Athens, Exarcheia: Α woman walks past the work “capture”by Indonesian-born street artist WD (Wild Drawing). Photo: Dimitri Messinis, Associated Press-Ap (Source: www.startribune.com, 26.3.2014)
TALES FROM THE STREET OF ATHENS-1
From the streets and movements of Athens, pages of the Greek press and labyrinthine world of social media, comrade Quincey is sending his “reports” for AnalyzeGreece!, characterized by his particular style of writing and blasphemous humor. Keep up with the Tales from the Streets of Athens to stay updated on what is going on in contemporary Greece, the country where, for the first time, the Left is (or, according to some, is supposed to be) in power.
Athens, 18th June 2015. Every time that Alexis Tsipras comes out of a negotiations’ session with TIFKAT (The Institutions Formerly Known As Troika), he puts the tape recorder on: “We’ve had a very constructive discussion”. Junker or Merkel (or any random eurocrat that happened to pass by) respond in an equally predictable manner: “We agreed to intensify the efforts to reach a deal”.
This situation has been dragging on for four months now, and the boredom it has generated could kill even the most patient follower of international economic developments. For this reason, let’s try to forget for a moment the negotiations’ issue and focus on everything else the Greek government has been working on since its appointment, on January 26th.
The question that shall be brought forward is one that, up to date, no one was willing or able to address (peculiarly enough, not even the SYRIZA and government officials):
What the hell has the SYRIZA-ANEL government been doing all this time, apart from negotiating with its creditors?
The answer may be found below, through a list I compiled from various sources. The list is not exhaustive, I focused on issues which I consider interesting for an international audience.
So, here it goes:
The SYRIZA-ANEL government initiatives’ list, as of today.
1. The government passed the humanitarian crisis bill, which will provide some 300.000 families with food stamps, free electricity, and a rent supplement.
2. It confirmed universal, free access to uninsured Greeks (not migrants) to the public health system.
3. Abolished the 5 euro public hospital entrance fee/ticket.
4. Abolished pension cuts (which were scheduled to take place automatically in February 2015).
5. Reopened the Public TV/radio broadcaster (ERT). ERT had been shut down 2 years ago, by the right-wing Samaras government.
6. Re-hired some 4.000 public officers who had been sacked by the previous government, among which the cleaning ladies of Finance Ministry (who achieved nation-wide fame thanks to their long and consistent struggle).
7. Canceled the "hood law", under which dozens, perhaps hundreds of people arrested during protests, were risking up to 7 years imprisonment.
8. Theoretically speaking, the government abolished the new maximum security prison where political prisoners were held (not all prisoners have been transferred to normal facilities).
9. Non-regularized migrants held in detention camps are –supposedly- gradually released (the extent to which this process is actually taking place is debatable); police controls on migrants are significantly milder.
10. Generally speaking, police repression of protest is significantly milder (compared to the previous governments, one could say non-existent).
11. The Greek Parliament introduced an Odious Debt Committee to control for the legitimacy of the public debt (a mostly symbolic move).
12. The Greek Parliament founded the German War Reparations Committee (Greece has not been repaid the obligatory “loan” Nazi occupiers extracted during WWII, nor any war reparations).
13. The government introduced installments and discounts to help citizens and companies pay their debts to the state and pension funds.
14. A new bill will grant Greek citizenship to second generation migrants.
15. A bill is about to be voted, which will expand civil union to cover homosexual couples, granting them equal rights to the ones married couples enjoy.
16. An educational reform has been announced. The reform re-establishes academic asylum (abolished in 2011), reduces high-school students’ workload and allows for the so-called “perpetual students” (those who failed to get their degree on time) to retain their university student status.
17. The Minister of Labour, Panos Skourletis, has just announced that a (most-needed) labor reform, which would re-establish collective bargaining and collective agreements (practically abolished in 2012) will be introduced in the forthcoming days. The legislative proposal should - logically - include another major SYRIZA electoral promise, the gradual increase of the minimum monthly wage from approximately 550 euros (gross) to 750 euros (gross), during a period of 18 months. But we have to wait and see for that, as the reform has already been announced a couple of times, only to be blocked the day after by the country’s creditors.
I guess that by this point, the casual non-Greek SYRIZA supporter is celebrating. Let’s keep the champagnes tapped, though. I have compiled for you a SECOND list, which includes the left-wing party’s unfulfilled electoral promises. Those are divided in two sub-categories, (a) reforms that are being withheld, as they are being negotiated with TIFKAT, and (b) promises that were made, but “forgotten” or dismissed after the elections.
The unfulfilled SYRIZA electoral promises:
a) Under negotiation with the troik..., oops, Institutions:
1. Cancelation and/or haircut of poor citizens’ debt to the Greek banks.
2. Re-establishment of the 13th annual pension to poor pensioners.
3. Abolition of indebted citizens’ house auctions/evictions ordered by banks (the measure has been de facto applied, but not officially).
4. Reduction of taxation to the lower income households.
5. Public debt restructuring/haircut.
b. Unkept promises:
1. Abolition of the anti-terrorist law.
2. Dissolution of the riot police (“MAT”) and the motorized police involved in protest policing (“DELTA”). Both units have been accused of having strong links to neo-nazi Golden Dawn.
3. Taxing the Orthodox Church.
4. Abolition of the memoranda (bail-out programs) and the austerity measures associated with them.
As every Greek voter knows, the above constitute significant part of SYRIZA’s Thessaloniki program, i.e. the electoral program that brought the left-wing party to power.
Summing up, whether the SYRIZA-ANEL government has done a good job or not depends on one’s point of view. Those who hoped that SYRIZA would lead Greece to socialism should be lamenting by now. Those of us, on the other hand, who already knew there’s nothing radical about SYRIZA apart from its title (“Coalition of the Radical Left”), are satisfied with the small progress made in various sectors; and are patiently waiting for the monotonous negotiations to come to an end, in a way as to finally see what lies ahead. The good news is that the ultimate deadline for the negotiations to conclude is June 30th. Both possible outcomes –a default or a deal (i.e. a SYRIZA capitulation)– will have cataclysmic consequences to the Greek society and economy. Therefore, there’ll be plenty to write and talk about in the weeks and months to follow.
- The original text was first published on: Written for AnalyzeGreece!