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Greek report Greek report
by Euro Reporter
2010-05-05 07:44:00
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Backlash from parties, unions on the way

Members of the PAME union, which is affiliated to the Communist Party, are seen yesterday in central Athens through a banner with the word ‘crisis’ in Greek. A 24-hour general strike is due to be held tomorrow. There will be no TV or radio coverage of the protests because broadcast journalists will not be working and newspapers will not be published on Thursday as print journalists will also take part in the action.

As Parliament prepares to vote later this week on the latest round of austerity measures announced by the government, the ruling PASOK party is bracing itself for strong opposition in the House and on the streets, where public servants will be protesting. The legislation containing the new steps, which include drastic cuts to public servants’ salaries, reductions in public spending and hikes in VAT and taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and fuel, is due to be voted on by Thursday. Although the Communist Party (KKE) and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) have made it clear that they will oppose the measures, it is not yet clear what New Democracy’s stance will be. The conservatives face a dilemma as voting against the legislation would make them look irresponsible in the eyes of some voters while voting for the measures could make them appear as “accomplices.”

The disagreement between the parties was evident yesterday when opposition leaders turned down a rare opportunity to meet with Prime Minister George Papandreou to discuss the spending cuts and tax hikes being introduced so Greece can qualify for 110 billion Euros of emergency loans from the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund. ND’s president Antonis Samaras said there was no point in holding the meeting because the package had already been agreed. SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras replied in similar fashion. The only party leader to agree that the meeting should take place was the Popular Orthodox Rally’s (LAOS) Giorgos Karatzaferis.

Meanwhile, the reaction of unions to the measures will be evident from today as the ADEDY civil servants’ union has decided to hold a 48-hour, rather than a 24-hour, strike to protest the slashing of public sector salaries and bonuses. ADEDY will be joined tomorrow in a general strike by the private sector union GSEE. As a result, all public services, including ministries, pension funds and utilities, will be closed today and tomorrow, as well as kindergartens, schools and universities. Hospitals will operate with skeleton staff as doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers will join in the strike.

Severe transport disruption is expected tomorrow. There will be no air travel as air-traffic controllers will take part in the protest but this is likely to lead to some flights being cancelled today as well. Workers at the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) and the Proastiakos suburban railway will walk off the job tomorrow but employees on the metro, the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway, buses, trams and trolley buses will work only between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. There will be no ferries sailing. Many shops will also be closed between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. tomorrow and no court cases will be heard as judges and lawyers will be on strike.

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Pasok’s hardest sell ever


In the highest seat of parliament’s old senate chamber, Prime Minister George Papandreou sat attentively, taking notes. One after the other, his MPs on April 27 offered their first public reactions to a decision in which they had no say: the triggering of the EU-IMF aid package just four days earlier. Six months after sweeping to power on a platform of wage increases and steering Greece through the crisis without outside help, the ruling party is struggling to explain the necessity of a protracted, painful international “guardianship”, as the PM described EU-IMF oversight.
 
A GPO survey released on April 26 showed that 60 percent of Greeks don’t like the EU-IMF aid package, and that 70 percent oppose IMF involvement altogether. Many Pasok MPs are arguing that the government must depict the painful austerity measures and economic restructuring, not as a necessary evil, but as the silver lining to a huge rain cloud. Pasok’s main argument seems to be that many of the measures demanded by the EU and the IMF should have been implemented long ago and will lead to recovery and prosperity.

The looming spectre of bankruptcy has cast a numbing chill of fear over Greek politics and society. The phrase “Greece before IMF and post IMF” denoted the consensus that nothing in the country’s political, economic and social structures will be the same as before.  The only exception seems to be the furious finger-pointing between Papandreou and main opposition leader Antonis Samaras, who are blaming each other’s party for bringing the country to the edge of the abyss.
 
Papandreou, in addressing his parliamentary group, blamed the economic crisis almost entirely on the previous government. But he also had harsh words for leftwing protesters. “If we don’t have economic growth, it will lead to even harsher fiscal oversight,” he said, warning against disruptive protests.  Greece’s largest unions plan a general strike on May 5, fearing massive layoffs and mounting unemployment.

The severity of the crisis and the fear of bankruptcy may well dampen popular opposition to the IMF shock therapy programme.
The downgrading of Greek debt to junk bond level and the pounding by markets with a skyrocketing bond spread on April 27 fuelled fears of domestic collapse and of a domino effect in the euro zone and beyond, with the United States government voicing its concern over the developing situation.
 
The government scampered to quash feverish rumours on the stability of Greek banks, with the finance minister offering assurances on an evening newscast that the law guarantees deposits of up to 100,000 Euros. The PM argued that Greece would have been lost without the EU-IMF mechanism, and he lashed out at the “psychological terrorism of international speculators and usurers”.
 
Papandreou touted his government’s determination to use the crisis as an opportunity to carry out the reforms that previous governments had not dared to. That may well include the development or sale of lucrative public real estate, previously viewed as taboo.  He insisted that the IMF and EU “guardianship” will continue until Greece puts its economy in order.

Some of the country’s most powerful media conglomerates have been pushing Papandreou towards a cabinet reshuffle, in order to appoint prominent personalities like European Central Bank deputy governor Loukas Papademos and former finance minister Alekos Papadopoulos to grapple with the deep structural reforms needed. Papandreou has resisted the calls. Though Pasok still leads ND by 9 percentage points in the polls, it has lost more than 10 percentage points since its October landslide election victory. The GPO poll showed that more than half of Greeks believe that “everyone is to blame” for the crisis, not just the previous ND government, as Papandreou charges.
 
Many believe that the public wrath will be vented at the ballot box down the road, with the first acid test coming in the autumn municipal and regional elections. The unveiling on April 28 of the final plan to overhaul public administration, codenamed Kallikratis, was touted by Papandreou as a major step towards transparency that will save billions. Still, the conservative economic shock therapy to be applied by the IMF and EU is making many of the ruling socialists queasy.  MP Sofia Sakorafa (photo) warned that the people see politicians as out of touch with society’s plight. “Those in high places think it demeaning to speak of food. The reason? They have already eaten,” she told fellow Pasok MPs, quoting Bertolt Brecht. A number of Pasok MPs are demanding that those who looted public wealth be brought to justice. Just as many insist that the government must set some red lines in its talks with the IMF and EU. 


       
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Thanos2010-05-05 22:21:28
Unfortunately the anger brought 3 dead and the rise of the most fascist elements of the Greek society!


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