Balkans: The Greek Tragedy


December 29, 2011: Greece is outraged by the recent admission by a former Turkish prime minister that Turkish secret agents started highly destructive forest fires during the 1990s. Former Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, however, claimed he was misquoted in an interview in a Turkish newspaper. Yilmaz said that he was discussing unsubstantiated claims that Greek agents set fires in Turkey. The newspaper claimed Yilmaz said Turkish agents set the fires during the 1995 to 1997 time period, in Macedonia and on islands in the Aegean. The Greek government is demanding a full investigation and an explanation by Turkey.

December 28, 2011: Two Greek lawyers working as special national anti-corruption prosecutors have resigned after accusing the government of attempting to interfere in their investigations into financial crimes. Both prosecutors were working on tax evasion issues. Bribery, tax evasion, and corruption have contributed to Greece’s weak financial situation, but then, that is the usual case throughout the Balkans. The lawyers served in the SDOE (special financial fraud and financial crimes unit).

December 26, 2011: Russia’s preferred candidate for the presidency of Moldova’s separatist Transdniestr statelet was soundly defeated in a run-off election. The Moscow-backed candidate only took 20 percent of the vote. Transdniestr is supported by Russia and a large number of ethnic Russians living within it. The man who won the presidency said that he will work to improve relations with Moldova and Ukraine but continue to cooperate with Russia. Russia still deploys peacekeepers in Transdniestr.

December 21, 2011: Cyprus’ foreign minister said Turkey is a regional bully. The Greek Cypriot government has accused Turkey of violating its maritime Exclusive Economic Zone by conducting illegal seismic and seabed surveys. The Cypriot government believes that its EEZ has significant offshore natural gas deposits.

December 19, 2011: Romania’s defense ministry announced that Romanian forces will continue to participate in several international military deployments. Romania will keep 1940 soldiers in Afghanistan. Two small Romanian contingents participate in peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and Bosnia. A Romanian Navy frigate will also participate with the European Union anti-pirate operation in the Gulf of Aden (Indian Ocean).

December 16, 2011: European Union EULEX advisers stopped a Russian-sponsored aid convoy from entering Kosovo on December 13. The EULEX advisers said the aid convoy must have special escorts in order to deliver aid to a Kosovar Serb neighborhood. EULEX police believed the aid was being sent to Kosovar Serbs who were running illegal roadblocks inside Kosovo. Russia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence. A deal was worked out between Russia and the EU. On December 16 the aid convoy was allowed to proceed –escorted by three EULEX police vehicles.

December 15, 2011: France and Germany are attempting to broker a deal to resolve the financial crisis facing the Eurozone. Greece has been the poster child for Eurozone economic malfeasance, though every country in the 17-member Eurozone has problems with debt. Greece’s failure to deal with internal corruption has exacerbated its crisis. Greek media reported that Greece loses some 17 to 18 billion dollars a year due to tax evasion.

December 11, 2011: Iran threatened to attack anti-ballistic missile radars NATO intends to build in eastern Turkey. Yes, this is an Iranian threat to attack Turkey and NATO.

December 7, 2011: Greece is considering a U.S. offer for what amounts to free M1A1 tanks. The U.S. tanks were used in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and have been in storage since the 1990s. The US reportedly told Greece that it can have as many as it wants as long as it pays the transportation costs. One Greek source indicated that Greece may take as many as 400 of the tanks, depending on the condition of the vehicles. The Greek military has already suffered deep budget cuts. The government is talking about spending one billion euros on military equipment in 2012 but that figure may decline, given Greece’s budget crisis. The transportation costs would be manageable but it is likely that the vehicles would require some refurbishment. The tanks, however, are a deal for cash-strapped Greece, especially when viewed as a source for parts. Extra vehicles can be cannibalized to get the keep a sufficient number of frontline tanks operational.

December 6, 2011: Syria claimed that its border guards had stopped an infiltration attempt from Turkey by 35 armed men. The Syrian statement called the infiltrators terrorists. The infiltrators were likely members of the Free Syrian Army. Turkey has become a haven for the Syrian opposition. The Free Syrian Army has bases inside Syria but very near the Turkish border. There is little doubt that some support for the Syrian guerrilla force is coming from inside Turkey. The big question is whether or not the support comes from the Turkish government.

December 5, 2011: The Name War takes a Turkish turn. Turkey’s government said that it supports the UN’s International Court of Justice’s ruling that it is wrong for Greece to deny Macedonia admission to NATO because Greece objects to Macedonia’s use of the name Macedonia. Greece insists that Macedonia call itself the FYROM, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

December 3, 2011: Serbia and Kosovo confirmed that they will reach an agreement to jointly manage border crossings between the countries. The European Union’s EULEX rule of law mission in Kosovo will help oversee the joint border posts.

December 2, 2011: The Greek government said that it will continue with its new program of budget cuts and fiscal austerity despite the protests of some 20,000 union members in Athens. Five to six thousand union members also staged protests in Thessalonica. The Greek government is concerned that the protests could lead to violence.

November 30, 2011: A gunman opened fire near Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. A Turkish soldier and a police guard were wounded in the attack. Turkish police snipers later killed the gunmen, who was identified as a Libyan national carrying a Syrian passport. He had entered Turkey less than a week earlier.


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