Πέμπτη, 19 Φεβρουαρίου 2015

'Grexit' Must Die, Now and Forever!

'Grexit' Must Die, Now and Forever!
Justine Frangouli-Argyris

It is in Brussels where the final act of the latest Greek drama will be played out. If, that is, Greece manages to secure a continuation of its loan memorandum that it hopes will contain certain added conditions in order for its electorate, who voted overwhelmingly for its termination, to save face.

What the Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, along with his Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, must make clear to the Greek people is, that, with a few pluses and minuses, Greece is obliged to ask for this extension, in order for the country to have access to funding for its banks beyond February 28 when the current agreement is set to expire.

It should be understood that the government does have the option to make fiscal adjustments to the present memorandum and to introduce measures that are different from those agreed to by the previous Samaras-Venizelos coalition. In the meantime, however, it must mobilize the State's mechanisms in order to collect taxes owing and fill a new funding gap that has emerged as many citizens have withheld payment, expecting the new administration to carry out its pledges to scrap various levies such as the property tax known as "ENFIA". The administration must also act to return overdue value added taxes that it owes many individuals and corporations and must look to cut the wages and privileges of the 300 members of the Greek Parliament and their numerous clerks, a step that the previous administration, sadly, failed to take.

Also, Greece should aggressively proceed with the privatizations that have been launched and not muse about arbitrarily suspending them as it must show a desire to welcome private initiatives. The governing Syriza, a pro-European but radically leftist party, will have to prove to the international environment of investors that the country is friendly to private investment and that it intends to embrace all initiatives by avoiding the imposition of new taxes that may chase them away.

Today, the administration appears set to request a 4-to-6 month extension of its aforementioned loan agreement as it must secure a source of funding for the countries banks beyond the end of the month. A potential new arrangement that Syriza seeks, and has promised to deliver, will require much study as well as its ratification by all the other 18 Parliaments of the Eurogroup, a laborious and time-consuming process.

Once an extension has been agreed upon, both the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister will need their staffs to immediately get to work on the new proposals that must be submitted to their lenders. The aim of any new contract they submit should be to focus on unlocking the current gridlock and giving impetus to growth in the battered country.
Greece should forget about playing hardball with their European partners and the IMF, wasting precious time and jeopardizing its standing with the financial markets. It should, rather, look to quickly close the "Grexit" window by showing a sincere willingness to co-operate with its allies.
Any new plan must allow Greece to lower its primary surplus, enabling it to implement the funds where they are sorely needed, and must include a fair and stable tax system that will offer justice, not vengeful punishment, and that will enable the private sector to operate under clearly defined parameters in order to promote job creation.

Also, any new agreement should provide for debt relief, either by means of a "haircut" or through a restructuring of the terms of repayment. The country's debt has reached 175 percent of its GDP and is blatantly unsustainable. It has become a clear obstacle to Greece's development and its lenders must show leniency in this respect. As such, the government will have something to offer its people who have suffered through five long years of inhumane austerity measures whose sole aim was fiscal consolidation.

Syriza must request a concrete plan to move the case of Greece beyond mere budgetary stability but one that will include a developmental phase that will promote job creation and give its devastated citizens hope for tomorrow.

The new era of Greece in the European Union will have to bring equality, stability and fairness in its relationship with its partners. The country has spent far too much capital to remain inside the Eurozone and owes it to itself, and its citizens, to conclude a program that will provide an appropriate balance of budgetary stability and development.

It is the duty of Greece and Europe to be in close co-operation during this process and to put a stop to continued mumblings about Greece's future within the Union that are negatively impacting the fragile Greek economy and the Western economy as a whole. It is imperative to put an end to the fear of "Grexit", now and forever!

Τρίτη, 13 Ιανουαρίου 2015

I'm Charlie, I’m Ahmed, I am Justine...and I'm afraid!

 Justine Frangouli-Argyris

I heard the news surrounding the mass killing of the 12 journalists at “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris early Wednesday from a friend who is working in the “City of Light" this year. “The capital is paralyzed by fear," he said, after Islamist extremists had struck the heart of French freedom of expression by attacking the renowned satirical weekly newspaper.


I arose with an anxiety that quickly spread to all the muscles of my body and mind. Earlier this year, the radical fundamentalist group, ISIS, had warned it would attack all the countries partaking in the fight against its guerrillas in the Middle East which have been brutally beheading Western hostages on camera in an effort to spread their message of terror and death.


Before I came to realize what was happening, a third jihadist had killed a female police officer the following day in Paris. And, during the subsequent massive manhunt for the three terrorists, I saw pictures of those held hostage in a Jewish grocery being murdered.  I was shocked, not knowing for whom or for what to mourn.


For the exceptional cartoonists who fell victim to Islamic fundamentalism?


For the savage blow to democracy and freedom of expression in the press?


For Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim policeman who was mercilessly gunned down in cold blood?


For the hostages in the Jewish grocery store who fell victim to a growing religious-political war?


For the young Muslim radicals who were born and raised in France but became subservient to the teachings of ISIS and Al-Qaeda?


For the inability of the French secret service to keep an eye on the extremists who had recently returned from a stint in Syria, making them perfect potential terrorist candidates?


For Western society which is unable to integrate immigrants coming from Muslim countries, incapable of making them proud citizens of the Western world?


For the Muslims who freely choose to migrate to the West but allow a hatred for Western society to fester in them?


For the world’s major power brokers in whose interests our innocence is being sacrificed?


For myself, Justine, who matures, day by day, discovering the horrible face of fear?


For our children who are learning to fear Muslims and be suspicious of them?


For the gap that the jihadist attacks have opened between the Muslims and the other populations of the West?


For the consigning to oblivion of the slogan "make love, not war?"


For the hatred that deepens daily between Muslims and other religious cultures?


A week after the dramatic attacks in Paris, while the world surged through the streets to show a common will against the terror that sows terror, I'm feeling sorry and afraid.


I am not pacified by the demonstrations of solidarity towards Charlie Hebdo and the French people. I am not reassured by the hand-to-hand march of Western and Eastern leaders last Sunday in Paris. I'm feeling sorry and afraid.


I feel sorry for the heroes of Charlie Hebdo who lay pointlessly dead at the hands of youths in a zealous frenzy.


I feel sorry for Ahmed who could not be saved by the fact that he was a Muslim himself.


I am afraid for Justine in the West who respects the East but cannot defend its actions any longer.


A week after the deadly terrorist attacks, I feel sorry and I feel fear. These two emotional states have been planted deep inside me, first with the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, then with the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and, finally, with the savage killings in Paris as I awoke last Wednesday. From now on, I know that I will be living with sorrow for what has occurred and with fear for what is going to happen!



Δευτέρα, 22 Δεκεμβρίου 2014

Holidays at the Trafalgar

by Justine-Frangouli-Argyris

The holidays are here and the city is resplendent in its festive lights, sparkling evergreens and beautifully decorated windows. Our beloved Trafalgar is aglow in its own right, bathed in the green-blue hue of its lit pines and the vibrant colors of its flower pots filled with winter bouquets.

This unique tower with its asymmetrical rooftops, emblematic for its convivial look, perched, as it is, on an island right in the midst of Côte-des-Neiges, has been known to pique the fantasies of passers-by. I, myself, like to roll back time and fantasize about carriages entering its courtyard through the elegant archway carrying beautifully attired ladies and debonair gentlemen on their way to opulent seasonal parties.

Throughout the century, the Trafalgar has born witness to many a magical moment, playing host to innumerable splendid events in its snowy landscape but a few meters from the Beaver Lake and carrying its glamorous past with a rare, dignified air.

Today, our building's grand entrance features a fabulous Christmas tree, gleaming under its shiny ornaments, while right beside it stands an elegant menorah, the nine-branched candelabrum representative of the celebration of Hanukkah.

At the Trafalgar, the spirits of Christmas and Hanukkah are not in contrast, but, rather, in unison, with one celebration complementing the other. Holidays at the Trafalgar exclude no one but, on the contrary, include everyone and are tantamount to a desire to come together, as a family, over and above any religious or cultural differences. They are celebrations that bring forth the joy of giving with their traditions of the offering of gifts.

I admire the multicultural community we live in and the joyous holiday spirit that manages to embrace every Montrealer and every resident of the Trafalgar at this time of year, irrespective of their ethnic background.

Christmas has become an intercultural celebration, reflecting the love and the joining of people in a happy and celebratory atmosphere. It is an occasion of joy and love for us all, a time for compassion and generosity that grants us a chance to unite and become one among friends.

Happy Holidays to all the residents of the Trafalgar, a building that holds us tightly in its splendidly decorated arms and shows off its proud and merry history!

 With our Greek Orthodox priest fr. Panagiotis Salatelis of St George's Cathedral
 Beautiful people at the Trafalgar
 The president of our association Mrs Danielle Medina with fr. Panagiotis

 Alex grew up at St. George's  Cathedral
What a blessing to have fr. Panagiotis with us
 Our lovely neighbor Elli
A lawyer with a judge
 Ben and Ted enjoyed a long talk

A cross-religion celebration
Our unique entrance
 Frank and Michael lit up the menorah

Cool moments

 Fr. Panagiotis lipt up the Christmas tree

 Ornaments for the Christmas tree
Great neighbors 

Πέμπτη, 18 Δεκεμβρίου 2014

Beware of Greeks In Despair!

Justine Frangouli-Argyris

In a surprise move last week, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras called a snap presidential election for December, moving it forward from its planned February date with potentially unpredictable results for the future of Greece and the eurozone.

Since claiming the Prime Minister's chair in 2012, the head of the conservative New Democracy party, who has governed in tandem with his socialist “PA.SO.K” party counterpart, Evangelos Venizelos, has continued to pressure an overburdened Greek electorate with a mix of salary and pension cuts, tax hikes and other harsh measures. The so-called austerity “memorandum” plunged the Greek economy into a five-year recession, increased unemployment to the highest level in Europe and brought about the devastation of the country's middle class. The result being that Samaras found himself trapped in a political dead-end, opting to speed up the election and, potentially, force the country into early national elections should the current Parliament be unable to choose a President.

The Samaras-Venizelos coalition had little choice, expecting, as it was, to receive a show of support from its European partners at a time when the country drastically cut its budget deficit and was finally able to present a growing economy. Regardless, the so-called “troika,” that is managing the Greek bailout program, continues to insist on further steps to close a paltry and disputable potential funding gap of approximately 2 billion euros for fiscal 2015 when the country's total debt amounts to some 350 billion euros.

In fact, Germany has been prodding the Greeks to agree to a new “memorandum” in order to force any future government, most notably the radical leftist “Syriza” party, down this road. The intent  being, to lock Syriza's leader, Alexis Tsipras, who is well ahead in the polls and fervently anti-austerity, into a continuation of the status quo by removing any potential bargaining power that a convincing electoral victory could provide.

However, Samaras and Venizelos turned the tables on their European lenders with the early presidential election call, possibly forcing the Germans into direct negotiations with Tsipras who has staked his reputation on freeing the country from the clutches of the devastating “memorandum” at any cost.

Unfortunately, either Europe does not understand the level of destruction its austerity program has caused or it simply does not care. Perhaps the many European leaders, who have visited the Presidential or Prime Ministerial palaces under tight security, have not taken the time to wander around Athens and glimpse, first-hand, the rampant hunger, destitution and poverty. Perhaps they have no idea that the middle class households, that have seen their wages and pensions slashed and their tax burden jump, can barely get by.

They probably haven't visited the orphanages and nurseries where parents send their children because they have no food to offer them nor have they have walked by Athens' squares to observe the many desperate graduates wandering around, aimlessly and jobless, after years of university study.

They have not witnessed the thousands who put their life's savings into a home, only to lose it all nor have they roamed the neighborhoods where hundreds of homeless Greeks and illegal aliens live in the streets, subsisting on what the soup kitchens of the Greek Orthodox Church can provide.

The Greeks are desperate, suffering for years without any hope. They are no longer frightened by the tumbling stock market and the increasing bond spreads nor by a looming national bankruptcy and a return to the Drachma.

In their vast majority, they have lost everything including their self-respect and their pride but, above all, their optimism that something may change.

This explains why, should the current Parliament fail to elect a President, they will cast their vote for Alexis Tsipras and his party, not necessarily because they believe in his rhetoric, but because they have nothing left to lose.

As such, it appears that the Europeans will soon be forced to deal straightforwardly with Syriza, a party lacking in any clear economic or political program except for its refusal to continue down the path of austerity. It is there that they will find themselves face to face with the Greek reality and the indignation of a people who are no longer willing to forgo their personal dignity.




Παρασκευή, 25 Ιουλίου 2014

Top Three Fish Destinations in Athens

Justine Frangouli-Argyris
Huffington Post

Athens is not only the Acropolis, Kerameikos and a plethora of museums and archaeological sites. For the Greek capital stretches far away to the sea, intersecting with Piraeus and its beautiful circular port, and reaches the Saronic Gulf, offering numerous marinas and beaches along the way, beginning at Faliron and continuing far beyond magical Cape Sounion.

As such, Athens is not simply souvlaki and tzatziki but a city that offers a seafood dining experience second to none. A panoply of refined culinary proposals centered around an abundance of fresh fish and other marine delicacies are what comprise the finest of gourmet Athens.
Although very difficult to choose amongst the many excellent restaurants or "fish tavernas," I would recommend all visitors indulge in any, or all for that matter, of the following three top fish destinations.

Starting from the city, a must is the aptly named "Kollias," the domain of Tassos Kollias, located at the corner of Amfitheas and Syngrou avenues.
Apart from the mouthwatering freshest of fish (from sea bass to seabream to blackfish), Kollias offers delicacies such as squid cooked in all matter of heavenly ways apart from the traditional crisp fried.

One can also find excellent accompaniments such as Kollias' superb eggplant salad and other such specialties bearing the influence of Instabul on offer here. Kollias often features amazing crab claws or "kavourodagkanes," spaghetti tossed with morsels of lobster or shrimp or urchin, three kinds of homemade breads and some 35 types of raki and ouzo from all over Greece. Tassos Kollias has created a simple but chic "resto" in the heart of Athens and, all this, with very affordable prices for such excellent quality and polished service. Known for years for his other eatery in Piraeus, "Tabouria," Kollias has become the relatively new, trendy hangout, populated by those who appreciate top-notch seafood and including many amongst Greece's political and cultural elite.

The iconic fish restaurant "Varoulko," with renowned chef Lefteris Lazarou, recently returned to its natural digs in Piraeus. With its simple yet abstract modern décor, it literally touches the sea, resting as it does right in front of the small picturesque harbor of Mikrolimano.
Chef Lazarou features classic Greek fish dishes with a sophisticated touch. Little dashes of creativity and imagination are added to traditional servings such as the white fish roe salad, or "tarama," and a herring salad that mesmerizes with its distinct smoky aroma.

For lunch, the menu includes popular staples like the aforementioned fish roe and herring salads, grilled sardines and steamed clams all tweaked with Lazarou's signature in some way. For the more adventurous, there is a wonderful lobster "moussaka" and all this is at very reasonable prices.
Lefteris Lazarou has established an enticing tasting menu paired with ouzo or raki featuring many small specialty "tapas" for 20 to 22 euros. The prevalent "varoulko," or winch, is there to remind of the original restaurant and Lazarou has, once again, created a must destination for fish in Piraeus.
Tsirosalata at Varoulko, a special taste!
For those desirous of combining exquisite seafood dining with a cooling swim, there is none better than "Lambros," in Vouliagmeni. Located just opposite the lake of Vouliagmeni, the restaurant was built back in 1889 when Vouliagmeni was a vacation getaway for Athenians.

Resting at a strategically spectacular angle of Vouliagmeni Bay overlooking the Saronic Gulf, the restaurant was established by Lukas Lambrou and is now run by his sons, Dimitri & George. At first, the entire structure was comprised of old stone, part of which still adorns the remodelled restaurant's entrance today.

The elegant environment with its tasteful décor and exemplary service is sure to satisfy the most demanding of guests at lunch and dinner.

For years, Lambros' reputation has resulted from the freshness of its fish and seafood. The freshness of the products served have made this restaurant synonymous with all that is the delight of the Greek seas. Lambros' strength lies in the numerous exclusive collaborations that the owners have made with fishermen from all over Greece, enabling them to continuously offer seafood that is the purest and the freshest. One can usually find mullet, grouper, sea bream, sea bass, crayfish, lobster, shrimp, squid and smelts to name but a few.

Of course, on a personal note, I would opt for Lambros' famous shrimp salad and the cooked greens, or "horta," which, for years, have remained a classic. Lambros restaurant remains a favorite respite during the typical Athenian heat wave.
Photo: Justine Frangouli-Argyris

Παρασκευή, 9 Μαΐου 2014

European Elections and Greece: An Unpredictable Scenario

By Justine Frangouli-Argyris

In Greece, today, no one can foresee what will transpire nationally after the European elections later this month given the fact that the far-left party (Syriza) is leading in public opinion while the once dominant socialists (Elia/Pasok) are polling a paltry 7 %.

According to a recent poll conducted by Pulse for the weekly review Pontiki, the opposition Syriza holds a statistically significant lead over the governing rightist New Democracy party of 2% .

Shockingly, the fascist Golden Dawn party, on whose legality the Greek Supreme Court will shortly rule, continues to hold onto third place with the newly formed Potami, or “River,” led by popular journalist Stavros Theodorakis, placing fourth among the electorate.

Following is a detailed summary of voting intentions in Greece for the 2014 Euro-elections (as published in Pontiki):

Syriza 22,5%


The unpredictable outcome may threaten the stability of the current coalition government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' New Democracy and Evangelos Venizelos' Pasok, causing great concern among the Hellenes of the Diaspora as everything may eventually be at stake. For, even if Syriza does not triumph on election day, how can the government continue to cling to power with its coalition partner falling to 7% among voter preference?

According to Mr. Anthony Diamantaris, the publisher of the historical New York daily, The National Herald, “the upcoming elections will likely have historical significance since it is possible that they may determine the future of the country and, in turn, become a silent referendum on whether Greece wants to remain inside or outside the euro. The political system is exhausted. Understandably, the people seem to be looking for new, more hopeful political forces. This, however, entails the risk of the prevailing of extreme political forces--from both sides of the political spectrum—and the empowerment of individuals completely unprepared to handle current critical national issues. And, of course, should no decisive result ensue, anarchy would be the worst of all possible consequences. As for the Greek community in America, I think that we are closely watching the developments with pain, sorrow and worry and, as always, in solidarity with the sorely suffering people of Greece."

Dr. Stefanos Constantinidis, Professor of Political Science at Montreal's UQAM University, notes that "these elections will be a first taste of what will follow in national elections in Greece. They will outline eventual developments for the Greek political system and the future of Samaras’ government. We are in front of political readjustments. The outcome will be judged by whether Syriza and New Democracy can hold onto their percentages or if one of the two can come away with a decisive victory."

How this will affect the stability of the government is a matter of concern to the political analysts of Europe.   As Constantinidis states,"It will also depend on the percentages of the other parties. parties. If Elia/Pasok collapses, for example , it will create a different outlook for the current government and the political system '

The Hellenic Diaspora in North America, despite the fact that it may have limited in-depth knowledge of the upcoming electoral game and its impact on the Samaras–Venizelos government, is well aware of the following key points:

1) that Syriza, with the endless internal confusion amongst its partners, is losing ground whereas it could have developed a momentum that could overturn today’s political balance;

2) that New Democracy, with the help of its EU partners and encouraging recent macroeconomic data, may be on the verge of benefiting from a “post-austerity season,” as international markets continue to show improving stability in Greece;

3) that the fascist party, Golden Dawn, continues to be dangerously popular even though its leaders have been indicted and jailed;

4) that the infant River party was formed in order to attract disillusioned center-leftists and, in effect, in order to syphon votes from Syriza;

5) and that Evangelos Venizelos of Pasok, by remaining in a centre-right coalition government in spite of his leftist roots, has sacrificed his political future on the altar of the country's stability and paid a princely sum by seeing his base migrate to the support of others (mainly Syriza).

It turns out that May 25th, the day of European parliamentary elections in Greece, will be a day of judgment on the country's future in the European Union after all.

Σάββατο, 26 Απριλίου 2014

Meliti Kontogiorgi, a Lefkadian artist in Cohoes NY!

One of us from Lefkada, Meliti Kontogiorgi is currently presenting her work at a gallery in CohoesNY. The artist is interested in the way the narratives of mass culture and collective imaginary are shaping our identities, how relations of power and violence interfere in the process and what is our reaction when facing those challenges.

The Foundry presents: VAS: Meliti Kontogiorgi
April 26, 2014

VAS: Meliti Kontogiorgi: The Foundry for Art Culture & Design
119 Remsen Street, Cohoes

Saturday, April 26- Sunday, June 1

Viewing : Gallery Hours
Saturdays + Sundays : 1-4pm

Artist Reception : Saturday, April 26 : 6-9pm

According to French novelist Michel Houellebecq, the world is a brutal place; the artist must accept this and respond with increased brutality. Through her work Meliti Kontogiorgi deals with this brutality by directly confronting it in an attempt to cancel it out.

The main themes of her work are the construction and functioning of the mechanisms of representation. She is interested in the way the narratives of mass culture and collective imaginary are shaping our identities, how relations of power and violence interfere in the process and what is our reaction when facing those challenges.

Meliti’s methodology regarding the mechanisms of representation is to treat them with increased absurdity. She reduces them to absurd constructions, in order to contradict and cancel the status of the representation itself. After all, if we can’t accept brutality, we can react to it by acknowledging its senseless and absurd nature, using irony and the ridiculous as a defense. It is with this diverting process that she creates protective screens to confront reality, building little shelters of sensitiveness.
Viewing : Gallery Hours
Saturdays + Sundays : 1-4pm

For additional information, please call (518) 229-2173