Oct 8 2013

Beyond the confusion, a decisive shift

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by Professor Kevin Featherstone

A week ago, Greece had some of its best headlines in the international media since before the crisis began.  The quick and decisive actions against Chrysi Avghi showed the strength of the democratic spirit.  This was a fight-back against a Neo-Nazi force at a time when the extreme right was making inroads into the stagnant politics of other European societies.  I felt proud of Greece when explaining these actions to my friends in London.

The previous week I’d witnessed a Chrysi Avghi street protest in Athens.  I came away with a deeply disturbing image of the intimidating swagger of a young man, his faced covered, walking ahead of the demonstration, inviting onlookers to challenge his command over the street, as the police stood back.  The closest parallel I’d witnessed previously was of English football hooligans or of the Protestant ‘Orange Order’ marches.  Far from being the worst episode of Chrysi Avghi protest, the young man was nevertheless mocking authority and ready to unleash the passion for violence evident in his party. The British friend alongside me had never been to Greece before and I despaired at what she was thinking as we watched.

Then, on Wednesday, it seemed that the most laudable of intentions risked being thwarted by state confusion, if not incompetence. The Court decided that three Chrysi Avghi members could be released.  Yet, the next day, Michaloliakos, Lagos and Patelis were remanded in custody.  Was there such a difference in the strength of the evidence or, rather, was it an acknowledgement by the Court of the public outcry after the first were released?  If the latter, this would be very worrying.  The preparation of the cases themselves seemed a little flaky.  The indictments had been trailed across the newspapers, breaking legal safeguards.  Then the contact details of a ‘protected’ witness had been given to the accused, putting them at great risk.  For the democratic spirit to triumph requires proper preparation and avoiding an ERT-like debacle.  The rest of the world will celebrate not only because the right people are standing trial, but also only if the right process and principles are followed.

The most worrying aspect of this episode, though, has been the admission that the authorities have had files and files of evidence against Chrysi Avghi and had sat on them, doing nothing.  We had a flashback to the Lambrakis Affair and the collusion of the police with the dark forces of pre-junta Greece.  The admission undermined the legitimacy of the state’s own institutions and fanned foreign exasperation of what kind of system exists in Greece.  Thankfully, the purge of senior police figures helped to signal a new resolve.

Indeed, beyond the immediate confusion, the events of the last week need to be put in larger perspective.  The decision to act against Chrysi Avghi may come to represent a decisive turn in Greece’s political class.  The will to confront fascist criminality was heard and not only in Greece.  A bridge has been crossed and it won’t be easy to retreat.

The electoral base of Chrysi Avghi is a fragile one – both in its sense of economic and social vulnerability, but also in it searching for almost any protest lead.  The Greek electorate is not turning fascist; instead, more may be coming rejectionist.  The Chrysi Avghi members arrested may have hidden Nazi memorabilia and swastikas in their homes for late night thrills, but ordinary ‘Kostas’ or ‘Maria’ does not.  Repeated action against the party can only expose how ‘un-Greek’ these people are.  TV reminders of the Athens famine and the Holocaust would also be timely.

This last week, mainstream Greek politics found a common purpose and showed a new willingness to face down opponents.  Greece’s friends have yearned for such a moment.  We can only hope that the shock of this discovery will embolden it to continue forward.

Kevin Featherstone is Professor of Contemporary Greek Studies at the London School of Economics, where he heads its Hellenic Observatory.

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Posted by: Posted on by Ismini Demades

Sep 27 2013

Until Angela Merkel forms a governing coalition, Greece will continue to be in limbo

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by Dr Theofanis Exadaktylos 
 

 “Triumph for the queen of austerity – Pressure to the South for reforms”*

Angela Merkel’s triumph in the German elections on Sunday and her re-election as Chancellor has made headlines across the world. But what does her third term in office mean for Greece, which has been struggling with implementing new measures, taking reforms forward and demonstrating primary surpluses in the budget? Continue reading

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Posted by: Posted on by Ioanna Antonopoulou

Sep 27 2013

Greece and Albania would both benefit substantially from closer relations

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by Dr Alexandros Nafpliotis

 

Exactly 42 years ago, the Croatian daily Vjesnik used the term ‘impressive’ to report to its readers the re-establishment of Greek-Albanian relations, adding that 1971 marked the year of a Greek ‘diplomatic offensive’ in the Balkans. The catalyst for this dramatic decision was financial, with both the Greek Colonels’ dictatorship and Albania’s Stalinist leader Enver Hoxha being interested in cultivating closer relations with each other in their effort to tackle their financial woes. At the time, Greek newspapers focused on the ‘open door’ policy followed by Hoxha, underlining the Albanian youth’s desire for contact with foreigners. Continue reading

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Posted by: Posted on by Ioanna Antonopoulou

Jul 11 2013

The great Greek exceptionalism (on recessionary austerity and government effectiveness)

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by Dr Vassilis Monastiriotis
 

The latest round of negotiations between the Greek government and the ‘troika’ must have convinced even the most romantic of those following the Greek crisis that the Greek state is not serious(ly committed to the policies and reforms emanating from the bailout agreements). The ‘conclusion’ of the negotiations left again Greece with a ‘halfhouse fix’ that includes a partial release of the next tranche of the bailout funds and an agreement for the continuation of the ‘negotiations’ in the autumn. The uncertainty in the country remains, the problems of inefficiency in the public administration remain, the economy continues to be squeezed and squashed, and society is still in turmoil. Continue reading

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Posted by: Posted on by Vassilis Monastiriotis

Jun 17 2013

ERT tells us all we need to know….

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by Professor Kevin Featherstone
 

This week’s dramatic decision to close down ERT answers a question Greece’s political leaders – in and out of government – have lacked the will to confront for a generation. At one level, the move is gesture politics: a sudden, unilateral act intended to impress the Troika, after the sale of DEPA was messed up.    The audacity of the move provoked the predictable protests – attacking the media gets headlines around the world. But the protests have a valid point about such a ‘shock and awe’ announcement:  it comes without proper consultation, no parliamentary approval and with no fully-worked out plan. Continue reading

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Posted by: Posted on by Ioanna Antonopoulou

Mar 19 2013

Dealing with the financial crisis in light of developments in Cyprus: Europeanisation or Germanisation?

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By Adonis Pegasiou

The latest proposal of the Eurogroup, regarding the bail out of Cyprus has caused unprecedented unrest that has not been limited at the national or even the European level. The essence of the proposal is for Cyprus to contribute a third of the overall financial assistance required via a haircut in depositors’ money, including even the average account holder whose deposits do not exceed 100,000 euros (i.e. deposits otherwise fully guaranteed). In the last Eurogroup meeting, German finance minister with the backing of his northern allies and with the blessing of countries possibly envying Cyprus’s success as an international financial centre, cold-bloodedly blackmailed Cypriot officials with a ‘take or leave it’ deal. Cyprus had to accept the principle of haircutting deposits (a red line for Cypriot negotiators, even considered to be a ‘stupid idea’ by the Finance Minister) otherwise the island’s second largest commercial bank would be instantly refused further emergency liquidity assistance and essentially be left to collapse, possibly taking down with it the whole economy. Continue reading

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Posted by: Posted on by Ismini Demades

Mar 19 2013

Counting the options in Cyprus: the good, the bad and the ugly

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First, let’s clarify that a bailout for Cyprus was necessary. Without this, the major banks in Cyprus would collapse in a matter of days, if not hours. People would lose their savings, financing of small and large businesses would come to a halt, panic would spread across markets and the public, and a tremendous crisis would engulf the real economy (with lost jobs, incomes, and people’s fortunes). The ECB could delay this, by continuing to provide liquidity to the Cypriot banks, but this would not offer a long-term solution. Continue reading

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Posted by: Posted on by Vassilis Monastiriotis

Nov 12 2012

A vote of Confidence should mean exactly that

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by Kevin Featherstone
 

Today, Parliament is expected to approve the new budget by a comfortable majority, with even some of last week’s rebels coming back to support the Coalition.  But this endorsement is at risk of being totally swamped by the vitriolic and demagogic attacks of the Opposition.  Once again, the pro-European majority in Parliament has lost the political initiative – not only to the strikers and the rioters, but also to the colourful speeches of their parliamentary foes.  The Coalition seems riven by doubt and opportunism, when its real interest is to be bolder and more united. Continue reading

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Posted by: Posted on by Ioanna Antonopoulou

Oct 26 2012

On the efficiency of public investment allocations in Greece

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by Vassilis Monastiriotis

After long procrastination and endless negotiations, it seems now that the reform/austerity package requested by the troika will go through and that the latest loan instalment for Greece will be released. Disappointingly, the new package contains very little, if anything, on the demand side – and on public investment in particular – continuing on the motif of fiscal consolidation (spending cuts and tax hikes) and supply-side stimuli (deregulation and internal devaluation). Continue reading

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Posted by: Posted on by Ioanna Antonopoulou

Oct 26 2012

Greek Leadership and Symbolic Reforms

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by Nikolaos Zahariadis 

Why does Greece seem to be mired in a cycle of continuous reforms while creditors are convinced it has not done enough? The problem is leadership, but not how one may surmise. Greek leaders certainly share much of the blame for precipitating the crisis that has engulfed the country, but they should not be wholly blamed for reform failures. Continue reading

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Posted by: Posted on by Ioanna Antonopoulou