Tag Archives: George Papandreou

Greece, Home of Democracy, Deprived of a Vote

by Dean Baker | Common Dreams
November 8 2011

Armed by Papandreou with a referendum, the Greek people had clout. Now, they’re powerless before the troika’s austerity plan

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou touched off a firestorm last week when he proposed putting the austerity package designed by the “troika” (the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Union) up for a popular vote. The idea that the Greek people might directly be able to decide their future terrified leaders across Europe and around the world. Financial markets panicked, sending stocks plummeting and bond yields soaring.

However, by the end of the week, things were back under control. The leaders of France and Germany apparently laid down the law to Papandreou and he backed off plans for the referendum. While the government is in the process of collapsing in Greece, the world can now rest assured that the Greek people will not have an opportunity to vote on their future.

This is unfortunate, since it means that Greece’s future will likely be decided by politicians who may not have the interests of the Greek people foremost in their minds. By their own projections, the austerity package designed by the troika promises a decade of austerity, with high unemployment, falling real wages and sharp reductions in public services and pensions. And their projections have consistently proven to be overly optimistic.

If given the opportunity, would the Greek people endorse this sort of austerity package? The answer obviously depends on the alternative.

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Europe’s Next Nightmare

By Dani Rodrik | Nation Of Change
November 12 2011

As if the economic ramifications of a full-blown Greek default were not terrifying enough, the political consequences could be far worse. A chaotic eurozone breakup would cause irreparable damage to the European integration project, the central pillar of Europe’s political stability since World War II. It would destabilize not only the highly-indebted European periphery, but also core countries like France and Germany, which have been the architects of that project.

The nightmare scenario would also be a 1930’s-style victory for political extremism. Fascism, Nazism, and communism were children of a backlash against globalization that had been building since the end of the nineteenth century, feeding on the anxieties of groups that felt disenfranchised and threatened by expanding market forces and cosmopolitan elites.

Free trade and the gold standard had required downplaying domestic priorities such as social reform, nation-building, and cultural reassertion. Economic crisis and the failure of international cooperation undermined not only globalization, but also the elites that upheld the existing order.

“Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Dani Rodrik, click here.”

As my Harvard colleague Jeff Frieden has written, this paved the path for two distinct forms of extremism. Faced with the choice between equity and economic integration, communists chose radical social reform and economic self-sufficiency. Faced with the choice between national assertion and globalism, fascists, Nazis, and nationalists chose nation-building.

Fortunately, fascism, communism, and other forms of dictatorships are passé today. But similar tensions between economic integration and local politics have long been simmering. Europe’s single market has taken shape much faster than Europe’s political community has; economic integration has leaped ahead of political integration.

The result is that mounting concerns about the erosion of economic security, social stability, and cultural identity could not be handled through mainstream political channels. National political structures became too constrained to offer effective remedies, while European institutions still remain too weak to command allegiance.

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Greek ‘Farce': How the Deal On New Leader Fell Apart

By Michelle Caruso-Cabrera (CNBC Anchor) | CNBC
November 9 2011

The search for a Greek prime minister appears to be back at square one.

Phillipos Petsalnikos

After much intense negotiation, leaders of the two largest parties had agreed to name Phillipos Petsalnikos, current leader of the Parliament, to head the interim government until elections in February, according to someone familiar with the situation.

However, when they gathered at the office of the Greek President Karolos Papoulias to discuss it with other party leaders, they met strong resistance from George Karatzaferis, leader of the far-right Laos (People) Party.

Karatzaferis left the building in a huff, but not before stopping in front of the press corps, screaming that the situation was a “farce,” and that he refused to be a part of political tactical games.

When asked if he would prefer Lucas Papademos, a former central banker, and another contender for the role of prime minister, Karatzaferis responded: “Damn sure I will!” and drove off.

Petsalnikos is a career politician, having held office since 1985. He’s been minister of education, minister of justice, minister of public order, and minister of Nothern Greece. His critics say he doesn’t have enough experience with finance to take on the job.

Lucas Papademos is a former central banker, intimately familiar with international finance, and a PhD in economics from MIT. Someone familiar with the situation says there were disagreements with him about the composition of his cabinet and the tasks he thought the transitional government should perform.

There is yet another meeting scheduled for tomorrow morning in Athens at 10 am (3 am ET.)

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Plan for Lucas Papademos to Lead Greek Unity Government Hits Snag

By Reuters | November 9 2011

A plan for former European Central Bank vice-president Lucas Papademos to lead a Greek government of national unity has run into trouble, party sources said on Wednesday, prolonging political hiatus as the country heads towards bankruptcy.

With the Greek population and the European Union clamoring for a coalition now,a government source said it would be announced later on Wednesday—but signaled that negotiations were far from over.

In the past two days government sources have made a number of optimistic predictions about forming the government, which must secure a 130-billion-euro ($180-billion) bailout from the euro zone, only for no deal to materialize.

The socialist and conservative parties had wanted Papademos, a Greek economist well known in European capitals, to head the new government, aiming to re-establish an international credibility that the politicians lost long ago.

But sources in both parties said this was now in doubt and the two sides were looking at other options.

“The Papademos candidacy has hit problems that have to do with both parties,” one of the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Unacceptable Conditions

Some Greek media reported that Papademos was setting conditions that the parties would not accept, and others that there were objections from Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, because Papademos wanted to change the government’s economic team.

Greek media have mentioned parliamentary speaker Filippos Petsalnikos and socialist lawmaker Apostolos Kaklamanis as alternative premiers, but both have denied the reports that they had been picked.

Earlier, the government source said outgoing Prime Minister George Papandreou would meet the Greek president at 1000 GMT on Wednesday, and the coalition would be announced the same day.

However, he also said negotiations would continue, signaling that the elusive deal on a government which is due to rule until early elections in February, had yet to be struck.

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Greece Runs Into Trouble Picking a New Prime Minister

by Reuters | CNBC
November 7 2011

Lucas Papademos

Greek party leaders are struggling to agree on a new prime minister, despite EU demands that the political class commit itself fast to the nation’s financial salvation and end the chaos threatening the entire euro project.

Monday came and went without any accord on who will lead a new national unity coalition, despite plenty of talk that a former vice president of the European Central Bank, Lucas Papademos, would get the job.

The cabinet was due to hold an emergency session on Tuesday and officials said negotiations were under way on the “100-day coalition” which must win parliamentary approval for a euro zone bailout and save the country from bankruptcy.

But after an early burst of compromise as the EU turned the screws on both sides, the drive by the socialist and conservative parties to create a government which will rule only until February appeared to be losing momentum.

Frustration was apparent in Brussels where officials said the new government had to show it was serious about implementing promises Athens has made to its EU and IMF lenders in return for the 130 billion-euro bailout.

“It is essential that the entire political class is now restoring the confidence that had been lost in the Greek commitment to the EU/IMF programme,” said EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn.

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So Will Anyone OutsideThe Supercommittee Be Allowed To Vote On The Austerity Plan?

By Dave Johnson | Nation Of Change
November 6 2011OP-ED | Congress’ “supercommittee” of the 1% is preparing an austerity plan for the 99%. Will We, the People be allowed to vote on this plan, or, like Greece, will the elites just tell us how it is going to be? Our deficits were caused by tax cuts for the rich and huge increases in military spending. But instead of addressing these causes the elite supercommittee is said to be preparing to take money out of the economy by cutting the things We, the People do for each other. That’s right, at the very time when 99% of us need more we will get less so that the 1% can enjoy record-low tax rates — and it looks like We, the People will have no say in it.

Last week Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou proposed a referendum on the austerity plan that European governments are preparing for the country. “The markets” — another name for the 1% — went berserk in reaction. Pressure was applied, and now the Greek people will not be allowed to vote on their austerity plan after all, they will just be told. Richard Eskow writes about this elite veto power over democracy, in Vetoing Democracy: In Athens or Washington, Elites Still Call the Shots,

And what was most striking was the assumption the elite – the 1%, if you will – have veto power over the democratic process. In most of the commentary that flowed from the powerful and the press, a surprising number of world leader didn’t even acknowledge that Greece had the right to its own democratic decision-making process.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, whose nation will benefit from “bipartisan” U.S. actions to create a free trade agreement between the two countries, said that “The world has plunged into fears again because of the Greek prime minister’s radical step to hold a referendum.” Closer to home, French President Sarkozy said that “the Greek’s gesture is irrational and, from their point of view, dangerous.”

The first part of that statement is a slur against democracy. The second part is, of course, a threat.

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Ordinary Greeks Are Taking Matters Into Their Own Hands

by Hara Kouki & Antonis Vradis | Common Dreams
November 3 2011

Grassroots refusal to put up with austerity is quickly gaining momentum, as people give up on mainstream politics

In early October, a peculiar news item barely made its way into the back pages of Greek national press: in the northern city of Veria, a small group of people had started reconnecting the electricity supply of households disconnected from the national grid due to bill non-payment. This kind of solidarity action seemed rather abnormal.

Greek students shout slogans during a demonstration in Athens. Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Then again, it is difficult to define what constitutes normality in the country nowadays – the upper echelon of political power is in an unprecedented turmoil, and Tuesday’s referendum announcement by prime minister George Papandreou, followed by him reportedly preparing to step down, has thrown his political allies and foes into a tailspin. Parliamentary opposition parties are calling for a “national unity” government, snap elections, or a succession of the two; the entire mainstream political spectrum in the country seems to have entered a delirious state of panic. In a stunningly surreal scene, eurozone leaders and global markets are nervously waiting for people in Greece to cast a vote.

And yet, at this precise moment, Greek people are realising they are left with what they had at the outset – that is, absolutely nothing to hope for from the mainstream political scene.

Take Yannis, a 43 year-old man working in a bank in Athens, who doesn’t want to return home because it is going to be cold again. The heating will be off, as nobody in the block can afford the heating prices. His 16-year old daughter, Sophia, does not want to go to school, as she finds little meaning in preparing for her exams: why would she want to enter university knowing full well she will never find a job in Greece, anyway? Or take Eleftheria’s father, a 72-year old pensioner leaving in the village of Kymi, who called her today while she was returning home and hesitantly asked her for money to buy his medicine that the state fund no longer covers for. His pension was recently cut by 50%. “But, please,” he pleaded, “do not tell your mother.” Back in the city, Eleftheria’s streets are lined with garbage which has been lying there for more than three weeks.

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Western Democracy: A Farce And A Sham

by Paul Craig RobertsGlobal Research
November 3 2011

Every day that passes adds to the fraudulent image of what is called Western democracy.

Consider that the entire Western world is outraged that the Greek prime minister announced that he is going to permit the Greek people to decide their own fate instead of having it decided for them by a handful of banksters, politicians, and bureaucrats living it up at taxpayer expense at “talks” in the French resort of Cannes on the Mediterranean.

The Greek economy is facing its fourth year of decline and lacks the revenues to service its national debt held by private European banks. The banks don’t want to lose any money, so a handful of power brokers reached an agreement with representatives of the Greek government to write off some of the debt in exchange for EU capital subsidies to be financed by inflicting severe austerity on the Greek population. Wages, salaries, pensions and medical care are being cut while the rate of unemployment rises to depression levels. Government employees are laid off. Valuable public properties are to be sold to private parties for pennies on the dollar. In short, Greece is to be looted.

Large numbers of Greeks have been in the streets protesting the austerity policy and have reached the point of anger of throwing Molotov cocktails at the police. Greece is disintegrating politically. The Greek people sense that the EU “bailout” is not bailing out Greece. It is bailing out the French, Dutch, and German banks at the expense of the Greek people.

The Greek prime minister, watching his party’s support and power crumble, announced that he would let the people decide in a referendum. After all, allegedly that’s what democracies do. But it turns out that “we have freedom and democracy” is not supposed to be taken literally. It is merely a propagandistic slogan behind which people are ruled through back-room deals decided by powerful private interests.

The Greek prime minister’s announcement that he would put the back-room bailout deal to a referendum shocked the EU hierarchy, Washington, and investors. Who does this Greek guy think he is permitting the people, who bear the cost of the deal, to have a say in it? Who let this Greek guy out of his cage? This is not the way democracies are ruled.

The EU power brokers are outraged over the Greek prime minister’s departure from normal procedure. But the Greek PM is relying on the Greek people to approve the deal, and not without reason.

The Greek people have been brainwashed for decades as to the importance of “being part of Europe.” That means being a member of the European Union. When the Greeks realize that voting down the bailout of the banksters means being thrown out of the European Union, which is what they will learn between now and the referendum, they will vote for the back room deal.

Polls already indicate this. A poll for a Greek newspaper indicates that whereas 46% oppose the bailout, 70% favor staying in the EU, which the Greeks see as a life or death issue.

If this poll is a reliable indicator, the Greek PM has made a brilliant political decision. The Greek people will vote in favor of what they have been protesting violently in the streets. As the Greek people will do themselves in, the politicians are off the hook. This is the bet that the Greek PM has placed.

Whatever the outcome, keep in mind that the entire Western political and investor world was shocked that a politician, instead of simply imposing a back room deal, said he would let the people decide. Letting the people decide is a no-no in Western democracies.

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Risk of Greek Exit from Euro Zone Looms Over G20

by Reuters | from CNBC
November 3 2011

Well, it appears Papandreou has backed down to threats from Sarkozy  and Merkel.  It is a mistake to delay the vote to December 4th and change the referendum focus from Greek debt to continued membership in the fake European monetary empire. Hopefully Papandreou has another change of heart and calls for the referendum this month. ~ Gillian

The threat of a Greek exit from the euro zone hung over a meeting of G20 leaders on Thursday after France and Germany made it clear that Athens must decide urgently whether it wants to stay in the 12-year-old currency bloc.

The summit on the French Riviera had been meant to focus on reforms of the global monetary system and steps to rein in speculative capital flows, but a shock decision by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Monday to call a referendum on a new EU/IMF aid package for his country has upended the talks.

Papandreou was summoned to Cannes on the eve of the summit and given a stark warning by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, both clearly angered by his gambit, which has sent global stock markets and the euro currency spiralling lower.

They convinced the Greek prime minister to bring forward the referendum to early December and insisted it be focused on the broad issue of whether Greece wants to stay in the currency bloc, rather than limiting it to a vote on a new 130 billion euro bailout package, which a strong majority of Greeks oppose.

They also made clear that Athens would not receive an 8 billion euro aid tranche it desperately needs to avoid default until the referendum had passed.

Should it fail, the EU/IMF aid would end, plunging Greece into a disorderly default that would reverberate across the 17-nation euro zone, engulfing big economies like Italy and Spain.

“Our Greek friends must decide whether they want to continue the journey with us,” Sarkozy told reporters at a joint news conference with Merkel after the crisis talks.

The German chancellor, describing the discussions with Papandreou as “tough and hard”, said the goal of stabilising the euro was ultimately more important than saving Greece if it did not want to be saved.

A chastened Papandreou flew back to Athens with his finance minister shortly after the talks had ended. Before leaving he said the referendum could take place on Dec. 4 and would be focused on “whether we want to remain in the euro zone”.

Damage Control

On Thursday morning, the leaders of France, Italy and Spain, the German finance minister and the heads of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and other top EU officials will meet to look at ways of accelerating the implementation of an anti-crisis package agreed on Oct. 27.

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