We open with a brief, poignant video of the impact of austerity, the move right into Angela Merkel’s Athenian visit, with the city transformed into a military stronghold. Then there’s the new Troika dedline for implementation of cuts package, 9 days away. The eurobank’s stepping up the heat, as are the nations of the Northpile on, and the Dutch government holds corporate Grexit classes.
We have a video general strike report, Arab money shopping for Greek bargains, a new regime for extraditing privatizations, a mysteriously dead corruption suspect, protests, and some profiting plutocrats.
MUTE – The visualization of an economic rape
A short documentary from Yiannis Biliris:
Without too many words. Or even better, no words at all. Mute is answering in the following questions: Which is the picture of the Greek crisis? What’s its colour? An economic rape that then turns to a social one.
H/T to From the Greek Streets.
Greece under siege: Merkel’s militarized visit
At least 7.000 Greek police will flood the streets of Athens Tuesday, with snipers perched in key positions, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel pays a visit to the country she has done so much to devastate.
First, a video report from Agence France-Presse:
From Andy Dabilis of Greek Reporter:
Worried that planned protests during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Athens on Oct. 9 could escalate into violence, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had directed that all rallies and gatherings be banned while she’s in the city to meet him, and the government will put snipers on rooftops and have Army commandos on standby in helicopters.
The security will even higher than for then-U.S. President Bill Clinton’s visit in 1999 and the ban on gatherings hasn’t happened since the days of the military junta that was overthrown in 1974. Samaras earlier had vowed to stop violence at protests after unpaid ship workers earlier this month stormed the Defense Ministry and clashed with police.
Government officials said most of the area in downtown Athens would be sealed off although it was reported that there would be some access for protesters and it was unclear how the government would react if demonstrators try to break the barricades that will be in place for 13 hours to protect Merkel and keep her from seeing any protests.
Demonstrators marched through Athens the day before Merkel’s visit and labor unions called for a work stoppage and mass protests while was to be meeting with Samaras and other government officials as the Prime Minister tries to get a $17.45 billion spending cut and tax hike plan approved by international lenders to release more loans needed to keep the economy afloat.
More from Spiegel:
“She does not come to support Greece, which her policies have brought to the brink. She comes to save the corrupt, disgraced and servile political system,” said Alexis Tsipras, who leads the opposition Syriza alliance. “We will give her the welcome she deserves.”
[G]iven the attention German newspapers were devoting to Merkel’s security arrangements for the visit — a trip to what is, after all, a European partner — it is clear that the visit is anything but normal. Some 7,000 police drafted from all over Greece will be deployed in Athens where they will turn the government district into a No-Go area for protesters during her six hours of talks with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, President Karolos Papoulias and industry representatives.
Snipers will man the roofs of surrounding buildings and police helicopters will accompany her convoy on the long trip from Athens airport to the city center, media reports said. One could be forgiven for thinking she was visiting Kabul rather than a long-standing European ally.
In a commentary, Bild said that rather than hurling abuse at Merkel in the streets of Athens, Greeks should be waving German flags in gratitude for the financial assistance German taxpayers have given Greece. The Greeks, Bild remarked, should not expect Merkel to offer any new concessions during the trip. “All the German chancellor can bring the Greeks is the bitter truth: that Athens only deserves new funding if it at last does its homework.”
The head of Germany’s opposition Left Party, Bernd Riexinger, said he would travel to Athens to join the demonstration against Merkel and to hold a speech. “Merkel’s visit to Athens will heighten internal conflicts in Greece,” Riexinger told Stuttgarter Nachrichten newspaper. “I will express our solidarity with the Greek workers and pensioners who are taking to the streets to protest against income cutbacks that are threatening their livelihoods.”
And this from Deutsche Presse-Agentur:
Police expect her visit to ignite large-scale public anger and possibly violence.
Merkel has repeatedly defended unpopular spending cuts and tax hikes introduced by her Greek colleagues in an effort to lower the country’s huge public debt.
Greece’s main trade unions and left-wing groups were to hold a rally in front of the Finance Ministry, in central Syntagma Square, later on Monday to express their opposition to the government’s latest austerity package.
Unions have also called a three-hour work stoppage to coincide with Merkel’s planned meetings with President Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister Minister Antonis Samaras and representatives of German and Greek industry.
The right-wing Independent Greeks party has also called for a human chain to be formed around the German embassy in Athens to protest Merkel’s policies.
In what has been described as the biggest security operation in the Greek capital since the visit of then US president Bill Clinton, in 1999, police decided to ring-fence a large area around the city and ban public gatherings and marches behind parliament on Tuesday.
So what does Merkel’s visit mean?
From Greek financial economist and banker Christos Kissas, writing in New Europe:
Now, concretely, what is this visit going to signal? Mainly, a public support to Greek prime minister Andonis Samaras’ government. Strange as, when in opposition, Mr. Samaras fiercely fought the so-called ‘Memorandums’ imposed by the troika partners (the EU, ECB, and the IMF), and the austerity measures contained in them. However, once in office, Mr. Samaras made a complete U-turn, and now fully supports the EU-imposed policies, leaving a vague promise of ‘re-negotiating’ the Memorandums for the future. If this attitude deserves encouragement, then one understands why Mrs. Merkel is coming to support him. However, most of the opposition, and with it a broad part of the Greeks, are preparing for street protests against Mrs. Merkel coming, while most of them view Mr. Samaras’ positive stance as a sign of subordination to the strong EU countries.
In other words, the whole situation is fishy. Mr Samaras simply used an anti-austerity rhetoric, just to seize power in the same way as his socialist counterpart in France, Mr. Hollande did, and has now switched sides to please the strong EU partners. As for Mrs. Merkel, who played hard with the Greeks, she equally switched sides as soon as she understood that it wouldn’t be possible to oust them from the Euro, and is now supporting Mr. Samaras as a ‘lesser evil’… Although this cannot yet be expressed in a politically appropriate way, both leaders’ hypocrisy is too well understood by the people of their respective countries.
Greece gets a deadline: 18 October
The message: If you want more money, implement those cuts by the deadline.
It’s a clear message, and can only add to the pressure on the coalition’s junior partners, Pasok and Democratic Left, already facing the threat of internal schisms from the intense outrage of growing numbers of their members.
From Agence France Presse:
Greece’s international creditors on Monday gave Athens an October 18 deadline, date of the next European Union summit, to “implement” reforms in exchange for fresh financial assistance.
“We stressed that before the next disbursement Greece clearly and credibly should demonstrate its commitment to fully implement the programme — and 89 prior actions from March should be implemented by the 18th of October at the latest,” Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker said at the close of talks with finance ministers from the 17-nation single currency area.
The scores of “prior actions” involve major privatisations and a whole swathe of reforms to labour markets or bureaucratic red-tape.
Juncker said that after being debriefed by the Troika of international lenders — the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank — “we were pleased to hear substantial progress has been made on Greece, specially in the last days.”
But before the next disbursement of 31.5 billion euros ($40.6 billion) from a 130-billion second package of loans for Greece, talks between Greece and the troika must be finalised, he stressed.
And the eurobank steps up the heat
The Troikarchs at the European Central Bank are making it clear again that Greece won’t be given the cuts implementation extension sought by the coalition.
The delivery of the stern message on the eve of the Iron Chancellor’s visit can only add to the anger and ensure a robust welcome for Merkel.
From Szu Ping Chan of the London Telegraph:
Greece cannot have more time to repay its debt to the European Central Bank because it would be illegal and “illogical”, board member Joerg Asmussen has said, as he shut the door on pleas for leniency from the bank.
Mr Asmussen said that the ECB could not lengthen the time period for loans to Greece or lower interest rates as “both concessions would be a form of debt forgiveness and therefore a direct financial support for the Greek state.
“That would not be allowed under the law governing the ECB,” he said.
He also said that it would be wrong for Greece to say it needed more time but not more money.
“A temporary extension of fiscal targets automatically means that Greece needs more financial assistance from abroad.” he told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
‘Thorough and robust,’ the ministerial catchphrase
The eurozone’s money ministers huddled with the IMF Monday to decide on a strategy for forcing Greek compliance.
Their use of the T&R phrase is a classic bit of political spinmeisterese, and a sign that the North/South split is intensifying, with the North arguing for the hardest possible line.
From Robin Emmott and Jan Strupczewski of Reuters:
Euro zone finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund held a “thorough and robust” debate on Greece on Monday, but failed to make significant progress in deciding how best to get the country back on track with its bailout program.
Ministers spent more than two hours discussing an upcoming report by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF – known as the troika – on Greece’s debt-reduction program, with divergences emerging inside the eurozone and with the IMF over how best to proceed, officials said.
While Jean-Claude Juncker, the chairman of the eurozone’s 17 finance ministers, and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde both said they were pleased with Athens’ progress, they said more still needed to be done. Further discussion will take place once the troika report is published, probably next month.
“It was a thorough and robust debate,” one euro zone official said describing in diplomatic terms a meeting that others said was at times intense and ultimately inconclusive.
One point of contention was whether to grant Athens up to two more years to meet its budget and other targets. While the IMF is believed to favor leeway, countries such as the Netherlands and Finland have concerns about offering more time.
More from the London Telegraph:
“We stressed that before the next disbursement Greece clearly and credibly should demonstrate its commitment to fully implement the programme – and 89 prior actions from March should be implemented by the 18th of October at the latest,” Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker said at the close of talks with finance ministers from the 17-nation single currency area.
The scores of “prior actions” involve major privatisations and a whole swathe of reforms to labour markets or bureaucratic red-tape.
Juncker said that after being debriefed by the Troika of international lenders – the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank – “we were pleased to hear substantial progress has been made on Greece, specially in the last days.”
But before the next disbursement of €31.5bn from a €130bn second package of loans for Greece, talks between Greece and the troika must be finalised, he stressed.
Dutch government prepares companies for Grexit
And it was all on the downlow, to prevent an awakening.
From Greek Reporter:
The Netherlands has begun secretly preparing Dutch firms for an eventual Greek exit from the eurozone, the Volkskrant reports on Monday.
The paper says diplomats in Athens have been making an inventory of the risks, planning emergency measures and have even held a secret meeting with companies.
The paper says the measures are sensitive because the Dutch government publicly states Greece must remain in the eurozone and because speculation about Greece’s withdrawal could hurt the Greek economy even more.
‘We kept this behind closed doors deliberately. We do not want to awaken any sleeping giants,’ one diplomat told the paper.
The meeting with Dutch companies was held in June and companies used to it exchange information about their preparations for a Greek exit. For example, some firms have made their financial systems ready to deal with a new currency.
General Strike Solid in Greek Town Chania
From The Real News Network:
From the transcript:
The first general strike against the new government in Greece was militant throughout the country.
The Real News reports from the city of Chania, on the island of Crete.
Chania is a city of 60.000 inhabitants, heavily dependent on tourism for income.
It is also home to strong unions and left organisations. Several thousand people showed up on the strike march.
Unions and left groups participated in an organized fashion.
Even the secondary school students formed their own block on the demonstration, with their own slogan.
Many left and anti-bailout parties featured prominently in the demonstration.
Arab money looks for Greek bargains
This one could provide more fuel to the Islamophobes of Golden Dawn.
Arab investors would be strongly interested in the acquisition of hotels and investment in Greek real estate, Abu Dhabi’s Tourism Minister Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan told his Greek counterpart Olga Kefalogianni last week. “We had a constructive and fruitful discussion with the sheik, and found that Greece and the United Arab Emirates can develop stronger cooperation ties in the tourism sector,” Kefalogianni said after the meeting on the sidelines of the 18th World Routes Development Forum in Abu Dhabi. “The Emirates are a very interesting market which we ought to tap,” she added.
Sources said investors are closely monitoring the Greek real estate market but have not yet proceeded to acquisitions due to the uncertain economic outlook.
Greecing the skids for privatization
Disaster capitalization demands transformation of public holdings into private assets, a strategy forced on governments whenever bailouts occur.
The troika’s been unhappy with the coalition’s pace of privatization, so the coalition’s drafted up new rules designed to make paring away the commons easier and more extensive.
Greek government on Friday submitted to Parliament a draft decree facilitating privatizations. The document, as daily Kathimerini reports, includes provisions abolishing the government’s “golden share” minimum of a 20% holding in Hellenic Petroleum, Public Power Corporation, betting firm OPAP, Horse Racing Organization (ODIE), the Athens and Thessaloniki water utilities (EYDAP and EYATH), the Piraeus Port Authority and several provincial ports.
Other provisions facilitate investment in seaside areas, transfer 2004 Olympic properties to the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (TAIPED), and institute sale and leaseback procedures for public assets.
Suspect named in arms corruption found dead
This time the corrupting company wasn’t German.
From Keep Talking Greece:
Vlassis Kambouroglou, 60, managing director of Drumilan International has been found dead on Saturday in his hotel room in Jakarta, Indonesia. In a story that reads like a modern times novel written together by John Le Carre and Graham Greene, some Greek media claim that Kambouroglou had committed suicide while others report that the Indonesia authorities investigate also the possibility of assassination.
Kambouroglou, an arms dealer, had being accused of being part of bribery and money laundering network connected to former PASOK-Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos currently in prison awaiting for trial.
Kambouroglou was involved in the brides scandal for the purchase of Russian-made Air Defense, anti-missile system TOR-M1 by Athens back in 2000.
Retirees, unions hold Monday protests
There’s a reference to protests at Merkel’s visit, but with all those cops. . .
From Athens News:
Pensioners began protesting Monday morning around 10am in Plateia Kotzia near Omonia and are working their way to the European Commission on Vassilis Sofias. The pensioners are protesting cuts to their pensions and the new measures under discussion by the troika. As of 11am, Stadiou Street is closed.
Labour unions GSEE and EDDY are also protesting on Monday at 6pm in front of the Finance Ministry in Athens. The federations are protesting against the new austerity measures, and demand the reversal of the memorandum, the total devastation of labour, and sky-high unemployment.
On Tuesday, on the occasion of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Athens, the labour federations have called a 3-hour standstill in Attica from noon to 3pm and a demonstration in Syntagma Square in front of the parliament.
Hospital workers wall up entrance
The symbolic act targeted the effects of austerity on an institution created to serve the needs of society’s most vulnerable.
From Keep Talking Greece:
Employees at Dromokaitio, the Athens state hospital for mentally ill decided to block the entrance for new patients claiming the hospital was overcrowded and there was no place for new admissions. With trowel and cement blocks, protesting employees started to build a wall right in the entrance of the hospital.
President of the employees’ union told Greek media that their action was symbolic in order to protest cuts of funding and lack of personnel.
“The hospital is over-crowded, there is lack of personnel and material, the living conditions for the patients are deteriorating,” Michalis Yiannakos told private Mega TV on Monday morning.
“This year the hospital budget was cut by 3.5 billion. The National Health Care Organisation (EOPYY) has not paid any penny from the outstanding debts. The result is the decline in the quality of food and material. There are no syringes and gauze and nurses go to pharmacies and buy with their own money syringes, gauze and plastic gloves.”
Yiannakos warned that due to outstanding debts suppliers have been threatening to cut the food supplies to patients as of tomorrow.
Greek shipping magnates flourish amidst chaos
The Germans have been demanding a review of taxes and laws governing Greece’s legendary shipping industry and the magnates who own it [Jackie O went to being a presidential spouse to a Greek shipping tycoon’s first mate].
It looks like they’re still doing quite well.
The Greek-managed merchant fleet has retained its strength and competitiveness this year, increasing its capacity in spite of the ongoing global financial crisis, Ekathimerini.com newspaper reported on Monday.
The capacity of the Greek-owned fleet expanded by 3% to 263,635,420 deadweight tons (dwt), against 256,174,041 dwt in 2011 and 242,802,092 dwt in 2010, according to a survey titled 2012 Greek Fleet Statistics published this week by financial analysts at Petrofin Research.
This was despite the fact that the fleet has contracted by 137 vessels since October 2011, to 4,577 units. The average shipping capacity per vessel increased by 6%, while the average age went down to 14.7 years, thanks to investments by Greek shipowners in new ships.