We open with reports that a military coup was averted last November by the forced retirement of the country’s joint chiefs, then move to a report that the Troika has already decided to give Greece its next round of bailout cash, followed by a report that the country may soon seek a separate bailout for tis ailing banks. The IMF wants to send German retirees to Greece to teach Greeks the fine arts of finance, the German chancellors leading opponent in parliament is calling for more time for Greece.
Meanwhile a cabinet minister is voicing reluctance to implement the Troika-mandated layoffs, while a whole passel of legislators and ministers have been named as suspects in a tax fraud investigation — a leak that may cost the head of parliament his job. Meanwhile, judges and prosecutors are charging that their own paychecks and pension are unconstitutional, Greek electrical workers are staging rolling strikes, retail sales are failing, overseas college enrollment is declining, police are referring cases involving immigrants to the immigrant-bashing Golden Dawn, and the government’s leading austerity opponent has been taking his case to Germany.
Was there a military coup threat last year?
That’s the allegation made Sunday by a leading Greek newspaper, To Vima, and quickly denied by the nation’s spy service.
The paper claims the coup was forestalled by the forced retirement of the four members of the chiefs of staff.
Here’s the denial from Ekathemerini:
The head of Greece’s National Intelligence Service (EYP) has denied a report suggesting that there was a possibility of a military coup last October following a report in Sunday’s To Vima claiming that there were discussions in the military about replacing the government of then Prime Minister George Papandreou.
“During its previous leadership, EYP never informed George Papandreou about the possibility of a coup,” said the agency’s current director Konstantinos Bikas.
“Also, EYP never received information from any other authorities regarding such information so it could take appropriate action to defend the democratic system.”
Papandreou also issued a statement denying the claims that there as a plot to overthrow him, adding that the rumors had been rejected when they first surfaced last October.
German magazines say Greece will get the cash
Apparently the Troika, while not ecstatic, is sufficiently satisfied with the package of cuts they’re getting Monday to open up the cash.
We suspect it’s true, and a measure designed to ease market anxiety.
Greece will receive its next tranche of international aid despite budget shortfalls and slow progress on reforms because the euro zone does not want the country to leave the common currency, two German magazines reported on Saturday.
“The Greeks will receive a list of reforms which must be approved by their parliament by a fixed date. The money will be released as soon as lawmakers have voted,” a Eurogroup source told the Wirtschaftswoche business weekly.
It did not say what new reforms would be proposed but said the euro zone was now focused on avoiding a Greek exit.
“The fear of a ‘domino effect’ in the euro zone is too great (not to release the funds),” a senior EU official told the weekly, referring to possible contagion to other heavily indebted states such as Spain if Greece were to default.
A second report in the Focus magazine, citing sources in the European Parliament, also said Greece would receive its tranche.
Greece may ask for a bank bailout
The request, according to those usual “informed sources,” would be justified by the country’s submission to the cuts agenda.
It’s one way the Troika can avoid to be appearing to make a sovereign bailout, a move that would likely send spasm of anxieties and result in yet more downgrades.
Besides, there’s always that contagion threat.
From Nathalie Savaricas of The Independent:
Greece could return cap-in-hand to its European partners for a Spanish-style rescue of its ailing banking sector despite receiving billions of euros in bailout loans.
A Greek government source said the country was looking for ways to lessen its burden as it attempts to put its economy back on course, including another writedown in the value of its debt or a “strong recapitalisation of its banks”.
The country remains mired in a deep recession, and will have contracted by 25 per cent by time the recession ends, the Greek finance minister, Yannis Stournaras, said last week.
Yesterday, the source told The Independent that Athens, which has already made sharp reductions in spending, was willing to introduce another round of spending cuts – but only as long as Europe gave something in return. “Greece will keep its pledge and implement the measures but on the condition that it comes as part of a European solution to our debt crisis… This can involve different scenarios,” the source said, suggesting that the country could seek the kind of sector-specific rescue package recently secured by Spain, with Europe pledging up to €100bn (£80bn) to prop up Madrid’s banks.
IMF wants to send German retirees to Greece
The retirees in question would be a legion of bean-counters, banksters, and other folks who’ve left the money game.
Their task would be advisory. The Men in Grey rather than the Men in Black/
From A. Papapostolou of Greek Reporter:
The International Monetary Fund wants to assemble a pool of German pensioners with finance expertise to help Greece establish a functioning financial system, it was reported on Saturday.
The business magazine Wirtschaftswoche reported that IMF Chief Christine Lagarde is hoping to attract retired German financial experts to help out ailing Greece.
She is said to be looking for people with tax experience and also those who held management positions.
Some 170 tax experts from German state and federal finance offices have already offered their services to the Greek tax authorities. But according to State Secretary Hartmut Koschyk only seven of these experts have actually been sent to Athens to help out.
Merkel challenger says ‘Give Greece more time’
The Social Democrats hope to defeat the Iron Chancellor in next year’s parliamentary elections, and the party’s likely choice to replace Merkel is calling for a slowdown in the Troika’s push to implement the full slate of aunti-austerity measures now nearing completion.
Greece should be given more time to reform its economy and must not be thrown out of the euro zone, said Peer Steinbrueck, the man hoping to oust Angela Merkel as Germany’s chancellor next year.
Steinbrueck, named by the main opposition Social Democrats on Friday as their candidate to challenge the conservative Merkel, told Die Welt am Sonntag newspaper that Germany should be ready to provide aid to Greece for some time to come.
“In the case of Greece, we cannot tighten the screws any further. The Greeks must stand by their commitments, but we must also give them more time,” said Steinbrueck, who served as finance minister in a coalition led by Merkel in 2005-09.
“And the chancellor must finally tell the German people the truth: Greece will not be able to borrow money on the capital markets in the coming seven or eight years. We will have to help it until then,” he added.
Cabinet minister slams Troika’s layoffs demand
It looks like it’s back to square one for one of the Troika’s bottom-line cuts demands.
The government had tried to skirt the issue by creating a category of furloughed workers, who’d receive about 60 percent of their pay as part of a “labor reserve.”
The Troika said no, but the minister in charge of structural reforms indicates he might not go along.
Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis has admitted in an interview with Kathimerini that the government’s austerity package foresees the suspension of 15,000 civil servants, insisting however that these should not be permanent layoffs, as demanded by the troika.
Expressing a stance that could cause friction if adopted in talks with troika envoys next week and could even prompt a mini crisis in the government, Manitakis said that civil servants could not be laid off permanently “arbitrarily and without legal procedures,” noting that no European state has taken such action.
“I understand that the troika, by broaching the issue of layoffs, wants to send a message, but unfortunately that message confuses a public relations exercise with fiscal targets and is of doubtful political effectiveness,” the minister said.
He also queried the effectiveness of such tactics. “There are no criteria nor reasons demonstrating the fiscal benefit of layoffs,” he said, adding that Greece was on target to meet its pledges to creditors to reduce the number of staff in the civil service by 150,000 by 2015 through attrition. The government has also introduced a new system of one hiring for every 10 departures from the public sector. Insisting on permanent layoffs in addition to this would not only be an “institutionally arbitrary and unsubstantiated proposal” but it would undermine a major effort being undertaken to radically overhaul the public sector, Manitakis said.
Ten former cabinet ministers investigated
Just when Greece is already seething with anger over the latest round of pay and pension cuts, tax hikes, extended workdays and workweeks, a Greek website has released the names of prominent politicians under investigation for possible tax crimes.
Included on the list are ten former cabinet members, most from two parties in the current coalition government, Pasok and New Democracy. Also included is Panos Kammenos, the head of non-coalition party Independent Greeks. The list also includes two former mayors of Athens.
From Athens News:
A website has published the names of 36 current and former politicians and ministers being audited or investigated by the Financial and Economic Crime Unit (SDOE) for financial irregularities and suspicious acquisition of wealth.
The list was published on Thursday on the zougla.gr website.
Here’s the list of suspects who held cabinet positions:
- Dimitris Apostolakis [Pasok], former defensce minister under Kostas Simitis.
- Michalis Liapis [New Democracy], former transport and culture minister.
- Tasos Mandelis [Pasok], former transport and communications minister.
- Yiannos Papantoniou [Pasok], former finance and defense minister.
- Akis Tsochatzopoulos [Pasok], former defence minister.
- Christos Verelis [Pasok], former transport and communications minister.
- Aris Spiliotopoulos [ND], former education minister and current MP.
- Spilios Spiliotopoulos [ND], defense minister from 2004 to 2006.
- Yiorgos Voulgarakis [ND], former public order, culture and merchant marine minister.
- George Zanias, a former interim finance minister. A University of Athens economists, he was one of the lead negotiators of the current bailout agreement.
Ekathemerini reports that publication of the list has triggered the usual leak investigation:
Supreme Court prosecutor Yiannis Tentes on Friday ordered an urgent investigation regarding the leak of a list containing the names of more than 30 politicians currently under investigation for corruption by the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE).
The probe will examine possible violation of official secrecy by SDOE officials as well as the involvement of journalists and media who published the list.
Greek parliamentary leader hits that he’ll quit
He’s on that list.
From Andy Dabilis of Greek Reporter:
Greek Parliament President Vangelis Meimarakis, who suspended himself during a reported probe into the bank accounts of 36 politicians that allegedly found huge sums in their bank accounts for which they couldn’t account, is feeling the heat and said he may quit the post.
“I am considering resigning,” Meimarakis told reporters, adding that he was willing to provide copies of the origin of wealth (“pothen esches”) declarations he has submitted to authorities since he was first elected an MP in 1989 in a bid to clear his name.
The former defense minister called on Nikos Hatzinikolaou, the publisher of the Real News daily that published the allegations linking Meimarakis and two other ex-ministers to money laundering, to do the same. “I want to know my accuser,” said Meimarakis, a former General Secretary for New Democracy and close ally of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Corruption allegations achieved a miracle
The scandals so dominated the front pages and broadcasts that Greeks were able to forget, at least for the moment, the one thing that’s been dominating their minds for the last few years.
From Keep Talking Greece:
I think, our world, our political and social world here in Greece is really upside down. Thursday noon, the coalition government partners leaders agreed on the 11 billion euro measures that will kneel households with further salaries cuts, the elderly with pension cuts and the self-employed and freelancers with 30-35% taxes. Already in the afternoon the finalized package was leaked to the press. Under normal circumstances this would have led to endless discussions in the media and uproar among the citizens. But the circumstances are not normal. Here in Greece, a … miracle happened! The political world stole our anger against the austerity measures.
Justified or unjustified, corruption allegations from all sky directions, every body against everybody and all against each other. So many things concerning the politicians happened on a single day. On Thursday, September 27th 2012, the day the coalition leaders agreed on the austerity measures.
Judges, prosecutors claim their pay cuts illegal
There’s more than a little irony in this proclamation, given that it’s judges who typically determine constitutionality.
The story doesn’t offer specifics, so we’ll have to wait for events to play out to grasp the implications.
In a letter addressed to Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, his fellow coalition leaders — PASOK’s Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left’s Fotis Kouvelis — Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, six judges and prosecutors associations have claimed that the proposed cuts in their salaries and pensions devised by the government are unconstitutional.
Judges and magistrates have been staging a series of rolling work stoppages in recent weeks, while administrative judges have said they will extend their industrial action until October 5.
Greek electrical workers announce rolling strikes
In addition to the pay and pension cuts, the threat of a complete privatization of the public utility is a motive for their action.
Greece’s electricity workers said on Friday they will start rolling 48-hour strikes as early as next week, to protest austerity measures demanded by the country’s international lenders.
“From the evening of Monday, Oct. 1… rolling 48-hour strikes begin,” said GENOP-DEH, labour union of state-controlled utility PPC which is the country’s only electricity retailer.
The Oct. 1 strike date applies if the government submits the austerity measures to parliament next week, the statement said.
If the vote takes place later, the strike will be delayed accordingly, the union added.
Retails sales fall dramatically
They’re down eight percent from the year before, which is hardly surprising given the rising jobless rate and the certainty of further pay/pension reductions.
But the loss of sale also means more layoffs as merchant revenues declines, the vicious pattern common to the austerian regime wherever it’s implemented.
From Capital .gr:
Greece’s statistical authority says domestic retail sales dropped eight percent in July compared with a year earlier, highlighting the painful impact of a four-year recession, the Associated Press reported.
The fall was worst in the clothing and footwear sector, where sales were down 18.6 percent compared with July 2011, the authority said in a statement Friday.
July and August are when Greek retailers offer summer sales, which normally boosts turnover.
But according to separate estimates from Greece?s national trade confederation, turnover during the two-month sales period dropped 20 percent compared with a year earlier, and a total 36 percent since the summer of 2010.
Greek overseas college enrollment plunges
It’s down more than a third over the last year.
As noted in earlier posts, the pattern of enrollment has also shifted, with Greek students opting for cheaper Eastern European institutions over their traditional choices of schools in Britain and elsewhere in Western Europe.
Although Greece still has a high percentage of university students traveling abroad for their studies, a recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showed a significant drop in their numbers.
According to the study, titled “Education at a Glance,” 22,000 Greek students were studying abroad in 2012 compared to 33,500 in 2011 and 34,200 the year before that — an indication that the economic crisis is preventing teenagers from pursuing studies at foreign universities.
However, Greek students abroad still account for 5.8 percent of the country’s total student body, with most choosing universities and colleges in the UK (36.1 percent), followed by Germany (15.8 percent).
Greek police refer complaints to Golden Dawn
More proof of the high penetration of law enforcement by the neo-Nazi xenophobes.
Police polling stations reported a 50 percent voting average for the neofascists during the last round of parliamentary voting, and now it seems that the police are using Golden Dawn as auxiliaries.
But it’s the nature of the cases referred to the violent Golden Dawners that raises eyebrows, since they involve the very people people the party has been targeting with violence, immigrants.
From Helena Smith of The Guardian:
Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party is increasingly assuming the role of law enforcement officers on the streets of the bankrupt country, with mounting evidence that Athenians are being openly directed by police to seek help from the neo-Nazi group, analysts, activists and lawyers say.
In return, a growing number of Greek crime victims have come to see the party, whose symbol bears an uncanny resemblance to the swastika, as a “protector”.
One victim of crime, an eloquent US-trained civil servant, told the Guardian of her family’s shock at being referred to the party when her mother recently called the police following an incident involving Albanian immigrants in their downtown apartment block.
“They immediately said if it’s an issue with immigrants go to Golden Dawn,” said the 38-year-old, who fearing for her job and safety, spoke only on condition of anonymity. “We don’t condone Golden Dawn but there is an acute social problem that has come with the breakdown of feeling of security among lower and middle class people in the urban centre,” she said. “If the police and official mechanism can’t deliver and there is no recourse to justice, then you have to turn to other maverick solutions.”
Other Greeks with similar experiences said the far-rightists, catapulted into parliament on a ticket of tackling “immigrant scum” were simply doing the job of a defunct state that had left a growing number feeling overwhelmed by a “sense of powerlessness”. “Nature hates vacuums and Golden Dawn is just filling a vacuum that no other party is addressing,” one woman lamented. “It gives ‘little people’ a sense that they can survive, that they are safe in their own homes.”
Syriza leader takes the campaign to Germany
Alexis Tsipras has assumed the role of the harshest critic of the government’s submission to the Troika’s austerity mandate, and Germany has been pushing austerity the hardest.
So now Tsipras has taken his campaign to the belly of the beast.
As government officials prepare to enter a new round of tough negotiations with representatives of Greece’s foreign creditors on a new austerity package, the leader of the main leftist opposition SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras, during a speech in Hamburg on Saturday, said that the measures will only plunge the country deeper into recession and necessitate the need for a third and possibly even a fourth debt restructuring.
In what appeared to have been planned as a charm offensive, Tsipras told a conference organized by the respected German newspaper Die Zeit that “Europe needs Germany and, even more, it needs its unrivaled logic.” Lauding Germany as the country of Kant, Goethe, Beethoven and Einstein, Tsipras stressed that the country had embraced Greeks who resisted the 1967-74 dictatorship. “Such things are not forgotten,” he said.
In a clear attempt to appeal to German public opinion — which has been largely critical of Greece and the repercussions of its debt problems — Tsipras expressed respect for German taxpayers, warning however that their money was going toward propping up bankrupt banks.