Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Weekly Round-Up #rbnews Nov 27 - Dec 2 2011

By @IrateGreek

Τhe week began with a worrying complaint regarding the existence of “pro-junta elements” in the Cadet Academy. According to an article published in the Sunday edition of To Vima Newspaper, the leader of the Cadets stood on the rostrum after the end of the commemoration of the Polytechnic University uprising[1], requested that the doors be closed and started “analysing” for his colleagues how “the 21 April Revolution[2] has been perverted”. He and another 5 cadets then sang the 21 April anthem. The publication caused considerable turmoil at the Ministry of Defense as well as among the military, whose leadership announced that there would be “strict disciplinary action”.

This incident comes in a context of rumours as well as actual developments regarding the armed forces. On 28 October, while the military parade in Thessaloniki was cancelled due to protests, a section of the Cadets did actually parade despite orders against it. Furthermore, the establishment of a political party of reservists was announced the previous week. Finally, it hasn’t been two weeks since a sensational article was published in Le Monde newspaper, according to which former Prime Minister G. Papandreou claimed to worry about the possibility of a military coup.

20,000 homeless

Another extremely disturbing news item this week was the exceedingly large number of homeless people reported in Athens and other large cities. More specifically, it is now estimated that some 20,000 people now sleep in the street, in abandoned houses or in empty warehouses. According to the NGO Klimaka, the rise in homelessness stands at 20-25%.

In this context, the Athens municipality decided to remove benches from Klafthmonos square, which evolved these last months into a dormitory for tens of homeless people and drug users. The decision to clear the square in preparation for “the Christmas celebrations planned on 16 December” caused intense discussion and many negative comments. Athens mayor G. Kaminis replied with a statement in which he clearly admits that he wanted to remove the homeless and drug users, calling the square a “public health ticking bomb.” Furthermore, according to his statement, “the benches were removed so that downtown Athens has the features of a European capital.” It is worth noting here how annoyed the mayor appeared to be from the negative comments, which led him to accuse his critics of “imagining the life of the homeless on benches while the rest of the citizenry is limited to its own ghetto.”

Popular protests

The occupation of yet another building owned by the Public Power Corporation (ΔΕΗ) took place this week to protest the additional property tax which will be levied on all homeowners. This was a hub in Eastern Thessaloniki which was occupied by members of the “Open Assembly of Toumba Residents”. The protests, as well as the multiple mistakes that are reported in the estimate of the tax, led the government to issue an complementary decree specifying how the law should be enforced. Citizens have until 20 January to submit requests to their municipality for corrections to the amount of the tax based on the number of square meters of their property and the geographical area. The injunction to cut the power supply for those who fail to pay the tax on time is also suspended if the owner of the property is facing specific circumstances or if s/he is socially disadvantaged (e.g. has no income or assets). The decree includes the establishment of three-member committees which will control that all conditions are met. It is noteworthy that in addition to a representative of the tax authorities and a social worker, the third member of the committees will be a policeman. Furthermore, Friday 02 December was the first day the law was discussed by the Council of State. The discussion began under heavy police guard, as the authorities feared demonstrations outside the courthouse.

Another country-wide strike led by the GSEE[3] and ADEDY[4] labour unions took place on 1st of December, three days only after the official start of the furlough programme, under which 20,000 employees will be suspended from the civil service. Unlike previous protests, the demonstrations in large cities were subdued, with approximately 30,000 people demonstrating peacefully in the streets of Athens. With regards to the furlough process, there were immediately huge problems with across-the-board cutbacks, exceedingly tight deadlines and sketchy numeric criteria.

2012 Budget

In economy and finance, the most important news item of the week was clearly the decision by the Finance Ministers of the Eurozone to release the 6th tranche of the loan to Greece. The decision was taken after the commitment letter by Nea Dimokratia leader Antonis Samaras was received and deemed “satisfactory” by European leaders. The Finance Minister of Austria, Maria Fekter, emphasised that the Eurozone expects “Greece to implement the economic reforms it committed to”.

The next test of the governmental coalition’s cohesion after the vote of confidence is anticipated next Tuesday when the 2012 budget will be voted, after a debate which began on Friday 02 December in parliament.

The budget debate is taking place in a period of grim predictions as well as revisions for the Greek economy. The report of the governor of the Central Bank of Greece, G. Provopoulos, foresees that the budget deficit in 2011 will reach 9%, while the recession will exceed the anticipated 5.5% and inch towards 6%. Another worrying trend is the continuous outflow of savings from banks, which, once the €6Bn withdrawn in October alone are taken in consideration, brings the total amount of capital that left the country since 2010 to a whooping €60Bn.

Nea Dimokratia is seeking once again to find its balance. Some of its MPs voiced their malcontent with the contents of the budget, noting that it includes measures with which they publicly disagree. It is anticipated that the budget as a whole will receive positive votes from Nea Dimokratia in principle and that some items will be voted against by individual MPs, as there is no indication that party discipline will be enforced.
All these developments are underway as the €8Bn of the 6th loan tranche have not been yet secured, since the IMF decision is still pending and expected in the coming days, with the delay in releasing these funds having now reached almost two months.
[1] The uprising of the Athens Polytechnic University (formally known as the National Technical University of Athens) against the Junta on 17 November 1973.
[2] “21 April Revolution” is the name under which the leadership of the 1967-1974 Junta referred to their coup on 21/04/1967.
[3] General Confederation of Greek Labour
[4] Umbrella Union of Civil Servants.

Theodora Oikonomides

No comments:

Post a Comment