Smoke Signals: ClubMed Special

smokesigs The strangely secret itinerary of USS Carter Hall. An amphibious assault landing troop carrier dropped anchor in the harbour off Corfu town last week. The 11,500 ton big guy from the US Sixth fleet was quite happy to publish the fact that it had been in the East Atlantic, and then on a tour of duty throughout the Med, including several Italian ports.

What the published accounts leave out is that the Carter Hall docked at Corfu twice in eight days, putting several hundred marines ashore. This account from a local eye-witness is interesting:

“Standing in line behind a small group of guys [in McDonalds] and being from Los Angeles, I asked this sailor where he was from.  He goes on to tell me that he is from Kentucky and some of the others on their boat are mostly from Missouri, but that no one knows where the Marines they have as passengers came from… he says that this is the last day they are in port, that they were here last week, and that they were told to get out and get a lay of the land and to get to know the culture… I asked where they were heading… he said no one knew as they never tell them that stuff anyway….. this is the first time I have ever seen a US military presence here…”

That’s true. Usually, the Corfu military visitors are Russian.

A potted history of the vessel is equally intriguing: it has been used in the past on Somalian operations. Further, in North Carolina on 25th January , 400 Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit integrated with more than 300 sailors on board USS Carter Hall to participate in amphibious squadron/marine expeditionary unit integration and Composite Training Unit Exercises.

On 5th March 2010, Berlin made serious noises about trying to buy Corfu to ameliorate the Greek debt mountain. But now, of course, Berlin’s prize is Cyprus. Does this perhaps mean that, after Schäuble’s land-grab, Corfu is now an American sphere of influence?

Up until a year ago, the possible existence of hydrocarbon reserves in the Ionian sea both by politicians and the media was discussed openly. Then suddenly, it stopped. At the time, Greek contacts suggested to me that Ionia as a region was being deliberately played down by the Greek élite – following the German push to buy into it. Given later events in the Eastern Med, this now looks like it was an excellent decision.

This entire thing is about energy: there is rarely smoke without fire.

German spies manning Greco-German travel hubs? Four days ago, influential website keeptalkinggreece posted a piece headed ‘German policemen at Greek airports to check travellers bound to Germany’. As such a role for German police officers defies the Lisbon Treaty’s rule that only local Sovereign police officers should fulfil such a role, the site wondered why the decision to place an officer from the German police at the airport of Heralkio, Crete, went ahead on April 3rd. German police officers will be occupied also at Athens and  Thessaloniki airports. All of them will be in plain clothes, and fluent Greek speakers. Their job is to inspect travel documents and passports whenever they think fit.

The Heraklio police tried to oppose the appointments, but were rebuffed.

What struck me at the time was how few regular German police officers would be likely speak fluent Greek…or have the expertise to usefully inspect travel documents. So I’ve been doing some digging….and a German source with whom I am fairly familiar offers an interesting allegation as f0llows:

“They’re security agents. After the attack on the [Greek] attaché’s car in Berlin last year, the special unit dealing with the Greek terrorist threat was expanded by the Interior Minister [Hans-Peter Friedrich]. They’re at the airports to check on BMI [German Interior Ministry] leads, and monitor the movement of developing anti-Berlin groups in Greece”.

My source in turn quotes sources in the BMI. The allegation does make sense: in the recent past, Friedrich has questioned the principle of European integration by “responding to migration with isolation”, and the German interior minister recently announced that Berlin is ready to block extending immigration privileges to Romania and Bulgaria. Hans-Peter Friedrich had asked municipalities to tighten controls with view of possible high number of Bulgarian and Romanians migrating to the country after 2014.

But H-PF, like his older colleague Wolfgang Schäuble, is a spook. Aware of the widespread unpopularity of B-am-B policy, his job is to extend German control over things.

Global Looting, episode 2,319: Spain joins the larceny club. A Spanish Slogger writes:

“By the 30th April this year – and in subsequent years by the 30th March – everyone [in Spain]  has to make a declaration about their assets overseas worth over 50,000 euros. There are three categories – property, investments and savings. If you have nothing over 50,000 euros in any category, you still have to sign a declaration to that effect. Failure to declare that you have nothing to declare will be a CRIMINAL offence! If there is found to be any omission or understating of your assets, there is a minimum automatic fine of 10,000 euros for each of the three categories.”

Hmm. Looks like the rip-off exemption just came down from €100k to €50k.

Earlier at The Slog: Why the 2015 UK General Election will be a waste of time.