Tag Archives: politics

The Wake Up Call

The Wake Up Call logo

I’ve finally finished the production of a short-doc that occupied most of my free time the past 3-4 months. It’s a documentary about the political graffiti in crisis-stricken Athens. The project is the child of an idea I had last January. I was always bumping into amazing works of art in the streets of Athens but these were increasingly politicized, a natural result that was mirroring the social dissatisfaction.

euro car crash

By WD

However, when I would see the same works of art destroyed, painted over or, simply, damaged by time, I thought I should document them. Thus, I like to see this documentary rather like an instant photo of Athens today. A photo in which one can see the urban art, the discontent, the politics, the dissent and, more discreetly than the rest, the pessimism.

bansy euro girl

By Absent

The documentary focuses on four Greek political street artists. Paul, MaPet, Absent and Bleeps. I contacted them last August and told them about the project. I’ve explained its aim to them, spent many hours discussing details but also gaining their trust. We started filming in September and finished at the end of October. I specifically asked them not to feel pressed to do something but to simply call me when they have inspiration for a new work.

The real terrorism is the 8 o'clock news

“The real terrorism is the 8 o’clock news” – by Paul

A lot of people thing that graffiti artists simply get a bunch of coloured sprays and paint whatever they want, just like that. While many might as well do that, the above mentioned four artists usually do some sort of preparations that can take from 1 hour to 1 week, if not even more. In addition, in Greece we tend to think that these people belong to some far left fractions, that they are vandals in the same uncritical way that our society equates vandals, rioters and anarchists. Well, they are not. They are normal people, with normal professions, having normal lives. They do not belong to the same party, group or organization; they don’t necessarily know each other either. In fact, they come from very diffrerent backgrounds. But the have one common thing which helped me give a title to the documentary in a way that it includes all of them.

"Wake Up!" by Bleeps (Photo by G. Nikolakopoulos)

“Wake Up!” by Bleeps (Photo by G. Nikolakopoulos)

They try to pass a message to the rest of the society. A wake up call.

Here is the short-documentary. I hope you enjoy it.

You can find out more about the short-doc, watch the trailer and check extended galleries on the artists’ works, here: thewakeupcall.gr

The Wake Up Call trailer

At last, my personal project which occupied most of my free time in the past 2-3 months is nearing its end. It’s a short-documentary on the political graffiti in Athens during the Greek crisis, an idea that originally came from this very blog.

This is the trailer of the documentary, I hope you like it and share it around.

The Wake Up Call – trailer (English subtitles) from Kostas Kallergis on Vimeo.

If you want to find out more, you can visit the dedicated website for this project, www.thewakeupcall.gr. Stay tuned for the main video which will probably be ready in a week from now.

The ball is round

The ball is round,

the game lasts 90 minutes,

everything else is pure theory.

Josef “Sepp” Herberger
German football player  (1897-1977)

Although this blog is mostly political, I decided for a change to write something about sports and tonight’s game between Greece and Germany for the Euro 2012. This game is not only about sports anyway, despite the repeated attempts to convince us for the opposite. The way the media work, the lust for a quick joke, a symbolic cartoon or a mere parallelism to the current situation in Greece and its relation to Germany make it extremely political. Imagine the headlines, the cliches…

GERMANY KICKS GREECE OUT OF THE EURO! (there you go, I said it too)

or

[Celtic striker Georgios] SAMARAS SCORES AGAINST GERMANY!

Georgios Samaras, you see, has the same name with our new Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras. There is also a new vice Minister of Justice, Kostas Karagounis, who has the same surname with veteran mid-fielder Giorgos Karagounis.

British comedy group Monty Python were much ahead of their time.

The David vs Goliath match has offered plenty of material for the Greek sport newspapers. Here’s some examples.

Goal News 22/06/2012
“For 90 minutes there is no rich and poor nations”

Sport Day 22/06/2012
“Bankrupt them”

Protathlitis 22/06/2012
“Samaras, tear her Memorandum up”

Derby News 22/06/2012
“Molon Labe” (i.e. “Come and take them” The Ancient Greek phrase μολὼν λαβέ is a classical expression of defiance reportedly spoken by King Leonidas I in response to the Persian army’s demand that the Spartans surrender their weapons at the Battle of Thermopylae).

Metrosport 22/06/2012
“Germany raus aus der Euro!” (i.e. Germany out of the Euro!)

I’ve also come across a series of cartoons that played on the game’s political dimension.

From The Independent

By Kipper Williams for The Guardian

From the Berliner Zeitung

A hard-to-believe report even mentioned that the Greek Tourism Organization have sent a letter to all major media that will be showing the match, asking to lower the volume during the German anthem in order to reduce the effect of possible wooing from Greek fans. Angela Merkel will be present in the stadium and it seems impossible that such an embarrassment can be avoided.

Only a few hours are left for the match. I am writing this post while trying to arrange with my friends where we’ll watch it. And the introduction of this favorite German movie, Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run, 1999) came to my mind.

I guess Greece needs a lot of running if the national team would have any chances of qualifying. But let’s never forget. The ball is round. The game lasts 90 minutes. That’s a fact. Everything else is pure theory.

Potato wars

Here’s a story of a citizens’ initiative in Greece that intended to fight high prices and the politics that rose around it. It’s a promising initiative but the politics gave me a pessimistic feeling and reminded me that we can’t wait much from our political parties. They remain so disconnected from society, caring only about their small political gains rather than the well being of the citizens.

Potato Wars: May the spud be with you

Some weeks ago a volunteer group from the northern town of Katerini decided to bypass the middlemen and the big super market chains in order to get lower prices for a basic good. The potato. In a normal country you would expect capitalism, competition or the state (sic) to work in the benefit of the consumers. In Greece, with its middlemen and cartels, this is not happening. So the Volunteers’ Action Group decided to contact potato producers from Nevrokopi, Drama, in order to ask for a lower price. The citizens from Katerini declared on the group’s website what quantities they needed and the group informed the producers from Drama. The latter hired a couple of trucks and the drove all the way to Katerini to distribute their products in 10 kg sacks. Until then, the citizens of Katerini were buying the same sack for 7 euros but the volunteers’ group initiative they bought them for 2,5! According to the group, a local supermarket responded to the initiative by lowering the price of potato to 0.35 euros (i.e. 3,5 euros for a 10 kg sack).

The success of the initiative was followed by many other citizens’ groups all around Greece who ordered several tons of potatoes. The potato movement reached big cities like Athens and Thessaloniki too. The story was shown by several mainstream media, in a fashion that praised the citizens’ initiative. I was so surprised to see this happening, especially since big super market chains are some of the top advertisers on tv, that I even got a bit suspicious. But before I understand what was happening, there came politics to fuck up the story.

Firstly, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) issued a statement with which it accused the state and the multinationals’ monopolies and cartels for trying to disorientate the people. According to KKE the problem of poverty is not going to be solved by such initiatives and the mainstream media promoted the “potato movement” in order not to let them identify with the labour movement. The real reason behind that statement of course was that KKE did not organize or control the initiative and thus felt the need to criticize it in attempt to limit its success. For the newbies in Greek politics, it’s enough to say here that KKE hates everything it doesn’t control as it believes that only itself is the true leftist and revolutionary party and that only they can and are going to bring the socialist change. Something like a copyright to revolution.

As one can imagine there was an uproar with this statement and some saw this situation as an opportunity to serve their own interests. For example, another leftist party and longtime opponent of KKE, SYRIZA praised the potato movement in an attempt to approach them in view of the coming elections. So did a third leftist party, the Democratic Left. Even the extreme right LAOS issued the following statement:

“Some people are bothered by the potato movement for one reason: They can not control and check it. We believe in these initiatives that can be overcome  the fears and inhibitions of the government towards its customers, the middlemen and wholesalers”.

Someone must remind LAOS that they were part of this government for some months and did nothing about its customers.

Finally KKE issued a second statement on the issue and said that they have been misunderstood. Few people were convinced and thus we ended up talking more about the parties’ statements and less about the power of such initiatives, since the state is absent, to make daily life a bit easier.

The initiative is now taking place in at least ten different cities all around Greece and is spreading to other goods as well. Olive oil, beans and rice are among the next in the Greek price wars.

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…

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.

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.

While it lasts

The Greek referendum call is, while it lasts, effectively a plebiscite on euro membership.

I say “while it lasts” because the opposition is mobilising a parliamentary manoeuvre to bring down the government, which may succeed – returning Europe to its status quo of containable trauma.

If Greeks reject the 50% controlled default on debts they owe to the banking sector, then the arithmetic I revealed on Newsnight on the eve of the Euro summit comes into play – without a 50% haircut, and a further 130bn euro bailout, on top of 110bn, Greek debt spirals out of control and the country goes bust.

By Paul Mason, Economics Editor, Newsnight, BBC.

The rest of his article can be found here.

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.