Germany, Greece urge EU reboot in face of populism

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, left, shakes hands with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier prior to their meeting in Athens. (AFP)
Updated 11 October 2018
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Germany, Greece urge EU reboot in face of populism

  • Steinmeier and his host Tsipras called for a new chapter in bilateral relations, to leave behind tensions caused by tough German demands for Greek austerity
  • Tsipras did not mention the thorny issue of war reparations, which Greece has been seeking since the 1990s

ATHENS: German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday urged further European Union integration in the face of rising populism.
Steinmeier and his host also called for a “new chapter” in bilateral relations, to leave behind tensions caused by tough German demands for Greek austerity to accompany EU bailouts for Athens.
Noting Greece is on the front line of migration flows to Europe, Steinmeier said any “consensus” on migration policy “is not possible without solidarity.”
He said he shared Tsipras’ fears over the dangers that nationalism could pose to the future of the bloc.
“We must take steps to convince European citizens that is it possible to emerge, together, from crises — we must keep extreme and populist voices at bay.”
Tsipras said Greece wanted to move on from the “difficult moments between our two countries during the (financial) crisis... and the stereotypes which poison our relations.”
German insistence on financial rigour and eight years of austerity measures to accompany three EU multibillion rescues of the Greek economy soured relations in a country which has not forgotten the Nazi-era occupation during World War II.
“We are at a moment where we can open a new page in our relations,” Steinmeier said.
Relations have improved over the last three years after Tsipras’ government endorsed conditions linked to satisfying its creditors and Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also worked closely on finding common ground on migration.
Tsipras did not mention the thorny issue of war reparations, which Greece has been seeking since the 1990s, despite the impending publication of a report by his leftist Syriza party understood to want around 270 million euros ($312 million) from Berlin.
However, Steinmeier, who arrived on the eve of the 1944 anniversary of the liberation of Athens, commented that “we ask forgiveness for atrocities” committed and “we do not want to forget the past.”
Berlin’s official position is that the issue was definitively resolved in a previous, wider post-war agreement with a number of countries, including Greece.


Explosions hit Afghan celebration, Helmand governor hurt

Updated 23 March 2019
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Explosions hit Afghan celebration, Helmand governor hurt

  • The bombing disrupted Farmers Day celebrations
  • The cause of the explosion is not yet identified

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan: Two explosions went off at a public celebration in the southern Afghan city of Lashkar Gah on Saturday, killing two people and wounding the governor of Helmand province, security and hospital officials said.

The blasts came during a Farmers Day celebration at an outdoor stadium that was attended by nearly 1,000 people.

The provincial governor, Mohammad Yasin Khan, was knocked over by the blasts before he was quickly removed from the celebration, according to a Reuters witness. The governor’s condition was unclear.

Two people were killed and 23 were wounded, according to initial estimates by hospital officials.

The blasts appeared to have been caused by planted explosives.

The attack is one of several to occur during Afghanistan’s multi-day celebrations to mark its traditional new year, beginning with explosions in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Thursday. Those attacks killed six people and wounded 23 and were claimed by Islamic State.

The traditional new year is widely celebrated in Afghanistan but some hard-line Islamists oppose the festivities, saying they are un-Islamic.

Helmand is one of several Afghan provinces in which insurgents have the greatest control and influence. Lashkar Gah is the provincial capital.

Saturday’s attack came exactly one year after a car bomb killed at least 14 people who had gathered to watch a wrestling match in Lashkar Gah.