Joint article co-signed by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic, Nikos Dendias, and the Republic of Croatia, Gordan Grli?-Radman, in “Kathimerini tis Kyriakis” newspaper (17.07.2022)

Southeastern Europe was traditionally a complex and historically burdened region. Many, however, tend to overlook its potential. Its achievements, likewise, do not always attract the attention they deserve.

One of the less known success stories in Southeastern Europe is the bilateral relationship between Croatia and Greece. This year, as we celebrate 30 years of diplomatic relations, this is an opportunity to assess the achievements over the past three decades, as well as look how to take things forward in the future.

Croatia and Greece were not meant to be natural partners to begin with. This was not a match made in Heaven. Geographically, the two countries are at the opposite ends of South-Eastern Europe. We have different historical and religious backgrounds. In a region that “produces more history than it can consume”, this could make a big difference. And it is fair to say that the beginning of these relations was not always free of negative perceptions.

Yet, both countries wanted to set an example and look forward, not backwards. Athens and Zagreb have worked alongside in building a bilateral relation that reflects the values of the 21st Century, not of the 19th. Values that are enshrined in the EU Treaty, the UN Charter and the North Atlantic Treaty. Values such as respect for International Law, the peaceful resolution of disputes, respect for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which forms part of the EU acquis.

We begun our multilateral cooperation in regional formats, such as the South-East Europe Cooperation Process, of which Athens held the Presidency until a few weeks ago. A key element that contributed to the significant advancement of our relations was Zagreb’s strategic bid to join the European Union and the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization, bid that Athens firmly supported, right from the very beginning. This is in line with our shared goal of ensuring a European perspective for the broader region, including the Western Balkans.

We firmly believe that the path to peace, stability, and prosperity in the region is an one-way street that leads to the European family. We fully support the opening of EU accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, as well as ensuring a European path for the region. This stems from our firm conviction that unless we take positive action and provide assistance and support to all those that seek to join the European project, other destabilizing and adversarial forces will fill the void that unavoidably will be created. We have also taken initiatives to safeguard the inviolability of borders, which for us remains one of the fundamental principles of our policies.

And to ensure better and more representative governance, the upcoming elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be free and democratic, based on the principle of equality of three constituent peoples and non-discrimination of all citizens. Constitutional and electoral reform should be urgently finalized. Together with other crucial reforms, it will allow the country to advance decisively on its European path.

In recent years, bilateral political meetings and contacts, including at high level, have increased, opening-up the possibility for enhanced economic and commercial cooperation between the two countries, an area where there is still untapped potential. Within the European Union, the views and positions of our two countries converge in an array of major EU policy areas.

Croatia, holding the Presidency of the EU Council in the first half of 2020, stood in solidarity and played a pivotal role in helping Greece protecting its border and helping to prevent an illegal migration wave. Athens and Zagreb also “rediscovered’ their strong and centuries-old Mediterranean bonds. Since last year, Croatia fully participates in the EUMED9, a vehicle of closer cooperation among the EU’s southern Member States.

Looking back, Athens and Zagreb have, over 30 years, compiled the main principles and successfully learned the “A to Z” of good bilateral and multilateral relations. Now, our ambition, our obligation to our people and to our neighbours is to help apply those lessons for the common benefit of our European family.

In particularly troubled times, when the world seems darker, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have to bring a layer of light. And to show everyone that there is a better future. There are success stories that we can build on. This is what the relationship between Croatia and Greece is about.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic

31 dead in Sudan tribal clashes near Ethiopia border

KHARTOUM— Dozens of families were Saturday fleeing violence in Sudan’s Blue Nile State, where ongoing clashes between two tribes have killed at least 31 people, local officials said.

At least 39 others have been wounded and 16 shops torched since the violence broke out on Monday over a land dispute between the Berti and Hawsa tribes.

“We need more troops to control the situation,” local official Adel Agar from the city of Al-Roseires said on Saturday.

According to him, many people were seeking refuge in police stations and the unrest had resulted in many “dead and wounded”.

Agar did not give a toll breakdown but said mediators were urgently needed to de-escalate the violence.

Soldiers were deployed to contain the unrest and a night curfew has been imposed by the authorities starting Saturday.

Blue Nile governor Ahmed al-Omda issued an order Friday prohibiting any gatherings or marches for one month.

The violence broke out after the Berti tribe rejected a Hawsa request to create a “civil authority to supervise access to land”, a prominent Hawsa member said.

But a senior member of the Bertis said the tribe was responding to a “violation” of its lands by the Hawsas.

Clashes resumed on Saturday after a brief lull, close to the state capital Al-Damazin, witnesses said.

“We heard gun shots… and saw smoke rising,” resident Fatima Hamad said Saturday from Al-Roseires, across the river from Al-Damazin.

Ahmed Youssef, a resident of the state capital, said “dozens of families” crossed the bridge into the city to flee the unrest.

Hospitals put out urgent calls for blood donations, according to medical sources.

One source at Al-Roseires Hospital said the facility had “run out of first aid equipment” and that reinforcements were needed as the number of injured people was “rising”.

The UN special representative to Sudan, Volker Perthes, called on all sides to exercise restraint.

The “inter-communal violence and the loss of life in Sudan’s Blue Nile region is saddening and deeply concerning,” he tweeted.

By late afternoon Saturday “the situation had improved” in the Qissan region, according to Omda, the governor of the Blue Nile State.

But clashes continued in Al-Roseires, he said in televised remarks.

The Qissan region and Blue Nile state more generally have long seen unrest, with southern guerrillas a thorn in the side of Sudan’s former strongman president Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted by the army in 2019 following street pressure.

Experts say last year’s coup, led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, created a security vacuum that has fostered a resurgence in tribal violence, in a country where deadly clashes regularly erupt over land, livestock, access to water and grazing.

Source: Nam News Network

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias to attend the EU Foreign Affairs Council (Brussels, 18.07.2022)

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias will travel to Brussels tomorrow, Monday July 18, to participate in the Foreign Affairs Council.

Prior to the beginning of the Council’s meeting, the Foreign Ministers will hold a discussion, via videoconference, with their Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba.

The Council’s agenda includes a discussion on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, EU relations with Latin American and the Caribbean as well as on digital diplomacy.

Under “Current Affairs”, the FIMI (Foreign Information Manipulation and Interference) toolbox, the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region, the convening of the EU-Israel Association Council, the Ministerial Meeting between the EU and the League of Arab States, the food crisis and the political situation in Tunisia as well as the situation in Sri Lanka will be discussed.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic

Heatwaves: Wildfires rage in France and Spain as heatwaves sear Europe

PARIS— Wildfires raged in southwestern France and Spain on Saturday, forcing thousands of people to be evacuated from their homes as blistering summer temperatures put authorities on alert in parts of Europe.

About 14,000 people had been evacuated from France’s Gironde region by Saturday afternoon as more than 1,200 firefighters battled to bring the flames under control, regional authorities said in a statement.

“We have a fire that will continue to spread as long as it is not stabilised,” Vincent Ferrier, deputy prefect for Langon in Gironde, told a news conference.

Wildfires have torn through France in recent weeks, as well as other European countries including Portugal and Spain, and more than 10,000 hectares of land was on fire in the Gironde region on Saturday, up from 7,300 hectares on Friday.

In the latest weather warning, 38 of France’s 96 departments were listed on “orange” alert, with residents of those areas urged to be vigilant. The heatwave in western France is expected to peak on Monday, with temperatures climbing above 40 degrees Celsius.

In neighbouring Spain, firefighters were battling a series of blazes on Saturday after days of unusually high temperatures that reached up to 45.7 degrees Celsius.

The nearly week-long heatwave has caused 360 heat-related deaths, according to figures from the Carlos III Health Institute.

More than 3,000 people have been evacuated from homes due to a large wildfire near Mijas, a town in the province of Malaga that is popular with northern European tourists, the region’s emergency services said in a tweet early on Saturday.

Many were taken to shelter in a provincial sports centre.

“The police drove up and down the road with their sirens on and everyone was told to leave. Just leave. No instructions where to go,” said British pensioner John Pretty, 83.

“It’s frightening … because you don’t know what’s happening,” said Belgian resident Jean-Marie Vandelanotte, 68.

Elsewhere in Spain, thick black plumes of smoke rose into the air near Casas de Miravete in the Extremadura region as helicopters dumped water on flames that have scorched 3,000 hectares, forced the evacuation of two villages and threatened to reach the Monfrague national park.

Fires were also burning in the central region of Castille and Leon and in Galicia in the north.

There was some respite for firefighters in Portugal, where temperatures dropped across most of the country on Saturday after reaching about 40 degrees Celsius in recent days.

“We have had big fires and we don’t want them to be reactivated again … We will keep extreme vigilance this weekend,” Emergency and Civil Protection Authority Commander Andre Fernandes told reporters.

A total of 39,550 hectares was ravaged by wildfires from the start of the year until mid-June, more than triple the area razed by fires in the same period last year, data from the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests showed.

An area equivalent to almost two-thirds of that has burned during fires in the last week.

Portugal’s Health Ministry said 238 people had died as a result of the heatwave between July 7 and 13, most of them elderly people with underlying conditions.

Across the Mediterranean from Europe, blazes in Morocco ripped through more than 2,000 hectares of forest in the northern areas of Larache, Ouazzane, Taza and Tetouane, killing at least one person, local authorities said.

More than 1,000 households were evacuated from their villages and water-carrying planes helped extinguish most of the fires by Friday night, though firefighters were still struggling to douse three hot spots near Larache.

In Britain, the national weather forecaster has issued its first red “extreme heat” warning for parts of England on Monday and Tuesday.

With possibly record-breaking temperatures expected, the government’s emergency response committee was due to meet later on Saturday.

The highest recorded temperature in Britain was 38.7 degrees Celsius, recorded in Cambridge on Jul 25, 2019.

Source: Nam News Network

IMF bailout: We’ll come out stronger – VP Bawumia

CCRA— The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, is optimistic that Ghana will, this time around, emerge stronger after going to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for support.

Ghana has already begun discussions with the IMF to provide balance-of-payments support as part of a broader effort to quicken Ghana’s build-back in the face of challenges induced by the COVID-19 pandemic and, recently, the Russia-Ukraine crises.

Speaking at the official launch of the Accra Business School’s IT Programmes, Dr Bawumia said it will take a lot of hard work and difficult decisions for Ghana to bounce back.

“With enhanced fiscal discipline and structural reforms to restore debt sustainability and growth, we should emerge stronger than we have with the previous 17 IMF programs,” he said.

“But it will take hard work and difficult decisions. With great pride and personal pleasure, it is good that we are all part of this launch of three new programmes by the Accra Business School in collaboration with the South East Technical University”.

“It’s a day when the neglect of many decades comes to an eventual end. It’s a beginning to lay the foundations of strengthened institutions to take up the challenges of time with an able and apt workforce. It’s a day when a new beginning is being made by forging a common alliance between the government and academic leaderships to protect, preserve and promote above all, democracy via digitalisation.”

Dr Bawumia stressed that the twin external factors of covid-19 and the war in Ukraine, which he said, has also led many countries to the IMF for support, following the rising cost of living and inability to sustain debt levels, has also exposed the need for Ghana to put in place measures to be more fiscal-discipline.

“The major lesson of the last two years is that we have to be more self-reliant as a country,” Dr Bawumia said.

“It is important that we make decisions that will inure to the benefit of the country regardless of whether we are going to the IMF for a program or not.”

“The immediate task is to restore fiscal and debt sustainability – through revenue and expenditure measures and structural reforms.

Non-concessional borrowing should be curtailed to enhance debt sustainability,” the Vice-President added.

Dr Bawumia also observed that successive governments have failed to achieve long-term economic stability after each of the past 17 IMF programmes due to the lack of systems to ensure sustainable stability, hence the government’s focus on ensuring such systems are put in place.

“I should note that Ghana has gone to the IMF for a program 17 times since independence and after each IMF program, the underlying system and structure of the economy remained the same,” Dr Bawumia said.

“It is important to note that the focus of economic management by successive governments since independence in Ghana has been on crisis management as a result of factors such as the collapse in commodity prices, increase in oil prices, debt unsustainability, political instability, macroeconomic instability, etc. Governments, have by and large, not focused on building systems and institutions that underpin economic activities in a modern economy.”

These modern systems for sustainable economic development, Dr Bawumia said, are: “the systems that will reduce bribery and corruption, the systems that will make the delivery of public services efficient, the systems that will enhance domestic revenue mobilization, and the systems that will make life generally easier for Ghanaians.”

The Vice President noted that since 2017, the government has been focused on building these systems, which include a biometric national identification card, a functioning digital property address system and an aggressive financial inclusion programme, digitisation of government services and many others, which he said, are enhancing services and making access easier, reducing corruption and strengthening domestic revenue mobilisation.

He, therefore, called for a renewed focus on building and strengthening these systems, alongside enhanced fiscal discipline, to ensure sustainable economic recovery after the latest, 17th IMF programme.

Source: Nam News Network