Balkans: Greece Collapses, Turkey Doesn't


June 24, 2011: Greece continues to teeter on the edge of debt default. There is a real possibility that Greece could leave the euro-zone (euro currency area) but still remain a member of the European Union. Great Britain is a member of the EU and still uses the pound. If Greece does default and leave the euro-zone, the world will see the return of the drachma. To stave off default, the northern EU members with the money are looking for help from private banks. Meanwhile, back in Greece, the labor unions continue to protest austerity budgets, which Germany and France demanded as part of last year’s bailout agreement. Maybe the banks will come, maybe they won’t. Several economic forecasters believe Greek debt as a percentage of GDP will continue to rise, reaching 180 percent to 200 percent of GDP by 2015. Right now Greece’s sovereign debt is around 150 percent of GDP. At one time Euro-advocates dreamed of a European super state. It is not going to happen, at least not any time soon. There are many reasons for European countries to cooperate politically and economically, but Greece serves as an example of what happens when one country decides to cook its books and pay for its social programs off money borrowed from other EU members. The Greek government did cook the books. In many ways the Greek sovereign debt problem is really a large-scale corruption scandal. Now the Greek people are paying for it, literally and figuratively. Many Greeks believe that they should be allowed to get away with it, and do not fear default on their national debts. This will hurt the economy for a decade or so, but eventually lenders will return.

June 23, 2011: Here’s a switch. Serbia is now requesting that KFOR military forces retain a significant number of troops in Kosovo in order to assure peace and stability in the country. Serbia is essentially saying that KFOR now protects Kosovar Serbs living in Kosovo in the Serbia-Kosovo border region.

June 22, 2011: The Greek government survived a no-confidence vote in the Greek parliament. The Greek Socialist Party remains in control of the government. The vote, however, was close – 155 to 143. Resistance to the austerity budgets the government is imposing (meeting loan conditions) led to the no-confidence vote.

The Russian government announced that negotiations between the Moldova government and the statelet of Trandniestr have collapsed. Transdniestr is a pro-Russia enclave inside Moldova and tried to secede from Moldova in 1990. Russia hosted a conference of what is called the 5+2 group. The group consists of Transdniestr, Moldova, Ukrain, Russia, the European Union, the US, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Two more senior Turkish military officers face a court-ordered arrest in the alleged Sledgehammer coup case.

Several thousand Albanian Kosovars held demonstrations in Kosovo to protest government corruption. The protestors claim (with good reason) that senior government officials have embezzled money while in office. So far the protests have been peaceful.

June 21, 2011: Police reported someone threw a hand grenade at a police car parked in a Serb-minority neighborhood in Kosovo. The government acknowledged that Kosovar Serbs who serve in Kosovo’s national police force are sometimes attacked by other ethnic Serbs who believe they have sold out to the Albanians.

June 18, 2011: Syrian army troops attacked the town of Bdama near the Syria-Turkey border. Turkey is reportedly reinforcing its own military forces along the border area. Refugees have been fleeing to Turkey through Bdama.

June 17, 2011: In the aftermath of Turkey’s recent national elections, many Turks are wondering if their government is going to continue to try to join the European Union. The EU is still demanding that Turkey open its ports to ships arriving from Greek Cypriot ports. Turkey has not done this because most Turks believe the Greek Cypriots have not been fair to Turkish Cypriots in negotiations on organizing a new federal Cypriot state. Many Turks also believe that France really does not want Turkey joining the EU; at some level the EU is still Christendom and Turkey the realm of Ottoman Muslims. Despite the conflicts, a surprising number of Turks still see joining the EU as being ultimately beneficial to Turkey.

June 16, 2011: The Name War between Greece and Macedonia continues, despite Greece’s fiscal woes. This time Greece is objecting to a statue of Alexander the Great that Macedonia is building in its capital, Skopje. The Greeks argue that Alexander was a Hellene (a son of Greater Greece) and the Macedonians are Slavs and Albanians. By erecting a statue to Alexander (who was king of Macedonia), modern Macedonia is filching Greek history. The Greeks insist that Macedonia be called the FYROM – former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The government of Turkey will be sending more army units to the Syrian border to protect Syrian refugees who are fleeing the regime of Bashar al Assad. Turkish media are speculating that this could lead to a move across the border by the Turkish military and the establishment of a security zone within Syria to defend refugees. At least 8,000 Syrian refugees are inside Turkey.

June 13, 2011: An EU prosecutor with the EULEX law mission in Kosovo announced two indictments in the human organ trafficking scandal. A citizen of Turkey and a citizen of Israel were indicted for organ trafficking and organized crime. The two men allegedly conspired with Kosovar doctors to harvest organs for resale.

June 12, 2011: Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won another national election and will continue to lead the Turkish government. The AKP took right at 50 percent of the popular vote. This translates into 326 seats in the 550 seat Turkish Parliament. The Republican Peoples Party (CHP) got 26 percent of the vote. The AKP failed to achieve a two-thirds majority. It will still have to negotiate with the minority parties on constitutional changes.

June 9, 2011: For several years Bulgaria has been steadily reducing the size of its military. However, the government recently decided to keep the Bulgarian Army’s single alpine infantry battalion (mountain special warfare battalion). The 101st Alpine Battalion is based in the town of Smolyan (in the Rhodope Mountains, near the Bulgaria-Greece border). The 101st Alpine Battalion is a special forces unit and is part of Bulgaria’s 68th Special Forces Brigade.

June 8, 2011: Military coup rumors are starting in Greece. Interestingly enough, a few of the first reports appeared in the German and Turkish media. The scenario under discussion is reasonable. The debt crisis grows worse (and that is the trend). Labor unions and government workers stage massive protests (and they already are). Anarchists and terror groups launch attacks around the country (this has occurred, albeit sporadically). The violence gets worse. The populace feels threatened. The government reacts poorly and the political leaders appear to be overwhelmed. Opposition parties sense the government’s weakness and urge more protests. But the demonstrations get out of hand. Police cannot control the violence. Army units intervene to stop the chaos, but rioters become rebels and firefights erupt with military units. Then senior military officers declare martial law. Could it happen? Yes. Is it likely? No. For one thing, it would not solve Greece’s financial problems and would probably make them worse. If the military cracked down on corruption and bribery, that might be a silver lining, but the last military government failed to do that.


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