Posts tagged greece
Posts tagged greece
“Police officers came to the door and said ‘All blacks out, all blacks out,’” Tupac told me as he recalled how police officers forced him and other black and Asian passengers out of a bus in central Athens for an identity check in early February. After pulling him off the bus, the police held Tupac, a Guinean registered asylum seeker, for approximately 10 hours to check his legal status in Greece.
Tupac is one of the tens of thousands of people who have been stopped, searched, and detained by the police under Operation Xenios Zeus—an epic-scale sweep operation to crack down on irregular immigration that began almost a year ago. Whoever christened the operation has a bad sense of humor: Xenios Zeus was the ancient Greek god of hospitality.
While researching police practices under Operation Xenios Zeus, I heard many disturbing accounts of clear targeting by the police on the basis of race or ethnicity during identity checks. The number of people stopped and detained is mind-boggling.
In the first seven months, the police rounded up almost 85,000 foreigners and took them to police stations to verify their documents. Of these, fewer than 6 percent were then arrested for unlawful entry and stay in the country. The fact that such a small percentage were actually found to be in Greece unlawfully suggests ethnic profiling and arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
Photo: Police detain individuals assumed to be migrants in central Athens, on Sunday, August 5, 2012. Between August 4, 2012, and February 22, 2013, Greek police detained almost 85,000 people of foreign origin on the streets of Athens to check their identification papers and legal status. © 2012 Associated Press/Thanassis Stavrakis
Protesters march during an anti-austerity rally in central Athens on February 20, 2013. Tens of thousands of Greeks took to the streets of Athens on Wednesday during a nationwide strike against wage cuts and high taxes that kept ferries stuck in ports, schools shut and hospitals with only emergency staff. The banner reads, “Jobs”.
[Credit : John Kolesidis/Reuters]
Greeks turn to the forests for fuel as winter nears
After first felling society’s most vulnerable, with pensioners and low-income workers at the fore, debt-stricken Greece’s great economic crisis is now destroying the middle class. The announcement this week that €44bn in emergency aid will soon be funnelled into the country – the latest in a series of rescue programmes by the EU and IMF to prop up an economy running on empty – comes as little consolation for people on the ground.
Poised for their worst winter since the eruption of the crisis three years ago, Greeks who once thought nothing of heating their homes now hesitate. After relentless waves of austerity and tax rises that have seen their purchasing power drop by up to 50%, even doctors and lawyers are feeling the pinch, with many saying they cannot afford the 40% surcharge the government has slapped on heating oil.
Having been on the frontline of Europe’s debt drama from the outset, Greece embraced austerity in return for international financial assistance that has kept bankruptcy at bay and tied it to the family of single currency nations. But the effect has been ever more devastating on its social fabric. Middle class downsizing is the latest tell-tale sign in a country whose GDP officials predict will shrink 25% by 2014 – a contraction unheard of in an advanced western economy since America’s Great Depression. (via The Guardian)
Tens of thousands of Greeks take to the streets in largest anti-austerity protest in a year
Greek police clashed with hooded rioters hurling petrol bombs as tens of thousands took to the streets of Athens on Wednesday in Greece’s biggest anti-austerity protest in more than a year.
Violence erupted after nearly 70,000 people marched to parliament chanting “We won’t submit to the troika (of lenders)” and “EU, IMF Out!” on the day of a general strike against a new round of cuts demanded by foreign lenders. (Photos: AP Photo; AFP/GettyImages)
Leaders of Greece’s fragile coalition government have agreed 11.5bn euros (£9bn) in new spending cuts needed to keep its EU/IMF bailout.
The cuts were required for Greece to qualify for the next 31.5bn euro instalment of the 130bn euro loan.
Without the funds, Greece would face bankruptcy and probably leave the euro.
The deal came after the two junior coalition parties shelved demands for an immediate renegotiation of the bailout terms to delay the cuts.
Conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has argued that Greece must regain credibility before it can ask its international creditors for an extension to its 2013-4 austerity deadline.
"The prime minister said that it must be accepted - as a necessary condition for our country to remain in the eurozone and to be able to negotiate further - to cut public spending by another 11.5bn [euros]," Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said after the meeting.
"That position was accepted."
He said the government would finalise the cuts by the end of August and would seek to “minimise the social effects”.
The austerity measures are expected to include new reductions in state benefits and pensions.
The leader of the socialist Pasok, the second-largest party backing the government, said he had temporarily set aside demands for an immediate renegotiation in order to avoid early elections.
"If the prime minister feels that immediately adopting the measures worth 11.5bn euros will safeguard future loan releases and the country’s place in the euro, I am forced to accept his view," Evangalos Venizelos said.
Both he and Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the the third coalition party, the Democratic Left, said they would continue to fight for a renegotiation, and insisted that the burden of the cuts should be fair.
Greece’s “troika” of international creditors - the EU, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB) - have said they will not release the next bailout payment if they are not satisfied by next month that Greece has made sufficient progress in implementing spending cuts and economic reform.
Pictured: Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is under international pressure to deliver cuts and economic reform
Antonis Samaras offers ‘hope’ as new Greece prime minister
Antonis Samaras has vowed to “give hope” to the Greek people, moments after being sworn in as prime minister.
His party, New Democracy, has forged a coalition with the Socialists (Pasok) and the smaller Democratic Left.
The deal ends weeks of uncertainty in Greece. An inconclusive election on 6 May raised fears Greece could leave the eurozone and trigger a wider crisis.
But the new coalition is expected to face immediate pressure from an austerity-weary Greek public.
They have endured five years of recession and are increasingly resistant to the tough terms of Greece’s huge bailout from the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Syriza - the leftist party that came second in Sunday’s poll and strongly opposes the austerity measures - will be a defiant voice of opposition, correspondents say.
Greek stocks rose moderately in response to the news that a coalition had been formed, with Athens shares closing up 0.5%.
'Burden of responsibility'
Mr Samaras became Greece’s fourth prime minister in eight months at a brief ceremony at the presidential palace in Athens, presided over by the archbishop of Greece and chanting Orthodox Greek clergy.
In his first public words following his swearing in, he asked the Greek people for “patriotism and strong national unity and trust, [so] that with the help of God, we’ll do whatever we can for the people to come out of this crisis”.
Pictured: Antonis Samaras of New Democracy is sworn in as prime minister
Antonis Samaras begins urgent Greece coalition talks
The leader of the party that narrowly won Greece’s election has begun urgent talks to form a coalition, saying he wants to forge a “national consensus”.
New Democracy’s Antonis Samaras met leaders of the other two largest parties, but no deal on a coalition has yet been announced.
Mr Samaras says he will seek changes in the terms of a bailout agreement reached with the EU and IMF.
Market responses to the poll result were mixed and bank stocks plummeted.
Mr Samaras called for a “national understanding” as he met President Karolos Papoulias earlier to be given a formal mandate.
Under the constitution, Mr Papoulias has given Mr Samaras three days to form a government.
Mr Samaras said he believed he could form a working coalition.
Initial market rallies quickly reversed, suggesting that the election had not been enough to persuade markets that the euro problem was under control.
Germany’s Commerzbank was down 3.6% and France’s BNP down 3.3%, with analysts saying much uncertainty remained.
Spanish government borrowing costs rose to a euro-era high, with 10-year bonds reaching 7.144%.
The BBC’s Mark Lowen in Athens says Mr Samaras will push for a lightening of the bailout terms from Brussels, arguing that Greeks have accepted more pain by electing a pro-bailout party and that Europe should now cut Greece some slack.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the future government to live up to its obligations, and said any weakening of reform pledges previously made by Greece would be unacceptable.
Pictured: Mr Samaras wants a “national salvation” government but Mr Tsipras says he will play no part in it
Merkel ‘suggests Greek referendum on euro membership’
Germany’s leader has had telephone contact with the Greek president, amid continuing speculation that his country may have to leave the eurozone.
Greek officials said Chancellor Angela Merkel had suggested Greece could hold a referendum on the euro when it votes in national elections next month.
However their German counterparts denied she had made such a proposal.
The crisis in the eurozone is expected to dominate G8 talks in the US this weekend.
The reports of the German-Greek contacts came as US and French leaders ended talks in Washington focusing on the economy.
In a telephone call with President Karolos Papoulias, Mrs Merkel “conveyed thoughts about a vote parallel to the election with the question to what extent do the Greek citizens wish to remain within the eurozone,” said a statement from the office of Greece’s interim prime minister.
"However, it is clear that the matter is beyond the competence of the caretaker government," the statement went on.
But a spokeswoman in Berlin said: “The information reported that the chancellor had suggested a referendum to the Greek President Karolos Papoulias is wrong.”
The caretaker government was sworn in this week after elections failed to produce a viable coalition to run the country.
New elections have been scheduled for 17 June.
Greece’s savers making daily bank visits as analysts warn faster capital flight could push country out of euro before June’s poll
Greeks have withdrawn €3bn (£2.4bn) from the banking system since the country’s inconclusive elections on 6 May, with tellers saying savers were making two or three visits a day to local banks.
Savers fear Greece leaving the eurozone and returning to the drachma. An aide to the outgoing prime minister, Lucas Papademos, said there were “serious fears that the banks were running out of money”.
Greece’s president, Karolos Papoulias, warned on Monday that €700m had been withdrawn but said he had been assured by the governor of the Greek central bank, George Provopoulous, that there was no panic yet.
According to minutes of a meeting on Monday, Papoulias said: “Withdrawals and outflows by 4pm when I called him [Provopoulous] exceeded €600m and reached €700m. He expects total outflows of about €800m, including conversions into German bunds [bonds] and other such things.”
Greeks have been slowly withdrawing cash from the banking system ever since the country first needed a bailout two years ago. Nearly a third of bank deposits were withdrawn between January 2010 and March 2012.
A crucial €18bn cash injection to stabilise Greece’s banks has been held up at the European financial stability fund’s Greek offshoot, the Hellenic financial stability fund (HFSF), for nearly two weeks with officials in Brussels refusing to release the funds because of the political instability in the wake of the elections. That had still not been released by tonight and is now not expected to be released for another four days despite the efforts of the Papademos government to expedite the recapitalisation of Greek banks.
The delay to the recapitalisation was said to have forced the European Central Bank to stop dealing with some Greece banks, leaving local banks to receive funding from the central bank until the banks received their cash injection.
Pictured:Greeks are withdrawing large amounts of money fearing their country will leave the eurozone and return to the drachma. Photograph: Phil Noble/PA
Greece to hold more coalition talks
President to meet all party leaders as political uncertainty sends markets plunging amid fears of possible eurozone exit
Critical talks aimed at forging a government of national unity in crisis-hit Greece will continue on Tuesday with a meeting of all party leaders, after the country’s political uncertainty saw markets plunge and fears rise over Athens’ ability to stay the course in the eurozone.
President Karolos Papoulias’s decision to prolong the negotiations came despite widespread signs that the talks were heading towards collapse. He met the leaders of the conservative New Democracy, socialist Pasok and Democratic Left parties in the eighth day of talks to resolve the deadlock. The party chiefs said the president had suggested creating a government of technocrats or “personalities”.
But one well-placed official said: “Everyone recognises there will not be an agreement. They are just going through the motions. We are going to go to a new round of elections and the sooner the better.”
Even before the political leaders arrived at the presidential palace, the prospect of the discussions producing a successful outcome had been quashed by the small Democratic Left party.
Athens’ political impasse, the result of inconclusive elections on 6 May, could not be resolved, a senior party member told the Guardian, because the Democratic Left was unable to join an administration that did not reflect “the majority of Greek society”.
"The last thing Greece needs is another round of elections but that is what is going to happen. We have decided that we cannot participate in a government that does not reflect the majority will of Greek society," said Dimitris Hadzisokratis, who sits on the party’s executive board.
"I say this with a heavy heart. We would have preferred otherwise," he said, adding that nearly 70% of Greeks had voted for political groups that were opposed to the policies the new government would be forced to adopt under pressure from the EU and IMF keeping Athens’ insolvent economy afloat.
Without the support of Democrat Left, a decidedly “pro-European” force which won 19 seats in parliament, the New Democracy party and centre-left Pasok party fall two seats short of being able to achieve a workable majority.
Pictured: Euro and drachma coins. There are fears Greece is heading towards an exit from the eurozone, which it struggled so hard to join. Photograph: Yiorgos Karahalis/Reuters
Final push for Greece government falls to president
Greek President Karolos Papoulias is preparing to hold talks with party leaders in an attempt to create an emergency government.
The move comes after the country’s socialists became the third party to fail to form a coalition.
If the president’s bid fails, fresh elections will have to be held, probably next month.
Last Sunday, voters backed parties opposed to Greece’s bailout deal that requires deep budget cuts.
Greece’s political turmoil has raised the possibility that it could default on its debts and be forced out of the eurozone.
The president is expected to try to pressure parties into a government of national salvation - but the BBC’s Mark Lowen in Athens says he is unlikely to succeed.
The process could take days.
Evangelos Venizelos, leader of the socialist Pasok party, abandoned efforts to form a new government on Friday and said he would meet the president on Saturday morning.
He had held talks with centre-right New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, whose party came first in the election, but could not find a third partner to give them a majority in parliament.
"I hope that during the negotiations chaired by Mr Papoulias everyone will be more mature and responsible in their thinking," Mr Venizelos said.
New Democracy also failed to form a coalition earlier in the week, as did the left-wing bloc Syriza, which came second in the election.
Pictured: Greek President Karolos Papoulias, right, faces a difficult challenge to unite deeply divided parties
The leader of Greece’s far-left Syriza bloc, Alexis Tsipras, says he is abandoning efforts to form a coalition.
Greek main parties ‘suffer big losses’ at polls
Partial results in Greece’s parliamentary election suggest the two main parties have seen dramatic losses.
With half the votes counted, centre-right New Democracy is in the lead with 20%, down from 33.5% in 2009.
Centre-left Pasok is in third place with 13.8%, down from 43.9% in the last elections. Left-wing coalition Syriza is in second place with 16.06%.
Pasok and New Democracy, in coalition since last November, were expected to lose support to anti-austerity parties.
There is widespread anger across Greece to harsh measures imposed by the government in return for international bailouts.
Syriza opposes the government’s austerity measures.
The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party could enter parliament for the first time if the exit poll prediction of it winning 6.5% -7.5% of the vote comes to fruition.
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said he would form a national salvation government to keep the country in the euro.
But he said he would seek to “amend” Greece’s controversial EU-IMF bailout agreement in order to boost growth.
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said he wanted to form a left-wing coalition rejecting the terms of Greece’s bailouts.
"The parties that signed the memorandum (with the EU and the IMF) are now a minority. The public verdict has de-legitimised them," he said.
"Our proposal is a left-wing government that, with the backing of the people will negate the memorandum and put a stop to our nation’s predetermined course towards misery."
Pictured: Syriza supporters are celebrating major gains across Greece that could put them in second place.
In Greek Election Campaign, Anger Trumps Civility
Greeks will vote Sunday in what is expected to be the most fractious parliamentary election in decades.
People are so divided that no party is expected to get enough votes to form a government. Voters blame politicians for bankrupting the country and then selling it out to international lenders, who forced the government to impose painful austerity measures in exchange for billions of euros in bailout loans.
This election is an early one; the economic crisis forced out the previous elected government led by George Papandreou.
In 2009, when Papandreou’s center-left PASOK party won in a landslide, politicians held big, music-filled campaign rallies. Now, most candidates are holding small events and hiring bodyguards. That’s because some voters are so angry they’re attacking lawmakers with eggs, yogurt and obscenities.
Open Season On Incumbents
On the Aegean island of Rhodes recently, a few national and local politicians attended a parade. In better times, the dignitaries waved at smiling schoolchildren singing the national anthem.
But this year they ran from an angry mob pelting them with cartons of yogurt and water bottles. Local TV footage shows the crowd breaking through security barriers and screaming, “Traitors!”
In Athens, the epicenter of anti-austerity protests, demonstrators surrounded Parliament, shouting, “Thieves!” They are especially angry at PASOK and the center-right New Democracy, the two parties which have run Greece for the past 30 years.
But Greeks are even angry at politicians who opposed the bailout. Protesters recently shouted down longtime Communist Party of Greece leader Aleka Papariga at a campaign event at the Acropolis.
It seems to be open season on all incumbents, says Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a parliamentary deputy for New Democracy. He represents Athens and is running for re-election.
"It’s extremely different from the last campaign I had to run two years ago," Mitsotakis says. "People are very angry, and I think rightly so. They feel let down by politicians, especially those who represent the two major parties. At the same time, there is also a lot of concern about the future of the country”.
Pictured: Communist Party of Greece lawmaker Liana Kanelli enters her car after protesters threw yogurt at her as she tried to reach the Greek Parliament on June 29, during a 48-hour general strike in Athens. Such attacks are not uncommon in Greece, where ordinary Greeks’ anger over the debt crisis and austerity measures is boiling over. AFP/Getty Images