In Athens, Merkel Sees Progress, But Protesters Don’t

In Athens, Merkel Sees Progress, But Protesters Don’t

by -

While protests raged a few blocks from where she was having quiet talks with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras that she said showed progress in his attempt to impose more austerity measures to help right the economy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave her support to his effort and said Greece has covered “much of the ground” toward recovery.

That was at odds with what most economic analysts believe, but Merkel’s five-hour stop was designed to buoy Samaras’ struggling attempts to finalize a $17.45 billion spending cut and tax hike program filled with more of the pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions that have ground many Greeks into the ground for 2 ½ years.

As riot police engaged in skirmishes with anarchists mixed in a crowd of some 50,000 demonstrators who defied a government ban on protesting and marched into the downtown at Syntagma Square across from the Parliament, Samaras and Merkel smiled for the cameras, shook hands and patted each other on the back with mutual praise.

Merkel’s visit is seen as a return favor for Samaras’ trip to Berlin last month and for reversing his stance against austerity measures and reneging on his campaign pledge to resist them. The country’s two largest labor unions, GSEE and ADEDY, organized protests and a three-hour work stoppage as some 7,000 police ringed the downtown area to keep protests at bay.

While she is not backing off from her insistence on more austerity before the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) releases a delayed $38.8 billion installment that is the last in a first rescue package of $152 billion, and a pending second bailout of $173 billion, Merkel nonetheless said Samaras has made progress. The Premier, who initially opposed austerity measures and vowed to fight them if he was elected before the June 17 polls, has changed his course to support them, earning Merkel’s backing.

“Much of the ground has been covered … There is daily progress,” Merkel said after talks with Samaras, leader of the New Democracy Conservatives who is still trying to convince one of his coalition partners, the PASOK Socialists of Evangelos Venizelos, to accede to his budget plans although the other, the Democratic Left led by Fotis Kouvelis has already relented.

Merkel said, “This is an effort that should be seen through because otherwise it would make the circumstances even more dramatic later on,” supporting Samaras’ warning that Greeks either have to abide by more austerity or face the collapse of the economy and the country. He said this would be the last time Greeks would have to sacrifice but many, especially pensioners readying for a fourth round of cuts, don’t believe him.

It was not reported whether Samaras, who said he would like a two-year delay in implementing more reforms and austerity to meet fiscal targets to reduce the deficit from 9.3 to 3 percent and bring down the staggering $380 billion debt, asked her for more time. Merkel did not offer unconditional support for Greece to stay in the Eurozone of the 17 countries using the euro as a currency either. Still, Samaras said her visit had ended “the country’s international isolation.”

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) said Merkel’s trip, designed as a symbolic expression of support was really designed to bolster “a government that is on the brink of collapse.” He spoke at a rally in front of the Parliament.

“Merkel is here to support the ‘Merkelites’ of Greece: Samaras, Venizelos and Kouvelis,” Tsipras said. He added that, “The Europe of peoples will triumph over the Europe of memorandums and barbarism,” and added that, “The democratic tradition of Europe will not allow a European people, the Greek people, to become a guinea pig of the crisis and to turn Greece into a vast social graveyard.”

Tsipras was joined by Bernd Rixinger, co-leader of the German far-left party Die Linke, who expressed his opposition to the European Union-International Monetary Fund austerity program for Greece.

“We want to see conditions in which people can live by their work and not to see a negative climate being created between German pensioners and workers toward Greeks. We are here to express our international support,” Rixinger said.

The head of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), Aleka Papariga attended a rally organized by the affiliated PAME union in Omonia Square before protesters marched onto Parliament, while Panos Kammenos, the head of the Independent Greeks party, delivered a letter to the German Embassy criticizing austerity measures, taping the note on the embassy’s door when he was denied entry.

The night before her visit, about 8,000 demonstrators chanted anti-austerity slogans and hoisted banners telling Merkel they didn’t want her in Greece. Organized by labor unions fed up with wage and benefit cuts during three years of austerity, the demonstration was called before Merkel announced she was coming to Greece in a gesture of support for the government’s fiscal reform efforts.

But protesters did not miss the opportunity to vent their anger at Merkel, whose insistence on a tough reform program many Greeks blame for their country’s plight. The main banner in front of Parliament was a large German flag emblazoned with the words “Angela, you are not welcome!”
(Sources: Kathimerini, AP, AFP)

  • The maverik

    The European Union nor Germany has nothing to do with the Greek crisis. Greece’s massive corruption by the politicians and their parasites bankrupt the country. The European Union and Germany did not force Greece to corruption. Greeks with their attitude and of course bad behaviour allowed corruption to grow and become well rooted within the government sector forcing the private sector to join. Corruption in Greece is the cause of the problem and it must end so the country can look for a better future and prosper…

  • In the public interest

    The Great Prostitute Merkel must not be allowed to leave Greece. People of Greece, keep Merkel imprisoned in the territory of Greece! 

  • Salconstandinidis

    Your so stupid save words idiot

  • Cypriot

    Corruption is a problem, but so is the starvation of Greeks who can’t afford to buy food. I’m not sure if you are old enough, but suppose you have a mortgage to pay and you lose your job and you have no opportunity to get a new one because of the failing economy and lack of growth. Would you like it if your healthcare was also removed? Would you like it if education was also cut? What would you be left with?

    Greeks have the right to criticise the austerity measures. Greece will not pay off the debt. It is not going to meet the targets set by the Troika – this is a known FACT. They know that Greece won’t be able to pay off its debts and are asking that privatisation will occur. These public companies will be sold to foreign companies, thus making the other countries richer through the companies’ tax. Also, the foreign companies, if powerful enough, can force Greece to behave as they wish by threatening to increase service prices or send people into unemployment (although this can happen on home soil).

    If privatisation is to occur it must be sold to Greek citizens and must be unable to be sold to foreign investors. It must be headquartered in Greece as well so that tax money goes to the Greek government.

    Germany and the troika have their eyes on the Greek oil and I promise you that they will use it against Greece. They will refinance the loan based around the oil and the people will not benefit, but rather some foreign corporations will.

  • In the public interest

    Shut up!

  • Artg

    dumbest post of the year

  • Anonymous

     You’re 100% right. its the extremists that try to blame Merkel for our economic problems. (which she is no way responsible for).

    The number one way to overcome corruption in government is make Greek government smaller (i.e. austarity). This will make it both easier to account for where money is going and force all the parasites that think they are entitled to other people’s money to focus on personal production rather than handouts.

  • Anonymous

    We have no right to criticize austerity measures. We have to live within our means not someone else’s money. (although I do agree with you that privitizations should focus on giving Greeks first dibs).

  • In the public interest

     Merkel must not be allowed to leave Greece. Merkel must be arrested for crimes against the People of Greece. 

  • gerasimos spanodimitris

    “We have no right to criticize austerity measures. We have to live within our means”

    This is a popular but otherwise inane statement. “They have to learn to live within their means, therefore austerity”.

    That
    is not how national economics work, implies that individuals were
    somehow living beyond their means which is innacurate and that austerity
    will somehow aid in the balancing of the budget instead of completely
    derailing it.

    First of all private debt in Greece never rose
    above 20+ percent. The citizens themselves never “lived beyond their
    means”. Our problem has more to do with the public debt and the fact we
    are net debtors and not net creditors, which means it is not balanced by
    our own lenders. Only now is the public debt trickled down to the
    citizens, but isn’t actually diminished itself because of the compound
    interest that manages -in the face of all of this- to enlarge it. On the
    other side the debt crisis in Japan has more to do with private debt
    that in their case touches the 70+% milestone, even though their public
    debt is not a problem.

    “But, I mean it’s the gigantic public sector that strangles their economy because they are entitled little brats”
    Wrong
    again. Our public spending (the combined expenses of the public sector)
    is below the european average, and that is not in absolute numbers but
    in percentage of GDP produced, so it takes our differencies in capital
    under consideration. Greece’s public spending was 42% of the GDP before
    the crisis and cuts, while germany’s touches 46% and sweden’s 55%.
    In
    fact certain aspects of social policy are funded with as little as
    1.7%GDP, like the education, far below the EU27 average something that
    makes it incredible that universities like the aristoteleian are found
    in the top 2% (301st/24.000) in the international list based on the
    quality of studies provided.

    If nothing else, the Greek public
    sector has always been small. Its problem being that it has always been
    terribly inneficient courtesy of all the corruption and semi-legal
    appointing of public employees by the past governments. Governments that
    are now attempting to fire hundrends of thousands of civil servants
    without touching -of course- on their own voters. Therefore destroying
    any functionality of the sector by removing those that did work,
    significantly lowering the demand (which will directly harm the private
    sector) as well as further destabilising the budget, because the
    unemployed can seldom pay taxes, and it is those civil servants that
    could never tax-evade since taxes were for them removed at source.
    I
    won’t touch on the raising of the retirement age that has also been
    greater than the EU27 average, based on the generalisation that
    “everyone” was retired at 50 which is utterly unfounded (some did, but
    that was not a cut anyone protested). Or how according to official OECD
    data, the only OECD country working more hours per year than the Greeks
    are the Koreans (but apparently we must acknowledge the ipse dictum that
    we are lazy, even though no such claims are ever backed by evidence).

    Then
    what about the austerity in the private sector? lowering our already
    low salaries below the OFFICIAL EU poverty line and thus officially
    forcing the employees of the private sector to live in poverty?
    That
    doesn’t force anyone to live within his means. It lowers his means and
    forces him to live in a situation he can’t keep a house rented.
    And
    of course demand plummets. Suddenly this quarter’s offer falls out of
    demand, and the next quarter’s offer will be smaller to cover that
    demand. So less profit for the corporations and simple enterprises. That
    will either go bankrupt or fire more people or further lower the wages
    thus contributing to further lower the demand, raise the unemployment
    (already at an official 25%) and macroscopically destroying the private
    sector. And the public sector since all of this minimises growth and
    severely impedes any attempt at balancing the budget with tax money 
    that is no longer available. Instead of catching the tax-evaders, you
    officially destroy those that could not evade and are left with nothing
    to collect.

    And I’m not even touching on selling organisations of
    the public sector like OPAP that returned an annual profit of 1bn100mn
    euros, for -reportedly- less than 100mns. That -obviously- harms the
    budget, and is more akin to traditional robbery than any sort of
    credible financial policy.

    “But it will bring new inveeeeestmeeeents!”
    Wrong.
    Again. Unless you lower your salaries to china levels you are not going
    to compete with the colossi that aim primarilly at exports or bring
    them to your country when they have China and Taiwan already. And I’m
    honestly hoping our European friends that delude themselves into
    thinking all of this somehow benefits us won’t actually go as far as to
    support that.
    The truth is that moderate investors -as stated by an
    OECD official regarding the “bulgarian” experiment that failed- don’t
    invest in a country unless they can offer around 60% of the produced
    products in that country before financing the export of the rest. And
    you can’t offer anything to a country wherein demand is inexistant.

    “Then how did you create that deficit?”
    I
    already answered. A public sector that is ludicrusly disorganised, a
    natural cleptocracy wherein the ruling class exploits the public
    organisations for all the’ve got, and a policy of *not*taxing and
    spending. With Greece again being far below the EU27 average in terms of
    capital collected through taxation, both courtesy of the evasion, and
    the favorable laws and tax-exemptions for the greek capital owners (like
    ship-building companies with 57 tax exemptions, that end up not being
    taxed at all). Keynesianism is taxing and spending and sometime
    borrowing. it’s not spending and borrowing and sometimes taxing.

    That’s
    it. it’s much but maybe someone will want to know some of this, and I
    couldn’t care less about those that don’t. The international community
    (yes that includes you germanbros) shares the blame as well as the
    national governments for forcing something that has failed everywhere it
    was tried and frankly defies logic. Sorry. You can’t help your bankrupt
    friend by giving him money in return for his right hand so don’t delude
    yourselves about “solidarity” you are just as much conned as us.  And
    we are too blame for being morons and believing everything we are told
    and not ending it when we had the chance.

    Tl;Dr: Fucking read it. You may learn something you didn’t know.

  • mathematics

     Public spending is the other side of public income.

  • mathematics

    So – don’t ask Germany to send more money to Greece. Ask other countries in the world to send money – China, USA, Britain, Turkey, Egypt, Brazil, India,…

  • gerasimos spanodimitris

    Obviously. I don’t think anything I said negates this.