GREEK REPORTER NEWSPAPER, GREECE: Referendums…A Greek-British Affair

I have written many articles expressing the relationship between Greece and the United Kingdom. But I have never formerly mentioned the elephant in the room – the two countries past experiences with referendums.

Greece has recently elected a new government and conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and with this Greek citizens decided to reject the past populist and socialist incumbent Alexis Tsipras. In contrast, we have the imminent departure of British Prime Minister Theresa May and the real possibility of Boris Johnson leading a hard Brexit government.

Both countries have had their politics changed mostly due to the result of referendums, but I want to give some reflection on the experiences both have endured as a result.

Greeks elected SYRIZA with the mandate to fight austerity and provide an alternative to the Conservative government implementing troika demands. However, nobody could have conceived the surprise referendum called by Tsipras asking Greeks to decide whether to say OXI (NO) or NAI (YES) to EU bailout terms that would have helped rescue Greece from the crisis it engulfed itself in. The result of OXI presented a reflection of what Greeks entrusted SYRIZA to do – that was to fight against more austerity measures and hopefully come out on top. But what was clear in the aftermath, was that Tsipras was uneasy executing the decision of the Greek people. Tsipras did not want the responsibility and legacy of bankrupting Greece or even exiting Greece from the Euro.

Equally, we have Britain – that bastion of intelligent diplomacy and envy of the world – fighting an election under Prime Minister David Cameron with the key promise of a referendum to decide whether the U.K. remains in or leaves the EU. After winning the election with even more seats and forming a majority, the campaign started with David Cameron declaring his intention to remain a member. He probably never thought the British people would vote to leave the EU, and the issue remains as controversial today as when the former PM was in office.

Both nations have clearly displayed the commonality, that calling a referendum is the least of the problem. The problem is with the aftermath, coming in the form of executing a result you never expected to win and having to go down a path as a politician you know will be toxic. Greece’s relationship with Europe was never worse than when Varoufakis insisted with EU bureaucrats that they must respect the will of the people. And for Britain, their relationship with Europe was heavily strained when earlier this year the British government clearly expressed the possibility of a No Deal. At the end of all this, SYRIZA and Tsipras fell flat on their faces losing the trust of the Greek people and thus proving that populism of the left can overpromise and underdeliver. Thus, the result for Greece here was an even worse bailout agreement and a new Conservative government that will have to pick up the pieces of the past.

For Britain, this isn’t a closed chapter, if anything the chapter is still to be determined. The referendum over there has divided people into remain and leave camps, and the uncertainty caused for ordinary business and individuals who can’t plan ahead means that faith in British politics is slowly worsening. We now find ourselves in a new situation, with a prime minister on her way out, and a new one that will take the nation to the edge. There is talk of an early general election before the year-end, and once again this will be a reflection of the Brexit sentiments of the nation… leavers will probably vote Conservative, but those who want to remain in the EU will probably vote Liberal Democrat.

Overall, there is a pain in referendums, and there is never a winner in the referendum game. Tsipras failed, and Greece is now turning a new chapter, but Britain is still stuck in 2016 and that referendum will stick around until it either is completed or stopped altogether.

I imagine if former PMS’s Tsipras and Cameron asked to comment on referendums now they would say something like….don’t bother, it’s not worth it.


PARAPOLITIKA NEWSPAPER, GREECE: Πραγματοποιήθηκε η 2η εκδήλωση του συλλόγου Ελλήνων φίλων του Συντηρητικού κόμματος

Ο σύλλογος Ελλήνων φίλων του Συντηρητικού κόμματος της Βρετανίας πραγματοποίησε για δεύτερη συνεχή χρονιά συνδιάσκεψη.

Η εκδήλωση πραγματοποιήθηκε φέτος στο Μάντσεστερ, δύο χρόνια μετά την ίδρυση του συλλόγου, που από τότε έχει αυξήσει σταδιακά τη δυναμική του, μετρώντας σήμερα 12 μέλη από τη Βουλή των Κοινοτήτων, δύο μέλη από τη Βουλή των Λόρδων και ένα μέλος από τον δήμο του Λονδίνου.

Διοργανωτής της φετινής εκδήλωσης ο πρόεδρος του Συλλόγου, Στέφανος Ιωάννου, με εκλεκτούς καλεσμένους βουλευτές του Συντηρητικού κόμματος, τον Έλληνα πρέσβη στη Βρετανία, Δημήτρη Καραμήτσο-Τζήρα και τον δημοτικό σύμβουλο Άντριου Μποφ. Παράλληλα, ο Σύλλογος ανακοίνωσε τη νέα επικεφαλής του οίκου των Λόρδων, βαρώνη Νίκολσον του Γιουίντερμπουρν.

Ο πρόεδρος Στέφανος Ιωάννου τόνισε μεταξύ άλλων στην ομιλία του: «Για δύο χρόνια ο Σύλλογος Ελλήνων Φίλων του Συντηρητικού κόμματος αποτελεί τη φωνή των Ελλήνων που ζουν εδώ στο Ηνωμένο Βασι΄λειο. Για δύο χρόνια έχουμε καλωσορίσει Έλληνες στον σύλλογό μας, δίνοντάς τους ένα σπίτι και κάνοντά τους να αισθάνονται ότι κάποιος είναι με το μέρος τους: αυτός ο κάποιος είναι το Συντηρητικό κόμμα. Είμαστε το μόνο κόμμα στη χώρα που επεκτεινόμαστε στην ελληνική κοινότητα. Ούτε οι Εργατικοί, ούτε οι Φιλελεύθεροι Δημοκράτες έχουν αναγνωρίσει τη διαφορά που έχουν κάνει στη βρετανική οικονομία οι ελληνικές επιχειρήσεις τις τελευταίες δεκαετίες. Εμείς όμως το αναγνωρίζοουμε και φωνάζουμε ότι είμαστε με το μέρος σας!».


FINANCIAL MIRROR, UK & CY: Cyprus only country not to sign MEPs letter urging UK to stop Brexit

Cyprus was the odd man out when more than 120 MEPs from every corner of EU signed heartfelt letter asking the British people to reconsider Brexit.

The plea comes from 26 member states and across the European parliament’s different political groups, Cyprus was the only country not to add its voice urging for the bloc to stay together and avoid disaster.

People are now asking why this was allowed to happen.

Stephanos Ioannou, Conservative councillor (of Cypriot origin) for Southgate in North London tweeted: “Is this an actual joke?! Almost half a million Cypriots here in the U.K., and we couldn’t even get one MEP from Cyprus to say, ‘we want you back’. I hope they didn’t fall for lie about an even closer relationship with the commonwealth. Not impressed.”

The cross-party message, orchestrated by an Austrian MEP and signed by 129 of his colleagues, says the continent is “looking with growing anxiety” across the Channel to events occurring in Britain.

“We are reluctant to intervene in your domestic politics, but we cannot help but notice that the opinion polls show a growing number of voters who want an opportunity to reconsider the Brexit decision, now that it is clear that Brexit is very different to the promises made by the Leave campaign nearly three years ago,” the MEPs say.

The representatives – who come from conservative, liberal, socialist and green groups – add that though they respect and regret the decision of the UK to leave, “any British decision to remain in the EU would be warmly welcomed by us and we would work with you to reform and improve the European Union, so that it works better in the interests of all citizens”.

The rallying call comes amid meltdown in Westminster over Brexit, with MPs set to reject the deal negotiated by the Prime Minister Theresa May.

“The only country whose MEPs all passed on signing the letter was Cyprus, the union’s third smallest member – but it otherwise draws signatories from every part of the continent,” reported the UK’s Independent newspaper.

“We have greatly appreciated the enormous impact British politicians and citizens have contributed to the European project over the last 40 years. We would miss the extraordinary expertise of our British colleagues,” the MEPs say, adding that they would support the withdrawal of Article 50.

“We ask you to reconsider to leave our union in the interest of the next generation of young people, British and Europeans, who will lose out on the opportunities of living, loving and working together. Brexit will weaken all of us. We want you to stay. Together, we are stronger and together we can build a stronger Europe.”

Notable MEPs on the list include Udo Bullmann, the leader of the socialist group in the parliament, and Philippe Lamberts, the Green group leader. It was also signed by Elmar Brok, the German MEP from Angela Merkel’s CDU group who sits on the parliament’s Brexit steering group, the Independent reported.

It was put together by Josef Weidenholzer, from the Austrian centre-left SPOe.

A full link to the article can be found here.

GREEK REPORTER NEWSPAPER, GREECE: Greeks and Cypriots Living in a Post-Brexit Britain

Growing up in the northern suburbs of London, you realise quickly that the Greek-British in London have a firm position as a recognised and ever-growing community within the United Kingdom, and particularly in the London area.

A considerable number of Greek-British people have major business interests all around the city. Their contribution toward the skilled workforce of London has been, and continues to be, enormous.

They work in major insurance and banking firms in the City of London, in British public services, and own their own businesses.

But despite all these positives, since 2016 I have had a considerable number of E.U. nationals come to me with growing concerns about the situation regarding their status as “citizens” in this country post-Brexit. At one of my community meetings recently in my constituency, I had one such lady come to me with her son and ask me: “Will I be allowed to stay, or will they kick me out?”

It was at that moment I realised a growing concern, felt not only by Greek and Cypriot nationals living in the U.K. but by other E.U. nationals as well. I would like to give my views on what Brexit may mean for our communities here in the United Kingdom after Great Britain leaves the E.U.

We have a cast-iron guarantee from our prime minister that the state of E.U. citizenship will not affect our rights to live in the U.K. after we leave the European Union. In quoting a piece from Ta Nea, Theresa May explicitly noted that “I want to thank the 70,000 Greek citizens who chose to make Britain their home. We appreciate their significant contribution to our culture and society, our universities and our economy. They should know that we want them to stay in Britain as well as all the other E.U. citizens.”

The U.K. recognises the necessity to have highly educated Greek nationals coming to the U.K. and making it their home. Just because Great Britain is leaving the E.U. does not mean Greek nationals will be discriminated against. I am actually optimistic in the face of pessimism, believing that Greeks will be preferred because of their educational levels and their history of integration in the U.K.

I also do not feel the U.K. will jeopardise the ability of Greeks here in the U.K. to stay in touch with their relations back home in Greece. This means that for a Greek person in the U.K., the possibility of visa restrictions or money-transfer restrictions between the two countries will be extremely rare. I say that as someone who, as a representative of my party, has not seen any evidence to suggest the U.K. is even thinking of imposing such restrictions in the future.

The U.K. is also home to almost 200 Greek churches and schools combined. We can argue that, compared to other nations, our established infrastructure enables Greek nationals to come to the U.K. and integrate, while still maintaining aspects of the Greek culture.

We have thriving communities around the UK. In my constituency of Southgate, for example, Greeks make up almost 20% of the population, and in neighbouring Cockfosters the rate is almost 40%. If this is the state of our communities here, I’m sure Bayswater’s figure is even greater.

I am confident that Greeks will recognise that the U.K. is still “the place to go” in Europe, partly because of its excellent foundations for making us “feel at home”.

We also have a thriving Greek entrepreneurial energy here in the U.K. Last March, Mikel Coffee Community, a Greek franchise with 185 stores worldwide, opened up its first store in Bloomsbury. A few months earlier, Saucy Restaurants, another Greek franchise, opened two restaurants in London, bringing modern Greek cuisine to the market.

And for centuries, London has been a popular destination for Greek shipping tycoons, who set up regional headquarters here. Data from the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics show that from 1999 to 2015, Greece was 31st in trade volume among the U.K.’s global trade partners, with a value of over 87 billion pounds.

Greece also ranks 31st in imports from the U.K., with over 38 billion pounds sold, and it ranks 30th in exports to the U.K., exporting over 48 billion pounds’ worth of commodities.

This positive balance of exports versus imports would imply that Greece would be among the E.U. member states to have a clear interest in pushing for a favorable trade deal with the U.K. in order to maintain the national income generated by exports to Britain.

I do want to reiterate that this is not the end of the Brexit process. It has not concluded, by any means. The issues are subject to change, and even the decision itself may not be concrete. The campaign called “People’s Vote” is gathering momentum, and people are increasingly skeptical of the true benefits of Brexit.

I want to make it clear, however, that should the 2016 vote go through, and we do leave, real impacts on the Greece-U.K. relationship are likely to be minimal. We can remain confident of our rights and communities in the U.K. in a post-Brexit world.

Stephanos Ioannou is a Conservative Party Councillor for Southgate in the London Borough of Enfield and is Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Greece Group. He currently studies Public Policy at Kings College in London.

A full link to the article can be found here.

PARAPOLITIKA NEWSPAPER, GREECE: My view on the Brexit vote result.

With the outcome on the referndum for the UK’s membership with the EU being Brexit, to leave, I was asked to give my views on the decision the British people to the Greek newspaper PARAPOLITIKA.

I focused on the consequences for Greek nationals living in the UK, and the impact it will have on them.

First was the impact of Greek nationals coming to study in the UK. Greek’s have the fourth largest presence in UK universities, and with that pay EU subsided fees. The impact of a Brexit, and increased fees brings the prospects of future Greeks coming to the UK to study at risk.

Second was the conscious feeling of now residing in a nation outside the European Union. It gives the impression to current EU residents that they are unwelcome… That their contribution to the UK is not enough. One could call this a “punishment”, for taking British jobs, for using public services, and for fairing better than people either born or in the UK before them. This I mentioned  “Is not something that will slowly die away and be forgotten about, this will be in EU nationals minds forever.”

Third, I mentioned the impact of Greek exports to the UK. Whether it be food, clothing, or services, Greece will be far worse off from Brexit in terms of the trade relationship between the two countries. Another important point is the possible decline in tourism in Greece as UK nationals either cant afford because of a worsening exchange rate, or because the economic uncertainty leads to more caution with spending on luxuries.

Lastly I mentioned the impact of freedom of movement between the UK and Greece.
Myself traveling frequently between the two countries felt upset, and deprived, of this blessed luxury that for so long I and others took advantage of. The knowingness that on arrival in Greece we will be in the “other passports lane” is something I have never experienced, and never wanted to.