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.



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!