TIME Hungary

Stranded Migrants Turn Budapest Into Choke Point Of Refugee Crisis

Migrants protesting as the Keleti train station in Budapest was temporarily closed, on Sept. 1, 2015
Yuri Kozyrev—Noor for TIME Migrants protesting as the Keleti train station in Budapest was temporarily closed, on Sept. 1, 2015.

Thousands of migrants from Syria and other conflict zones have occupied a train station in the Hungarian capital, protesting for the right to travel to Germany and claim asylum

The odds did not look good for the Hungarian policemen. There were about a dozen of them, all brawny young men in white polo shirts and pointed red caps, who had been ordered to keep the migrants out of the Keleti train station in central Budapest. By Wednesday morning, it seemed these orders would be impossible to carry out much longer. There were just too many of the migrants camped around the station, and they were too determined to leave Hungary behind on their way to Western Europe.

“Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but we will go to Germany on this train,” said Opada al-Mussa, a 22-year-old refugee from the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zour, which has been besieged for months by militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria. Along with thousands of other migrants fleeing conflict zones across the Muslim world, al-Mussa has been camped out at Keleti station over the past two days, turning it into one of the most volatile bottlenecks for the flood of migrants now rushing into the European Union through Hungary.

Hungarian authorities appear to have no coherent strategy for dealing with this influx of asylum seekers, more than 140,000 of whom have arrived in Hungary this year alone, triple the number registered in all of 2014. On Monday evening, nearly a thousand of them demonstrated at Keleti station, demanding to be allowed onto the trains bound for Germany, where they intend to apply for asylum. In an apparent reversal of government policy, the local transport officials relented that night, allowing hundreds of refugees to board the trains bound for Munich through Austria. But hours later, the authorities changed their their minds again and shut the station to the growing crowds of migrants gathered outside.

Since last week, asylum seekers have been streaming by the thousands every day into the European Union through Hungary, hoping to reach the more prosperous nations of Western Europe and apply for refugee status there. The loose line of riot troops guarding Keleti station is now the main obstacle standing in their way. In the cavernous passageways beneath the platforms, thousands of refugees have set up a sprawling encampment, mostly sleeping rough on the concrete floor or on thin mats, pressed up against each other for warmth and using their backpacks for pillows.

As the camp began to stir around sunrise on Wednesday morning, the local commuters poured into the station from the subway line below, and their faces betrayed a mix of sympathy, fear and disgust as they confronted the bedraggled foreigners huddled on the cold ground. “It’s shocking to see a lot of strangers in our home,” said Zsolt Fekete, a 23-year-old receptionist who was on his way to work at a Budapest hotel. “A lot of our families are afraid of these people,” he said. “They are very different from us, and you can see they are angry.”

On the other side of the square, hundreds of young migrants were just then resuming their demonstration in front of the line of riot police. One of the leaders who emerged from the throng was Loay Algandaly, a slight man in a grey sweater, who climbed up onto the shoulders of one of his friends and began leading the others in English and Arabic chants. “Let us go to Germany!” they shouted in unison at Algandaly’s command. “We want to leave!”

At first glance the scene seemed reminiscent of the street protests that kicked off Syria’s civil war in 2011, except the same defiant crowds are no longer protesting the Syrian regime. They have now incongruously been transported to the center of a charming European capital. Algandaly, who was only 16 years old when the Syrian uprising broke out in his hometown of Homs four years ago, appeared to put its early methods of nonviolent protest to use. “Open the gates! Open the gates!” he shouted along with the other refugees, jumping and waving their arms in the air.

As they watched from the bus stops around the station, many of the locals hoped their government would yield before the situation turns violent. “They are growing more and more angry,” said Attila Farkas, a 26-year-old doctor who was waiting for his bus to work on Wednesday. “If it continues this way, for one day, two days, I think there will be big trouble,” he added.

Behind him, more and more migrants were emerging from their encampment beneath the station to join the crowd of demonstrators, many of them waiting on the sidelines to see if the police would finally stand down. Others lined up at one of the few public toilets available to the migrants at the station, carrying toothbrushes and rolls of toilet paper. Food and bottled water seemed to be in scarce supply, as the Hungarian authorities have made neither of these available to the migrants occupying Keleti.

“I am not proud to Hungarian today,” said Zsuaza, a 28-year-old physician in Budapest, who declined to give her surname. “I just imagine what it would be like if my country was bombed and I had to run away and sleep on the ground in a foreign place.” The only solution, she said, was for the government to let the migrants get on the trains bound for Germany.

But the Hungarian authorities have so far refused to do that. Under E.U. law, they are obligated to register all migrants who enter Hungary and to keep them inside the country while their applications for asylum are processed. Zoltan Kovacs, the chief spokesman for the government, says Budapest intends to meet these obligations even if it means sealing off its southern border with Serbia, where most of the migrants are entering the European Union. “It’s completely untenable if you let these people come through the borders without any kind of control,” says Kovacs. But by the looks of Keleti station, the government’s control over the migrant crisis is already slipping away.

TIME migrants

Hungary’s Border Fence Isn’t Stopping Desperate Syrian Migrants

Migrant crisis
Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME A Syrian family prepares to turn themselves into a Hungarian detention facility for migrants arriving in the European Union in Roszke, Hungary on Aug. 29, 2015.

Hungary wants to impose prison terms against refugees who sneak across the border on their way to the E.U. They're still coming

The smuggler’s asking price was high—about $800—but that didn’t seem to bother Tarek al Saleh, a 23-year-old refugee from Syria. Nor was he much concerned about the risk of getting robbed and left for dead, as many other Syrian migrants have been this year while making their way to Europe. The gamble was worth it, he said, as long as the human trafficker showed him the way into Hungary, his gateway into the European Union—and steered him clear of any Hungarian police.

“He knows where police stand,” al Saleh said of his Serbian smuggler. “He knows where to go.” They had agreed to meet at sundown on Saturday in the Serbian village of Horgos, just a couple of miles south of the E.U. border, and walk north through the corn and sunflower fields. His final destination, he said, was the Netherlands, where he hoped to meet up with a family friend. But he’d be racing against the clock to get there through Eastern Europe.

On Saturday night, when al Saleh reached the northern edge of Serbia, soldiers in neighboring Hungary finished erecting a razor-wire fence along the Serbian border, which had previously been open and unguarded for anyone trying to walk into the E.U. Later this week, the Hungarian parliament is set to reinforce that fence with legal penalties. The right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban wants to make it a criminal offense to cross the border illegally, punishable by up to three years in prison.

“We are going to communicate to them: ‘Don’t come to Hungary,’” says Zoltan Kovacs, the government’s chief spokesman. “’Illegal border crossing is a crime. Do not attempt it, or you are going to be arrested.’”

Currently, Hungarian authorities have no right to arrest the migrants crossing into the E.U. illegally, even as their numbers have peaked at more than 3,000 per day, at the end of last week. The tide of refugees, mostly coming from conflict zones in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, has been part of the largest mass migration into Europe since World War II, and Hungary has already registered around 140,000 migrants so far this year, triple the number who arrived during the first eight months of 2014. Most of them have little interest in remaining in Hungary, but they have to pass through the country to reach the more prosperous states of Europe, often Germany, which expects to receive an unprecedented 800,000 applications for asylum this year, quadruple the number Germany registered in 2014. As a result, says Kovacs, “the whole system is overwhelmed.”

But for the moment, the Hungarian border fence is doing nothing to hinder the migrants’ arrival. Quite the opposite—its construction seems to have triggered a massive rush to reach the E.U. before Hungary shuts the gates. Thousands of people, nearly all identifying themselves to police as Syrian, kept streaming through the gaps in the fence through the weekend, leaving a trail of debris along the railroad tracks that they have used to guide their way north: empty bottles of baby powder, diapers, hand sanitizer, worn-out shoes, used blankets, apple rinds and peach pits. On Saturday night, a full and yellow moon rose to light their way, and local farmers came onto the road in northern Serbia to sell the migrants water, cigarettes and candy bars.

“They seem to be decent people,” said Zoltan Wass, a Serbian citizen who grows grapes and plums on a patch of land along the railroad. Even though the migrants have been picking fruit from his property without permission, he added, “We feel for them, maybe because we know what it’s like to run away from war.”

During the Balkan wars of the 1990s, Hungary was also on the receiving end of waves of refugees, mainly Serbs, Croats and Bosnians fleeing the slaughter. While the Balkan nations suffered through Europe’s first war since World War II, the Hungarians remember the discomfort of accommodating tens of thousands of their less fortunate neighbors. That may help explain why most Hungarians—more than 60%, according to a nationwide poll conducted in July–support the construction of the fence to keep out migrants from Syria and Afghanistan, lands that are far more culturally foreign to them than the nearby Balkans. But that doesn’t mean such measures will work.

Ghafek Aiad Alsaho, another Syrian in his mid-twenties who is trying to flee his country’s civil war, had been living in a Turkish refugee camp for nine months before he heard in July that Hungary was planning to seal its southern border. The news made him realize that it was time to make the journey of more than a thousand miles—through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and into the E.U.—because he felt he may not get another chance. His hometown of Deir ez-Zour, in eastern Syria, is under siege from the militant group known as Islamic State, and he has no intention of going back there. “It’s a one-way trip for me,” he says.

On Saturday, when he arrived at the Hungarian border with Serbia, he knew better than to walk through the gaps in the fence and risk getting caught by the Hungarian police. Under E.U. law, a migrant can only apply for asylum in the E.U. country that first registers his arrival. So most migrants try desperately to avoid being registered by the police before they reach the country where they want to stay.

Alsaho is no exeption. His dream is to make it all the way to Norway—whose citizens are among the wealthiest in Europe— before turning himself in to Norwegian authorities to be registered as an asylum seeker. That meant he would need to travel the length of Europe without getting caught by police. So when night fell over Hungary, he scurried underneath the barbed wire and made a run for it. “It was just me, the forest and the moon,” he says.

But the police were quick to catch him. More than two thousand Hungarian officers have been deployed in recent weeks to help patrol the border with Serbia, and several of them chased Alsaho down and, he says, roughed him up before taking him by bus with other migrants to be registered in a processing camp near the town of Roszke. Arriving there at dawn on Sunday, he stuck his head out of the window of the idling police bus to speak with a reporter. “I’ll be out of here in three days,” he promised in nearly perfect English. “And then I’ll move on.”

That determination was typical of the Syrians at Europe’s doorstep. Their homeland has become an inferno that shows no signs of abating—in four years, half the country has been killed, displaced or forced to flee. Many of them have no homes to which they could return. Even if Hungary’s parliament criminalizes the crossing of its border fence this week and starts putting Syrian migrants in prison, they likely to find another way in, even at the risk of using human traffickers who have little regard for their safety.

Waiting for his smuggler to arrive in the shade of a hackberry tree on Saturday afternoon, al Saleh said he knew of the horrific deaths of 71 migrants whose bodies were discovered inside a refrigerated truck last week in Austria. But the risks of being trafficked across the illegal crossing of a border in Hungary were tame, he added, compared to the dangers he faced in his hometown of Aleppo. With much of that city destroyed amid fighting between the Syrian government and rebel forces, his parents took up a collection among their neighbors and friends so that he could make it to Holland to continue his studies in medical engineering. “They are waiting for me to call,” he says. And no fence is going to stop him.

TIME Greece

Why Snap Elections In Greece Are Smart Bet For Teflon Tsipras

The politician of twists and turns has broken most of his campaign promises. But he'll still likely win when polls are held next month

It’s one of the most basic rules of electoral politics—keep your campaign promises or you will lose the support of your voters—but Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has deftly managed to skirt that rule. On Thursday, when he announced that he will resign and call snap elections for September 20, Tsipras wagered that voters would stay behind him regardless of the fact that he has failed to keep most of his core campaign pledges. And he is probably right.

At the end of July—after he had abandoned hopes of shielding the Greek welfare state from further cuts and austerity measures—Tsipras’ approval rating was still at a comfortable 60% in all the major polls. Even now he is comfortably ahead of any other political leader in the country, and his move on Thursday to call elections is intended to lock in that support.

He’s going to need it. Under the terms of the bailout deal that Tsipras secured this week, Greece will receive around $95.2 billion in foreign loans in order to avoid bankruptcy over the next three years. But as a condition of providing this lifeline, Greece’s troika of creditors—the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund—insisted on a new set of painful reforms for the Greek economy.

Those reforms will give Greek voters plenty of reasons to resent their government. They will see tax hikes, pension reductions and deep cuts to their health and social welfare systems. For many Greeks this will feel like a betrayal, because they elected Tsipras in January on a promise to avoid exactly these types of measures. His radical left-wing political party, Syriza, had based its campaign on a pledge to end austerity and preserve the social safety net. Instead, Tsirpas accepted some of the harshest bailout terms Greece has ever faced from its creditors.

That has resulted in a mutiny within his party. About a dozen of its more radical leftists announced last week that they would split off to form a new anti-bailout movement. “The fight against the new [bailout] Memorandum starts now, by mobilizing people in every corner of the country,” said the statement from Panagiotos Lafazanis, the leader of the far-left wing of the Syriza party.

But even if their splinter group takes some votes away from Syriza, it will not be enough to challenge the party’s lead in the polls. At the end of last month, Syriza’s approval numbers were above 40%, far ahead of the closest challenger, and at this point, that popularity seems to derive much more from the party’s leader than its anti-austerity bona fides.

Throughout his seven months of intense negotiations with the creditors, Tsipras has channeled the Greek sense of victimhood to blame the troika for all of his failures at the negotiating table. He blamed the troika for forcing Greece to close its banks at the end of June in order to save them from running out of money. He blamed Germany for trying to push Greece out of the European currency union. After each failure to win concessions from the troika, he went on TV to convince the Greek public that he had done the best he could. And it always seemed to work. “We know that no one is behind Tsipras pulling his strings,” said Julie Bagietakou, a social worker in Athens, even after her Prime Minister failed to win any debt relief for Greece in July. “We trust him to do what’s right for the people.”

For her, as for many Greeks, Tsipras’s appeal came from being a new face in Greek politics, not beholden to the establishment parties that had ruled the country for decades before he came to power in January. One irony of his tenure is that Tsipras has increasingly relied on these establishment parties in parliament in recent weeks to approve the new bailout deal even when his own Syriza comrades refused to vote for it.

Those dissenters are now set to break away from the party and go it alone, leaving Tsipras to drift ever further toward the mainstream center-left of Greek politics. After the snap elections, he may need to form a coalition with some of the establishment forces that he claimed to despise less than a year ago. It would be yet another U-turn in a premiership defined by little else. But his core supporters will likely forgive him, as they have so many times already in his short time in office.

TIME russia

Russia Is Investigating if Gay Emojis Break Its Laws

The communications watchdog is prepared to “take reactive measures” against the emojis if they constitute a threat to Russian children

Russia’s state media watchdog is investigating whether gay-themed emojis on Facebook are in violation of Russian laws against promoting homosexuality.

The probe initiated this week comes as the result of a complaint from Mikhail Marchenko, a senator in Russia’s upper house of parliament, who was the first official to note the potential danger in the cartoon smiley faces of boys kissing boys and girls kissing girls.

In his written appeal to The Federal Service For Supervision of Communication, Information Technology and Mass Media, which is known in Russia as Roskomnadzor, the senator from the region of Bryansk called for an investigation into whether the emojis violate Russia’s controversial 2013 law against “homosexual propaganda” among minors.

“These emojis of non-traditional sexual orientation are seen by all users of the social network, a large portion of whom are minors,” said Senator Marchenko. “But propaganda of homosexuality is banned under the laws and under the pillars of tradition that exist here in our country.”

In response to the senator’s complaint, the federal agency asked the main youth group of President Vladimir Putin’s political party, the Young Guard, to form an “expert opinion” on this matter of “high social significance,” according to the Izvestia daily, which obtained a copy of the agency’s response to the senator on Wednesday.

In the response, which was written by the deputy head of Roskomnadzor, Maxim Ksenzov, the agency says it is prepared to “take reactive measures” against the emojis if they are found to constitute a threat to Russian children. Under Russian law, the agency is able to block Russians from accessing websites that are found promoting homosexuality among minors. It can also impose fines against those websites for failing to comply with the legislation.

Denis Davydov, the chairman of the coordinating council of Young Guard, which is the youth wing of Putin’s United Russia party, said that his organization would ask professional psychologists to determine “whether there is propaganda or no propaganda” in these emojis.

In June, the Young Guard’s expert opinion on such matters aided a legal case against a Russian website called Children-404, an online resource in Russia that helps council local teenagers through the process of coming out. The head of that project, Elena Klimova, has faced numerous court appearances and fines for her work, with the most recent fine of 50,000 rubles (about $900) upheld by a Russian court this week.

Facebook’s series of emojis celebrating gay pride first appeared on the network in 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed a victory to the cause of marriage equality by overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. The social network has since updated its so-called “Pride” series of emojis, including after last month’s historic Supreme Court decision obliging all U.S. states to allow gay marriage.

Though the Russian probe into emojis will focus specifically on Facebook, users of Twitter and Apple’s new operating system for the iPhone are also able to include rainbow flags and other gay-themed icons in their posts and messages.

Davydov, the Young Guard chairman, said that these services could also become the target of investigations if Russian citizens begin to complain about them. “This is not our first day working with Roskomnadzor,” Davydov noted in an interview with a Moscow radio station. “We have on numerous occasions appealed at various levels against the spread of extremism online, the spread of child pornography and so on,” he said.

TIME russia

How Russia Is Blocking Justice for the Victims of Flight 17

GRABOVO, UKRAINE - JULY 22: Wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 lies in a field on July 22, 2014 in Grabovo, Ukraine. Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed killing all 298 on board including 80 children. The aircraft was allegedly shot down by a missile and investigations continue over the perpetrators of the attack. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
Rob Stothard—Getty Images Wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 lies in a field in Grabovo, Ukraine, on July 22, 2014 .

An investigation remains stymied one year after a plane with almost 300 people on board was shot down

There was never any lack of witnesses to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which killed all 298 people on board. It happened in broad daylight exactly a year ago, on July 17, 2014, in a part of eastern Ukraine that separatist fighters had seized a few months earlier with abundant help from Russia. The names and whereabouts of their leaders are well known. Western and Ukrainian officials have long accused them of shooting down the plane with a Russian-made missile. So the problem is not in finding them but in bringing them to justice, which will be nearly impossible without Russia’s help. And that help has not usually been forthcoming.

Take, for instance, the Russian paramilitary group known as the Don Cossacks, which enjoys the financial support and legal recognition of the Russian state. From May until November of last year, the commander of this group, Nikolai Kozitsyn, was in control of a patch of territory in eastern Ukraine around the coal-mining town of Antratsyt, which is about 10 miles down the road from the crash site of Flight 17.

On the day of the tragedy, the Ukrainian State Security Service, which is known as the SBU, released what it claimed to be an intercepted phone conversation between Kozitsyn and one of his fighters. According to the SBU’s recording, the fighter reports to Kozitsyn that they have shot down a civilian plane by mistake. “There’s a whole sea of corpses, women and children,” the fighter says. The voice identified as that of Kozitsyn does not seem moved by this information. “They shouldn’t have been flying,” the voice says. “There’s a war going on here.”

While he could easily have dismissed the recording as a fake, Kozitsyn later admitted that it was genuine. In a November interview with Vice News, he said that it captured his reaction to the news of a civilian airliner being shot down over his territory. The Vice correspondent, Simon Ostrovsky, then asks the commander who shot down the plane. Kozytsin gives an impish smile and says, “A missile.” And who fired the missile? “No comment,” Kozytsin says.

Though these remarks are hardly proof of his involvement, Kozytsin’s apparent knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the crash would seem to make him a person of interest to any investigation. It would not be hard to find him. Soon after the interview with Vice, Kozytsin left his base in Antratsyt and went back to Russia for what he called an extended holiday. He is now based in the western Russian city of Novocherkassk, where he often gives interviews to local news outlets, including one rambling discussion of current affairs posted online this month.

Ever since the plane was shot down, Russia has bristled at any suggestion that its proxy militants were responsible. So it would not look kindly on foreign attempts to implicate Russian citizens. That much became clear earlier this month, when Malaysia called for the U.N. to create an international tribunal to seek justice in the case of Flight 17. One of the purposes of such a tribunal would be to ease the process of calling witnesses and arresting suspects in various jurisdictions around the world, and the proposed resolution won broad support, including from the Netherlands, whose citizens made up the majority of people killed on that flight.

The only objections to the idea came from Russia, whose permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council gives it the right to block the tribunal’s creation. “Personally I don’t see any prospects for these documents,” Moscow’s ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, said of the Malaysian proposal. “Although civilian airplanes were destroyed before, they never led to an international tribunal, and sometimes they didn’t lead to any judicial proceedings at all.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated this point on the eve of the catastrophe’s one-year anniversary, when he took a call from Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. According to a statement on the Kremlin website, Putin told Rutte on July 16 that it would be “counterproductive” to have an international tribunal take up the case.

This does not leave many options for Dutch investigators, who have already had a hard time working in the separatist-controlled areas around the crash site. In March, the Netherlands Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a public appeal for witnesses of the crash to come forward voluntarily, having apparently failed to find enough people willing to talk.

A few months later, the Dutch Defense Ministry and National Police sent a team to Kozitsyn’s former stomping ground in the Ukrainian region of Luhansk, right near the crash site. Among their goals was to find information on cell phone towers and telephone networks in the area, most likely to learn more about the calls placed around the time of the catastrophe. “The mission was aimed at gathering evidence to support or discard different scenarios of the cause of the crash,” the Dutch prosecutor’s office said in a statement on June 27. But the separatist fighters who control these areas refused to cooperate, and the Dutch team went home without the information they wanted.

So far, Dutch authorities have declined to name any of the suspects or potential witnesses in their investigation. But apart from Kozitsyn, they may find it useful to speak with Igor Girkin, the former Russian security officer who was leading the main group of separatists around the crash site last summer. These days he lives in Moscow, often appearing in public and giving interviews to the press.

His total lack of concern over the investigation into Flight 17 became clearer than ever this week, when the families of 18 of the victims of that tragedy reportedly filed a civil lawsuit against Girkin, asking a court in Chicago to award them $900 million in damages. The claimants alleged that Girkin “ordered, aided and/or abetted this action and/or conspired with those persons who fired the missile or missiles.” But the accused seems to find all this rather amusing. In a response posted on an online chat forum on July 18, Girkin wrote: “I’m almost a billionaire! Owing 900 million is almost the same thing as having these hundreds of millions.” He punctuated this attempt at a joke with a grinning emoticon.

TIME Greece

Germany Finds Itself Cast as the Villain in Greek Drama

Berlin's role as the enforcer in negotiations over Greece's debt could cause lasting damage to Germany's global image

A few days ago, a group of German comedians produced a satire of their country’s attitude toward Greece under the title “Our Precious German Euros.” Filmed in a pair of swanky hotel rooms, the clip lampoons two pampered yuppies, Klaus and Jan, as they vent their annoyance at all the money their country has spent bailing out the “bankrupt” and “greedy” Greeks. “These swindling Greeks are destroying our euro,” says Klaus. “Nobody’s ever given us Germans something for nothing,” says Jan.

In case it wasn’t clear, the moral of the sketch then appears with a chirpy melody: Germans have the “historic opportunity,” it says, “not to behave like a–holes for once” and to show Greece a bit of sympathy.

It’s a message that seems to have passed Germany’s leaders by. Across Europe and increasingly in Germany itself, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel is being blamed for treating Greece like a disobedient stepchild rather than an equal member of the European currency union. The fallout has revealed not only the depth of European angst over Germany’s growing influence in the E.U., but also how uncomfortable the Germans are in wielding that influence as a political weapon.

“This country is having a hard time getting used to this leadership role, to being in the driver’s seat,” says Joerg Forbrig, a foreign policy expert at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. “For Germans the role of a leader, or a benevolent hegemon, is acceptable,” he adds. “But our skin is super thin when it comes to the reactions you elicit in that role.”

Those reactions have been fierce in the wake of the Greek bailout agreement reached on Monday in Brussels. As the Greek parliament prepared to vote Wednesday on a financial rescue package worth up to 86 billion euros over the next three years, more than a hundred members of the ruling Syriza party said Greece had only accepted the deal because its creditors – especially Germany – had threatened “immediate financial strangulation” if Greece resisted. The statement, released just hours before anti-austerity in Athens turned violent Wednesday night, went on to call the agreement “a coup that goes directly against any kind of notion of democracy and popular sovereignty.”

And there was little doubt to Greeks who was to blame. Although Germany was not the only European country that wanted to saddle Greece with harsh austerity measures in exchange for a deal, the delegates from Berlin were the most forceful and visible in making these demands. Wolfgang Schäuble, the German Finance Minister, even insisted that Greece should be pushed out of the euro currency union for five years unless it submits to more spending cuts, tax hikes and a massive sell-off of state assets.

It wasn’t just the Greeks driven into a rage by such demands; the German government has also faced criticism at home. While Merkel’s ruling coalition has mostly toed the party line, opposition figures have been sniping at the Greek bailout deal all week from across the political spectrum. “This negotiation result is a German diktat and nothing other than blackmail,” said Dietmar Bartsch, the deputy head of a left-wing party that has about 10% of the seats in the German parliament.

Many in the German media also attacked the agreement. The online edition of Der Spiegel called it a “catalogue of cruelties” toward Greece, while the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung said that Merkel’s conservative government had come out looking “ugly, hard-hearted and stingy” in the eyes of Europe and the world. “Every cent of aid to Greece that the Germans tried to save will have to be spent two and three times over in the coming years to polish that image again,” the center-left newspaper wrote.

The fallout has the potential to damage Germany’s hard-won ranking in the world’s esteem. In recent years, polls have suggested that Germany had shed its public perception as the perpetrator of horrific atrocities in World War II and successfully rebranded itself as a beneficent economic power with modest ambitions on the world stage. An international survey of more than 26,000 people in 2013 found that Germany was the most popular country in the world.

But the crisis in Greece has hurt that popularity. When the terms of the bailout deal were announced on Monday, a campaign to boycott German products started spreading on social media, alongside vicious cartoons comparing Germany’s current leaders to the Nazis. As Spiegel Online put it, “The German government destroyed seven decades of post-war diplomacy in a single weekend.”

In the coming weeks, Germany will have a chance to assuage some of that criticism by agreeing to forgive a portion of Greece’s debt — and doing so would be in line with a growing international consensus. On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund, which has helped bankroll both of the bailouts Greece has received since 2010, suggested that it would not support the third bailout unless part of Greece’s debt burden is eased or erased. “Greece’s debt can now only be made sustainable through debt relief measures that go far beyond what Europe has been willing to consider so far,” the Fund wrote in its report.

France, the second biggest power in the eurozone after Germany, immediately got behind the idea of debt relief, and this week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will also help push for it when he visits Frankfurt, Berlin and Paris.

Standing defiant through all that diplomatic pressure would put Germany in a position it has not known in decades. It would be seen as the bully of Europe, no longer helping wayward members of the eurozone get their books in order but punishing them with all the influence its economic power affords.

Forbrig, the foreign policy expert, says that is an image most Germans would hate to project. “People find it hard to accept that if you do take on a leadership role, you will single yourself out for attacks and criticism,” he says. But as Germany asserts itself in Europe and beyond, it will have to learn to take such attacks in stride, even at the cost of its cherished popularity.


Greeks Prepare to Fight Bailout Deal in and Outside Parliament

Imposing the deal on the Greek people will be a lot harder than getting it through Parliament

Though there are a few no-smoking signs posted inside the Greek Parliament building, their admonition was not enforced on Tuesday in the second-floor offices of the ruling Syriza party, where lighting up was one of the few available means of calming some badly rattled nerves. Amid the haze in the antechamber, party staffers and journalists debated the terms of the bailout agreement that Greece reached on Monday. But no one was sure whether the government could push the devastating terms of the deal through Parliament this week without falling apart and sparking new elections.

At the very least, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will probably have to reshuffle his Cabinet and sideline the Syriza leaders who are turning against him. “That will happen this week for sure,” says one Syriza official, asking to remain anonymous. “Then we will see what’s next.”

As the party whips rallied votes on Tuesday, the number of defectors climbed into the dozens, including two of the government’s ministers and the speaker of the Parliament. Among them was Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who heads a hard-line faction of Syriza known as Left Platform. “The agreement signed with the institutions is unacceptable,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. “This agreement practically voids the people’s mandate.”

When the bailout goes up for a parliamentary vote on Wednesday, most of the Left Platform lawmakers are expected to reject it, costing the Prime Minister at least 30 of the 149 votes his party has in Parliament. But even Lafazanis, the leader of the mutiny within the party, admitted that the deal would still pass, because the more moderate opposition parties would vote in favor.

That will allow the bailout program to move ahead. Over the next three years, it would provide Greece with up to €86 billion in emergency loans to prop up its banking system and prevent Greece from abandoning the European currency union. As a condition of those loans, Tsipras agreed on Monday to impose further austerity on the Greek economy, including tax hikes, spending cuts and a sell-off of state assets worth €50 billion.

But even before the ink on this agreement had dried, some factions within Syriza were plotting their next confrontation with Greece’s creditors. “The agreement can give us a little bit of time so we can get prepared for an alternative,” says Michalis Spourdalakis, a Syriza party member who teaches political science at Athens University. It is only a matter of time, he says, before the Greek electorate rises up against the latest package of austerity, just as it did when electing the Syriza party in January.

Before it took power, the party’s core promise was to end austerity and secure debt relief from Greece’s creditors. But after five months of negotiations, Prime Minister Tsipras failed to win any significant concessions and, in Brussels this weekend, he finally bowed to the creditors’ demands for more austerity in exchange for more loans.

“It’s not that the government won’t try to implement this,” says Spourdalakis. “It simply can’t.” The size of the public sector has already been cut by more than 40% over the past five years of austerity, putting around 400,000 civil servants out of work. Pensions have already been reduced so drastically that nearly half of retirees are living below the poverty line.

And if Greece moves ahead with the bailout deal agreed this weekend, it will only push Greece deeper into recession, shaving at least another 3% off the size of the Greek economy, which has already contracted by a quarter since 2010. “The general expectation from this deal is that we are going to have a recession throughout the year and most probably the next year or two,” says Georgios Daremas, a Syriza member and adviser to the Greek Ministry of Labor.

As the pain of that contraction weighs on the Greek people, the ruling government will have to answer for it at the polls. And some factions within the Syriza party already seem to be preparing for that outcome. “The Greek people will not accept it,” Minister Lafazanis said of the latest bailout. “They will void the agreement through their struggles and unity.”

As long as Greece remains a democracy, its people will have a chance to reject austerity by electing whatever leaders promise to resist it. And depending on how the fissures within the Syriza party play out this week, those leaders could ultimately emerge from the most radical wing of the party, armed with yet another mandate to go to Brussels and demand a break on Greece’s debts. It could take a few months or a few years. But Europe would then be right back where it started, having wasted a lot of time and cost Greece a whole lot more heartache.

TIME Greece

Greece May Have to Sell Islands and Ruins Under Its Bailout Deal

“It’s basically saying sell the memory of your ancestors, sell your history"

Of all the aspects of Monday’s bailout deal that Greeks found humiliating, nothing drilled into their sense of pride quite like their government’s promise to sell off “valuable Greek assets” to the tune of 50 billion euros. The seven-page agreement, which European leaders thrashed out over the weekend, made no mention of where Greece is supposed to find that much property to sell. But as they scrambled for options, officials in Athens saw no way around the blood-curdling prospect of auctioning off Greek islands, nature preserves or even ancient ruins.

“It’s an affront,” says Georgios Daremas, a strategist and adviser to the Greek Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Social Solidarity. “It’s basically saying sell the memory of your ancestors, sell your history just so we can get something commercial for it,” he tells TIME on Monday. “This is an idea to humiliate Greeks.”

The idea of locking up Greek assets in a special fund emerged on Saturday from Germany, the biggest and one of the least forgiving of the creditor-nations involved in the talks. In order to guarantee repayment on loans to Greece, the German Finance Ministry even suggested moving the titles to Greek assets to an “external fund” in Luxembourg so that Athens could not renege on their sale. On this point, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras managed to fight off the Germans on Sunday, though it was one of the very few concessions he managed to get during the marathon talks.

“The deal is difficult, but we averted the pursuit to move state assets abroad,” Tsipras said in trying to put a positive spin on the bailout, which would see Greece take more than 80 billion euros in additional loans in order to stave off bankruptcy over the next three years.

Greek payments on its two previous bailouts were also meant come in part from the sale of state assets. Under the terms of its first bailout in 2010, Greece agreed to privatize around 50 billion euros in property and infrastructure as a way of raising money for its creditors. But only 3.2 billion euros have come from these sales to date. So Germany and other creditors have good reason to doubt the Greek commitment to privatization.

Going forward, Greece will have to stash its assets in a specially created fund and prepare them for sale “under the supervision of the relevant European Institutions,” according to the text of the bailout agreement published on Monday. Asked what kinds of assets the fund would include, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, one of the key European negotiators in the bailout talks, said “experts” would be brought in to settle this question. “I won’t give you any examples, because it’s not my specialty,” he told reporters in Brussels on Monday.

Most of the examples would have to come from the government’s land and real estate holdings, says Daremas, the government official in Athens. “That may include buildings, possible areas of land, and even islands,” he says. To protect the natural, historical and archaeological value of such real estate, Greece would need to pass laws and empower oversight bodies to make sure that “the new owner does not abuse or damage the property,” says Daremas.

Since Greek islands and plots of land often house ruins from ancient civilizations, some of these may also have to be sold, he added. “Maybe some archeological sites that are not developed,” Daremas says. “But if you have this as a private investment you also have to assume responsibility for developing the site, of course being monitored by [Greek] authorities.”

There are, of course, limits to the privatization of ancient artifacts. The treasures of Greek antiquity, such as the Acropolis in Athens, would never be sold, Daremas says. “That’s impossible. Their value is immeasurable.”

The idea of selling the Acropolis came up early in Greece’s debt crisis. In 2010, two conservative German lawmakers caused a furor in Greece by suggesting that ancient ruins should not be off limits to privatization. “Those in insolvency have to sell everything they have to pay their creditors,” Josef Schlarmann, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political party, said at the time. Since publishing those remarks, the Bild newspaper, Germany’s most popular tabloid, has continued to irritate Greeks by asking why the Acropolis cannot be sold to repay debts to Germany.

“This is black humor,” says Natalia Kosmidou, a tour guide at the Acropolis in Athens. “The Germans must have had too much beer.” Although the last five years of economic turmoil have forced Greece to rely on private donors and foreign foundations to help pay for the maintenance and restoration of the Acropolis, Kosmidou says, “the Greek state will always own these monuments, even as the poorest pauper, even penniless.”

Greece has at least been willing to discuss the sale of its islands, however, as many of them are uninhabited and underdeveloped. Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel-prize winning economist who has spoken out in favor of debt relief for Greece, says the sale of islands could be an important part of the broader privatization campaign. “You could sell them,” he says. “But not a fire sale, because that would be like giving away your patrimony for nothing.”

That would mean waiting until the property market in Greece recovers. “Of course real estate prices are depressed right now,” says Daremas. “It’s very important to have time, and to wait for change in the economic climate to be able to sell them at a fair price.” The Greek promise to sell state assets came with no time limit in the text of the agreement published Monday. But in their hunger for guarantees on this latest package of loans to Greece, creditors in Germany will not be happy to wait much longer.

Read next: Greeks Prepare to Fight Bailout Deal In and Outside Parliament

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TIME Greece

Greece Agrees to Its Third European Bailout After Marathon Talks

The terms of the deal are the harshest Greece has ever faced from its creditors

The last round of talks on the Greek debt crisis went through the night on Sunday for 17 grueling hours, but when European leaders finally emerged from the negotiating rooms in Brussels on Monday morning, they announced that they had reached a unanimous deal to save Greece from going bankrupt and crashing out of the European currency union.

The details of the agreement were sketchy. But even from the rough contours outlined at a press conference on Monday morning, it was clear that Greece had bowed to nearly all the demands of its creditor nations, especially Germany, and had taken on commitments that would be extremely difficult for the Greek government to fulfill without losing the trust and support of its electorate.

Over the weekend, however, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was focused on regaining the trust of his counterparts from wealthy European nations, which agreed on Monday to help fund another rescue package for the Greek economy, the third such bailout Greece has received in five years. European officials estimate Greece needs roughly $90 billion in emergency loans just to get through the next three years.

“Trust was a very key issue” in negotiating this bailout package, said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who heads the group of 19 European finance ministers from countries that use the euro as their currency. To regain the trust of these countries, the Greek parliament would need to “very quickly legislate” a range of painful reform measures, “and in that way will also work to bring back trust in the whole process and between the member states.”

That trust was battered on July 5, when Greeks voted in a referendum to reject the terms of a bailout Greece’s creditors had offered in June. Germany, Finland and other countries then began to take a much harder line in the Greek debt talks, as the referendum seemed to signal that Greece would not be able to keep its promises to cut spending, raise taxes and reform its inefficient economy. “I said before the referendum that the situation would be worse after the referendum,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, at Monday’s televised press conference in Brussels. “This has proven to be true,” he said.

Indeed, the terms of the bailout that European leaders agreed over the weekend were far harsher than the ones Greek voters had rejected only a week earlier. To regain the trust of its creditors, Greece will have to scrape together about $50 billion in state assets, which will effectively be used as collateral on the latest package of emergency loans to Greek banks and the Greek government. None of Greece’s previous bailouts have included such draconian terms.

In explaining this part of the deal, Dijsselbloem, the head of the so-called Eurogroup of finance ministers, said Greece would have to transfer this pile of assets into a specially created fund. “The fund will monetize these assets either by privatizing or running the assets and trying to make money from those,” he added. “That money will be used to deal with debt and to reduce debt.”

The idea of creating such a fund came from Germany, whose Finance Ministry proposed it over the weekend as a way of guaranteeing Greek debts. The German proposal even suggested that Greece would have to transfer these state assets abroad before they could count as collateral on any further loans. But on this point, at least, Prime Minister Tsipras seemed to win a concession from his most unforgiving creditors. “It will be based in Greece,” Dijsselbloem said of the so-called guarantee fund.

On practically all other points in the negotiations, however, Greece capitulated to the demands of German officials and other hardliners, who faced criticism over the weekend of trying to humiliate Greece and even to force the ruling Greek government from power. Asked on Monday about the claims that European leaders were effectively staging a “coup” in Greece, the European Commission President countered that other parties to the talks had also been forced to accept unpleasant conditions.

“It is a compromise. There are no winners and no losers,” Juncker said. “I don’t think the Greek people have been humiliated. And I don’t think that the other Europeans were losing their face. It’s a typical European arrangement.”

Before that arrangement can get formal approval from Greece’s creditors, the Greek parliament will have to approve all of its terms in the coming days. As most of these terms contradict the key election promises of the ruling Syriza party, some analysts expected a week of political turmoil in Athens that could possibly lead to new elections.

“The formation of a national unity or special purpose government to pass the reforms in the tight time-frame is now required,” said Demetrios Efstathiou, an analyst at Standard Bank. “Elections would have to follow at a later stage,” he wrote in a note to investors.

The only winner in Monday’s deal, he added, was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has taken an extremely tough stance in the debt talks, in part to send a warning to other indebted European nations that financial bailouts would not come easy on her watch. The Greek capitulation should allow Merkel to get the approval of the German parliament for the latest bailout deal.

“The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages,” Merkel told a separate news conference on Monday in Brussels. “The country which we help has shown a willingness and readiness to carry out reforms,” she said in reference to Greece.

The battleground over these reforms will now shift to Athens, where Tsipras will have to push them through parliament in spite of fierce resistance from members of his own government and party. Known as the Coalition of the Radical Left, the party was elected in January on a promise to avoid exactly the types of austerity measures Tsipras agreed to undertake during this weekend’s negotiations.

“We found ourselves before difficult decisions, tough dilemmas,” Tsipras said in defending the agreement on Monday. In the end, he added, the agreement will allow Greece to “stand on its feet.” But the weight of more loans and another crushing round of austerity will make it hard for Tsipras’ government to stand the backlash from its electorate.

Read next: Why Greece Matters for Everyone

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