HUMAN RIGHTS? WHAT’S THAT?

Τhe National Commission for Human Rights is an independent body, founded in 1998 to advise on human rights issues. It functions under the supervision of the Prime Minister of Greece. It is internationally acknowledged, and assessed under the Paris Principles, adopted by the UN.

Greek Riot Police in action (photo via enet.gr)

Greek Riot Police in action (photo via enet.gr)

On December 21st 2012, NCHR sent a letter to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. This letter (the full Greek original, here), along with a description of the Commission’s function and responsibilities, included an unprecedented complaint, concerning the General Secretary of the Greek Government Takis Baltakos, who is directly responsible for the personnel and infrastructure of the NCHR. According to the letter, signed by the President and two Vice-Presidents of the NCHR, the General Secretary has met with them only once, on December 7th, and on that occasion treated them with disdain. Mr Baltakos declared to the NCHR that “he is not interested in the Commission’s work or human rights, or the country’s associated international obligations”. He added that he “consciously up to now has done nothing to facilitate the work of the Commission” and that he “does not intend to act in any way to address the serious functional problems faced by the Commission, or initiate any procedure within his field of responsibility, even if that means that the NCHR is left without any scientific personnel”.

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GOLD MINING IN CHALKIDIKI: GREEK GOVERNMENTS IN THE SERVICE OF MINING COMPANIES

The controversy over gold mining in Chalkidiki, a province of rare natural beauty in northern Greece, is dominated by the specter of far-reaching, long-term environmental destruction. However, dubious political machinations between Greek Government officials and private companies, scandalous agreements against the interests of the Greek State, and a violent police crackdown on locals who protest against the mines, also hang over this deeply divisive issue. Now, we learn that Eldorado Gold, the main investor, has a cunning plan to solidify its investment: It will use Article 107 of the Greek Constitution, on the protection of foreign capital. And the Greek Government is ready to dance to the company’s music. Yet, the question remains: Will the investment be overall beneficial to Greece? The evidence at hand suggests it will not.

A few days ago, after an attack by masked intruders, who destroyed machinery at the gold mining site, the Prime Minister of Greece Antonis Samaras said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal: “This kind of act cannot be tolerated. Greece is a modern European country, and we will at all costs protect foreign investment in the country”.

The evidence at hand and the history of gold mining in Chalkidiki contradict the view of the investment’s supporters: They rather show that Eldorado Gold’s investment won’t be all that beneficial to Greece

So, it appears that Canadian multinational Eldorado Gold, one of the biggest mining companies in the world, is winning the battle so far, having found a staunch ally in the Greek Government. This is hardly news. Greek Governments have supported the interest of mining companies for decades. The company has made assurances it will make “every effort possible” to protect Chalkidiki’s unique nature. In any case, according to the investment’s supporters in the Government, in the Council of State (the Supreme Administrative Court of Greece), and in most Greek Media, environmental concerns should not be made into such a huge issue: even if the environment suffers to a point, they say, that’s a fair price to pay for such an investment, which will bring much needed development to crisis-laden Greece.

But is this the case? Both the evidence at hand and the history of gold mining in Chalkidiki contradict the view of the investment’s supporters. They rather show that Eldorado Gold’s investment won’t be all that beneficial to Greece – at least within the terms the Greek Government appears so eager to offer. It will certainly be beneficial to the company though, which is poised to take advantage of a reserve estimated to be worth 13bn euros.

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