Archive for June, 2012

And then they went to the seashore

Greece has had a busy agenda this year: we had elections – twice, we have had two different governments and going for the third, right before the elections fires ate up part of the Attica forests, pharmacists refuse to provide medicine for the social security patients claiming that they have not been paid for months, the new Prime Minister goes to hospital together with the new Financial Minister, pensioners do not know how much pension they are going to get!

How can one react to such a situation? Pretend to be Zorbas and start dancing or, with temperatures around and over 35 degrees, hit the seaside. This is in accordance with Melina Merkouri’s interpretation of Medea: no tragedy, no killing of children, a happy family which, after the father’s minor lapse, get together again and head to the seaside. How can a woman, even a barbarian, kill her children?
With these thoughts in mind I have started looking for the perfect island for this year.

Seychelles Ikaria style

Ikaria, Nikaria according to the locals, is very popular with the Greeks but not so much with foreign tourists. According to friends coming from the island Ikaria is a well-kept secret.

I was invited to the 100 year anniversary of the Ikarian revolution, a revolution whose existence I ignored but it says something for this tiny island’s inhabitants. During the 1912 Turkish – Italian war the Ikariotes took advantage of the conflict and rebelled against the Turkish guard (a very small guard to be honest) and declared the island an independent state with its own national anthem and flag. They were incorporated to the Greek state five or six months later but they still threaten with independence when ignored by the central government and always vote left. “The red island” among its friends, Ikaria boasts archaeological sites, lovely beaches, geological wonders, villages that wake up and start work after 10 o’clock at night (!) and endless fairs: Saint this and saint that are reason enough to have a celebration that includes eating, drinking the famous Ikarian wine and a lot of dancing. Ikariotikos is a very popular island dance performed on every occasion and often without any occasion.

Maganitis: village and beach with interesting geological phenomena. Reminded me of Meteora.

Well, Ikaria is not an easy destination but definitely a different, interesting, vibrant, colourful small island.

New Greek government – something old, something new, mostly blue

A new government, largely composed of New Democracy politicians with a sprinkle – literally- of PASOK and Democratic Left influence, was announced on Thursday and the swearing in ceremony will take place today.
The reactions are still lukewarm since everybody is waiting for the government’s programmatic commitments.
Here are the names with as much information as I thought would help us to understand the identity of this government. Firstly, let us notice the number of Ministers, Deputy Ministers etc: the ministerial council is made up of 39 people with only two women among them. The size of this government has already been criticized as too large,too masculine and too much to the right.
Mr.Antonis Manitakis, well known and respected professor, very close to the Democratic Left, is the new Minister of Administrative Reform and electronic governance. Minister of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights is Mr Roupakiotis, also of the Democratic Left, well known lawyer who has served as chairman of the Athens ‘Lawyers Association.
Mr. Vassilis Repanos, one of the PASOK favourites, is the new Finance Minister.
Mr. Athanassios Tsaftaris is the second PASOK influence and heads the Agricultural Development and Foodstuffs Ministry.
All others are connected to New Democracy or belong to its sphere of influence.
Mr.Dimitris Avramopoulos – Foreign Affairs Minister
Mr.Euripides Stylianoudis – Interior Affairs Minister
Mr.Panos Panayotopoulos – Defense Minister
Mr. Kostis Hatzidakis, ministry of Development, Transport and Networks.
Mr.Kostas Mousouroulis, Maritime and Aegean Minister
Mr. Evangelos Livieratos, Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change
Mr. Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos Education Minister
Mr. Yiannis Vroutsis, Labour and Social Security Minister
Mr. Andreas Lykourentzos, Health and Social Solidarity Minister
Mr. Nikos Dendias, Public Order Minister
Ms Olga Kefaloyianni, Tourism MinisterΥπουργείο Τουρισμού
Mr. Theodoros Karaoglou, Minister of Thrace and Macedonia.
Finally, Mr. Simos Kedikoglou has been appointed Government spokesman.

New Greek government of unknown composition

It has finally been decided that a Greek government can be appointed since three of the political parties have agreed to support it. Right wing New Democracy, Social democratic PASOK and left wing Democratic Left have met and now the discussion has moved to its composition.

Mr. Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the Democratic Left has just left Mr. Samaras office in Parliament and stated that his party’s participation in the new government was decided by the large majority of the Parliamentary group and that their main concern now is the kind of policies to be implemented and not the government’s composition.

On the PASOK front, Mr. Venizelos’proposal for a technocrats’ government has not met with enthousiasm in the party’s Parliamentary group. According to journalists’ reports well known MPs have argued against the leader’s proposal.
Discussions are in progress.
These developments have left a bitter taste to the citizens since the denial of the same parties to form a government after the last elections has not been fully justified.

Greek elections – 17 May 2012

69.19 % of the votes have been counted and the results so far are as follows:

New Democracy, the right wing party has 30.13%, The Coalition of the Radical Left received 26,47%, PASOK (The Panhellenic Socialist Movement) 12.67%,  the party of the Independent Greeks – a right wing split from New Democracy  7.43%, Golden Dawn – a nationalist extreme right party 6.94%, the Democratic left – a renovative left party 6.05% and the Communist Party of Greece 4.50%. No other party has managed to reach the 3% threshold to enter parliament.

At a first glance my estimation is that the Greek electoral body acted on the motto “better the devil you know”, a motto strengthened by an unbelievable campaign of terror that had echoes of cold war arguments.

The most disturbing result is of course that of the Golden Dawn, an extreme right, xenophobic, nationalist party that has been blamed for many violent incidents against immigrants and for physically attacking two female left wing MPs during a television panel discussion.

The Golden Dawn has signalled a dark sundown

Greek police is still seeking Ilias Kassidiaris, one of the extreme right MPs recently elected with the Golden Dawn ballot, for assaulting two female left wing MPs during a television panel.

“Kalimera Ellada” – Good morning Greece, is a very popular early morning information show of a conservative channel (Antenna) hosted by George Papadakis, an experienced and popular newsman. The discussion seemed to be developing normally when Rena Dourou, SYRIZA MP, mentioned Mr.Kassidiaris’pending trial for assault and armed robbery.  Mr. Kassidiaris’reaction was to throw a glassfull of water on Ms.Dourou. When Liana Kanelli, Communist Party MP and respected journalist, reacted by throwing a newspaper across the table the enraged neo-nazi MP slapped her across the face and tried to hit her again while Mr. Papadakis tried in vain to restrain him.

During the evening news the channel explained how Ilias Kassidiaris managed to escape breaking a door and threatening the personnel that he would be back with a hundred people.

An arrest warrant has been issued by the prosecutor’s office and Mr. Kassidiaris is in hiding until this moment.

from tvxs - a picture of shame

from tvxs – a picture of shame



Bureaucracy thy name is Greece

I am coming back to Niko Ago’s case not only because I like to know the development of every story I read, not because he is a person I know and respect but because it is a small example of the labyrinth Greek citizens are faced with. In this case there is no discrimination against immigrants – the greek state is no racist: bureaucracy tortures all of us equally.

To our story: Mr. Ago was asked to leave the country willingly by the 16th of June 2012 in order to avoid deportation. He appealed against the decision of the Regional authorities to a civil court. Unfortunately for him, while the court can issue a decision within 60 days the Regional authorities have given him a 30 day time limit!! If the court accepts his appeal and allows him to stay on  after 32 days Mr. Ago has to leave and come back. Mr. Ago will be put to the unnecessary expense of a trip home plus the psychological trauma of his children to be forced to be separated from their father because the Regional authorities did not give him the same time limit as the court to allow for justice to be applied in a really fair way. In case Mr. Ago or other legal immigrants, who cannot renew their residence permit for a minor lapse, cannot leave the country they suddenly become illegal and are open to all kinds of exploitation.

A couple of months ago, speaking with a relative who migrated to  New Zealand 10 years ago, I learnt that in order to start a business in Auckland you need capital, a bank account and an application to the IRS. In Greece you need to collect something like 15 signatures from various offices and authorities, you need capital and to find someone you know or knows you in the IRS!!

The doctrine of bureaucracy reigns in the whole of the civil service. It does not just inconvenience people but indirectly feeds the clientelle system: lost in this maze of papers, documents etc you look for someone to help you. This someone is usually a civil servant who gets paid extra to do what the state pays him to do in any case or helps you out as a favour and asks for a favour in return.. which is, often, your vote for a particular party.

The recent crisis seems to have a positive effect on this phenomenon. At least in some cases. I hope that Niko Ago’s will be one of them.

Threat du jour (like plat du jour…)

I borrow the very apt title of an article by Stelios Kouloglou on his info site Tvxs (in Greek it means television without frontiers) to try and give you the atmosphere on Greek mass media and television in particular.

The effort to disorientate the Greek citizens on the eve of elections is reaching hysteria proportions. Everyday there is a new catastrophe that will befall the country if the responsible proponents of adherence to the rules of the loan agreement are not elected: instead of learning what the parties propose their representatives explain most graphically what will happen if SYRIZA is elected. The “return to the drachma” is the most popular scenario with the immigration issue a close second.

While all parties agree that a “renegotiation”of the loan agreement terms is imperative they cannot agree on the method of this “renegotiation”.

In the meantime, Golden Dawn is left alone to “enforce the law” against immigrants (irrespective of whether they are legal or not)in neighbourhoods with real problems thus earning the reputation of the protector of the weak!! Greek society does not seem to realise that this political formation is a neo-nazi organisation and they are viewed as a mixture of psychotic, problematic youth and nationalist bravado.