With Sunday’s elections drawing near, tensions are heating up, and there’s plenty of campaigning going on, including the usual non-Greek suspects.
The Eurocrats are continuing their pressure to restore the tired old Pasok/New Democracy regime, the same folks who landed Greece in the economic disaster that they’re now promising to fix.
Meanwhile, the violent rhetoric — and violence — of the latter-day fascist Golden Dawn continues to grab headlines, and their opposition-beating spokesperson has now filed suit against the two rivals he attacked on live TV.
The slow-motion bank run continues as the economy continues to melt down, with new numbers showing a falloff in transit and car use, plus the nation’s vital ferry services to the country’s many islands may be forced to close because they can’t afford fuel.
There’s lots more, including a new species of organized crime.
More Grexit threats from Brussels
The folks in Brussels are terrified of the possibility of a Syriza-dominated coalition government, and well-timed leaks are ramping up the pressure on Greek voters.
From Agence France-Presse:
The European Commission said on Tuesday that eurozone officials had held contingency “discussions” in case Greece abandons the euro, after press reports of possible capital controls.
“There are indeed discussions, and we are asked to clarify what is foreseen in EU treaties,” Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said.
He had been asked about media reports that capital controls could be imposed to prevent cash flight across borders and that limits could be placed on the use of ATM cash dispensing machines.
But he stressed that the commission was not in any way planing on the basis that Greece would leave the eurozone, depending on the outcome of legislative elections on Sunday.
More on those contingency plans from EurActiv:
European finance officials have discussed limiting the size of withdrawals from cash machines, imposing border checks and introducing eurozone capital controls as a worst-case scenario should Athens decide to leave the euro.
EU officials have told Reuters the ideas are part of a range of contingency plans. They emphasised that the discussions were merely about being prepared for any eventuality rather than planning for something they expect to happen – no one Reuters has spoken to expects Greece to leave the single currency area.
But with increased political uncertainty in Greece following the inconclusive election on 6 May and ahead of a second election on 17 June, there is now an increased need to have contingencies in place, the EU sources said.
The discussions have taken place in conference calls over the past six weeks, as concerns have grown that a radical-left coalition, Syriza, may win the second election, increasing the risk that Greece could renege on its EU/IMF bailout and therefore move closer to abandoning the currency.
Turning the ATM into a political weapon. What a novel innovation!
Golden Dawner threatens beatings
The neo-Nazi party that’s been stirring up hatred of immigrants and beating rivals is at it again, this time with more threats to assault more elected members of parliament and invade hspitals to throw out immigrant patients.
From Keep Talking Greece:
During an election meeting of extreme-right Golden Dawn on Monday evening in Floisvos area in South Athens, candidate Ilias Panagiotaros threatened Greek MPs even with physical violence inside the Parliament, should they would open a debate on the issue of the naming dispute with FYROM.
“As a warning we will show them the ANT1 video and if they won’t get it, we will explain to them…, “ Panagiotaros stressed with a very clear by implied threat.
Concerning the health care sector and the social benefits, the candidate who aims to get a seat at the Greek Parliament said:
“If Chrysi Avgi enters the Parliament, it will storm hospitals and nurseries and throw on the streets the ‘illegal immigrants’ and their children to make place for Greeks.”
New Democracy tries to cash in on fear
Recognizing that the Golden Dawn’s increasing violence is alienating some of their constituents, the conservative New Democracy party is wooing the disaffected.
We wonder just how well their tactic will work the 50 percent of Greek police who voted Golden Dawn in last month’s elections.
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras sought to capitalize on the furor created this week as a result of the behavior of Golden Dawn candidate Ilias Kasidiaris and the fatal shooting of a robber on the outskirts of Athens. Conservative party sources said ND sees the current situation as an opportunity to appeal to concerned households and to limit the number of traditional ND supporters that will vote for parties further to the right.
Samaras visited the Athens neighborhood of Aghios Panteleimonas, where Golden Dawn has strengthened its presence over the past few years, to speak to residents. “We will find the Athens we knew, again,” he said. “We will have the neighborhoods we had, again. The invasion of illegals [immigrants] will end but not with vigilantism and extremism. It will happen legally and with the support of Europe.”
The ND leader then visited police headquarters in a show of support for the force. He also went to the headquarters of the riot police.
The conservatives also attacked SYRIZA over its plans to give travel documents to migrants seeking to leave Greece. ND spokesman Yiannis Michelakis said this would lead to Greece being thrown out of the Schengen area, which allows free movement of people. “SYRIZA and its leader are promising to make the country a magnet for illegal immigrants,” he said.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said that his party would “not tolerate anything that threatens the safety of ordinary citizens.” He also pledged to reintroduce the concept of a neighborhood policeman. “The policeman’s place is in neighborhoods and on the streets,” he said. “It is not in the corridors of power or in Parliament.”
Another brutal attack on immigrants
Though the story doesn’t mention political affiliations of those arrested, we have our suspicions.
From Keep Talking Greece:
An organized racist attack took place in the early morning hours of Tuesday, when a group of 20 people, armed with iron bars, wooden sticks and batons stormed the home where migrants from Egypt have been living. The incident took place in the industrial suburb of Perama, in the southwest of Piraeus.
Private broadcaster Mega TV said that the attackers first beated up a man who was sleeping on the roof of the one storey house. They tried to storm the house four more migrants were sleeping, breaking windows and doors, also the cars of the family parked outside.
One of the victims was transferred to the hospital with serious injuries.
According to MEGA TV, eye-witnesses claimed that the attackers were wearing black blouses and some of them wore masks.
Tsipras promises to block public sector layoffs
With the next phase of the Troika-mandated austerity regime about to take effect, the Syriza leader has promised to spare a mass public sector layoff mandated by the banksters and eurocrats.
From Greek Reporter’s Andy Dabilis, who makes his own anti-Tsipras feelings clear:
As Greece’s economy continues to sink under the weight of hundreds of thousands of unnecessary workers, Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras said if he wins the critical June 17 elections that he would not proceed with 150,000 firings demanded by international lenders.
The Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) said the sackings are required because Greece can no longer continue to keep paying redundant workers, but political leaders have refused so far to let any go because critics have said they were hired in return for votes by alternating administrations of New Democracy Conservatives and PASOK Socialist governments.
In a duel with Conservative leader Antonis Samaras to win the elections, Tsipras said that instead of firing unnecessary workers that his party would conduct its own evaluation of who would stay and who would be let go, a continuation of political assessments of who gets jobs and keeps them. That would end the cooperation on employee evaluations Greece has begun with a European Commission Task Force. Tspiras also has said he would restore pay cuts, reverse tax hikes and raise pensions that had been slashed as well, but didn’t say where the money would come from as Greece is almost totally dependent on Troika funding, a first bailout of $152 billion and a second for $173 billion that is on hold until after the elections.
Democratic Left leader: No Syriza alliance without bailout
While it’s a small party, the Democratic Left scored 6.1 percent of the votes in the May elections, and could play a critical role in forming a coalition.
But the party says they won’t align with Syriza without an agreement to enforce the Troika’s bailout — an ultimatum which may lead to an alliance with the discredited socialist [sic] Pasok instead.
The Greek politician who is a potential kingmaker in the upcoming election has told CNBC he will form a government with left-wing Syriza only if it agrees to work with the bailout.
Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the Democratic Left party, was in negotiations to form a coalition government after Syriza’s shock emergence as the party with the biggest vote in the last Greek election. Discussions foundered over Syriza’s wish to annul the conditions of Greece’s bailout by the troika of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission.
Syriza, led by Alexi Tsipras, is likely to need at least one coalition partner to get a majority, and Democratic Left would be a logical choice as it is also left-wing.
Syriza’s anti-bailout stance and growing popularity were one of the main factors that sent European markets downhill in May, as worries grew that Greece would exit the euro disruptively if the party came to power. Greeks go to the polls again on Sunday.
“We call for Syriza to redefine its position,” Kouvelis said. “Our proposal for a specific program agreement, is for there to be a re-negotiation, a re-examination of some memorandum terms that should not be there anymore. But we want this process to take place through a deal with the EU. It’s obvious that we cannot renege on this proposal. Syriza should tell us very specifically what it thinks about the possibility of an eventual exit from the euro zone because of a termination of the memorandum.”
Pasok leader plays Three-card Monti
Yet another europol enters the anti-Syriza juggernaut, Troika-imposed Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, the chief executive of the next Mediterranean country likely to need another round of bailouts and “restructing” pAKA looting].
From Athens News:
Pasok party president Evangelos Venizelos met with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in Rome on Monday.
“We had a very crucial and substantive discussion. I briefed him on the situation in Greece. We discussed the point at which the crisis in the eurozone is in, after yesterday’s (Sunday) decisions for Spain. I insisted very much on the need for a substantive discussion to be accepted on the revision of the unfavourable terms of the loan contract, because we must break the vicious circle of recession and unemployment,” Venizelos told reporters after the meeting.
Venizelos added that “now we can really keep all the positive points of the loan contract, of the new programme, the decrease of the debt and proceed with settlements and agreements that will allow us to exit finally from the memorandum and the crisis with an extension of the fiscal adjustment period without new cutbacks in incomes, salaries and pensions.”
Kind of like the captain of the Titanic paying a call on the captain of the Lusitania.
Greek elections lead to cash run
And they’re running at hundreds of millions of euros a day, fueled by Grexit fears.
From Keep Talking Greece:
Political instability and potential euro exit have increased fears among Greeks who withdrew some 6 billion euro from bank accounts in the last 15-20 days. Panicked citizens believe it is ‘safer’ to have euro bank notes at home, than to let savings at the banks exposing them to the danger of automatic exchange into drachmas. The outflow is expected to continue as June 17 elections approach.
According to report by Proto Thema, large amounts of money is being withdrawn even from ‘corporate accounts’. The phenomenon of account holders to withdraw more than 80,000-100,000 euro is not seldom.
According to rough estimations 6 to 7 billion euro have been pulled out from the banks in the last 15 days, bringing the total outflow to 80 billion euro in the last two years.
This decrease of deposits has dramatic impact in the Greek banking system, despite the ‘financial injection’ of 18 billion euro four banks received by the EFSF in the context of banks recapitalisation. “Part of this aid is being used to cover the loss by the deposits withdrawals and yet, the sharp decrease of the system capacities make it impossible to support with liquidity the real economy,” notes the newspaper apparently citing sources from the banking sector.
Car, public transit use fall
We suspect the causes include less car use by the those workers laid off under the Troika regime [no commutes, less shopping], plus the deep pay cuts forced on workers in the private and public sectors.
Add in soaring fuel costs, and you’ve got good reasons for staying at home or traveling by shank’s mare.
The economic crisis has had a major impact on transport, according to experts, who report a reduction of around 30 percent in the use of cars as well as public transport.
The chief reasons for the dwindling use of cars are believed to be the rising price of gasoline, around 1.80 euro per liter, and other higher costs (tax, insurance, maintenance), compounded by rising unemployment and falling wages. Growing joblessness has resulted in fewer people using cars and public transport to travel to and from the workplace while trips for leisure or shopping purposes have also become less frequent, experts said. An indication of the drop in cars on the roads is the fact that the average traffic speed has increased by 11 percent.
Meanwhile the reduction in public transport use is reflected in lower revenue. The firm that manages the Athens metro, electric railway (ISAP) and tram said revenue was down by 19 percent. Fare evasion, which has peaked in recent months, has contributed to the revenues drain.
Golden Dawners charged in another criminal assault
The usual antics from the usual suspects.
A parliamentary candidate for Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) and seven of the neo-Nazi party’s supporters are to face a court in Veria, northern Greece, on Monday after being arrested for attacking political opponents at a cafe in the city.
Police said the eight suspects had a run-in with self-styled anarchists when they were distributing election leaflets on Saturday. The two factions were separated by police but the Golden Dawn supporters later attacked the anarchists at a cafe.
Chutzpah award winner files suit
The belligerent Golden Dawn spokesperson carried through on his threat to sue the two people he attacked, which we earlier compared to Leo Rosten’s famous epitome of chutzpah [the guy who kills his parents throwing himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan].
Seems like his lawyers had no trouble finding him even though police, half of who voted for his party, have come up empty-handed.
Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris filed suits on Monday against the two parliamentary candidates he attacked last week during a TV panel discussion.
Kasidiaris accused Liana Kanelli of the Communist Party (KKE), who he punched three times, and SYRIZA’s Rena Dourou, who he drenched in water, of unprovoked verbal abuses.
The Golden Dawn representative also sued Antenna TV, which hosted the program, of attempting to hold him against his wishes and journalist Antonis Delatolas, who was on the panel, of abuse of power.
Kasidiaris claims that Delatolas called first instance prosecutor Eleni Raikou to ask her to issue an arrest warrant and alleges that the journalist was on unusually friendly terms with the judicial official.
An arrest warrant had been issued for Kasidiaris after the incident on live TV but police were not able to track him down in the 48 hours needed so he could be fastracked through the justice system.
More from Athens News, which also posts his full statement of the lawsuit:
The top Golden Dawn cadre, who was elected to parliament on a party ticket in the inconclusive May 6 election, said he would personally arrive at a chief prosecutor’s office to file lawsuits against what he claimed are the “moral and actual perpetrators of all the illegal acts that were committed against me over the past two days.”
Having avoided a 48-period for his arrest on assault charges immediately after the incident, the statement attributed to Kasidiaris stated that the incident was “staged”, with the sole purpose of “provoking an extreme reaction on my part. I am personally sorry that I was involved in a case that disorientates public opinion, with the primary purpose being to politically injure Chryssi Avgi” the announcement read.
Greece leaves downsizing public sector to the French
The adjective used to describe the public sector in Greece these days is “bloated,” and the country may indeed have a large civil service sector, though the stories are notably lacking in numbers and comparisons.
But the real question is whether making more people unemployed is the way to tackle a crisis that is inflamed by soaring unemployment.
Recall that it was through putting the unemployed on the public payroll that was one of the major efforts of the New Deal during the United States’ last Great Depression.
Maybe instead of downsizing, upsizing would be a better idea?
Fat chance of that ever getting past the Troika.
But at least the eurocrats were smart enough not to bring in Germans to do their dirty work.
The Herculean task of overhauling the country’s bloated public administration was appointed to a team of French officials due to France’s successful implementation of three reform drives in the past 15 years as well as the relative lack of bureaucracy in the French state system, an official of the previous government has told Kathimerini.
Asked why Greek authorities opted for the French rather than British model for example, the official noted that apart from having the know-how and technical insights, the French have less red tape than the British. “We are closer to the British culture, which wants everything in writing, even the obvious, though we don’t share the advantages of the British system,” the official said, noting that the latter has “a strong backbone” as the civil servants that staff it are not replaced with every change of government, as is the case in Greece. “Here every government official builds a power structure around him, which often serves to undermine the natural hierarchy or operates in parallel to it,” the official said. This environment is not conducive to change. “We don’t feel the need for change. Our basic problem is this, not technical support, wherever that may come from,” he added.
Greece threatened with widespread blackouts
The reason? Power companies can’t afford the fuel to keep their generators running.
Greece faces the threat of rolling power blackouts as the economic crisis leaves utilities without cash to pay for natural gas imports and operate power stations, Bloomberg reported.
Regulators will meet with Greece’s power market operator as early as today to discuss an emergency loan of 300 million euros ($375 million) to cover payments for gas imports from Russia’s OAO Gazprom, Turkey’s Botas AS and Italy’s Eni SpA.
The country’s largest power producer is almost out of money and likely to default after unpaid accounts jumped more than 50 percent in a year, according to Standard & Poor’s.
Public Power Corp SA, the biggest electricity producer, is on the verge of default, Standard & Poor’s analysts Nicolas Rivier and Vittoria Ferraris said in a June 7 report.
PPC, as the Athens-based company is known, has seen cash flow drop as unemployment and falling wages leave many Greeks unable to pay power bills. A lack of cash to pay operating expenses may force the closure of some power stations.
Fuel, repair costs may beach ferry service
More than 700,000 of Greece’s 10.8 million people live on islands in the Aegean and Ionian seas, and except for the wealthy folks who have their own yachts, most of them depend on ferry service to reach the mainland or other islands.
But now the economic crisis threatens to sever this vital link.
From Greek Reporter:
High fuel and maintenance costs, together with a sharp decline in the number of passengers has brought the Greek ferry companies to their knees (those that manage the connections to and from the islands). The companies have announced that they may have to keep their ferries in port as early as September.
Their revenues have fallen by an average of 15% compared with the year before, while the outlook for this year is another 10% decline, much too optimistic according to many.
The warning was issued again, the first time in April when nobody seemed to be listening, by Greek newspaper Kathimerini.
Leaders in the sector have pointed out that fuel prices have risen by 56.8% for normal ferries and by 63% for high-speed ships over the past two years. The price of a ton of diesel used as fuel by traditional boats is currently at 594 euros, against 480 last year and 380 two years ago. High-speed ships pay a much higher price: 783 euros per ton, against 675 in 2011 and 480 in 2010.
Another Grexit warning, from banksters
This time the scare tactic focus on borrowing costs, and the oracle is the country’s oldest and largest private bank
Lending rates would soar to above 35% if Greece were to exit the eurozone, according to a National Bank of Greece report, as the devaluation of the new national currency by 40% would take the inflation rate to over 32%. Such a development, as daily Kathimerini notes, would force the monetary authorities to raise lending rates at banks to at least five percentage points above the inflation rate, that is at 37% or higher.
The cost of such a development would be unbearable for households and enterprises to repay the loans they have taken out. For instance, the monthly installment of a 20-year housing loan of 100,000 euros with a 5% rate would soar from 660 euros today to the equivalent of 3,000 euros in the new national currency.
Bank officials suggest that after a decade of low interest rates, the country’s economy is threatened with a return to what the cost of money was like back in the 1980s, when lending rates amounted to 30%, rendering it prohibitive for companies and households to borrow.
Criminals innovate for the crisis
There’s never been an economic crisis without economic crime [no, we’re not talking about banksters and other looters, who are in a class by themselves.
Greece’s latest crime wave stars con artists who prey on Grexit fears.
Economic Police officers on Tuesday arrested four people — three men and one woman aged between 33 to 52 years old — on suspicion for belonging to a gang that promised businessmen and ordinary citizens access to government and European Union funding in exchange for money.
Members of the racket allegedly posed as ministry employees, civil engineers and architects, approaching their victims with a proposal that they could secure sizable amounts of funding for projects such as business expansion, farming and fishing equipment purchases and photovoltaic panel installations.
Investigating officers believe that the gang has been running the scam for at least two years and has succeeded to extract over 350,000 euros from its victims.