Greek Independent News Circa 2014 -2015
Greek Independent News is a platform with articles, news, opinions and documentaries about the crisis in Greece in as many languages as possible. Most of these materials are coming from independent journalists or scholars, portals or blogs, willing to share their content under creative common licenses or copyLeft or no copyright principles.
This was their website.
Content is from the site's 2014 - 2015 archived pages offering a brief glimpse of what this site offered its readership.
The aim is to cover a wide range of the news and opinions, which are not represented in mainstream media. Alternative views on the crisis, which remain critical to neoliberal politics, are vital for overcoming it.
There are three basic categories in this website: Social Crisis, Financial & Political Crisis and Resistance.
Under Social Crisis you can find news and articles about Health & Social Welfare, Education, Unemployment, Fascism, Immigration, Culture and Minorities.
Under Financial & Political Crisis you find news and articles about Government, Finances, Democracy, Privatizations, Justice, Environment, as well as theoretical approaches.
Under Resistance you find news and articles about Self-Organization, Demonstrations, Strikes and Solidarity statements or actions.
In the Glossary section you can get information about political parties, politicians, companies or organizations; as well as biographies of activists, scholars, journalists, artists, film makers, authors etc. Every post contains such a glossary listing.
In the Collectives page you can find a list of self-organized groups in Greece or solidarity initiatives outside Greece.
Is the Greek economy improving?
After a six year slump, Greece finally came out of recession earlier this month. But are there any signs of an improving situation for Greek families, individuals and businesses? That’s what we hoped to find out by asking for readers’ views on the current state of the Greek economy. We received hundreds of responses, with only 12% of respondents saying they had seen signs the economy was on the mend.
The Guardian’s Greece correspondent, Helena Smith, is deeply sceptical about the heralded recovery having any real impact on the ground.
“The ‘success story’ peddled by the government differs wildly to what life is really like on the ground – with plummeting living standards, unprecedented unemployment and the inability of most to keep up with bills, including the barrage of new taxes that can change with lightning speed on any given day,” she says.
“Five years down the road the crisis, to great degree, has been ‘normalised’ but the disconnect is evident in the collateral damage caused by the massive devaluation Greece has been forced to undergo in return for emergency funding: suicides, homelessness, a middle class pauperised by austerity.
“And all eclipsed by a level of uncertainty, shared by all who live in a country whose debt load – the biggest impediment to real economic recovery – has actually grown since the crisis began.”
Meanwhile, the International Labour organisation (ILO) this week warned of “a prolonged social crisis” unless action is taken to stimulate the job market.
The accounts that we received suggest that the crisis is far from over. “I am lucky enough to be employed for the time being, but I see my salary shrinking from day to day and I cannot fulfill my family’s needs,” says Yannis Petr, from Crete, speaking for many who responded. “If you are looking for signs of recovery you can find them in the tourist sector due to the increased number of visitors we had this year, but at the same time more and more are underpaid, working exhaustive hours without social insurance.”
“Although economic indicators tend to present that Greece’s economy is improving, there is no strong hypothesis that changes are based on macroeconomic aspects of the economy,” says John Pavlovic, 38, a scientic advisor for a Greek MP. “We are experiencing the outcome of wage and pension cuts, while the citizen is taxed way above his ability to contribute.”
Below are a selection of views from across Greek society. Please add your own below the line.
“Lending to small businesses and start ups is almost non-existent”
“I am about to start setting up a new wine bar / cafè in Athens, says Vastilis Dimos. “I have observed that people’s mood have changed a little and they do go out a bit more often to socialise and have drink. However, still a significant number of people are still unemployed and try to come to terms with the new economic reality.
“Lending to small businesses and start ups is almost non-existent as the banks have very strict criteria and not willing to engage and create new business relationships. EU funds and capital is desperately needed. The government is very weak at forcing the banks – who are still bailed out with taxpayer’s money – to start lending again.
“Until we have new small and other business going in order to create jobs and help the economy roll again, recovery seems unlikely. Private capital and investment has never been needed more than this moment.”
“I have had a small apartment hotel in Skopelos since 1991”, says Chrysoula Spanou, 50, from Athens. “I used to work as a quality assurance consultant for technical companies in the winter time – but there aren’t any technical companies any more. The tourist industry is still alive but our turnover is 35 – 40% less than in 2009 and the expenses are 10 – 15% more and the taxes eight times more.
“The worst part [of the crisis] is the social and human one. People are angry, sad, depressed, ashamed, desperate, frightened, humiliated, hateful, and isolated”
“I run two businesses,” says George Nottis from Athens. “One is about research, design, technology and construction offering services in a variety of fields. Revenue has dropped by something like 80% the last three years. From employing 6-8 people continuously on a project basis, we can hardly support now just two part time. At the very same time taxation has doubled and company expenses have tripled.
“The tax system has changed four times the past five years and very often while the fiscal year had started for some five months. We are even obliged to pay VAT for services have invoiced but which never got paid for, from the clients. From the fee we charge a client, [between] 49% to 54% goes back to the government. None of the above taxes goes back to civil services and public health. Hospitals are closing, despite our social security obligations growing every second month.”
“It is barely noticeable to anyone but financial experts”
“I am a 28 year old web developer, living in Thessaloniki,” says Giannis Tolios. “I have lived in Greece my whole life and experienced the economic crisis as it unraveled the past years. The news of the GDP growth is undoubtedly pleasant, especially after such a long period of recession, [but] it is barely noticeable to anyone but financial experts.
“Everyday people have been tremendously affected by the crisis, and the process of recovery will be long and arduous for them. The austerity measures implemented by Greek governments, as directed by the Troika, have led to huge cuts in salaries, pensions, welfare plans and other government spending. Another horrible effect as you mentioned, is the rise in unemployment. Greece has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. As a young unemployed person, I have first-hand experience of this predicament, along with thousands of other people of my age.
“It is too soon to celebrate the end of the Greek crisis, as our PM was too eager to do. It will take a lot more than one or two quarters of slight economic growth to actually feel the recovery.”
“I have family relatives who are unemployed for over 3 years now, they have no access to social benefits or health insurance,” says Aria Danika. “One of the main question is why the government isn’t going after the ‘big ones’, those who owe millions of euros, the big companies that don’t pay their taxes even though they are already the recipients of various tax benefits. Instead, they hound the pensioner, the student, the worker on minimum wage, and this is all presented as achieving ‘much needed structural reforms’.”
“The so called recovery is based on tourism”
“This summer visitor numbers were obviously higher than previous years, says Andy Kirk, on Paros. “Living in a tourist island, that’s obviously important to the local economy. Unemployment benefit, slashed last year from a maximum of 5 months at 460 per month, to 3 months at 361 euros will remain the same this year, meaning that any savings accrued over the summer months will be wiped out by the time jobs return to the local economy. There is a definite air of gloom hanging over the island this winter.”
“The so called recovery is based on tourism,” argues Petros Petridis, from Thessaloniki. “Government hires employees for five months in order to reduce unemployment in the papers. Many employees are working without getting paid. The whole scene is horrible here. People who owe the banks will lose their houses, and many have no access to the medical system.”
“People burn anything they can in order to warm their houses”
“During the last years i have experienced more than a 40% cut in my salary,” says Iraklis Pliakis, a schoolteacher from Athens. “I am reading in the news that new cuts are expected in pensions and for public servants.”
“At schools there are no sufficient number of teachers, but the government doesn’t hire new staff. On the contrary, the minister of education asked unemployed teachers to work voluntarily (without being paid). During the first cold days of the winter Athens is facing again the problem of smog, because people burn anything they can, in order to warm their houses.
“Personally I don’t see any signs of recovery.”
“Healthcare increasingly a major financial concern”
“I work as a journalist, with two university degrees,” says Zoe Georgoula, 40, from Crete. “This last year is the first time in my life that the newspaper I work for owes me constantly three monthly salaries. It is the first time in my life that I do not have a penny in my bank account, that several times I cannot follow my friends for a coffee or a beer, that I have ruled out traveling, going to the theatre or to the cinema.
Greek civil society has a crucial role to play in maintaining social cohesion during the country’s crisis
by Vasileios Stathopoulos
Greece is facing a period of political uncertainty after the process of appointing the country’s next president was moved forward to December. Despite currently lacking the required number of parliamentary votes to appoint a new president, the Greek government must elect its preferred candidate by 29 December or new parliamentary elections will have to be called in early 2015. Vasileios Stathopoulos writes on the strains within Greek society which have occurred since the start of the country’s economic crisis. He argues that with excessive unemployment and falling living standards, Greek civil society has a key role to play in ensuring social cohesion is maintained.
The German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht once wondered whether a government, having lost confidence in its people, might not find it easier to simply dissolve the people and elect another. And there is indeed a hidden loophole in democracy for ‘dissolving’ your own people. If consists of depriving them of hope: by transforming them through unpopular reforms, deemed ‘essential’ for economic recovery, into a collection of uninspired individuals, struggling to make ends meet. In this way governments may ‘elect’ a new body of citizens – one more fearful and amenable than before, but which will nevertheless, in the long run, dissolve itself.
Since the beginning of the Eurozone crisis, Europe has lost its confidence in the Greek people. The politicians in power have been replaced and society has been given the chance to win this confidence back by working twice as hard for half as much. This was precisely the alternative solution to the people’s dissolution in Brecht’s poem. Yet do the people of Greece deserve this motion of no confidence from Europe? An examination of life in the country since the end of the military junta in 1974 sheds light on the many excesses and policy failures of the past, but is the collective punishment proportionate to the crime? And is there ‘life after debt’?
Greece since 1974
In the post-junta era, Greek citizens developed an uneasy relationship with politicians, characterised by mutual suspicion and a lack of trust. Despite the gradual return to political morality after 1974, the state failed to become a vehicle for a healthy civil society, leaving behind a fragmented society where individualism and the exchange of favours prevailed.
While politicians were unwilling or unable to take on the burden of formulating a positive political plan of reforms, the all-powerful pressure groups (trade unions, lobbies, businesses) consistently held on to political influence, simultaneously entrenching their own privileges. And since political leaders lacked the strength to take these groups on, they gave in to the pressure, while also ensuring they exploited the situation to increase their electoral support base. Greek politics therefore came to resemble an elitist pursuit for powerful families and an arena for political conflict with the various lobbying groups.
On an individual level, this period exhibited a general decline in ethics and social responsibility, with society becoming tolerant of various forms of corruption and lawlessness. If one citizen did not pay their taxes, they prayed that at least their neighbour would pay in order for the state and social welfare to continue to exist. Meanwhile voters devoted themselves to armchair political discussions and dogmatic declarations of party identity. During elections, support was frequently given not to political leaders, but rather party ‘accommodators’, who had an obvious lack of political stature and ideological consistency. Above all, the illusory prosperity of the post-junta period instilled in the average Greek citizen an unprecedented individualism, to the point where genuine social engagement became exhausted.
When the crisis hit, this society suddenly came to the realisation that the days of prosperity were over and that difficult days lay ahead. However the medicine of austerity which has been prescribed is socially unsustainable. The simultaneous dismantling of the health care, pension and education systems has simply added more fuel to an explosive society, as shown by the fact that Greece now ranks last of all EU member states on relative measures of social justice (see Chart 1 below).
Chart 1: Social Justice Index of EU member states (2011-13)
Note: The chart shows EU member states’ ‘Social Justice Index’ score, which is a measure of several elements of social justice within a society, including labour market inclusion, poverty prevention, health, equitable education and inter-generational justice. The higher the score the better social justice is deemed to be within that state. Source: Bertelsmann Foundation
The decline in standards of living throughout the crisis – the basic element of a society’s prosperity and longevity – has potentially dire consequences for social cohesion and the functioning of Greek democracy. Similarly, a society with pockets of poverty and large numbers of unemployed, retired or uneducated citizens, will not only be unable to get back on its feet, but will almost inevitably head toward disintegration. It is difficult to see how the rise in unemployment during the crisis, shown in Chart 2 below, is sustainable.
Chart 2: Unemployment rate in Greece before and after the crisis (1999-2014)
Source: Eurostat, Haver Analytics, Deutsche Bank, U.S. Global Investors
However, all Greek tragedies employ a deus ex machinain their resolution. The more deeply the crisis has affected Greece, the stronger the response of those healthy elements of civil society has become. This response, while hesitant at first, has grown with time and civil society actors have begun to intervene in the social dialogue, while thinking creatively about the future. If given support and co-ordination, these grassroots initiatives might emerge as a collective attempt at social and political revival. Politics is too serious a matter to be left to politicians and a democracy cannot by definition be formed in a social vacuum – it presupposes active citizens who participate in the public sphere.
The duty of Greek society, therefore, is to redefine itself as a responsible political entity: a bastion of democratic values befitting the cradle of a prestigious civilisation. If citizens fail to become involved in such a social transformation, the Greek experience will become more akin to the aimless torment of Sisyphus than the committed self-sacrifice of Prometheus. And if the Greek electorate does not succeed in bringing worthy political leaders to power – who undoubtedly do exist – then the punishment will be that which Plato feared most in a democracy: that the people of Greece will end up being governed by their inferiors.
About the author
Vasileios Stathopoulos is a PhD candidate and is currently employed at the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe. He holds a Law degree, two master degrees in public administration and international relations and a LLM in European public law.
Anarchist Nikos Romanos ends hunger strike
Picture of N.Romanos, taken outside his hospital cell
Greek anarchist and convicted robber Nikos Romanos has ended a hunger strike after parties agreed on an amendment that will allow him to attend on-campus classes while wearing an electronic bracelet, Kathimerini understands.
Romanos had been on hunger strike since November 10 over authorities’ refusal to grand him an educational leave to attend classes at a Greek technical college (TEI). He stopped receiving liquids on Wednesday morning.
According to the amendment submitted Wednesday by Greek Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou, prisoners will be allowed to visit campus while wearing a monitoring bracelet, but only after they have successfully completed a third of their first semester via distance learning.
A Supreme Court prosecutor on Tuesday rejected an appeal by Romanos against an earlier court decision to deny his appeal for study furlough from prison.
Romanos and five others were given jail sentences of 15 to 16 years in October for their part in an armed robbery in Velvento, northern Greece, in February 2013. All were cleared of being part of the urban guerrilla group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire.
ekathimerini.com , Wednesday December 10, 2014.
NIKOS ROMANOS BROUGHT THE GOVERNMENT TO ITS KNEES!
After 31 days of hunger strike for his right to education, anarchist prisoner N. Romanos won. He and all the people who showed their solidarity during the last month and especially during the climactic last days with a lot of demonstrations in Athens and all over Greece forced the government to surrender and step back from their relentless attack against anyone who stands up against them for their rights.
After 31 days of hunger strike N. Romanos will be granted the educational leaves to be able to follow his studies with the use of an electronic position surveillance device under the condition that he will follow 1/3 of the courses of the first semester via internet.
After 31 days of hunger strike the state had to kneel down in front of the struggle for freedom. This is not only a victory of one person against the state, but a breath of freedom for everyone who is standing up against this totalitarian regime.
Athens Sit-in Highlights Catch-22 for Refugees
Sit-in of Syrian migrants in Athens, demanding that they be granted permission to move on to other European countries. Many of them are sleeping rough on the ground during the night, covered only with blankets to face temperatures under 10 degrees Celsius. Credit: Apostolis Fotiadis/IPS
ATHENS, Nov 29 2014 (IPS) – A sit-in protest by Syrian refugees on Syntagma Square opposite the Greek parliament in the heart of Athens has turned into a demonstration of the stalemate faced by both Greek as well as European immigration policy.
About three hundred men, women and children have been on the same spot for over a week now, demanding that they be granted permission to move on to other European countries to the northwest of Greece.
“Given that the refugee population will keep increasing, it is necessary to identify appropriate policy initiatives to promote integration now. This is necessary both for refugees as well as for social cohesion in Greece” – Giorgos Tsarbopoulos, Head of the UNHCR Office in Greece
Many of them are sleeping rough on the ground during the night, covered only with blankets to face temperatures under 10 degrees Celsius. Tens have already been transferred to hospital to be treated for minor symptoms, mostly due to hypothermia. Medical incidents have increased after many of the protestors decided to start a hunger strike six days ago.
Throughout the protest, the Greek authorities have been communicating with them, repeating the official line that there exist no legal provisions for travelling to other European countries unless they have formally acquired refugee status.
However most of the Syrians taking part in the sit-in appear unwilling to apply for asylum in Greece.
They have refused to do so even after it was made clear to them that asylum would be granted to them with fast track procedures. This would help secure the travelling documents, which they desperately want, but at the same time would deprive them of the right to seek asylum in other European countries in which refugees enjoy access to better integration services.
Indeed, the Greek authorities are facing a unique situation. The Secretary-General of the Ministry of Interior, Aggelos Syrigos, told IPS from Syntagma Square where the protest is taking place that the situation seems irresolvable. “We explained to them that what they ask is not possible. We advised them to apply for asylum, so we can offer shelter to families. Many of them seem to believe that other Europeans can intervene to resolve their problem, which is not the case,”
Some years ago, when Greece was receiving mostly economic migrants, the country implemented a policy that limited access to asylum claims because irregular migrants were abusing the system.
The crisis transformed the country into a non-desirable destination for refugees and migrants. Now it appears to be the authorities that are pushing refugees, which are the vast majority of arrivals these days, to enter the system and claim asylum.
The change in policy came after the authorities established an effective asylum system in cooperation with UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, and after pressure from the European Commission on the country’s authorities.
But this change of policy has not been followed up by establishment of the effective integration services and infrastructure that the country needs.
A recent reportby the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) on the cost-effectiveness of irregular migration control policy in Greece between 2007 and 2013 shows that Greece has prioritised an expensive system of border controls, detention and returns.
It has invested most of the available resources from European funds and the national budget in such a system at the expense of a less costly and more proactive system without such punitive measures. As a result, it now lacks facilities that would help manage new waves of arrivals.
The Head of the UNHCR Office in Greece, Giorgos Tsarbopoulos, told IPS that Greece never really attempted to implement an integration policy in the first place, but now, “given that the refugee population will keep increasing, it is necessary to identify appropriate policy initiatives to promote integration now. This is necessary both for refugees as well as for social cohesion in Greece.”
Tsarbopoulos believes that the government’s decision to precondition any protection offered to Syrian protestors on first applying for asylum might prove counterproductive by polarising the situation.
Many Syrians who come from an urban middle class background understand that claiming asylum in Greece will connect them to a future that leads to social marginalisation, a situation that they clearly find very difficult to accept.
A few nights ago, this correspondent was party to a conversation between Mohammed A., who has been sleeping rough in Syntagma Square since the beginning of the sit-in, and a Greek man, both of the same age.
The conversation ended with the Syrian saying: “I don’t want anything from Greece. What I want is just to be able to go where I want. You can go anywhere you want. I want this too.”
Both Syrigos and Tsarbopoulos agreed not only that the issue will deteriorate but also that the time frame for adequate solutions is limited.
According to the latest official Greek estimates, more than 5000 Syrians entered Greece last month and just a few days ago Greece sent a military search and rescue operation south to Crete to save an immobilised container ship believed to be carrying about 700 refugees.
The Greek Council of Refugees issued a response to the government’s position to push Syrians to submit asylum applications. According to the organisation, the asylum process “should not be a tool and a prerequisite for the provision of material reception conditions and immediate humanitarian assistance to people fleeing war conflicts”.
In an analytical press release circulated by UNHCR Greece five days ago, Europe is being urged to open legal pathways for refugees and start a dialogue on a Europe-wide refugee solution that puts the emphasis on solidarity among the European Union’s member states.
For two years, the Greek government, together with Italy and Malta, has repeatedly been asking the European Council to discuss responsibility-sharing between member states in the north of Europe and those in the south, but this has not yet happened.
From New York to Greece, we revolt cus’ we can’t breathe
by Jerome Roos
We can’t breathe faced with this injustice. We can’t breathe because we are seething with rage. We must revolt — for a breath of freedom and justice.
“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” Those were Eric Garner’s last words. He repeated them at least 11 timesh2, clearly audible to the camera that recorded it all, as one cop sat on his chest and another suffocated him in choke-hold. And then he stopped moving. Forsix minutesh2 they just left him lying there on the sidewalk — they didn’t do a goddamn thing to save his life. The coroner ruled it a homicide; another black man murdered by a white cop. Yet an all-white grand jury chose not to indict him. Now we can’t breathe.
We can’t breathe with this injustice in the air. We can’t breathe knowing that in America a black man is killed by police every 28 hoursh2 — and the cop usually gets away with impunity. We can’t breathe witnessing how these pigs maim, terrorize and murder people of color. How they stifle the peaceful protests in response. How they arrive in tanks, dressed up like Robocopsh2, carrying solid wooden batons and fully automatic rifles, looking for any possible excuse to shoot or beat the shit out of people they’re supposed to “serve and protect.”
We can’t breathe in this toxic atmosphere of state brutality.
We can’t breathe in this travesty of justice, this sham of a democracy.
How can we breathe knowing that, just two bloody weeks ago, the exact same thing happenedh2 with the white cop who shot Mike Brown in Ferguson?
How can we breathe knowing that, just a day after Garner’s murderer got away scot-free, another unarmed black manh2 was shot by a white cop in Arizona?
How can we breathe knowing that the pigs who shot a 12-year-old black boyh2 playing with a toy gun are not even suspected of any wrongdoing?
How can we breathe knowing that the only person indicted in Eric Garner’s murder was the man who recorded it on videoh2?!
How can we breathe through the seething rage, the disbelief — the disgust?
We just can’t fucking breathe.
And we’re not alone.
It’s the shame shit everywhere.
In Mexico, the cops and the gangs are one. Still no sign of the 43 missing students of the Escuela Normal Rural in Ayotzinapa — but everyone knows what happened. The mayor had the cops turn the students over to the gangs, who let 15 of them suffocate to death in a truck, then executed the others and incinerated their remains in a giant fire that burnt all night. Apparently some of the students were still alive when they were thrown into the fire. The political system is in on it — everyone knows. And so in Mexico, they can’t breathe.
In Greece, the cops and the fascists are one. Still no resolution to the 25 day hunger strike of the anarchist prisoner Nikos Romanos. Everyone knows what happened. Nikos and his comrades robbed a bank. They told the bank employees they had nothing to fear; their enemy was the state. But the cops got to them before they could escape. They were arrested and subjected to torture, their faces so badly bruised the cops had to overtly photoshop the mugshots released to the press. Oh, and today it was exactly six years ago that a cop shot Nikos’ best friend Alexis through the heart — in cold blood — right in front of his eyes.
Now Nikos is on hunger strike because the state refused to grant him his constitutional right to attend university classes outside of prison. He stopped eating, he declared, to gain “a breath of freedom.” But instead of granting him a gasp of air, the state is simply letting him starve to death. “Even if God himself came down from the skies,” the Justice Minister declared, “I would not grant him a leave.” Now doctors warn that Nikos is in critical condition and could succumb to organ failure anytime. His parents fear that their son will end up a martyr. But the cops simply respond to solidarity protests with teargas. And so in Greece, like in Mexico and the US, they can’t breathe.
I could go on. I could talk about the coldblooded execution of a Palestinian man by Israeli policemen last month. I could talk about the police murder of the environmental activist Rémi Fraisse in France. I could talk about police violence against Occupy protesters in Hong Kong. I could talk about Brazilian police killing six people a day. I could talk about the police impunity following the Marikana massacre in South Africa. I could talk about LAPD officers shooting a man in the head today — ten fucking times! — amid a crowd of tourists on Hollywood Boulevard. I could talk about the Turkish cops who killed a Kurdish youth in a protest today. I could talk about the epidemic of police violence and harassment against transgender people of color. I could go on and on and on.
But there is no point to write and talk and analyze and debate. Some things are so basic, so elementary, so simple and straightforward that they simply cannot stand: not in the US, not in Mexico, not in Greece, not in Palestine, not in France, not in Hong Kong, not in Brazil, not in South Africa, not in Kurdistan, nowhere. Because like this we cannot breathe — and in the universal sense of suffocation we feel at the hands of the capitalist state and its forces of order, we are one. Some of us are greatly privileged, to be sure, but our enemy is one and the same. From New York to Greece, we must revolt against the police. As the great Franz Fanon so astutely put it, “when we revolt it’s not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.”
Jerome Roos is a PhD researcher in Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute, and founding editor ofROAR Magazineh2.