Posts from the ‘Greek politics’ Category

Refugees: the tip of the iceberg for the EU

moaria1

Lesvos Moria refugee camp

The 2016 most used word:  refugees – The inflow of refugees from the neighbouring Turkish coast is impressive. Sleepy, self-satisfied Europe eyes incredulously the surge of uprooted people from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and so on. European citizens or I should say West European citizens, who have been watching the Middle East crisis on tv and wondering where this place is, are suddenly faced with the reality of the situation in the faces of refugees. East Europeans, some of whom have experienced extreme poverty and forced migration not so long ago, are more weary. In Greece the refugees had the good luck to land on the islands of the North Aegean (mostly..) – the majority of the inhabitants of these islands are the progeny of people who have themselves fled from war and destruction in Asia Minor. Their first reaction is to save from the sea, help survive and protect as many as possible of the refugees who reach their land. But it is not enough…

If the inflow continues as it does today there will soon be a new tragedy both on the islands as well as in the Greek mainland. The country is not prepared, could not be prepared, to look after such large numbers of people. In fact, Europe is not prepared to host, help, protect and finally integrate such an influx. The only way out is political.

Europe, the old continent, needs to act as the broker of peace. Europe needs to enforce an embargo on the sale of arms on all war -engaged governments, take the initiative in peace negotiations, offer incentives for peaceful collaboration to governments striving for peace and viable development while  applying a products boycott against war- mongering governments. The European Union present leadership needs to prove to its citizens that it has a good reason to exist and it must do it now, before it is too late.

The refugees problem is the tip of the iceberg: pockets of extreme poverty and discontent develop within various European capitals together with neo-fascist entities that threaten the social cohesion of the EU and not only. Terrorist attacks multiply and neo-fascist entities are on the rise. In addition,  the citizens of the European Union feel threatened by the increasing pressure for more productivity and the deterioration of their quality of life.

Unless the governments of the EU realise the problems and the necessity for positive and fast action we may witness its dissolution.

All the President’s women – part two

TsarouhaThe Ministry of Macedonia-Thrace of previous governments has become part of the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reform, a “demotion” according to right wing politicians, has been given to Ms. Maria Kolia – Tsarouha. Ms. Tsarouha was first elected in her home town, Serres, in 2000, with New Democracy. In 2012, after refusing to sign the second mnemonium, she was ousted from New Democracy and joined the Independent Greeks Party. It is considered common knowledge that Ms Kollia-Tsarouha belongs to the close circle of ex-Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, former President of New Democracy.

KountouraMs Eleni Kountoura is Deputy Minister for tourism. She has followed more or less the same route as Ms Kollia: from New Democracy to the Independent Greeks and now to the ministry. She is a graduate of the Gymnastics Academy of Athens and a champion athlete. True to their reputation Greek mass media concentrate on her international career as a top model….We are looking forward to her efforts to boost Greek tourism.

Rania Antonopoulou, deputy Minister for the reduction of unemployment comes from the academic sector. She gave up her teaching post in Bard College to offer her services to the most difficult task of this government: unemployment. Due to her long stay abroad she is not very well known in Greece.

antonopoulou

The percentage of women in the present Parliament is 23,5%, higher than in previous Parliaments but still not as high as the goal of 33% set by the Greek women’s movement.

All the President’s women…

(An old post that was never ….posted. Personal issues kept me away but today, seeing the attack on two of the President’s women I have decided to post it without corrections but with some additions. Hope you all had a good Easter holiday )

First of February: Athens is covered in an off white sandy veil. The miniature sand storm comes from Africa and it visits Greece regularly three or four times a year.

It is customary to wish each other “Kalo mina” – Happy new month – at the beginning of every month. This month the wish has a special meaning.

The new Greek government is a fact. Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) has won the elections and managed to form a government allying itself with right wing Independent Greeks party.

The composition of the government has been analysed according to the media’s assessment of each Minister’s news worthiness. Mr. Yannis Varoufakis, for example, has appeared on the BBC, Alexis Tsipras on every other tv station and/or newspaper. I want to speak about the members of the new government who have not reached tv star status.

zoi-konstantopoulouFirst of all in a 41 person government I counted 6 women plus the new Parliament Chairwoman, Ms. Zoe Konstantopoulou. Ms. Kostantopoulou is the daughter of a very prominent attorney (he was one of the judges in the Greek junta trial) and popular political figure, Nicos Konstantopoulos who headed Synaspismos, the major component of SYRIZA, from 1993 to 2004. Ms Zoe Konstantopoulou a well known lawyer in her own right has become famous for her spirited spats with opposition MPs during her first four years in Parliament. Everyone looks forward to her handling of her new post.

valavaniMs. Nantia Valavani, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Finances, is a graduate of the Economics University of Athens and holds a doctorate from the Communication and Mass Media dpt of the same University. Ms.Valavani combines the abilities of a competent economist with the sensitivity of a literary critic: she is one of the most prominent Bertolt Brecht scholars. Born in 1954 she took part in the anti-dictatorship resistance originally in her native Crete and later, as a student in Athens where she was arrested and imprisoned for months.

Tasia Christodoulopoulou, Deputy Minister for immigration, is a prominent lawyer and human rights activist.xristodoulopoulou

Mass disinformation media

 

With less than fifteen days to crucial national elections it is educative to watch the actions of the Greek mass media. Most of the nation-wide private channels operate with temporary licenses, with all the consequences this can have….. When SYRIZA asked in Parliament whether radio and television stations pay the required fees for the air frequencies used the government answer was cryptic…..  The abrupt shutting down of the public television signalled the most massive reaction to the government’s policies from citizens of all parties.

The picture today is disappointing  in the majority of nation wide private tv stations.  News reports are biased, foreign press reports are misrepresented, journalists coordinating panels are practically absent, allowing the loudest to rule the discussion and driving the public away… At a recent poll about what Greek people do most on their pcs the answer was “watch the news”. In a country where information technology is not an everyday word more and more people turn to internet sources to be properly informed about what happens in the world but in their own country too.

I found the best example in “Efimerida ton Syntakton” (it means the “Editors Newspaper”(http://www.efsyn.gr/arthro/mega-polemaei-den-metafrazei). They have a picture from MEGA channel’s news where the name of the rising, Spanish left wing movement “Podemos” is translated as “polemos” which in Greek means war!!! This “lapse” appeared to link SYRIZA with war!!

 

Lost in  the translation

Lost in the translation

According to SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras the connection between the present government, private banks and private radio and television organisations is cloudy to say the least. When healthy businesses are unable to find loans television channels, already debt-ridden, are given loans without any guarantees…

 

Greek style Menu 2015

Greek coffee shop menu

Greek coffee shop menu

 

A Greek coffee costs an egg, instant coffee (Nescafe) costs 2 eggs, iced Nescafe costs 2 eggs and a bag of ice, a plain tsipouro (ouzo type drink..) costs a bag of mountain grass – “horta” for those of you who understand Greek –but if you want your tsipouro to be accompanied by “meze”, which means fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese or salami it costs a bale of hay. Any other plain drink costs a chicken but a special drink goes up to a kilo of minced meat. The menu continues in the same vein but the best part is in the asterisk:” the above mentioned prices are valid for those who voted for PASOK. Nea Dimokratia voters pay double and all the others pay nothing!!”

The above menu is the biggest hit on Greek Facebook today. The coffee shop with the creative prices is in Ptolemaida, in Western Macedonia. It is indicative of the mood of the 25th January election. A sense of humor detoxifies all situations. Let’s keep it this way…

 

Five causes for resistance and solidarity in Greece today

We need to resist the totalitarian attitude of the Greek government who, in the name of an elusive “development” has started a war against anyone who disagrees with its measures. We need to express our solidarity and support to the many people suffering by this attitude.

  1. A modern Bethlehem has been set up in Syntagma Square: Syrian refugees, among them children and one pregnant woman, have started a hunger strike to be given traveling documents to reach other parts of Europe. A SYRIZA MP has expressed his decision to join them.
Syrian refugees on hunger strike

Syrian refugees on hunger strike

 

  1. Nicos Romanos, a 20+ armed robbery convict, has passed his University Entrance Exams while in prison but is being refused permission to attend classes. He is on hunger strike for over two weeks now and his health is in danger. Romanos first came to the limelight because he was with Alexis Grigoropoulos the night he was shot and killed by a riot policeman. In spite of the police efforts there is no proof that the young man was ever involved in terrorist activities.
Nikos Romanos at the time of his arrest

Nikos Romanos at the time of his arrest

  1. In Northern Greece the attacks on environment and on the populace trying to protect it continue. Largely ignored by the mainstream media the resistance of the people of Chalkidiki goes on.
Skouries demonstration

Skouries demonstration

  1. Police brutality is on the increase. After the uncalled attacks on the Disabled people’s demonstration last week there was further proof of it last night.

young girl attacked

  1. A trainer in the police Academy has come forward andstated that while teaching one of the cadets stated “I am a fascist and proud of it”. The most disturbing feature of the incident is that it was applauded by the rest of the class.

The bet for Greek society is how to resist efficiently, how to stand next to the suffering citizens without taking away their dignity.

One example by the newly elected regional government: Ms. Rena Dourou suggested to the Minister for Interior Affairs Mr.Dinopoulos to use 2.5 billion marked for festive activities to re-electrify poor households in their area. The proposal had been put forth by the audience in a popular tv show and became a reality. We could do more

Greek opinion polls show SYRIZA win: yet people prefer Samaras as Prime Minister!

 

Opinion polls in Greece depict, most accurately, the citizens ‘confusion and despair much more than anything else!

Let me share with you the latest one I found on TVXS (a site run by journalist Stelios Kouloglou, who was one of SYRIZA’s candidates for the European Parliament elections). It was conducted nationwide  by RASS from 29 to 31 October on behalf of iefimerida.gr.

opinionpollsnov2014

As you can see at the graph above, 26.4% of the electorate have chosen SYRIZA, New Democracy has scored 21.1% while the River, the newest addition to the Greek political scene led by Stavros Theodorakis, another journalist, comes third with 5.8%. The Communist Party of Greece reaches 5. 4% ,just 0.3% more than the extreme right wing Golden Dawn. The social democratic PASOK and the right wing Independent Greeks barely make it into Parliament while Democratic Left of Mr. Fotis Kouvelis stays out with 1%!.

On the other hand, the electorate appears divided on the question of early elections. 47.3 consider early elections a catastrophe for the economy while 46.1% hold the opposite view. Mr. Samaras is considered a better bet for Prime Minister by 35.2% while Alexis Tsipras follows with 27.9% thus choosing the leader of New Democracy ahead of the leader of SYRIZA, the party they are going to vote for!

One explanation for this division of public opinion is the role played by the mainstream mass media. According to most of them Greek economy is recovering and a change of government would destroy any chance of ending austerity! The result of this one-sided information has led to mistrust of the media and an increase of internet news sites which people seem to trust more.

The Greek people keep hearing that the Greek economy is recovering but fail to see this recovery mirrored in their living standards. Over taxation, repeated mistakes in its calculation coupled with increasing inefficiency of infrastructure in health care, transportation and education turn citizens into cynical, mistrusting people.

 

Rain, disasters and politics

 

Yesterday winter paid its first visit to Greece and found it, once again, totally unprepared.

Flooded streets, cars carried by the waters for hundred of meters, damaged houses and destroyed businesses have become a common occurrence on Greek tv at every rainfall heavier than usual.

cars washed away by the flood

cars washed away by the flood

Anti – flood infrastructure, projects that have been announced and never materialized are the cause of the biblical catastrophe most acutely felt in Western Athens, the poorest area of the Greek capital and Nikea, a Piraeus suburb. Angry and desperate citizens who feel totally deserted by the central government explained that this is a repeat performance for the last 30 years or so.

The Prime Minister called an extraordinary meeting of the Civil protection Agency to coordinate the government’s actions on ways to face this natural disaster.

Unfortunately, once again, Mr. Samaras exhibited an affinity for petty politics. He excluded from the meeting  Ms. Rena Dourou, the newly-elected governor of the Attica region, the region most hit by the floods. Ms. Dourou represents SYRIZA, Mr. Samaras’ bogeyman.

Ms. Dourou was with the citizens of the region and thanked the fire department for their unstinted help. After being left out of the extraordinary meeting she stated that this is not the time for petty criticism; the communities suffering once again know that such petty political behavior is the root cause of the lack of flood protection infrastructure.

Interior Minister Argyris Dinopoulos, who visited some areas struck by the storms was booed by locals and blamed for the situation.

People left homeless by the floods are being housed by their respective municipalities.

Greek autumn panorama

The song that best fits this year’s autumn is “it’s raining taxes”!!

While the weather is being most charitable, few showers and enough chill to make the sunshine very welcome, our government is playing hide and seek with our nerves. It’s pouring taxes on the Greek public. This is something we are used to in recent years… The most annoying thing this time is the inconsistency: taxes are imposed to be retracted because the calculation is wrong, deadlines are announced to be cancelled within a week, the number of installments are changed weekly and so on… This at a time when citizens’ trust to politicians has reached below zero temperature and with good reason.. 

 

Polls show a steep rise for SYRIZA (Coalition of Radical Left), the major opposition party, and the government’s react ion was to ask for a vote of confidence by the Parliament. The government got the go ahead by the Parliament with 155 votes. The opposition is asking for early elections while P.M. A. Samaras assures us of recovery.

A most confusing time as you understand.

If you add the international situation in our area it is a good thing that life carries on as usual. Visitors to Greece often wonder by the amount of people having coffee and even the sheer amount of coffee shops. I believe that this continuous contact with other people, relatives, friends, acquaintances and the solidarity among us, the plain people, is what keeps us sane and smiling.

Midsummer night concert

Haris Alexiou sings in solidarity to the cleaners’ struggle

Yesterday night Syntagma Square was once more flooded with protesters but with a difference: last night was a singing protest! Haris Alexiou, one of the most popular and respected singers in Greece gave an open air concert in support of the cleaners’ struggle*. Wearing cleaning gloves she waved her hands in return to the audience clapping and singing along.  The Concert was organised and supported by the radio station “Sto kokkino” – it means “on red” , a left-wing radio. Haris sang old and new ballads and managed to refresh our souls despite the heat!

Haris Alexiou's solidarity concert

Haris Alexiou’s solidarity concert

*The cleaners’struggle has received great publicity and attracted much sympathy worldwide because in their case the injustice is blatant. They were found “redundant” and fired. They took the government to court and were justified but the government has appealed the court decision and they are still out of a job.  They belonged to the Economics Ministry employees – all 600 of them. The Ministry has had to replace them with private cleaning agencies which cost them as much as the full time cleaners.

The cleaning ladies  have been camping outside the Finances Ministry for the last two months. They have become a focal point for many other public sector employees who have been summarily fired in order to satisfy the Troika demand for a smaller public sector.

Tax evaders get gifts we get fired - The cleaners'banner

Tax evaders get gifts we get fired – The cleaners’banner