The government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras sat down with the Troika’s Men in Black Monday and left the table with nothing, with the Big Three apparently willing to cut the country no slack. The MIBs did encounter another angry protest on their war to the talks. Adding to the crisis for the millions of Greeks who’ve seen their pay and pensions cut is another major economic problem — the high price of food and other consumer goods.
There’s the story of a list lost and apparently found, more of those rolling strikes, the strange political appointment of the Golden Dawn leader’s spouse, harsh jail terms for anarchists, and a call to care for the country’s growing homeless population.
Troika talks stall again, deadline nears
The coalition government has just a week left to prepare an acceptable list of cuts demanded by the Troika, but two meetings with the Men in Black Monday ended in yet another impasse.
The coalition headed by conservative New Democracy Prime Minister Antonis Samaras must have an acceptable list ready for the 8 October meeting of the Eurogroup, the assembled finance ministers of the countries of the common currency zone.
From Renee Maltezou of Reuters:
Greece held a new round of talks with foreign lenders to bridge differences over 2 billion euros of disputed austerity cuts on Tuesday, with time running short to clinch a deal before a meeting of euro zone ministers next week.
Athens has been haggling for weeks over 12 billion euros of cutbacks that its European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders have refused to sign off on over fears that some of the proposed savings are unlikely to materialize.
For the second day in a row, inspectors from the “troika” of European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF lenders had to face rows of angry Greeks heckling them as they entered a ministry building to start discussions.
“The troika is questioning the effectiveness of the measures related to structural reforms,” a government official said, citing planned savings from restructuring entities in health and other ministries.
The official expressed optimism that a deal with the troika would be struck by the end of the week, but a second government source cast doubt on that, saying such an outcome now appeared “difficult”.
More from Athens News:
It was billed as a key meeting at which the government’s proposals for 11.5bn euros in spending cuts and 2bn euros in tax hikes would receive approval from the troika, but Monday’s meeting between Prime Minister Samaras and troika inspectors ended after only 35 minutes and without agreement.
Speaking afterwards, the government spokesman, Simos Kedikoglou, denied that the talks had reached a deadlock but described the negotiations as “laborious”.
He also said that Samaras was maintaining extensive contact with his European counterparts and EU leaders, which many interpreted to mean that he was seeking political support for his government’s proposals.
Kedikoglou added said that there shall be a new meeting with the troika and between the coalition party leaders but no date had been set for these.
And some details on the budget package from Greek News Agenda:
In particular, spending savings will result from a restructuring of the public sector (€483 million), and of local authorities (€100 million), reduced payroll spending (€1.1 billion), lower pension spending (€3.799 billion), cutbacks in social benefits (€347 million), lower healthcare spending (€803 million), cutbacks in national defence (€304 million), lower spending on education (€132 million) and a restructuring of public sector enterprises (€241 million).
Troika emissaries greeted by another rowdy protest
While our previous GreeceWatch reported on a raucous reception of Troika emissaries conducted by the Rightist Independent Greeks, the latest chivaree comes from folks in wheelchairs and other disabled activists, angry at austerian cuts to programs created to meet their needs.
From Keep Talking Greece:
If you think the Troika representatives can bypass 50 disable protesters and enter unharmed the Labour Ministry in Athens , you’re wrong. The panic and confusion is so big that the Troikans can land into some private gym instead…
Some 50 representatives of disable organisations had gathered outside the Labour and Social Care Ministry to protest cuts in health care and benefits. And thus before the Troika arrived for a meeting with minister Yiannis Vroutsis.
It was first, Matthias Morse (EU) who approached the Ministry. The angry crowd started to boo and chant slogans.
When the turn of Poul Thomsen (IMF) came, as he is more recognizable, his six body-guards decided to take him to the Ministry through the back door. However, by mistake they led him to a private gym located in the same mall.
A dangerous brew: Austerity and higher prices
With unemployment soaring and pay cuts already implemented and still more to come [along with those longer workdays and six-day workweeks], Greeks have yet another serious problem to contend with — food prices nearly a third higher than in most eurozone countries.
Despite being in recession for five consecutive years, Greece remains one of the most expensive countries in the eurozone in terms of consumer prices, according to figures published by Europe’s statistical agency, Eurostat.
Milk and dairy products are 31.5 percent higher than the eurozone average, the figures show, with bread and cereals coming with a 16 percent markup for buyers and having the highest producer rates among the 17-nation bloc.
Greece is also the most expensive among its peers in the markets for furniture and electronic equipment.
According to the Development Ministry, the high cost of consumer goods can be attributed to the corresponding high cost of transportation, especially to the country’s islands, as well as high taxes, with sources suggesting that inspections will be increased to combat profiteering.
The strange case of the mixing scofflaw list
A compact disk bearing the names of Greeks suspected as tax cheats for keeping hefty sums in Swiss banks has been at the center of a odd Athenian mystery.
Somehow the disk, presented by the IMF boss to a former PASOK finance minister vanished in the last two years, created a scandal.
Now the head of PASOK says he’s found of copy of the celebrated list and handed it over to the government.
But the story raises as many questions as it answers.
From Andy Dabilis of Greek Reporter:
A list of some 2,000 Greeks with large deposits in a Swiss bank – that had been on a missing CD – was given to the government on Oct. 2 by PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, who said he had been given the information while he was finance minister in a former government but didn’t act on it because it was not legally obtained.
The list is thought to have been first compiled by French authorities in 2010 and submitted to then-Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou by his French counterpart Christine Lagarde, who now heads the International Monetary Fund, one of the Troika of international lenders providing Greece with rescue loans.
Venizelos is now in the coalition government headed by New Democracy leader and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the tiny Democratic Left and said he had been given the list by the former head of the Financial Crimes Squad SDOE Yiannis Dotis, who was replaced by a friend of Samaras’ just as an investigation into alleged high-level tax evaders was proceeding.
Papaconstantinou later claimed that he had passed the contentious CD over to SDOE, which at the time was headed by Yiannis Kapeleris, and that somewhere along the line the data went “missing,” although no one could account for it.
For an entertaining history of the missing tax evader files, see this from Keep Talking Greece.
Athens News has more here.
More job actions planned Wednesday
This time medical professionals are demonstrating.
Doctors and nursing staff are set to launch sit-ins at state hospitals around the country from Wednesday in protest at the impact of the government’s austerity policies on their sector.
The country’s main hospital doctors’ union, which heralded the open-ended action on Tuesday, also called for a protest rally outside the offices of the Health Ministry on Thursday at 11 a.m.
And so are trolley drivers.
From Keep Talking Greece:
Workers at Athens Trolley will launch a work stoppage form 10 am to 4 pm on Wednesday, October 3rd 2012, so personnel can attend the general meeting of the trade union.
Workers of Athens Metro, Trolley and urban train HSAP/ISAP plan rolling strikes in order to protest the upcoming austerity package containing measures worth 11.5 billion euro.
And another action protests vanished transport.
From Keep Talking Greece:
With drums and harmonicas, students of public music high schools launched a protest against the cancellation of their transportation to schools. Students, parents and teachers gathered in downtown Athens and marched to Greek Parliament playing music, singing and chanting slogans.
“Music Schools are not Games for the Politics” said one banner, featured on the broken ‘melody bus’. Other banners read “Bread, Education and Buses for the Schools.”
Last Monday, owners of touristic buses in contract with Education Ministry to transport students to and from schools in the prefecture of Attica stopped the transport service due to outstanding debts.
Why don’t students use public transport? Because proper connections are often not available.
Xenophobic party leader’s spouse lands a peculiar job
Golden Dawn’s the neo-Nazi party that’s been growing in popularity, in part because it plays on the xenophobia that usually accompanies economic crisis.
Golden Dawn types have been beating and stabbing immigrants, and they’ve been smashing stalls owned by immigrant street vendors.
So if you’re going to make an appointment to the Council of Europe’s Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, the spouse of Golden Dawn’s leader is the just about the last person you’d appoint, right?
From Keep Talking Greece:
Eleni, Zaroulia, Member of the Greek Parliament and wife of party chairman of Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) will sit on the Council of Europe’s Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination. Zaroulia will be in Strasbourg as an alternate member of the Greek parliamentary delegation. “What does a member of a party involved in racist attacks and discrimination do in a non-discrimination committee, a committee known to fight racism and xenophobic behaviour?” ask many and not only Greeks.
Anarchists draw stiff sentences for bombings
While Golden Dawn thugs can beat and slash with near-impunity, anarchists who blow things up with hurting anyone draw harsh prison sentences.
Buy maybe that’s because half of Greek police officers voted Golden Dawn and regularly refer citizens with complaints about immigrants straight to the latter-day fascists.
An appeals court in Athens on Tuesday handed long prison sentences to four people accused of being members of the Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire urban guerrilla group, which carried out a series of bloodless bomb attacks in 2009 and 2010.
Brothers Giorgos and Michalis Nikolopoulos and Damiano Bolano were each given 25 years in jail.
They were found guilty of taking part in the creation of explosive devices and being accomplices to bombings at the office of former minister Louka Katseli, the home of former minister Panayiotis Hinofotis and the Macedonia-Thrace Ministry.
Christos Tsakalos received a prison term of seven years.
Syriza demands government help for the homeless
While Golden Dawn thugs are bludgeoning and cutting, the Leftists in Syriza, the number two party in parliament, are calling on the government to help the growing numbers of Greeks who are losing their homes.
A group of deputies for the main opposition SYRIZA party demanded in Parliament on Tuesday that the government take action to bring some relief to the burgeoning homeless population, which has risen dramatically in the past three years as a result of the economic crisis.
The MPs cited data from the European Federation of National Organizations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA) suggesting that the number of street homeless people and those in transitory shelters in the city of Athens is approximately 11,000 (3,000 Greeks and 8,000 foreigners), with other estimates putting that number as high as 40,000.
The SYRIZA group proposed that the government look for ways to transform disused state-owned buildings in central Athens into shelters, while also suggesting that there are unused funds available from a European Union-backed program for human resources development that could be used to alleviate the pressure on non-governmental organizations that have carried much of the burden of homeless relief programs.
“So far, the majority of services available to homeless people are of a charitable nature, while the state has failed to institute any actions for the prevention of the phenomenon,” the MPs said in a statement.