What Syriza wanted

What Syriza wanted back in 2015 was debt relief and that is what it has got, with reservations, this week in a guarded 8.5 Billion deal from the EU with the IMF making debt relief, “a debt haircut” part of the overall deal and Germany claiming that nothing hd really changed at all. Tsipras has wanted debt-relief for some time: “ the debt has to be rescheduled so the economy can breathe and markets can restore their confidence”. The deal comes, though, on the back of a raft of tax, labour and pension reforms long demanded by Germany, and unlikely on their own to make the country more competitive while the doom of financial constraint continues to bind Greece and more importantly while the powerful in the EU block continue to treat Greece, a soverign state as the southern European poodle or as Papadimitriou termed “a sacrificial lamb”, obliged to obey whenever the more-powerful Northern block commands.

What is interesting, however, is that the deal, as it now stands, goes some way to vindicating the position adopted by Yianis Varoufakis during the initial negotiations. The EU hated Varoufakis and I gather insisted on his dismissal as a price for their agreeing anything at all with Syriza, but it is a story that we in the UK would do well to heed: The EU hates to be backed into a corner and whether the recipe is right or wrong, the EU is likely to delay rather than surrender to threats and bombast. “No deal is better than a bad deal” is the sort of threat the EU will take seriously.

As far as the Greeks are concerned, the EU has never played fair. Only a few days’ ago, the German finance Minister, Wolfgang Scheauble, was castigated in the press for repeatedly moving the goalposts: Dimitris Papadimitriou simply called him “dishonest”. Scheauble claimed rather bizarrely that the EU policies had “had a positive impact on Greece in the end, because it is now on a better path and, if it continues, we can all be satisfied.” I think he has never spoken to Greek pensioners who have seen their take-home pension dwindle over the last 8 years and a further cut is now promised well after the current government is over.

As far as Tsipras is concerned, however, it has all been a game of political posturing – he may have won some of the headlines, and he may have spun some of the deals to square with his socialist agenda, but he is pretty well no more than back where he started. For all his commitment to social reform Tsipras has presided over massive unemployment, over-taxed his people and driven up the cost of living.

wolfgang scheauble by TIM.jpg

 

 

Varoufakis is wrong

Austerity and class warfare

I like Yanis Varoufakis even if he has chosen to spell his name in an idiosyncratic way. I like his enthusiasm and his style. I like his motorbike and I am personally indebted to his party for giving me time when facing serious problems in Greece in the early part of this century. His party, certainly before they got power, understood their role then in and to society in a way that the established parties of Pasok and New Democracy did not.

Nevertheless, for all my respect, it does not mean I think he is right! And as Yanis would have to admit, there is a big difference between what might be done in theory and what must be done in practice.

A while back, Varoufakis was quoted in the Independent suggesting that “Austerity” is actually a form of class-warfare. While Varoufakis is actually quoting Noam Chomsky (unacknowledged incidentally, or are they really joined at the hip?), his claim remains simplistic and at best, it merely acknowledges that, as a crypto Marxist, Varoufakis thinks class-conflict ought to play a role in the way economic policy has been dictated simply because Marxism says it plays a role in the way history develops. If there is class conflict in recent Austerity programmes then I suspect that is entirely incidental. I think, though, that it is also a bit rich coming from a man with a degree of domestic comfort that makes Mr Corbyn’s tax return look modest.

The poor have suffered from Austerity. That is quite true, but that alone does not make Austerity itself a “class war”. It simply means that Austerity causes casualties and that, as a remedy to the current economic crisis, the Austerity package is not properly thought through. “Austerity” is probably badly named anyway – it is not about being frugal with the national or international economy; it is about reducing public expenditure at a time when we are spending more than we are making. High debt, in other words, is recognised as an impediment to growth and should be curtailed. One way to do this is to increase taxation and the other is to decrease public spending. In fact, while claiming to be pursuing a policy of Austerity until 2015, our Government did not actually reduce public spending by much at all. (and there is an argument that the Government simply abandoned Austerity in 2012 and that this led to our recovery whatever the rhetoric. It again, rather suggests that “Austerity” does not work.)

Greece

In the case of Greece, Austerity has pretty-well destroyed the country, (the debt has gone up rather than down so proving that Austerity was the wrong medicine for the illness) but arguably the greatest destruction has been to impose an Austerity programme from outside and so to compromise Greece’s sovereignty and National self-esteem. To make matters worse, it was imposed by Germany -a country that benefited from debt cancellations after the war. Her post-war growth can be directly attributed to that. More than that, Greece was among the countries that cancelled the debts Germany owed it (one can think of the Viannos and Kalavryta massacres or of the 218 men, women and children slaughtered in Distomo, for example, in 1944 or indeed of the demand, in 1942, for the Greek bank to give Germany an interest-free loan of 476 million Reichsmarks which was used to pay for the military occupation of Greece?) on the understanding that a conference would be held after the reunification of Germany. That conference never happened and the debt Germany owed Greece was never paid (though Germany paid Greek individuals about 115 million Deutschmarks. If repaid now, the total debt to Greece would amount to between $14-$95 billion depending on the way it is calculated. The Syriza government calculated the amount to be 341 billion euros). If Greece had been allowed to devalue its currency, and had been given some form of debt forgiveness, then it would not have had to reduce public spending so suddenly and relentlessly. In practice, this process was interpreted both within Greece and by the International community as a punishment and has stifled growth. No one wants to sit with the naughty boy in the corner.

“Austerity” alone was not the problem. It was the way Austerity was imposed and the failure to keep the government fully on board which explains the problem. In Greece, a series of governments, from PASOK, new democracy to Syriza, has always pandered to its core vote. In the case of Syriza, that is the retired and current civil servants- hence bizzare pension reforms, a reluctance to cut public expense as well as a rise in unreasonable taxes (for instance, while public employees have remained fairly secure, the Self-employed have been penalised- Insurance contributions today often exceed half the monthly earnings and all private businesses are now expected to pay 29% of next year’s earnings! There are instances where the self-employed have to pay up to 70% of their income in taxes and insurance. It is unfair and completely absurd as it simply encourages tax evasion, bankruptcy and prologued unemployment because smaller businesses can no longer afford to take on staff).

Question time

On Question time, Varoufakis identified a number of tax issues in the past that may have needed clarification but certainly do not point to a class war. “To be talking about reducing the state further when effectively what you are doing is reducing taxes like inheritance tax and at the same time you are cutting benefits – that is class war.” A reduction in both corporation and income tax stimulates investment.

keynes 2.jpgThis is, at heart, something proposed by Keynes, even if it is often quoted by people on the Right and even if what most people remember about Keynes is his third option that Governments should borrow money and spend it. President Bush told Congress years’ ago, “To create economic growth and opportunity, we must put money back into the hands of the people who buy goods and create jobs.” Even so, it is worth noting that while reducing the amount of tax paid at the higher end, the Coalition Government was responsible also for raising the tax threshold in 2011, (helping the poor) and I think on principle there are some very solid reasons why we should cut taxes overall -cutting tax for both the rich and the poor, a principle incidentally that is absolutely the sort of thing Mrs Thatcher advocated.

Putting this into practice, though, is tough and events often get in the way of ideology and principles.

Ideal business policy

There are two ways to run a business. To employ as few people as necessary and pay them as much as you can or to employ as many people as possible and pay them each as little as is legally necessary. I much prefer the first model and I have seen the second model in action in both Greece and Russia. It is strikingly obvious that people who are not paid what they are worth, or who are not inspired or encouraged to do the most they can, are frustrated and unhappy. Yet exactly this second model has been rolled out with tremendous success recently in Turkey. A call went out to small businesses to employ more people and, so far, over 1 million workers have moved from welfare to work at minimum wage, with the Government topping up insurance contributions and tax. Once again, one size does not fit all. What might work in Turkey is unlikely to work here, but we should admire Erdogan’s direct appeal to a sense of National Responsibility.

Ideal taxation

Austerity is about a choice between increasing taxation or reducing public spending. I think there is a third way: I think we can reform public spending and also, at the same time, reduce tax.

We should look at what Turkey is doing and be inspired- because we also need our own sense of National Responsibility: specifically, we need to address the ways we collect tax and how we spend the money we get.

So, firstly, we need to recognise the principle that people of all backgrounds should keep as much of the money they earn. As I mentioned, that is something that was dear to the heart of Mrs T and I think it remains a worthy goal. (I was recently told that as a foreigner working in a State university in Russia, I should be taxed at a higher rate than nationals; indeed, I should pay twice the tax. Astonishing! It was made much worse to learn this after a very small amount was paid into my bank account. “I thought you knew” is not really an adequate explanation.) It still seems to be the case that individuals use money more wisely than large institutions and the higher the taxes, the less investment there seems to be, the less incentive there is. We need to look again at incentives to invest in public works.

I think Varoufakis is confused, because there are a number of models that support the principle of reducing tax, mostly to the rich- the laffer curve, beloved of Reagan, which suggests that taxable income changes in response to the percentage taxed, and so allows for the possibility that the less percentage we tax, the more people earn and so in theory, the amount the Government receives would be pretty much the same while the trickle down theory (which suggests favouring the rich ultimately benefits the poor) sounds patronising. In the end, the only moral approach is to reduce taxation overall. But part of that approach must involve a reduction in VAT. VAT is about not class-warfare. It is indifferent to class but it hurts the poor more.

By offering tax cuts to both rich and poor, George Osborne was not quite following the principles of Austerity, but rather reviving Thatcher’s moral vision- to reduce taxation as a whole. He was finally applauded by M. Lagarde who said, “At the IMF we have learned that there is no single best way to reduce the fiscal deficit. We clearly underestimated the growth of the UK economy in our forecasts a year ago.”

Secondly, we need to look at both the health service and social security because both systems are spiralling out of control; as we live longer, both long-term health-care as well as welfare dependency cannot be sustained in the present form. We know that is a problem with the current system, but there is also a problem with the way the system deals with those who fall outside the norm- I think it is appalling that we can see homelessness in Britain today, and it is appalling that many people struggle to access a proper doctor outside office hours. We have been seduced into thinking that one size fits all: it does not. We need to have a number of parallel systems -where one system might pick up what the other leaves behind. So, as we need to look again at welfare and health, both currently failing, we are not to embracing class warfare. Quite the reverse and we have a limited time to get this right. We must do more of this, not less.

Bureaucracy

The quick fixes of the last twenty years have, in effect, increased the number of bureaucrats who have managed a form of hybrid care that is neither genuinely private nor fully public. Bureaucracy is an attractive way to put a problem on hold because it is about passing the buck, but every new department that is created adds to the overall bill we must still pay. And in the end, the problem still needs to be addressed.

bureaucracy by TIM.jpg

We need to reign back the Bureaucrats. And what an opportunity we have: just once in a lifetime, there is an event that will actually decrease the numbers of bureaucrats- because Brexit will cull their numbers in Brussels, so we should be careful not to create yet another class of bureaucrats to replace the ones we are “letting go”.

Attracting clever people to generate clever solutions

If we want to improve social equality, then we also have to find both the money to pay for it and the people to run our schemes more imaginatively. We need to do that through an efficient tax system. Our progressive tax system, as it stands, incidentally already taxes the rich more than the poor, but VAT remains a scourge: it is a fairly inflexible tax that hits everyone and hits the poor more than the rich; it is something that we inherited from the EU, even if a rudimentary version of VAT was once introduced here during the war.

We need to attract top business brains to get us out of this mess. We cannot do that if they know they will be penalised themselves by a punitive tax system. (How would they react when they look at their first month’s pay? “I thought you knew” is no way to command confidence) We need to reduce tax overall not increase it, and that is an aim we should nurture across the board. Lower tax means an incentive to invest. Lower tax means attracting the right people who will devise systems that work!

Whether we like it or not, the coming Brexit will create a Government spending spree that would make both Keynes and Michał Kalecki smirk. But that should really be where it stops. Kalecki has emerged from the shadows of post war Poland to be cited both as an inspiration for Keynes and Varoufakis as well as a solution to our current woes. It is from Kalecki that we get the perfidious idea that a tax on the rich might help us. It will simply drive the rich away. The French have tried it. It does not work!

Brexit is change. And change is a chance for new ideas to emerge. It is no time to drive people away, but to invite them to contribute to the new reality of a post-Brexit Britain.

Part of the process of inviting people into Britain to help us and keeping the best people here is getting our taxation system right.

Some clarification:

  1. Rather than a crypto Marxist, Varoufakis calls himself an “erratic” Marxist. So I am being a bit coy here. I should be more direct.
  2. I think the point of this article is a bit lost. (a) Austerity is a fairly aggressive treatment and like chemotherapy, it can cause damage and is often not effective. It does not seem to have been effective in Britain and it has been deeply destructive in Greece and Brazil. But the principle of reducing debt is perfectly sound. It is simply about how it is done. (b) Varoufakis’ claim that “Austerity is class warfare” has become a mantra of the left. In fact, austerity budgets in France and Italy have imposed surcharges on those with incomes over 500,000 and 300,000 euros. Hardly an attack on the poor, but I think equally not a very effective source of revenue.
  3.  I did not address the issue of “retribution”: a theory that says the rich should be taxed more as a punishment for causing the banking crisis. In fact, over 40% of British do not pay any income tax (23 million people) so the burden of taxation has already shifted towards the richer Brits and the top 3,000 earners here (that is 0.01% of the total paying income tax in the UK) contribute 4.2% to total Government revenue as calculated in 2013. At the time the Treasury said, “The rich pay more under this Government than under Labour. The people who pay zero tax are the millions of low earners who have been taken out of paying income tax altogether due to George Osborne increasing the tax free personal allowance.” Across the Atlantic, the richest 1% of Americans pay 1/4 federal tax and nearly 40% income tax. So much for taxation. As spending cuts, however, hit the poor more than they hit the rich, the aim should be to restructure public spending rather than to cut it.
  4. Varoufakis, incidentally, I understand, also wants to reduce VAT. We agree on that of course! He is not so wrong after all.

Turkish cartoons and Greek cars

I saw this the other day- wonderful!

a homage to Remy the Stunt driver in “the Italian Job” – original here:

And here are two cartoons that I did for the Turkish press. Following the vote on the Presidential system, one MP bit another and a particularly outspoken MP chained herself to the Speaker’s desk.

m-balta-akp-by-tim

Last year, I did a speech about the change in system and particularly suggested that, in a modern democracy, it seemed the army should no longer play a central part in political life. One hour later, there was an attempted military coup. The coup was thwarted. Things change slowly.

 

aylin-nazliaka-by-tim

“Britain’s punishment”

“Britain must not get a better deal than the members who stay fully committed – otherwise this is not punishment.

What an extraordinary comment by Sylvie Goulard MEP who acts like some sort of haughty Au Pair, trying hard to play “Nanny”. She goes on to suggest that when we leave the EU, we must also shoulder a leaving bill of between £42 and £50 billion. It is outrageous to be charged for leaving the shop.

It is more outrageous to be told this by the Au Pair.

In Moscow, I found it hard when I went into a department store that I was obliged to go through the whole shopping-centre rather than simply exit by the door I had mistakenly entered. It is like being steered through duty free, or window-shopping in Amsterdam in the hope we will be tempted by something. But this is worse. And more than that, it is shameless when a gathering clan of European politicians are openly talking of “punishment”.

The “punishment” is already in the wording of the Referendum- we are to “leave” the EU club. I think that is punishment enough! But this ridiculous lady thinks we should have additional punishment as well, and that any payments that are demanded of us must also be couched in the language of punishment? It beggars belief!

If she wants to fleece a customer who says he will not return, at least try to do it with finesse. To bar the door and demand a ransom for leaving. That is frankly communist! It is the stuff of the old USSR!

For me, only one thing matters now- far more than posturing about what sort of “Brexit” we would prefer- that we behave decently and promptly to the EU citizens resident here, no matter what the EU politicians propose, and if this is a demonstration of their bilious response, we need to set the moral compass well and truly in advance. Let us not sink to this vicious nasty spiteful tit for tat. This is not a game anyone will leave with dignity. We must rise above it.

We have had a bad start, let’s be honest. And it will not get better if Brexit talks stall in the face of imminent French and German elections. We need to deal with our issues of regulating the British market to take over from what the EU market was once doing- and we need to do that quickly no matter what sort of Brexit we ultimately agree politically. We need to co-operation of both France and Germany to do this, but instead we are triggering article 50 when both these two countries could not be more distracted! What folly!

Yet that folly is not what Madam Goulard criticises. In fact, almost no one recognises this particular folly! Instead, the post-referendum language that both sides have continued to wield is of hostility and threats, a giant game of chicken that oddly people in parliament believe might have a set of rules. There are no rules or certainly none that favour us. And more than that, if just one of the 27 states objects to any deal we arrange, maybe because they do not, or rarely trade with us anyway, they have the power to veto the whole process. This is not a game of cat and mouse- this is about a rat in the lion’s den and the rat is trying vainly to dictate terms.

Yet…the EU is, without doubt, also behaving very badly.

I have said before that the EU should be ashamed of the Referendum vote- that it was reason enough to expect Mr Junker to resign. He failed to provide Cameron with enough leverage to take into the Referendum anyway. Yet he remains.

But there is much more to madam Goulard’s pronouncements that meets the eye. This is a woman who is keen on the ever-closer integration of Europe (she is already president of Mouvement Européen-France), was advisor to Romano Prodi when he was President, who wants, indeed, to be President herself of that EU, who is confident enough to write not only in French but also for the FT in English. This is an ambitious lady.

It is worth looking at m Goulard’s approach to other difficult EU states-

About Greece, she repeats the integrationist line: “I believe in the team game. We should not even consider the case of losing a member state. It is not in the interest of the Greeks. It is not in the interest of the eurozone. But this requires effort from both sides. The Greek government should admit that any decision taken must be passed in the Greek parliament as well as the German and the French parliaments. Perhaps Europe should make some more positive steps. Both sides should agree that their future is common and be prepared to correct past mistakes.” She has pushed for greater transparency in negotiations, seemingly a good thing, but when all is said and done, even her recommendations and good will come with an acidic put-down.

Vague

She wrote about and took a major role in reversing the Greek Referendum (and arguably Grexit would have been better for Greece and almost certainly for Europe): “Sur le fond, Tsipras est resté très vague”, she said and indeed, let’s admit it privately, he really was, but it is not something we should ever say in public, surely! What condescension! Quelle folie! Tant d’agressions! But while Tsipras could be bullied into remaining in the EU, Mrs May, who frankly has been even vaguer (-extrêmement vague) at least until yesterday, has made it clear she is off and that no deal is better than a bad deal. It is not that surprising that Madam Goulard has, therefore, hit the presses today. What a thoroughly disagreeable woman she is.

sylvie goulard by TIM.jpg

Ola Kala

While there is a fairly good account of the introduction of the expression OK into the UK in the song “Walking in the Zoo” sung by Alfred Vance, the Great Vance, one of the great “lions comiques”, it probably emerged from the Greek migrant population in Boston or New York and is first recorded in use in 1839.

thegreatvance

The sheet music here is decorated with a drawing by Richard Childs and dates from 1871.

sakis

Sakis Rouvas (whose birthday is tomorrow) popularised the term “Ola Kala” in a Greek pop song written by the American songwriter, Desmond Child in 2002. Child also wrote “she bangs” and “La vida Lorca” for Ricky Martin.

juststeve interview

“I’m happy as a pig in mud”

Q. So, why “juststeve”? What is wrong with Steven Kokkas, your real name?

steve

Nothing, I love my real name, I am proud of my family & given name. Basically, I am just fooling around, having a blast. YOLO! [ you only live once ] Life is too short but even if it were long, I am allowed to fool around. If politicians can fool around so can an artist.”

Q.  Yes but there are also other very big changes mainly in your music. In two years you went from Pop rock where your songs were available on iTunes with a Greek record label and now you are producing swing music that 90% of the people don’t really care about and you have started your own label.

I see your point. My songs are still on iTunes and as a matter of fact several more on-line record shops and I am in complete control over everything I produce. I am tired of asking people for their opinion for everything. I am also very exhausted of people giving me a date or time and I sit around just waiting as if there are no other roads to take in this life. I don’t want to sell my face and frankly I don’t care what the rest of the industry does. Whatever they have been doing has been putting money in their pockets but they have really destroyed the industry. It’s safe keeping away from their system. Right now I am doing something which has never made me happier. I have just released an album and 4 singles and I am in complete control over what I do, whom I work with and how I produce my material. I have  a cover design made by my younger cousin, lyrics by another cousin, another song has lyrics written from my best buddy, vocals by a dear friend of mine, [ the singer MaRina ] and nobody can tell me anything about my new project and how to run it, record it or promote it. I don’t even want it to succeed so there is no possibility of failure. Some of the songs were written years ago but not in swing. Just regular  Pop Rock stuff. I turned them around because it was fun.

Q. You’ve matured.

Yes, I think so. I like it. I like having the odd wrinkle on my face and get a real kick out of 20 year old’s calling me “Sir.”

Q. Tell me about the industry, you mentioned that you are keeping a distance.

Yes and No, I don’t want to get involved with the industry to the point where people are telling me what to do. Franky I think that the wrong people have been chosen to make decisions in the record business. It’s all beat, no content and lots of anatomy shaking.

Q.  Can you give me an example?

Yes, Rihanna. I don’t like her songs and her music videos are giving the younger generation the wrong idea of what a lady should be. She promotes sex and drugs and that is a complete “no no” according to little Stevie.

Q. You’re angry.

No not at all, I am happy as a pig in mud. I am just being honest, I can’t sit here and lie to you. I am honoured that you are asking me questions and I don’t want to play that “reporter – musician” game with you. I don’t want to speak using the industry lingo I want honesty.

Q. Tell us a little about your past

My parents are Greek, I was born and raised in Toronto and I have been living in Greece since the fall of 1989. Music is the only thing I know so that’s what I do. There was a period of 10 years where I just did karaoke and consumed lots of whiskey but that was boring. Now I prefer waking up at 6:30 in the morning, observing the climate, breathing in the fresh air and writing music.

Q. What’s it like living in Greece?

It’s tough. Great sea and sun but it’s tough. It seems like the government is always working against you and they aren’t really helping much. They assume you are going to  break the law and they treat you that way before you have even been convicted of anything.

Q. Tell me a bit about the economic and political situation in Greece.

I can’t, I don’t know enough to be able to draw a conclusion. I avoid watching television too. There is something wrong though. Perhaps, bad management. I am really the wrong person to ask because I know nothing about politics, most of the people I know won’t admit to “not really knowing enough” but I do.

Q. I’ve spent a few years in Greece, that is where we had our first conversations, how has it changed. Tell me a little about Athens.

Most of the city is the same. The transportation has really improved. The past two or three years the number of shops which have closed give Athens a different feel. It’s not as active or as happy as it used to be. The old city, the downtown core hasn’t lost it’s magic, especially if you are around the Acropolis area.

Q. Do your prefer Greece or Canada.

Well many people have asked me the same question and I used to say, “ oh both are nice, Greece has great climate and Canada has a great system . Now I’ll tell you that Greece is a pretty country but it’s draining me. I don’t think Greece will treat me well as a elder, and that is pretty much how I feel. It’s the truth.

Q. Ok back to the music. What next?

I have no idea. I have Ikarian roots which means I may live to record another 20 albums or maybe just quit yesterday and milk goats for a living. Both are quite exceptional.

Q. Do you visit Ikaria Island?

Yes, my family has a home in Ikaria and I am not spending enough time there. I would like to go to Ikaria tomorrow and spend 6 months there.

Q. Would you write music?

I don’t know, I have never tried to write music there. I would love to try.

Q. You mentioned your cousins helping you in the “just4fun” project.

Sure, well there is the youngest who is Nikos, he has Ikarian roots and is very talented and he is studying art in Greece. He designed the cover. He sent me 3 or 4 ideas and I picked the one I liked and then he just polished it. I don’t know if I took him 2 minutes or 2 weeks to do it but I am proud of him either way. Then my cousin Maria, also Ikarian had written a poem years ago and I had written the music for that so I included it in the project. It’s the “Antidrasi” song. Then 2 friends of mine added lyrics to English lyric songs I had written. I really enjoyed that. I really like that people who are actually a part of my life have contributed to my album. I actually know the people who did the art work and wrote the lyrics. It’s not as if I went looking for a famous lyricist who will write something for me. It’s just that simple and I like simple. I wish I could be more simple.

Q. What is medium swing?

Hmm, I am not  a jazz musician, this sort of style just surfaced from within and I love it to bits. One day I just  started playing Fly Me To The Moon and I used a series of chords I found while searching through google. One musician referred to it as  ” medium swing” so I had to investigate. Some people use the swing terms depending on how much groove the song contains. Others just use the term “medium swing” as a tempo reference. That is how I use it. I am just saying that these songs are medium in tempo on a swing beat.

Q. Do you enjoy recording?

No, I don’t like recording studios. Most of them are quite cold and industrial looking and they make me feel as though I have to perform my best. I think that we are performing our best as each minute goes by, as long as we a true to ourselves. From now on, I record at home or even on a mountain. I don’t care so much about the sound quality anymore. As long as I can take the listener on a small journey then my mission has been accomplished. Actually it’s not even a mission. A song is a song. Hamburgers are more important because we actually have to digest them.

Q. Describe the life of a musician. Actually I am interested in Steve the musician. Are you happy? If you had a choice would you have  done something else?

My sister asked me the same question. That is a tough one. I wake up and sleep thinking music and sometimes I learn music even when I sleep. When I am out with friends, I make up excuses for leaving early so I can work on a bass line or write a musical phrase for the 2nd Clarinet. I guess music is a drug. My drug. Then there is also another side to me, sometimes I think that if I had another choice in life I would choose psychology, have a family and a home with a white picket fence. Two extremes eh? I don’t reaaly like the lifestyle of the traditional musician. I like sleeping and waking up very early and I am not fond of the bar scene. I like the company of very few people and I prefer to have conversations that will educate me and not hang out in a sports bar talking about a hockey game.

Q. Ever do drugs?

Of coarse, I ‘ve tried it all. Tripping is quite funny once in a while but after a while I realized  that drugs are for those who need them. I don’t need them. I can trip on my own the minute I walk out this door and I can keep my high for as long as I choose and it’s free.

Q. Have you written any music under the influence of any drug or alcohol?

No, far from it. I am always with a clear mind and stress free. When I am in that frame of mind I can write a song each day, actually upon the hour. I don’t want that though, I want to enjoy other things in life too. I want to have a complete sense of time with my music. I want to feel every minutes that goes by and I can’t do that when I am drinking or on drugs. I want to know and feel that this song was just written in 5 minutes and know what it needs one day before I start polishing it.

Q. Name some musicians you admire.

I admire Elton John for his craft in song writing but I am not too fond of his productions. I should be careful, I am talking about a Sir. I can listen to some Rolling Stones but not too much, actually, I get a real kick out of watching them. I think I can appreciate all kinds of music and I can appreciate all musicians whether they are famous or not. I don’t like noise, distortion, heavy metal or any kind of aggression in music. I admire those who really study hard and long and it shows in their work. I can appreciate a fine production even if the song is shallow but as long as it makes me happy. The final product is what matters to me. I don’t care about fancy guitar solos or high end productions, I just like a good song.

Q. Do you enjoy Rap music?

No.

Q. Why not?

hmm… it doesn’t make me feel good. If you want me to get more specific or technical, it usually doesn’t contain a melody line so automatically I find it lacks in composition. Then the lyrics are not in a style I can appreciate. Most of it is pure aggression. One can argue that but I don’t care, it doesn’t make me feel good. There have been Rap songs I’ve enjoyed. Years ago I enjoyed Rappers Delight and I have enjoyed some Eminem. I am a little old fashioned I suppose. I love Abba, I think they have written absolute perfect music and I know their music will be around for many many decades to come. I don’t like the elements of Rap music or the lack of.

Q. Can you tell me about the elements of music?

Well, there is rhythm, that is the first element and I think it’s the first element because everything about us is rhythmical. Our heart beat, the way we walk, talk, dance. Then Melody. I always die for a good melody line. Third is harmony, it’s how you colour your melody. I think they are all beautiful and necessary.

Q. Looking over your C.V., I notice that your music studies are quite extensive.

No they aren’t really. Not enough. I studied piano for well over a decade in a fine institution, The Royal Conservatory of Music and had private lessons with Stefanos Karabekos, the Conductor of the New Canadian Symphonic Orchestra. I am fond of my instructors, especially Karabekos.

Q. What made Karabekos so special?

Well, all of my music teachers were special but Karabekos showed me that I can bend the rules anytime I choose. I don’t know if he intended to do that but that is what `I realized years later. When you are playing a song and at one point you have to slow down, it’s up to me how much I prolong that “ritardando”. It’s nice when you are studying a piece of music and your instructor stops the lesson and sais, “oh look what they did there. It sounds like this other song I know” and they just start playing it for you. It puts you in fun mode, almost like we are jamming.  Maybe it’s non of the above, maybe it’s just because that is where I learned the most. I don’t believe that rules were meant to be broken but expression is what makes one person different from the other. I really picked that up from Karabekos.

Q. Are you in love?

I sure am Sir, I have been for over 25 years and I don’t mean in love with myself. I am married, that just actually happened recently. Funny social status isn’t it?

Q. How do you mean?

Well people perceive your relationship or your love for another person with greater value if you tell them you are married. It’s almost as if you are in love without emotion or depth prior to that but society itself can be quite funny at times.

Q. Going back to something much earlier in our conversation you mentioned you are now in complete control over what you deliver. How so? I mean is that really true?

I have my own record label so yes, it’s true. I write the music, I arrange it, I select who I want to mix and master my music. If I record in a studio I can select the studio myself. If I release a project which contains ten songs I can choose which song I would like people to hear first. I can add bagpipes to African instruments and use them in the most unorthodox way without anyone accepting or rejecting the choices I make. I can put them up for sale, I can take them down and rearrange them using splashing water instead of drums. I can have one track with birds chirping and call it Lasagna because I just felt like it.

Q. If you had a choice to record a song with a Mega Star who would it be?

Nobody. They don’t want to record a song with me. Unless of coarse the artist called me personally then I would prefer Kenny Rogers or Paul McCartney. As long as the artist actually called me. I wouldn’t want to feel as though I recorded a song with a mega star and they made me famous. I would be just as happy having a cup of tea with Paul and talking about life. not even the music industry.

Q. Do you like Pop Music? I know the answer but it’s something I would just love to hear you say in public.

I love Pop music. You know me better than I thought. I was born in 1966 which means that my most impressionable years were 70’s and 80’s top ten in North America. I love anything that is Pop. Of coarse there is bad pop but who cares , there is good and bad in everything from music to world leaders.

Q. Are you currently writing new songs?

Yes, I have just written one and I have a bathroom recording of it. I will polish it when I get back home and I am half way through another.

Q. So where is home?

Toronto!

Q. When will we hear these new songs?

I will release them in October. Both songs will belong to a set of songs in swing style but I don’t have an album title yet. I might call it “Sweet Toronto”. I’ll see.

A gift at the end of Ramadan!

Turkey has been variously criticised by the EU and pilloried in the recent Referendum debates, but as Ramadan ends, it has announced that over 3 million Syrian refugees are to get automatic Turkish citizenship: this goes much further than Merkel’s demands for harbouring returned migrants and it is a statement of solidarity with the dispossessed that should make the whingers in our own referendum debate hold their heads in shame.

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The care for victims of warfare is a feature of all three of the great religions that come from the middle east and it has been shocking how slowly we have dragged our feet while still whittering on about Christian values.

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As Ramadan finishes tomorrow, therefore, we can celebrate with some satisfaction that at last there is a proper response.

More worryingly, there is news coming from Athens that former German Transport Minister, Peter Ramsauer, part of a delegation headed by the German Vice Chancellor, and already linked to allegations of anti-semitism, apparently told a photographer, I understand, both in German and in english, “don’t touch me, you filthy Greek”. I suppose his bilingual effort was to ensure no one thought this was an accidental bit of racism.

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Peter Ramsauer is known to want to refuse Greek any further bailout money, and he is also famous for making a fuss, rather like the French have occasionally done, about borrowed english words used in modern german, so it is odd he should have translated his bilious comments, if indeed he ever uttered them. He went on to facebook yesterday to claim that he had said nothing. It is all the fault of the photographer “who later appeared to be obviously Greek” and who had pushed him. I wonder how this photographer can have appeared so obviously greek at a later stage? had he not appeared so Greek earlier? The good Dr Ramsauer would be well advised to avoid using the word “obviously” in all instances- as a rule of thumb, if something is “obvious”, it does not need to be mentioned and if it is not “obvious”, then the word is inappropriate.

I had dinner a few nights ago with a German minister who is married to a Greek. Both deeply charming! I wonder how Herr Ramsauer deals with that couple in the vaulted corridors of the Reichstag? The story of this exchange makes some of our own British bigots look positively cuddly.

Importance of History

I attended an exhibition day on Wednesday at my old school, Ratcliffe College, and I was able to publicly thank the outgoing headmaster Gareth Lloyd for the spectacular turnaround in the School’s fortunes over the 7 years he has held the post. I will post some of my talk at a later date but the key point in all the speeches throughout the day made by the Headmaster, Fr President, the Chairman of the Governors and coincidentally by me too, was the importance of kindness. That is something that has been conspicuously absent in the referendum debate and the subsequent and chaotic fallout as politicians have scrambled over one another to sabotage the future.

ratcliffe cloisters

The occasion at Ratcliffe was, of course, dominated by talk of Brexit and quite alot of discussion about UKIP and my role in the UKIP story. (I think some people had rather cleverly checked me out on the internet) I was fairly honest in my response: while there are many good people attracted to UKIP and while its leader remains one of the few great orators in the country, it is, nevertheless, controlled by a balding militant thuggery snatched from the BNP and NF. This may have been a party ruled by bullies and twits, but it also attracted spectacular and honourable people like Douglas Carswell and Councillor Sean Connors. I count Sean as a good friend and a very honourable man. I also have time for Mark Reckless, now a member of the Welsh assembly. Credit where credit is due.farage ukipper flat

I joined UKIP with the intention of playing a leading role in the way it developed, or identifying and exposing the racism that everyone told me was there. In fact, I was offered both opportunities at about the same time. I chose to expose the racism.

The rise in racist and extremist abuse since the Referendum means that there are many who believe the racism in UKIP is endorsed by the “Leave” result. It is not, and there are many people in UKIP, who would be appalled by the suggestion that they have anything to do with, or would ever condone racism. More than that, there is extremism on both sides: my point is that it feels it has been sanctioned, and that is a message that needs to be addressed and condemned.

RobertBlay threats

As a Conservative, I find the libertarian aims of UKIP fairly laudable, but this is mixed with long-standing and often ill-considered ravings about the EU that in the end informed and dictated the tone of the recent referendum as well as giving structure to Conservative euro-scepticism, whether Farage was part of the official Leave campaign or not. I was in some difficulty throughout the campaign because I believed and continue to believe that, while the EU is seriously damaged, the European project, nevertheless, and because of our shared history, remains a fundamentally sound one. I felt that the Remain campaign was emphasising the wrong things (fear and greed), appealing to the wrong people (experts) and singing to a songsheet promoted by Farage. In the few debates I attended, the “remain” pitch was made by people peddling weak claims about something that had long since been dismissed as folly. In contrast some brilliant people, particularly our local MP Chris Heaton Harris, made a reasoned and impassioned case for “Leave”. And Chris was fairly unique in specifically saying he would not play the immigration card. If Chris had dictated the terms of the debate, I would have been a “Be-Leaver”. Indeed, at Chris’s encouragement, I contributed animated adverts at no cost specifically to draw attention to the appalling treatment by Europe of our fishing industry, something we must address whether we are “in” or “out”.

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I was also appalled and have spoken and written about the abuse of Greece by Germany in particular (Greece had a referendum and Europe made it have another when the result was judged to be “wrong”). Our debate about Sovereignty was made clearer by seeing the sovereignty of Greece ripped away.

But it was Farage’s silence over racism and his indulgence of the powerful thugs in his party that convinced me this campaign would head in the wrong direction and that we might threaten or might leave Europe for the wrong reasons sending a very confused message. This has proven to be the case. The overall debate was controlled by Farage, and while Boris fought hard to wrestle the mantle from his shoulders, he must have found it tough to swallow the nonsense about Turkey’s accession and the £350 million that now Farage says he never endorsed (It was, nevertheless, in the literature I was given a year ago by UKIP). Believe me, I would have done the same thing – Boris had no choice and to his credit, I think, and in the end, Boris made the Leave campaign his own. More than that, he managed personally to avoid any hint of racism and indeed, as far as he was able, temper the debate.

I feared that whoever brought down a man as powerful as Farage was unfortunately doomed. And my fears have been fulfilled. Boris is a brave and noble man. He has taken one for the team.

BECAUSE there could have been nothing worse than giving Farage a place at the negotiating table or rewarding him with a role in government. Knight him and let him leave!

Farage demonstrated to me last year very clearly that he is a man wholly without honour and that those who follow his lead, also abandon honour and integrity. When one of his elected cronies made a foul and public racist comment against a sitting politician, Farage dismissed it as a joke.

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More than that, when I took a stand to support Humza Yousaf, the Scottish minister for Europe, my family was attacked by a sinister local UKIP councillor who thought that a smear and a distortion of facts was an effective and proper response to my resignation. He offered no apology, and nor did his master, Farage.

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Both promised to write to me after the election and neither did. Both promised to resign and neither did. Both said exactly what they thought the public wanted to hear at the time and then they did their own thing. This is demagogy and not democracy.

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Referendums

People do not always read the lessons of history. For example, both Napoleon and Hitler turned to the Plebiscite, today’s “referendum” to justify their actions. It may be a tool for democracy but it is also a weapon of tyranny. Today, the web is filled with cries of “foul”, and whimpers from people who felt they voted the wrong way, and now regret their vote, or claim that 63% of the youth vote simply did not bother to vote. Some people blame Jeremy Corbyn and others blame the Glastonbury festival for that!

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A blueprint for tomorrow

But the Leave vote has happened and we should be looking forward to finding solutions that reflect the reality – ensuring at the same time that Scotland, Ireland and Gibraltar are fully anchored to the UK, and also keep their place in Europe. There is even a case for London to retain its place as the financial hub of the EU while at the same time, pulling back the tide of EU bureaucracy from the shires. The EU is either a supra-national entity or it is dependent on the Nation-state. I think this is an opportunity to show the way the EU can work around Nationality and work with rather than against National and regional sovereignty. It should not be a case of choosing the EU over our nation but of accommodating both if necessary and at various levels of association. This is also a blueprint for establishing fully devolved and fully accountable local parliaments. I wrote a few days ago about the absurdity of pitching Nationalism against Federalism. Actually, with some flexibility and some grace, we can embrace the best of both.

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Our contribution to the EU

There are points to be made in favour of Europe and we may have to visit these over the negotiations. We need to look at ways to effect reconciliation rather than to drive a hard-bargain and we need to emphasise our overall contribution to the European project rather than posture as Farage has done and claim that European ministers have never had proper jobs. At the top of the list of contributions we have made to Europe is the Charter of human rights, the very thing that irritated so many people in my own party. The draft for this was written by a man called Maxwell Fyfe who became the Conservative Home secretary in Churchill’s peace-time cabinet. This was seen as the bedrock of a new EU-wide set of values, and it became our own in time. It was a British vision that anticipated the repeal of hanging, the institution of equality laws and the eradication of torture. This is a cornerstone to the modern Europe and I have successfully taken a case through the ECHR and helped to redefine the way the law is interpreted both internationally and nationally. I have a personal stake in this Charter.

Our role in History

More than that, I believe we have consistently gone to the aid of Europe in crisis, and to that end, fought two wars in Europe. Today, the Greek sovereignty issue is demonstration enough of the depth of crisis in Europe. Immigrants come and go and the immigration issue is actually a passing problem while the sovereignty issue drives to the heart of current EU abuse. It is not a time to be turning our back on Brussels but a time to engage fully with what happens across the channel and ensure that a long term-view, and that fairness, common-sense and goodwill are paramount. When Lord Fyfe wrote the charter, we were not a member of the EU. That clearly did not prevent us from playing a decisive role in the way the EU was established and the values it promoted.

Our Future

Whatever our legal relationship with the EU project, I think we should be determined to  play a pivotal role in securing the values we hold dear. It is in Europe’s interest and in ours to see that Europe works properly. It is not working properly now and nor are we. We can both do better and we need to work together.

comments on the council

 

A few days’ ago, I wrote about the Council on Crete that has been boycotted by the Russian Church. Of course it is possible to become mystical and misty-eyed about all this or to see it as a political scheme to grab power from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. My instinct is that this is a power grab, but it is worth checking what has happened since the boycott.

On the one hand, the Patriach of Moscow has sent the council a very encouraging letter, albeit adopting a slightly Papal tone, but on the other, there have been radio and tv discussions that have left little doubt that Moscow regards the council as misjudged and feels that only it has a monopoly of truth. Disturbing indeed.

Newspapers have made a great point of charting the history of the planning from 1961 and that current relations between the participating and non-participating Churches remain intact. But there are criticisms that the full range of 120  different topics initially to be discussed at the council had recently been truncated by Constantinople, that decisions about financing and organisation were imposed on “lesser churches” by Bartholemew’s team in January 2016. Meanwhile, there are apparently draft documents in Moscow on all the 120 topics, drawn up since a conference on Rhodes in 2009 and Fr Nikolai Balashov, deputy chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, is on record complaining that

“The truth is that only the Russian Church did her “homework”and the process stalled. That same year a delegation of the Church of Constantinople led by the remarkable hierarch, Metropolitan Meliton of Chalcedon, came to Moscow and suggested to His Holiness Patriarch Pimen to change the order of preparation. The Russian Church was distressed and disappointed, but agreed to hold the Council on a thin agenda and presented a shortened list of topics. The answer was “too many”, and there were ten topics left on the agenda. Yet, some topics, which the Moscow Patriarchate considered important, were later removed, and only six remained on the agenda. The rules of preparation were changed several times, but we, though reluctantly, always gave our consent for the sake of the Council. No one can accuse the Russian Church in the lack of good will.”

I think that, at a time when there are so many other problems between Russia and the rest of the world, this is precisely what the Moscow Patriachate can be accused of – a lack of goodwill. The time to raise these issues, if they were genuine and if Moscow intended any positive outcome, was in January, or February. I think it is impossible not to draw the conclusion that Kirill has played this for power and maximum publicity. And the interviews and press briefings suggest he is playing to a home audience.

But we can expect little more from a man who floats around the city in a motorcade to rival that of the President. I have found myself waiting his passing on a few occasions, adding to the traffic chaos. I suppose we can only thank God that he is not posting photos of himself bare-chested on horseback.

Meanwhile, Hilarion has given an interview suggesting that a “proper council” can be convened fairly soon. “I believe we all should learn a lesson from what has happened so that in the future it would be possible to convene such a Holy and Great Council in which all the Local Churches without exception will participate and which will become what it should be – a witness to our unity.”

Here is the letter:

kirill2Your Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew,

Your Holinesses and Beatitudes,

The Most Reverend Fellow-Archpastors,

The Honorable Representatives of Local Orthodox Churches:

 

I cordially greet you on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church and on behalf of the Orthodox faithful in Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Moldova and other countries, who comprise the vast flock of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Brothers, we all are the one Body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 12:27). We have received the priceless gift of unity from the Lord and our Saviour Jesus Christ Himself. To preserve this gift is one of our principal tasks; it is a direct commandment of our Saviour’ (Jn. 17:21).

Let us not be confused by the fact that the opinions of Sister-Churches about the convocation of the Holy and Great Council have been divided. According to St. Paul, there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized (1 Cor. 11:19). In the days of preparations for the Council, such differences have become fully revealed, but we must not allow them to weaken the God-commanded unity, to grow into an inter-church conflict, to bring division and trouble into our ranks. We remain one Orthodox family and together we all bear responsibility for the fate of Holy Orthodoxy.

It is my profound conviction that the Churches, both those who have decided to go to Crete and those who have refrained from it, made their decisions in good conscience, and for this reason we must respect the position of each of them.

The Russian Orthodox Church has always proceeded from the conviction that the voice of any Local Church, be it large or small, old or new, should not be neglected. The absence of the Church of Antioch’s consent to convene the Council means that we have not reached pan-Orthodox consensus. We cannot ignore the voices of the Georgian, Serbian and Bulgarian Churches either, who have spoken for a postponement of the Council to a later date.

I trust that if there is a good will, the meeting in Crete can become an important step towards overcoming the present differences. It can make its own contribution to the preparation of that Holy and Great Council which will unite all the Local Autocephalous Churches without exception and become a visible reflection of the unity of the Holy Orthodox Church of Christ, for which our predecessors, who blissfully passed away, prayed and which they expected.

We assure you that our prayers will be with you in the days of the work ahead of you.

 

With great love in Christ,

+ KIRILL

 PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA

Orthodox Council in Crete

While Britain focuses on the EU referendum, a meeting is taking place (or not) in Kolymbari, Crete that has taken about 1000 years to negotiate and this specific effort dates back to 1901. Far from pursuing Church unity between Rome and Constantinople, it is fairly evident that unity across the Orthodox Church of 14 autocephalous Churches can be fairly fragile itself.

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Yesterday, Theodoros II urged the squabbling Bishops, led by the Bulgarians, to set aside differences and attend the council. The Serbians responded by saying they would attend, but they might not stay. The Russians remain determined to boycott the event.

As I see it the reasons for the boycott are fairly spurious- issues about primacy of honour in the conference itself and in any pronouncements thereafter issued, as well as a general prickliness about orthodox links with other churches, particularly Rome.

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The issues causing problems are really an excuse to promote the power of Moscow and the objections put forward by the smaller Churches like Georgia seem to have been orchestrated to make the point. While the Antiochene Church may well have a valid dispute with Jerusalem over control of parishes in Qatar (they should both be focused on Syria frankly), issues like “Church unity”, and intermarriage had already sparked concerns among the conservatives in Moscow. Kirill was also, I gather, worried about the prominence given to Bartholemew in seating arrangements at the council. This analysis tends to suggest that Moscow is absolutely the villain of the piece but there is a long history of Greece exerting control (most of the hierarchy throughout the middle east is bizarrely Greek, and has been so for many years). Squeals of theological protest from Athos and from what is mostly a group of ultra-conservative converts, have kicked up a fuss. Georgia, meanwhile, which worries that documents dealing with inter-marriage are too progressive and might cement in practice what has  so far been a “don’t tell” policy of tolerance, and Bulgaria’s decisive withdrawal gave an excuse for Moscow to withdraw too. How much their withdrawals were orchestrated by Kirill will remain to be seen.

Behind this jockeying for power is a nasty undercurrent. If, following rules laid down by the Turkish government which stipulate the Patriarch must be a turkish citizen, Bartholemew is to be one of the last Ecumenical patriarchs of Constantinople (with a flock of barely 3000 believers), the Moscow Patriarch clearly has its eye on the job.

hilarion(Either Bishop Hilarion fails to do his job or is not allowed to do so. I hope the latter is the case because I like him!)

15th June 2016

C O M M U N I Q U E

In brotherly love, while with responsibility and hopes preparing for the participation in the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which, God willing, is to be held at the Orthodox Academy at Crete around Pentecost, from June 17 to 26, 2016, the Holy Synod of Bishops in its broader composition at its session held at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade, on June 15, 2016, regarding the situation created after the ordinary convocation of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, takes the following decision:

First of all, having in mind the importance and significance of the Council, our Church wants, in a spirit of ecclesial upbuilding, to contribute to this Holy and Great Council fulfilling the criteria and the measure of true Councils in the history of the Orthodox Church, thereby justifying its title.

On the other hand, our Church requests that problems and matters not only of the Serbian Orthodox Church, but also of the other most Holy Churches that cancelled their participation in the Council, be considered at the Council.

With this aim in mind, the Holy and Great Council should last as long as these questions are to be considered, and must not be hostage to previously layed-out and accepted rules. Exclusively with the full consensus can the Council be considered as a Holy and Great Council.

At last, our Church insists that the gathering on the island of Crete be the beginning of the Conciliar process, that the matters in question should be solved during its working process, but in the spirit of the conciliar tradition of the Church of Christ.

In the case that the Churches present at the Council, with the Ecumenical Patriarchate at its head, persist in the position that the absent Churches boycott the work of the Council without any real reason, and in the case that the already present Churches refuse to take into consideration all the matters in question, problems and disagreements, the representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church at the Council will be, regretfully, forced to leave the sessions of the Council and in that way join the Churches that are already absent.

This is by no means a threat or ransom, but a consequent implementation of the position and decisions of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church held in May 2016.

In the spirit of our ecclesial and pastoral responsibility, we present these positions hoping in the illuminating action of the All-Holy Spirit.

Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade – Karlovci
and Serbian Patriarch

President of the Holy Assembly of Bishops
sign.   I R I N E J

coptic.jpgThis all seems a bit unfortunate. Bulgaria is simply following the lead of Patriach Kirill in Moscow, whose background is almost as dodgy as the late Christodoulos of Athens. Neveretheless, I hold out some hope that Bishop Hilarion, who was at Oxford, will hold sway over the Muscovites and they will finally come round to sense. At the moment, he is urging postponement but as another member of the council pointed out, there is not really anyone with the authority to call off what was agreed by “all churches” in January. “It would be autocratic and papal for him (the ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew) to change that. No one, including the Ecumenical Patriarch, has right to override that decision.

“There have been councils in past attended by very few bishops or churches, because of various circumstances,”Chryssavgis said. “This council will be the largest, most representative council in the history of the Orthodox Church.”

“In that respect,”Chryssavgis said, “it truly is a ‘great’ council, greater than any individual synod of one of the sister churches.”

I note that one of the signatories to a letter urging union and specifically “To postpone the Council once again,” they tell participants, “is to fail to live up to the principle of conciliarity on a global level.” is Dr Smilen Markov, Sofia University (Bulgarian Orthodox Church).“It is a great council, a pan-Orthodox council whose decisions are binding for the Orthodox Church,” said Deacon Chryssavgis, theological adviser to Patriarch Bartholomew.

An analysis in Greek (but with english subtitles). I am indebted to Fr Nikolas Young for pointing to this!

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Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia speaks  about the coming Holy and Great Council here,