The MIBs are in Greece to say, at kleast through the end of September, meaning the next big bailout bundle won’t be arriving until October at the earliest. But never fear! The eurobank’s found a way to slip the country some chump change in the interim.
More details of the planned pension cuts and delays have emerged, and they’re not pleasant, doctors are saying they can’t cope with the cuts, the immigrant question flies to the fore again [a matter of “national survival,” says the national police], and the left is coming out strong against the coalition’s “labor reserve” gambit.
And to close, we’ve got some more deep politics, with a German twist.
The Men in Black extend their stays
And that’s because the coalition government headed by New Democracy’s Antonis Samaras hasn’t been able to make all those billions in cuts demanded by the Troika, the folks who dispatched the MIBs to Athens.
They’re staying through the end of September, says the usual anonymus official source — which means Greece will have to wait at least until early October to get those much needed billions in bailout cash.
From Agence France-Presse:
A favourable report from the auditors of the so-called troika of the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank is key to disburse its part of Greece’s next instalment of 31.5 billion euros in rescue funds.
The disbursement had previously been expected in September, already a delay due to a two-month political deadlock caused by back-to-back elections in May and June.
The delay could pose difficulties for the Greek government, which is already expected to resort to issuing fresh short-term debt in order to repay 3.2 billion euros to the ECB on August 20.
Getting a favourable decision from the auditors is not assured.
“Much work remains to be done,” said the source.
But wait! Something’s already in the works
And it should tide the Greeks over til the next bailout round, according to more of those unsourced leaks.
Seems the European Central Bank plans to loan money directly to Greek banks, initially bypassing the national government. It’s a clever little scheme, with the banks using the money to buy short-term government bonds and raise a stopgap €4 billion for the government.
The Greek central bank will accept the dodgy bonds as collateral, and will provide the country’s equally troubled commercial banks with freshly printed euros — which ultimately come from the ECB.
What is particularly absurd is the fact that, for the past two weeks, the ECB has no longer been accepting Greek government bonds as collateral for its refinancing operations. But the Greek central bank — which in reality is little more than the Athens branch of the ECB — is still allowed to accept them. The fact that the euro bankers are willing to go through such contortions shows just how precarious the situation is. At the moment, a Greek default is being fought off from week to week — and politicians are trying to duck responsibility.
In theory, Europe’s leaders created the temporary euro rescue fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and its successor, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), precisely to support countries facing financial bottlenecks. But providing more help for Greece would be a very tough sell for Europe’s politicians. Chancellor Angela Merkel would have to get the consent of the German parliament, the Bundestag, which could prove tricky. And Merkel’s junior coalition partner, the conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), has been adopting an increasing shrill tone against Greece lately — meaning that the government could plunge into crisis if the chancellor supports more aid for Athens.
More details of pension cuts, extended years emerge
While the cuts will inflict some pain on existing pension holders, the outlook for those still working has goten considerably grimmer.
But then they’ve still got jobs, at least for now.
A substantial increase in the minimum number of years that Greeks will have to work to qualify for a basic state pension and reductions of up to 15 percent in retirement pay over 700 euros per month are two of the measures being considered by the government in order to meet the target for spending cuts over the next two years.
Sources told Kathimerini that government officials are thinking of raising the minimum number of working years needed before retirement from 15 to 20. This would qualify the retiree for a basic pension of under 400 euros per month once they reach the age of 65.
The coalition is considering this as an alternative to raising the retirement age from 65 to 67.
A fresh reduction in pensions is also likely. One option would be to reduce pensions between 700 and 1,000 euros per month by 3 percent, those between 1,000 and 1,400 per month by 5 percent and any pension over 1,400 by 10 percent.
The alternative is to reduce pensions between 700 and 1,000 euros by 2 percent, those between 1,000 and 1,300 by 3 percent, from 1,300 to 1,600 by 5 percent, from 1,600 to 2,000 by 10 percent and any over 2,000 by 15 percent.
“The adjustment of pensions will have to happen, even though it will be unpleasant,” said Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis. “This is the only way we can avoid even worse consequences.”
Doctors say they can cope with cuts
And, no, they’re not talking about surgery, except for the budgetary variety.
Greece’s National Organization for Health Care Provision, known as EOPYY, will be unable to cope with any further cuts to health spending as demanded by the country’s international lenders, the union representing EOPYY doctors said.
The so-called troika of the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank wants cuts totaling 1.2 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in health spending, of which 800 million euros concerns EOPYY, at a time when Greece’s largest state-run health care provider has debts of 1.5 billion euros, the Athens-based union said in an e-mailed statement today.
The union called on the Health Ministry to pay by Aug. 20 all money owed to EOPYY doctors for the first half of 2012 and to provide a written timetable for the repayment of previous debts to the entire medical profession, Bloomberg reported.
Failure to fulfil this requirement will result in doctors suspending the terms of their work contracts until at least Sept. 2 when they will examine any developments, the union said.
Greek war on immigrants heats up
Continuing our ongoing theme of the targeting of immigrants and transients that inevitably accompanies economic collapse.
The latest developments surround that massive ongoing roundup of what Americans call “illegals” launched in Athens over the weekend and now underway across the country.
We begin with an Athens News video of a press appearance by the national police spokesperson, claiming the roundup’s “a matter of national survival”:
The program notes:
Greek Police spokesman Christos Manouras describes the country’s massive new deportation campaign for illegal immigrants as “an issue for national necessity and survival.” He said 2,500 police officers at the Evros border region and 2,000 in Athens are taking part in operation Xenios-Zeus with similar action to follow in other Greek cities.
Next, a story reporting on one of the consequences of the roundup.
The mayor of the northeastern port of Alexandroupoli, Evangelos Lambakis, on Wednesday lashed out at Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias following the latter’s decision to transfer hundreds of undocumented immigrants to unused police academy facilities in Komotini, Xanthi and Didymoteicho.
“The Public Order Minister wants to turn the capital’s problem with immigration into a problem for Thrace,” Lambakis told Skai. “We are in a state of war,” Lambakis said, noting that local residents who vehemently object to the planned transfer of the migrants are to stage a protest rally in the city’s central square on Wednesday evening.
The mayor described Dendias as “unreliable.” “I don’t believe him, whatever he says, and I don’t believe that they only aim to detain the migrants temporarily at the police academy units, for 30 or 60 days,” he said.
Golden Dawn capitalizes on an outrage
The neo-Nazi party with the Hitler salute emerged as a new political force in the last two rounds of parliamentary elections, playing on the same racist xenophobia exploited by the German original.
Just as Jews and leftists were regularly beaten on the streets of Germany even before Hitler took power, Golden Dawn thugs have been dishing out their own beatings of leftists and immigrants.
While slapping women got them some bad press, their latest target was a relatively safe victim, an Islamic immigrant who admitted the brutal beating and rape of a teenager after he tried to steal her cell phone.
From Spyros Kouvoussis of Greek Reporter:
Police said that a gang led by members of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn invaded a ship and tried to attack a 21-year-old Pakistani immigrant charged in the beating and sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl on this Greek island when he was transferred to Piraeus.
The immigrant admitted to the attack and apologized in court to the girl, who is still hospitalized in serious condition and to her family. He is charged with attempted manslaughter, rape and robbery, and faced a Syros prosecutor to give his deposition. He said he beat the girl’s head on some rocks when she wouldn’t turn over a cell phone he was trying to steal. She was found with the bottom of her bathing suit removed. The Pakistani admitted to attacking the girl after a second test of his DNA matched a sample taken from the victim, a police spokesman said.
The state posted a lawyer for the defendant as he couldn’t obtain a lawyer willing to represent him. During his moving from Syros to Piraeus, while the ship had just arrived in the port, police said a group of 20 Golden Dawn members dressed in black t-shirts and military jeans, with one waving a Greek flag, came on the ship and tried to reach the police van where he had been placed. Seconds later, the van screamed off the ship, showing a broken windshield. The man had applied to return to Pakistan as part of a voluntary repatriation scheme funded by European Union subsidies, authorities revealed, and had been due to fly out of Greece on Aug. 8.
The immigrant roundups have drawn fire from human rights groups, and it’s been criticized by Greece’s two Left opposition parties — which has itself sparked resentment of Syriza and the Greek Communist Party. But the raids are proving popular with residents of areas most impacted by the immigrants.
Left opens campaign against labor reserve
The coalition government is leaning toward implementing a “labor reserve” program, which would pay state workers over half their previous paychecks as workers held in reserve.
The alternative, of course, is outright dismissals, a move that could carry a very high political cost.
From Athens News:
In a statement on Wednesday, main opposition Syriza accused the government of launching an attack on the rights of the workers in every way possible.
Syriza pointed out that the “unconstitutional labour reserve measure will lead to thousands of layoffs in the public sector,” adding that “if combined with the leveling of spending cuts and abolitions or mergers of public-run organisations, the result will be the further deterioration of public services.”
According to Syriza, with every passing day it becomes clearer that “the memorandum cannot be implemented” and is nothing more than a huge recession programme that will tear down society.
Referring to the public sector, Syriza stated that it needs to be redesigned, to help in the productive reorganization of the country and its economic recovery. The statement concluded that “this cannot happen with the implementation of the catastrophic and cruel memorandum policy that promotes massive layoffs, spending cuts and privatizations of public goods.”
Greek caught in deep politics media games?
A fascinating post from Greece and World reveals some of the deep politics behind the relentless attacks on the country by a German media empire:
The German media group Axel Springer AG has vital interests and corporate relations in Turkey. This is the company that owns the newspaper Bild, which for many months is mud campaigning against Greece, and this has cost the country’s image. Fewof us, however, could assume that over the defense of German interests, the aim of the newspaper is the denigration of Greek tourism, which greatly favors the competitors of our country. Among them, of course, also include the neighboring Turkey and the practitioners and the tourism industry group Dogan Yayin Holding, which publishes the Hurriyet, the Milliyet, and other print forms.
The ties between the two corporate giants, as the ETHNOS newspaper informs, are not limited to 10% of the shares held by the Germans. There is a broader strategic alliance, which is reflected by the participation of the Director of Bild, Kai Diekmann, in the board of the newspaper Hurriyet, which belongs to Dogan.
Indeed, relations between the two groups could be even closer if the project went on increasing the proportion of Germans in 25%, but was canceled when the Turkish giant was fined 3.75 billion Turkish lira for tax evasion in 2009. Note that in 2011, the year he escalated the attacks of Bild to Greece, investment of Dogan family added a large tourist units in Asia Minor, in areas that are directly competitive with the popular Greek destinations in the Aegean.
Now throw in another factor: The New Democracy-led coalition’s recent and quite public efforts to form alliances with Israel, reversing the earlier stance of the previous PASOK-led government.
The moves come after once-cordial relations between Israel and Turkey were shattered by the 31 March 2010 Israel military raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla that ended with the shooting deaths of nine pro-Palestinian activists aboard the Turkish-owned MV Mavi Marmara.
Since it’s victory in the June elections, the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has been pushing for stronger ties with Israel — exemplified by last weekend’s visit of Israeli President Shomon Peres — inflaming relations with Turkey, with which Greece shares a common border and a long often turbulent history.
Meanwhile, the North/South war continues
And the Greeks just love Germans very much these days.
Jannis Papadimitriou of Deutsche Welle reports:
German tabloids portray Greeks as bankrupt and tell them to sell off their islands to pay their debts – and Greek cartoonists sketch German chancellor Angela Merkel in a Nazi uniform or as a whip-touting animal tamer at the circus. Negative comments by both Greek and German politicians have also not made rapprochement between the two countries easier.
The sour mood is no surprise, and is just one element of the rampant populism in Europe that has only been exacerbated by the crisis, said Mary Giannakaki, deputy leader of the pro-European Democratic Left party, newly elected to the Athens parliament. She said the bleak opinion of the Greeks toward the Germans can only be thought of in a European context.
“The crisis has allowed the specter of nationalism to emerge all across Europe. The idea of ‘Europe’ is unfairly vilified and demonized,” Giannakaki, a political scientist who studied in Paris and Athens, said. She said it was clear neither Germany nor Greece was to blame for starting the current economic crisis, but this is something that needed to be explained to the people – and while that is first and foremost the job of the politicians in each country, it has been neglected: “I really cannot believe that all Greeks think the Germans are enemies and vice-versa. These are minority opinions and isolated cases,” she said.
Another side to the argument was shown in a survey published a few months ago in “Epikaira,” a weekly Athens magazine already known for taking swipes at Berlin. Seventy-six percent of respondents said they thought of Germany as a hostile country. Only 1.5 percent had any positive feelings for it.
In contrast, six years ago, surveys showed almost 80 percent of Greeks holding Germany in high esteem.