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Balkans: Let Us All Hate The Germans
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January 25, 2013: A Greek organization called the National Council for the Pursuit of German Debts (NCPGD, also referred to as the National Council for the Claim of German Debts), recently demanded that the current German government pay Greece $144 billion (not including interest) as compensation for damages to Greece incurred during World War II. Several Greek politicians have made similar demands on Germany, with claims that Germany owed Greece around $90 billion. The NCPGD dollar (or euro) figure for the claimed damages is higher, and the organization claims its $144 billion figure is based on assessments of damage to infrastructure. Greek parliamentarians have now echoed the NCPGD’s damage figure. The NCPGD also argues that Germany owes Greece an additional $72 billion for costs incurred during Nazi Germany’s occupation of Greece. Part of that $72 billion involves the repayment of a loan the Greek government was forced to give Nazi Germany while the country was under Nazi occupation. The Nazis said that the Greek government had to help defray the costs of German forces occupying Greece. In the aftermath of World War II Greece received some material compensation from Germany, at the time worth around $25 million, which was a pittance. However, the western allied powers occupying Germany did not want to repeat the mistake of economically strangling post-war Germany. The stiff economic reparations demanded by the Versailles Treaty broke the German Weimar Republic’s economic back. Greece went along with the allied powers. However, Greek politicians never entirely dropped demands for World War II compensation. In the 1960s the government of West Germany did pay direct compensation to individuals who were victims of crimes committed by Nazi occupation forces. Greece did sign a treaty (in 1990) where the government agreed to forgo any further reparations from Germany for damages incurred in World War II and the German government regards that as final. But there are international legal scholars who argue that agreement was government to government and individuals can still make demands for reparations. During the 1990s several groups representing Greek victims of Nazi atrocities filed court cases which asked for reparations. At least one of these is still pending in the International Court of Justice. The case involves the SS massacre of civilians in the village of Distomo (June 1944). At one time the plaintiffs were demanding around $190 million.

The individual claims differ from the multi-billion claims for infrastructure damage. Currently Germany is the EU’s biggest economic contributor and, along with other northern Euro-zone nations, has been bankrolling the spending splurges of weaker Euro-zone nations (like Greece). The era of easy loans is over but the Greek people are angry and frustrated. Greece suffered greatly during World War II, no doubt about it. However, the Greek debt crisis is the result of Greek economic and political malfeasance, not Hitler’s panzers and Gestapo. At best, Greek politicians are attempting to use the infrastructure compensation demands as bargaining chips in current debt negotiations with the European Union. It is a form of political pressure that might result in a loan extension here and a reduced debt there. But there is also a very dark side to the politics of compensation. Greek firebrand politicians get sensational press coverage when they equate 21st century Germans with Nazis. That’s a smear, an ugly smear, but the charge is just too juicy and so easy to make.  (Austin Bay)

January 23, 2013: German media reported that a Turkish organization has harassed German soldiers who are in southern Turkey to help prepare for the deployment of a German Patriot surface to air missile unit. The harassment incidents took place in the port of Iskenderun earlier this month. Subsequently, a hard left wing Turkish nationalist group, called the Turkish Youth Union (TGB), held a demonstration at the German consulate in Istanbul to protest the German presence. The TGB took credit for harassing the German soldiers in Iskenderun. The German missile unit is being deployed at the request of the Turkish government, to help defend Turkish air space against Syrian air and missile attack. NATO has used Iskenderun as the staging point for German and Dutch Patriot units moving into southern Turkey.

Turkey has asked that the UN Security Council declare Syria’s shelling of its civilian population a war crime. It also said that Syria must give humanitarian relief organizations and aid groups greater access to the Syrian people who are suffering due to the civil war.

The Turkish government said that it had indicted 357 people for alleged involvement in an espionage operation. The spy ring used prostitutes and (according to the police report) sex in general to blackmail security officers, primarily members of the military. The government said its investigation began in 2009. The spy ring targeted information about Turkey’s military radar capabilities and installations. So far 88 suspects have been arrested and 50 of the people indicted are military officers.

January 22, 2013: NATO’s KFOR security operation in Kosovo still has 5,565 soldiers on duty.

January 15, 2013: An Albanian Kosovar guerrilla force is threatening to attack the town of Presevo in southern Serbia. A Serbian nationalist group is objecting to a memorial in Presevo to ethnic Albanian fighters and some of the Serb group’s members are threatening to destroy the memorial. The Serb nationalist group may be connected to former secret police and intelligence agents in the Serb government of Slobodan Milosevic. The Albanian group is using the name the Albanian National Army (ANA). The ANA reappears every so often, in Kosovo and Macedonia. The government of Kosovo says it does not exist. Ethnic Albanian extremists in Kosovo claim that the Serb town of Presevo and two nearby villages are part of Kosovo.

January 20, 2013: Macedonia and Bulgaria are discussing what their politicians are calling a re-set in bi-lateral relations. The term sounds similar to the one the U.S. and Russia used in 2009. Be that as it may, what Bulgaria wants is an end to what it calls the harassment of ethnic Bulgarians in Macedonia. The Bulgarian government pointed to the arrest of Macedonians who claim dual-citizenship in Macedonia and Bulgaria. Macedonia is seeking Bulgarian support for its bid to join the EU.

January 19, 2013: An ethnic Turk Bulgarian pointed a gun at the head of the leader of Bulgaria’s ethnic Turk political party (the DPS) while the politician was giving a public speech. The would-be assassin was arrested and police discovered that he was carrying an air pistol. The assassin later claimed that his act was a stunt and he hoped that police would kill him. The Bulgarian government said the defendant could go to prison for six years.

January 18, 2013: Serbia and Kosovo have reached a tentative agreement which will regulate the collection of import and export taxes and customs duties along their border. The EU mediated the negotiations.

The International Monetary Fund reported that the Greek government has made progress in reorganizing its economy but will need new financial support from the EU.

January 17, 2013: Ethnic Albanian Kosovar teenagers attacked a group of ethnic Serb Kosovar school children at a bus stop in the town of Kosovska Kamenica. Apparently the bus driver stopped the attack. Local police said they would increase their presence in the area.

January 16, 2013: Bulgaria announced that it will withdraw its forces (around 600 soldiers) from Afghanistan in 2013.

January 14, 2013: The Turkish government has created a new security unit to sweep for wiretaps and bugging devices. The unit will work for the prime minister’s Security Department. The decision to create the unit is the result of an investigation spurred by the discovery of bugging devices in the prime minister’s office. Investigators reported they also found four listening devices’ in the prime minister’s home.

January 13, 2013: Several members of Serbia’s parliament urged the government to fight for the autonomy of ethnic Serb areas in Kosovo. The appeal came after the government said that the international community had denied Serbia’s claim to Kosovo. Serbian media read the statement as a signal that Serbia will eventually give up its claim to sovereignty over Kosovo.

January 8, 2013: Greece’s prime minister told the government of Germany that the Greek people are making great sacrifices to solve his nation’s debt problem. He also promised that the government of Greece would fulfill its promises to reform Greece’s economy. Greece anticipates that another ten billion dollar loan will be approved in late January.

January 5, 2013: The Romanian government fired its chief statistician for his failure to correctly project Romania’s 2011 GDP. Romania’s National Statistics Institute was off by over $6 billion. The government said that 2011 calculation error had severe consequences for 2013 and would force an additional $250 to $300 million in budget cuts. However, the Romanian budget is already austere. Cuts might have to be made in police and security forces. Romania, however, has one of the lowest government debt rates (around 35 percent of GDP) in Europe.

The statisticians made erroneous projections for every year from 2003 to 2010, as well as for 2011.

January 3, 2013: Bosnia’s parliament approved the government’s decision to increase Bosnia’s support for NATO’s security force in Afghanistan. The government had authorized the deployment of a 16-soldier military police unit.

The former chief of staff of the Turkish Army, Ismail Hakki Karadayi, was arrested in Istanbul. General Karadayi was charged with helping plan the February 1997 coup, which ended a coalition government. At the time the Welfare Party (RP), a moderate Islamist party, was part of the coalition.

December 26, 2012: Turkish media is speculating on the reports that intelligence gathering devices (bugs) have been found in the prime minister’s offices. The government is reportedly conducting a major internal investigation. One theory is that a faction of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) planted the devices. Another is that disgruntled elements within the military are involved. The devices were apparently discovered earlier this month. 

December 19, 2012: The German government’s decision to send a Patriot missile battery to Turkey to help defend Turkey’s border with Syria has led to a media debate in Germany. The German government contends that it is fulfilling its NATO obligations and that the deployment is strictly defensive. No German troops would be involved in any intervention in Syria. The German government said the Patriot battery would likely deploy by the end of January 2013.

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