Archive | Greece

Update on Greek Debt Crises – Why Syriza Continues to Lose


This past August marked the second anniversary of the Greek debt crisis and the third major piling on of debt on Greece in August 2015 by the Eurozone ‘Troika’ of European Commission, European Central Bank, and the IMF. That 2015 third debt deal added $86 billion to the previous $230 billion imposed on Greece—all to be paid by various austerity measures squeezing Greek workers, taxpayers, retirees, and small businesses demanded by the Troika and their northern Euro bankers sitting behind it.

Studies by German academic institutions showed that more than 95% of the debt repayments by Greece to the Troika have ended up in Euro bankers’ hands.

But the third debt deal of August 2015, which extends another year to August 2018, was not the end. Every time a major multi-billion dollar interest payment from Greece was due to the Troika and their bankers, still more austerity was piled on the $83 billion August 2015 deal. The Troika forced Greece to introduce even more austerity in the summer of 2016, and again still more this past summer 2017, to pay for the deal.

Last month, August 2017, Syriza and its ‘rump’ leadership—-most of its militant elements were purged by Syriza’s leader, Alex Tsipras, following the August 2015 debt deal—-hailed as some kind of significant achievement that the private banks and markets were now willing to directly lend money to Greece once again. Instead of borrowing still more from the Troika—-i.e. the bankers representatives—-Greece now was able once again to borrow and owe still more to the private bankers instead. In other words, to pile on more private debt instead of Troika debt. To impose even more austerity in order to directly pay bankers, instead of indirectly pay their Troika friends. What an achievement!

Greece’s 2012 second debt deal borrowed $154 billion from the Troika, which Greece then had to pay, according to the debt terms, to the private bankers, hedge funds and speculators’ which had accumulated over preceding years and the first debt crisis of 2010. So the Troika simply fronted for the bankers and speculators in the 2nd and 3rd debt deals. Greece paid the Troika and it paid the bankers. But now, as of 2017, Syriza and Greece can indebt themselves once again directly to the bankers by borrowing from them in public markets. As the French say, everything changes but nothing changes!

What the Greek debt deals of 2010-2015, and the never-ending austerity, show is that supra-state institutions like the Troika function as debt collectors for the bankers and shadow bankers when the latter cannot successfully collect their debt payments on their own. This is the essence of the new, 21st century form of financial imperialism. New, emerging Supra-State institutions prefer weaker national governments to indebt themselves directly to the banks and squeeze their own populace with Austerity whenever they can to make the payments. The Supra-State may not be involved. But it will step in if necessary to play debt collector if and when popular governments get control of their governments and balk at onerous debt repayments. And in free trade currency zones and banking unions, like the Eurozone, that Supra-State role is becoming increasingly institutionalized and regularized. And as it does, forms of democracy in the associated weaker nation states become increasingly atrophied and eventually disappear.

Syriza came to power in January 2015 as one of those popularly elected governments intent on adjusting the terms of debt repayment. But after a tragic, comedy of errors negotiation effort, capitulated totally to the Troika’s negotiators after only seven months.

The capitulation by Syriza’s leader, Alex Tsipras, in July 2015 was doubly tragic in that he had just put to a vote to the Greek people a week beforehand whether to reject the Troika’s deal and its deeper austerity demands. And the Greek popular vote called for a rejection of the Troika’s terms and demands. But Tsipras and Syriza rejected their own supporters, not the Troika, and capitulated totally to the Troika’s terms.

The August 2015 3rd debt deal quickly thereafter signed by Syriza-Tsipras was so onerous—-and the Tsipras-Syriza treachery so odious—-that it left opposition and popular resistance temporarily immobilized. That of course was the Troika’s strategic objective. Together with Tsipras they then pushed through their $83 billion deal, while Tsipras simultaneously purged his own Syriza party to rid it of elements refusing to accept the deal. Polls showed at that time, in August-September 2015, that 70% of the Greek people opposed the deal and considered it even worse than the former two debt agreements of 2010 and 2012. Other polls showed 79% rejected Tsipras himself.

To remain in power, Tsipras immediately called new Parliamentary elections, blocking with the pro-Troika parties and against former Syriza dissidents, in order to push through the Troika’s $83 billion deal. This week, September 20, 2017 also marks the two year anniversary of that purge and election that solidified Troika and Euro banker control over the Syriza party—-a party that once dared to challenge it and the Eurozone’s neoliberal Supra-State regime.

The meteoric rise, capitulation, collapse, and aftermath ‘right-shift’ of Syriza raises fundamental questions and lessons still today. It raises questions about strategies of governments that make a social-democratic turn in response to popular uprisings, and then attempt to confront more powerful neoliberal capitalist regimes that retain control of their currencies, their banking systems, and their budgets–such as in the case of Greece. Even in the advanced capitalist economies, the message is smaller states beware of the integration within the larger capitalist states and economies–whether by free trade, central banking integration, budget consolidations, or common currencies. Democracy will soon become the victim in turn.

The following is an excerpt from the concluding chapter of this writer’s October 2016 book, ‘Looting Greece: A New Financial Imperialism Emerges’, Clarity Press, which questioned strategies that attempted to resurrect 20th century forms of social-democracy in the 21st century world of supra-State neoliberal regimes. It summarizes Syriza’s ‘fundamental error’—a naïve belief that elements of European social democracy would rally around it and together they—i.e. resurgent social democracy and Syriza Greece—would successfully outmaneuver the German-banker-Troika dominated Euro neoliberal regime that solidified its power with the 1999 Euro currency reforms.

Syriza and Tsipras continue to employ the same error, it appears, hoping to be rescued by other Euro regime leaders instead of relying on the Greek people. Tsipras-Syriza recently invited the new banker-president of France, Emmanuel Macron, who this past month visited Athens. Their meeting suggests Tsipras and the rump Syriza still don’t understand why they were so thoroughly defeated by the Troika in 2015, and have been consistently pushed even further into austerity and retreat over the past two years.

But perhaps it no longer matters. Polls show Tsipras and the rump Syriza trailing their political opponents by more than two to one in elections set to occur in 2018.

EXCERPT from ‘Looting Greece’, Chapter 10, ‘Why the Troika Prevailed’.

Syriza’s Fundamental Error

To have succeeded in negotiations with the Troika, Syriza would have had to achieve one or more of the following— expand the space for fiscal spending on its domestic economy, end the dominance and control of the ECB by the German coalition, restore Greece’s central bank independence from the ECB, or end the control of its own Greek private banking system from northern Europe core banks. None of these objectives could have been achieved by Syriza alone. Syriza’s grand error, however, was to think that it could rally the remnants of European social democracy to its side and support and together have achieved these goals—especially the expanding of space for domestic fiscal investment. It was Syriza’s fundamental strategic miscalculation to think it could rally this support and thereby create an effective counter to the German coalition’s dominant influence within the Troika.

Syriza went into the fight with the Troika with a Greek central bank that was the appendage, even agent, of the ECB in Greece, and with a private banking system in Greece that was primarily an extension of Euro banks outside Greece. Syriza struggled to create some space for fiscal stimulus within the Troika imposed debt deal, but it was thoroughly rebuffed by the Troika in that effort. It sought to launch a new policy throughout the Eurozone targeting fiscal investment, from which it might benefit as well. But just as the ECB was thwarted by German-core northern Euro alliance countries, the German coalition also successfully prevented efforts to promote fiscal stimulus by the EC as well. The Troika-German coalition had been, and continues to be, successful in preventing even much stronger members states in France and Italy from exceeding Eurozone fiscal stimulus rules. The dominant Troika German faction was not about to let Greece prevail and restore fiscal stimulus, therefore, when France and Italy were not. Greece was not only blocked from launching a Euro-wide fiscal investment spending policy; it was forced to introduce ‘reverse fiscal spending’ in the form of austerity.

Syriza’s insistence on remaining in the Euro system meant Grexit was never an option. That in turn meant Greece would not have an independent central bank providing liquidity when needed to its banking system. With ECB control over the currency and therefore liquidity, the ECB could reduce or turn on or off the money flow to Greece’s central bank and thus its entire private banking system at will—which it did repeatedly at key moments during the 2015 debt crisis to influence negotiations.

As one member of the Syriza party’s central committee reflected on the weeks leading up to the July 5 capitulation,

“The European Central Bank had already begun to carry out its threats, closing down the country’s banking system”.

The ECB had actually begun turning the economic screws on Syriza well before the final weeks preceding the referendum: It refused to release interest on Greek bonds it owed under the old debt agreement to Greece from the outset of negotiations. It refused to accept Greek government bonds as collateral necessary for Greek central bank support of Greece’s private banks. It doled out Emergency Lending Assistance, ELA, funds in amounts just enough to keep Greek banks from imploding from March to June and constantly threatened to withhold those same ELA funds when Troika negotiators periodically demanded more austerity concessions from Greece. And it pressured Greece not to impose meaningful controls on bank withdrawals and capital flight during negotiations, even as those withdrawals and money flowing out of the country was creating a slow motion train wreck of the banking system itself. The ECB, in other words, was engineering a staged collapse of Greece’s banking system, and yet Syriza refused to implement any possible policy or strategy for preventing or impeding it.

Posted in Greece0 Comments

Could Greece Really Turn the Page?


Will Greece manage to complete its bailout programme this time? This is the question that is hovering in the air after on April 7 the Eurogroup agreed in principle on the fiscal and reformist path of Greece after the programme expires next year. Since February, the Greek news from the meetings of finance ministers of the euro area have been creating expectations that this time there might be a breakthrough, after last autumn’s stall of the implementation of the third rescue programme, agreed on in August 2015 to an amount of 86 billion euro. Details on what was agreed on last Friday are scarce as the deal has not yet been “dressed” in a written agreement. This will happen when representatives of the institutions (formerly the Troika) return to Athens, and this, according to the Ekathimerini newspaper, is expected to happen in late April.

Eurogroup boss Jeroen Dijsselbloem (Netherlands, Socialists and Democrats) said at a press conference after the meeting on Friday that a reform package worth 2% of GDP was agreed on, which refers to the period after the completion of the programme in 2018. The Greek government is committed to reduce government spending by 1% of GDP in 2019, the main focus being on the pension system. The pension reform, which includes reduction of pensions, eliminating benefits, and increasing retirement age, is one of the two most problematic issues in the current Greece bailout programme. In 2020 the government will have to cut another 1% of GDP costs, this time the focus being on personal income tax.

Time for dessert

When representatives of the institutions and the Greek government sign the agreement, that would also clear the way for the “reward” for Greece’s serious reform efforts, and that is starting talks on a debt relief. Jeroen Dijsselbloem stated that the biggest hurdles have already been overcome and the Eurogroup will be able to deal with the medium-term fiscal path for the period after the end of the programme as well as the sustainability of debt. The two things are inextricably linked and there is still no agreement on them between the euro area and the International Monetary Fund. IMF and Brussels differ significantly in their understanding of the results of Greece’s bailout programme on the sustainability of its public debt and what fiscal path should be followed in the medium term to allow the debt to be sustainable and to move towards its reduction.

These differences are the reason the IMF has not yet participated in the programme. Based on his own analysis, the Fund believes that the set targets to generate a primary budget surplus (excluding payments on loans) from 1.75% this year, 3.5% next year, and 3.5% in the medium term are not realistic in order to lead to debt sustainability. Furthermore, the Fund believes that it can not be expected of Greece to maintain high primary budget surpluses (averaging 3.5%) for too long after the closing of the programme, and therefore demands that debt relief is agreed on. There is agreement on this maturing in the euro area already, but the question remains what form will this debt relief have.

EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici (France, Socialists & Democrats) stated that Greece has achieved a surprising primary budget surplus of 3% last year, which was at least 6 times greater than the objective. This year, Greece is expected to reach 1.75% budget surplus and 3.5% next year. Earlier, during a debate in the European Parliament on the Greek rescue programme Mr Moscovici acknowledged that this goal cannot be pursued too long. “It is not democratic”, he said. However, he stressed the need for Greece to record primary surpluses over the medium term. “We’ve been saying for a long time that a more realistic budgetary surplus target is necessary after the programme. We will not get reasonable market lending otherwise”, he remarked, but did not say how large these surpluses need to be.

He added that Greece has surprised everyone with its economic performance last year. According to the winter forecast of the European Commission, economic growth in Greece was 0.3% in 2016 and is expected to be 2.7% this year. Pierre Moscovici expressed confidence in front of the MEPs that due to significant reforms and good economic performance, Greece will manage to turn the page. So far, more than 200 measures have been adopted since the start of the programme, which is a huge effort. Benoît Cœuré, a member of the executive board of the European Central Bank, said the deal signed on Friday gives grounds to starting talks on the sustainability of the Greek debt, which means also negotiating debt relief. He stressed that time is of the essence.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem also agreed with this, saying there have already been too many delays. “The Greek economy in the 1st half of last year was picking up and that momentum is slipping away from us. So, we really need to work fast and have it done certainly well in time for the next payments”, said the head of the Eurogroup. The next tranche under the programme must be paid in July. The biggest obstacle on the subject of the Greek debt is Germany. The position of Chancellor Angela Merkel is against debt write-off. This will  be one of the main topics of discussion in Berlin on Tuesday (April 11)between her and the head of the IMF Christine Lagarde. The outcome of these discussions and Germany’s decision is hanging to a great extent on the parliamentary elections this fall. Mrs Merkel’s government is seriously threatened by the emergence of a new candidate of the Social Democrats – former head of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, who has always supported the write-off of Greek debt, but the theme is toxic to German society.

Greece is no longer so important

Whether because the end to the Greek saga is now in sight, or because eight years are too long, but the boss of the European Stability Mechanism (the euro area’s permanent bailout fund), Klaus Regling, made a surprise statement at the press conference following the Eurogroup on 7 April. Usually, after Eurogroup meetings, he explains how much money has been allocated so far to Greece and sends messages to the Greek government to adhere to its commitments. This time, however, he reacted in an unusual manner. Instead of starting with Greece, especially after it became clear that an important agreement has been reached, he spoke about how important the other two topics on the agenda of the meeting of finance ministers of the euro area were – how to boost investment and how to improve the functioning of the banking system.

In his words, these two topics are essential for the long-term functioning of the euro area. “But, of course, Greece is important. We tend to talk about primary surpluses these days, but I think in other countries people look more at the overall fiscal balance”, he said at a joint press conference in Malta.

For the scalp of Jeroen Dijsselbloem

Elections in the Netherlands forced over the last few weeks the discussion about a successor to Eurogroup Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem. This was also one of the main journalists’ questions at the March Eurogroup, which took place in late March. Back then, the mood was one of full support for Mr Dijsselbloem and confidence that not only will he finish his term (which expires in January), but it is possible that he wins a second term. For the two weeks between the March and the April meetings of the Eurogroup many things have changed. The first is that the Labour Party (PvdA), of which Jeroen Dijsselbloem is a member, lost the elections catastrophically. That was the biggest piece of news from the vote in the Netherlands in late March. The party lost 29 seats and is left with only nine members or parliament, which makes the remaining of Mr Jeroen Dijsselbloem as minister of finance unlikely.

The second change came because of Dijsselbloem himself, who undermined his already slim chances of staying in office. In an interview with the German financial daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, he used words that sparked a huge scandal in the southern periphery of the euro area. According to him, one cannot spend their money on alcohol and women and then expect solidarity. Besides from some southern capitals, sharp reactions also came from the European Parliament. Its President Antonio Tajani (EPP, Italy) and a group of MEPs condemned the remarks and demanded that Dijsselbloem attends a hearing in plenary. The Dutch finance minister refused attendance by pointing out that the date (April 4) is busy in his calendar. He also recalled that he was quite recently interviewed in the economic committee of the European Parliament.

During the otherwise filled with populist rhetoric discussion, in which specific comments on the parameters of the Greece bailout programme and the country’s future after the end of it were sporadic, MEPs condemned the statement of the head of the Eurogroup and demanded an apology. A few days later, during the meeting of euro area finance ministers in Malta, Jeroen Dijsselbloem apologised to his colleagues as well. He said he himself had raised the question and expressed regret for his choice of words, repeating that he had no intention of offending anyone. He stressed, however, that in order to have solidarity, it is important to respect the arrangements and promises. “The choice of words has regretfully caused pain for people and that ,of course, I regret very much”.

In his words, no discussion followed and nobody asked for his resignation. It is not clear so far whether Jeroen Dijsselbloem  is going to finish his term in office.  It depends on the duration of negotiations on forming a new government in the Netherlands, since the rules of the Eurogroup state that its leader must be a minister in office. It is possible there will be a gap between negotiations and the end of his term (January), but  it is still not clear how it will be filled. In March, some of his colleagues said that this is the preferred option, namely because of Greece, as Mr Dijsselbloem is far too familiar with the Greek dossier. The appearance of someone, who has yet to get acquainted with the situation in detail, particularly in a key moment for the programme, is not to the taste of some of the ministers.

Dijsselbloem himself said in response to a journalist’s question, that he did not intend to break the tradition of careful selection and preparation of his successor. Ultimately, the post is not reserved for the minister of finance of the Netherlands. There are candidates for his seat already, the most prominent of whom is Spanish Finance Minister Luis de Guindos, who hoped last time to get the job, but lost it to Jeroen Dijsselbloem. The other candidate is Slovak Finance Minister Peter Kažimír. Other names are also mentioned. None of the Eurogroup ministers wished to comment on the topic of Jeroen Dijsselbloem’s resignation before or after the meeting of the Eurogroup, except Austrian Hans Jörg Schelling, who answered a question whether Jeroen Dijsselbloem should resign with a laconic “no”.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in GreeceComments Off on Could Greece Really Turn the Page?

Open Letter to the People of Greece: You Are Being Slaughtered before the World’s Eyes


Dearest and Esteemed People of Greece,

You are being slaughtered right in front of the world’s eyes and nobody says beep. Least the Greek elite. Your Government. A few, but a few too many, allow the slaughter because it doesn’t concern them. They are blinded by the false glamour of the euro and of belonging to the ‘elite class’ of the noble Europeans (sic!).

They apparently live well enough, including the caviar socialists of Syriza. They let their country bleed to death literally, morally, socially and psychologically. Medical care is no longer available or privatized and unaffordable. Pensions were reduced five times. They were never more than a survival kit. By now they have been slashed in some cases by over 50%. Hordes of people live on food handouts. Most social services, including to a large extent education have been sold out, privatized. Gone with a flicker. Gone, by order of Germany – and the holy troika – the criminal gang of three, IMF, European Central Bank (EIB) and the European Commission (EU); the latter a mere bunch of unelected corrupt puppets, deciding the fate of some 800 million Europeans – with YOU, the Greek people, accepting carrying the brunt end of the stick.

In September 2016, the unelected European Commission sent Greece a Brussels-drafted legislation of over 2,000 pages, in English, to be ratified by the Greek Parliament within a few days – or else. – Nobody asked: ‘What is else’?

Brussels didn’t even bother translating this unreadable legalistic heap of paper into Greek, nor did they allow the Parliament enough time to read, digest and debate the new fiscal legislation. Most parliamentarians could not read them, either because of language or due to the imposed time limit. The Parliament ratified the legislation anyway.

Under this new law, Greece is transferring all public assets (public infrastructure, airports, ports even public beaches, natural resources, etc.), unconditionally, for 99 years, to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) which is free to sell (privatize) them at fire sales prices to whomever is interested – supposedly to pay back the Greek debt. The fund was originally estimated, certainly under-estimated – at about 50 billion euros. In the meantime, the value of the Greek assets has been further downgraded by the troika to between 5 and 15 billion euros, as compared to Greece’s debt of more than 350 billion euros. The ESM is a supranational undemocratic apparatus, accountable to no one.

With this legislation, the Greek Parliament – YOUR Parliament, Esteemed People of Greece! – has annulled itself. It is no longer allowed to pass any budget or fiscal (tax) legislation. Everything is decided in Brussels in connivance with the IMF and the ECB. The last time a similar situation happened was in 1933, when the German “Reichstag” (Parliament) transferred all of its legislative power to Chancellor Adolf Hitler.

This, Dear People of Greece – is sheer economic fascism, right in front of your eyes, the world’s eyes, but nobody wants to see it. The worst blind is the one who doesn’t want to see.

This asset seizure was confirmed when the last hope for at least some debt relief was dashed at the end of February this year. Even the IMF initially recommended and today still privately recommends debt relief. However, Germany without mercy announced the final pillage of Greece, requesting Greece to surrender gold, utilities and real estate to the ESM – largely managed by Germany. The next ‘bailout’ amount, if Greece goes to her knees and surrenders everything, might be 86 billion euros, meaning NEW DEBT. In exchange of what? More interest, a higher debt service (interest and debt amortization) — and an even bleaker outlook to ever, and I mean ever, getting out of this US-European fascism imposed process of killing of a nation.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is reported to have said, “Berlin’s stance on Greece’s bailout program remained unchanged”, after she met with IMF chief Christine Lagarde a few days ago (

Some facts about Greece’s debt, as of 9 March 2017:


Population 10.8 million.

Debt: 352 billion euros (interest per second: 617 euros; debt per citizen: 32,580 euros).

Interest per year: 19.5 billion euros.

Total Greek bailout funds from 2010 to end 2016: in excess of 250 billion euros – none of which went to Greece for the benefit of the people, but to pay debt service to the troika and pay off mostly German and French private banks.

Debt as a percentage of GDP: 181% (GDP 195 billion euros);
2008 Debt to GDP: 109% (less than today’s US debt to GDP ratio of 109.63%).

Greece’s GDP amounts to less than 2% of EU’s GDP.

Greek GDP has collapsed by more than 25% since 2008.

Unemployment is rampant – with an average of 26% – and close to 50% for young people (18 to 35).

Greece’s debt in 2008 would have been totally manageable internally, without outside interference, or so-called ‘bailouts’ – which are really not bailouts but forced debt accumulation.

Greece’s debt was NEVER a threat to the European Union, as the FED / ECB / WS bankster propaganda made you believe. The Greek and subsequent “European Crisis” was entirely fabricated by the banksters for their benefit, at the detriment of Greece and Europe. It had nothing to do with the Greek or European debt. But nobody questioned it. Those European and international top economists and politicians who knew, didn’t dare to speak out. The voices of those who did dare to speak the truth were muffled. The people of Europe were lied to, including the Greek, as usual by the presstitute media.

Let’s put the Greek debt in perspective.

In September 2011, without warning, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) devalued the Swiss franc by about 12% against the euro to protect its economy. This was an unfair move – to say the least, since none of the euro-zone bound countries has the liberty to re-or devalue its currency, as deemed necessary by their economy, i.e. Greece. While Switzerland is not a direct member of the EU, Switzerland is nevertheless bound to the EU by more than 120 bilateral contracts, thereby de facto a EU member.

During the 3 ¼ years of locking the exchange rate into a fixed rate of at least CHF 1.20 per euro, the SNB amassed more than 500 billion francs in extra foreign currency, mostly in euro. This is about 150% of Greece’s current debt.

Switzerland, a country of 8 million people, in theory, could bail out Greece’s full debt, say, at no interest, by a 50-year loan (World Bank IDA terms) – in solidarity; and to compensate a bit for the SNB’s questionable ethics vis-à-vis EU members. Switzerland would not suffer. To the contrary, such a move would help stem the risk of a Swiss currency inflation, due to the huge amounts of Swiss francs that needed to be ‘printed’ to maintain the artificial exchange rate against the euro. Would Switzerland be prepared to engage in such a solidary rescue action? –Probably not.

People of Greece! – Wake up.

Take things in your own hands! Don’t believe you politicians, your media! Get out of this criminal organization called the European Union, and this fraudulent western monetary system that is strangling you to death. Take back your sovereignty, your own currency. Default on your debt – the west can do nothing about it. Not if you run your country with your own public banks, and your own money, gradually but surely rebuilding a destroyed economy. Debt repayment is negotiable. Cases abound around the world. Argentina is one of the more recent ones. Even Germany renegotiated its foreign debt in 1952 (see London Agreement of German External Debt).


Germany, the leader of this economic massacre of Greece, owes Greece huge WWII reparation payments. On 8 February 2015, PM Tsipras requested Germany to pay up her full reparation debt to Greece of an equivalent of 279 billion euros, in today’s terms. Germany replied in April 2015 that the reparation issue was resolved in 1990 – which, of course, it wasn’t. It cannot be excluded that much of the German pressure on Greece today is a means of deviating the world’s attention of the reparation debt Germany owes to Greece.

People of Greece, be aware of what is going on. Do NOT ACCEPT what your government, Brussels and the troika are doing to YOU and YOUR country. To the contrary, request the full reparation payment from Germany – and demand GREXIT, as a fully legitimate follow-up to YOUR July 2015 overwhelming NO vote to more austerity-imposing troika ‘rescue’ packages.

If you do, you will soon see the light at the end of the tunnel — a light that has been blacked-out for too long by Germany and the gangsters of the troika and your own government.

Threats of Expulsion from the Euro Zone

German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble still is attempting bluffing the Greeks and impressing the rest of the world by threatening Greece with expulsion from the Euro. Any sane government would turn that threat into its own initiative and abandon this putrefied monster called European Union, along with its fake and fraudulent common currency, called euro. But that’s the problem, Greece is reigned by insanity.

So, the Greek Government responds to insanity (from the troika) with insane submissiveness, namely with meek compliance – to the detriment of millions of their already deprived and enslaved compatriots.
Among those (still) influential Greek highflyers is Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis; the legendary and charming, ‘radical’, Motorcycle Minister. Though he resigned in apparent protest of the Syriza compliance with the troika’s requests despite the NO vote, today he is nothing more than a conformist, who is seeking few nominal ‘reforms’ in Brussels, but by no means wants Grexit, let alone the collapse of the EU – which, by the way, is fortunately imminent. As Greek Minister of Finance, Varoufakis never even had the ‘Option Grexit’ as a Plan ‘B’


Nobody screams, yells, revolts, takes to the streets, blocks streets, bridges, railways, for days, weeks, interrupts the still ongoing commerce of the foreign owners of what’s left of YOUR country’s public assets. Nobody. This is not to blame the Greek who have to fight for sheer survival, who have to find ways to feed their kids and families, but the j’accuse goes to the Tsipras- Syriza clan and all those Greek elitists, the media (are they all bought like in Germany by the CIA?) and parliamentarians, who just watch in awe – but stand by. No action. Watching Greece – YOUR country, People of Greece! – bleeding to death.

Be aware, this is in fact not about debt and bailouts. If they tell you that the European ‘debt crisis’ is Greece’s fault, and that a new crisis is brewing, depending on how well Greece will conform to the rules of the next bail out – it is an outrageous lie. This crisis is manufactured by the very European, their elite, the FED-led Goldman Sachse’s of this world, who run the European Central Bank through Mario Draghi, a former GS executive – who de facto runs the European economy.

Why do they want Greece under their boots? – They, the scum of Brussels and ‘swamp’ of Washington (as President Trump used to call the Washington Deep State ‘establishment’), want a submissive Greece. Because Greece is in a highly strategic geographic location, at the cross-roads of west and east. Greece is a NATO country. Maybe the second most important NATO country (after Turkey), because of its strategic position. They don’t want Greece to be run by a ‘left-wing’ government. Syriza, of course, is everything but left-wing. It is as neoliberal as they come. The masters of the universe want ‘Regime Change’ – the good old regime change that threatens all those who do not bend to the rules of the west. Right now, the Syriza government is bending backwards over to please the money masters and to let her people be miserably humiliated and ruined.

Were Greece to hold new elections and let a right-wing party and Prime Minister win, à la New Democracy or even the fascist Golden Dawn, or a coalition of the two – the debt problem would go away, almost overnight. What Washington wants, and Brussels by (puppet) extension, is a compliant Greece that will never ever question its role in NATO, never question the EU, never question its shackles to the euro, and never question the US access to the Mediterranean Sea – rich in deep off-shore minerals and hydrocarbons. The same applies, by the way, also to Italy, Spain and Portugal – also riparian states of the Mediterranean Sea. Their governments have already been changed by outside (US / EU) interference to right-wing neoliberal compliant stooges.

The Greek elite and government inaction is inexcusable. This is Stockholm syndrome at its worst. Submissive to their hangman, until death do us part. And death in the form of total destruction, total pillage, total slavery, is not far away.

Do you, People of Greece, want to continue this path to slavery by a predatory empire, that will eventually call the shots on every move you make?

Or do you want to get your sovereignty back, your own currency – and be unshackled from the dictate of Brussels – and start afresh – as the noble and wise Greek people, who brought Democracy to the world some 2500 years ago? – Surely, Greece still has visionaries and the wisdom to remake Democracy. Remember, while we cannot change our geographic location – the future is irrefutably in the EAST.

Let’s live again Greece!

Long live the People of Greece!

Posted in GreeceComments Off on Open Letter to the People of Greece: You Are Being Slaughtered before the World’s Eyes

Power to the People: Ten Proposals to Avoid a Repetition of Greece’s Capitulation to The Financial Elites


I propose ten measures for the people’s seizure of power, ascertaining that the experience of the Greek capitulation of 2015 is not revisited. |1|

The first proposal: a left-wing government must disobey the European Commission (EC) in a very transparent manner with prior announcements. The party, or the coalition of parties which claims to govern, and of course I take the example of Spain, should refuse to obey the austerity measures from the outset, and pledge to refuse the balanced budget. They should announce: “We will not yield to the European treaties’ diktat to accept a balanced budget” because we want to increase public expenditure for fighting anti-social and austerity measures and embarking on the ecological transition. Therefore, the first step is to start defying in a clear and determined way. I believe that the Greek capitulation has shown us why we must shed the illusion that the EC and other European governments respect popular will. This illusion can only lead to disaster. We must disobey.

Second proposal: Resolve to appeal for popular mobilisations, both at the national and the European levels. In 2015 , this initiative was unsuccessful in Greece. It is obvious that the European social movements did not achieve great success in mobilising, which did take place but, not with enough solidarity for the Greek people. However, it is also true that Syriza’s strategy did not include appeals for popular mobilisations in Europe, or even in Greece. And when they did call for mobilisations by means of the referendum of July 5, 2015, scant respect was shown for the popular will of 61.5% of the Greeks who refused to obey the creditors’ demands.

Third proposal: Resolve to launch a debt audit with citizens’ participation. I would like to see this audit conducted alongside the suspension of debt repayments. The situations in 28 EU countries are diverse. In some European countries, it is a matter of utmost necessity and priority to suspend debt repayments, as is the case of Greece, and as would be the case with Portugal and Cyprus. As for Spain, we would have to see. In other countries, it is possible to carry out the audit first and then decide on the suspension of repayments. The specific situation of each country must be weighed before implementing these measures.

Fourth proposal: Implement capital controls and think through what it means. It does not mean that citizens have to be disallowed from transferring a few hundred Euros abroad. Obviously international financial transactions would be allowed up to a certain amount. On the other hand, it is important to enforce strict control over capital flow beyond a certain limit of transfers.

Fifth proposal: Socialize the financial sector and the energy sector. I believe that socialising the financial sector does not merely imply developing a public banking hub. It implies decreeing a public monopoly on the financial sector, i.e. banks and insurance companies: a socialisation of the financial sector under the citizens’ control. That is, transforming the financial sector into a public service sector. |2| During the ecological transition, definitely the socialisation of the energy sector will also remain a priority. Ecological transition cannot take place without a public monopoly over the energy sector, both in terms of production and distribution.

Sixth Proposal: Create a complementary, non-convertible currency. Whether it is a case of exiting the Eurozone or remaining in it, it is necessary to create a non-convertible complementary currency. In other words, a currency that allows, local transactions, to trade within the country. For example, for paying increased pensions, salary increases for civil servants, taxes, public services etc. The use of a complementary currency enables a partial getaway from the dictatorship of the Euro and the European Central Bank. Of course, we cannot avoid the debate on the Eurozone. I think that in several countries, exit from the Eurozone is an option that must be defended, along with parties and trade unions. Several Eurozone countries will not be able to truly break away from austerity and launch an eco-socialist transition without leaving the Eurozone. I believe that a redistributive monetary reform will be necessary in the case of an exit. What does that mean? This means decreeing, for example, that the exchange rate would be 1 Euro per 100 pesetas up to 200,000 Euros in cash. But above 200,000, the exchange rate would be 1.5 Euros for 100 pesetas. At an even higher level, it would be 2 Euros. Beyond 500, 000, ten Euros will fetch 100 pesetas. This implies a redistributive monetary reform. This reduces the cash in circulation and redistributes household liquid assets. And of course, this dissolves some of the liquid assets of the richest 1%. 30% of the population, the less wealthy, have debts, not liquid assets. Possibly, they have some wealth in terms of houses (mortgaged or not), but this section of the population does not have any net liquid assets.

Seventh proposal: Of course, a radical tax reform. Remove VAT on basic consumer goods and services, such as food, electricity and water, and other basic necessities. On the other hand, increase VAT on luxury goods and services, etc. We also need to increase the taxes on the profits of private companies and the incomes above a certain level. In other words, a progressive tax on income and wealth.

Eighth proposal: Renationalisations. “Buy back” privatised companies with a symbolic Euro. Thus, from this angle, paying a symbolic Euro to those who have benefited from privatisations would be a very nice gesture. Strengthen and extend public services under citizen control.

Ninth proposal: Reduce working hours keeping income intact. Revoke anti-social laws and introduce laws to resolve the situation of abusive mortgage debt. This could well be fixed legally, without resorting to lawsuits (since there are many lawsuits on mortgage debt where households have to clash with banks). For example, a Parliament could pass a law to cancel mortgage debts below 150,000 Euros This would avoid going to court.

Tenth proposal: Initiate a genuine constituent process. This does not imply constitutional changes within the existing parliamentary institutions. This involves dissolving the parliament and electing a Constituent Assembly by direct voting. Of course, questions of nationality, etc. must be considered, but it is a matter of launching a genuine constituent process, whether at the level of nationalities or the State per se, and trying to integrate this process into other constituent processes in Europe.

I have outlined the above ten basic proposals for discussion. However, they are extremely pressing matters for me, since I believe that without adopting pre-announced radical measures, there would be no relief from austerity policies. Manoeuvres will not help to escape from austerity policies unless radical steps are taken against big capital. To believe that this can be avoided is to hide behind ‘smokescreens’: such people will never know an actual and concrete progress. The architecture of the European level is such, and the capitalist crisis is so extensive that there is no room for neo-Keynesian productivist politics. I believe that eco-socialism has a place not on the margins, but at the heart of the debate. Immediate and concrete proposals will emerge from there. We must carry out the anti-austerity struggle and embark on the path of an eco-socialist transition. It is an absolute and immediate necessity.

Translated by Suchandra De Sarkar from French


|1| Eric Toussaint’s speech delivered on September 25, 2016 during the 3rd International Ecosocialist Conference at Bilbao.

|2| For an analysis of the socialisation of banks, see What is to be Done with the Banks? Radical Proposals for Radical Changes,13315

Eric Toussaint is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège, is the spokesperson of the CADTM International, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France. He is the author of Bankocracy(2015); The Life and Crimes of an Exemplary Man (2014); Glance in the Rear View Mirror. Neoliberal Ideology From its Origins to the Present, Haymarket books, Chicago, 2012 (see here), etc. See his bibliography: He co-authored World debt figures 2015 with Pierre Gottiniaux, Daniel Munevar and Antonio Sanabria (2015); and with Damien Millet Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. Since the 4th April 2015 he is the scientific coordinator of the Greek Truth Commission on Public Debt.

Posted in GreeceComments Off on Power to the People: Ten Proposals to Avoid a Repetition of Greece’s Capitulation to The Financial Elites

The Destructive Course Of Greece and the Global Economic Crisis


The Destructive Course Of Greece and the Global Economic Crisis. A New Form of Colonial Domination


The position I will be defending in this short intervention is that the subjection of Greece to memoranda and its consequent social and economic destruction is not simply a product of the global economic crisis that was initiated in the United States in 2007-2008, with the explosion of subprime loans and the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and then exported from America to Europe. In fact, hidden behind all this was a set of machinations undertaken, on the occasion of the crisis, by the European Directorate, which is mainly controlled by German interests.

At that moment, that is in the late 2008 and early 2009, Greece was run by the conservative government of Costas Karamanlis, who was reassuring the internal audience that Greece’s economy and its banking system were absolutely safe. And this, not only because of the supposed dynamism of the Greek economy, but also because of the fact that the Greek banking system was not exposed to high-risk lawns. At the same time, the Greek government knew very well that it could no longer borrow from the international markets in order to refinance its debt.

Following a common recommendation on behalf of European leaders to both the Prime Minister Caramanlis and the leader of the opposition and head of PASOK George Papandreou, elections were set for the autumn of 2009. In the ensuing electoral campaign, the Prime Minister, well aware of the coming crisis, kept a low profile, while advocating the need for harsh measures to be taken in order to avert the danger. In contrast, PASOK leader George Papandreou was promising generous benefits to all.

Having no idea of the real situation in which the country had entered, the Greek people gave PASOK a smashing victory with a 43% of the vote. The outgoing Prime Minister Karamanlis essentially vanished from the public scene, remaining silent as to what had happened up to then. While his government had announced an economic deficit of 6.9%, the new Papandreou government claimed it had reached 10%. Following new calculations, with the agreement of European officials, the deficit appeared to exceed 15%.

This was due to the introduction of new parameters in its measurement, such as the deficits of Public Organizations, which almost no other country in the European Union takes into account in calculating the national deficit; it was also due, as it later became apparent, to data corruption effected by the Greek Statistical Service and its director Andreas Georgiou, appointed by the new government and favored by both EU and IMF officials.

Let me note that Mr. Georgiou today stands accused of having forged Greek deficit numbers. In 2009, Greece’s borrowing from the markets became impossible on such economic evidence. The bonds of the Greek Public Sector possessed by French and German banks, which then exceeded 70 billion euros, were in danger of terminating without being paid, thus taking down with them the common currency itself (the euro). Obviously, this could not be tolerated by the European elite and its organs, since the euro was the mechanism that guaranteed the transferable securities (bonds etc.) on which it had invested, as well as its further profitability.

As the making of the Euro-system did not include mechanisms for dealing with the crisis, unbearable pressures were exercised on the Greek government, with the threat of immediate bankruptcy, to get it to sign the first memorandum in May 2010, allowing for a 110 billion euros loan to be granted, but also for the IMF to take part in European affairs starting from Greece. Among other things, the Greek government accepted that the new loan would come under British law, and no longer under Greek law – up to then, the latter gave jurisdiction to the Greek courts and consequently ample time to the Greek government, apart from being less burdensome for the borrower.

The loan agreement and the ensuing memorandum, while being presented as a necessary condition in order to save citizens’ wages and pensions, actually hid their true aims, which were, on the one hand, to provide French and German banks with enough time to disinvest themselves from the Greek bonds they possessed –which they achieved within only a year– and, on the other, to assure the manipulation and control of the country through the terms and mechanisms they established. The sum total went to the Greek banks and to the payment of debts, without actually helping the Greek economy.

Greek society did not remain idle, and a considerable strike movement began to manifest itself, undermined of course by the union bureaucracies that have been aligning themselves to government policy and controlling workers’, peasants’ and public sector unions throughout the long period of PASOK’s rule. Massive protests, on a scale unknown since the days of the reestablishment of democracy in 1974, started to materialize, and, while suffering a temporary drawback after the death of five people in a suspect fire in an Athenian bank during a mass demonstration, they soon resurfaced and climaxed in the great “movement of the squares” in the spring and summer of 2011; this witnessed the participation of hundreds of thousands of people and exercised unprecedented pressure on the government and the whole Greek political establishment.

Under such conditions, imposing further memorandum terms and constraints on Greek society required no less than an actual parliamentary coup: the story is well known of how, in the European summit meeting at Cannes, the compliant government of George Papandreou and he himself were pushed (with the French President Sarkozy almost climbing on the conference table and calling him a “fucking psycho”) to refrain from a timidly proposed Greek referendum that would have at least allowed the people to take a stand on European loan agreements. The summit led, on that same night (and on the initiative of Foreign Affairs Minister Evangelos Venizelos), to the replacement of the elected Prime Minister Papandreou by the technocrat Loucas Papademos, a favorite of EU institutions and the markets.

On the following year, after the double elections of May and June 2012, the Greek political system was drawn to the formation of a government coalition between the two major parties, PASOK and New Democracy (together with the small extreme right-wing party or LAOS and the small center-left party of DIMAR). This went on to sign a new loan agreement and a memorandum of 130 billion euros, most of which was allocated to the payment of maturing bonds of the Greek Public Sector and the recapitalization of Greek banks, which were again on the verge of collapse. Once more, despite the excessively binding terms of this agreement and of the concomitant memorandum, the whole funding was directed outside the Greek economy which it was supposed to support so as to overcome the crisis.

While the first memorandum, apart from forging strong ties of dependence for Greece, had aimed at people’s salaries and pensions, the second memorandum mainly targeted public property through the creation of divestment mechanisms such as the ΤΑΙΠΕΔ (Public Sector’s Private Property Valorization / Exploitation Fund). Although social mobilization was still impressive, the rise of the SYRIZA party into the major anti-memorandum force in Greece tended to disempower resistance movements and block anti-memorandum outbursts, locking them into its governmental prospects and limiting them to the role of “assignment”.

That is, SYRIZA and its young leader Alexis Tsipras promised that simply their assumption of power would force Greece’s European partners to forego all memoranda so as to allow for a commonly accepted solution promoting the development of the Greek economy, rather than its destruction through austerity, to come to the fore. The Greek people continued to manifest its rejection of foreign dictates and its evolving political consciousness by moving from the right and center of the political spectrum to what appeared to be a genuine anti-memorandum force of the radical left, and gave SYRIZA a landslide electoral victory in January 2015 and the possibility to form a comfortable governmental majority in coalition with the radical right-wing party of ANEL.

As it soon became evident, SYRIZA had no program of negotiations, nor any plan for defending Greek society against the weapons of economic asphyxiation held by the European Central Bank. Its only assets were the gambling theories of its Minister of Finance Gianis Varoufakis. Its leadership had already abandoned any claim to national sovereignty, substituting the influence of the American factor for popular mobilization in its negotiations with European organs.

After six months of rather pointless such negotiations, and despite the quasi-shutting down of the banks and the imposition of capital controls in July 2016, the Greeks once more reasserted their opposition to foreign occupation by giving a 62% vote against memoranda in the referendum theatrically launched by the SYRIZA government. I say “theatrically” because this referendum was not intended to rally the people in the prospect of deliverance from the shackles of the memoranda, but rather to be used as a simple bargaining chip by an already subordinated government. Indeed, referendum results notwithstanding, the government came to sign a third, even more crushing memorandum, which includes, apart from everything else, the unheard-of condition that lenders are entitled to approve in advance every legislative initiative of the Greek government, thereby giving up any sense of national sovereignty.

Greece is an experiment, according to which, a country belonging to the first world is being violently downgraded to a third world country. We believe that this is a treatment that all European district countries are about to undergo, except of the metropolitan ones.

It is possible that countries such as Italy, due to its strong weight, as well as Portugal and Spain are to be exempted from this procedure due to economical, historical and political reasons. The countries of the European district, such as Greece, will be vanished as states, its public and private assets will be disposed of, in order to become the base in rem of the global financial extension. This last one, without values in rem, is economy to a complete destruction at a global scale. These countries are about to be divided into special economic zones exempted from state laws of any kind, such as labour, administrative, fiscal, or infrastructural, which leads to the destruction of the state both as an entity as well as a rule of law.

Greece is a country already under occupation. This might come as a surprise to some people but let’s get things in the right order. To begin with, a country is being occupied not only military but economically as well. The occupational status is being differentiated both by the colonial domination of a country and the protectorate and its status as well.

During colonial domination, .e.g in India which was under the British control, there was an administration, all over the Indian Territory, responsible for the application of the English law in order to secure the interests of the Metropolis. The case is the same with protectorates, where an administrative mechanism is being established in order to secure foreign interests. In contrast, what happens today in Greece is the termination of both the state and the public administration as well and the non implementation of legal rules.

This is, without a doubt, a regime of domination, which reminds us of the German occupation of Greece, lasted from 1941 to 1944, during which every aspect of the Greek administration was abolished by the Germans. The same thing happens nowadays in Greece and the absence of tanks and foreign military forces is the only thing missing from the real nature of the regime that Greek people are experiencing today.

Posted in GreeceComments Off on The Destructive Course Of Greece and the Global Economic Crisis

Long Greek Crisis Is Causing Severe Jet-lag to the Eurogroup

Adelina Marini

In just a single month a great change happened in the assessment of European institutions of the implementation of the Greek programme. This change does have a price and it is a mismatch in perceptions. Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem (The Netherlands, Socialists an Democrats) admitted Monday evening that everyone is feeling jet-lagged after their return from the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, but got contradicted by Pierre Moscovici, commissioner for economic and financial affairs (France, Socialists and Democrats), who stated that the European Commission never has jet-lag, while the boss of the euro area’s permanent bailout fund – the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) – Klaus Regling (Germany) stated that he had already recovered from it. Physical feelings do quite realistically mirror the moods towards the Greek programme, which is entering its next phase – the second review of the implementation of the third bailout programme amounting to 86 billion euro.

In the beginning of September, when euro area finance ministers gathered for an informal meeting in Bratislava after the summer vacation, feelings were of the familiar aggravation with Greek sluggishness in implementing the agreed measures. At the time, both the Eurogroup boss and Commissioner Moscovici shared the opinion that Greece is taking too long. “There’s no doubt that we’ve lost time. We didn’t go into the specifics of why and where time was lost on these different milestones. As a Eurogroup we took a more general message that summer is over”said Mr Dijsselbloem on September 9th, when he once more placed the word “trust” on the table. “It has very much to do with trust. Trust, of course, between us, trust in the IMF who have reconfirmed that they will go to the board before the end of the year, but also trust from the outside world in Greece and the Greek economy”, said the Dutch finance minister.

“To be absolutely frank, in an ideal world we would have liked to have seen more progress at this stage. So, I fully agree with what the president of the Eurogroup has said”, were the words of Mr Moscovici. As usual, he was way softer than Jeroen Dijsselbloem in adding that in the last days (preceding the September Eurogroup) there was noticeable speed-up of Greek authorities’ efforts. However, Pierre Moscovici warned: “We have to tell them clearly that they need to stick to their commitments. We must be really demanding but at the same time let’s not dramatise. We’re still in capacity to reach this agreement. There is a political will, there is capacity”, assured the French commissioner back then.

A month later, the press conference following the Eurogroup meeting sounded completely different. Everyone agreed that Greece has fulfilled the 15 milestones it had and there was, please note, political approval granted for the release of half the 2.8 billion euro sub-tranche – 1.1 billion euro. The remaining 1.7 billion euro will be approved probably at the ESM board of directors meeting in two weeks. Everyone, including Greece’s Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos tried to assure that this is an entirely technical issue, not a punishment for delayed implementation. The first part of the sub-tranche – 1.1 bn euros – is allocated for debt servicing. The second part – 1.7 bn euros – is dedicated for clearing of arrears.

In Klaus Regling’s words, the reason for the delay of releasing the second part of the amount is the lack of data about the clearing of arrears in September. In July and August the Greek state had paid off all its liabilities, depleting the sum of 1.8 billion euro, poured into the special account, created for that purpose in July. Jeroen Dijsselbloem explained that no one is to blame for the delay, for data collection is not the obligation of the Greek finance ministry, but it is rather gathered by a multitude of governmental institutions. “There is a delay between the data for September and the moment all of this data are collected. It’s inevitable”, said Dijsselbloem and assured there is nothing to worry about. He was convinced everything will be fine with the data. “The money will come, don’t worry!” was his reply to a journalist’s question.

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos was brief, stating that the reasons for the delay are purely technical and “completely beyond the control – we have not got the figures for September”, he said. In his words, there is nothing to worry about, for Greece is currently in no need for money for urgent repayment of matured debt, meaning there is no maturity coming any time soon. “We don’t need any more money than 1.1 billion, for there’s no big payment to our creditors before that, so this is a secondary issue”, he said in a brief statement for media after the Eurogroup meeting.

According to The Financial Times, however, the good tone after the meeting covers up several problems, one of which is the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who did not speak officially in front of journalists. The newspaper reports that the German minister is far from convinced in the fact that Greece had fulfilled all of its obligations and did raise the question during the meeting. Berlin’s main concern is that Greece is far from energetic in the creation of a privatisation agency, which was one of the key requirements for the setup of the third bailout programme – a demand that was particularly requested by Germany. The other issue, which is covered up by the Eurogroup’s optimistic tone, is the participation of the IMF in the third bailout programme.

Despite sending out hope in May that it will participate in the programme with money, the Fund is not backing down one inch from its claim that the current programme and Greece’s economic future beyond it are completely inadequate. At a press conference during the meetings of the IMF and the WB in Washington last week, the Director of the Fund’s European Department Poul Thomsen assured that the institution is fully committed to the programme, but the Fund’s concerns remain, as do the risks. One of these concerns is the pension reform. “There are deficits in the pension system of more than 10 percent, 11 percent a year”, said Mr Thomsen. The agreed reforms will bring 1% of GDP per annum, but there are still too many households in Greece (about 60%) falling under taxation exemptions. In Europe, for example, this group is not more than 6-7-8%, he added.

The Fund’s biggest concern remains Greece’s capability of modernising its public sector. In other words the IMF believes that Greece might succeed in achieving the set goal of a budget surplus of 1.5% of GDP by the end of the programme, utilising the proposed measures, but in the long run “there are some things that you have not made plans for yet, like the unemployment compensation, like a good welfare system. That can only be done if you really tackle your problems in the pension system”, further added Mr Thomsen.

Which are the 15 milestones, which Greece has (perhaps) accomplished?

As they are listed in the first review of the programme’s implementation in June, Greece was expected to finish the harmonisation of social security contributions by eliminating the lower base for the owners of tourist enterprises; finish the review of banks, with which it has special relationship framework agreements. This was one of the key requirements. Another key requirement was the reform of the energy market, which includes the liberalisation of the gas and electricity markets. The energy sector takes up a very large portion of the 15 tasks and also includes privatisation. Among the measures is the letting out on concession of the “Ignatia” motorway and several other road sections.

It is not very clear how have these requirements been fulfilled and to what degree. Maltese Finance Minister Edward Scicluna stated before the start of the meeting that some measures have been fully implemented, others – not so much, and this is normal. Pierre Moscovici, however, announced the start of the second review of the bailout programme, which may last until March of next year. “There is good news – the 15 [milestones] have been done. The institutions have been clear on that. So, that political deal is done. The other part is only a technical issue”, assured Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

The European Parliament was in a completely opposite mood to the institutions. During a debate last week with the participation of Pierre Moscovici, MEPs laid heavy criticism on the bailout programme. Some statements were heavily populist, often veering away from facts and rarely to the point, but others were quite concrete. Optimistic statements were few and far apart, like the one of Roberto Gualtieri (Socialists and Democrats, Italy), who chairs the European Parliament’s economic committee. In his opinion, there is already light seen in the end of the tunnel for Greece. He expressed hope that the IMF will not feed fuel to the fire (by refusing participation in the bailout programme). Maria Spyraki (EPP, Greece) warned that the programme’s implementation is threatened by excessive taxation.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (ALDE, Germany) concluded that Greece used fake statistics to join the euro area and now the European Commission is using fake statistics to keep it in the euro area. Moscovici admitted that too much time has been wasted in Greece, but he adamantly refuted the suggestions that nothing has been accomplished. He added that he wants by the end of the year to see a deal on Greece’s debt, but the efforts all sides are needed for that to happen.

Klaus Regling, the bailout fund’s boss, automatically added at the press conference on Monday evening that since 2011 Greece has been paid through the Fund and its predecessor (EFSF) 171 billion euro. Out of the current programme Greece has been paid 28 bn euros out of a total of 86. The programme’s implementation might be going slow, but the EU is more and more willing to turn a blind eye, as it does with a number of other countries, which are not following strictly all the rules. The largest issue remains IMF’s participation, for if they do not chip in, Germany will refuse to participate and that right at the moment when it looks like Greece has finally understood that it needs to work in order to deserve its place in the euro area.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in GreeceComments Off on Long Greek Crisis Is Causing Severe Jet-lag to the Eurogroup

Criminalizing Solidarity: Syriza’s War on the Movements


By Theodoros Karyotis

Idomeni refugee camp in greeceSolidarity with refugees in Greece is now criminalized, declared contrary to the interests of the state. (Photo: Julian Buijzen / Flickr)

In the early morning of July 27, refugee families and supporters who were sleeping at Thessaloniki’s three occupied refugee shelters — Nikis, Orfanotrofeio and Hurriya — were woken up by police in riot gear. In a well-orchestrated police operation, hundreds of people were detained. Most occupants with refugee status were released, while some were transported to military-run refugee reception centers. The rest of the occupants, 74 people of more than a dozen different nationalities, were taken into police custody.

Immediately after Orfanotrofeio was evacuated, bulldozers marched in and demolished the building, an abandoned orphanage “donated” five years ago to the enterprising Greek Orthodox Church by a previous government. Under the rubble were buried tons of clothes, foodstuffs and medicine collected there by grassroots solidarity structures to be distributed to refugee families in need. Hours later, No Border Kitchen, an autonomous structure providing food to refugees in the island of Lesvos, was also forcefully evicted by the police.

On the next afternoon, the 74 occupants of the three occupied shelters were transported to Thessaloniki’s courthouse in handcuffs by heavily armed police, where they were cheered upon entering by hundreds of supporters, despite the debilitating heat of the Greek summer. The nine occupants of Nikis squat were condemned to four-month suspended sentences for occupation of a public building. The trials of the 65 occupants of the Orfanotrofeio and Hurriya shelters were postponed due to lack of interpreters; everyone was provisionally freed. Charges include “disruption of household peace” and “damage to property” — this last one an accusation fabricated by greedy owners who demand large compensations for supposed damages to their long-abandoned and unused buildings.

The response of the movements to the attack was swift and included the symbolic occupations of the headquarters of the governing Syriza party in Thessaloniki and other cities; marches and protests all over the country; the occupation of the Drama School of the local university, to be transformed into a center of struggle; and the rescuing of the refugees who were transferred from the occupied shelters to refugee camps — most of them vulnerable — back to safe places. To that we should add the mobilization of a big volunteer legal team to organize the defense of dozens of activists in three separate trials.

Nevertheless, the response was asymmetrical, as by Wednesday’s operation the police liquidated in just one day a great part of the infrastructure patiently constructed by the grassroots movement for solidarity with refugees over the last year. The raid and eviction of the three occupied refugee shelters thus marks another episode in the undeclared war of the Greek government against grassroots solidarity efforts.

Humanity in Spite of Everything

Since the summer of 2015, when Greece became the main path to Europe for people fleeing war, repression and poverty in Asia and Africa, the refugees who crossed the country encountered the Greek people, who had endured five years of austerity shock treatment, who had seen their lives degraded and their social, political and labor rights vanishing in a very short period of time.

Despite the hardship, the ordeal of the refugees was generally not met with xenophobic reflexes, but with authentic empathy and solidarity on behalf of the population. The voices of the extreme right — which only a few years back had been organizing pogroms against immigrants in collusion with the armed forces — were marginalized, and Greek society generally demonstrated an outpouring of solidarity towards the immigrants.

The old xenophobic maxim — “if you like the refugees so much, take them to your home” — was actually put into practice: thousands of Greek homes were opened to host refugees, especially the most vulnerable ones — the sick, pregnant women and families with little children — sometimes as an intermediate stop to recover their strength before regrouping with family in the north of Europe, but often as a more lasting arrangement. Millions of rations of home-cooked food were taken to the camp of Eidomeni by ordinary people, where great numbers of refugees lived in deplorable conditions in tents and makeshift homes, waiting for a chance to cross the border to the north and continue their path towards northern Europe.

Solidarity in Movement

This heartwarming response on behalf of Greek society marked a moral victory for Greece’s social movements, which throughout the years of the crisis have not only been resisting the assault on the popular classes and creating grassroots alternatives, but have also been combating racism, xenophobia and fascism at all levels: in the neighborhood, in the streets and in public discourse.

From the very beginning, the resources and infrastructure of the social movements, however limited, were mobilized to provide support and relief to as many as possible of the nearly one million refugees who crossed the country. The network of solidarity clinics — volunteer grassroots structures that were created some years back to offer primary healthcare to uninsured Greek and immigrant workers — actively took part in caring for the refugees and denouncing the health hazards in the government’s treatment of them. Social centers — notably Micropolis and Steki Metanaston in Thessaloniki, Nosotros and Votanikos Kipos in Athens, and a host of others — created points of contact for refugees, and put their existing infrastructures, like collective kitchens, food stores and kindergartens, at their service.

Local and international grassroots organizations set up autonomous relief structures — parallel to those of the state and NGOs — in Eidomeni and other areas where refugees were concentrated in high numbers. The occupied self-managed factory of Vio.Me in Thessaloniki made available a warehouse for the collection, storage and transportation of basic items like clothes, sanitary items and baby food that had been gathered by solidarity collectives from all over Greece and Europe, prior to shipment to the Eidomeni border to be handed out to refugees.

Most importantly, militant collectives and groups of refugees occupied a host of empty buildings throughout Greece, to be used as self-managed refugee shelters — notably Notara and City Plaza in Athens, as well as Orfanotrofeio and Hurriya in Thessaloniki. Other long-existing squats opened their doors to refugee families, including Nikis squat, evicted by police last Wednesday.

Dealing in Aid

Evidently, the capacity of these self-managed and self-financed structures to make a quantitative impact on the plight of the nearly 57.000 refugees currently stuck in Greece is limited. However, they mark a qualitative difference from the efforts of the state and the NGOs, which dominate the relief efforts.

Undoubtedly, the Greek state did, after all, mobilize its resources to deal with the unthinkable humanitarian catastrophe by rescuing those who tried to cross over by boat from Turkey to the islands of the Aegean Sea. This marked an improvement compared to previous years, when the Greek coastguard notoriously practiced on-the-spot deportations. As recently as August 2015 they were even accused of actively trying to sink boats full of refugees.

Nevertheless, for the Greek state the plight of the refugees is primarily a matter of public order, and hence a field for the intervention of the armed forces. The care for refugees and the provision of basic needs is left to the hundreds of NGOs active in the area — many of them well-established and others founded overnight — which take advantage of the flow of local and European funds towards aid projects. Although the selfless and exhausting efforts of aid workers, who have to deal with incredibly strenuous situations, often in low-waged and precarious conditions themselves, are deserving of respect, the monopolization of aid by NGOs signifies the privatization of “solidarity”; its subsumption under quantitative goals, laws of efficiency and cost-effectiveness. In a way, it signifies the creation of lucrative new markets out of human misery.

Charity vs. Solidarity

What makes the efforts of grassroots movements stand out in relation to the actions of the state and the NGOs is that they are motivated by different political imperatives. Contrary to the flow of aid from highly centralized organizations towards disempowered refugees, true solidarity flows horizontally among peers. Those who practice solidarity recognize themselves in the “other” and are motivated by empathy, not pity.

In occupied refugee shelters, managed as commons through participatory methods, locals and refugees cook together and eat around the same table; they take decisions together in the circle of the horizontal assembly; they recognize each other’s culture and customs and overcome preconceptions and stereotypes. Against the enforced segregation, solidarity initiatives create a common language and common spaces of action for locals and refugees.

Furthermore, where state policy wants the refugees “hidden under the carpet” — away from cities, crammed in military-run refugee camps in inhumane conditions — grassroots solidarity places them at the center of social life, where they can be accepted and included within society. Where European policies classify and selectively deport immigrants according to their origin, grassroots solidarity calls into question the distinction between “immigrant” and “refugee”, since in humanitarian terms it is not important whether displaced people are fleeing from wars or from poverty and repressive regimes.

Most importantly, where the state and NGOs treat the refugee crisis as if it were an inevitable natural disaster, grassroots solidarity denounces its root causes: the imperialist wars in the Middle East, the neo-colonialist dispossession of local farmers by multinationals in Africa and Asia, the inhuman immigration policies of “Fortress Europe” and, especially, the insistence on closed borders, which forces fleeing populations towards the sea routes — resulting in immense loss of life — and into the hands of a lucrative people-smuggling market.

The Criminalization of Solidarity

There is no doubt that the activity of grassroots solidarity movements is on a collision course with the project of European integration, which envisions a strict international division of labor, national populations in perpetual competition in a collective race to the bottom, and borders permeable only by capital and goods — excluding immigrant human bodies, which are conceived only as a rightless reserve army of labor at the fringes of the formal economy.

In Greece, the focal point of the refugee crisis, this collision took the form of a spiteful scare campaign by the mass media against grassroots solidarity efforts, which were blamed for everything that could go wrong in the places where thousands of people were stowed away under inhuman conditionsas a direct result of European immigration laws. In time, these attacks were used as a justification for the exclusion of social movements from Eidomeni, and after the dismantling of that camp, from the “provisional” refugee camps set up by the state in former industrial areas on the periphery of Greek towns. Special controlled zones were created where only “accredited” aid workers are allowed, and efforts to interact and collaborate with the refugees are met with repression.

The scaremongering and repression culminated during the No Border Camp in Thessaloniki between July 15-24, when thousands of activists from around the continent met to protest — along with the refugees — the conditions of neglect and confinement in refugee camps and the impermeability of national borders that led to the present state of affairs. Mainstream media reporters documented and criticized every detail of the No Border Camp, which took place at occupied university grounds, after a last-minute refusal of the university authorities to grant permission to the organizers. A carefully calculated scare campaign during the camp was used to pave the way for the repressive operation of July 27, with the eviction of three occupied refugee shelters.

Repression and the “Values of the Left”

True to the surrealist political climate in Greece in the last year, the governing Syriza party condemned the raids as an “attempt at the criminalization of solidarity endeavors that runs contrary to the principles and values of the left,” while government officials blamed the police operation on the initiatives of the public prosecutor.

An outside observer might be inclined to believe that the government is simply unable to control its own police forces — after all, this excuse is routinely offered by pro-government sources, such as when riot police violently repressed a peaceful protest for the self-managed Vio.Me factory in early July. However, on closer inspection, it seems patently absurd that such a complex, coordinated and targeted police operation could be carried out without being green-lighted by the police’s political bosses.

Indeed, an interview with the aforementioned boss, the leftist Deputy Minister of “Civil Protection”, with a pro-government radio station on the day of the eviction is illuminating in this respect. The informative text reveals not only the extent to which Wednesday’s evictions are in line with the government’s policy, but also the government’s conception of social change and progressive politics. After making it clear that the operation had his blessing, the minister characterizes occupied shelters as “unjustified occupations” that constitute a “caricature of symbols” creating an “illusion of freedom”. He declares that the government “will not show a generalized tolerance to those initiatives, which, however well-meaning, are not in line with the interests of the state.”

In a very convoluted line of argumentation, where in just a few paragraphs he invokes “the values of the left”, “the struggles of the working class”, “the protection of democratic rights” and the “needs of society” to justify the attack on the solidarity movements, he states: “The left is not about autonomy. It is about the defense of labor rights, of society, of democratic rights … We don’t need the autonomous actions of a bunch of kids; we want a mass popular movement, we should turn the youth towards the parties of the left.” He concludes by accusing solidarity structures of being “piecemeal efforts” that offer help to a reduced number of refugees, in contrast to the organized efforts of the state.

To put it bluntly, society is not and should not be the subject of its own liberation; it is rather the passive object of concern and field of intervention for a benevolent government. Social struggles that are not mediated by the state and the parties of the left are either infantile or a threat to social peace — probably both. This totalitarian conception of society, public space and collective action is not new to leftist thought; only in its most recent incarnation it is combined not with state-guaranteed welfare, but with neoliberal dispossession and a state of “permanent exception” — a truly explosive mix.

The Simulacram of the Left

Just as the minister was done bragging about the state’s capacity for aid compared to social initiatives, a report by the public organization Hellenic Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) was made public, which — based on a series of health inspections in sixteen migrant and refugee centers across Greece — concludes that thousands of people are crammed into the reception centers under substandard sanitary conditions, with precarious living accommodations and inadequate water and sewage facilities. The report advises the immediate closure of the camps and the integration of refugees within society — precisely what the grassroots solidarity movements, now officially under persecution for “not being in line with the interests of the state,” have been demanding since the start of the refugee crisis.

Furthermore, on July 28, just as the detained in the three eviction operations were provisionally freed pending trial, a young Syrian woman was dying of heart failure following an epileptic attack in the refugee camp of Softex near Diavata, on the periphery of Thessaloniki — a death which could have easily been prevented, had there been permanent medical care at the camp, or had the woman been taken to a hospital in time. The death sparked an intense protest at the camp, with refugees demanding humane living conditions.

Despite its rhetoric, the government’s actions are another instance where the left is called upon to finish off what the right has been unable to do for years. Just as a third austerity package for Greece would have been impossible without a government “that has society’s interests at heart” — Prime Minister Tsipras famously wept while he signed the new memorandum — so a repressive operation as complex and calculated as the one carried out in Thessaloniki would have been impossible without a Deputy Minister of Civil Protection concerned about “the needs of society” and “the struggles of the working class.” In an artful inversion of the left’s vision of social emancipation, “workers’ struggles” are used to justify private property over social necessity; “democratic rights” are used to justify unwarranted repression of those standing in solidarity with refugees; and “the needs of society” are used to justify a campaign of dispossession against the popular classes.

It is evident now in Greece that the neoliberal left and the neoliberal right are two variations of the same project — a project that requires a disciplined, atomized, obedient population, preoccupied with maximizing individual benefit, having relinquished any kind of collective action to change society. The tragic events of 2015 — when the will of the people to end austerity was ignored and one more anti-austerity opposition was transformed into an enforcer of neoliberal restructuring — might well have pushed in this direction, by demobilizing the social movements and generating widespread resignation.

Solidarity in Greece is now criminalized, declared contrary to the interests of the state. However, there is a part of the population that remains determined to keep trying to give content to the word “solidarity”, to wrest it from the hands of repressive institutions, electoralist projects and lucrative non-profit organizations, and to transform it into the basis of a collective aspiration for a better life — built from the ground up on egalitarian and participatory terms.

Posted in GreeceComments Off on Criminalizing Solidarity: Syriza’s War on the Movements

Greece: Revolt Betrayed


“I call you to vote as sovereign and proud, just as the history of Greeks commands. I am engaging myself to respect the democratic choice of the people, whatever it will be.” —Alexis Tsipras on TV, announcing the referendum, 26.6.2015

A year ago more than 62% of the Greek people voted in the referendum held on the 5th of July of 2015 to reject the policies imposed on Greece since 2010 by an alliance of world finance and the German government, aided and abetted by other European elites and implemented through European governments, the EU and the IMF.

Voting the way they did, Greeks gave their government an unambiguous mandate to resist, surprising friends and foes alike, especially through the large percentage of their No vote, as they have done many times in their long history.

Nobody could predict – and nobody did predict – this result, either in Greece or outside its borders. Greeks voted the way they did at a time when the European Central Bank had already begun to carry out its threats, closing down the country’s banking system.

The signal from the European establishment and the bankers behind it was clear. Today we shut down your banks; tomorrow we will shut down your country, if you vote No.

All voters felt the seriousness of their decision, which would most probably put them on a collision course with some of the most powerful forces on Earth.

Greeks voted also No in spite (in some cases even because) of the fact that nearly all the media and the political and financial establishment of the country did everything possible to frighten them. All previous prime ministers, the leadership of the Church, respected retired generals, all the big names in the economy warned Greeks of the consequences they would suffer if they voted No and urged them to vote Yes. (We have grounds to assume that if all those pressures had not been applied, the result of the referendum would have been 80% or 90% for No).

Even SYRIZA did not do any serious campaigning for the No vote! On Monday 29th June supporters of the Yes vote held a rally of about 20,000 people in Constitution Square, with the slogan “We are staying in Europe!” The Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis went live on Greek state TV on the evening of the same day, just three days after the announcement of the referendum, to say that differences with the creditors were not after all so tragic, so that perhaps there was room for reconciliation and even a possibility of canceling the referendum. He added that whatever happens, Tsipras had already accomplished his mission and won his place in Greek history, thus opening the way for an “honorable retirement” of the Prime Minister! (The same person, Dragasakis, one day after the final agreement with the creditors, on the 13th of July, went on record to thank the US administration for its great contribution to the … capitulation!).

Perhaps Tsipras’ advisors did not like this interview. Perhaps, with their eye on the public opinion data, they were beginning to fear that Yes was heading for a huge victory, which would be interpreted as their defeat and lead to their eviction from power. Anyway, Tsipras intervened for a second time on Tuesday 30th June, urging Greeks to vote No.

Then something happened. Between Tuesday and Friday most Greeks made decision, in a way that no pollster or politician or analyst could have predicted. It was a question of logic and of hope. They knew they had little to expect from the  “creditors” other than more disasters. The experience of five years had given ample proof of this. Why not try the other way, as their government was proposing?

But those logical thoughts would not be enough in themselves to make Greeks disregard the thinly veiled threat from such powerful enemies to destroy their country, as they have done so many times in the past.  Greeks understood that very serious risks were involved.

It was at this point that the fundamental mechanism came into action that leads to revolts in History, whether violent or peaceful.

The terrible dilemma they were facing activated the deeper strata of the individual and collective subconscious. Dignity won out over fear.

After all, Greece has always been intrinsically linked, as a notion and as a project, to resistance against foreign invaders, and also to the notions  of human freedom, citizenship and democracy. Those notions were born in Greece, for the first time in human history. They made possible the victory of the ancient Greek cities over the overwhelming force of the despotic empire of ancient times and it was this battle that gave birth to the very idea of Europe.

In  modern times, to give just one example, Greeks, along with the British, were one of the very few nations that resisted, in 1940-41, the rising totalitarianism of that era, providing the Soviets with the precious time and room for maneuver that were required for them finally to vanquish the monster.

As the referendum proved, the deepest characteristics of Greek identity had not died out, as some people believed. They remained in the nucleus of the identity and they were awakened when people needed them.

Unfortunately this is not the only near-permanent pattern in Greek history. Another one is betrayal, time and time again, by leaders: the difficulty of this nation acquiring a leadership commensurate with its heroism. Dionysios Solomos – Greek national poet and author of the Hymn to Freedom (also known as Dithyrambis to Liberty), the poem narrating the Greek Revolution of 1821, which became the national anthem of Greece – epitomized it in a historic phrase addressed to the inhabitants of the Ionian Islands (Letter to the Eptanisians): “My beloved people, easy believers, always betrayed”. Does this perhaps apply not only for Greeks but is a rather typical  fate for utopians, idealists, freedom lovers?

On Friday, July 3rd, hundreds of thousands of Athenians, perhaps more, converged on Constitution Square in one of the biggest gatherings in the history of the country to proclaim once again their “No” to the Empire of finance ruling and destroying their country.

On the evening of Sunday, July 5th the result of the verdict was there for all to see. The government, without understanding or suspecting it, or being willing to do it, had awoken the gods of History. As the light of Apollo once more broke over this country, it revealed both the grandeur of the ordinary people who always make human history and the meagreness of their supposed leaders.

There was no one in the government to receive the message. There was no one prepared or willing to launch the battle to which they themselves had called the people of Greece. Terrified by their own decisions and actions, never having prepared for something else other than a compromise permitting them to stay in power, very probably controlled and/or manipulated, one or the other way, by the “Masters of the Universe”, they begun to search for ways to “capitulate in dignity”, just hours after the voting had finished.

During the night Tsipras fired Varoufakis, who would have had great difficulties signing the capitulation. On Monday morning he called together the leaders of all the parties to a meeting under the President of the Republic. Those leaders, insignificant persons in any case, and even more so after being rejected just the previous day by the overwhelming majority of the people, spent many hours working on a communique that would reinterpret the verdict of the referendum and explain that Greeks had given them the mandate not to open a rift with the creditors and not to leave “Europe”. It took some more days, until the 13th of July, for Tsipras to sign the final capitulation – and his own, moral before anything else, death sentence.

The sudden U-turn of the government, as soon as the vote was over, dealt a devastating blow to the morale and the psychological state of the Greek population, a blow much worse than a military defeat. It is normal to be defeated by a  superior enemy. It is not normal to be called to battle by your chief, only for him to begin explaining the advantages of capitulation some days later. The world disappears from under one’s feet. Greek society was suddenly emotionally and intellectually devastated, unable to speak or act in any way. Many people even fell ill.

One year later, Greeks are still suffering from this moral blow and this defeat and also from the terrible consequences it is now beginning to have on their lives and on their country, which is gradually being transformed into a kind of financial Dachau.

According to the most recent polls, the dominant feelings among Greeks are now

  • anger, 57.3%
  • shame, 53.8%
  • fear, 40.9%
  • hope, 15%
  • pride, 3.5%
  • certainty, 3.1%

Was this the intended result or the outcome of a strange combination of different factors? We cannot give any certain answer to this question.  But it is sure that neither Greek nor European history ended on July 13th,  The British referendum is  the latest demonstration of that).   It will continue and it may well assume more violent and dangerous forms, with the geopolitical factor also intervening in the equation, as the terror attacks and the refugee crisis of 2015 have already indicated.

Posted in GreeceComments Off on Greece: Revolt Betrayed

Greek Debt Negotiations –Troika and IMF Outmaneuver Syriza Again


This past week the Greek Parliament voted by a narrow margin of 153 to 145 to impose even more austerity on its people — thus implementing the latest austerity demands by the Eurozone Troika required for the Troika’s release of loans earmarked for Greece last August 2015.

Earlier this year the Troika signaled to Greece, if it wanted to receive its next tranche of loans needed to make a scheduled payment of 3.5 billion euros to the ECB this July, Greece would have to toughen its austerity program still further. The Syriza government complied, and cut pensions and raised income taxes beyond what it had even originally agreed to last August.

Greek Government’s Latest Austerity Measures

In its May 22, 2016 decision last week, the Greek government then added still more austerity. That vote raised the sales (VAT) tax to 24 percent, imposed higher taxes on coffee, alcohol and gas, revised the privatization program to accelerate the sale of publicly owned transport, electricity, water and port systems, added finances to cover Greek banks’ growing backlog of non-performing business loans, and added contingency measures to cut government spending even further over the next three years should Greece miss the austerity targets imposed by the Troika last August 2015.

Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras’ public response in the wake of still further austerity was “Greece is keeping its promises, now it’s their (Troika) turn to do the same”. But what promises? And to whom?

The past six years of Troika debt deals and austerity demands shows clearly that whenever the Troika has agreed to terms of lending to Greece in exchange for more austerity from it, the deal is never really closed. The Troika keeps demanding even more austerity, with nearly every quarterly review of Greece’s austerity compliance, before releasing just enough of the loans for Greece to repay the Troika for prior loans. The Troika dribbles out the loans and then squeezes Greece for still more austerity. That has been the Troika’s practice ever since the three major Troika Greek debt restructuring deals of May 2010, March 2012, and August 2015.

Greece’s Unsustainable Debt Load

By latest estimates total Greek debt is 384 billion euros, or US$440 billion. That’s approaching nearly twice the size of Greece’s annual GDP. A decade ago, in 2007-08 before the global crash, Greek debt was roughly half of what it is today, in terms of both total debt and as a percent of GDP. Greek debt was actually less than a number of Eurozone economies. So Greece’s debt has been primarily caused by the 2008-09 crash, Greece’s six year long economic depression followed, the extreme austerity measures imposed on it by the Troika during this period which has been the primary cause of its long depression, and the Troika’s piling of debt on Greece to repay previously owed debt.

Contrary to European media spin, it’s not been rising Greek wages or excessive government spending that has caused the US$440 billion in Greek debt. Since 2009 Greek annual wages have fallen from 23,580 to less than 18,000 euros. Government spending has fallen from 118 billion euros to 82 billion.

Bankers and Investors Get 95 percent of all Debt Payments

Who then has benefited from the escalation of Greek debt? To whom are the payments on the debt ultimately going? To Euro bankers and to the Troika, which then passes it on to the bankers and investors, the ultimate beneficiaries.

As a recent in depth study by the European School of Management and Technology, ‘Where Did the Greek Bailout Money Go?, revealed in impeccably researched detail, Greek debt payments ultimately go to Euro bankers. For example, of the 216 billion euros, or US$248 billion, in loans provided to Greece by the Troika in just the first two debt deals of May 2010 and March 2012, 64 percent (139 billion euros) was interest paid to banks on existing debt; 17 percent (37 billion euros) to Greek banks (to replace money being taken out by wealthy Greeks and businesses and sent to northern Europe banks), and 14 percent (29 billion euros) to pay off hedge funds and private bankers in the 2012 deal. Per the study, less than 5 percent of the 216 billion euros went to Greece to spend on its own economy. As the study’s authors concluded, “ the vast majority (more than 95 percent) went to existing creditors in the form of debt repayments and interest payments”. And that’s just the 2010 and 2012 Troika deals. Last August’s third deal is no doubt adding more to the totals.

The IMF: Pro-Greece or Pro-IMF?

Recognizing the impossibility of Greece ever being able to repay the debt, the IMF — a member of the Troika — has recently broken ranks with its Troika partners and has recommended the Troika provide debt relief to Greece. The Syriza government is no doubt betting on the IMF being able to convince the rest of the Troika to agree to debt relief. But in so doing, it is making the same error it made in last year’s 2015 debt negotiations: it is depending on the assistance of one wing of the Troika to convince the others to give Greece a break. Last year it was Syriza’s strategy to leverage certain liberal members of the EC and the Eurozone’s finance ministers group on its behalf. That failed. German ministers and bankers demanding more austerity prevailed last August 2015 over the “soft” or liberal elements in the EC and among the Eurozone’s finance ministers group. Syriza is now betting on the IMF, and proving its willingness to continue with austerity in the interim, to show it is “keeping its promises” to enforce austerity. But that similar strategy will fail as well.

The IMF’s proposal for debt relief for Greece, in its just released “Country Report 16/130,” proposes to extend the current Greek loans by 14-30 years more beyond current 2040 expiration dates; to introduce “grace periods” during which payments may be suspended; and reduce interest rates on the loans to a fixed 1.5 percent instead of variable rates much higher. However, data show that results in no debt relief in real terms at all.

Instead of forcing Greece to generate a budget surplus of 3.5 percent a year, out of which to repay the loans and achieved by means of severe austerity, the IMF also proposes to reduce the annual budget surplus to 1.5 percent. That would reduce Greece’s debt from 200 percent of GDP to “only” 127 percent… by 2040. Even that nominal debt reduction would fail, per the IMF, if Greece’s GDP grew at only 1 percent. It’s been declining at -5 percent and more for the past six years, so even 1 percent is highly unlikely. If Greece’s growth is 1 percent or less, then the IMF admits the other European states will have to add still more debt piled on Greece in order for it to repay the old debt. In short, the IMF version of ‘debt relief’ for Greece has little chance of economic relief for Greece. Nor does it mean any reasonable change in austerity for Greece. Things will get worse, just perhaps worse not as fast as in recent years.

What’s behind the IMF’s Shift?

The IMF is no friend of Greece. What are its possible motives for breaking ranks with the ultra-conservative elements in the Troika — led by Germany and its northern Europe banker allies in the Netherlands and elsewhere?

First, the IMF sees rising demands for its bailout funding on the horizon, not only in the Ukraine but in emerging market economies in the near future. Second, the IMF is feeling the heat from other IMF members in those economies demanding no more special debt considerations for Greece. Looming large on the horizon is also the possibility of the UK exiting the European Union, and elections in June as well in Spain. As secret discussions within the IMF in March exposed by “WikiLeaks” revealed, the IMF is concerned a re-emergence of Greek resistance to the Troika, concurrent with a possible Brexit vote and Spain elections, might converge into an economic ‘perfect storm’ this summer. The IMF wants the Troika to get in front of the curve with Greece before it escalates. Dampen the resistance before it begins by making concessions to Greece now, that won’t take effect for years to come, could be behind the IMF’s move.

Most likely, however, is that the IMF is maneuvering with the rest of the Troika to work a compromise whereby the Troika will buy the IMF out of the Greek debt negotiations. That would mean restructure the Greek debt, to pay off the IMF’s 14.6 billion euros share of the 384 billion euro Greek debt.

That has some appeal to the hardliners in the Troika. However, Germany is demanding that there be no debt relief for Greece before 2018. It is looking at German elections in 2017. So what is most likely is a compromise, resulting in a phasing out of IMF commitment and a phasing in of Greek debt relief that starts only in 2018 after German elections. It appears that’s exactly what the Troika may have decided in its May 24 most recent meeting in Brussels.

What all that means for Greece, however, is not only likely more of the same austerity, but perhaps even an intensification of austerity between now and 2018 —as the German-led conservatives within the Troika demand even more austerity now in exchange for the possibility of debt relief after 2018.

Posted in GreeceComments Off on Greek Debt Negotiations –Troika and IMF Outmaneuver Syriza Again

Anti-Muslim hysteria: Map reveals extent of fascist revival across EU

FAR-RIGHT parties are on the march across Europe as the unprecedented migrant crisis gripping the continent fuels a surge in support for nationalist movements.

Far-right parties have made significant gains across Europe this year

This shocking map shows how anti-immigration campaigners have enjoyed huge gains in this year’s elections, whilst thousands have taken to the streets to protest against the overwhelming influx of migrants and refugees.

From Greece to Germany and Switzerland to Sweden, far-right protestors and parties have stormed the mainstream of European politics as voters rebel against years of predominantly socialist rule.

In France Marine Le Pen’s controversial Front National came within a whisker of winning control over swathes of the country, whilst the traditionally liberal societies of Scandinavia turned their backs on moderates amid unprecedented migratory pressure.

As 2015 draws to a close, has taken a look at the worrying shift towards the far-right and the inept responses of mainstream politicians which could see the continent once more gripped by fear and intolerance.


Any mention of far-right politics carries dark historical connotations for the Austrians as the nation gave birth to Adolf Hitler.

But extremist politicians have benefited from a surge in support largely due to the ongoing migrant crisis. Austria has been overwhelmed by the flow of migrants in 2015, with hundreds of thousands of people arriving on its borders seeking passage to a better life in neighbouring Germany.

The far-right Freedom Party (FPO) has stepped into the chaotic political vacuum that has ensued, quietly but confidently positioning itself as a protector of Austria’s heritage and borders against the tide of refugees. In late September the party stormed to success in local elections, doubling its share of the vote to more than 30% and securing 18 seats in Upper Austria, second only to the ruling regional conservatives.

In early October the FPO continued its meteoric rise, giving the socialist mayor of Vienna a major scar, securing nearly a third of the vote in what is traditionally one of Europe’s most liberal capitals. They have also consistently performed well in national opinion polls this year, with most carried out since May showing the far-right party in the lead – some by as many as 10 points.

The next Austrian general election will take place by the end of 2018 and the mainstream parties are now facing a major battle to keep the far-right FPO out of power.


The far-right Danish People’s Party (DF) has been so successful in recent elections that it now has the balance of power and could topple the Danish coalition government. The party finished second in June’s general election after securing 21% of the vote and 37 seats in the country’s 179-seat parliament.

Leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl eventually opted to form a ruling coalition with the conservatives, but has recently threatened to “topple” the government by pulling out if there is any attempt to soften its stance on immigration. The head of the deposed Social Democrats has called for a compromise over Denmark’s tough immigration laws, but the DF is so powerful that now seems extremely unlikely.

The party, founded in 1995, campaigns against mass migration and multiculturalism, with former leader Pia Kjærsgaard stating that she did “not want Denmark as a multiethnic, multicultural society”. In 2010 it proposed a complete ban on all immigrants from outside Europe, excluding refugees in need of shelter.

The rise of the far-right in Denmark mirrors a similar situation in other Scandinavian countries, which are sparsely populated and critics say are ill-suited to take in huge numbers of migrants from the Middle East.


The Finns Party (PS) – known as the ‘True Finns’ – has enjoyed a meteoric rise similar to the Danish People’s Party (DP) and is now a major player in Finland’s coalition government. The nationalists became Finland’s second largest political party when they won 17.7% of the votes in April’s general election and entered into a pact with the ruling Conservatives.

Like the DP, the eurosceptic party espouses essentially left-wing economic policies but allied to a hardline stance on immigration. Its leadership publicly denounces racism and discrimination although comments by some of its MPs, including Teuvo Hakkarainen who used an offensive word to describe black people and mocked Islamic calls to prayer.

Founded in 1995 the PS has risen to prominence in recent years because of concerns about immigration. It made its breakthrough to become the third largest party in Finland 2011 – the same year an opinion poll revealed that 51% of its voters agreed with the statement “people of certain races are unsuited for life in a modern society”.


The Front National (FN) party stunned Europe and the world when it stormed to victory in the first round of the French local elections earlier this month. Led by the charismatic Marine Le Pen, daughter of its founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, the far-right party tapped into concerns about high immigration and home-grown extremism in the aftermath of the bloody massacre in Paris.

It scooped an astonishing 28% of the national vote in the first round of the elections, polling first place in six of France’s 13 administrative regions and winning more than six million votes. The party was routed in the second round of voting, but only because Francois Hollande’s socialists dropped out of the running in two regions and urged their voters to back former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservatives instead.

Such a pact between the Labour and Tory parties in the UK would be unthinkable, and underlines the desperation of moderate French politicians who have been outflanked and out-thought by the rapid rise of the FN. Despite the result political commentators have said the momentum remains behind France’s far-right, and Ms Le Pen is expected to make a major push for the presidency next year.

GERMANY For decades Germany has prided itself on the almost complete non-existence of far-right politics in the country. But the recent refugee crisis, and Angela Merkel’s decision to throw open the country’s doors to unlimited numbers of migrants, has stoked tensions and fears that nationalist politics could make return.

Recent opinion polls suggest such concerns are not unfounded, with the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party making huge gains off the bank of anti asylum-seeker statements. The party – whose name means Alternative for Germany – is campaigning under the slogan “Asylum requires borders – Red card for Merkel”. It scored 8% of the electorate in an opinion poll published this month, which marks a doubling in its support since September. At the same time Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats, who have pursued a policy of demonising and denouncing right-wing and populist parties, saw their support slip from 40% to 37%.

Elsewhere the openly far-right group Pegida held one of its biggest ever rallies in Dresden in October, with 20,000 people taking to the streets to protest against immigration. The movement’s attitudes towards immigrants have been repeatedly compared to those of the Nazis, and a speaker at the Dresden rally spoke of his regret that “the concentration camps are out of action”.

This year has also seen a sharp rise in the number of attacks against immigrant housing, according to German charities. The Amadeu Antonio Stiftung and PRO ASYL groups compiled statistics showing that there were 429 attacks on refugee shelters up to the end of October, including 93 arson attacks, compared with 153 attacks for all of 2014.


Greek politics has become a tale of two extremes in recent years as the country battles a crushing economic depression and an overwhelming influx of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from neighbouring Turkey.

Despite electing a radical socialist government Greeks have also voted in their droves for the openly fascist Golden Dawn party this year. The violent group was one of the biggest winners in the country’s September general election, called by president Alexis Tsipras so that voters could have their say on a controversial EU bailout package.

Instead the election served to underline the growing popularity of neo-fascists Golden Dawn, who polled third overall with more than 7% of the vote. After the result was announced its spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, who sports a Swastika tattoo, triumphantly declared: ³Golden Dawn is a movement of power, it is not a protest movement any more.”

Greek prosecutors have accused Golden Dawn of being a criminal gang, not a political party, and most of its leaders stand accused of horrific crimes including murder, armed attacks, money laundering and people trafficking, which they deny.

Ordinary Greeks have been left feeling betrayed by other European countries over a series of suffocating bailout packages, which have stopped the country’s stricken economy from imploding but have also completely stifled any recovery. The country is also on the frontline of the current refugee crisis, with 7,000 migrants arriving on its shores every day. Golden Dawn, unsurprisingly, polled particularly well on the inundated islands of Lesbos and Kos and also picked up a large haul of votes in the Athens region.

With Greece’s economic problems and the migrant situation unlikely to end any time soon, there are fears that Golden Dawn could make a more serious play for power in the future.


Another nation feeling the extreme pressures of the migrant crisis, one in five Hungarians turned to an ultra far-right party in last year’s election. The central European state, which is governed by populist right-wing president Viktor Orban, has built a huge 110 mile long fence along its border with Serbia in a desperate bid to keep hundreds of thousands of German-bound migrants out.

But despite Mr Orban’s hardline stance against immigration, 20.7% of Hungarians voted for anti-semitic Jobbik in last April’s general election. A year later the party won its first by-election in the country, with Lajos Rig beating Mr Orban’s candidate despite sharing an article which accused the Jews of using gipsies as a “biological weapon” against native Hungarians.

The party’s leader, Gabor Vona, later said: ³The mood in Hungary is for a change in government, and with Jobbik, Hungary finally has the force to change the government.”

Jobbik has consistently gained on Mr Orban’s Fidesz party in the polls this year, and has scored as highly as 17% before dropping back to 15% in September. But the party has had a serious effect on the country’s politics – it was Jobbik which suggested constructing the razor wire fence later championed by Mr Orban, and he also followed their calls to deploy the army to the border to deter migrants.

Hungary has built a huge fence to keep out migrants
ITALY As in Greece, Italian voters are faced with economic hardship and a place on the Mediterranean frontline of the migrant crisis. Despite being ruled by the socialist government of Matteo Renzi, it is the far-right Northern League party which has made real strides in recent elections.

The nationalist party, whose candidates have made xenophobic comments towards Roma gypsies and immigrants, secured its best ever results in this summer’s regional elections. Standing on an anti-immigrant platform, the Northern League won the regions of Veneto – with a landslide 50% of the vote – and neighbouring Lombardy.

It also struck a humiliating blow against the ruling socialists by wooing 20% of the electorate in Tuscany, the left-wing heartland of Mr Renzi’s Democratic Party. The Northern League’s eccentric leader, Matteo Salvini, has previously said Roma camps to be razed, called the Euro a “crime against humanity” and even accused Pope Francis of betraying Christians by promoting dialogue with Muslims.

In Veneto, his party ordered officials to clear all refugee reception centres near tourist hotspots, claiming that the the sight of African migrants was having a “devastating effect” on local traders.

Mr Salvini has emerged as the self-proclaimed leader of the country’s political right, stepping into the void left by the downfall of former president Sylvio Berlusconi, and his party will be eyeing up more success when Italians next go to the polls by May 2018.


Opinion polls in Holland suggest that the country’s main far-right party, Party for Freedom (PVV) could be on track to storm to victory at the next general election. Support for the anti-immigration party has risen to record highs this year, with it opening up a cavernous 18 point lead on all its rivals.

On current predictions the eurosceptic group would win 37 seats in the Dutch parliament if there was an election tomorrow, securing around a quarter of the vote in a country known for being governed by coalition. Pollsters say that the party’s popularity is growing outside its traditional working class base, with the number of graduates willing to vote for it tripling in just a few months.

The PVV is run by controversial politician Geert Wilders, who has previously said that Europe should close its borders to Muslims and described the refugee crisis as an “Islamic invasion”. More recently he has supported Donald Trump over his similar proposed policy for the United States, saying he hopes he becomes the country’s next president.

Mr Wilders and his party have preyed on people’s fears over a potentially huge influx of migrants and have positioned themselves as champions of traditional Dutch society. Holland, which has a population of just 17 million, is braced to take in about 60,000 asylum seekers by the end of the year.


Another Scandinavian country seeing a huge surge in the popularity of the far-right, once more largely brought about by the European migrant crisis. Sparsely populated Sweden, home to just 9.5 million people, will take in a record 190,000 refugees from the Middle East this year alone.

Fears over how the predominantly Muslim migrants will integrate into society has seen traditionally liberal Swedes turn their backs on socialist politicians and instead embrace the anti-immigrant Swedish Democrats (SD).

The SD – which wants to close Sweden’s borders to immigrants and has neo-Nazi ties – has seen a surge in support with eight separate opinion polls this year placing it as the largest party in the country. Seven of those have put its support at over 25% – comfortably ahead of the ruling Social Democratic Party.

It is already the country¹s third-largest party, with 49 representatives in parliament, following success in last year’s general election and will be looking to make further gains when Swedes next head to the ballot box on 9 September, 2018.


Even though Switzerland is neither part of the EU nor the Schengen free movement zone, concerns about the ongoing migrant crisis have played strongly on people’s minds. The small Alpine country, known for its chocolate, time pieces and secretive banks, lurched to the right in recent elections as centrist parties haemorrhaged support.

The ultra-conservative Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which has warned of “asylum chaos” in Europe and wants to impose strict immigration quotas, secured its best ever result in October’s election winning 29.4% of the vote. The party’s rise has been fuelled by anger over a number of Switzerland’s bilateral agreements with the EU, including its pledge to take in Syrian refugees as part of the wider quota system agreed by member states.

Swiss media have referred to the result as a “rechtsrutsch,” or a slide to the right and have warned it will isolate the country even further from the rest of Europe. The controversial party was embroiled in a race row in 2007 after it unveiled an apparently racist poster about foreign criminals.

The publicity campaign, designed to highlight the SVP’s proposed policy of deporting all foreign criminals, showed three white sheep kicking a black sheep over a border to the backdrop of a Swiss flag. More than a fifth of Switzerland’s population is foreign, with most having lived in the country for many years but not holding Swiss citizenship.

Posted in Europe, France, Germany, Greece, ItalyComments Off on Anti-Muslim hysteria: Map reveals extent of fascist revival across EU

Shoah’s pages


September 2017
« Aug