Tag Archives: Evangelos Venizelos

Backstage talks for new political parties

Sunday paper “Real News” has its main article on the backstage discussions concerning the creation of new political parties. The international commitment on the 6th installment together with new polls showing a considerable decrease of the two main parties’ popularity (PASOK and New Democracy) has encouraged talks between several politicians.

Real News 04/12/2011

According to Real News, a meeting was held at the house of economist Aristos Doxiadis, on Thursday night. Among the many guests were PASOK MPs Anna Diamantopoulou and Giannis Ragousis. The two of them are among the most active PASOK MPs in the secret discussions with New Democracy MPs, as well as citiziens’ movements, for the creation of a new political entity.

The attendees have agreed that the situation in Greece demands the creation of a new party and the circumstances of the Papademos administration benefits such a move. Actually, is is widely discussed that Lucas Papademos can possibly be the leader of this new party. This can happen after or even before the elections, as it has been publicly expressed by Thanos Veremis (Professor of Political Science and the Athens University and Vice-President of the Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy – ELIAMEP). According to the article, there are discussions between PASOK MPs Anna Diamantopoulou, Giannis Ragousis, Ilias Mosialos and New Democracy MPs Aris Spiliotopoulos, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, Kostis Hatzidakis, Evangelos Antonaros. Another name that should be noted is that of Giorgos Floridis (former PASOK MP and currently a member, together with Aristos Doxiadis, of a political formation called Koinonikos Syndesmos – Social League) who had a meeting with Andreas Loverdos last week.

Meanwhile, according to the same article, George Papandreou was also offered to found a new party and Evangelos Venizelos stated that he would too examine such a likelihood if the country wasn’t in a state of emergency.

In New Democracy, they are examining the possibility of non-majority victory in the coming elections and the option to form a coalition with LAOS. This rapprochement, according to Real News, can also be explained by the fact that Antonis Samaras agreed to LAOS’ participation in the current Papademos government.

At the same time, Dora Bakoyannis (former Foreign Minister under last New Democracy administration and now leader of her own party – Democratic Alliance) “flirts” with Sotiris Hatzigakis who was recently driven out from New Democracy. SYRIZA is examining a possible cooperation with PASOK, again in view of the coming elections. Finally, the Democratic Left under Fotis Kouvelis is also “targeting”  members of the now crumbling PASOK party.

The run-up to the Greek economic crisis (Part 3)

This is the 3rd part of Greek journalist Pavlos Papadopoulos’ article on the run-up to the current Greek economic crisis, published by “To Vima” newspaper (16/10/2011). The first part of the article is here and the second part is here.

“The Prime Minister regretted for not insisting to have the Memorandum voted by 180 MPs” says a Minister. This was a proposal that came from Mr. Venizelos and Mr. Pampoukis but the rest of the Cabinet members disagreed. Papandreou regretted for not adopting that proposal because, if he had done it and New Democracy wouldn’t vote for it, he could call for an early election. According to converging sources, Papandreou thought that the Memorandum couldn’t be implemented by a one-party government. This is not what he expected when he was counting on an “international solution” (see Part 2 for an explanation of the international solution).

The extraordinary political and social circumstances tested his psychological strength, his close associates were well aware of that. He was feeling trapped in power. In many occasions the men of his security team tried to prevent him from appearing in public which was something he could never think of. He gave considerable thought to the idea of calling an early election at the same time with the local elections in November 2010 but he hesitated once more due to the tight time constraints for the disbursement of the bailout installments.

On the morning of 15 June, the day the Medium-Term Program (the so-called Memorandum No2) was brought to the Greek Parliament, while the prime ministerial car was heading to the Maximou Mansion, some gathered citizens welcomed him with a rain of eggs (see video above). For Papandreou, that experience was decisive. He was personally hurt. He reckoned that the attack was an indisputable sign of destabilization, given the fact that at the same time in Syntagma riots were reaching a climax. When he arrived in his office he called Antonis Samaras. “The country is being dissolved. We must form a government of cooperation” he suggested. “The PM should be a third person” was the answer of New Democracy’s leader. “I have no problem” replied Papandreou with an emotionally charged voice and added “I will not become an obstacle to my country’s salvation”. For New Democracy it was a sudden “cold shower”. They didn’t want this development and they were not ready to govern. They leaked the information in order to provoke the expected reactions which would cancel the deal.

The Prime Minister’s associates called Nikos Papandreou who rushed to the Maximou Mansion and discussed with his brother. They were just the two of them for quite some time. Nobody knows what was discussed. People who know them insist that they are totally aligned politically and they always act after mutual consultation. According to some sources, the Andreas Papandreou’s second son also called Antonis Samaras, whom he knows personally through the friendship of the New Democracy leader with the Prime Minister. “If you form a government of cooperation, you’ll share the price” he allegedly said to Samaras. However, this specific information has not been officially confirmed.

While the drama of a soon-to-resign Prime Minister was evolving at the Maximou Mansion, the hesitant coup of Mr. Venizelos was unfolding at the Ministry of Defense. Already by Tuesday 14th of June, those who had visited the Minister of Defense were left with the impression that he was about to resign. An MP who visited him had the impression that the secretaries were collecting the Minister’s folders. Venizelos himself was implying in his discussions that he could even resign. Of course, he would never mention the word “resign”. “You tell me. What should I do?” was his meaningful question to his interlocutors. This stance inspired other PASOK MPs, as Paris Koukoulopoulos, Kostas Spiliopoulos, Nikos Salagiannis and Dimitris Lintzeris, who were promoting at the Parliament the idea of a government’s overthrow. This “rebellious atmosphere “ is said to have influenced PASOK MP Yannis Floridis who finally decided to resign irrespective of what the Venizelian wing would do. The day after Papandreou’s failure to form a government with Samaras, several MPs who were loyal to the Prime Minister were ordered to appear in front of tv cameras and remember the “ghost of Apostasy” (read more about the history of Apostasy/July events/Royal coup) in order to restrain the Venizelians’ attack. The 46-year-old ghost has once more served the Papandreou family. At the same time Papandreou proceeded to a government reshuffle and at 4am of the 17th of June, he appointed Venizelos to take the responsibility of the economy since, for the second time in two years, Lucas Papademos had declined to head the Ministry of Finance. A historic member of PASOK said for Venizelos: “An apostate in the morning, a vice-president in the evening”.

Greek Minister of Finance, Evangelos Venizelos

Venizelos was reassured by the Prime Minister that night that he could have as Deputy Minister the chairman of the National Bank of Greece, Vasilis Rapanos. However, instead of him, he got Pantelis Oikonomou who, as soon as he accepted the post, took all his speeches off his website. He was against the Memorandum in all of them. Another important point is that Venizelos demanded from the Prime Minister to strip Theodoros Pangalos from his responsibilities. He wanted to be the only vice-president in the government. The Prime Minister invented a “Solomon solution”: he formed a governmental commission without the participation of Pangalos. In that way, Venizelos was “first vice-president”. Thanks to his special political weight, his popularity and his rhetorical prowess, he “passed” the Medium-Term Program from the Parliament. Even if that was partly because he “checked” the intra-PASOK dissident MPs who he himself controls.

The “first vice-president” accepted the Ministry of Finance because he estimated that the Prime Minister would later be obliged to call for elections in which PASOK would be defeated and thus he would substitute Papandreou as the party leader. “I know that Evangelos wants elections but I won’t do him the favor” Papandreou is said to have commented to one of his associates during the summer. Most Ministers in their personal discussions they accuse Venizelos of postponing the implementation of the Medium-Term Program’s commitments while waiting for elections. With the possibility of having him as their leader in the near future though, they are very careful in their public statements. When, on the 2nd of September 2011, the troika demanded the immediate implementation of the reforms, Venizelos unexpectedly suspended the negotiations. The heads of the troika left Athens within a few hours.

The troika’s embargo against Greece lasted for 27 days. The delay of the bailout’s sixth installment was in no way agreed and the responsibility for bringing the state on the verge of a domestic cessation of payments lies completely to the Minister of Finance. Highly respected European sources say that the deviation from the agreed commitments has overthrown the, generous for Greece, deal of 21 July. The new negotiation, with an uncertain and (probably) worse outcome, is under way. According to Greek and foreign officials, Greece has been ostracized from that deal. Two years after PASOK’s election victory, the improvisations are continued and the uncertainty keeps intensifying…

End of Part 3 of 4 – to read the fourth part click here.

A threat, some confidence and a couple of news

Yesterday I received the first threat targeting the author of this blog. Some far right supporter was angry with what I wrote about Mr. Voridis and Mr. Georgiades. I was threatened, among other things, that once the “revolution” takes place, my throat will be one of the first to be slit (if you wonder about the use of the word “revolution”, have in mind that Greek dictator Georgios Papadopoulos has famously characterized the imposition of the military junta as a “revolution”). Of course the post was not a result of my own research, the Greek blogosphere is full of this story (actually it’s even more detailed). I have merely translated and summarized what is written in Greek blogs and newspapers. Not that I feel like being apologetic for the post but it just strikes me how stupid and narrow-minded some people are. Unfortunately the threat was anonymous and thus I couldn’t reply to its author and it was written in Greek. I thought of translating it and posting it here but my limited translation skills are not enough to fully and rightfully translate the richness of Greek obscenity that was used. I was also embarrassed to translate the detailed knowledge that the commentator had about some of my female relatives’ genitalia.

Time for today’s news. Greece’s eyebrows are going to turn to the Parliament tonight for the vote of confidence of Lucas Papademos’ government. No surprises are expected though as the majority of the three parties that formed the national unity government will vote for it. Some MPs expressed concerns but overall I feel no suspense.

DEI trade unionists outside the Greek Ministry of Health

The Public Power Corporation’s (DEI) trade union, GENOP-DEI, has thrown another symbolic act today. Several trade unionists visited the Ministry of Health in downtown Athens and have cut the electricity supply. They said that the Ministry owes more than 141 million euros to DEI in unpaid electricity bills.

DEI trade unionists cutting the electricity supply at the Ministry of Health

If that looks strange for you, here’s the background. Last September the Greek government announced that the recently decided tax on property would be sent to the citizens through their electricity bills. In that way, paying your electricity and paying the property tax would be connected and if you would deny to pay the latter you would have your electricity supply cut off. That decision was taken despite Mr. Venizelos’ reassurances in June that they wouldn’t use the electricity bills for such a cause. Of course people were furious about it and DEI’s trade union, who were already under governmental and public pressure for a series of accusations and scandals, initially denied to print the bills in question. That rebellious announcement by the union leader Nikos Fotopoulos, which of course wasn’t implemented (I know a lot of people who received their electricity bill together with the new property tax), was followed by today’s show which aims to regain the people’s sympathy towards the trade union. If you want to find out more about the developments in DEI and the trade union’s reaction you can read this. Here’s a short video of today’s show.

Finally, 17 people have been identified for their participation in the events during the cancelled military parade for the Ohi Day, on 28 October. According to the Police, eleven of them come from the far left political spectrum, two from the far right and four have been identified as football fans (probably supporters of the delegated Iraklis F.C. team of Thessaloniki). They will be tried shortly.

It has begun

Greece’s position within the euro was a historic conquest” of the country that “cannot be put in doubt” and “cannot depend on a referendum. (AP)

Evangelos Venizelos
Greek Finance Minister

It seems that Evangelos Venizelos’ big moment is … now. He has been waiting for this moment for years, since PASOK’s defeat in 2007. I remember his face on tv, speaking with his passionate manner that makes you think that he is shouting. PASOK had lost the elections, Venizelos didn’t wait at all and made statements about the need for a change of leadership in PASOK. He was speaking like a future PM and, paradoxically, he was merely the No2 of the defeated party in the elections.

The recovery of the word “mutiny” from PASOK’s history chest by George Papandreou touched the necessary sensitivities and instincts of the socialists who elected him as a chairman about a month later. It was funny times. We had a new right-wing government but the mainstream media were only talking about the internal elections of the party that lost. This is one of those small elements that can explain the term “PASOK’s deep state”.

Venizelos never recovered since then. Everybody knows that he has always been waiting for the right moment to strike back. After the resignation of Milena Apostolaki and his decision to break ranks from the Greek PM on the issue of the referendum, minutes after they both returned from Cannes last night, I think he will go for it either today or during the vote of confidence tomorrow midnight. In the second case, one cannot avoid to use the Cinderella metaphor and joke about it.

To set the record straight, the emergency Cabinet meeting that took place last Tuesday had unanimously supported the idea of the referendum. Evangelos Venizelos was there too.

The reasons for Venizelos’ indigestion

There has been some discussion about the unfortunate event that Greek Finance Minister, Evangelos Venizelos, had to be hospitalized for a minor appendicitis problem. I have been going through reports and tweets by Greek journalists and there is indeed a mistrust on the medical event. I decided to translate a report published in Greek journalist Kostas Vaxevanis’s website, To Kouti tis Pandoras (Pandora’s Box) about the possible backstage politics concerning Mr Venizelos’ illness.          *the text in italics is mine

“As it is well-known ill people and travelers cannot be blamed for a sin (Greek quote which forgives sick people and travelers for not attending the religious fasting). Evangelos Venizelos is ill since Tuesday early morning. He went to a (private) hospital having abdominal pains. Those who have been in the army, they know well that when you want to avoid doing a task you just tell the camp’s doctor that you have “abdominal pain” and you are considering sick even if you are not. You just say “it hurts”, making it sound as if they should treat you seriously. If they can’t find anything wrong, they usually conclude that it’s indigestion. In the meantime, your goal is achieved.

However, Mr Venizelos’ pain is not such a pain. He suffers from indigestion for quite a time. He is pregnant. He is trying to give birth to the developments that will benefit him. These are: elections.

Papandreou gave Venizelos the Ministry of Finance in order to make him harmless in the intra-PASOK political struggle and, at the same time, makes him a hateful Minister in the eyes of the public. The PM has bet on Venizelos’ political ambitions in the same way you place cheese on a mouse trap. However, he made a fatal mistake. He gave Venizelos Prime Ministerial powers and a veto right. For the sake of Venizelos, Papandreou got rid of all those people who constituted his political entourage. He neglected that, apart from his own political ambitions, Venizelos had a team of MPs who were following his orders.

The political goal of Venizelos was to hold elections so that Papandreou’s era is over with a defining defeat. When he returned from the haircut’s negotiations, Venizelos said it clearly. “The agreements need a consensus of 180 votes in the Parliament”. Since such a consensus couldn’t be achieved, that practically meant elections

Once more Papandreou did not see it coming. He accepted Venizelos’ proposal to exchange the idea of elections for the its tactical substitute, a referendum. Evangelos Venizelos endorsed the referendum in a live interview with ANT1 on Monday night and managed to inflate the popular and the political reaction. And today, he got sick.

Milena Apostolaki, a Venizelian (i.e. supporter of Venizelos in the years-long Papandreou Vs Venizelos intra-PASOK struggle) who matured politically in the (political) hands of Evangelos Venizelos, disagreed with the idea of a referendum. The political guilts and the political conscience will soon be transmitted as a disease, as an epidemic actually, many other members of PASOK. I assume it will transmit mainly to the ladies who also matured politically in the (political) hands of Mr. Venizelos”.

What will Mr Papandreou do? He will adopt a rhetoric of a domestic intra-PASOK mutiny and, possibly, he will talk of a possible coup d’etat by members of the Army. But it’s too late for tears. If he wants to do something useful, he should read the hundreds of emails who were sent to him by friends and PASOK members, who were predicting the political illness of Mr Venizelos when Papandreou gave him everything. And he should go for elections before they drag him there.

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.

Ohi

Today is a national holiday. It’s the so-called “Ohi day” (the day of “No”) which is what Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas said to the Italian ambassador on the 28th October 1940 when he asked to let Italian troops occupy Greece. This was how Greece entered WW II and for many Greeks this day is a symbol of independence. It was a tragic irony that the EU deal about the Greek haircut came more or less on this day. And of course this couldn’t go unnoticed by Greek newspapers which, almost in their entirety, used metaphors joking about the proudly negative “Ohi” of the 1940s and the embarrassingly affirmative “Ne” (yes) of 2011. There has also been some war-related rhetoric while the most popular Ta Nea and Eleftherotypia newspapers maintained their pro-government stance by using boring “the haircut’s next day scenario” front pages which eventually didn’t let them make it to this post.

Eleftheros Typos

Title: They said YES to Merkel

Subtitle: Papandreou-Venizelos subordinated to the German attack

Dimokratia

Title: Defeat brings disaster

Subtitle: Greece returns to the Stone Age in a state of occupation

Ethnos

Title: What’s hidden behind the “YES” of 27 October

Aggelioforos

Title: The last chance

Avriani

Title: Banks surrendered to foreigners for a pittance

Subtitle: Greek people is strangled for the next 10 years – Public property is on sale

Estia

Title: Today’s supplement: the 28 October 1950 issue

Subtitle: Ten years after the historic “Ohi”

Supplement’s title: The fruits of “Ohi”