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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 12 August 2017
6 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 12 AUGUST 2017 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Greek ship banned from Australia over unpaid wages Greek Foreign Minister goes to extremes in lawsuit against literary magazine Suing the Athens Review of Books for €250,000 Nikos Kotzias is practically leading the publication to cease Australian authorities have banned a Greek ship from using the country's ports for six months over a dispute concerning unpaid wages, reports Trade Winds News. According to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), they received a complaint about the 81,700-dwt panamax bulker from the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) in late June over some $53,000 in unpaid wages. Meanwhile the Trojan Maritime-owned ship also failed to pass its port state control inspection and was said to not be maintaining a safe workplace for its crew. Greek government platform dealing with citizens’ daily problems stressed to cope with complaints Bureaucracy is the most important issue Greek citizens have to deal with. It's been one of the ugliest legal battles of the past couple of years in Greece - and one of the most public, involving the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias, and the publishers of a monthly literary magazine, Athens Review of Books, which is now seeing its bank accounts frozen. The dispute started in 2010, when the magazine published a letter, commenting on a book launch event taking place at the Old Parliament edifices. The book was Kotzias' essay Greek Foreign Policy on the 21st Century. For a New, Active, Democratic Strategy in the Era of Globalisation. The letter claimed that the place was not appropriate to host the book of someone who was well-known as ‘the most extreme, the most fanatical, brutal and ruthless communist of his/our generation, a veritable Gauleiter of Stalinism’. The new website ‘kathimerinotita’ received more than 5,000 bureaucracy complaints in just a few months When the Greek government launched a new electronic platform to manage citizens' relations with government agencies, nobody was expecting it to get to breaking point within a few months. But according to official data issued by the Ministry of State which undertook the project, more than 5,500 complaints have been submitted to the website, aptly named www.kathimerinotita.gov.gr, to the extent that it is facing its first major stress test. The website was set up in February as a platform of engagement between citizens and government. The idea was for people to communicate their daily problems with public services, directly to the authorities and the responsible agencies. The platform has been since flooded with complaints by citizens exhasperated by bureaucracy, inefficiency, and an overall dysfunctional public sector. Among the most common, as well as urgent complaints lodged, is people requesting tax offices to delete medical bills issued by public hospitals to uninsured people, a matter which was resolved with an amendment on the recent health care bill, approved by Greek parliament. At the time, Kotzias, a political theory professor who has taught at Harvard and Oxford universities, among others, was a foreign policy advisor for the Greek Prime Minister Yorgos Papandreou and sued the magazine for defamation on the grounds that the article's claim that he had studied in East Germany, under a sponsorship of ‘butcher’ Erich Honecker, was a deliberate attempt to dismiss his academic credentials. With the legal battle pending, the Athens Review of Books escalated its attacks on Kotzias, especially since he was appointed Foreign Minister in the Syriza government, publishing a series of articles recalling the minister’s past as a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (KKE), responsible for Propaganda (Kotzias left KKE in 1989, when the party sidelined with the right-wing Nea Dimokratia, to impeach Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou). By the time Kotzias was made minister, he was vindicated in court for his claim that the article was libellous. The Appeals Court ruling, which ordered the magazine pay the minister €10,000 (which is augmented by legal fees, reaching €28,000 - A cover of the literary magazine. still well below the €250,000 Kotzias was asking), included statements such as: “Even though it was proven that the plaintiff (i.e. Kotzias) was a founding member of the Greek Communist Party” (ed. note KKE was founded in 1924 whereas Kotzias was born in 1950), “is it [not] proven from the documents that the defendants have submitted to the court that he admired the stated absolutist regime nor that he advertised it.” This, despite the fact that the Athens Review of Books had presented as evidence a propagandist book, Der Autonome Intellekt (Independent Mind), co-authored by Kotzias under the supervision of the Head of Ideological Propaganda of Honecker's regime and high- ranking Stazi agent, Manfrend Buhr known by the code name ‘Rehbein’ – ‘Deerfoot’, which was published by the East German State-Communist Party publishing house Akademie Verlag in 1976. All this didn't matter - nor did the public outrage of academics and journalists, from all parts of the political spectrum, urging the minister to drop the charges, as this legal battle was effectively attacking freedom of speech and press in Greece. In a letter to the leftist montly Unfollow the minister's representatives argued that conceding would mean that the minister accepted that the magazine's claims were correct. He was determined not to validate the characterisations. The latest act of the ongoing legal drama was played out on 24 July, when the Greek Foreign Minister asked for the court's decision to be implemented - that is asking for the publisher's bank accounts to be frozen and for the proceeds of the magazine's sales to be impounded. The publishers, Maria and Manolis Vasilakis, claim that this will effectively lead them to shut down operations. The next step for the Athens Review of Books is taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights, which in the past has twice ruled in favour of Manolis Vasilakis (an ardent opponent of Greek nationalism) in similar cases concerning the freedom of speech.
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