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New Europe Print Edition Issue 1009

New Europe Print Edition Issue 1009

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Published by: New Europe Newspaper on Dec 02, 2012
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19thYear of Publication | Number 1009 | 2 - 8 December , 2012 | € 3.50
 While the phrase ‘challenges and oppor-tunities’ is a tired cliché in Brussels,Greek Education Minister, ConstantinosArvanitopoulos is facing a grave situa-tion, but one where the urgency of reform is driving him to not only makebold and overdue structural changes, it isproviding an opportunity to change how students will be educated, giving themtools that will help them in school andfor the rest of their lives. The ministerspoke with New Europe about his plans. The desperate financial situation inGreece is serious, “Education was affect-ed by austerity measures, we had to cutsalaries of professors, we won’t have theluxury of employing part time teachers inthe next year,” he says, adding, “but themost important thing happening inGreek education right now is the intro-duction of structural reforms. This ishappening at all levels of the educationsystem at the same time. We don’t havethe luxury of following a gradual reform,taking one step at a time, because wesimply don’t have the time.” While many agree on the urgent needfor, if not reform, then a reconstructionof education, there has been opposition,“We’ve looked at legislation that wasn’tenacted because of a vocal minority inacademia, so now with the changes Imade in August, we bypassed this minor-ity and elected the governing councils inthe universities and now we have a new system of government in universities. Weintroduced electronic voting so the vot-ing process couldn’t be interrupted andblock the process.”Last 27 November, the Eurogroupfinance ministers “saved” Greece frombankruptcy once again, by agreeing todisburse € 43 billion over the next few months. By doing so, they bought somemore time for Greece but also forthemselves.It has indeed been their strategy to“kick the can down the road,” since thebeginning of the crisis, three years ago, while hoping to some day reach abroad agreement on the structuralproblems that plague Europe and are atthe origin of the sovereign debt crisis.And they don’t seem to want to deal with the troubles of an official Greek default until that day. The last agreement is not only aboutlending more money to Greece, butalso about making its debt “sustain-able”. The aim is to lower the Greek debt-to-GDP ratio from its currentlevel of 190% to a more “manageable”124% by 2020…Thus, several othermeasures, favorable to Greece, weredecided; these include an extension of the repayment period for Greece’sbailout loans, a reduction of interestrates, a sovereign debt buyback pogram etc.Also, the biggest part of the money to be received as a first installmentunder this plan (around € 23.8 billionout of a € 34.6 billion) will be used torecapitalize the Greek banks after theheavy losses they suffered from the so-called PSI earlier in the year.As in any new plan, the figures above just emphasize that the previous plan’sgoals were not realistic, and so couldthe current targets’ prove to be. Andbefore the new Euro-zone agreement’sink was dry, Citigroup issued its ownforecasts contradicting those of thetroika, and painting a much more grimfuture for Greece.According to Citibank, Greek GDP will contract by more than 7% this year, and will keep contracting up toand including 2015; unemployment isseen to attain catastrophic levels, up to40% in 2015, and will start to declineafter 2017. Eventually, always accord-ing to Citibank, Greece will be forcedto leave the euro somewhere betweenthe next 12 and 18 months.
But can the crisis hit nation really be saved?
Greek Minister announces structural change
continued on page 3
Greece rescued again
After the rather rusheddecision of CommissionPresident Jose Barroso todismiss Health Commis-sioner John Dalli...
·Page 32·Page 3
 The European Union has ahistoric chance to resolve abitter, frozen conflict in itsneighbourhood...
·Page 8
During the 2nd meeting of the High-level Dialogue onthe Accession Process(HLDAP) with Bosnia andHerzegovina (BiH)...
·Page 26
 The Arab minority in Israelfinds itself at a crucial junc-tion. While enjoying politicaland civil rights ,it still faceslingering discrimination...
·Page 10
EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn, Greek Finance Minister YannisStournaras, Luxembourg's Prime Minister and Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker, ItalianPresident of the Financial Stability Board and Governor of the Bank of Italy Mario Draghi (LtoR)meet prior an Eurozone meeting on November 12, 2012. |
 The economic crisis in Europe hasturned the European Union into“something radically different” thanits original political intention, divid-ing member states and opening-upsociety to extremist opinions, GeorgeSoros has said. Speaking in Budapest,Soros said that the European Unionis holding together “out of grim real-ity”. He said that the EU is far fromthe open society it had originally aimed to be.
Crisis mode
·Pages 14-15
Hair conditionPage 21
 There was a different type of whitewash at the European Parliament this week.|
A decade ago there was progress on enlarging the EU, adding a further 10 countries, including the dividedisland of Cyprus, all of whom were fully admitted two years later.The move did bring in former Warsaw Pactnations, bringing them into the western sphere and greater prosperity. This enlargement was a radical changethat largely ended the split between west and east Europe. The change in the EU is still being felt, but thenew members are playing a full part in the EU.
Damn debate or damning debate?
Some time back, the Irish Times, Ireland’s paper of record,ran as its advertising slogan, ‘Questions Answered,Answers Questioned’. It wasn’t an original quotation, of course, but in the context of its use, perfectly captured what a newspaper should do; not only in the obvious way of holding public authorities to account, but also in theseparation of fact and opinion, of news and analysis.Questions do not always provide comfortable answers, orindeed provide any kind of satisfactory answer in them-selves; think of Bishop Berkley’s poser about the sound of a tree falling in a forest, or the famous koan about thesound of one hand clapping. A literal answer may have yougoing around in circles.“Is jailing the leader of a neo-Nazi gang really going to combatintolerance in Europe?” That was just one of the questionsposed at the Tackling Hate Speech conference in Budapest on27 and 28 November. The conference looked at the historicalroots of hate speech, and how it might be stamped out. The sit-uation is not good; examples show that hate speech has grad-ually, but undeniably, infiltrated the real world – transferredfrom cyberspace to the concrete jungle – and, worse still, takenover mainstream political communication. Nowadays, fearfulof losing votes to the extremes, politicians incorporate some of their hardline rhetoric, in the hope of stemming a haemor-rhage. Debate be damned.Enforcing particular opinions on citizens is always per-ilous, and should be approached with caution, naturally.In this case, it is the threat to free speech.Unconformable views about race or religion are notautomatically racist or sectarian, in the same way thatill-informed comments that serve as a call to violentaction are. Context is everything.Everyone has the right to be offended, but being offendedis not the same thing as being persecuted. In Europe, astwo separate reports issued this week (27 November) illus-trate that hate speech, and it’s violent real world partner incrime, hate crime, has not gone away in the EU, despite itssincere aim to eradicate prejudice. There is seemingly agenuine problem in Europe with a renewed upsurge inracist or otherwise intolerant behaviour. It is somethingthat needs to be tackled head-on, not by vague words of condemnation. Complex debate is nothing to be scared of.Political leadership is at the heart of this. George Soroshas complained that this generation of leaders has letEurope backslide into the kind of times that fuelled fascistextremism in the run-up to the second world war. Badtimes, he says, encourages intolerance. There is historicalprecedence for this, of course, and the fear of a return to arecent genocidal path is maybe too mush to worth con-templating; better to clamp down that admit the burgeon-ing reality. A lurid, somewhat fanciful picture, but left togo on, could Europe again face the disastrous dilemma it was confronted with 90 or so years ago.But his is not the only question facing Europe. The eco-nomic crisis, and general mistrust about financial institu-tions, seen to be withholding much needed tax revenuesfrom national and European purses, and which so many believe is fuelling the rise in hate crime, also needs to beaddressed. Which means the EU asking some very awk- ward questions of its own economic and corporate poli-cies. The debate needs to be had; questions need to beasked, and answers need to be questions.
 Alia Papageorgioualia@neurope.eu
Kostis Geropoulos (Energy & Russian Affairs)kgeropoulos@neurope.euCillian Donnelly (EU Affairs)cdonnelly@neurope.eu Andy Carling (EU Affairs)acarling@neurope.eu Ariti Alamanou (Legal Affairs)aalamanou@neurope.euLouise Kissa (Fashion)lkissa@neurope.eu Alexandra Coronakis (Columnist)acoronaki@neurope.eu
 Alexandros Koronakisakoronakis@neurope.eu
Suman Haquesuman@neurope.eu
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2012 New Europe all rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored ina retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or otherwise, without express permission. The Publishers accept no liability for third party views published, nor damagecaused by reading, viewing or using our content. All information is correct at the time of going to print, we accept no liabilities for consequent changes.
ISSN number: 1106-8299
2 - 8 December , 2012
2 - 8 December , 2012
 While the phrase ‘challenges and oppor-tunities’ is a tired cliché in Brussels, Greek Education Minister, Constantinos Arvan-itopoulos is facing a grave situation, butone where the urgency of reform is driv-ing him to not only make bold and over-due structural changes, it is providing anopportunity to change how students willbe educated, giving them tools that willhelp them in school and for the rest of their lives. The minister spoke with New Europe about his plans. The desperate financial situation inGreece is serious, “Education was affectedby austerity measures, we had to cutsalaries of professors, we won’t have theluxury of employing part time teachers inthe next year,” he says, adding, “but themost important thing happening in Greek education right now is the introduction of structural reforms. This is happening at alllevels of the education system at the sametime. We don’t have the luxury of follow-ing a gradual reform, taking one step at atime, because we simply don’t have thetime.” While many agree on the urgent needfor, if not reform, then a reconstruction of education, there has been opposition,“We’ve looked at legislation that wasn’tenacted because of a vocal minority in ac-ademia, so now with the changes I madein August, we bypassed this minority andelected the governing councils in the uni- versities and now we have a new systemof government in universities. We intro-duced electronic voting so the votingprocess couldn’t be interrupted and block the process.” Arvanitopoulos doesn’t see the academ-ics as an enemy, “What is amazing, is theparticipation of the academic community. With an average of 80% to 85%, people voted for change, reforms. We gave theability to the silent majority in academiato express itself. The positive aspect is thatthere is a large majority that wants tomove forwards.”He intends to consolidate the depart-ments and institutions, to bring the ‘shape’of education towards what the country needs, now and in the future and ispreparing a presidential decree that willbring a strict evaluation of the educationarena, noting, “This has not happened for30 years.” There are other deep changes to come,including a new digital system to placethe right numbers of educators in eachschool, aiming to end the current system which requires 20,000 part-time teachersbeing hired every year. This will be com-pleted by September 2013.If one word sums up the minister’s ap-proach, it is change. “Change means aparadigm shift, it’s difficult to change ways of thinking, but there is the realiza-tion and acceptance things must change,but when it comes to offering proposals,some people back off. It’s difficult some-times to accept change.”His answer to reluctance is constant di-alogue, “It is not to enforce change butmake the community participants inchange.” This change also reaches every student. Arvanitopoulos says that rote learning of facts and figures is not enough to preparepeople for the future, what he intends todo is change how people are educated,teaching students how to educate them-selves, how to think, examine and draw conclusions. “We have to start teaching inthis way from very young learners.” The challenge is being overcome,painfully, but the opportunities will come.
Greek Minister announces structural change
By Andy Carling
Greek Education Minister, Constantinos Arvanitopoulos
(continued from page 1 )
 Although these forecasts look overly pes-simistic, (and the thousand or so articles we have read so far in the “serious” Anglo-saxon press about Greece’s exitfrom the euro-zone have proved wrong),the official troika’s forecasts have in some way “symmetricallybeen overly opti-mistic. All the rescue plans decided todate have created a much deeper reces-sion than expected, thus making thegoals that they themselves had set, unat-tainable.So, in this backdrop, is it still possible tosave Greece? I strongly believe that theanswer will come from Greece itself andnot from its international “rescuers.” And the answer lies in the denominatorof the debt-to-GDP ratio. In other words, Greece’s future solely depends onits society’s will and its government’sability to implement those measures that will stimulate its economy, and attractforeign investment.Some serious efforts have been done tothis end, including a sharp reduction of public deficits, a significant decrease of  wages across the board, and a partial dis-mantlement of a largely constraininglabor legislation. However, these meas-ures are “too little, too late” to bring realchange to the country’s economic land-scape. Public administration and its fa-mous bureaucracy, the single mostdeterring factor to foreign investment, isstill practically intact; very few if any measures for simplifying the bureaucracy,other than vague promises, have beentaken so far. Tax legislation, of a proverbial complex-ity, is getting even worse: 14 tax laws were passed over the last three years, re-flecting the changing reactions of gov-ernment officials towards the consecutivefailures of the tax collection system.More to that, these laws (some of whichhave never been applied) are typically complemented by regulatory texts (circu-lars) that are supposed to “clarify thelaw.” Only last year, in 2011, 250 such taxcirculars were issued, practically one per working day, with many of them contra-dicting one another… This is far, indeed, from the ideal envi-ronment that would appeal to interna-tional investors, but it’s just about all thecurrent Greek administration can pro-duce. The main issue is neither the last rescueplan itself, nor the gloomy predictions of some major international bank. The truequestion is whether Greece wants to besaved, and more precisely if its currentpolitical class is able and willing to makethe necessary “administrative revolutionthe country badly needs. Is it too muchto ask? Sometimes, I think of it as if we were asking the old communist regime todemolish the Berlin Wall…
Christos Kissas

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