Posts tagged ‘Greek crisis’

Greek politics: Theater of the absurd

From the mobilisation in Ikaria

From the mobilisation in Ikaria

It is becoming more and more difficult to report news from Greece, my country, in an unbiased manner. It is becoming obvious, more and more every day, that there is a “conspiracy” (for lack of a better word) to slaughter labour rights and therefore the working people for the benefit of an undefined and mostly imaginary “development”.

It is a universal truth that “development” is a desirable state. Who wants to stay behind? The dilemma that emerges today in our part of the world is “Development for whom? Development in what direction?” Is it “development” to turn into desert a spot of natural beauty in order to “create jobs”? Is it “development” to ask people to work, uninsured, for whatever salary his employer suggests? Is it “development” to dismantle [1]hospitals on far away islands without providing adequate health facilities? Is it “development” when salaries drop and prices skyrocket because they follow the rules of the market?

Does the Greek situation mark the return of TINA-there is no alternative, according to Ms Thatcher, to the barbarism of unbridled profiteering?

The general sentiment is that the country is cruising towards a steel door and no one can find the brakes.

[1] The hospital of Ikaria, built by funds donated from expatriates and not by the State, is ‘abolished” and the islanders sent to nearby Samos. It is obvious that this is a move planned on the map and not rooted in reality. During the winter months the Ikariotes are cut off from any other land and have had to look after themselves for centuries. Now they have to become their own doctors and midwives.

The Greek crisis and survival portraits

John, 43 years old, has been a shopkeeper all his life. His record shop in one of the southern suburbs of Athens was a meeting place for music lovers. Two years ago he was forced to close it due to lack of customers. “I am luckier than most, he smiles. I have found a seasonal job and the summers are long in Greece”. What happens in the winter, I wonder. “I collect unemployment but also go to my father-in-law’s olive grove and help him out. It is not a lot of money but I get the olive oil of the year. I have no children, my wife works, I am better off than many others”.

I met John at the Metropolitan Social healthcare Center in Ellinikon where he works as a volunteer three times a week. The Center started with about 60 volunteers and today has about 150. The Municipality of Elliniko – Argyroupoli covers the administrative expenses. What does John do at the healthcare center? “I collect the information and direct the patients to the relevant doctor. I make appointments, give information, help out wherever needed. As I said I am better off than most so I want to give something back”.

Annoula is about 43 too. She is divorced and has a teenage son. Her ex-husband helps with the expenses. “He still has a job but is also insecure”. An award – winning graphic artist for 20 years Anna lost her job when the record company she worked for went bankrupt four years ago. With her redundancy pay she set up her own office creating newspapers lay outs, collaborating with various municipalities in their cultural events. “I was doing well for some time. When the crisis hit the municipalities- who were among my best customers – and they stopped paying me I found myself on the rocks. They cut off my electricity supply and my telephone line. My ex-husband and close friends helped out but it is an ongoing struggle. I am thankful I don’t have to pay rent. I had to stop my son from English lessons and tuition for the exams but he is fifteen, he has to eat well. I am thinking of going to live on my father’s home island where everything is cheaper and I could rent the Athens house but that would be detrimental to my son’s future. I am looking for a job, any kind of job but so far have found nothing.” She is not eligible for unemployment benefits and her state health insurance will soon be over. “ I remember at this time last year I was collecting money to help another friend pay her electricity bill. I can’t believe it is happening to me now”.

54 years old Joanne works for one of the best known fashion brands in Athens. She has not been paid for ten months. Her husband is a pensioner and her son is studying in Crete. “I was watching on TV how the banks gave a loan to a television channel and I know that they refused my company! What do you make of it?”

George has just finished his studies and has been looking for a job for less than six months. “The starting salary is about 550 Euros if you are lucky. Employers take advantage of the situation and avoid paying the state insurance fund which means that I am not entitled to health care and of course I shall never get a pension. My friends and I are thinking of starting our own internet company selling photographs, videos, news about Greece. George’s parents are diaspora Greeks and they have no village so their only hope is immigration but they are not so keen about it. “I remember my father always talking of the home country. I want my son to live here and have a home. I shall do my best to help him. We have to be patient”, says Peter, George’s father.

Four people hit by the crisis, four stories of struggle and survival. All four are active in the solidarity movement, everyone in his/her way. All four are striving to keep their integrity and humanity. This is the bet Greek society has to win.

Greek government cohesion shaken

The Subway workers ‘strike has ended after the government issued civil mobilization orders to the employees. The Metro has resumed operations and is slowly coming to its proper schedule.

A police squad, accompanied by a public attorney, entered the depot at 4 o’clock in the morning and made the workers leave it.

While the government seems to have gained a point in its ongoing struggle against Unionists and anti – mnemonium parties its own cohesion has been shaken. The Democratic Left party (DIMAR) expressed its opposition to the civil mobilization move while Alexis Tsipras of SYRIZA claims that this move is unconstitutional.

The immediate future of mass transport in Athens is not definite yet because other unions (busses, trolleys, tram) have expressed their solidarity and so has the General Confederation of Greek workers.

Greek subway workers still on strike

Athens subway

Greek metro employees are on a 24 hour strike today. The tram and the trolley busses will operate from 8 to 16 hours. Tomorrow Tuesday all the above mass transport systems will not operate from 12 to 16.

The Union has called for an assembly tomorrow Tuesday at 11 o’clock to coordinate future actions. According to the Union’s statements the employees of Metro, Tram and trolley buses have seen their wages reduced five times in the last 2,5 years. They claim that the main problem at this particular moment is the abolition of the collective labour agreement practice.

Environment – one of the big losers of the Greek crisis

On Saturday 12 January 2013 Syntagma Square was occupied by a different kind of protesters: villagers, ecologists, farmers came all the way from Halkidiki to demonstrate against the establishment of gold mines in their area. There were about 3000 people with imaginative pickets and slogans who remained outside the Parliament for a few hours. Previously they had visited the Canadian Embassy who, they claim, is actively promoting the enterprise because of Canadian interests.

Manolis Glezos, always present, walked for the environment

Manolis Glezos, always present, walked for the environment

"Our silence is gold for them.

“Our silence is gold for them.

The Athenian rally was the climax of a year of struggles between Hellas Gold  a company 95 percent of which is owned by Canadian mining company Eldorado Gold Inc. and the remaining 5 percent by Greek construction company Aktor and local committees opposed to the project. More information on one of the blogs created by the local residents:

SYRIZA MPs have submitted a question in Parliament stating that the Company is not following environmental directives which state that mining and building activities cannot be carried out in areas neighbouring with NATURA 2000 protected zones, stressing that while the police are very active when faced with angry citizens they are very slow in checking the Company’s illegal activities.

What prompt me to classify the environment as the “great victim of the crisis” is the continuous efforts to “sell” all open spaces around Athens, starting with the Ellinikon area, the area that was previously occupied by the Athens Airport.  All the ecological studies that are required or should be required for interventions of that magnitude are conveniently overlooked using crisis as an alibi.

It is obvious to everyone that the Greek government is taking the easy way out. Unfortunately the destruction of the Halkidiki forests or the building up of the Ellinikon area are actions that are not reversible. They undermine the future of the country and influence the European environment as well.

Wanted: Prime Minister for Greece – no reward

The Greek citizens have been waiting for three days – yes, three whole days – for the bi-party leaderships to agree on what? On forming a government and appointing a new Prime Minister!!

This feat has not yet been achieved. While waiting, the Greek people have been living with the fear of new taxes and cuts being imposed.

The European Union leadership, on the other hand, is concerned only with the payment of the debt. It is worth wondering whether European leaders realize that they were elected to serve their people and not their banks and corporations.

Presently, the Greek public is still waiting for PASOK and New Democracy to form a government and nominate a Prime Minister. In the meantime both parties have agreed on the date of the elections.

The argument of the left wing parties, which is echoed by the “enraged” movement, is that the present government is illegal. They ask for elections in order to have a government that will represent the present relation of power in the Parliament.

At the moment, the Council of Ministers is meeting and we are expecting developments any moment.


Greek MP launches a new genre: science fiction tragedy

I have refrained from posting any news recently fearing that I would be proven wrong. Contradicting reports follow contradicting reports. You write an analysis and  before posting events reverse all your suppositions. The only journalists who can do their job are the tv journalists.

Therefore, let me just tell you that Parliament is in session and this evening there will be a vote of confidence for the Papandreou government. The amount of votes required depends on the parliamentarians present at the moment of the vote and that is a big  question mark since the PASOK MPs refuse to say what they will do, the New Democracy refrain from being explicit while I have not seen any representatives of the left wing parties this morning.

At the same time there is a call by the Unions to hold a rally in Syntagma Square during the voting procedure.