Nikos Konstandaras

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“The Battle of Piraeus” in 403 B.C., by 19th century painter, Panagiotis Zografos. Credit Historical Picture Archive/Corbis, via Getty Images

Piraeus, the gritty port city that has provided Athens’s naval and commercial power throughout its tumultuous history, is the theater of a new conflict, one that pits local interests against economic development and a superpower’s global strategy. At least that’s the story that Greece’s dueling politicians are telling.

Greek archaeologists have stalled an investment of more than 612 million euros offered by a Chinese-owned company seeking to revamp and expand Piraeus’s port as part of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative. Early last month, Greece’s Central Archaeological Council, an advisory body, proposed declaring everything within the limits of the ancient city of Piraeus — most of which overlaps with the modern-day port and commercial center — an archaeological site.…  Seguir leyendo »

Keratsini, a working-class neighborhood in Piraeus, Greece. The poor in Greece have become poorer while the middle class struggles with a growing tax burden. Credit Eirini Vourloumis for The New York Times

Greece’s government, a coalition of a radical left-wing movement and a nationalist right-wing party in power since 2015, celebrated the end of the country’s third bailout agreement last August as a “return to normalcy.” Our European Union partners and creditors, who disbursed 288.7 billion euros in loans over the previous years, also rushed to declare victory in the crisis that began in 2010.

Everyone wants to see an end to the Greek crisis — not least the Greek people, who have been exhausted by the long and deep recession, by the continued austerity and reforms whose benefits they have not seen.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia’s effort to keep Ukraine under its thumb prompted a revolution in 2014 and a war that has claimed more than 10,000 lives. It also prompted, on Monday, what may be one of the most serious splits in Christendom since the Great Schism between Rome and Constantinople in 1054 and the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago. This new crisis has deep historical roots, and could shape religious and secular ties among many countries for years to come.

Here’s what happened: The Church of Russia announced this week that it was breaking ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which has primacy in Orthodoxy and which has decided to give autonomy to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.…  Seguir leyendo »

“Pericles’ Funeral Oration,” by the 19th-century German painter Philipp von Foltz. Credit Getty Images

In his declared intention to “Make America Great Again,” President Trump appears set on destroying the foundations of American greatness. The multinational organizations and agreements that established peace and stability, and encouraged economic growth for some seven decades, were designed principally by Americans. They organized the world pretty much the way that suited them, and they reaped the benefits of dominating it through a complex network of organizations and treaties.

On a global scale, this post-World War II American hegemony echoed the way that ancient Athens, after leading a victorious alliance of Greek city-states against a Persian invasion, gradually shaped the alliance into an empire.…  Seguir leyendo »

A house is threatened by a huge blaze during a wildfire in Kineta, near Athens, on July 23, 2018. Credit Valerie Gache/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Four days after the wildfire that raced down from the mountains, incinerating all before it, cars were once again tangled up in traffic jams in this seaside resort’s narrow streets. Search parties combed ruined homes for bodies; volunteers sought out injured and frightened pets. The nation was in mourning, shocked by the magnitude of the disaster, shaken by the stories of victims and the missing.

In a V-shaped bend where on Monday desperate residents and visitors found themselves trapped, unable to escape the heat that melted even the metal of their cars, vehicles carrying survivors who had returned to salvage some possessions, volunteers, journalists and the simply curious edged carefully past one another as they sought a way out of Mati.…  Seguir leyendo »

For centuries, even when Athens was a bastion of the West during the Cold War, Greece and Russia have seen themselves as natural allies. Both are Christian Orthodox nations on Islam’s western frontiers; even as a NATO member, Greece tried to maintain channels of communication with the Soviet Union. Yet a sudden dispute over alleged Russian meddling in Greek affairs has escalated rapidly. This could have long-term consequences for Greek-Russian ties and for the Western Balkans.

This month, Athens informed Moscow that it was expelling two Russian diplomats and refusing entry to two others. Among the accusations: the four were trying to stoke opposition to a recent agreement signed by Greece and a northern neighbor, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, ending a 27-year dispute over the latter’s name.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party during a protest against Turkey in Athens last month. Credit Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

In a rapidly intensifying war of words, government officials of the nominal NATO allies Greece and Turkey have been exchanging insults and threats in the past few weeks, recalling conflicts from a shared and bloody history. Relations have rarely been rosy, but the speed with which they have worsened, and the level of vitriol, have raised fears that the two heavily armed neighbors may be trash-talking their way to new conflict.

Adding to those concerns is the awareness that the two most credible mediators between the two sides — the United States and the European Union — appear to have little leverage with Turkey.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesting the use of the term Macedonia to describe the Republic of Macedonia, the small republic north of Greece’s northern province of Macedonia, in Athens this month. Credit Costas Baltas/Reuters

Huge demonstrations in Athens and Thessaloniki recently have shaken Greece’s politics and threatened its coalition government. After years of austerity and the humiliation of depending on foreign loans, many Greeks are rejecting the idea of their country sharing the name of its northern province, Macedonia, with a small northern neighbor, the Republic of Macedonia.

This decades-long controversy has undermined the role that Greece, as a member of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, could play in the Balkans. Even as a new government in the Republic of Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, appears keen on compromise and United Nations-mediated negotiations intensify, the issue could drive Greece’s domestic politics, as it has in the past.…  Seguir leyendo »

A forensics team inspects the car of former Prime Minister Lucas Papademos of Greece after a parcel bomb exploded in Athens last month. Credit Costas Baltas/Reuters

Many Greeks were surprised when a mild-mannered former prime minister who tried to use unity and consensus to lead the country out of an economic and political impasse was seriously injured by a parcel bomb last month.

What followed was even worse: The attack was not greeted with unanimous condemnation, suggesting that Greece has a long way to go to heal divisions that were exacerbated by the economic crisis, that have shaped politics and that obstruct efforts to get Greece on its feet.

As Lucas Papademos, 69, lay in a hospital, members of a self-proclaimed anti-establishment movement threw pamphlets onto the hospital grounds proclaiming, “Die, Papademos, so we can celebrate.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Military personnel at the site of a World War II bomb found during excavation works at a gas station in Thessaloniki, Greece, this month. Alexandros Avramidis/Reuters

For decades, a large bomb sat under a gas station in a densely crowded neighborhood near the heart of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city. Last Sunday, the authorities evacuated some 72,000 residents from the area so a military explosives disposal crew could defuse the 550-pound bomb and take it away. It was reported to have been dropped in an Allied raid in World War II, when Greece was under German occupation and members of Thessaloniki’s ancient and flourishing Jewish community were being murdered in camps in occupied Poland.

In Greece, the wounds of history are never far from the surface. And this small country on Europe’s periphery sits squarely on the fault lines of the many difficulties that face Western democracies today.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Turkish military officer being transferred to court in northern Greece in July. Antonis Pasvantis/Associated Press

Eight Turkish military officers who may or may not have been involved in the attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last July are now at the center of a tense standoff between Greece and Turkey. At a time when Greece’s economy is still in limbo and Turks are caught between an increasingly authoritarian government and a surge in terrorist attacks, neither country can afford such a distraction. Yet the two neighbors find themselves at odds once again.

The men — two majors, four captains and two noncommissioned officers — turned up in the northern Greek town of Alexandroupolis in a military helicopter the day after the attempted coup.…  Seguir leyendo »

The urban sprawl of Athens. Construction of homes has collapsed across Greece, dropping by 95 percent from 2007 to 2016. Louisa Gouliamaki/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

At law courts throughout Greece, people are lining up to file papers renouncing their inheritance. Not necessarily because some feckless uncle left them with a pile of debt at the end of his revels; they are turning their backs on what used to be a pillar of Greece’s economy and society: real estate. Growing personal debt, declining incomes and ever higher taxes as Greece’s depression grinds on have turned property and the dream of easy money into dread of a catastrophic burden.

The figures are clear. In 2013, two years after a property tax was introduced (previously, real estate tax revenue came mainly from transfers or conveyance taxes), 29,200 people declined to accept their inheritance, according to the Justice Ministry.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Macedonian soldier placing barbed wire on a new fence along the border with Greece near Gevgelija, Macedonia. Georgi Licovski/European Pressphoto Agency

Democracies may be destined to dislike one another. When people have a decisive voice in government, they are guided by self-interest, and put their short-term concerns before those of neighbors or partners. In an effort to channel this endless ebb and flow of passions, institutions provide a framework of “rights” and “wrongs,” and governments function by persuading the greatest number of voters that they are doing the “right” thing.

What happens, however, when leaders are unable or unwilling to turn the tide of nationalism, xenophobia and self-interest?

In many liberal democracies, the network of systems that maintained stability and promoted prosperity (nationally and internationally) appears to be disintegrating.…  Seguir leyendo »

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has declared a three-month state of emergency. Adem Altan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Military coups have been an integral part of politics through most of the modern history of Greece and Turkey, shaping them domestically and determining relations between them. If war is diplomacy by other means, in these two neighbors and NATO allies, military coups were politics by other means. The recent attempt by military forces to overthrow Turkey’s elected government underlines the different course the two countries have taken in the past few decades. What follows may lead them even further apart.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, appears determined to use the failed coup as an opportunity to wipe out opposition from every quarter, ordering a sweeping purge of the military, the judiciary, the police, academia, the civil service and some journalists.…  Seguir leyendo »

Greeks, clinging precariously to our European Union membership for the past few years, have watched with particular fascination while at the other end of Europe, Britons head for a referendum on June 23 to decide whether to leave the Union.

For around 200 years, Greece and Britain have been tied together. Britain, as a leading economic, political, military and technological power, has had inordinate influence on modern Greek history. At the height of its imperial power, Britain was decisive in helping the Greeks break free of the Ottoman Empire; in World War II and the Greek civil war that followed, Winston Churchill fought to keep Greece in the Western camp and succeeded.…  Seguir leyendo »

La gente que huye de la guerra y la pobreza estremece a Grecia. Desde los muelles de este puerto en el Pireo hasta los campos lodosos de Idomeni, la gran migración se encuentra con alambradas de púas creadas por la confusión y el miedo europeo.

Consumido por una deuda abrumadora, la austeridad y la recesión, el país se apresura a dar refugio y asistencia a un número de refugiados y migrantes que se disparó repentinamente y que no quieren nada, excepto seguir en movimiento, indiferentes ante el hecho de que su búsqueda de libertad, estabilidad y prosperidad ha provocado la mayor crisis en la Unión Europea desde su fundación.…  Seguir leyendo »

Greece pulsates with people fleeing war and poverty, from the docks of this port to the muddy fields of Idomeni, where their great migration runs into the barbed wire fences of Europe’s confusion and fear. Already drained by overwhelming debt, austerity and recession, the country is rushing to provide shelter and care for a surging number of stranded refugees and migrants who want nothing more than to keep moving, indifferent to the fact that their pursuit of freedom, stability and prosperity has thrown the European Union into its greatest crisis since its founding.

An average of 1,442 people arrive each day from Turkey, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.…  Seguir leyendo »

It may just be coincidence, but in the year since a radical left movement and an extreme right-wing party joined forces to govern Greece, the resilience of the European Union has been tested. But it may be also that the forces released in Greece have emerged in many other countries, poisoning relations among member states.

The glue that holds Greece’s paradoxical coalition together, and which we see across Europe, is populism. Not some coherent ideology that puts the people’s interests first, but a policy based on opportunism, on cultivating a grandiose sense of national identity and then presenting that identity as being threatened by domestic and foreign enemies.…  Seguir leyendo »

The deceptively beautiful waters between Greek islands in the eastern Aegean and the Turkish mainland are the border between Greeks and Turks, a dividing line that has been shifting since Muslim Seljuk Turks pushed westward into the Christian Byzantine Empire a thousand years ago. It’s also the European Union’s external border, where ideals collide with reality.

This is where member states must ask themselves whether they truly trust one another for protection, see the European Union’s borders as their own and can accept closer union. Will they be able to reconcile the need for collective security with reduced national sovereignty, and bear the political cost that is entailed?…  Seguir leyendo »

Greeks will commemorate the Oct. 28 national holiday in a very different country from what it was a year ago. The anniversary marks the day in 1940 when a Greek government rejected an ultimatum from Fascist Italy to allow its troops to enter the country. The “No” (“Ochi” in Greek) united a deeply divided country behind a right-wing dictatorship and thrust Greece into World War II on the side of the Allies. “No” is a symbol of defiance. But now Greeks must decide what they want, rather than what they reject.

On “Ochi Day,” military parades and patriotic speeches hail a small nation’s resilience against insurmountable odds.…  Seguir leyendo »