What Germany can learn from other countries

Athens, Beijing, Salvador, Bangkok, Tokyo Support for the Federal Government’s measures against the coronavirus is high, and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity is undisputed. Also because the Germans like themselves in the role of Corona world champions, who have so far got the pandemic under control better than anyone else.

However, this picture is only partially correct. A number of countries have at least coped with certain aspects of the pandemic better than Germany. The Handelsblatt correspondents give an overview.

The number of new corona infections is also currently rising in Greece, albeit from a relatively low level: So far, 27,300 people have been infected in the country with its 10.7 million inhabitants. 534 patients have died of Covid-19. The deaths amount to 50 per million inhabitants. That is less than half of the 119 deaths per million inhabitants in Germany.

Greece mastered the first wave in spring better than most other European countries. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis listened to the experts and had contact restrictions introduced at an early stage, until the extensive lockdown on March 22nd. In terms of measures, Greece was about two weeks ahead of the other EU countries, although it had very few cases at the time.

During the pandemic, the Greeks showed a quality that is rarely trusted in the rest of Europe: discipline. The horror of overcrowded hospitals and mortuaries from neighboring Italy also contributed to this. Because the overwhelming majority of the population followed the restrictions and compliance was closely monitored by the police, the curve of nine infections flattened again at the beginning of April.

But it has been rising steeply again since August. A record was set on Wednesday with 865 reported cases. It seems that younger Greeks in particular have become more careless in recent weeks. Probably because of the good crisis management in spring, vigilance decreased in summer.

After the government issued uniform restrictions across the country in the spring, in the second wave it relies on regional and local measures as well as intensive follow-up of the new cases in order to identify and isolate sources of infection. This also serves to ensure that particularly vulnerable population groups are tested, such as migrants, nursing home workers and hospital staff. Gerd Höhler

China: nationwide tests

Coronatest in Peking

China has massively expanded its test capacities in recent months.

(Photo: dpa)

Getting tested for Corona has been an easy undertaking in China for several months. If you need a negative test, just go to the nearest hospital. In Beijing, for example, four containers are set up side by side in a large state hospital.

At the first window you give your personal data, show your passport and give the telephone number. You pay at the second window, at the third you get a number that you give to the employee at the fourth window. Open your mouth, put the chopsticks in, done. Without an appointment, without waiting. The result can be picked up the next day.

In the past few months, China has expanded its test capacities more massively than almost any other country. According to the Chinese National Health Commission and the Ministry of Industry, the number of testing institutes increased from 2081 in early March to 4804 in June. The technical staff involved in the tests increased from 13,900 in early March to 38,000 at the end of July. While 1.26 million people per day could be tested at the beginning of March, according to government figures it was 4.84 million at the end of July.

The mass tests that are carried out on new local outbreaks are also very comprehensive. Just last week, the local government in the east Chinese port city of Qingdao said it had tested more than ten million people within a few days because a few new cases had been reported.

There had previously been mass tests of this type in several other cities. To this end, the authorities usually set up thousands of temporary test stands throughout the city within a very short time. The samples are then not all tested individually, but rather pooled in groups of five or ten. Only when this test comes back positive will the group members be tested again individually to find the infected person.

Dana Heide

Uruguay: exemplary crisis management

Man with an original mask in Montevideo

With its exemplary global crisis management, Uruguay has the lowest infections and deaths in Latin America today, although the neighboring countries Argentina and Brazil are badly affected by the pandemic.

(Photo: dpa)

When the first corona infected person appeared in Uruguay on March 13 of this year, the authorities were armed: In January, the Universidad de la República in Montevideo had already started to develop its own diagnostics together with the local Pasteur Institute. Personal connections to Chinese researchers and to Europe made this possible.

When the virus came, Uruguay was ready. For the country, about half the size of Germany and with the population of Berlin, that was the salvation: Uruguay has open borders with all neighboring countries that can hardly be controlled.

President Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou’s government had been in office for just two weeks, but it was quick to react: it encouraged people to stay at home – on a voluntary basis. She also immediately started with mass tests and presented an app that Uruguayans can use to obtain information and contact authorities. The fourth version is now on the market, in which Google and Apple also contributed.

All relevant news about the corona crisis can be found in our corona briefing. Sign in here.

With its exemplary global crisis management, Uruguay has the lowest infections and deaths in Latin America today, although the neighboring countries Argentina and Brazil are badly affected by the pandemic. With 2,560 infected and 51 dead, the country has a Covid death rate of 1.5 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Uruguay is particularly successful in the school system. All schools were closed for just one month from March. But as early as April, the school authorities began to gradually reopen them. First the one in the country, then the one in Montevideo. All students were present again on June 29th, around three months after the start of the pandemic – while in neighboring countries there are still no face-to-face classes.

Right from the start, pupils and teachers were connected to one another via the central education platform CREA, which was soon supplemented by efficient video conference software. Around 100,000 PCs and laptops were distributed to those in need. The telecom companies allowed data to be transferred from the platform free of charge.

Alexander Busch

Thailand: masks open and borders closed

Buddhist monks in Bangkok

Even without government coercion, the vast majority of Thai people wear mouth and nose protection.

(Photo: Polaris / laif)

It didn’t look anything but good for Thailand at first: On January 13, the authorities reported the first coronavirus case in the country. For the first time, the new disease was detected outside of China.

In view of the around one million Chinese tourists who came to Thailand every month at the time, there was great concern that the holiday country would become the next hotspot. The opposite has happened: a total of 3700 Covid-19 cases have been reported in Thailand so far – within nine months, less than a third as many as in Germany on Thursday alone.

In retrospect, it can be said that the country has done a lot right – especially its population and the private sector. Already at the beginning of the year hardly anyone took to the streets without a face mask in the capital Bangkok. This happened without government coercion, but with the support of companies: supermarket chains and shopping centers only allowed mask wearers into the shops.

While the behavior of the population has apparently prevented the first widespread wave of contagion, the government closed the border to a large extent to ensure that there was no new outbreak. Since the end of March, only Thai citizens and a few foreigners have been allowed to enter – and have to be in monitored quarantine for 14 days after arrival.

The collapse of the tourism industry is the high price Thailand is paying for pandemic response. But the positive sides are also obvious: only 59 dead, hardly any sick – and the country does not have to fear a new lockdown.

Operation in schools, factories, bars and restaurants has returned to everyday life. The willingness to wear a mask remains high. According to pollster YouGov, more than 80 percent of Thais still go outside with mouth and nose protection – almost 20 percentage points more than in Germany. Mathias Peer

Japan: land in the hygiene of society as a whole

Woman with mask at Godzilla statue in Tokyo

The authorities and companies often made hand disinfectants available even before the crisis. Wearing masks is also part of everyday life for the Japanese.

(Photo: dpa)

In quarantine, Japan may be a liberal runaway in Asia. Those who enter and have to be quarantined can still go shopping themselves. In return, the country shines in terms of overall social hygiene: Almost all Japanese voluntarily wear masks and often disinfect their hands.

For the Japanese, the step towards covering their faces was natural. Even before the pandemic, the Japanese put on masks, either to protect others from colds or to protect themselves from pollen in the event of allergies. In 2018, the population of 126 million used 5.5 billion disposable masks.

In addition, authorities and companies often made hand disinfectants available before the crisis. Because protection against infectious diseases has long been high on the priority list of the authorities in the country’s densely populated megacities. The system was coupled with a traditional test system that focused on tracing clusters.

This hygiene and the voluntary compliance with official requests for social distancing by companies and private individuals have so far been sufficient to stabilize several smaller virus waves again – even without the use of high-tech as in the equally democratic South Korea or Taiwan, which is via access to health or mobile Position data could encroach on the privacy of patients and contact persons.

There was no controversial discussion either in Japan or in the other two East Asian democracies. Barbara Zollmann, the head of the German Chamber of Commerce Abroad, gives the cross-border reason: “Measures that are seen as restrictions in Germany are perceived as security here.” Because people were concerned about their own health as well as about growth and jobs.

And those who deviate from this mass, especially in Japan, bring social pressure back into the limb. In Japan, official orders to close department stores were not legally binding, even during the emergency. But companies often responded before the state officially asked for it. Martin Koelling

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Peloponnese: Greece, unknown – the Mani peninsula

“When God was done with the creation of the earth, he had a sack of stones left and emptied it here.” The inhabitants of the Greek peninsula Mani say this with pride – and somehow it is also true. There are lovelier corners in Greece, no question about it: lush green hilly landscapes, perfectly curved sandy bays, islands with white cube houses.

The middle finger of the Peloponnese is different – wild, tart, sometimes repulsive. But also authentic, relaxed and friendly. If you want to experience the normal everyday life in Greece, you will find fruit sellers who jingling with small trucks drive through the villages, cats dozing in the sun and sweet, hot Greek mocha, served in dented metal jugs.

Over a length of 75 kilometers there are mighty mountain ranges and dense green deciduous forests, jagged cliffs and peaceful bathing bays, almost deserted stone villages and tourist-free taverns. All of this was washed around by the Messenian and Laconian Gulf and shone on by the tireless Greek sun, which kept warm well into autumn. And the sea is still over 20 degrees in October.

The Mani Peninsula is quiet even in summer

However, the peninsula is little known as a holiday destination. Many a well-heeled Athenian has a holiday home here, and in the summer months Greeks move from the hinterland to the pebble beaches of Mani. But it never gets really full, not even in August and certainly not in this virus-ridden year.

Wild beauty: the southern tip of the Mani peninsula is stony and criss-crossed by old paths

What: pa / imageBROKER

If you come by car from Kalamata and drive south on dizzyingly narrow mountain roads, sooner or later the navigation system will be switched off. There is neither the house of the famous British author Patrick Leigh Fermor, who lived by the sea not far from Kardamili, which has been converted into a museum, nor Vivi Letsou’s beautiful “Zen Rocks” yoga retreat, which hovers high above Kardamili and also from German fans is visited.

“We send our guests precise directions,” says the boss, who has lived in California for a long time and speaks perfect English, “some people get lost anyway and then tell us about the great landscapes and tiny villages they discovered along the way.”

Dining on the beach in Kardamili

Kardamili himself can be found without any technical assistance – the way to the tip of the peninsula leads directly past the coastal town. Everything you need in everyday life is lined up on the main street: a post office, a pharmacy, a supermarket, a bank.

In addition, a few things that are fun: fashion boutiques with airy caftans and casual beach bags, the courtyard café “Androuvista”, where you can have a wonderful breakfast, and the nice shop “To Lokalee”, whose owner makes jam and fruit from the own garden and hand-cleaned sea salt sold.

Peloponnese (Greece): Traditional tavern in Areopoli, the capital of the Mani peninsula

Among the locals: Traditional tavern in Areopoli, the capital of the Mani peninsula

What: pa / robertharding

On the cobblestone streets that lead to the sea and the small port, there are defiant old stone houses with terraces overgrown with bougainvilleas. In between, a handful of restaurants have established themselves. One of the best is “Tikla”, a terrace restaurant with a view of the sunset and delicious feta in filo pastry.

As an alternative, locals recommend the “Elies” garden bar right on the long Ritsa beach. Zucchini fritters, bread salad, grilled prawns and broad white beans are served under mighty olive trees. The sun loungers lined up at a comfortable distance from the beach belong to the restaurant and are rented out until late October for five euros per couple.

Towers, taverns and stalactite caves

But however seductive the loungers may be – the real charm of the peninsula cannot even be guessed from there. It only reveals itself many serpentines further, in the scruffy-barren region between Mani’s sleepy main town Areopoli and the southern coastal town of Gerolimenas, which at least has a beach and a few pleasant taverns to offer.

The first are just before Areopoli pyrgospita To see: high, square and almost without windows, the stone residential towers were designed as fortresses against bad neighbors. Because the law of blood revenge still prevailed here into the 20th century, families fought each other in endless feuds, which often ended with the extermination of entire clans.

The writer Patrick Leigh Fermor was one of the first travelers in the 1950s to venture to Areopoli with a backpack and shorts. As he tells in his travel memories (“Mani: Traveling in the southern Peloponnese”), many of the residents had never seen a foreigner at that time.

Peloponnese (Greece): Visitors explore the stalactite cave of Pirgos Dirou near Areopoli on the Mani peninsula

Visitors explore the stalactite cave of Pirgos Dirou near Areopoli on footbridges

Those: pa / Rolf Haid

Today Areopolis attracts the atmospheric juxtaposition of towers and taverns, who indulge themselves here before or after a boat tour in the labyrinthine wonder world of the stalactite caves of Pirgos Dirou a few days of leisurely Greek everyday life.

Like a little Manhattan in the Peloponnese

On the Plateia Athanaton (Place of the Immortals) stands the statue of Petros Mavromichalis, one of the most important leaders in the battle of the Greeks against the Turks. From there, narrow streets lead to the church square with many shops and cafés – and to the massive stone houses of the local family clans.

Peloponnese (Greece): In Vathia on the Mani peninsula one of the largest remaining collections of "pyrgospita"

Medieval residential towers: In Vathia one can find one of the largest still existing collections of “pyrgospita”

What: pa / robertharding

One of these houses the Pikoulakis Tower House Museum, which tells the story of the Byzantine Christianization in Mani. “We now see more foreign holidaymakers here than before,” says Kostas, who stands behind the counter of the “Aula Cocktail Bar”, “I recognize them from a distance”.

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Holidaymaker in Lindos on the island of Rhodes (Greece)

Further south you reach Vathia, formerly a pirate’s nest and to this day one of the largest remaining collections of pyrgospita. From a distance, the ensemble looks like a small Manhattan. Unfortunately, only a few of the medieval residential towers have been renovated.

When hiking, only wild goats cross the path

If you walk past them, you come to the remains of the Temple of Poseidon, where sailors used to pray for a safe journey before the dangerous circumnavigation of Cape Tenaro, Mani’s outermost headland.

Here you can still feel the remoteness of the region sealed off by the high Taygetos Mountains. The streets are narrow and empty. In the past you could only reach mountain villages like Pyrrichos or fortresses like Keléfa on foot on old paths, past massive boulders and ancient olive trees.

They are still used by hikers, but encounters remain a rarity. Only wild goats often cross paths – the ubiquitous stones have never been a problem for them.

Mani Peninsula, Peloponnese, Greece

Source: WORLD infographic

Tips and information for the Peloponnese

Getting there: For example with Condor non-stop from Düsseldorf, Munich or Frankfurt to Kalamata, alternatively with Edelweiss via Zurich or with Austrian Airlines via Vienna. Continue by rental car.

Accommodation: “Zen Rocks Mani Retreat”: Beautiful studios with kitchenette and private terrace in stone houses high above Kardamili. Plus: yoga classes, vegetarian restaurant, great views. Double rooms from 100 euros, zenrocksmani.com

“Hotel Anniska”: Friendly family hotel in Kardamili with bathing access to the sea. Quiet rooms and apartments with kitchenettes and balconies. Double rooms from 85 euros, anniska-liakoto.com

“Areos Polis”: Traditional stone house with tastefully furnished rooms, roof terrace. Best location to explore the Mani. Double rooms from 60 euros, areospolis.gr

“Kyrimai Hotel”: 23 rooms with natural stone walls in an old ship outfitter workshop in the picturesque harbor village of Gerolimenas. Ambitious regional cuisine, terrace with sea view, bathing jetty. Double room from 120 euros, kyrimai.gr

Corona rules: Online registration is mandatory for Greece. Holidaymakers must fill out an online form (“Passenger Locator Form”) at least 24 hours before departure. You will receive a QR code that must be shown upon entry. Individual travelers can be tested. Hygiene rules apply in the country. Info: Auswaertiges-amt.de; greecehealthfirst.gr

Further information: discovergreece.com; visitgreece.gr

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We are happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.

Source: Welt am Sonntag


In Greece, the deputies of Golden Dawn guilty of belonging to a “criminal organization”

In front of the Athens courthouse, Irini Kondaridou, a teacher who had observed a work stoppage to come and demonstrate, cannot hold back tears of joy. “After the slaps taken all these years of austerity, this is the first good news in this country, she cries. The first which makes us hope that something can move in the right direction. “

→ THE FACTS. In Greece, verdict in sight for neo-Nazis of Golden Dawn

Moments earlier, the Criminal Court delivered its verdict in one of the most followed trials in recent years in Greece. A long-running trial: more than five years and 400 hearings, some of them very trying, 68 defendants, 153 witnesses, several dozen lawyers, a file with a volume of 1.5 terabytes …

Golden Dawn can no longer claim to be a respectable party

According to the court decision handed down on Wednesday, October 7, the entire parliamentary group of Golden Dawn, as it was elected in 2012, constitutes a criminal organization, guilty of murders, organizing pogroms, thefts, assaults, assassination attempts, and carrying weapons. Although it was, for seven years, the third political force in the country, sending several deputies to the European Parliament, the neo-Nazi nebula can no longer claim to be a respectable political party.

The investigation against Golden Dawn began after the assassination of Pavlos Fyssas, a 34-year-old anti-fascist rapper stabbed in September 2013 by Georgios Roupakias, a party cadre who confessed to the crime. While the assault sections of Golden Dawn had for years multiplied attacks against migrants, trade unionists, journalists and left-wing activists, it was not until the death of this rapper that the conservative government of the time launched the legal proceedings which resulted in the arrest of the party leadership.

Most defendants face five to fifteen years in prison

On Wednesday morning, the announcement of the verdict was followed by thunderous applause in the courtroom, and shouts of joy outside the building, where thousands of people were gathered. The most radical threw stones, Molotov cocktails at the police, overwhelmingly present, who responded with tear gas canisters, irritating gases and jets of water.

→ THE FACTS. Desecrated Jewish cemetery in Greece on trial against Golden Dawn neo-Nazis

With the exception of the direct assassin of Pavlos Fyssas, who faces life imprisonment, the other defendants face five to fifteen years in prison. “The message is now clear: imposing your law with batons and knives leads to prison even for legally elected deputies”, welcomed Me Thanassis Kabayiannis, a lawyer for the civil party whose pleadings had so marked the spirits that it was put on a play performed at sold-out.

→ DOCUMENTARY. Behind the Scenes of the Greek Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party

For Loucas Stamellos, an activist involved in the dissemination of the trial findings, “This verdict will not put a stop to racism and the extreme right in the country, but it puts out of harm’s way the assault sections. Any other verdict would have been understood as a green light for their return to the streets ”.


In Greece, verdict in sight for neo-Nazis of Golden Dawn

“We are told that we do not have the right to speak, nor to mobilize or to multiply interventions to remind the Criminal Court that the verdict it will deliver this Wednesday is crucial. That it will determine the future of Greek society ”.

Thanasis Kabayiannis, lawyer for the civil party in the river trial (more than five years of hearings, 68 accused, 153 witnesses, several dozen lawyers, a file with a volume of 1.5 terabytes) of the management and dozens of members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, does not spare. ” Me, he continues, I say that not only do we have this right, but that in addition we must do it, we must remain vigilant and maintain the pressure until the last moment ».

A pleading set up as a play

With a dozen other lawyers for the victims of Golden Dawn, Thanasis Kabayiannis has been traveling the country for several weeks to call for mobilization, this Wednesday, October 7, before the Athens Court of Appeal.

→ THE FACTS. In Greece, final hearing for the trial of the neo-Nazis of Golden Dawn

This Wednesday, October 7, it must finally deliver the verdict, eagerly awaited after five and a half years of trial, against the entire parliamentary group of Golden Dawn as it was elected in 2012, as well as many of its executives and financial support. His remarkable argument, “With bees or with wolves”, has even been put on a play that has been sold out for several days.

The investigation against Golden Dawn began after the assassination of Pavlos Fyssas, a 34-year-old anti-fascist rapper stabbed in September 2013 by Georgios Roupakias, a party cadre who confessed to the crime. As the Golden Dawn assault sections have multiplied, with impunity for years, the often deadly attacks against migrants, trade unionists, journalists and left-wing activists, in the streets of Athens and in several major cities in the country, it was only when Pavlos Fyssas was killed that the Conservative government of the day launched legal proceedings which resulted in the arrest of the party leadership. The rapper is indeed a white Greek, a kind of “boy next door”, with whom all Greeks have been able to identify.

Party or criminal organization?

After more than 400 hearings, some of them very trying, the Court must rule not on the guilt of Georgios Roupakias, acquired even by the defense, but on the very nature of the formation of Golden Dawn. Is this a legal party, as defended by the prosecutor who asked for the release of all the accused, except Roupakias himself for whom she requested life imprisonment? Or is it a criminal organization, as defended by the civil party, which requested the sentence of 10 to 15 years imprisonment for all the accused?

“The strictly hierarchical military character, where the orders emanating from the founder of Golden Dawn, Nikos Michaloliakos, were executed by second hands like Roupakias after the middle managers relayed them, has been established without any possible doubt”, underlines one of the two lawyers of the Fyssas family, Chryssa Papadopoulou. “Their conviction is the only possible outcome, if the Tribunal wants to keep its dignity”, adds Eleftheria Tombatzoglou, second lawyer of the family.

→ DOCUMENTARY. Behind the scenes of the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party

For the defense, the guilt of all the accused is impossible: “This would mean that the Greeks voted for a criminal organization and that they are therefore guilty”, explains Vasso Mpatatzi, lawyer for the former deputy of Golden Dawn, Efstathios Boukouras.


Countries disdain EU loans

This is what Germany, France and the EU Commission suggested. Rutte, leader of the “stingy four” (the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden), only wanted to grant loans – and drove the summit to the verge of failure.

The bosses sat together for four days, at the end of the day they agreed on almost half the distribution with mostly grants. Three months later it comes out: The group of four’s loan campaign becomes a farce. Many Member States do not want to hear about Rutte’s bonds.

“We will not take any EU loans, only grants,” the French Ministry of Finance told Handelsblatt. The conditions made the loans uninteresting: the country could borrow itself cheaper and easier. “Why should we take loans whose repayment via the EU will then be more expensive for us?” They ask in Paris.

It sounds similar in Berlin, Brussels, Madrid and Lisbon, but also in Athens. The highlight: Rutte, the Dutchman with the sewn pockets, even disdains the loans for which he fought so hard.

“We will not use the loans from the EU reconstruction package, but we will most likely use the grants,” a spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Finance told Handelsblatt. More details are still up for discussion, there will be no decision in the foreseeable future – probably because the Dutch want to wait for their parliamentary election in March.

The Belgians, also one of the EU countries hardest hit by the pandemic in relation to the number of inhabitants, are also cautious about loans: “We are currently working on our recovery plan, which also includes grants.

When it comes to credit, the decision whether to use it or not depends on the current market situation, ”said a Belgian official. As in France, Germany and the Netherlands, Belgian government bonds have a negative return: the creditors pay money on them. The EU bond, on the other hand, could become more expensive.

“It was clear from the start that many countries had no interest in further loans,” said Green budgetary politician Rasmus Andresen. Not only for the countries with negative returns, but also for many highly indebted countries, further loans are simply too unattractive.

“Only with direct grants for future investments can states modernize their infrastructure in a climate-friendly way and create jobs,” the MEP is convinced.

The council’s agreement on the exact volume and the structure of the 750 billion euro corona reconstruction package was preceded by a long dispute about the coupling of corona aid funds to climate protection and the rule of law, which has still not been settled.

At their four-day summit in mid-July, the heads of state and government decided to introduce a mechanism for more rule of law, but they could not agree on the exact implementation. The formulation of the legal texts necessary for the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) has met with resistance from the governments of Poland and Hungary: the formulation on the rule of law goes too far for them. The EU Parliament, on the other hand, considers the texts to be too soft and therefore does not want to agree.

This is dangerous because speed is the key with Corona aid. Only a quick disbursement of the funds will help to dampen the consequences of the worst recession since World War II. If the loans are not in demand, this can further reduce the clout.

Greece: fear of new debt

Not even poor Greece is keen on EU loans. Greece expects 32 billion euros in the next few years from the EU development program (RRF). The sum corresponds to 17 percent of last year’s gross domestic product (GDP). This means that Greece receives more money from the program in relation to its economic output than any other EU country. 19.5 billion of the total is accounted for by grants that do not have to be repaid, 12.5 billion by loans.

But it is still unclear whether the government in Athens will even use these loans. New debt is the last thing Greece needs. The country already has by far the highest debt ratio in the EU.

As a result of the Corona recession and rising new debt, the quota could exceed 200 percent of economic output this year – the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is forecasting 200.8 percent for the country. It is unclear how loans from the EU development program will be included in the national debt.

All relevant news about the corona crisis can be found in our corona briefing. Sign in here.

There is a growing impatience in Greek government circles. “We are still waiting for the EU Commission to clarify the terms and conditions of lending,” says a government official concerned with the issue.

So far it is unclear what interest rates are due for the RRF loans and what the repayment should look like. Greece is probably not dependent on the loans from the program. Government bond yields are at their lowest level since the country introduced the euro in 2001.

“It could make more sense for us to take out the loans provided as part of the development program ourselves on the capital market, without the conditions attached to the RRF loans,” said Athens.

Spain: grants are a priority

EU grants are also a priority for Spain, said Minister of Economic Affairs Nadia Calviño on Monday. The country will not take the credit option for the time being. “If more is needed, we will use the credits, but we have six years. We can make a two-phase plan, and that’s what we suggested. “

The exact figures for the EU reconstruction fund have not yet been determined. Spain expects around 140 billion euros, around eleven percent of the Spanish economic output in 2019 and the second highest sum after Italy. Around 72 billion euros of this are grants that Madrid does not have to repay.

Pedro Sanchez

Prime Minister of Spain speaks at a cabinet control meeting in the Spanish Parliament.

(Photo: dpa)

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has already planned all of this money in his reconstruction program for the years 2021 to 2023: He wants to modernize the domestic economy and use 59.5 billion euros in grants under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) as well as another 11.4 Billions of euros within the framework of the more flexible EU-REACT structural funds, which mainly benefit the health and education sectors.

Spain is one of the countries hardest hit by the corona virus – both in terms of the number of cases and the slump in economic performance. The International Monetary Fund assumes that the Spanish gross domestic product will fall by 12.8 percent this year and thus more strongly than that of all other developed economies.

Portugal: strict budgetary discipline

During a visit by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the end of September, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa said that he would probably not take out any loans from the EU reconstruction plan. “Portugal has a very high level of national debt and is assuming that it will emerge from this crisis more socially, but also financially more solidly,” said Costa. “For this we have the opportunity to make full use of the subsidies, and we will not use the part that relates to loans as long as the country’s financial situation does not allow it.” Portugal expects 15.3 billion euros in grants.

Italy: Record amount from the aid program

Italy’s government pricked up its ears after media reports from Spain that the government wanted to forego the loans from the EU reconstruction fund. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and his counterpart Pedro Sánchez met in Rome for consultations on Tuesday. Italy is to get the largest share from the aid program: 209 billion euros, 127 of which as loans and 82 as grants, which the country does not have to repay.

Economy and Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri recently said Italy has no problem with lack of liquidity. “The Italian state has full access to the markets,” he said. Therefore, the government expects a possible further decrease in the so-called spread, the risk premium on Italian bonds compared to Bunds.

It is possible that “the credibility of our economic strategy and the strength of the measures taken in Europe” could lead to a further reduction in the cost of public debt.

Economic crisis in Italy

In Rome, the staff of this restaurant is waiting for customers.

(Photo: dpa)

The economist Lorenzo Codogno is clearer: “If the countries issue debts at very low interest rates, the incentive to draw on the credit part (of the reconstruction fund) is reduced.” In Rome there is growing concern that the aid package in Brussels will continue delayed.

“It would be a collective defeat if a longed-for and necessary aid plan to help those economies particularly affected by the virus gets stuck,” comments the “Corriere della Sera”.

Rome has just sent the draft budget for 2021 to Brussels with a volume of 40 billion. The planned measures are to be financed by additional debt and by means of the aid fund decided by the EU in July, explained Minister Gualtieri: only grants.

The cross-shooting of the “stingy four” at the summit in July could go down as one of the most senseless actions of all time in EU history.

More: The Corona rebuilding plan paves the way for a next-generation Europe.


Elections in Northern Cyprus: further escalation inevitable

In Northern Cyprus, Erdoğan’s governor Tatar was elected with a narrow majority. That doesn’t bode well for the dispute over the oil and gas discoveries.

Ersin Tatar celebrates his election victory Photo: Harun Ucar / reuters

The presidential elections in the north Cypriot, internationally not recognized Turkish part of the Mediterranean island led to a poor peacebuilding result. With the nationalist Ersin Tatar, a man who won the leadership position of the Turkish Cypriots last Sunday, albeit narrowly, who thinks little or nothing of negotiations with the Greek Cypriots.

One of the reasons why the dispute between Turkey, Greece and other Mediterranean countries has escalated so much in recent months is precisely the division of Cyprus and the unresolved political situation on the island.

Cyprus is a member of the European Union, and the Greek Cypriot government, which represents around 800,000 of the island’s 1 million inhabitants, is the internationally recognized government of Cyprus. But she has nothing to report on the northern third of the island, where around 200,000 Turkish Cypriots have lived since the division in 1974.

When large gas and oil reserves were discovered around Cyprus, the Cypriot government issued drilling licenses without considering the Turkish part of the island. Since then, Turkish President Erdoğan has been using this as an opportunity to send his own exploration ships into Cypriot waters, ostensibly to secure their share of the coming wealth for the Turks of Cyprus.

A solution to the dispute over raw materials in the eastern Mediterranean would be decidedly easier if the Greek and Turkish Cypriots overcame the division of the island and came back to a common government. In contrast to the previous president, the left Mustafa Akıncı, Sunday’s election winner, the right Ersin Tatar, is no longer ready to do so. He relies on Erdoğan and, if necessary, a union with the Turkish motherland instead of talks with the Cypriots on the other side of the demarcation line. Further voltages are programmed with it.


Paymaster wins (Junge Welt newspaper)

Election winner Ersin Tatar (2nd from right) at an event in front of his supporters in the northern part of the divided capital Nicosia on Sunday

Prime Minister Ersin Tatar won the runoff election for President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is only recognized by Ankara, against incumbent Mustafa Akinci. The 60-year-old right-wing nationalist Tatar won with 51.74 percent over the 72-year-old left-liberal Akinci with 48.26 percent.

The election, in which 67 percent of the approximately 200,000 eligible voters took part, was seen as pointing the way for the future of Cyprus. The Mediterranean island has been divided since a coup led by the Greek military junta against then Cypriot President Archbishop Makarios in 1974 and a subsequent Turkish invasion.

Akinci advocated reunification in the form of a federal state in line with United Nations initiatives and emphasized the independence of the Turkish-speaking Cypriots in relation to attempts at unification from Ankara. In contrast, Tatar advocates a two-state solution with a close connection between the northern part and the supposed “motherland” Turkey. Tatar, whose right-wing conservative party UBP actually functions as the Cypriot offshoot of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkish ruling party AKP, had the full support of Ankara during the election campaign.

Akinci, whose election was also called for by the third-placed Social Democratic candidate in the first ballot, was considered the favorite. The fact that a majority voted for Tatar as Ankara’s man may simply be due to the realistic assessment of many voters that the northern part of the island is completely dependent on financial support from the Turkish state budget. The paymaster was elected. In addition, the settlers who have immigrated from mainland Turkey since the invasion of 1974, many of whom come from the religious-conservative or fascist milieu, have fallen behind the traditionally secular Turkish-speaking Cypriots in their own country.

Incumbent Akinci said, according to the Turkish Cypriot news agency SO on Sunday evening doubts about the correctness of the choice. But he accepted his defeat and announced the end of his 45-year political career. His election five years ago had caused euphoria. In the meantime, however, many of his voters have become disappointed when they realize that nothing will seem to change in the Cyprus conflict without Ankara’s consent. After all, there are more than 30,000 Turkish occupation soldiers in the north of the island.

The presidential election in Northern Cyprus took place against the background of aggressively presented claims by Turkey for mining rights for undersea natural gas fields in Cypriot and Greek territorial waters. If the occupation of Northern Cyprus was a losing proposition for decades, the Turkish government hopes to finally get its money’s worth by accessing these gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean that have been discovered in recent years.

For this, Ankara not only needs a reliable governor in its Cypriot protectorate, it also strives for the recognition of the northern Cypriot state under international law. The prominent Turkish journalist Fehim Tastekin wrote an article for the liberal news site before the Cyprus election Newspaper Wall warned: “In Erdogan’s view, the peace plan has failed. From now on he favors the division! Maybe even an annexation! «UN Secretary General António Guterres has already announced a new round of Cyprus peace negotiations with the participation of the so-called guarantee powers Great Britain, Greece and Turkey.

In Northern Cyprus, a new government is about to be formed after the coalition previously led by Tatar collapsed two weeks ago when the smaller partner left. It can be assumed that the UBP is now relying on new parliamentary elections after its victory in the presidential election.


neo-Nazi Golden Dawn leader sentenced to 13 years in prison

After a trial of more than five years, the verdict is in. The leader of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, Nikos Michaloliakos, negationist and admirer of National Socialism, was sentenced on Wednesday October 14 to 13 years in prison by the Athens Criminal Court. She found him guilty of having directed a “Criminal organization”.

→ READ. In Greece, verdict in sight for neo-Nazis of Golden Dawn

Among the six other paramilitary party executives, MEP Ioannis Lagos and former member of Golden Dawn also receives 13 years in prison. His parliamentary immunity must be lifted by the European Parliament, at the request of Greece, once an arrest warrant has been issued.

Life imprisonment for the murderer of rapper Pavlos Fyssas

The criminal court also followed the prosecutor’s requisitions by sentencing to 13 years in prison the former party spokesperson Ilias Kassidiaris and the deputy Christos Pappas, right-hand man of Michaloliakos. She imposed the same sentence on two other party leaders found guilty of “Direction of criminal organization” : former deputies Ilias Panagiotaros and Georgios Germenis.

Only Artemis Matthaiopoulos, the ex-son-in-law of Michaloliakos, was sentenced to ten years in prison, below the requisitions of the prosecutor. The court also sentenced Yorgos Roupakias, member of Golden Dawn, to life imprisonment for the assassination of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, in 2013. The murder of the left-wing activist on the night of September 18, 2013, had shocked Greece in the midst of the financial crisis, and had forced the authorities to prosecute the neo-Nazi party.

A “historic” verdict

On Monday, October 12, the Athens Criminal Court rejected all mitigating circumstances likely to ease the prison sentences incurred by the leaders of the neo-Nazi party. After five and a half years of hearings, the court unanimously qualified last week the paramilitary party of“Criminal organization”, a verdict described as“Historical” by the President of the Republic and a whole fringe of the Greek political class.

She established the guilt of Golden Dawn in several crimes, including the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, but also that of Pakistani Sahzat Luckman in 2013, as well as the assault on Egyptian fishermen in 2012 and communist trade unionists in 2013. More ‘about fifty of the 68 accused were convicted of various crimes: leading a criminal organization, murder, assault, illegal possession of weapons. 11 were acquitted.

→ READ. Behind the scenes of the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party

This trial-river gradually led to the decline of Golden Dawn, the third political force in 2015, which did not obtain any seat in Parliament in the last legislative elections in July 2019.


Greece is building fences on the border with Turkey

Border between Greece and Turkey

The barriers are to be five meters high and 27 kilometers long.

Athens Five meters high, 27 kilometers long, 63 million euros expensive: Greece is arming itself with massive barriers on the Evros river against the feared new migrant flows from Turkey. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis inspected the construction work over the weekend.

The new border fences are “the least we can do to make citizens feel safe,” said Mitsotakis during his visit to the village of Feres. A nine-kilometer section of the fence will be erected there.

The Greek land border with Turkey is 206 kilometers long. For the most part, but not continuously, it follows the course of the Evros River (Turkish: Meric). The Evros was the scene of a week-long trial of strength in the spring: At the end of February, the Turkish head of state Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the border with Greece open.

Tens of thousands of migrants were brought in buses to the Pazarkule / Kastanies crossing in order to besiege the border. Erdogan threatens to send “millions” of migrants to Europe. He wanted to achieve financial concessions from the EU. But the plan failed, the Greeks defended their borders. At the end of March, the Turkish authorities had the besiegers brought back inland by bus.

The new fence will be erected on three previously less secure sections, where the border does not follow the Evros but runs over land. The barriers consist of massive, five meter high steel elements anchored vertically in the ground.

An eleven-kilometer-long metal fence on Evros, which was built in 2012, will be reinforced and raised from 3.50 to 4.30 meters. The armed forces also built eight new watchtowers. Prime Minister Mitsotakis also wants to strengthen the border police on Evros with 400 additional officers.

Tensions in the Aegean are growing

Against the background of the recent conflicts with Turkey over the economic zones in the eastern Mediterranean, there are fears in Athens that Erdogan could put pressure on again. There are already signs of this: In Greek police circles, it is observed that larger numbers of migrants are being brought back to Evros by buses, where they then get into rubber boats. The Turkish border guards let the smugglers go.

Meanwhile, tensions in the Aegean are escalating: Over the weekend, Turkey unilaterally expanded its area of ​​responsibility for search and rescue operations. She now claims responsibility for sea rescue off Greek islands such as Mykonos, Santorini and Crete. The Greek Foreign Ministry spoke of an “arbitrary and illegal claim”. Turkey is creating confusion and putting human lives in danger.

Like the land border on Evros, Greece also wants to better secure the sea border in the Aegean Sea. To this end, the coast guard is planning to set up a new observation system. Its main purpose is to prevent irregular migration from the Turkish coast to the Greek islands.

The system will consist of 35 stationary radar stations with ranges of up to 90 kilometers, thermal imaging cameras and drones. The observation data are evaluated in real time in two control centers of the coast guard and the armed forces in Athens. The contracts for the monitoring system are to be put out to tender in the coming year.

More: The gas conflict leads to an arms race between two NATO partners


In the new Lesbos camp, the dreams and disillusions of refugees

The catastrophe was expected. When the rains first fell on October 8, the new Kara Tepe camp on the Greek island of Lesbos was flooded. More than 600 people had to be evacuated. In this new camp, without water, sanitation, drainage, battered by rain and wind, the life of the 8,500 asylum seekers – 2,500 have been transferred to the mainland in recent weeks – is worse than that of Moria completely devastated by fire a month ago.

→ LARGE FORMAT. Lesbos: after Moria’s hell, Kara Tepe’s nightmare

Moria, however, was known worldwide as hell. In this immense jungle, many shattered minds had not resisted the harshness of existence and the endless wait for asylum procedures. These hostile lands were fertile ground for violence. But life had also gained the upper hand, with its early fruit stalls, its bread ovens dug in the ground, its hairdressers, its self-managed schools and all its activities.

The energy, endurance, resourcefulness and solidarity of these people command respect. Fatemeh and Farhad, on site, Rouddy and Michel, now settled in Mytilene, the largest town on the island, are a few examples.

► Rouddy, the energy of music

“Refugee, it’s a label, like a tampon that is printed all over your body, but I don’t feel like a refugee inside. ” Rouddy releases an extraordinary energy. “We’re going to get Lesbos moving! “, ignites the former Congolese computer scientist. Every Monday evening, a few musicians come to play on the main square of Mytilene. They are members of RADMusic – for Refugee African Dance -, the group he created last winter, quickly joined by Koko, a compatriot who has toured concerts and festivals throughout Africa.

In the new Lesbos camp, the dreams and disillusions of the refugees

Congolese, Cameroonians, Iranians, Greeks, Germans, etc., have joined RADMusic. After a special coronavirus song, One meter away, the group recorded Freedom – words of Rouddy – thanks to the reception of the Greek association Siniparxi (“coexistence”).

“People are going mad in the camp, over-t-yl. Music reconstructs, it connects people and gives joy. “ She rebuilds him first and foremost. He was refused asylum. He appealed the decision, still pending.

“I was very sick, MSF took care of me, but I just have to think about my family one night and I have a relapse. ” His father, an opponent of Congolese President Kabila, in power from 2001 to 2019, was assassinated. “My family has been destroyed. “ His mother left for the border with Angola. He, the eldest, fled “To seek peace and security”.

For three years he has been in Greece, Rouddy has traveled the country with documents that allow him to move. He taught computer science in Athens for nine months. “In Greece, there is no work, only NGOs can hire us. “ He returned to Lesbos as a Lingala translator for MSF. “People here spat on me. But I also met some good people. “

► Farhad and his 800 kites

« Lhe children cannot even see me anymore, they are not allowed to come to my tent. “ Farhad is heavy-hearted. In the new military camp of Kara Tepe, the lone men were grouped together in tents of one hundred bunk beds surrounded by barbed wire. “We are separated from families; Afghan families on one side, African families on the other, other nationalities elsewhere; and us, the lonely men; it is not good to separate nationalities ”, sighs this Afghan man in his thirties.

The sight of thousands of children – there were more than 3,000 under the age of 12 in the camp before the fire – playing with trash cans had been unbearable to him when he arrived in Lesvos thirteen months ago. “I wanted to help them, to give them hope, so I cut bamboo and made kites with plastic bags. ” Success assured.

→ DEBATE. Migrants: Europe seeks common ground on asylum

Romain, a French volunteer, then comes to his aid to provide him with equipment. The kite activity is gaining momentum quickly. Workshops are organized in the two self-managed schools that existed in the camp, Tolou (“Sunrise”) and Wave of Hope (“wave of hope”). “For the Persian New Year, last March 21, with a thousand children we made 500 kites that flew at the same time! “

Second salvo on August 29, when 300 new kites fly in the sky of Moria and echo the hundred kites launched on the Breton beach of Douarnenez, in support of the children of the camp. Everything was destroyed by the fire. “We no longer have a school, no more equipment. We are waiting for an authorization to have a place to invite the children, but everything is prohibited because of the coronavirus. ” Tormented, Farhad is still awaiting his interview, which has been postponed several times, for his asylum application.

► Fatemeh, school dreams

Boxes of burnt pencils. The carcasses of chairs in bulk. A bed of molten glass jars. The charred remains of a tube of paint. A pile of books reduced to ashes. This charred backdrop is all that remains of the Wave of Hope self-administered school in Camp Moria. “All the guitars burned down. Nothing is left. It’s like my own house is gone. “

In the new Lesbos camp, the dreams and disillusions of refugees

Fatemeh spent his days there. “I felt at home. ” The 18-year-old Afghan girl did everything there. She took care of the reception, cleaning, took German lessons, guitar and painting and sometimes even taught rudiments of English to replace a teacher. “Moria, it was not hell as they say, life was really very difficult, but we had our activities, our distractions. In the new camp, we have nothing left. You know, we’re not doing well at all. “

→ READ. Christian organizations call on EU for solidarity with migrants

Administrative aberration, Fatemeh had, alone, the green light to be transferred to Athens on September 29, after sixteen months spent in Lesbos. But not his mother or his little brother, who nevertheless also obtained asylum (his father is deceased). As for his 22-year-old big brother, he is the subject of a separate procedure as an adult and his case remains pending. Fatemeh suddenly gave up on leaving …

In Moria, she wants to run a new school with other girls. “I love learning so much! I have never been to school. I grew up in Iran where Afghan refugees did not go to school, then when we went to Turkey we were expelled to Afghanistan where I could not go to school either. I have spotted two places in the camp where we could recreate a school, but we need permission. “

► Michel, the African “chef”

“I was well in my country. I had a plot, a car, a salary. I had a good life. “ If he could, Michel would go back to “Congo Kinshasa” (DR-Congo), where he had to abandon his wife and children. “I will find them one day”, he wants to believe.

Michel is the assumed name of this Congolese giant who fears for his life. “I’m afraid of being sued. Poor migrants could be bought for 500 € to kill people. In the Moria camp, there was a lot of violence. At night we couldn’t sleep because of the fights. Men have died for a phone or something. “

In the new Lesbos camp, the dreams and disillusions of refugees

In his country, this television journalist was kidnapped and assaulted for having witnessed scenes he should not have seen. His parents were murdered by a militia. “I have evidence, scars, photos. “ On August 26, 2020, Greece granted him refugee status after eight months in Lesbos. But in the process, she removed the financial aid from him, under a new law. And she has not yet granted him freedom of movement. “I am waiting for permission to leave the island. I will have to wait months more, penniless, to obtain identity documents to leave the country. “

In the meantime, many Africans come to greet him. It is because with his stature, his authority and his charisma, Michel has established himself as a leader. “We Africans are suffering a lot, we need help. So I went to church, knocked on NGO doors. I had this courage, it is not easy. ” Since then, he is the person of trust who acts as a link between the NGOs and the African minority, who distributes food and basic necessities in the camp.


Landmarks: The Lesbos camp

In 2015, 500,000 migrants landed on Lesbos. In 2020 (until September 20), there were 4,337 new arrivals.

End 2019, le camp de Moria had more than 25,000 people.

Before the camp fire, September 9 and 10, 2020, there were 14,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Lesbos, including more than 11,700 in the camp.

→ MAINTENANCE. Fr Maurice Joyeux: “We had to expect the Lesbos camp to end in flames”

Since then, 406 unaccompanied minors have been transferred to Thessaloniki and must be hosted by different states of the European Union.

About 1,400 refugees were also transferred to the mainland September 28 and October 1. Germany has committed to welcoming 1,500, France 500.