Monthly Archives: November 2011

Living in Greece at the end of November 2011

I just checked today’s newspapers and they had few exciting headlines. However, yesterday’s front pages would probably cause either panick or depression to a society somewhere in North Europe. As I stood there, watching all the post-apocalyptic headlines, I realized that in some years I will be saying that this is how it was to live in Greece at the end of November 2011.

Firstly, I will begin with the cover of this week’s Economist which has been reproduced, partly or as a whole, by several Greek newspapers.

Economist

“Eleftheri Ora” newspaper, which is a fringe paper that hardly sells a bit above 2.000 copies per day, has chosen to reproduce the whole Economist front page. Oh yes, with no reference at all. This paper is famous for its populist content, full of conspiracy theories, front pages of dead monks whose prophecies are now becoming reality, and so on. Actually I think that a daily translation of the paper’s front page could offer enough material for a separate blog. Anyway, when I think that usually it should be the last one in these posts of translated front pages due to its lower circulation. I only place it first here because of its relation to the Economist’s cover.

Eleftheri Ora

Title: The evil plan of the New World Order’s “Messiah”

Another newspaper which chose to use the euro meteor illustration is Dimokratia.

Dimokratia

Title: The Wehrmacht is approaching Europe

Overhead title: Everyone is talking about the coming financial Armageddon

“Ethnos” newspaper was the only one to reproduce the whole Economist front page, thus indirectly referring the source.

Ethnos

Title: A whole town is sleeping in the streets

Overhead title: Social shock – more than 20.000 homeless around Greece

Eleftherotypia and Kathimerini highlighted the continuing struggle of the Egyptians at Tahrir square.

Eleftherotypia

Title: The extra tax will be paid too by unemployed who worked even for one day (in 2011)

Picture’s caption title: Tahrir square does not succumb

Kathimerini

Title: Suffocation around the euro zone

Picture’s caption title: Egyptians overwhelm Tahrir square

Ta Nea

Title: Run Lucas Run! (a cartoon depicts Lucas Papademos in the body of Pheidippides, the first “marathon runner”)

Overhead title: A 100-day race for the government

Eleftheros Tipos

Title: Last chance for saving the euro

Overhead title: Germany leads euro zone off the cliff

Avriani

Title: Countdown for the euro

Don’t mention the R word

Here’s a very interesting article from BBC on the possibilities of a bank run. I suggest to anyone interested in the Greek and European financial crisis to read it. The article was written by Laurence Knight, BBC Business editor.

R is for run. As in bank run.

If you’re wondering what a bank run is, think of Northern Rock. It is a sensitive topic, not least here at the BBC.

But it is a subject that is being increasingly discussed by investors and economists in the eurozone. One can assume it is also being discussed in private by European policymakers too.

Because the fact is that Europe’s banks already face what amounts to a slow-motion run by big institutional investors.

They’re not queuing up at branches. Instead they are withholding their money at the click of a mouse.

Major US money managers and lenders are pulling out of the eurozone, as is clear from the cost to eurozone banks of borrowing in dollars right now, which has returned to extreme levels last seen during the global financial crisis.

Moreover, data from the European Central Bank (ECB) suggest that Europe’s banks themselves are losing confidence in each other – though not yet quite as badly as in 2008.

They have increasingly been putting their cash in the safe hands of the central bank, rather than lending it to each other, despite the punitively low interest rate the ECB pays them.

The rest of the article is here.

Graffiti in Athens 05

"We are like lost children, living our unfulfilled adventures"

Men of Iron

This morning, I woke up and read the story of the Greek Public Power Corporation’s (DEI) trade union, GENOP-DEI and their occupation of a company’s building. It wasn’t just a random building of course but the data-processing center from which disconnection orders are issued. You see, a couple of months ago the Greek government has announced the levying of a new property tax (in relation to the square meters of the property) which would be incorporated in our electricity bills. Why the electricity bills? So that people HAD to pay the tax in order to avoid a very short-term and vital consequence, having their electricity supply cut off.

Nikos Fotopoulos greeted his comrades from the prosecutor's office window

The GENOP-DEI union’s leader, Nikos Fotopoulos, posed as a hero immediately after the announcement. He said that DEI’s workers would never allow such a thing to be carried out with the help of their hands. Some people wondered back then: Who actually governs this country? Can a trade unionist block an elected government’s policy? Well, today the government has tried to perform its own tour de force. Nikos Fotopoulos and 9 other GENOP-DEI union officials were detained after up to 80 riot policemen were sent in to end the four-day sit-in at the Public Power Corporation (DEI) data processing centre. Fotopoulos himself appeared before a prosecutor on charges of  obstructing the functioning of a public utility. The riot policemen arrested 5 more people in the event (3 employees in Ministries, a pensioner and an unemployed man). “We’ll always fail the exam of the course on Submission” shouted Fotopoulos from the prosecutor’s office window as another Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Iron.

To avoid any misunderstanding, I don’t believe that the new property tax is fair. Especially when exceptions have not been designed (unemployed people for example also have to pay this). The implementation of the law caused laughter in some cases, anger in some other. There was a big debate in September on whether churches should pay the tax, based on the square meters of the temples. And there was an uproar a couple of days ago when some earthquake victims (of a 1995 quake, who were promised to get preferential loans in order to rebuild their homes) were sent their electricity bill which included the new property tax, based on the square meters of the container-houses in which they are living since the 1995 earthquake. However I believe that what GENOP-DEI is doing with these shows of rebelliousness is just an act in order to gain public sympathy in their struggle to protect their guild’s benefits. See this post for another show by GENOP-DEI.

This trade union is not alone though. It is not uncommon during the past months to see trade unions which in the past were synonymous to either the interwoven political and business interests (e.g. journalists) or the state protectionism of special groups of public employees. Of course this is not to say that all trade unions function like that in Greece (but a lot of my friends would say that the majority of them do).

Strike at Hellenic Halyvourgia (Steelworks)

One example for what I wrote above is this. Given the opportunity of a 25-day long strike at Hellenic Halyvourgia (Steelworks) which has gone largely unreported by the Greek mainstream media (thanks to business relations, advertisement, you name it) the Union of Journalists of Athens’ Newspapers (ESIEA) has sent a newsletters showing their support to the workers at the steelworks. While I was writing this, I found another example. The Union of Employees at the Public Broadcasting Corporation (POSPERT) have stated their support to GENOP-DEI and demanded (?) the release of the arrested trade unionists. Here are the relevant newsletters (from ESIEA and from POSPERT), unfortunately only in Greek.

It’s fantastic! Greek trade unions seem to have remembered that they represent the working class of this country. Too bad they are a bit too late.

PS. A very common slogan during the demonstrations in Athens which aims to show the hidden agenda of trade unionists (who usually end up in the Parliament with one political party or another) is this: Αλήτες, λέρες, εργατοπατέρες. I’d be grateful if a Greek reader could translate it. :-)

Krisis

Krisis, is a feature documentary film connected to the Prism GR2011 project, a collective documentation of Greece during the economic crisis, shot with DSLR cameras during 2010-11. Through a process of creative collaboration, a group of 14 photojournalists and videographers, were mentored, enabling them to make the transition to a multimedia storyteller. ‘Krisis’ is the synthesis of these different stories into a feature documentary that explores how Greece and the Greeks are handling the crisis. In addition, The Prism is a testament to how creativity an innovation can occur in the darkest of hours.

Teargas in the Parliament

Most Greek demonstrations usually end up in fron of the Greek Parliament. Sooner or later the riot police starts spraying people with tear gas after the usual and occasionaly suspicious scuffle between anarchists and the police. In the past year I have heard a lot of people shouting “Try throwing ONE tear gas canister inside the Parliament to let them know how it feels!”. Well, this is how it would look like…