and reinforced its much ballyhooed reputation for good service, and this, through the most difficult of times.

SkyGreece began as a promising startup back in 2012 when the company’s investors acquired their first airplane. Both the Hellenic name and the Greek flag on its tail instilled a proud feeling amongst the Greek Diaspora which had been clamoring for the start of a new carrier to cover the gap left over by the demise of Greece’s national carrier, Olympic Airways.

The predominant role played by its CEO, the well-known and respected Fr. Nicholas Alexandris, in the company’s public relations was paramount in ensuring good faith as to the sincerity of SkyGreece’s intentions.

Personally, knowing some of the Greek-Canadian investors who had a solid track record of success in the tourism industry for years, I felt that, surely, the time was ripe for this Greek-centered investment to flourish.

When SkyGreece inaugurated its routes in the spring of 2015, I was convinced that the operation was on sound footing and that a positive outlook of its future development was a given. As such, on my journey to Greece this past June, I opted for SkyGreece in order to experience, firsthand, everything that had to do with the quality of the nascent airline’s services.

The trip to and from Athens was excellent. The pilots, mostly former captains of Olympic Airways, commanded the plane with deft smoothness, showcasing their exceptional flying abilities.  The flight crew was young, always smiling and ever so quick to provide excellent service. Although not an aficionado of airline fare, the menu, developed around Greek recipes, more than met all my expectations.

Suddenly, last June, very shortly after SkyGreece had begun to solidify its reputation and fill its planes, the closure of Greece’s banks as a result of the country’s prolonged negotiations with its lenders began to quickly asphyxiate the newly established company.  With its registry in Greece and, as a result, access to its funds limited and with overseas bills to pay, the end quickly approached.

Greece’s capital controls resulted in the company being late in remitting payment for its landing rights at Canadian airports and led to the eventual immobilization of the company’s single airplane at Toronto’s Pearson airport. Regardless, the company’s main shareholder, Ken Stathakis, insists that SkyGreece has not gone into bankruptcy and, that, despite its difficulties, will survive.

As a Greek-Canadian journalist, I sincerely wish that SkyGreece resumes operations by managing to overcome the obstacles of its current state of affairs and begins anew as a more stable organization.

I believe that the significant sums invested in securing the company's itineraries should not go to waste but must be exploited to the benefit of all Greek expatriates and, in turn, the Greek tourism industry at large.

I, who has witnessed the shuttering of other major air carriers plying the non-stop route to Greece every summer, confess that SkyGreece, albeit during its brief period of operation excelled and, this, under intense pressure from a slew of competitors. Undoubtedly, the capital controls along with the instability of Greece’s economy and the political uncertainty surrounding the country did not help the promising company.

Regardless, I am hopeful that the carrier is able to compensate its weary passengers and learn from its missteps. I, for one, hereby declare that I will reboard SkyGreece once again next year should operations resume!

Πέμπτη, 11 Ιουνίου 2015

Across the Atlantic “à la Grecque” With SkyGreece!

Justine Frangouli-Argyris

A new airline, funded by Greek-Canadian entrepreneurs and proudly bearing the name “SkyGreece,” was inaugurated in May with the aim of servicing the transatlantic route connecting Athens to the Canadian metropolises of Toronto and Montréal.  As of June 19th, SkyGreece will be adding the city of New York to its destinations, with the initial flight to be launched in the presence of the Greek Deputy Minister for Tourism, Elena Kountoura.

 With the Greek flag adorning the tail of its aircraft, “Taxiarhis,” SkyGreece causes waves of emotion whenever it lands at Toronto’s “Pearson” and Montreal’s “Trudeau” airport as Canada’s expatriate Greeks openly display their excitement that a Greek carrier has come along to solidify their ties with the homeland.

The administration of SkyGreece has presented their ambitious plans for the new airline which aims to link the diaspora of North America with Greece. Thoroughly Greek in their approach, SkyGreece’s direct flights enable passengers to indulge in Greece’s famous hospitality, sampling tasty Greek cuisine and enjoying a variety of Greek music. Furthermore, pamphlets with tourist information about Greece are available inside the aircraft with the goal of informing and promoting Greek tourism at large.

The launch of the flights have come none too soon, filling a deep void that has existed since 2009 when Olympic Airways ceased transatlantic operations. "We were the only ones who came from North America to invest in Greece.  If the outcome is successful, it will be seen as a pilot project for potential investors,” stressed SkyGreece’s chairman, Fr. Nicholas Alexandris, recently.

It is no coincidence that SkyGreece selected former Olympic Airways pilots to anchor its team. It was on September 29, 2009 when Captain Basil Dorizas landed an Olympic A340 Airbus at Athens’ Eleftherios Venizelos airport, marking the airline’s last flight from Canada. On May 17, 2014 Dorizas joined SkyGreece, wanting to contribute to the development of a new Greek air carrier whose planes bear the Greek flag.

"Greeks in Canada, where I have lived for the last thirty years, were left out once Olympic Airways severed the umbilical cord between Canada and Greece," says Father Alexandris.

 For the time being and to no one’s surprise, Father Alexandris bases his expectations for the success of SkyGreece on the large Greek expat communities in New York, Montreal and Toronto that were suddenly left wanting when Olympic suspended service.

 Greece’s Deputy Tourism Minister, Elena Kountouras, has expressed her government’s support for SkyGreece Airlines, noting that it is a worthy project that aims to connect Greek expatriates with their Motherland. Ms. Kountouras also did not fail to mention that the Greek flag adorning SkyGreece’s fleet is a picture that evokes emotion.

The airline is based in Markopoulo, outside Athens, and was founded in 2012 by Greek-Canadian expatriates. Today, it boasts offices in New York, Montreal and Toronto and has a total of 150 employees, 100 of whom are based in Greece. This is not simply another airline, but, rather, a company that hopes to add to the development of Greek tourism and create more jobs in the sector.

SkyGreece is launching a route between Toronto, Budapest and Thessaloniki in order to serve the expatriates from northern Greece, while at the same time filling a gap in the Hungarian airline industry that does not provide a direct connection with Toronto.

 The immediate plans are to inaugurate another flight linking Toronto with Zagreb (via Athens) in order to embrace the growing tourist destinations of the Dalmatian Coast in conjunction with those of Greece.

 The company wants to become a protagonist in the airline industry by unlocking “new” markets, offering competitive pricing and growing its network with the addition of flights to Chicago, Boston and South Africa as well as other European cities beyond 2016. As administration officials stressed, the initial capital invested is in the range of 45 million dollars and expectations are for profitability to be attained within two years.

 Ticket prices range from $850, including all taxes, with passengers having the added luxury of bringing along two suitcases (each weighing 20 kg) at no additional cost.

 Foremost, SkyGreece’s flights are manned by senior pilots with years of transatlantic experience, the majority of whom worked for Olympic Airways. Captain Dorizas, SkyGreece’s director of flight operations, explained that the measures undertaken by the company concerning the issue of security are much more stringent than those required by existing regulations, one aspect being that SkyGreece’s cockpits have two pilots along with a co-pilot instead of the usual pilot/co-pilot requirement.

 SkyGreece has been approved by the major licensing agencies of EASA, the CTA and the FAA, ensuring flight licenses in Europe, Canada and the United States respectively.

Κυριακή, 8 Μαρτίου 2015

Justine Frangouli-Argyris interview: Real-life story behind ‘High Heels for Six’

Justine Frangouli-Argyris details the strong influence that feminism has had on emigration and the questions raised by the meta-feminist era, all wrapped up in a gripping tale


Greek-Canadian journalist Justine Frangouli-Argyris knows how to weave a story, entwining it with the fabric that lets readers leap over cultural walls and embrace different experiences. Her meta-feminist novel “High Heels for Six” is no exception as it chronicles the friendship of six schoolgirls reunited after twenty years of separation. The novel is semi-autobiographical, drawing from her own memories of a tragedy that saw one of her friends and her mother leave the island of Lefkada.

The book traces the links between the two, binding their development with the ropes of tradition and the restraints of a desirable pair of high heels. Here’s what the Huffington Post blogger and prolific author told Proto Thema about meta-feminism on the occasion of International Women’s Day (March 8). (Scroll down for a sample).

Which real-life tragedy is the book inspired by?
“The book is inspired by the tragic suicide of the father of one of our schoolmates from Lefkada. We woke up one morning to the the news that Telemachus Papaminas (not his real name but the one used in the book) had stabbed himself in the bathtub. He was found drowned in a pool of blood by his young and only daughter. Our island was plunged into a ‘redness’ of the blood of this great man, our memories stained forever. Immediately afterwards, our classmate and her mother left the island.”
How much of your own personal story as a Greek woman living in Canada is depicted in the book?
“My personal experience as a Greek woman who emigrated to Canada is described in the novel through the evolution of Julia’s story. All my novels are set in an experiential canvas because, for me, a novel is the “literaturization” of real life.”
What is the difference between a Greek, a Canadian and a Greek-Canadian woman?
“The Greek woman rests firmly on her feet, she is openhearted, hospitable and spontaneous. The Canadian woman’s character depends on whether her origin is English or French.  The Anglo-Canadian woman is hardworking, detached and somewhat distant. The Franco-Canadian is warmer and more generous but tends to keep to her own family. The Greek-Canadian woman has been defined by her efforts of trying to belong to the Canadian society but she finds herself in a defensive position as she is trying to be a part of both the Canadian and Greek social fabric simultaneously.”
Have you known real friendship as described in the novel and how close are you to the women you write about?
“I was blessed to grow up on the small island of Lefkada where I was able to make close friends from school in my early childhood. With these friends, I still walk, side by side, in both joyous and difficult moments. I must say, that in the course of my professional life, I met other girlfriends whom I also hold close to my heart today. My immigration to Canada made me appreciate the value of friendship and people. After my family, my girlfriends are the greatest investment in my life.”
How do you think that twentieth-century feminism has failed to liberate women’s desires?
“Feminism was a highly aggressive movement that gave many conquests to women but left them unprotected in the new era. I think that feminism has brought partial equality to women but without the backing of a psychological and social support net. So, now, the contemporary woman is trapped in a reality that has filled her life with obligation, not liberation. The traditional standards of marriage, children and family have remained constant but the modern woman now has the added responsibilities and extra hours of work.”
The book is billed as a “meta-feminist” novel and yet it is also about migration. How is feminism filtered through the theme of migration?
“The book is a post-feminist novel from the point of view that women are now trapped in this reality. They feel that since they have gained a place in the work force and in society they must also become beautiful objects of desire by way of the cosmetic and fashion industries.
Feminism for the Greek immigrant woman had a very strong influence on migration as she came from the villages of Greece where she was isolated in the historical role of wife and mother to an industrial society where she opened up to the many work opportunities.”
How have you experienced the themes of feminism and migration in your own life as a Greek-Canadian?
“Feminism in Montreal’s Greek community never took on the form of a movement. Equality at work came as a natural evolution of life in a new place that she came to in order to strive for a better life. Many women in the Greek communities in Canada are strong feminist models given their achievements in both the professional and social spaces.”
One last question, just to enlighten me. What’s the difference between post-feminism and meta-feminism?
“I will answer you by quoting Wikipedia:
Post-feminism is a reaction against some perceived contradictions and absences of second-wave feminism. The term post-feminism is ill-defined and is used in inconsistent ways. It was historically used to pose a contrast with a prevailing or preceding feminism.
Meta-feminism is the era in which women have become the equal of men in the historically masculine field of sexual opportunism.
So, meta-feminism is even beyond post-feminism in the sense that women not only feel liberated and desirable but engage in sex by male rules.”
About Justine Frangoulis-Argyri
Justine Frangouli-Argyris was born on the Greek island of Lefkada and graduated from the University of Athens Law School’s Political Science Department. A member of the Journalists’ Union of the Athens Daily Newspapers (ESIEA) she has worked for major radio stations in Greece as well as Greek state television. Since 1989 she has been living and working in Montreal, Canada, and is a correspondent for the Athens News Agency (ANA) and a series of major newspapers. In Canada, she is active in the local Greek-Canadian community and also contributes to various publications. Her weekly articles about Canada and Greece are enjoyed by Huffington Post readers.
Other books:
The Lonely Path of Integrity (Exandas Publishers, Athens 2002)
Shopping Around the World: Unbeatable Bargains and Bite-Sized Stories (Ellinika Grammata, 2004)
The Legacy (Ellinika Grammata, 2005)
High Heels for Six (2006, also on Amazon Kindle since 2013, reprinted by Armos Publications in 2013)
Havana Diaries (2008)
For the Love of Others (Psichogios 2009)
Love in the Fog (Psichogios, 2011)
Pol and Lara are traveling (Children’s book, Psichogios, 2011)
To visit her blog CLICK HERE

Τετάρτη, 4 Μαρτίου 2015

Greece and the myth of Sisyphus

Justine Frangouli-Argyris


Since 2010, Greece has been living the tragic myth of Sisyphus, the king in Greek mythology who tried to outsmart the Gods and was punished for his trickery by being forced to eternally roll a huge stone up a hill, only to watch it roll back down every time he would approach the top.

The martyrdom of Sisyphus is all the more tragic because, although he is conscious of his plight, he continues to believe that he will achieve success on his next attempt, only to experience the pain of defeat over and over again.

This is exactly what has transpired in Greece throughout its never-ending debt crisis. For, every one of Greece's four different administrations since 2010 believed that it could free the country from the constraints of the so-called loan “memoranda,” only to be forced to return to the clutches of its lenders more tightly shackled each and every time.

Let us look back to the beginning of the bailouts in order to fully comprehend the situation. In mid-2010, the debt-laden country enlisted the help of the “troika,” the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank, which formulated a joint aid mechanism for Greece. The funding from the support program was provided under the condition that Greece implement various fiscal adjustment measures and, in particular, that it would undertake concrete fiscal consolidation.

Regardless, the Greek economy was never able to attain these targets, continuing to operate in a state of financial imbalance. As such, in June of the following year, the government was forced to adopt a medium-term program that included savagely harsh austerity measures and salary cuts.

A second memorandum, replete with further urgent provisions for public debt reduction and steps to rescue the national economy, was passed on February 13, 2012 while subsequent lengthy negotiations with the troika led to further hardship with the adoption of a medium-term framework for fiscal strategy in November of 2012.

Finally, at long last, in January of 2014, the country produced a primary budget surplus and there was optimism for the future. In the spring of 2014, Greece was able to return to the financial markets and borrow money at respectable interest rates, prompting Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to proudly proclaim that, by year's end, the nation would be able to exit the hated memoranda.

Surprisingly, however, seeing tepid support for his country's efforts by its European counterparts, Samaras would proceed to call a snap Parliamentary Presidential election that would in turn lead to national elections that would bring the radical leftist Syriza party to power. In the meantime, given the unsettling uncertainty, the country's banks would see their cash stockpiles slowly but surely depleted, mimicking the effects of an informal bank-run.

The elections were determined to be the key factor that caused a shortfall of some 2 billion euros in state revenues in the 2014 budget, as was admitted by Greece's new Deputy Finance Minister, Dimitris Sotiropoulos. Adding this amount to the 11 billion euros required by Greece by June, 2015 in order to meet its various obligations such as loan payments, salaries, pensions and purchases, it is evident that the funding gap is far beyond the capacity of the current Greek economy.

Also, from the beginning of March until the end of April, the country has external commitments totalling some 9 billion euros, 1,7 billion due to the IMF and 7 billion to cover maturing T-bills. On top of which, the finance ministry must deal with the cash deficit caused by the aforementioned gap in tax collections.

Internally, March is already predicted to be a difficult month fiscally as revenues will barely reach 3.2 billion euros compared to the 5.2 billion in projected expenses. A deficit is also predicted for April as the country expects to collect 3.5 billion euros while it must spend 4.32 billion. Thus, over the next two months, the operating deficit will climb to between 4 and 4.5 billion euros, an unsustainable situation given the circumstances.

Sadly, Greece, a country that was primed to emerge from its rigid bailout regime, looks destined to suffer the cruelty of a third memorandum which is expected to be agreed upon with its European partners in four months. Even sadder is that the interim agreement the new Syriza-ANEL government recently signed with the Eurogroup clearly dictates that no money will flow to Greece until the country meets all its prior obligations and continues to show a primary budget surplus. Conversely, as seen, a sharply rising deficit is being registered, month by month.

The Greek people, with their heroic sacrifices, managed to move the boulder of Sisyphus to the top of the mountain, only to have it fall back again. And the torment of the country, like the tragic Greek hero, drags on and on, without any light or hope on the horizon.



Τρίτη, 24 Φεβρουαρίου 2015

Freedom of Speech and Torture: The Badawi Case

Raef Badawi: Sentenced to Flogging for Insulting Islam
By Laurence Cromp-Lapierre *
In 2014, thirty-one-year-old Raef Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison, a fine of one million royals (230.000 euros), and a thousand lashes spread over a twenty week period for insulting Islam. This sentence has created controversy all around the world, as it appears incomprehensible that, nowadays, such a harsh, cruel and inhumane punishment can still be imposed. In the wake of the Paris Charlie Hebdo’s killings, Badawi received the first 50 lashes on January 9, 2015 before a large crowd gathered in front of a Jeddah mosque. Further lashings were postponed because of a medical exemption due to Badawi’s poor health.
Badawi, a Saudi Arabian writer and activist, created the secularist Free Saudi Liberals website. Through this public forum of discussion he promoted secularism, derided the absurdities of the Saudi religious authorities and called for open debate regarding the interpretation of Islam. In 2012, he was arrested for having insulted Islam through electronic channels and having showed disobedience. He was officially charged with "setting up a website that undermines general security," "ridiculing Islamic religious figures," and "going beyond the realm of obedience". He was also brought to court for apostasy, which carried an automatic death penalty, but this charge was fortunately thrown out after Badawi guaranteed that he was of the Muslim faith.
The flogging generated a scale of international protests. Indeed, the international community was outraged by the barbarity of the trial, the sentence and the punishment itself. Amnesty International, which has launched an online petition calling for Badawi’s release, characterized him as a prisoner of conscience, "detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression." Moreover, Human Rights Watch, a non-governmental organization, declared that "the charges against him, based solely to Badawi's involvement in setting up a website for peaceful discussion about religion and religious figures, violate his right to freedom of expression." Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Said Boumedouha also stressed that "The flogging of Raif Badawi is a vicious act of cruelty which is prohibited under international law. By ignoring international calls to cancel the flogging, Saudi Arabia’s authorities have demonstrated an abhorrent disregard for the most basic human rights principles."
a)      Freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right
The right to freedom of expression is a fundamental right protected by several legal provisions both on national and international levels. For instance, section 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: [e]veryone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an international treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, provides clarifications on what the right of freedom encompasses: “this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.   
flogging, Saudi Arabia’s authorities have demonstrated an abhorrent disregard for the most basic human rights principles."
b) Right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Furthermore, under both national and international laws, one should not be subject to torture. Numerous countries have adopted legal provisions to forbid the use of cruel, inhumane, or degrading punishment in any circumstances. Torture is also prohibited under international law. For instance, article 5 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment is also codified in major international and regional human rights treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the European Convention on Human Rights (1950), the American Convention on Human Rights (1978), and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (1981). Moreover, in 1984, the United Nations adopted the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. As Philip Luther of Amnesty International has noted, "Flogging Raif Badawi was an unspeakably cruel and shocking act by the Saudi Arabian authorities. The practice violates the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment under international law and should not be carried out under any circumstances; to do so repeatedly is likely to heighten the torment and suffering, both mental and physical, caused to the victim."
As long as the court verdict and sentence remain in force, Badawi remains at risk of receiving the rest of his 950 lashings. Badawi’s condemnation depicts the worldwide struggle for free speech and demonstrates the lack of enforcement of the international prohibition against torture. One can only hope that the international protests and widespread criticism will force the Saudi Arabian authorities to halt this barbaric punishment and release Badawi. 
Laurence Cromp-Lapierre was born in Montreal in 1990. She is currently a LL.M Candidate at Berkeley and holds a LL.B from the University of Montréal, a J.D from Queens’ University as well as a Certificate in French and European Law from the University of Paris II. She also passed the Quebec bar exams.