Welcome, 77 artists, 40 different points of Attica welcomes you by singing Erotokritos an epic romance written at 1713 by Vitsentzos Kornaros

Friday, May 24, 2013

Inside the Greece ETF

The ETF has performed well recently though the longer term outlook remains weak.


Main tax offices offset laggards in revenues

Tax offices in Greece have shown a mixed picture in the first four months of the year as far as revenue collection is concerned.Official figures released by the Finance Ministry on Friday showed that the revenue total is within the budget target, but eight out of 10 tax authorities have been off target, with only the big tax offices in the country making up for the smaller laggards.In the period ...


Commission examining obstacles to Greece's work scheme for jobless families


Commission examining obstacles to Greece's work scheme for jobless families
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Greek Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis met with the head of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), Mario Silva, in Athens on Friday.According to the ministry, Silva noted the increasing number of racist attacks in Greece, in particular against Jews and Jewish religious symbols, as well as cases of holocaust denial.The IHRA chair also asked to be informed on developments ...


Rapid Vienna fans must stand trial in Thessaloniki court rules

A Thessaloniki court decided on Friday that seven fans of Austrian soccer club Rapid Vienna have to stand trial in the northern Greek city in connection to violence at a game with local club PAOK last August.Several arrests were made ahead of the Europa League play-off match and the seven, aged 18 to 31, are accused of throwing flares and a Molotov ...


Greece's Jews take on neo-Nazi party

Hundreds of Jews march in Thessaloniki on March 16th to the railway station where the first train left for the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1943.


My Greek Drama by Gianna Angelopoulos Reaches #9 on New York Times Bestsellers List

NEW YORK, May 24, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --  My Greek Drama: Life, Love and One Woman's Olympic Effort to Bring Glory to Her Country (Greenleaf Book Group) by Ambassador Gianna Angelopoulos which debuted at ...


Should Greece look to 1990s Canada for lessons on exiting the crisis?


Should Greece look to 1990s Canada for lessons on exiting the crisis?
Can Greece find a way out of the economic crisis? A success story on the other side of the Atlantic, in Canada, provides some interesting food for thought. Dr David Zussman is a professor of public sector management at the University of Ottawa and ...


Greece's NBG lifted by strong Turkish performance

The National Bank of Greece has reported first-quarter profits of 27 million euros ($35 million) with a strong performance by its Turkish unit, Finansbank, keeping the group profitable. NBG, Greece's largest ...


Holidays, or holy-days, are a great time to relearn enchantment with the world

On this Greek island, I am gaining much vicarious enrichment seeing the world anew through the eyes of my 10-year-old son

I wage a losing battle in my house over the use of the word "literally". "I'm not actually joking, Alice, we saw this apple and it was literally as big as a house," is the sort of sentence – with the requisite upspeak intonation – that brings out the grumpy pedant in my children's father. "Please, please," I plead. "Can't we use the word literally, well, just a little more literally." The kids raise their eyes to heaven, sniggering over my middle-aged fussiness.

Meaning is use, they might one day argue back. But this morning I found huge delight in my 10-year-old son Felix's use of "literally". "I'm not actually joking, Alice," he said, "the sea is literally blue."

My son and I are on the small Greek island of Naxos. We are having a few days of half-term father/son bonding and reading Greek myths together. On this island, Dionysus wooed Ariadne away from Theseus, giving her the stars as a wedding crown. Felix has never been this far from home, and so much of the surrounding culture and geography is being experienced as new and extraordinary. Our friend Dimitrios explains to him the Greek alphabet. He tries a grilled sardine (not good) and, in the spirit of Dionysus, a few sips of my beer (better). The Orthodox church is full of strange icons, candles and exotic smells. He is noticing the girls. And the sea is literally blue. His eyes are as wide as saucers.

There is much vicarious enrichment to be had in seeing the world anew through the eyes of a child. The landscape is repopulated with wonder. The world-weary "been there, done that" adult is reminded of what he or she has stopped noticing or being shocked or excited by. It feels like just the sort of renewal that is supposed to come with a holiday. I want to suspend my disbelief and be 10 again. I want what Nietzsche called a "second innocence".

Nietzsche's intellectual prescription for this was that atheism must first triumph. We must first fully divest ourselves of the gods only then to return to something called the sacred. He returns to Dionysus. I return to the God of the little white churches that are scattered all over the island. But what is it, then, that atheism is supposed to burn away? For too many enlightenment thinkers, it is the credulity of childhood. So too with St Paul, we are called "to put away childish things". We are called intellectually to grow up. But I want to be a grown up and a child at the same time. I want binocular vision.

Not that this little pop at the enlightenment is a pop exclusively at the atheistic enlightenment. My particular derision is reserved for all those who insist that religion is either literally true or not true at all. Fundamentalism is just as much a product of bad enlightenment thinking as are those aspects of contemporary atheism that claim the only thing worth saying about the Greek myths is that they are untrue. Of course they are not untrue. Something can be true and not literally true. This is what the child sees. Perhaps that is why my children are so relaxed about the word literally. And maybe they are right.

Holidays are, of course, originally holy-days. Not just ways of recharging our batteries so that we can return more effectively to the world of work. At best, they are about relearning enchantment. Discovering second innocence. There is nothing wrong with the intellectual astringent of hard-nosed empiricism, in the right place.

But if the world is only populated by things that can be weighed or counted, then the world is too easily conscripted by material production. Though, to be fair, the poor Greeks could use a bit more material production at the moment.

Twitter: @giles_fraser © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds



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Global development podcast transcript: what's at stake at the G8?

Hugh Muir and a panel of guests answer your G8-related questions in front of a live audience
Listen to the podcast

HM: Hugh Muir

JF: Jamie Forsyth

RB: Ruth Bergan

JD: Jamie Drummond

LE: Larry Elliott

HM Hello and welcome to this special edition of the Global development podcast. I'm Hugh Muir and we're coming to you from the Guardian in King's Cross, London. We have a live audience, we have an august panel and we have your questions with which to quiz that august panel. Now we're talking about the G8 summit on the 17th and 18th June. There have been 30 years of G8s and the last of them in the UK in 2005 was held as one of the most productive ever; not least because the EU members committed to a foreign aid target of 0.7% by 2015.

This time, David Cameron is demanding bold steps, but what's realistic? What can the G8 do to help developing countries? What should it do? And what's likely to happen? Big questions – luckily, I don't have to answer them because we have our panel. Let me introduce you to our panel: we have Justin Forsyth, the chief executive of Save the Children UK; Ruth Bergan, the co-ordinator of the Trade Justice Movement; Jamie Drummond, the co-founder and executive director of global strategy for the charity ONE; and our own Larry Elliott, the economics editor here at the Guardian. Can we have a round of applause for them please?

Now we asked via our website and on Twitter for your questions. They came in by the electronic sackful, if such a thing exists, so let's crack on with those and the first question from Billy Hill.

Billy Hello. My question is to the panel: do you think the government should enshrine in law the 0.7 aid promise?

HM Thank you, Billy. And dovetailing quite nicely with that was a question that we received from Sally Copley. I'm not sure if Sally's here, but with the announcement at the budget this year that the UK government is the first country in the G8 to meet the 0.7% commitment made in 1970, has the UK government done enough? Jamie?

JD Has the UK government done enough? Not yet. We're talking about aid here but there's a lot more than aid that needs to be talked about, obviously, and we'll do that over the course of the hour. Regarding aid, the UK is taking up a fantastic leadership position. It's off the back of a generation of campaigning by people across the country and by leaders on both sides of the isle, and long may that continue. It's a fantastic tradition and it needs to keep going.

We need to make sure that the way we consolidate support for 0.7 now doesn't have long-term negative consequences. So we need to make sure that we're giving people feedback about the great results of smart aid investments; both on the easier-to-explain things like vaccines, bednets, kids in school immunised; but also the more complicated things like helping countries strengthen their tax bases, build up their revenue collection, invest in infrastructure – the sort of long-term stuff that will help these countries eventually grow, have inclusive and sustainable growth so that they can eventually graduate away from the need for aid in the long term. And so I think, yes, we've played a fantastic leadership role in all of this, there's always more to do and there's also a beyond aid agenda we need to talk about.

MH Specifically on Billy's question, Justin, should the government enshrine this in law because it's not a done deal, is it? And then every day you hear discussions as to whether or not they should keep that promise …

JF No, I think they should keep the promise. It was a commitment by all the parties in their manifestos and also part of the coalition agreement. And I think we must keep up the pressure so that they do enshrine the 0.7% in law. I think the most important thing though is that they've also achieved 0.7 and this is a 40-year commitment put into practice. I think it's actually a huge tribute to the British public. I remember, I worked in 2005 during the last year at Gleneagles for Tony Blair, and I went home to the village I come from in Oxfordshire in Deddington, and on the church was "Make Poverty History" And I think the commitment and passion for debt cancellation, for aid, for making Aids drugs affordable for the poorest families, and mums and dads and children in the world, is really deep in the DNA of our country.

And I know in these tough times it feels, for some people, like it's something we can't afford, but I believe that millions of people up and down the country who support Oxfam or Christian Aid or Action Aid or ONE or Save the Children – and there are millions of them who really passionately believe that – and that's why, and I saw this when I worked in Downing Street, politicians have picked up and carried this torch for international development, which includes achieving the 0.7% target. And I think that is – as a country – something that we should be very proud of.

MH Ruth, how do we, having got to this stage, remain at this stage or maybe even improve that position?

RB I think it wouldn't be a bad thing to see 0.7 enshrined in law and it was a shame that it wasn't in the Queen's speech. However, for me, 0.7 is really only a small part of the picture and we know, partly through the IF campaign, that African countries lose twice as much in unpaid taxes as they receive in aid in the first place. So I think aid's great, I think it's part of our commitment to developing countries, given that we structure the global economy in the way that we do disadvantages them. I think it's a normal thing that we should be doing. And, of course, we should be pleased that the UK's leading the way, but really as far as I'm concerned, it's not enough.

Make Poverty History in 2005 did indeed achieve some significant steps forward on aid. And we saw some steps forward on debt, although they didn't really address some of the structural problems as we would like to have seen. And of course we got very little on trade. I think what's really worrying coming out of the G8 at the moment is this push for further and deeper trade liberalisation, it's this idea of trade as a sort of panacea, and this idea that we can go for yet more market liberalisation without tailoring it to actually addressing some of the remaining and deeply entrenched poverty that we still see. So I think 0.7 why not, but I think there are many more things that we need to see this government doing.

MH OK, thank you for that. Before I bring in Larry, there's another question that was sent in by Ade. Fire away.

Ade In this time of global recession, is giving aid important to these G8 countries?

LE Is giving aid important? Well, it's important to some countries, I don't think it's important to enough of the G8 countries and a lot of the countries have not met the pledges that they made in Gleneagles all those years ago. Britain's got a good record but other countries, Italy for one, France, Germany – they've not kept the pledges that they made. I think it's a shame that the government here didn't enshrine the 0.7% in law; and I think to an extent Cameron's bottled it. I think he's been under a lot of pressure from the right wing of the Conservative party and I think he's just lost his nerve. And I think that's a great pity because I think 70p in every £100 of national income going on aid is not a vast amount of money. And I think, as Jamie said, aid has got a good record of doing good things in developing countries; the kids in school, medicines in hospital – aid works and it's important for the government to make that case, whether it be a government of the left or the right. And I think this government is starting to recoil from some of its aid and development pledges. I think what it did by not enshrining the 0.7 in law is symbolic of that.

MH Jamie, you work around the world, how do you compare our view on aid and our commitment to the 0.7 with what you see elsewhere?

JD Well, there are many other countries in the world so it depends on where else you're talking about. Your question, Ade, was about the G8. The UK's in a crazily positive position compared to – crazy in an American sense of we're wildly out there in going to 0.7 and actually making it happen, compared with other countries. And it's very hard for people who are citizens of this country to really appreciate how different the vibe is about this in France or Italy, the degree to which people really aren't there for this issue.

And so when a G8 summit happens, it's a multilateral moment: it's lots of countries trying to agree together on something. If you all – because of the pressure from your citizens – are very far out on an issue and the citizens of other countries aren't putting pressure on their political leaders to be equally far out, you have a hard job. So to some extent – and I'm not making any apologies for anything that this country and this government isn't doing – but rather pointing out that they can only do so much if the German citizens aren't pressuring Merkel and if French citizens or Italian citizens aren't pressuring their leaders, and we need to be working harder with partners around the world to put pressure on their respective leaders. But the G8 is one thing, you've said elsewhere so at some stage in this next hour, let's please talk about the emerging economies, the Brics and other countries because it's a complicated, much more difficult environment in which we're working now compared with 2005 or '98 – the last times we hosted a G8 – and in many ways that's welcome but it does make campaigning a little more difficult.

MH Justin, what the politicians will do and what we ask them to do is quite important but there's a difficulty sometimes for the charities in that some have said that some of the charities are too close to Number 10 and to David Cameron and things like the IF campaign. Is there a danger there? I mean you want to work closely with them, you need their buy-in, but is there a danger of getting too close?

JF Yes, I think there's always that danger and I've been on both sides of the fence so maybe I have been too close at different times. The only thing [where] I disagree with Larry slightly is, I do think David Cameron also deserves a lot of credit for sticking to 0.7% in very tough times; which is probably going to prove the point that I'm too close to David Cameron even though I used to work for the old government anyway.

LE You're close to all of them.

JF Close to all of them. But I do think that in this particular environment at the moment – we've had many years of an economic downturn, we've got a debate raging in the UK which is mainly about immigration and Europe. Aid is disliked by a large section of those people that are moving in effect to Ukip. I think they deserve some credit for sticking to the 0.7% pledge.

I think our job in tough times with Enough Food for Everyone campaign, the IF campaign, was to try to get the maximum possible in a difficult, political environment. It's not the same as in the year 2000 with "Jubilee 2000" or 2005 with Make Poverty History, this campaign is not as big as those campaigns. But the environment and the susceptibility of the public isn't there either. But I think – and I was just telling a story as we were walking in – I bumped into (this shows again probably that I'm too close) … I bumped into George Osborne the other day, like you do, and he said that one of the remarkable things about the development movement is it was on the map. Now I know Larry disagreed with that in an article recently, but the night before the budget on both the ITV, BBC and Channel 4 news, Enough Food for Everyone, the IF campaign stunt was there about why we should stick to our pledge on aid and, as Ruth rightly says, do more than aid as well as stick to taking action on tax.

So I think in a difficult time we're trying to put pressure on but we're also trying to do the insider job. And basically I think, as Malcolm X said, you have to take any means possible or necessary to achieve change. And we have to have different tactics and strategies at different moments in history. And at this moment in history it's bloody tough to achieve change and we might have to do an insider bit and an outsider bit but I think we are making some progress.

And we've got 10 days in June with three summits and we could get a big result on tax, we could get a big result on transparency and we could get a big result on nutrition – and that's a lot to play for. And millions of people in this country who care should come out on 8 June in Hyde Park, and then in Belfast, and put as much pressure on the G8 to deliver as possible.

MH I want to ask Larry about what he did write quite recently about the IF campaign but first of all, Ruth, Justin's quoting Malcolm X at us – how do you see …

JD Badly, I think.

MH How do you see this calibration between the campaigning organisations and the politicians and is it possible for us to be too close – is that a bad thing if you get close?

RB I think I mean what I'm really interested in is this idea that it's difficult to engage people in development issues in times like this. Because people are living through things that have not been seen for a generation almost; we're living through huge problems with debt, huge problems with finance, tax issues in the UK – these are all issues developing countries have been dealing with for the past 40 years. So I think more than ever now is the time to say to people, "look we need global solidarity between people in different countries, and we need to really engage people with the things that they're facing on a daily basis."

And I think that is happening when you look across Europe in Spain and Greece, there's huge mobilisation behind these issues. And they are connecting with movements beyond the EU on issues that are really hitting home. In the next year, we're going to see austerity hitting the UK in a way that we haven't experienced yet. And I think as a movement we need to use this even more to engage with people in the south who are already campaigning hard on these kind of things.

MH Larry, if you voiced some concerns about it, just give us a sense of what they are.

LE Well, I've covered a lot of G8 summits and I've covered a lot of development issues over the years. My view of IF is that I totally accept that this is a completely different environment from 2005 or even the late 1990s when the Jubilee 2000 campaign was up and running. But my view of IF is that it just hasn't worked. It just hasn't captured the public imagination in the way those previous campaigns did. It lacks, in my view, focus, sharpness and energy. And it's virtually not talked about anywhere in the way that Make Poverty History was. Make Poverty History was part of the political fabric, it was part of the wider discourse back in 2005. And I fully accept this is not 2005, but I just don't think that IF has captured the imagination in any way.

I'm sure that, as always, the G8 summit will come up with a form of words and an agreement on some of the issues that Cameron is putting forward; but old cynic that I am I know that G8 leaders – once they get on those planes and leave Northern Ireland in mid-June – will almost certainly forget everything they've put on those pieces of paper and not actually fulfil them. So I don't think the politicians feel under any real pressure to deliver it in the way that they did certainly … I remember going to Cologne in 1998 and seeing the place ringed with protesters and that did actually make people like Bill Clinton, [former German chancellor Gerhard] Schroder, sit up and take notice. I just don't think the current crop of politicians at the G8 feel under any obligational pressure to do anything at the G8.

MH Well, it has its signature event in Hyde Park on 8 June, the same day as the hunger summit, so let's see if that impacts on things, but in the meantime let's move on to another question. Let's talk a bit about tax and we've a question here [that] says: the Starbucks, Amazon and other large corporation tax scandals that have been unveiled over the last year mean that change to the UK's tax system was inevitable, how do we ensure that these changes really allow developing countries to share in the benefits from day one and don't just create a tighter system that further locks developing countries out of the global economy? Jamie, that's one for you.

JD There's two sides to this. In fact, there's three – what was it that somebody said? "It takes three to tango in this case." There's the money that's escaping from developing country economies; there's the bribe, there's a bribee and then there's the accountants and lawyers who facilitate the transaction. And a lot of these people work and live in the murkier parts of the offshore financial system.

When it comes to transfer mispricing that enables multinational corporations to get away with not paying the taxes they should in these countries, we've got to tighten up the offshore financial system. And that requires the G8 making serious progress on public registries of beneficial ownership, tax conventions and information exchange – that enables developing countries to track down where this money has gone. And a lot of the agreements might be between the G8 nations, they won't necessarily let in developing countries. They have to let in developing countries to be able to track down and follow their money. But developing countries also need to have the capacity to do that. And the opening up of things, the transparency part of it, everyone's quite clear on and we need to be pushing hard on that, and campaigning hard on that, it's part of what the IF campaign's pushing on, we're all on that message.

The slightly more boring, nerdy bit of building up the capacity of revenue collection authorities and so on it mustn't drop that from the equation; that needs a lot of attention too. So we need to do both parts of that.

MH Justin, do you sense that there's a will for that because it's a big ask, isn't it?

JF I think this is one of the most exciting areas of what's on the G8 agenda.

MH He said it was nerdy.

JF Well, it's nerdy and exciting and this is where I also partly disagree with Larry about this summit not achieving anything. I think Gleneagles achieved a lot, but I think the difference with this summit is that it's taking on some more kind of transformational issues than just aid and other traditional development issues. If it could make a little bit of progress on tax and transparency, that could unlock many more resources for development. And I think the heart of it and what actually Cameron's been talking to Obama about, is this whole nerdy area of beneficial ownership, of about tax havens and how much the information will be exchanged with poor countries not just other developed countries.

And there's a big debate going on with Germany, Japan and America not really wanting the same level of openness that the UK want on knowing who really owns a company, that transparency, so that the money can't be hidden. Not really wanting the information to be exchanged completely on a global level. So this idea of a public registry which goes to the heart of what could come out a G8 if it was agreed is a big, I know, nerdy point, but is actually one that could unlock billions of dollars for development in the poorest countries.

I think Jamie's right, though, that there's another side of this which is that even if you unlock that money, is it going to be used to build schools, build health clinics? It feels to me a bit like on tax at the moment, it feels a bit – and Larry you should say, you were writing on this at the time I remember even the articles – 1993 on debt when we actually haven't quite developed the language to talk about this and it all sounds too complicated. The real breakthrough on debt was when we linked debt cancellation to peoples' lives. And I think we have to get better at talking about how getting better policies on tax and tax havens, beneficial ownership is actually about children living or dying, children going to school, mums and dads having a chance in life to make a living to be able to bring up their kids properly and we haven't quite got that, so it all sounds a little bit opaque. But I give quite a lot of credit to the UK government for pushing the boat out on tax, it's a difficult issue but if we made some progress at this G8 it could unlock a lot of money.

MH Ruth, do you sense that there's a common will to do this because you need a real push to be able to impact on multinational firms such as Starbucks and Amazon to make sure this tax does get paid.

RB Absolutely, and it's good to see that there's movement on tax. But coming from the Trade Justice Movement, you would expect me to bring things back to trade and I think there's a contradiction in Cameron saying that he wants to do a lot on tax while at the same time wanting to pursue further trade liberalisation because we know that for many of the poorest countries a lot of their government revenues come from trade taxes, that's tariffs at the border. If you're pushing to reduce these, you're pushing to reduce what amounts for some countries to 30% of their budget and they can't make that up through other means. There's often this suggestion they should make it up through VAT, for example, but we know it's incredibly hard to collect VAT, it takes a long time to put the infrastructure in place to collect that.

So I think we need a bit more coherence between the agendas on tax and the agenda on trade and we need to make sure that, in parallel to all the moves on tax, we also see some sensible thinking on trade that doesn't insist on ever increasing liberalisation and does recognise that different countries need different policy space and different means to address these issues.

LE Just three quick points: the development community's been a bit slow to pick up on tax. Some of the aid agencies have been very good on this and have pushing on it for quite a long time and I think generally the movement has been quite slow in picking up on tax as an issue. And the second point is that it's quite obvious why that is – it's because lots of rich and powerful people use tax havens to salt away their money and it's a tough nut to crack.

But the third thing, and I think it's quite exciting, it's the one area where I think there is real hope for political change in the short term, and that's because a lot of G8 governments need the dosh. People like George Osborne, I don't doubt his development credentials for a minute, but actually he's got a £120bn hole in his budget that he needs to fill. So the idea that Starbucks and Google and the rest of them are not paying their tax is not just a development issue for him, it's a homegrown issue.

And where I think the development community can actually make a difference here is by linking the domestic and the development agenda, and actually that's the way to build a coalition and a new campaign is by saying to people, "Look, we can crack down on tax havens. It means more money for schools and hospitals at home and it also means more money for schools and hospitals in emerging market countries and in sub-Saharan Africa." And that is a very, very fertile ground because I think the general public while Justin's right to say this is a much more difficult climate and there are lots of people who support Ukip who are not really natural supporters of development, to say the least, they are also completely outraged by what's going on in tax havens, and by the way in which Google and Starbucks are not paying their fair share.

So I think there is real fertile ground there and it's a really promising area for the development community not just over the next month but over the next few years. It's just like debt relief was back in the early 1990s. There's lots of scope for progress there.

MH So, George Osborne says something sensible – shocker! Let's move to another question from Andrew Palmer about transparency.

Andrew Hi, Andrew Palmer from Development Initiatives. At present, only four of the G8 countries have published to the International Aid Transparency Initiative – the UK, the US, Canada and Germany. My question to the panel is: does the panel agree that G8 countries should prioritise the information needs of developing countries and fulfil the transparency commitments they made at Busan?

MH Justin?

JF Yes and NGOs too and all people that work in the aid and development world should be transparent and more accountable. And I think this is a big and positive move that's happening. I think it links all the issues on the agenda at the G8 whether it's tax, whether it's to do with extractives, even to do with nutrition and the whole issue around land grabs, which is one of the other issues that we're campaigning on as part of Enough Food for Everyone. So I think the power of information and transparency particularly.

You know the world has changed dramatically since 2005 and even more since 2000. At Gleneagles, I think Facebook was just operating at Harvard. So we've got mass of new technology, access to Twitter, Facebook, we've got grass movements – I've just come back from Kenya, where you can criticise the elections but the groundswell of popular mobilisation around those elections, the information exchange, is really powerful. So if we can put information into the hands of people, they can hold companies to account, governments to account, big organised NGOs like Save the Children to account. I think that revolution is just beginning to happen.

And I think one of the other positive things that's on the G8 agenda which is all to play for is around the extractive industry's transparency initiative. If we can build on that and what's happened in America is it, Jamie, the Dodds Frank …

JD Dodds Frank…

JF Dodds Frank legislation, which if someone like Canada picked up, we've also started doing something in Europe. Again, opening up that information, I think, is extremely powerful.

MH Ruth, David Cameron was visibly very excited about the transparency bit of his blueprint, are you?

RB I think it's probably going to be a useful thing in and of itself. But again I've got to bring it back to trade. The lack of transparency in the trade deals that we're seeing is really shocking. Take India, for example, where people are starting to see that it's a deal that could rob them of access to cheap medicines, it could influence their ability to access seeds, which I think the IF campaign should be looking at in terms of access to food and nutrition. And we know that not only has civil society had no access to any of the documents but there's been very little access from the Indian parliament.

In terms of transparency, it's great if we can get it on things like Aids, but we really need to push this out further. I would like to make a plug for a campaign success on access to information. We saw the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement turned back from the EU last year, which was a real success for campaigners trying to defend freedom of information on the internet. So that was really fantastic and can demonstrate not only the importance of access to information for campaigners but that we can win.

JF Can I just say that I know we're all violently agreeing, but I would just disagree with Ruth a little bit. I think one of the problems in the NGO sector has been on trade. I think we've completely underestimated the power of trade and growth to lift people out of poverty. That doesn't mean that we believe completely in full liberalisation or believe in no rules; it doesn't mean you don't need to address issues about power in markets in terms of access to information. But I think one of the tragedies of the last few years is we haven't had the Doha trade deal. And as a result we have had more survival of the fittest, some very big countries doing trade deals. And during that whole Doha round, all the NGOs were completely against trade deals bar a few like Oxfam, and that was a real shame. And I think the NGOs have to get more into the benefits of trading growth and I think that's where most poor people are.

RB Can I respond quickly to that because I think it's a bit of a misrepresentation. If you look at our founding principles, it says very clearly that we are in favour of trade, and we're in favour of a fair multilateral system. Now we happen to think that the WTO is not it, and we happen to think that Doha was the wrong agreement for developing countries. And the reason why it stalled is because developing countries didn't want it. The reason why the economic partnership agreement stalled is also because developing countries don't want them. So I think it's a bit of a misrepresentation to say that trade is always good when many developing countries are objecting to the agreements that are being put on the table.

JF I don't think that Doha stalled because of developing countries not wanting it. Brazil in America couldn't reach a deal on some quite complex industrial and agricultural issues. That's why it stalled.

RB And India pushed back on agriculture.

MH I'm going to have to intervene there because we're going to take a short break; we've done tax and transparency, a lot more questions but we'll be back in just a moment.

MH Welcome back to our special edition of the Global development podcast. Our next question is from Laura Taylor.

Laura Thanks. I realise I'm just about to mark myself out as the token tree hugger in the room but …

MH We love those too.

Laura If the G8 concentrate on promoting existing models of economic growth without recognising that climate change is threatening the lives and the food security of millions of people, could it be argued that they're just fiddling while Rome burns?

MH Jamie, are they fiddling?

JD Look, this G8 summit can't get everything done in one go and I think something that has definitely occurred in the last few years is that the power of the G8 has somewhat diminished to get everything done. And there's still a big hangover since Copenhagen for a set of environmental issues.

What I would say is that I was in Africa last week at the World Economic Forum meetings in Cape Town and you do get a sense of a continent, at least, that could go in a few different directions, and there are policymakers there who really are interested in sustainable (in both senses of the word), inclusive economic growth, where you can be less carbon intensive, you can lift people out of poverty, you can do a whole set of things that the tree huggers and the people who like economic growth can all agree on.

You've got other people who just want growth as quickly as possible, just to reduce poverty as quickly as possible. You've just got other people who want growth so they can make for themselves and other elites as much money as quickly as possible. And those decisions are being made now at a very fast and furious pace. So I think while it is important to put pressure on the G8 and get some of those policies right, working more closely with those African policymakers who are making really important decisions about what kinds of carbon intensive growth they will have in the future is really important. Sub-Saharan Africa could become a global green growth hub and leapfrog, as it has with the mobile phone, a whole series of technologies that we've had to go through. And that's really exciting.

And sometimes I think the tree-hugger crowd – of which I have often been a part – tends to focus on the hair shirt and not the exciting opportunities. And that's something that I would say as a campaigner is often a tactical mistake. There are some excellent opportunities to invest in renewables on the continent, which could be a really exciting story for us all to agree on.

MH Larry, you've talked about the fact that the context here is this financial crisis and that's the backdrop to this – does that mean that climate change won't be such a factor, can't be such a factor?

LE Well, I think inevitably it isn't such a factor. It's not such a factor in domestic politics and it's not as big a factor in global politics. That's why an international agreement is proving incredibly hard to achieve on climate change. Politicians traditionally treat green politics or the environment as a luxury they can afford when times are good, which is why it was a big issue here in the first part of the 2000s, in the latter half of the 1980s, and the early part of the 1970s – all boom times for the western economy. When times are tough, people concentrate on other things such as growth and jobs and living standards, that's just the reality.

I think Laura's question is absolutely right. If the G8 does concentrate on growth at all costs, then we will fry the planet. I think most G8 countries do understand that there is a limit to growth in itself. One of the things that they should be looking at is using aid budgets to help developing countries adapt to the problems of climate change and lay the foundations of the green sustainable growth that Jamie was talking about because it is going to be very costly.

I interviewed Jim [Yong] Kim from the World Bank here a few weeks ago and he was very passionate about the need to start tackling climate change. So I don't think it's an issue that G8 politicians are unaware of, it's just that it is a G8 – what are you going to do without the buy-in of India and China – those are the two massive developing … and Brazil, I mean they're not members of the G8 so any agreement that the G8 could come up with on climate change would not really be worth very much without the commitment of some of the bigger developing nations.

MH You mentioned China, hold that thought for just a moment because we had a question from Christina Totina. Let me read this to you. She said: "In light of China's £75bn spend on aid and development projects in Africa over the past decade, how relevant is the G8 without China on board?" It's a good point isn't it, Justin?

JF It is and I think in a way the G20 has become an even more important forum in recent years, particularly since we last held the G8 in 2005. But I think also the G20 hasn't fulfilled its potential. It's interesting, having sat in a few G20 meetings and G8 meetings; the G8 was small enough to reach decisions and drive things forward; with the G20, there are so many around the table. It's a lot more than 20 – they say G20, but it actually gets up to 26 or 7 when you have people sitting on each other's laps around the table. And it [G20] found it hard apart from in London, and before that in Washington, in the midst of the financial crisis to actually agree anything much in substance to drive things forward.

And I think part of the problem is, is we've got very big powerful countries like China and India and Brazil there, Mexico, I think, is a bit of an exception, who are there fighting their corner but they're not yet fighting for big global results for everyone in the way that some members of the G8 have done at previous moments in history. So I think we're kind of caught in no man's land between an illegitimate G8, not yet a functioning G20, and without a multilateral system that's even wider that works.

To the previous question on climate change; in the next few years, we should reach – if we were really taking on the global problems – a global agreement on climate change, a global agreement on trade and shaping the post-2015 global poverty targets; and probably only that latter one on what comes after the millennium development goals will agree because multilateralism, the G20, the G8 are not able to actually come up with those types of agreements. And that puts a big responsibility on people to stand up and demand some of this change that we need.

MH So, Ruth, it asks fundamental questions about the G8 doesn't it? It's has it got the right members and are they doing the right things?

RB I think Justin raises an interesting question. For me, it's more a question of legitimacy. Why is this group of eight people around a table, admittedly the most powerful countries in the world, but why are they setting the agenda? Why are they saying we know best when it comes to things like development? And I think we do need to push for something that's much more democratic.

In 2009, we had, through the UN, a proposal to have a global economic council, for example. That was pushed back by the UK and the US in particular who weren't interested in that. And I think we do need to look for other places and more democratic, more legitimate processes that are happening.

And I'm particularly interested, for example, in La Via Campesina's international conference that is going to be happening at the same time as the G8, and there you'll have 500 small-scale farmers turning up from 70 different countries. I'm really interested in what they've got to say about how they think their economies should be structured so that they can produce and feed themselves.

And I think that on the climate change issue there's a huge lack of political leadership on this. I think whether or not your country is engaging in it, you know, we've just passed the four hundred parts per million – I mean that's terrifying isn't it? If I've understood the science right, that commits us to a two-degree change whatever we do now. And the G8 are saying nothing about it. That, to me, is absolutely terrifying and shows that they are the wrong people to be talking about these issues.

LE It's not just the G8 though, is it? It's some of the bigger emerging market countries have got to live up to their responsibilities, too. China is a sort of semi-detached member of some of these bodies. It has enormous clout but it's not really using it in any constructive way, as far as I can see, in any of these big multinational negotiations.

HM Isn't that why they need to be in the club?

LE Well, they are in the club, they're in the G20 and they're pivotal to the Doha, they were pivotal to the Doha round of talks, they could have actually swung those talks one way or another. But a lot of the time they just decide to sit on the sidelines and actually let other people do the heavy lifting.

I agree that the G8 is an inadequate forum but some of the bigger developing countries need to actually live up to their responsibilities as well here.

MH Larry, thanks. I've got to move on because we have a few more questions and we're running out of time a bit. A question from Laura Boughey

Laura Hi. I'm Laura Boughey from Bond. And this touches on the debate that we've mentioned on the role of the private sector in aid, so I'd like to ask the panel: given public resistance to aid and falling public revenues, politicians are turning to private sector involvement. How clear are the panel on the risks of missing redistributive opportunities and poverty reduction targets in light of lessons learned about the short-termism of the private sector from the structural adjustment programmes of past decades?

MH Justin, you've been doing things with GlaxoSmithKline so that might be a good one for you.

JF I'm in the kind of camp on this which believes that the private sector has an enormous potential to do good, but also has a terrible track record in the past at different moments; we've just seen Bangladesh, for example, a terrible tragedy with more than 1,000 people killed. And so we should both engage with them and work with them but we should also challenge and criticise them. I used to picket GlaxoSmithKline's annual general meeting. When I was at Oxfam, we had a campaign around GlaxoSmithKline which tried to get press when they put Nelson Mandela back in the dock in South Africa on expensive aid drugs. But under Andrew Witty, under the changes that they've made in terms of what they're prioritising, they're now looking much more at how they harness their core business to do good.

And I think the reason we went into the partnership with GlaxoSmithKline, which I think is a challenge to other companies, is not about the bit of money they give us –it is important, but it's a small amount – but it's more about whether they harness their knowledge, expertise in core business. So, for instance, as part of our partnership launch they've transformed a mouthwash into a gel that stops babies dying from neonatal sepsis, which is an infection that occurs when you cut their umbilical cord which kills nearly up to a million children a year.

Now that's them using all of their capability to do something that will help reduce our millennium development goal four on child mortality, and that's a good thing. But we should go in with eyes wide open and we should challenge as well when they don't live up to what we want them to do, but we should also encourage.

MH Jamie, can you do both of those things?

JD Absolutely, yes. The idea is to get more investment that is a higher quality and more responsible adhering to rule of law and with strong institutions and checks and balances and a government that can keep an eye on things, that's the ideal. Whether countries have the capacity to manage the private sector and create the rules of the road and make sure that they adhere to the law is difficult, especially in resource-rich governance-weak countries, and I just want to talk about that for a second, because I just want to pick up on Larry being bit down about campaigners at the moment, he's wrong to be.

LE But not you?

JD Well, no because we've just been part of a fantastic campaign on Publish What You Pay that has, I think, in the process of achieving things that are potentially much bigger than what we did with "Drop the Debt" in terms of the natural resources of many developing countries that are going to be exploited right, there's no campaign that's going to successfully stop their exploitation. The Chinese, the Brazilians, the Indians want these resources, and by the way, so do the French and the Germans and the British and the Americans; and so do African citizens because they want to develop their economies and they need this investment. And they have the resources under the ground, and they're getting international investment in to exploit those resources and how that happens, how it is managed is the big story of our time. If those resources that are accrued are well invested in the transformation of their economies, we'll see a very different Sub-Saharan African inclusive growth trajectory over the next generation.

If it is not, you'll find entrenched further elites and mal-governance and mal-development of the sort that you've seen not well reflected in places like Nigeria. And it would be just an awful historic missed opportunity. The great news is, because of the bunch of campaigning that's happened in the last couple of years, there are laws in place, improving global governance norms about how the international, multinational resource exploitation companies have to behave. And, as those norms are being put in place through the London Stock Exchange and the New York stock exchange, we need to make sure that also covers the Johannesburg stock exchange, Accra, Nairobi and so on. And it has to go down to a national level in every developing country.

I just got back yesterday from Mozambique; in the next three years, $30bn is going to be invested in Mozambique to extract mainly gas and coal. And how that money is used or abused is the big story and all the anti-corruption campaigners are very worried about it, we need to help them.

MH Thank you for that. I've just got just enough time to take one question from the floor?

Hilary OK, thank you. My name's Hilary Burrage. One of the things that I'm very interested in is that we were talking about tax not being paid and there are many other avoidable economic mistakes, if you want to call it that – you know what I mean by that. For instance, harmful traditional practices which occur in many of the countries. We're talking about are not only humanitarian disasters – female genital mutilation; things like that are absolutely unspeakable – but also extremely expensive for the countries involved. To give you a concrete example, it is thought that a 2% increase in mortality probably arises from that particular instance and there are many others. And we all know from medical literature that for every 1% of children who die, generally speaking, another 10% are damaged.

So I want to know what are we doing to estimate the cost of this to economies because there are costs to economies as well as people, and what are we doing? It's much easier to stop in some ways than, say, malaria because if we could persuade people to stop, it stops, and that would actually benefit economies enormously.

MH OK. Jamie, what can the G8 do about that?

JD Sorry, are we talking about female genital mutilation?

Hilary We're talking about the cost of traditional practices …

HM How traditional practices are impacting on …

Hilary … as in because they stop women being involved in economies …

JD One very specific example which actually tees-off what Ruth was talking about agriculture; most small farmers in Africa are women and they don't have access to credit, government services or property rights. That is an egregious state of play and it's because of traditional, conservative customs and so on. There is a strong movement afoot to change that but it's certainly not something that's going to be changed by the G8. In fact, if we came wading in too heavily you could create all sorts of distortions in the way things could happen. There is a strong and growing movement of small farmers across Africa and they need to take this on and we need to help them build the capacity so they can take it on. We've been campaigning that the next year is the AU's year of agriculture. So the AU is celebrating this year the 50th anniversary of the AU. For the next year, it's the year of agriculture 10 years after the Maputo Declaration. We're campaigning to put women's rights and the rights of small farmers at the centre of the new strategy for agriculture for the next 10 years. And that would be one way of addressing some of what you're talking about.

MH Justin, can the G8 hope to impact on something that's so internal to individual countries themselves?

JF I don't think this is an issue for the G8 but I do think it is a big issue. And I think it's an interesting one and I know you've put it around a specific issue of female genital mutilation. But I think the whole issue around ideas and beliefs and how they reinforce poverty is a massive issue. If you were going to be honest, in India one of the two big causes of poverty are castes and attitudes towards girls and women, much more than many other government policies. So how do you change those ideas and beliefs?

It's the same in our own country; many of our attitudes in the past, whether it's to do with racism, attitudes to do with disability, to do with homosexuality – lots of different issues have held back different constituencies from being able to fulfil their potential. And I think sometimes development is a kind of ideas and beliefs in politics free zone. And we've got to put those kind of issues back into the debate. We're not just going to change things by being clever economists and anthropologists, we actually have to have politics, ideas and beliefs and this is a battle, one of the issues we're talking about is a battle of ideas and beliefs.

MH There I have to wrap it up. I know you have other questions but it's been a stimulating debate – I hope you agree. Can I thank our audience and our panellists: Justin Forsyth, Jamie Drummond, Ruth Bergan and Larry Elliott. Give yourselves a round of applause.

We're hoping that some of the issues are a little clearer, and here's hoping that some of the key players listen in – yes that does mean you, Mr Cameron! Before we go, let me remind you that the debate goes on 24 hours, seven days a week on our website; as ever we welcome your comments. I'm Hugh Muir. The producer was Matt Hill from here in Kings Place. Thank you for listening and goodbye.

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The president of the EU's newest member, Croatia, has urged Britain not to leave but instead to help reform Europe from the inside.

"The reason for us to enter is the same as yours is to stay," Ivo Josipovic told the Guardian during a visit to London before Croatia's formal accession on 1 July, when it will become the 28th member state. "It is a great opportunity. I always ask the critics what Greece would look like without the EU. I am a Euro-optimistic."

Josipovic said his meeting with David Cameron on Thursday left him convinced that Britain would not abandon the EU. "Looking at situation here, I don't think its going to happen. I heard the prime minister … and I read about the plans of your government. It's not anti-European," the Croatian president said.

He added a British exit "would be negative for Europe and for Croatia as well, because UK is an important country with an important economy, with important resources of all kind: the democratic tradition, historical, cultural. So definitely a break with the EU would not be a good thing … I would not like to see it."

Since Croatia applied for EU membership in 2003, the fortunes of both have fluctuated and are experiencing a downturn. Croatia is in recession with an unemployment rate of over 18% and, in the short term at least, membership could worsen the economic situation.

Croatia will erect a tariff wall between it and some of its major Balkan markets to the east. It will mean that many tourists, Russian and Turkish for example, will require a visa to spend their holidays on the Croatian coast, and it could accelerate a brain drain if the nation's best and brightest seek work across Europe.

However, Josipovic argued that EU trade and investment would outweigh the downsides to membership, and he pledged to do more to make it easier for European firms to invest in Croatia.

"It is complicated to come to do business – complicated because of the old mentality and the wish to put everything under norms. But the government is doing its best to change these things," he said. "There are obstacles but day by day we are making it easier."

Josipovic indicated that Croatia would side with the UK in seeking to focus the EU on its basic functions: maintaining a common market, promoting democracy and peace, while cutting back on what he saw as excessive Brussels bureaucracy.

He also said Croatia would be in favour of lifting the arms embargo on Syria "because in our history we were under aggression and couldn't obtain weapons. So equal chances should be provided to both sides."

Croatia has been criticised for the fact that there have been no convictions for the war crimes committed in 1995, when hundreds of Serb civilians were killed during and after Croatia's Operation Storm offensive.

Josipovic argued that investigators faced obstacles looking into crimes committed nearly 20 years ago, especially as previous nationalist governments had been reluctant to prosecute. But he added that the prosecutors would not give up.

"The war crimes investigations will never be suspended. There are no time limits," he said, adding that none of those responsible for the war crimes "will sleep peacefully". © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds