26 posts tagged Greece
“All Options on the Table” by Carlos Latuff
Data produced by Greek survey organization Public Issue shows that in 2011 one third of the population agreed that ‘Our society must change radically through revolution.’
Greece Lurches to Left Amid Radical Austerity
Der Spiegel »
A radical austerity drive has triggered the biggest political upheaval in Athens since the end of the military dictatorship in 1974. So far, it is leftist parties who have benefitted the most from the debt crisis. The deeply divided left, however, would likely be unable to form a stable coalition.
Alexis Tsipras walks up to the lectern like Elvis strutting onstage. But when he begins to speak, all traces of youthfulness and ease vanish from his face. The “foreign loan sharks” have one thing on their minds, he barks into the microphone: “the impoverishment of the Greek people and the sellout of our country!” He slams his fist down and continues his speech, his voice booming. The Europeans, he says, are pursuing only one goal: to bring about the end of the sovereign Greek nation. “We must prevent Greece from becoming a German protectorate once again,” Tsipras says, practically shouting by now. “We are not a German colony.”
A Country in Flux
There are many uncertainties in Greece today: whether the country can remain in the euro zone, whether the €130 billion ($171.8 billion) second bailout package will sufficiently reduce the insolvent country’s staggering debt load, and whether the Greeks will ever implement the reforms their international creditors are demanding of them. At the moment, only one thing seems predictable: that nothing will remain the same. “Everything is changing, and everything is frightening,”… >continue<
Πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει
photo - AFP
Greece, Italy and Spain account for about 68% of Iranian oil exports to Europe. These countries are also plagued by the worst economic problems in Europe. Moreover, Greece imports 35% of its oil from Iran.
The specific article is from August 2011, but the relevance vis-a-vis Sunday’s events is obvious.
Seventy years ago Manolis Glezos scaled the walls of the Acropolis to tear down the swastika, hoisted over the monument that Hitler had triumphantly described as a symbol of “human culture”. This single act of defiance – the first direct action against Nazi rule in Greece – would go on to cast the headstrong young man as one of the country’s greatest defenders of democracy.
Today the enemy may have changed, but at nearly 89, Glezos is still fighting. For many Greeks he has become a symbol of resistance in another, very different sort of war: one that has pitted the near-bankrupt country against the forces of world capitalism and thrown it into an unprecedented struggle for its economic survival.
In the midst of Athens’ worst crisis in modern times, Glezos says he never thought he would see Greece come to this. “Not since the German occupation have we been in such a difficult and dangerous situation,” he laments, with an angry thump of his hand.
“Economically, democratically, the Greek people are seeing hard-won rights being wiped away. Unemployment is growing, shops are closing daily and decisions that are totally unconstitutional are being made.”
Popular icon, protester par excellence, Glezos does not require much to goad him into action. The veteran leftwinger is a force in the civil disobedience movement shaking Greece.
As a proponent of direct democracy, the campaign that has propelled thousands of Greeks to protest against the austerity measures meted out to rein in the country’s runaway debt, demand for Glezos to be on the frontline at demonstrations is at an all-time high.
“People are not going to back down. They are very conscious of what they want,” he says, seated before a desk in the book-lined study of his Athenian home. “The summer may be here but I’ve been very busy attending neighbourhood assemblies to discuss what our future tactics might be.”
In March last year pictures of the wiry, white-haired activist being teargassed by a riot policeman outside the Greek parliament sent a tremor through Europe’s nascent anti-austerity movement. But, though appalled by the harshness with which rallies have often been crushed, Glezos reserves his greatest criticism for the attitude of Germany and Britain towards Greece. Both countries, he insists, stand guilty of “enormous ingratitude”.
“Germany today lives not under Nazi rule but in a state of freedom and that it owes in great part to the struggle of the Greek people,” he said, referring to Hitler’s disastrous decision to postpone the invasion of the Soviet Union as a result of the unexpected resistance encountered in Greece. “Then there is the issue of food. If German people are alive it is because Greek people died.”
Glezos has not forgotten the howls of the starving or the images of municipal carts carrying the corpses of those who, during the Nazi occupation, collapsed begging for food in the streets of Athens.
He knows not only because he was there; he counted them.
“I worked in the statistics office of the International Red Cross and every day I would note the deaths of around 400 people as a result of famine. We lost 13.5% of our population, more than any other occupied country, because all of our foodstuffs, our crops, were requisitioned [by the Wehrmacht]. For those two reasons alone Germany should help Greece.”
Throughout the war “little Greece” had stood alongside the Allied forces. “Who came to England’s help? Who was behind the first victory against the Axis [powers]?” he asked, conjuring the Greeks’ defeat of Mussolini’s forces on the Albanian front in 1940. “Who did Churchill so famously say fought like heroes? Britain should have tried and helped Greece at this difficult moment. Its behaviour should have been different.”
Glezos, who would subsequently spend nearly two decades in prison – often in solitary confinement — as Greece slipped into civil war and then years of authoritarian rightwing rule, backs up his argument with figures.
It wasn’t just the famine and the thousands killed in reprisals as a result of mass resistance, or the eradication of virtually all of Greece’s once vibrant Jewish community or the destruction of the countryside. It was, he says, the other indignities suffered by Greece under Hitler. The pillaging of archaeological treasures, the plundering of factories and homes, the looting of national resources, the crippling of the Greek economy – following the Nazis’ deliberate circulation of counterfeit Deutschmarks – offences that were all part of what Churchill would go on to call the “long night of barbarism” and from which it has yet to recover.
“To this day, Greece remains the only country in Europe that never received reparations from Germany,” added the former MP, who has long headed the National Council for the Reclamation of German Debt. “We never got back any of the antiquities that they took, or the buildings that they seized, or the tons of silver and nickel that they stole.
“If you take into account the enforced occupation loan, I estimate that they owe us around €162bn, plus interest.”
Glezos, who has proposed that Berlin fund companies in Greece and scholarships for students bound for Germany by way of compensation, insists he is neither motivated by hatred nor revenge. He has many German friends and every year, he says, they descend on Athens to “try and right the wrong” by demonstrating outside the German embassy. But he is infuriated that Greeks are invariably typecast by the German media as lazy laggards when studies show them working the longest hours in Europe. “The latest agreement to save Greece is all about saving banks and financial capital, not people,” he says. “After the war, we won our freedom but we emerged as vassals, first of the English and then the Americans. Being indebted in this way keeps us in that subordinate role. Our new masters are the troika [the EU, IMF and ECB] and they have to go. Mark my words, the Greeks will play a pivotal role in resisting the policies they want to impose.”
Youth Unemployment Sky Rockets To Highest Rate Ever Recored
Youth unemployment in Greece is about 48%. In the US, youths 18-24 have an unemployment rate of 45.7%. The highest rate since the government began tracking such information.
Squeezed by a tight job market, young Americans are especially struggling. They have suffered bigger income losses than other age groups and are less likely to be employed than at any time since World War II.
An analysis by the Pew Research Center, released Thursday, details the impact of the recent recession on the attitudes of a generation of mostly 20- and 30-somethings.
With government data showing record gaps in employment between young and old, a Pew survey found that 41 percent of Americans believe that younger adults have been hit harder than any other group, compared with 29 percent who say middle-aged Americans and 24 percent who point to seniors 65 and older. A wide majority of the public - at least 69 percent - also said it’s more difficult for today’s young adults than their parents’ generation to pay for college, find a job, buy a home or save for the future.
Among young adults ages 18 to 34, only a third rated their financial situation as “excellent” or “good,” compared with 54 percent for seniors age 65 and over. In 2004, before the recession began, about half of both young and older adults rated their own financial situation highly.
“Young workers are on the bottom of the ladder, and during a recession like we’ve had, it’s often hard for them to hold on.
They are clearly less satisfied with their current circumstances than they were before the recession. This may be where some of the anger and frustration being expressed in the Occupy movement is rooted.
They have a long way to climb back, and a lot of displaced workers to compete with.”
said Kim Parker, associate director of Pew’s Social & Demographic Trends project. She noted that some have been heavily involved in the nationwide “Occupy” protests over economic disparity.
At risk of becoming a “lost generation,” many young adults are going back to school or scraping by on waitressing, bartending and odd jobs as they wait for the economy to slowly recover.
- The share of young adults 18-24 who are employed has dropped to 54.3 percent, the lowest level since the government began tracking such data in 1948.
- Young adults working full time have median weekly earnings of $448, about 6 percent less than in 2007
- About 19 percent of men ages 25-34 were idle in the weak job market, neither working nor attending school. That’s up from 14 percent in 2007.
- Fewer than half of young adults who are currently working say they have the education and skills necessary to advance in their careers.
Although youth unemployment is at it’s highest, 43 percent said they were extremely or very confident that they could find another job if they lost or left their current one despite opposing statistics.
It is a night that will be remembered for burning buildings and scenes of mayhem in Athens while politicians passed the controversial rescue programme aimed at averting Greece’s economic collapse.
As more than 40 buildings went up in flames, including two historic cinemas and several banks, Athens city centre was left resembling a war zone with cafes and shops smashed and looted as MPs backed the austerity measures by 199 votes to 74 in the single most important ballot in modern Greek history.
The chaos dominated one of the stormiest debates seen in the Greek parliament as MPs argued over a raft of strict measures demanded in return for international aid. Clashes were also reported in Thessaloniki, Patras, Corfu and Crete.
A deputy from the Communist Party, Giorgos Mavrikos, threw his copy of the austerity bill at Evangelos Venizelos, the finance minister, during the debate on Sunday.
Greece’s parliament was expected to defy angry protesters on the streets of Athens and endorse a deeply unpopular package of savage austerity measures in order to try to avoid a sovereign default and retain the euro as its currency.
With eurozone leaders declaring it was time for Greece to put up or shut up and that Athens’ promises could no longer be believed, Greece’s two main political parties and the caretaker prime minister invoked apocalyptic scenarios for the country if the €3.3bn (£2.76bn) of cuts ordained by the eurozone were not supported.
Street battles between police firing rounds of tear gas and demonstrators hurling firebombs and marble slabs left Syntagma Square, the plaza in front of the parliament building, resembling a war zone. Rubbish bins burned as plumes of smoke and asphyxiating clouds of toxic chemicals filled the air.
Bangs could be heard inside parliament and the tear gas drifting across square reached the debating chamber. Last night several buildings has been set on fire, including a cinema, bank and a number of shops, and Greek television reported that dozens of citizens and at least 40 police officers had been injured.
Under a sea of banners denouncing further wage, pension and job cuts, tens of thousands of protesters chanted against “the occupation” of the country by foreign lenders keeping Greece afloat.
“The rebellion has begun,” the veteran leftist Manolis Glezos told TV reporters. “These measures will never pass. They are a breach of our democracy,” he spluttered, holding a surgical mask to his face against the fumes.
The prime minister, Lukas Papademos, warned ahead of the vote that wages and pensions would go unpaid, hospitals and schools would be devoid of funding, banks would collapse and people’s savings would be lost if the 300 MPs rejected the terms set by the eurozone for receipt of a €130bn bailout.
Without the bailout – the second in two years – bankrupt Greece will be insolvent and have to default on its debt next month when it needs to redeem €14.5bn of loans.
“A disorderly default would throw the country into a disastrous adventure. It would create conditions of uncontrollable economic chaos and social eruption,” Papademos said in a television address.
Despite six government resignations in recent days and the departure of the small extremist Laos party from the caretaker coalition, the two main parties – the Pasok socialists and the centre-right New Democracy – can muster a comfortable majority, although analysts predicted dozens of defections to the rejectionist camp. But in fiery exchanges in the chamber, finance minister Evangelos Venizelos warned: “If the law is not passed, the country will go bankrupt.”
George Papandreou, the former socialist prime minister felled by the crisis last year, declared that Greece was at war and that it had to win. Antonis Samaras, the centre-right leader tipped to be prime minister after elections expected in April, also sought to rally his MPs behind accepting the deal after rejecting key details of the cuts for weeks.
With trust between Athens and its eurozone creditors, led by Germany, at an all-time low, the Greek government was told the time for pledges had run out.
“Greece’s promises are no longer enough for us,” said Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister, who also spoke of the possibility of Greece leaving the euro.
“The Greeks have not quite managed to form a government supported properly by all the parties and therefore have not been able to tackle the necessary reforms as decisively as we would all like,” said Schäuble.
While eurozone finance ministers are expected to agree to the €130bn bailout on Wednesday provided Greece meets its end of the bargain, Berlin is insisting that most of the money does not actually go to Greece but is held in a separate account and is used purely to service the country’s debt.
EU ministerial sources said that account could hold up to 70% of the bailout funds. Such a move would be unprecedented and is likely to be contested. But the German proposal is also supported by France. By guaranteeing that Greece’s creditors are repaid, there would be no default.
As part of the €3.3bn in savings ordered by the eurozone, the Greeks have to specify how a €325m overspend will be resolved. While the parliament was due to vote through the measures, it remained unclear where these extra savings were coming from.
A particularly neuralgic point in the savings has been the requirement to slash the minimum wage by 22%. “It’s a big problem in Greece that the minimum wage is so high,” said Schauble. “That’s why there are so many black [illegal] workers. That wouldn’t happen if they had a functioning administration.”
As Greece’s MPs prepared to vote on the austerity package, thousands of protesters remained on the streets of Athens denouncing the Germans and the EU. The demonstrations against austerity also spread to Portugal, the second of three eurozone countries trading hairshirt economics for a eurozone bailout, where tens of thousands came out in protest against collapsing living standards.
I can’t stomach this anymore.
Today, Starbucks at Syntagma Square. Athens