In the most bizarre day since the start of the Greek crisis, a welter of conflicting news reports left Greeks and observers like esnl reeling.
The bombshell beginning the day was an announcement from a German newspaper that the Greek coalition had won its desideratum, a two-year extension of the time needed to implement those draconian cuts demanded by the IMF/EU/ECB Troika.
Accompanying that declaration was another: The cuts were a done deal.
Accounts filled the paper and virtual pages of the world’s press and media sites and were bandied about on the airwaves.
Yet by the time the day was over, both accounts had been denied by all three members of the Troika, even though they’d also been confirmed by the Greek finance minister following the Troika’s denials.
More specifics of the cuts emerged, as did more signs of division within the coalition government headed by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
The German money minister really sent Greek heads spinning, first by by declaring he’d be ready to fund a third Greek bailout, then by demanding that Greeks cede control over the nation’s borrowing and surrender all tax cash collected bailout funds into a eurobankster-controlled escrow account. And on the subject of banks, Greek bank employees are on strike today.
In other news, Golden Dawn has added a new category to its target list, non-citizens attending Greek universities, while Golden Dawn itself is being targeted, with three of its most thuggish parliamentary delegates stripped of immunity for prosecution for their violent actions.
Oh, and some crooks tried to steal a bridge before the Troika could.
But we’ll begin with a two-part video on Greece from The Real News Network, first on the impacts of the austerity measures already imposed:
And following up with a report on the increasing radicalization of Greek politics:
For more reports from The Real News Network, see here.
German paper reports: Greece wins a delay
Spiegel reports on the source of the report on the extension:
Süddeutsche Zeitung is reporting that Greece’s international creditors have agreed to grant the heavily indebted country two more years to reduce its budget deficit below the 3 percent maximum allowed by European Union rules. While not citing sources beyond a draft version of a “Memorandum of Understanding,” the paper also reports that Athens will additionally be given a breather on deadlines for labor market reform, energy policy reform and privatization efforts.
It is unclear whether the draft deal seen by the Süddeutsche is the same paper that news agency Reuters claims also to have seen. The news agency is also reporting on Wednesday that Greece and its lenders are moving towards a deal that would give Greece two additional years, until 2016, to reach its target of achieving a “primary budget surplus” of 4.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). A “primary budget” does not include interest payments on debt.
Berlin officials have been quick to deny the Süddeutsche report, saying that no agreement has been finalized. Steffen Kampeter, a state secretary in Germany’s Finance Ministry, insisted that no decision will be made until a report from the troika — made up of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — is completed. “Anything prior to that is reading tea leaves,” he told German radio on Wednesday morning.
Confirming the original German report was the Greek Finance Minister.
Andy Dabilis of Greek reporter has the details:
Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras told journalists a deal had been agreed with PASOK Socialist chief Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left head Fotis Kouvelis and with international lenders, with the package set to go before the government-controlled Parliament by the end of the week, the newspaper Kathimerini said.
Stournaras told Parliament that Greece had won more time to meet its fiscal targets and to reduce its deficit from 9.3 to 3 percent. He didn’t say how long the reprieve would be but media reports indicated it was the two years, until 2016, that Samaras had hoped for, although it’s unsure how Greece would be funded after 2014. Stournaras said without the extension the spending cut and tax hike plan would have reached nearly $24 billion.
Troikarchs deny extension claims
The first two denials came from the boss eurobankster, followed by the European Union’s top money man.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi on Wednesday said that progress is being made over how to assist crisis-stricken Greece.
Answering a reporter’s question after he appeared before the German Parliament, in the wake of a Greek minister saying an extension had been granted by the troika of the EU, ECB and IMF, Draghi said: ‘’Progress has been made but there are things which need to be defined. I can’t comment on rumors”.
A spokesman for European Economic and Monetary Commissioner Olli Rehn echoed Draghi, saying: “ Substantive progress has been made in the talks with the Greek government but there remain pending issues before an accord at a technical level can be concluded”.
Draghi and Rehn were responding to a report from Greece’s Skai TV that Athens had obtained a two-year extension from the troika on the deadlines to hit the targets set in conditions for international aid it needs to avoid a default.
The IMF then joined in the denials.
From Agence France-Presse:
The International Monetary Fund announced Wednesday that there had been progress in talks with Greek authorities but no agreement on Greece’s economic performance under an IMF-EU rescue program.
“There has been progress in recent days, but some outstanding issues remain to be agreed upon to reach full staff-level agreement. Furthermore, financing issues will be discussed between the official lenders and Greece,” an IMF spokesperson said.
The brief IMF statement confirmed the European Union’s insistence earlier in the day that there was no deal, after Greece’s finance minister announced he had agreed on a new austerity package with the IMF, the EU and the European Union and won more time to fix the debt-crippled nation’s finances.
Germany says no money till report card’s done
The folks with their hands on the purse strings appear to have been the folks who scotched the deal.
While nobody’s saying it officially, that’s the conclusion we draw from this paragraph from a report by Lefteris Papadimas and George Georgiopoulos of Reuters:
European paymaster Germany said the EU would only decide on the matter after receiving a report on Greece’s progress from the ‘troika’ of lenders – the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund – while ECB President Mario Draghi said no final decision had been made.
But even if Greece flunks, can the Troika afford not to dish out the latest €31.5 billion bailout tranche?
From Helena Smith of The Guardian:
“Even if the troika give us a negative report what are they going to do? Are they really going to not give us the installment ( to keep Greece’s debt-choked econony afloat) two weeks before the US elections with everything that entails – default, bankruptcy, global market turmoil,” asked one senior Greek official.
“These labour reforms will turn our country into Bangladesh. They have no fiscal benefit and will actually derail the adjustment program. The political system will collapse if we impose them. The Troika is demanding that we commit suicide which is why we believe this is a matter that should be solved on a political level by the PM and not here in Athens with the troika.”
More details emerge on Troika-demanded cuts
They’re draconian, as expected.
The Guardian lists some of the austerian measures included in the package:
- Maintaining the emergency solidarity levy until 2018 – this is an increase in personal taxation of up to 5% that was introduced last year.
- Lowering the number of income tax bands to three or four, from eight at present.
- Big cuts to the public payroll: with 20,000 civil servants leaving in 2013, and a further 5,000 in 2014
- Increasing the retirement age by 2 years, from 65 to 67
- Increase in interest on deposits from 10% to 15% in 2014.
- Eliminating various tax exemptions
- Increasing taxes on farmers.
- Retroactive reductions from 1 August 2012 to “special payrolls”, on a sliding scale from 2% to 35%.
- A huge cut in the the number of associate professors from 15,226 to 2,000.
- Increasing urban traffic ticket prices by 25%, from March 2013.
- Remove special seasonal unemployment benefit payments.
Keep Talking Greece hones in on two measures certain to increase public outrage at both the Troikarchs and the coalition government:
And when you think ‘you’ve seen everything’, Greece’s lenders are always good for one or two additional surprises. Electricity bills will go up by 40% and public transport fares will increase by 25%. Yes. In times of harsh austerity, where many households struggle to make ends meet and the new austerity package will force millions deeper in despair.
Electricity bill hikes will affect private households and small enterprises making use of ‘low voltage electricity’. The hikes of total 40% will be implemented in two or three steps and are expected to go in effect in Janurary 2013.
Public Transport Fares
Hikes will be at least by 25%. Cheap tickets for buses, tram and trolley will go up to 1.50 euro (from 1.20 today) and for Metro or combined for all public transport means will go up to 1.75 euro (from 1.40 today).
The public transport hikes will have to be implemented by March 2013.
Coalition divisions center on labor “reforms”
Once upon a time, the word “reform” was assumed to mean changes in government policy that enhanced its ability to serve its citizens.
In these days, when Orwellian language dominates public discourse, “reform” means changes in government structure designed to increase its ability to serve the greed of private investors.
And so it is with the “reforms” that are splitting the government coalition between Troika pet Samaras’s New Democracy and erstwhile partners Democratic Left [Dimar] and the socialist-in-name-only Pasok.
From Keep Talking Greece:
Samaras’ government is in dramatic negotiations with the Troika over the so-called “Labour Reforms” after two of the three coalition government partners rejected the Troika demands for a total overthrow of Labour Rights. A disagreement that threatens the cohesion among the government partners.
According to latest information from state broadcaster NET TV, the Troika threatened Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras to tell the Eurogroup that there was no agreement between the coalition partners on the austerity package and rejected Greece’s proposal to exclude the “Labour Reforms” from the package. Stournaras and the Troika spoke on Tuesday night in a teleconference. On Thursday there is a working group meeting of the Eurogroup.
On Tuesday evening, PASOK-Leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left Fotis Kouvelis described the labour section of the 13.5-billion-euro austerity package as “unacceptable”.
“The unacceptable demands by the Troika are not going to give any fiscal benefit, and will only lead to a further unemployment increase,” Fotis Kouvelis told the media. He reiterated that he and DEMLEFT MPs will not vote in favor of the labour rights.
Similarly critical was Evangelos Venizelos who said that “It’s a provocation to start anew the labour right issue. Austerity discussions should not open on fronts such as labour that do not contribute anything to our financial goal. Our partners must understand we are not a protectorate.”
More from Xinhua:
[F]ollowing almost four months of deliberations within the government and with auditors of European Commission and International Monetary Fund (IMF) lenders, there are still issues pending, socialist PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos noted, in his statements to the press after the latest meeting.
“We need to present to the Greek assembly and Greek peoples a comprehensive deal…The agreement should convince markets and society that it will ensure the exit from the debt crisis,”Venizelos said.
He suggested that issues, such as the sustainability of the Greek sovereign debt, should be addressed now, not later.
In his statements to media, Fotis Kouvelis, the leader of Democratic Left (DIMAR), the smaller party in the coalition government, confirmed talks with representatives of EU/IMF creditors have hit a snag in regards to the proposed reforms in labor relations.
“DIMAR will not accept and will not vote in favor of the measures troika demands on labor rights. Our firm position is that they will not contribute to the fiscal adjustment and competitiveness. If we implemented them, we would witness further increase in unemployment and recession,” he said.
More details on those draconian labor “reforms”
Rebecca Clancy of the London Telegraph reports on the Troika’s labor demands, included in the draft agreement approved by New Democracy leader Samaras but rejected by his two coalition partners:
In a draft deal seen by Reuters, the debt-laden country will cut €6.3bn in public sector wages and pensions, with pension incomes above € 1,000 a month set to be cut.
The public sector will be hit further with at least 2,000 civil servants put on a one-year notice of dismal with reduced wages until the end of 2012.
At least a further 6,250 would enter the same programme every three months during 2013, starting from end-February.
In the labour market, it has been proposed that severance payments are reduced and capped.
Other allowances, such as automatic wage increases that kick in with seniority, are also set to be abolished.
The Germanator’s surprising concession
Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister who’s been the most outspoken critic of Greece, continues to soften his stance as the deadline approaches for the latest cash disbursal.
With the German economy weakening as the eurocrisis deepens, Schäuble’s desperate to return the German economy to an even keel — and that means retaining investor confidence, which in turns means keep the euro afloat.
So now, he says, he’s ready to fund a third Greek bailout should worse come to worse.
From Agence France-Presse:
The German parliament would likely pass a third aid package for Greece were it necessary, German Finance Minister Wolfang Schaeuble has indicated in an interview with German weekly Die Zeit to be published on Thursday.
Mr. Schaeuble said he will not speculate about further aid for Greece until a Troika report on the nation’s progress in implementing reforms is released.
“But if in doubt, we in any case need not to be afraid,” he added. “For the opposition, it would also be a chance to show whether they want to live up to their responsibilities.”
While Germany’s main opposition party, the Social Democrats, have called for more steadfast support of Greece, analysts question whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right coalition would muster their own majority to approve further aid for Greece without needing votes from the opposition.
Polls show the German public to be weary of handing out additional aid to Greece, but Ms. Merkel has made efforts of late to moderate her tone and highlight Greek sacrifices and progress towards meeting reforms mandated in exchange for aid.
But there’s a price for Schäuble’s sunshine
Basically, he wants to turn Greece into a puppet state, with Germany pulling the strings and the eurobankster holding the purse.
Germany is proposing that Greece give up more of its fiscal sovereignty and come under closer economic control, according to a document leaked on Tuesday. The German Finance Ministry proposals were made public by PASOK officials and made for controversial reading as they called for an escrow account into which Greece’s bailout installments are paid to be transferred to the European Central Bank and for the account to also receive the tax revenues that Greece collects.
“In the last program [for Greece] we introduced mechanisms; we need to strengthen those in the sense of control mechanisms, perhaps also automatic stabilizers,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in Berlin on Tuesday in an apparent reference to the proposals. In February, eurozone finance ministers had agreed that an escrow account should be created to ensure that Greece collected the revenues necessary to cover upcoming debt payments.
According to the German document, Greece would also be obliged to pay all of its primary surplus into the account each month. Should Greece miss its targets and not turn a primary surplus that month, it would have to immediately cut spending to bring the budget on track.
The German proposals also foresees a greater role for the European Commission in overseeing Greece’s borrowing and its implementation of the loan agreement. As a countermeasure to appease a skeptical Greek public, Germany proposes more growth measures, including the creation of a public investment bank.
The fact that the proposal comes from Germany, a country that once looted the country and slaughtered its citizens as an occupying power makes Schäuble’s demands almost certain to incite further anger in Greece.
Keep Talking Greece has the details on the demand to transfer control of collected tax revenues:
The e-mail sent by German Finance Ministry State Secretary Thomas Steffen landed in the inbox of Greek Finance Ministry last Saturday, Greek media report. In an unprecedented attack of self-complacent and arrogance, Germany was asking Greeks to create an escrow account into which Lenders’ loan tranches but also Greece’s revenues from taxes and Value Added Tax would be deposited.
The account should be under outside control like the European Central bank. The e-mail was sent on October 20, 2012.
The German proposal goes far beyond the Greece-lenders agreement that stipulated that only the bailout tranches will be deposited in a separate account. But Greece’s taxes? VAT revenues?
The e-mail tries to materialize the visions of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble of total economic control of Greece. Speaking in Berlin on Tuesday, Schaeuble spoke of “mechanisms” that whould be hardly accepted by Greece. H refrained to explain what these mechanisms would be. But now we know what he meant.
Here’s a copy of the section of the email spelling out the German demands, also from Keep Talking Greece:
Greek bank workers call a walkout
And it’s today.
The union of state-controlled Greek lenders, OTOE, is holding a 24-hour-strike on Thursday in protest at the government’s plans to include their social security fund in the National Organization for Healthcare Provision, EOPYY.
The union’s executive secretariat is scheduled to convene again on Friday in order to decide on further industrial action if the merger plans are not withdrawn.
Golden Dawn’s latest: Targeting students
They’re making lists, and given the party’s violent rhetoric and behavior, it’s safe to premise that any names gathered are going on action lists.
While an earlier move demanded lists of non-citizens in Greek kindergartens, now they want lists of non-Greek college students.
A report via From a Greek Angle:
A while ago, Golden Dawn MPs submitted a parliamentary question asking to know how many non-Greek children are kept in Greek kindergardens.
Emprosnet, a Lesvos local newspaper, reports a new target of the Fascist leaning party: non-Greek students. Ignoring the usual method of asking for information through the Ministry of Education or the Dean’s office one of their MPs addressed an e-mail to all the administrative offices of the University of the Aegean and to all its academic staff. In this brief note Mr. Iliopoulos wants to know the number of Greek and non-Greek students accommodated at the University residences.
According to Emprosnet the message could have been an innocent oversight if the specific party and its practices were not known. The academic community of the Aegean University has tacitly agreed to leave the message unanswered.
And some Golden Dawners targeted too
This time the tables are turned, with a trio of the party’s parliamentary thugs now liable for prosecution for their acts of violence.
The Greek parliament has lifted the immunity of three Golden Dawn lawmakers so they can be prosecuted for a number of offences, parliament officials said Oct. 24.
The vote on Oct. 23, allows investigators to probe Golden Dawn party spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris for complicity in an armed robbery in 2007. Panayiotis Iliopoulos and George Germenis, who are members of the same far-right party founded in the 1980′s, are suspected of abuse of office and destruction of property in attacks against immigrant traders in the Athens area last month.
Kassidiaris shot to notoriety last June when he slapped Liana Kanelli, MP of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and threw a glass of water in the face of Rena Dourou, MP of SYRIZA during a television debate ahead of national elections in which Golden Dawn won an unprecedented 18 seats. The party rose to prominence amid a period of severe social upheaval in Greece due to the country’s severe debt crisis. The parliament vote came on the same day the UN refugee agency joined hands with over 20 human rights groups and non-governmental organizations in urging Athens to oppose a surge in violence in Greece.
And what the Troika thieves don’t steal, others do
This time the target was a bridge, to be parted out and sold off as scrap steel.
And it wasn’t the first time.
Three people have been arrested in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on suspicion of trying to dismantle a railway bridge so they could sell it for scrap.
Police said the three suspects, all Roma, were caught at the bridge in Adendro, as they prepared to use welding equipment to take the structure apart.
Two of the suspects are women, aged 40 and 36, and one is a 36-year-old man. Officers said they are seeking a 47-year-old man suspected of being an accomplice.
There have been several more cases this year of railway bridges being targeted by gangs looking to make a profit from dismantling them and selling the metal to scrap merchants.
And so ends another day in that wilderness of mirrors that is Troika-devastated Greece.