Monthly Archives: October 2011

Referendum Now

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou announced minutes ago that he will proceed to a referendum on the new bailout plan that was agreed in the recent EU Summit Meeting. He will before ask for a vote of confidence, probably tomorrow, from the Greek Parliament. His decision aims to stop the internal PASOK resentment.

To understand the seriousness of the move, one needs only to reckon what will happen if the outcome of the referendum is negative.

A negative vote (i.e. a rejection of the current bail out plan) will certainly mean that we will have General elections to chose a new government with a new plan.

It is the second referendum taking place in Greece since 1974 when Greeks were called to approve or disapprove the Greek Monarchy.

George Papandreou also suggested a reform of the Greek Constitution and asked that, in the next General election, the political parties should commit to a common program of reforms. This will probably look like the Portuguese elections in June 2011 where the socialists and the righ-wing parties competed on who is the best to implement the same package of EU dictated measures.

Interview of Greek Foreign Minister on the haircut

Here’s an interview of Greek Foreign Minister, Stavros Lambrinidis, to Charlie Rose. It was shown by PBS on the 28th of October and the discussion focuses on the Greek haircut.

The run-up to the Greek economic crisis (Part 1)

Last week I read one of the most interesting articles in the past months. It was written by journalist Pavlos Papadopoulos for the popular Sunday newspaper To Vima (16/10/2011). I decided to translate it for anyone who is interested in the backstage political activity during the first months of the Greek economic crisis. I have re-phrased some parts in order to facilitate the article’s understanding and, of course, to make it easier for my mediocre translating skills. I also decided to split the 3.000+ words article in four  parts so that it makes it easier to read online. The next parts will be translated and published during the week.

Apart from the journalistic interest, this article can prove to be useful in order to understand the suspiciousness of the Greek public against the current administration and the reasons why so many people react by protesting in the streets. Simply, try to imagine what kind of trust would you show to your government if you knew that your current state of misery is due to the amateur handling of extremely crucial issues. It is also interesting to notice how some of the decisions were not taken under the motivation of doing the right thing for Greece but were rather the results of small-party political machinations.

So here’s the first part of the article.

“We were like prostitutes after their first time” a top government official confessed in his attempt to describe the Cabinet member’s psychological situation during their meeting to sign the Memorandum, on the 5th of May 2010. “We were looking at each other and we were all pale” he says. “We felt very ashamed since we couldn’t believe that we, PASOK, led Greece to the IMF, having chopped the salaries and the pensions”. And then he concludes “Since then we have been completely prostituted. We’ve done the same things over and over again without feeling any shame”. Almost all PASOK politicians admit in private that the Memorandum, despite its provision of some necessary reforms, is synonymous at the same time with the sentencing of the economy to a prolonged depression and with the mortgaging of the country to its lenders. However they recognize that it was the last choice in order to avoid bankruptcy and to secure the savings and the pensions, especially since the government had previously failed to implement the prior solutions.

“The Memorandum was hastily written by us and the troika” admits a high-ranking government official who participated in the (so-called) negotiations. “We had no idea of what we were writing and the troika experts were equally confused, working under great pressure from the European Commission and the IMF”. According to first hand accounts, the slightest preparation hasn’t been made and simply, on the last moment, they isolated part from older IMF Memorandums as those with Turkey, Mexico or Hungary and they would hurriedly adapt them to form the Greek Memorandum. “It’s a bad compilation, a Frankestein-styled Memorandum” says a Minister who admitted that he had less than three hours to read, understand, evaluate and approve the part of the agreement which would commit his Ministry for the next four years.


Only the first two chapters of the Memorandum are purely Greek. They consist the “legal introduction” which was written by professors Evangelos Venizelos and Haris Paboukis in an office at the fifth floor of the Ministry of Development, in Mesogion Avenue.  A lot of government officials found refuge in that 10 years old building, the design of which reminds the optimism of the European Monetary Union’s era. The centre of Athens was impassable because of the tear gas and the riots which concluded that afternoon in the assassination of three young people at the Marfin Bank Stadiou Street branch.

“We’ll become like Argentina. They will enter and they will kill us” Theodoros Pangalos shouted when he was informed of the three bank employees’ death. He was at the Parliament and the MPs next to him who heard him got afraid that the mob will come inside and lynch them. But they haven’t taken into account Aleka Papariga. The General Secretary of the Greek Communist Party, an always suspicious and proactive woman, has given strict orders to the safeguarding team of PAME (the Communist trade union). The strapping communists, instead of invading the former Palace (i.e. the Greek Parliament), obeyed and sheltered it by standing in the way of a united crowd of extreme leftists and parastatal protestors who were trying to break through the police collar at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. Once more, the Greek Communist Part had saved the bourgeois democracy.

End of Part 1 – To read Part 2 click here.

Graffiti in Athens 03

I have recently come across this stencil. I wouldn’t call it a great job, I think there are too many logos involved in the sprayed chaos.

The logos destructed by the symbol of Anarchy represent (clockwise beginning from top) the IMF, the Euro, the right-wing New Democracy party, the socialist PASOK party and the EU’s stars.

It reminded me of another stencil I have photographed some months ago. It also used the logo of the ruling PASOK party. It’s a kid peeing on the green sun.

The interesting part is the history behind the kid’s gesture. Some 30 years ago, Spyros Ornerakis, now a veteran cartoonist, has drawn a kid peeing on a crown. It symbolized the rejection of monarchy in Greece right after the 1967-74 military dictatorship.

Spyros Ornerakis now runs a school for people who want to study cartoons. When I googled it I stumbled upon a video made by the children’s department. It’s titled “The fall of Mr. IMF”.

Greece presents… the Riot Granny

Yesterday I was having a talk with a very good friend. He’s a cameraman from Portugal and we have worked together on a news feature I did for the Portuguese elections last June. He was telling me that he feels that the situation in Portugal is becoming more and more like what he saw in Greece. I agreed in all but the fact the the Portuguese haven’t seen widespread violence yet. He was a bit puzzled and I explained that since last week’s general strike, I have a feeling that more and more people (everyday people, not just the so-called hooded rioters) have crossed the red line between peaceful and non-peaceful protest. Then I showed him these two photos of the same person.

The second photo was published in the front page of the right-wing Dimokratia newspaper on 21 October. His face is not important and thus I have edited it a bit. It’s interesting though to notice his clothes and wonder what drove this person to join the traditionally violent hooded crowd.

My friend was shocked. Then I showed him an even more extreme video. After Loukanikos, the rebel or riot dog, here ‘s the soon to be famous Riot Granny.

Catastroika

Greek journalists Aris Chatzistefanou and Katerina Kitidi have produced a video trailer for their new documentary Catastroika. It is about the global trend of privatizations in the past two decades. Unfortunatelt it is only in Greek but I believe that they will soon have it subtitled. [UPDATE: I’ve substituted the Greek trailer with the one in English]

Their previous project, Debtocracy, is a documentary produced through the method of crowdsourcing. It focused on “the causes of the debt crisis and proposed solutions, hidden by the government and the dominant media“. It was distributed freely on the web and has so far been translated in six languages. You can watch the whole film here.

The neologism “catastroika” was first coined by Russian dissident writer Alexander Zinoviev. You can find out more about him here and here.

Censoring the Monodrome

The 3rd Athens Biennale 2011 MONODROME (one-way) opened to the public on 23 October and will last through 11 December. Director Giorgos Zois produced a 26” video trailer to promote the event. ERT, the public radio & television corporation, was the Major Media Sponsor. Despite that, ERT refused to broadcast the trailer. The reason was this:

The legal framework in which ERT operates does not allow, among other things, to broadcast messages that contain violence or that encourage behaviors which can damage health or safety or that touch on human dignity. The above legal framework is well-known and those who are involved with the production of promotional messages should be aware of it. ERT  does not censor, does not comment and does not judge the artistic creativity.

The censored video is this.

I first came across this excellent video days before the state censored it from the public tv. I found it aesthetically impeccable and above all apropos. In a country with such social discontent, anything else would be irrelevant. And by the way, one only needs to watch the news bulletin of ERT on the day of a general strike and he will see similar images.

The international contemporary art festival of Athens takes place at Diplareios School (Theatre Square) and at the Arts Center and the Eleftherios Venizelos Museum (Eleftherias Park). More than 100 artists, art groups, curators and theorists participate in the exhibition and the events programme of MONODROME. Furthermore, a series of exhibitions and events organized by cultural institutions, museums and galleries in Athens are included in MONODROME Parallel Events.

MONODROME is being realized despite the Crisis that affects Greece heavily. Produced in a state of emergency, and through the synergy of all participants and a large group of volunteers, MONODROME assembles the diverse pieces of an exploratory puzzle, addressing the “here and now”. At the same time the exhibition attempts to question historical narratives that have functioned as dictums of the Greek sociopolitical and aesthetic identity and resulted in the country’s perennial suspension between a ‘before’ (tradition) and an ‘after’ (modernization). Being usually perceived and promoted as an emblematic city, Athens today is the epicentre of the Greek upheaval, a place of massive demonstrations and public discussions.

Excerpt from the Biennale’s Concept