Knowing Is Half The Battle: Students Versus Brexit

While official negotiations for Brexit will begin next week, the specifics of what Britain leaving the EU will actually mean are still being hotly contested. That is especially true in academia: two British PhD candidates in the Netherlands and one former RUG student who moved to the United Kingdom talk about the impact of the vote’s outcome on their lives so far.

Even though she was already living in the United Kingdom by then, Lotte Hemmen was actually in the Netherlands working on her thesis in the University Library when the Brexit referendum vote results came in. ‘I remember it being a surreal Friday’, she says. ‘It was similar to Trump winning the elections in the US. No one thought this could happen.’

Hemmen had just moved to the UK in February of 2016 in the hopes of making the country her new home. After the Brexit vote in June, Hemmen decided to follow through with the plan, despite her newfound sense of doubt. ‘I was gutted and scared as I didn’t know how Brexit was going to affect my plans, and I did think, “Do I want to live in a country that is so self-destructive and self-centred that it blames all of its problems on the EU and doesn’t take responsibility for its own actions?”’

Brave new world

The answer to her own question remained ‘yes’, even though many of her friends and family members were equally worried and curious about the effects of Brexit on her future. But her friends in the United Kingdom responded differently: many were angry, some called it a ‘brave new world’ and others had ‘a little cry’ on Brexit Friday.

Newcastle University, where she spent the first semester of her master’s degree, sought to reassure its students. ‘They sent an email stating that despite the recent vote, their views on academia would not be affected by this’, says Hemmen. ‘A lot of their staff is European and they want to keep it that way as higher education is something that both transcends and unites nations, and they feel that universities have to work together to maintain these open relationships and collaborations’, she says.

That not only goes for exchanging expertise, but also for how research is financed. Currently, the European Union is a major resource for funding academic projects, both based in the United Kingdom or involving British researchers elsewhere: The EU’s budget for the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme is 80 billion euros.

Lucky

PhD candidates who will graduate before 2019, which is currently the year that Brexit is supposed to actually happen, will most likely continue receiving funding through that time. Steven Forrest, a British PhD candidate working at the RUG, belongs in that category. He started his university-funded PhD in September 2014.

Brexit has raised concerns not only for British researchers, but also the future of exchange programs like Erasmus+, according to evidence submitted to a British government inquiry launched by the Educational Committee in September 2016.

Erasmus Student Network has voiced their worries about the risks posed to British student mobility as a result of Brexit. In total, Erasmus+ provides funds for 16,000 UK university students and 8,500 students from vocational training schools to study or work abroad each year, and many students benefit from volunteer experience abroad. An additional 2,200 UK higher education staff receive funding to work or train outside the UK.

But the possible effect of the UK exiting the European Union on student mobility programs has yet to translate into lower numbers of Dutch students going to Britain. Dievertje Doornbusch of the RUG’s Mobility and Scholarship desk says that there is not a noticeable difference in the number of exchange students since the Brexit vote: in the 2016-2017 academic year, there are 96 Dutch students on exchange in the UK through the Erasmus+ program. That is not vastly different from other recent years: In the 2015-2016 academic year, 92 students were on Erasmus+ exchange in the UK, and in 2014-2015, there were 104 Erasmus+ students.

‘I am lucky as my contract finishes in September 2018, so I am not worried about the funding. Even if Brexit happens eventually, it will be March 2019 at the earliest, and therefore my PhD funding won’t be affected per se’, he explains. He also took comfort in the board of the RUG’s quick response to the Brexit decision, which stated that there would be ‘no immediate consequences of Brexit for our current British students’.

While his position may not be impacted, other British academics are already finding themselves in difficult situations as uncertainty about financing leads to hesitation from European universities. Forrest has not personally experienced that, but he says that he has already heard of examples of British academics having their roles reduced and attempts made to freeze them out of future EU grant proposals.

A recent press release from Heriot Watt University, located in Scotland, seems to confirm this: The university announced that it will cut 100 jobs in the next two year due in part to increased difficulties in qualifying for EU funding because of uncertainty from the ‘Brexit-effect’.

‘A lot of uncertainty’

On the flip side – British researchers being able to get EU funding to do work on the continent – RUG spokesperson Gernant Deekens says it is too soon to say what will happen. ‘As the whole Brexit situation is too premature at this moment, the university hasn’t yet prepared a plan for British students. However, we have been in contact with our British students since the Brexit vote and are trying to help them as much as we can. But there is a lot of uncertainty still.’

That uncertainty may be behind a significant increase in the number of British students coming to the RUG. While their numbers have been increasing dramatically since 2010, the totals from before and after the Brexit vote still stand out. According to Noor van Schaik, head of Student Information and Administration, as of September 2015, there were 251 British students enrolled at the RUG in total: By September 2016, that was 358 (although Van Schaik emphasises that this number could still change if any students drop out).

For Forrest, if anything, the Brexit vote has muddied the waters on whether he wants to return to the United Kingdom or remain in an EU country after graduation. ‘The UK receives a lot of EU research funding for academia compared to the amount it puts in. So if there is no agreement over UK access to EU research funding when the UK leaves the EU, that could potentially mean that there would be more research funding and academic opportunities in the EU’, he says.

Stability

For other British PhD candidates here, doing research in the Netherlands provides at least some sense of stability. ‘Working on external projects might lead to funding challenges and project rejections, but many researchers are working on internal projects, funded by the Dutch government’, says Meg Perry-Duxbury, a former RUG student who is now pursuing a PhD at Erasmus University Rotterdam. ‘However, no one knows anything about what will happen yet’, adds Perry-Duxbury.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, Hemmen is also waiting to see what the future holds. ‘I didn’t want Brexit to influence my plans and it is going to take such a long time for it to have any effect. I’ll cross that bridge when I’ll get to it’, she says. But with every day seeming to bring new stories of EU nationals having to prove they were British residents before the referendum even took place, Hemmen is concerned. She moved to the UK before the referendum with the intention of staying indefinitely, but her mentality now is a bit wait and see: ‘we’ll see how long they will let me stay.’

 

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Brexit In Groningen

While the debate over a ‘Brexit heats up ahead of a vote next week, British students, and alumni are wondering how it will affect them here in Groningen. 

British RUG alumnus Tom Wilcox has been living in Groningen for over 25 years, which means not having a vote in the referendum in his case. But the outcome could impact his whole life. ‘I don’t have a Dutch passport as I am still a British citizen. I am living and working here and I don’t want to change my life.’

He is one of many British people living in Europe who could be negatively affected if Britain votes ‘leave’. As of 2015, there were 1.2 million Britons living in the EU outside of Britain, and the Netherlands alone is home to roughly 50,000 British expats. That includes 267 students and 42 researchers at the RUG.

‘It’s a privilege’

A British exodus from the EU could change their lives overnight, since even travelling to Britain may become trickier if they are no longer part of the same union. Wilcox visits his home country quite often, as his parents are still living there, but he wonders whether it will still be so easy after June 23rd. ‘I can now travel between the UK and the Netherlands whenever I want to, but it would be funny if in the future things became more complicated.’

Besides the impact it could have on him personally, he is in favour of staying in the EU for principle reasons as well. ‘Isolating your country and becoming less and less international is a bad thing. As an expat, I think it’s very important to live in a multicultural environment. Many countries are trying to be in the EU, so I think it’s a privilege for us.’

Although Wilcox cannot vote in the referendum, British students and staff at the RUG are making sure their voices will be heard. Sam McCaddon, a first year student in international and European law at the RUG, has already signed up for a proxy vote, which means he has empowered someone else to vote on his behalf.

Non-EU students

‘I am using the benefits the EU offers every day and I will lose them all if the majority is against it’, McCaddon says. ‘I am worried about things like free movement within the EU and my tuition fees of course, as they will definitely increase in a Brexit scenario.’

If Britons vote to leave the EU, that may also mean that British students abroad would have to pay the same amount in tuition fees as non-EU students. In recent years, many more British students have come to the Netherlands because tuition fees are far cheaper here: university in Britain can cost as much as 12,600 euros (9,000 pounds) per year, whereas British students will pay 1,951 euros in the coming academic year in Groningen. If Britain drops out of the EU, that could instead range from 8,000 to 13,900 euros. No longer qualifying for EU tuition fees could likely lead to fewer Brits choosing to study here.

But Duncan Saunders, another British first year student who will also vote by proxy, doubts that the amount of money British students pay would change. ‘The tuition fees in Switzerland, for example, are the same as the rest of the EU countries. Probably something similar will be arranged for the UK as well.’

Saunders believes that Britain would be better off out than in. ‘I don’t feel the EU is democratic enough,’ he says. He brings up the Five Presidents Report which, in addition to outlining plans for strengthening the economic and monetary union, also calls for further integration into the EU by 2025. ‘England will never accept that, so it’s better to leave now,’ he says. Even if the majority of Britons opt to stay in the EU, he is certain there will be another referendum in the near future.

Premature

Stefan Couperus, an assistant professor of European Politics and Society, believes the effects of a Brexit will only be visible in the long run. ‘I think the heaviest impact will be on trade. British people tend to forget that almost half of their trade is conducted either with or within the EU.’

And even if European tuition fees do not change for British students, studying at university in Britain is almost certain to become more expensive since they are subsidised in part by the EU. ‘A Brexit will create a gap in their budget and it would lead to higher tuition fees,’ Couperus explains. Couperus also suspects Britain would lose its privilege to participate in the Erasmus programme, which would make staff members and students’ exchanges much more complicated.

Opinions of British students, staff and alumni aside, RUG spokesperson Gernant Deekens believes that questions regarding a possible Brexit are still altogether premature. ‘A negative outcome of the referendum does not mean that the UK will leave the EU immediately. Separation dates have to be set and additional measures have to be taken. My impression is that present students would not have to fear.’

‘Splendid isolation’

McCaddon feels quite confident that the majority of Britons will vote in favour of staying next week. ‘I can’t really see a Brexit happening. From my experience, our EU membership has never been much of an issue in the UK, but it is more an issue created by the political parties.’

Although Couperus says that modern Britain is diverse and sees itself as a part of the EU, the British have historically considered themselves to be something other than just a European nation. ‘Some still think that they are an isolated superior power: they call it ‘splendid isolation’. Some contemporary historians are still in favour of this.’

No matter what the historians believe, the majority of Britain has yet to decide, and Wilcox is anticipating the final results nervously. If a Brexit is indeed on the horizon, he would be forced to consider abandoning his British passport in order to get a Dutch one so as to retain European citizenship, as he would not be allowed to keep both nationalities.

‘Although I have been living in the Netherlands for long enough in order to feel that this is my home, I am still not ready at all to give up my British rights’, Wilcox says. ‘On June 24, I will keep checking my news websites all day and hoping that people in the UK will make the right decision.’

 

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Highs And Lows In International Student Barometer

The latest International Student Barometer (ISB) showed that while the RUG’s international students are generally satisfied, housing, employability and catering still have room for improvement.

The University of Groningen performed quite well in all five themes of the survey: decision making, arrival and orientation, living satisfaction, learning satisfaction and support satisfaction, all of which received a score above 3 in a scale from 1 to 5 (low to high).

Improved scores

The University of Groningen has worked on improving in several categories since 2010, but in general, students feel that Groningen is a good place to be and they appreciate its multicultural environment.

New students were particularly positive about how the university welcomes them: the score has not only improved since 2010, but this year was very close to the global average of 3.03, with a score of 2.97 for the RUG. Scores for the international classroom, class size, technology, the university’s academic staff and the level of English spoken have also improved.

Scores for satisfaction with the university’s laboratories and expert lecturers remained steady this year, with both categories receiving a score of 3.38.

Room for improvement

Despite students’ general satisfaction, there is still room for improvement. In the categories assessing the housing office (although the Housing Office is no longer responsible for international student housing) – with a score of 2.45 – accommodation conditions – 2.88 – and employability – 2.80 – all scored below the global average. Careers advice (2.62) and work experience (2.52) were also found lacking.

Although changes to catering from the university’s canteens and café are reflected in somewhat improved scores in the past five years, it remains a low point with a score of 2.83, which is still below the global average.

Progress report

Jonah Thompson, an international member SOG’s faction in the University Council, sees the latest barometer as a progress report. ‘The university board is aware of the problems and took action this year in order to solve them. But it takes time for such things to improve. We hope that we will see some positive results in the next couple of years,’ he says.

As the survey indicates, international students’ biggest challenge remains lack of job opportunities. Although the category ‘earning money’ improved with a score of 1.98 this year – last year it was 1.93 – it is still low in comparison to the global average score of 2.51. A related issue – financial support – also scored lower than the global average.

Job opportunities

When it comes to the reasons why students choose the university where they eventually study, Groningen was largely on par with other Dutch institutions. However, students gave potential work opportunities in Groningen a lower score (2.61) than the Dutch average (2.83).

‘It is true that students can’t get a job easily’, Thompson says. ‘But this is a complicated issue that involves a lot of different factors that need to be improved.’ Aside from offering Dutch courses to students, Thompson says he does not see much else the university can do toward fixing this particular issue.

In total, 2,245 international students and PhD candidates shared their opinions about the University of Groningen, which was a higher turn out than the 2014 edition: last year, 1,213 students responded to the survey. The global average scores were based on results from 172 other higher education institutions.

 

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Isaac Brothers: At Risk of Deportation

Darlington and Prosper Isaacs fled from the civil war in Sierra Leone to the Netherlands in 2001, but they are now at risk of being deported. The town of Assen, the Hanze and Darlington’s former supervisor at the RUG have lent them support, but the brothers hope university leadership will do the same. 

When Darlington and Prosper arrived in the Netherlands, they were children: 14 and 11 years old, respectively. Their mother had been killed and their father had gone missing, and the young brothers migrated to the Netherlands alone.

‘Unfortunately, we weren’t familiar with the Dutch system back then and as we were asylum seekers, we didn’t have all the necessary documents with us,’ Darlington, a recent master’s graduate in Information Science, explains.

‘We are stuck here’

This is the reason why the Immigration and Naturalisation Service – Immigratie en Naturalisatiedienst (IND) – has turned multiple applications for a resident permit down.

This is not the first time Darlington and Prosper have been at risk of deportation. In 2010, the IND also asked them to leave the country, but due to a lack of necessary travel documents, they were unable to go.

That effectively means that the brothers can’t return to Sierra Leone, nor can they stay in the Netherlands: the embassies in both countries refuse to give them the necessary papers in order to travel.

‘Basically, we are stuck here, and I think this is also the reason they put our case aside for a while,’ Prosper, a graduate of the Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, says.

In September, Darlington managed to find a job right after completing his studies. However, the IND rejected his application for a work permit because he didn’t have a resident permit yet, which sparked problems for them once again: the IND asked Darlington to leave the country on 13 January, but that decision has now been postponed until further notice.

Futile

Darlington and Prosper knew that applying for a residence permit once more would only be futile and so they asked people from the local government of the town of Assen – where they live – to help them.

The people there have taken up their cause, hoping that it will receive more attention. ‘They set up an action committee and a petition, and they are actually coordinating the whole campaign,’ Darlington explains.

‘We didn’t expect so many people to sign on our behalf’ ‘To be honest, initially, we didn’t expect so many people to sign on our behalf. We are very happy that people feel like we are part of the society,’ Prosper says. The mayor of Assen is also trying to help the brothers, which they are grateful for in light of their unstable position. ‘Every day, we live with the uncertainty about what will happen next,’ says Darlington.

‘He is Dutch’

Johan Bos, a professor of Computational Semantics at the RUG, was one of Darlington’s master’s teachers and his pre-master’s thesis supervisor. He is also trying to spread the word about the petition and raise awareness.

Isaac Brothers: At Risk of Deportation

‘It is really important that people sign it’, Bos says. ‘He is Dutch. He graduated from Dutch universities and he also speaks the language very well. He is valuable for our society, so I don’t understand why they would send him back.’

They hope that the attention their case has received will put pressure on immigration minister Klaas Dijkhoff, who is the one who will eventually decide.

Darlington is sincerely thankful for the support he has received, not only from his teacher but also from the entire arts faculty. ‘Mr. Bos has supported me a lot, but I was expecting someone with more power and influence to also step in the situation and help us. I have nothing against the university and I don’t know if me thinking like that is right or realistic,’ Darlington emphasises.

Members of the staff of the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, where both brothers received their bachelor degrees, have also offered their support to Prosper and Darlington. When contacted for comment, RUG spokesperson Gernant Deekens said that the board of the university was not yet aware of the Isaac brothers’ case.

Back to Sierra Leone

Although only Darlington was at risk of being deported initially, now, they both are. ‘We are in this campaign together, so everything that refers to Darlington applies to me as well,’ Prosper says, and Darlington adds, ‘I could never leave my brother behind.’

‘We would feel like foreigners in Sierra Leone’ Darlington and Prosper don’t even want to think about how life would be if they would be forced to go back to Sierra Leone. They don’t have any family or friends there, so they would have to start from scratch. ‘We would feel like foreigners in Sierra Leone,’ Darlington says.

‘Everything we are and everything we learned, we did it here. They have to take these kind of things into consideration while making a decision,’ Prosper adds.

Uncertain future

Their campaign and what will happen next are constantly in their minds, night and day. ‘We grew up here. We are Dutch and we want to be able to live here,’ says Prosper.

‘After so many years of living here, it would be inhuman if the IND makes us leave or just leaves us in the streets, because that’s what will happen if we don’t have a working permit or travel documents,’ Darlington says.

If you would like to help Darlington and Prosper, you can sign the petition here.

 

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Student Organises Refugee Conference

German RUG students Katharina Hilger wanted to help the people who came to the Netherlands as refugees, but she wasn’t sure how. She decided to organise a conference to make it easier to see things from the perspective of the refugees themselves.

Student Organises Refugee Conference

The Netherlands received thousands of asylum applications in 2015, and thousands of people across the country have extended a helping hand to those who are granted refugee status to smoothly integrate into Dutch society.

That includes Katharina Hilger, a 24-year-old master’s student in Psychology from Germany who is organising a conference this Thursday to raise awareness and inform students about ways they could actually help.

 

Sharing stories

‘I am really interested in the situation and I want to help, but I can’t visit a refugee camp as a volunteer due to my academic responsibilities’, she says. ‘I decided to organise something on my own to inform students about what the situation really is and how they could assist by inviting refugees to share their stories and reply to their questions’, Katharina explains.

She has also observed how, despite the large number of refugees coming to the Netherlands, not all Dutch people are always very open or nice towards them.

‘I want to help, but I don’t know how’ ‘They tolerate it, but I don’t know if they are happy about it. The problem is that they don’t know what to expect next and nobody is giving them any directions about how they could actually aid. I am also one of those people: I want to help, but I don’t know how.’

The speakers

Two Syrian refugees who are currently staying in Groningen will speak at the event and tell the stories of how they managed to come to the Netherlands. ‘Only by giving refugees the chance to talk about what they have gone through will people be able to understand their perspective’, Katharina says.

Student Organises Refugee Conference

During the conference, attendants will have the chance to ask the two refugees anything they would like to know. ‘What I would like to understand is how refugees perceive the locals and whether they feel welcome in the Netherlands or not’, she says.

Katja Kiepe, a representative of Humanitas, a Dutch non-profit social service in Groningen, will also be speaking. Members of the group Groningen Welcomes Refugees and Max Power, a bachelor’s student in International Relations and founder of the Refugees Voice project, will be there to talk about their initiatives and goals for the future as well.

‘By combining representatives of volunteer organisations and refugees as speakers, we can inform people effectively about ways to contribute to the situation’, Katharina hopes.

No academics

The German student extended invitations to RUG researchers to join the conference as well, but disappointingly, they refused. Initially, they declined because there wasn’t an exact date for the event, but even once a place and time had been sorted, none of the academics she approached could make it.

‘When I offered them the opportunity to choose the date, they said no, and when I chose the date, I got the same response from them’, she says. The volunteer organisations, on the other hand, had a completely different attitude. ‘They asked me to finalise a date and told me that they would make sure to be there. It was so nice to see such a reaction.’

A different perspective

Katharina hopes the conference will encourage people to refrain from judging refugees without knowing their background. She feels that the media’s framing of the refugee crisis doesn’t always depict reality.

‘We can’t judge them the same way’ Sometimes, the problem lies in the fact that the media tends to lump together those who come to Europe fleeing war in their country, and those who are coming for economic reasons. ‘This makes it difficult for people to understand the situation, but they have to realise that those two groups are dissimilar and we can’t judge them the same way’, Katharina says.

Major obstacle

Many of the refugees from Syria are highly educated and, as such, are prepared to work and pay taxes, but are typically not allowed to do so here. Being able to work in the Netherlands is a major obstacle to them finding stability in the Netherlands, she believes. ‘Employers shouldn’t deny hiring those people. I think everyone has to contribute to this so that we can help them’, she adds.

Now that all the details have been sorted, all Katharina can do is hope that the conference will have a strong impact on people. ‘I arranged this event for the refugees. It would be really disappointing for them if few people join. They have a really interesting story, so I think people should grab the chance and get to know them better.’

‘Refugees: A Different Perspective’ will take place at 18:30 on Thursday, 14 January in the Heymanszaal at the Academy building.

 

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Stopping Isis

Over the last few years, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has caused irreversible damage in the cradle of civilisation, destroying 2,000-year-old Syrian artefacts and temples. Is there anything we can do to save these symbols of our cultural heritage?

ISIS and the Threat to Our Cultural Heritage: What Can the World Do?

The eighteenth Horst Gerson lecture will be given in the Aula of the Academy Building at 4 p.m. on Thursday, 8 October. Dr. James Cuno, president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, will be the featured speaker, following a preliminary programme with two lectures by Taco Dibbits and Lynn Rother at 13:30 in the auditorium of the Groninger Museum.

The lecture series is named for a German-Dutch art historian whose specialisation was 17th century Dutch and Flemish art. In 1965, Gerson was appointed as chair of art history at the RUG, a position which he held for ten years.

American art historian James Cuno’s lecture, part of the Horst Gerson series, will examine the current situation in the Middle East which has been precipitated by ISIS, focusing on the destruction of cultural heritage by the group. His goal is to propose five ways in which the international community ‘must respond to the destruction of cultural heritage by ISIS’. ‘But, in the end, it will require the full restoration of social, political and economic stability in the region’, Cuno says. ‘That is the greatest challenge.’

While that daunting task looms, in the meantime, it is vital to stop ISIS from causing further damage. ‘We have so much to learn from the world’s cultural heritage about the genius of our ancestors and the interrelatedness of their many, different cultures.’

‘We should feel a great sense of responsibility for the preservation of the world’s artistic legacy. Unfortunately, now, all of a sudden, in a blink of an eye, much of it is purposely being damaged and destroyed. We should feel collective guilt about our not being more active in trying to prevent this. ’

Palmyra

Also known as the Venice of the Sands, Palmyra is an ancient Syrian city that was once the crossroads between the Roman and the Persian Empire. The historically rich ruins were among ISIS’ victims over the last few months. Palmyra has a prominent place in Middle Eastern history, and many of its artefacts and temples were destroyed.

‘The importance of Palmyra is its setting and its historical narrative. It is a very well preserved city of the early first millennium AD, located by an oasis in the Syrian Desert’, according to Lidewijde de Jong, a lecturer at the RUG in the archaeology department and chairperson of the Centre for the study of Culture, Religion and Society in Greco-Roman Antiquity.

Today, objects from Palmyra can be found in museums across the world, serving as characteristic examples of the unique cultural mixture of Palmyra, according to De Jong. But the cultural heritage of Syria and Iraq is in extreme risk at this moment, and ISIS is not the only threat. ‘It is also due to widespread looting, stimulated by trade in illicit antiquities in the western world and Asia.’

There has been at least one unforeseen positive that has emerged from the ISIS menace, according to De Jong. ‘It has already lead to several initiatives for the safeguarding of cultural heritage and more general awareness about current threats to cultural heritage spreading.’

These initiatives may not prevent future attacks, but they might lead to measures and better legislation to prevent the sale of illicit antiquities. As an archaeologist who has worked in Syria for 15 years, De Jong’s main hope is a peaceful solution for the people of Syria and the chance to rebuild their country.

Destruction of everything

Yet Cuno sees ISIS as a very real threat beyond the Middle East as well. The group has been very successful and is likely to only continue growing, he explains.

‘Anything that seems to show evidence of difference will be destroyed’

‘ISIS’ members manifest themselves to the destruction of everything that ISIS sees to be different from its worldview’, Cuno says. ‘Anything that seems to shows evidence of difference, whether it is an individual, a religion, or a work of art, will be destroyed. That’s people, landscapes and cultural property. There isn’t one particular aspect that threatens humanity, but rather all of it.’

Among ISIS’ main activities, three are considered to form the most serious threat, according to Cuno. ISIS challenges the nation-state system, promotes ‘a caliphate world that doesn’t recognise national borders but rather recognises adherence to a particular theological ideology’. Moreover, ISIS brings the representation of different cultures in the world in peril.

‘ISIS wants to destroy manifestations of world views that are different than its own, whether those views are millennia old or much more recent. The existence of different points-of-view in the world is seen by ISIS as a threat to its hegemonic view of its particular interpretation of Islam.’

‘For those of us who believe in a cosmopolitan view of the world, one that promotes tolerance of difference and respects the interrelatedness of the world’s many cultures, ISIS must be defeated’, Cuno says.

Economic and political stability

He believes that ISIS can ultimately only be defeated when economic and political stability returns to the impacted nations. ‘The destruction of cultural property has a negative effect in the region. It contributes to its ongoing and deepening dysfunction, and it is this dysfunction that is causing the humanitarian migrant crisis the world is seeing right now.’

With regard to the destruction of cultural heritage sites, Cuno thinks that unless we stop this threat to human life, historians of the future can only hold people of our times responsible.

‘What is happening with ISIS at the moment has happened many times in the past and in many parts of the world. However, we haven’t prepared ourselves to prevent that from happening again in the future, and that is also because we can’t agree to work together out of self-interest’.

Heritage and history themselves could hold the key to their own salvation, Cuno believes. He wishes that we would ‘learn from the past and avoid repeating the same mistakes time and time again’.

 

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Russia 2015: No transgenders behind the wheel

The Russian government has turned an everyday activity such as driving into a criminal offense.  A new driving law that bans transsexual and transgender people from driving was signed in December 2015 by the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. 

Russia 2015: No transgenders behind the wheel

The Russian state seems to consider transgender and transsexual citizens a threat as far as driving skills are concerned. In fact, homosexuality has been faces as a mental disordersince 1999.The new road safety regulation is placing transgender and transsexual people among those with mental and sexual disorders.

However, after receiving heavy criticism for this regulation the Russian Health ministry made it clear that transsexuals are not included in the banning. The World Health Organization agreed, and stated that it will review the section that places transsexual people among those with sexual disorders.

Russia is among the countries with the highest percentages of car accidents. More than 30,000 people die each year in Russia due to car accidents, the World Health Organization’s statistics revealed. The new law aims at reducing the number of car accidents and deaths in the country according to the Russian government.  Medvedev had already expressed his concerns about Russian road safety laws since 2009.

Russia 2015: No transgenders behind the wheel

According to the new regulation among those people with mental disorders are also considered people with fetishism, exhibitionism and voyeurism and as a result they are no longer qualified to have driving licenses under their possession. In the same category are also people that suffer from pathological gambling and stealing as the government believes that it is a situation that can also affect driving skills.

This new law is part of an anti-gay offense by Putin. It comes on the heels of the gay propaganda law, which was implemented in June 2013, according to which no illustration of homosexuality is allowed among minors since it could be construed as promoting gay culture. Numerous arrests of LBGT people and violent episodes took place in Russia after the activation of the new law.

“A person standing in the middle of Moscow square claiming that they are gay would be arrested. Any demonstration in Russia should be authorized by governmental or local authorities. Russian authorities would never allow any kind of pro-gay demonstration,” said Leo Korolev, 24 years old, from Moscow, Russia.

Putin’s government has convinced Russians citizens that they should avoid getting in touch with LGBT people as they suffer from a mental illness and according to a survey conducted in June 2013, 35% of Russians believed that homosexuality is a disease.  Furthermore, almost 90% of Russians believed that they should support the gay propaganda law.

However, this time the Russian government went one step further and managed to bring Russia in the center of human rights activists’ attention once more.

“Banning people from driving based on their gender identity or expression is ridiculous and just another example of the Russian regime’s methodical rollback of basic human rights for its citizens. Beyond the denial of basic freedoms, this provision may deter transgender people from seeking mental health services for fear of receiving a diagnosis that would strip them of their right to drive, and leaves the door open for increased harassment, persecution, and discrimination of transgender people by Russian authorities,” said Shawn Gaylord, advocacy Counsel and leader of Washington based Human Rights First’s initiative.

Nils Muiznieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the new regulation in his personal twitter account.

Russia 2015: No transgenders behind the wheel

The new safety regulation has also found supporters.

“We have too many deaths on the road, and I believe toughening medical requirements for applicants is fully justified,” said Alexander Kotov, head of the Professional Drivers Union of Russia.

Kris Van der Veen, head of LGBT Groningen Foundation was arrested in Russia in 2013during his visit in order to make his own documentary concerning LGBT rights and was accused of not obeying to the country’s anti-gay law. He explains how he thinks Western politicians could help LGBT people in Russia. “I think it is very important that Western politicians speak out and that they, in one way or another, support LGBT activists or just LGBT people or even straight people who are supporting equal rights. I remember our minister of foreign affairs has spoken very clearly about how important are equal rights in a country. And I heard from LGBT activists in Russia that these kinds of statements give them hope as they can’t find anyone in their own country to support them, so it’s vital for them that other high-placed people around the world support them.”

 

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The Next Day For Greece

Today, Greece’s new government was officially formed after the Greek president Karolos Papoulias handed a mandate to Alexis Tsipras, leader of Syriza and winner of the elections. “Hope is what wrote history today. Citizens gave me a powerful and strong command. Greece leaves behind the strategy of austerity and destruction.  Greece and Greeks must find their lost dignity. The country will move with dignity into a new era. A new era for the whole Europe,” Tsipras mentioned during his first speech after winning the elections yesterday.

Syriza, an anti-austerity left-wing political party, managed to receive 36.34% of the total vote which equals to 149 seats out of 300 in the Greek parliament; however an absolute majority was only 2 seats away for Syriza. This result forced Syriza to form a coalition government which consists of Syriza and Independent Greeks (Anel), which received 4.75% of the total vote and 13 seats in the parliament.

“I want to say, simply, that from this moment, there is a government,” Panos Kammenos, leader of Anel, told reporters gathered outside Syriza’s headquarters, which he visited this morning in order to discuss with Tsipras the possibility of joining the new government.

For Greece it is one of the most vital and historical moments after the political changeover, as none of the two traditionally leading political parties, New Democracy (2nd) or Pasok (7th), managed to win the elections this time, after decades of governing.

The Next Day For Greece

“Finally, Greeks voted for something different. I would like to congratulate every Greek citizen that voted for an unconventional political party. Electing a left-wing party is something unprecedented for Greece. New Democracy’s percentage in the elections was still pretty high and it is stupid to complain for the country’s situation since we vote for the same people again and again,” John Harhas, an 18 year old Greek voter said.

But the Greek future is still uncertain as the new government will consist of two anti-memorandum political parties that have, besides their consensus upon the memorandum, major ideological differences.

The new prime minister already promised during his political campaign that the first thing he will do is to end “the five years of austerity, humiliation and pain” and that he will re-negotiate the Greek bailout with Europe. It is not clear though if the other European leaders and the International Monetary Fund will be willing to negotiate about the Greek debt and how they will face the new government.

“We all want a Greece that stays on its feet, creating jobs and growth, reducing inequality, and a Greece that repays its debt,”  Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner for economics and finance, told reporters during today’s visit in Brussels for a meeting of euro group finance ministers.

The old scenario of a GREXIT, the possibility for Greece to leave the Euro zone, is being discussed again. Experts from all over the world rush to give their opinions about this possibility. For Greeks, GREXIT is a well-used scenario by previous governments in order to control and blackmail people every time new austerity measures were about to be taken and present themselves as saviors one more time.

“An exit by Greece or any other country in crisis would be a disaster for Europe. This is something that deep down everyone knows,” Tsipras told an audience of officials and academics during a conference at the University of Texas in 2013. Today he remains faithful to his statement.

Despite Mr. Tsipras’ statements, since the former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' announced the Greek elections in December, the euro has been continuously falling against the US dollar which means that the political uncertainty of Greece is affecting Europe’s economy.  And the question is still unanswered. Will the new anti-austerity Greek government lead to a political and economic tsunami for the whole Euro zone or will it lead to Europe’s new era as Tsipras calls it?

The whole political campaign of Syriza was based on setting a new era for Greeks by fighting unemployment and austerity. However, the measures that the new government will take in order to move to that new era and fulfill its promises are still unknown, as during its political campaign Syriza focused on opposing New Democracy’s statements that Syriza will lead the country to bankruptcy, instead of explaining its strategy and solutions regarding the economic crisis.

Despite Syriza’s promises about a better future, there are numerous Greek citizens that fear the future, as the country is still waiting for the next bailout of 7 billion euros, which it needs in order to keep running, pay its debts and avoid a possible bankruptcy. That means that the new government has little time to negotiate.

“The crisis will not end soon. Since, most of the young people have moved abroad and Greece is now a country dominated by pensioners I don’t know if we can get out of the crisis soon. It is difficult. And I am not afraid about myself, because I know how to fight. I am and I will be concerned though about my children’s future,” Tzeni Zaxou, a 50 year old voter from Greece, said.

“I believe that we can’t talk about anti-austerity in a country with such big debts. The new government has to prove with actions what it promised before the elections. We have tried other governments and failed. Let’s wait to see what the new one will do. However, the next day is still uncertain and fear and liquidity prevails among Greeks. I hope for the best for the country and its citizens,” Konstantinos Mpalntidis, a 24 year old voter from Greece, said.

In addition, the results of the last elections brought the Golden Dawn, a far-right political party, up to third place again, despite the fact that many of its members are imprisoned since 2013. As the Golden Dawn received almost the same percentage as in 2012’s elections, it seems that the party has strong and passionate followers. It received 6.82% of the total vote and 17 seats which increases more fears about Greece’s future, as the rise of right-wing extremists is a phenomenon that surfaced during the economic crisis in Greece and also concerns many European countries today.

“There are people in this country who know what war and occupation means, but the young people don’t seem to know,” Greek journalist Alexis Papahelas said about Golden Dawn’s percentage.

“History has shown how far can fascists go and how harmful they are,” Harhas said.

“The Golden Dawn in the third position, only sadness can cause in a country that established democracy,” Mpalntidis said.

After all, it is becoming more and more visible that we are not talking only about an economic crisis in Greece but a crisis of democratic values. The country that gave birth to democracy should take a step back and re-think what democracy means for it. Maybe this is the only way for Greece to solve its problems and look forward to the next anti-austerity day.

The Next Day For Greece

 

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The Blogger Who Will Receive 1000 Lashes Due To His Writings

Tomorrow Raif Badawi, 31, a Saudi Arabian blogger, will receive another round of lashes. He was sentenced in 2014 to ten years in prison and 1000 lashes, which will last for 19 weeks in total. 

The Blogger Who Will Receive 1000 Lashes Due To His Writings

Badawi was arrested and accused of apostasy, disaffiliation from a religion, in 2012. He was accused of insulting Islam, through his website, Liberal Saudi Network, which he started in order to encourage political and religious debate in his country. Badawi is already serving his sentence, which entails ten years in prison and 1000 lashes.

Last Friday, just two days after Charlie Hebdo’s massacre, where world leaders, including the French ambassador of Saudi Arabia,  came together to condemn Charlie Hebdo’s attack and to march for freedom of speech, Badawi received the first 50 lashes in front of a mosque in Jeddah.

Tomorrow he will receive more. The only way for him to avoid tomorrow’s lashes, is through bad health conditions caused by the previous flogging. Whether or not this is the case, a doctor’s examination will decide, however as it hasn’t been confirmed yet, the flogging will continue as planned.

“There was a very large gathering [of people]. They brought out Raif from the prison car and put him in front of people gathered in a circle around him. Then the officer lashed him 50 times. After the lashing the gathered people shouted in one voice saying “God is great,” and they took Raif and returned him to prison,” a witness of the first flogging told Human Rights Watch.

Badawi is married and the father of three children. His wife Ensaf Haidar and the children have been living in Canada since 2013, where they found asylum after they faced persecution in the Arab world. Haidar, talked about the forthcoming lashes and she explained that he will not stand the second round due to poor health.

"What I felt was indescribable,” Haidar said about her husband’s first round of punishment, “It was an indescribable mixture of sadness and pain."

The Blogger Who Will Receive 1000 Lashes Due To His Writings

Badawi’s case has raised public outrage all around the world. Several governments, USA, Canada, Germany, and Norway condemned the flogging. Human rights activists and organizations are also trying to raise awareness.

The director of Amnesty International UK, Kate Allen, is asking on Amnesty’s press release today UK’s government to intensify its reactions to the case.

“David Cameron and his ministers should have the courage of their convictions and say - loud and clear - that Raif Badawi’s case is an absolute disgrace, that this weekly flogging should be halted and he should be freed from jail. At the very least the Foreign Office should be calling in the Saudi ambassador and telling him this in person if they haven’t already done so,” said Allen.

“Corporal punishment is nothing new in Saudi Arabia, but publicly lashing a peaceful activist merely for expressing his ideas sends an ugly message of intolerance. Saudi Arabia is showing a willingness to inflict vicious and cruel punishments on writers whose views it rejects,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division.

Reporters Without Borders (RWB), a French based non- governmental organization fighting for the freedom of press, urges King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia to pardon Badawi and calls for people to sign a relevant petition on its website. According to RWB, 30967 people have already signed it.

“I told our children about the news last week so that they would not find out about it from friends at school. It is a huge shock for them. International pressure is crucial; I believe if we keep up the support it will eventually pay off,” said Haidar, Badawi’s wife.

 

The Blogger Who Will Receive 1000 Lashes Due To His Writings

 

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Norman Atlantic’s recent tragedy

A few days ago firefighters managed to extinguish all fires in Norman Atlantic, which was towed to Brindisi’s port. Italian authorities entered the ship and started their investigations yesterday. 

Norman Atlantic’s recent tragedy

During the last days of December fire broke out in the lower deck of Norman Atlantic, an Italian ship, while it was travelling from Greece to Italy. The fire turned out to be a tragedy. Due to severe weather conditions and Beaufort of high intensity, it took almost two days for Greek and Italian rescuers to transfer hundreds of passengers to a safe place. Many of them were mainly suffering of hypothermia or mild carbon monoxide poisoning and were immediately taken to the hospital.

A whole mystery is surrounding this tragedy. Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation as the reason that caused the fire is still unknown. In the next few days, investigators will examine the ship’s black boxes in order to find out more about what happened that night.

Furthermore, prosecutors are expecting to find information about the captain of the ship, Argilio Giacomazzi, from the black boxes. Many of the survivors accused him of abandoning the ship first, however he denied the accusations.

Another problem is about naming the exact number of passengers who were travelling with Norman Atlantic. There was confusion on the official lists by the Italian authorities during the first days. Italian Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi said at a press conference that the exact number of passengers was not clear. He explained that the reason was that many of the passengers might have left the ship in the last stop, before the fire broke out, or because of errors on the passengers’ lists.

So far, 11 people are officially dead and more than 400 have been rescued. The number of passengers who are still missing is still unclear as it is not sure how many of them jumped in the sea in order to get away from the burning ship or how many of them were trapped in their cars in the garage.

Besides that, Giovanni Pettorino, Italian navy Admiral, said that there were 80 people among the survivors that were not at all in the passengers’ lists.

“Given that the ship was indisputably carrying illegal migrants who were probably hidden in the hold, we fear that we’ll find more dead people once we recover the wreck,” prosecutor Giuseppe Volpe said.

According to the prosecutor of Bari, who is responsible for the investigations, DNA tests and autopsies are going to be held over the next days.

Some bodies have been already recovered from Norman Atlantic. The bodies had wounds that resemble shark bites on them. However, investigators do not know if people were alive or dead when sharks attacked them and are still waiting for the autopsies.

Norman Atlantic’s recent tragedy

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Christmas Break: Try Something Different This Year

It is December and you are still sitting on you couch with a cup of hot coffee, thinking of where you could travel this Christmas. Hmmm! What about Greece?

Christmas Break: Try Something Different This Year

It is true that Greece is a popular destination for summer vacation; however it can also be an ideal destination for Christmas especially for people who want to celebrate in a warm and sunny country. Below you will find the top five Greek destinations for Christmas.

ATHENS

d.jpgChristmas Break: Try Something Different This Year

The capital city of Greece offers a modern version of Christmas.  The Syntagma square hosts the city’s gigantic Christmas tree and a big stage which hosts many of the most popular singers in Greece. The Santa Claus and the elves organize activities and workshops for children all day long in the National garden. In the meantime, parents can test their ice skating skills on the ice rink.

Jazz and classical melodies are part of the everyday Christmas atmosphere and will be present in every corner and neighborhood of the city.

ARACHOVA

Christmas Break: Try Something Different This Year

Arachova is located very close to Athens and other destinations, like the renowned oracle of Delphi.

Local residents are trying until today to preserve the region’s traditional style. The use of wood and stone makes Arachova’s buildings unique. The narrow paths covered by stone are also worth seeing.

There are three different ski centers located on the slopes of mount Parnassos. However, those who aren’t into skiing can enjoy the spa and sauna facilities that the wooden chalets of Arachova provide.

Christmas Break: Try Something Different This Year

THESSALONIKI

Christmas Break: Try Something Different This Year

Thessaloniki is also an ideal destination to celebrate Christmas. The municipality of Thessaloniki decorates a ship every year, which is part of the Greek Christmas tradition, in the middle of the Aristotelous square. The Kapani Street calls tourists to visit and taste a unique Christmas experience. People defy the cold and dance in the middle of the street, accompanied by traditional Greek music and red wine.

Christmas Break: Try Something Different This Year

Those who will choose Thessaloniki should not neglect to taste the famous Terkenlis’ brioche with chocolate, which will fill their mouth with flavors and aromas.

 

 

KASTORIA

Christmas Break: Try Something Different This Year

Kastoria is one of the most romantic cities of Greece. The city is built on the edge of the lake of Kastoria offering a majestic view. Tourists can wander around the city and admire the combination of traditional and modern elements. Those who will choose Kastoria as their Christmas destination should make sure that they will be there between 6th-8th of January. Locals celebrate the famous Ragoutsaria, which is a revival of the ceremonies of God Dionysus. People dress up and celebrate with their heart until the first morning hours.

Christmas Break: Try Something Different This Year

As Kastoria is the biggest producer of products related to fur, it is a must for tourists to pay a visit to the local stores and buy a pair of warm slippers for the winter.

 

DRAMA

Christmas Break: Try Something Different This Year

Drama hosts the most famous Greek Santa Claus village, Oneiroupoli, a theme park which offers a variety of activities and is place where the Christmas spirit overcomes any language or age barriers. The last few years Oneiroupoli has become synonymous with Christmas for the north of Greece.

Besides Oneiroupoli, tourists who will visit Drama, can also organize daily excursions to the ski resort of Drama, Falakros. The colorful village will guide its visitors into a magical fairytale and offers them the ultimate Christmas atmosphere.

 

Christmas Break: Try Something Different This Year

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Turks and War Crimes Against Greek Cypriots?

A group of Greek Cypriots, supported by a member of the European parliament, Kostas Mavrides, lodged a complaint, to the International Criminal Court (ICC), an International Tribunal located in The Hague, against Turkey, on July of 2014.

Turks and War Crimes Against Greek Cypriots?

The group, known as Cypriots Against Turkish War Crimes (CATWC), accused Turks of continuously committing war crimes against Greek Cypriots, since the invasion of 1974, which was performed by Turkish military forces against Greek Cypriots and took place in Cyprus island.

Although the complaint was formed by individuals, the minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, Ioannis Kasoulides expressed his opinion on the ministry’s press release.

He explained that Turks adopted a systematic colonization policy for the occupied part of Cyprus, since 1974. The Greek Cypriots claimed that the Turks expelled, under this policy’s frame, thousands of Greek Cypriots and attempted to change the island’s demographic character.

Is colonization considered a war crime?

According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Article 8 (2) (b) (viii)), committing war crimes includes an occupying power which is transferring parts of its own civilian population to the area it occupies.

Turks and War Crimes Against Greek Cypriots?

“Turkey has, continuously since the invasion, recruited, encouraged and transported Turks from rural areas of the mainland to come settle the occupied territory”, Athan Tsimpedes, legal representative of the CATWC, mentioned on the press release of Tsimpedes Law Firm.

During those 12 years since the invasion, many diplomatic conversations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots have taken place in order to find a solution regarding the division of the island.

Nevertheless the diplomatic route didn’t bring the desired results.

As the diplomatic procedure didn’t solve the problems and the ICC proved its value throughout the years, Greek Cypriots were convinced to reconsider a report.

Is it realistic for the ICC to investigate the report?

“The prosecutor’s decision is beyond our control and there is no set timetable for a decision,” said Tsimpedes.

He also mentioned in the press release that as the legitimacy of the Turkish occupation regime in northern Cyprus is not recognized by any nation except for Turkey, the ICC has the jurisdiction to investigate reports regarding war crimes committed by Turks. In addition, as Cyprus is a member of the ICC since its set up in 2002, the ICC has the jurisdiction to proceed in further investigations regarding a complaint.

As the ICC received 10,470 complaints by the end of 2013, it is still unclear if CATWC’s complaint is enough to lead to further investigations.

“We do not know what are the prospects of an investigation by the ICC against Turkey, and it is certainly reasonable to think that the chances are not high,” said Avi Guez, member of the Shurat HaDin Law Center, an Israeli-based rights organization which helped the group draft the complaint.

 

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Philae Goes to Sleep

Philae, the first lander on a comet, has gone to sleep two days after its landing, due to low battery levels.

philae.jpg

The European Space Agency (ESA) released a lander named Philae, on Wednesday, as part of the Rosetta mission. It was Rosetta’s first attempt of a controlled landing on the Comet 67 P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, after 10 years of travelling.

Philae’s, first days on the comet were troubled. After the rough, but still successful landing, Philae couldn’t be located accurately but it became known that it had been stuck in shadow, unable to get enough sunlight to recharge its solar-powered batteries.

ESA scientists announced on Friday that they were trying to activate Philae’s onboard drill, and “hop” the robot into a sunnier position. They stated that Philae could only last 60 hours on the initial charge. Then it would need sunlight in order to charge again and keep the system on.

Philae successfully changed position and rotated 35 degrees. However it was too late for the batteries.

According to ESA’s members, Philae’s mission was to gather material from the comet’s surface and subsurface for further analysis.

 ESA scientists receive data from Philae

ESA scientists receive data from Philae

Despite the fact that Philae went to sleep, ESA scientists managed to collect data from it, which they will analyze in the following days. ESA announced on its official website that Rosetta’s mission will continue regardless Philae’s fate.

Rosetta’s mission is to answer some fundamental questions about our solar system, by following the comet closely.

According to ESA, Rosetta is expected to pursue this goal until December 2015. By that time the comet will have reached its closest point to the sun.

As for Philae, although ESA scientists lost contact with it yesterday evening, they are very proud of this first attempt to land Philae on the comet and they consider the mission accomplished.

“History has been made. Science has been advanced. And we have taken a step closer towards understanding our cosmic origins. Let us always remember the day that Philae landed. I thank you all,” Stuart Clark, member of the mission’s control, said  to the Guardian.

fafksjg-e1416059128757.jpg

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Bankruptcy or Austerity for Greeks?

After three attempts of the Greek parliament to select the country's new president , the prime minister, Antonis Samaras, announced that the country is heading to early elections. Since that day a tragicomic 'fight' has started between the president of Nea dimokratia, Antonis Samaras and the president of Siriza, Alexis Tsipras, during their short political campaign.

Mr Samaras claims that the economy of Greece will recover until 2021. He explained that after the elections he will reduce some of the taxes that Greek citizens pay every year. In his speeches he appears to be optimistic about the country's future and he is convinced that the economy is already doing better.

Bankruptcy or Austerity for Greeks?

On the other hand, Mr Tsipras announced a few days ago that he will not continue the strategy of austerity, however he stated that the country will remain in the Eurozone. He will follow a new strategy, which is called "The Thessaloniki Program" in order to fight unemployment and return the country to growth, without mentioning the exact way he is going to achieve that.

Greek citizens though seem to believe no-one of the political leaders, as five years after a long period of austerity and sacrificies, future still remains uncertain for them and their properties. The two leaders resemble to play the game of cat and mouse by blaming each other publicly.

International media follow closely what is happening these days in Greece and their reports present the country's future as bleak. One of the French economic newspapers, La tribune, talks about the 'Grexit', which is nothing else than the country's exit from the Eurozone, especially if Syriza wins the elections, while another French newspaper, Le Monde, reports that Mr Samaras is just promising a new era of austerity for Greeks.

People are called to vote on the 25th of January but they still do not know who they should trust. For them all the options seem like a dead end. And as Platon, one of the most renowned Greek philosophers said: "One of the punishments for those who do not deign to deal with politics is to end up being governed by inferiors."

Greeks are called to make history with their decision in a few days. Will the country be led to a new bankrupt or will the citizens  be led to new measures of austerity?

 

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