2012-02-13 Athens burns: has #Greece entered its Argentina moment?

(Photo by Real Democracy GR – MultiMedia Team )

Greece’s political establishment trembles as banks and government offices burn amid violent anti-austerity riots. Has the country finally reached a tipping point?

Exactly ten years ago, the crisis-ridden country of Argentina spiraled into a bout of social unrest that would eventually lead to the largest sovereign default in history. After three years of being forced to swallow the bitter pill of IMF-imposed austerity, a tipping point was finally reached: foreign creditors and neoliberal governments had pushed the people too far. They rose up in defiance and ousted five successive Presidents in the space of just three weeks.

With the incredible images of flame-engulfed buildings and policemen emerging out of Athens, it now looks like Greece may be headed down the same path. The country has become ungovernable. Even though a majority of traitors was found to pass yet another deeply unpopular austerity package through Parliament, this weekend’s violent protests indicate that the ‘Argentina moment’ may have arrived. The Greek people simply can’t take any more austerity.

2012-01-12 Real estate deals on the Holy Mountain

Shortly before Christmas, the abbot of the Vatopedi monastery, an eleventh century foundation on Mount Athos, was arrested on suspicion of inciting fraud. He is accused of being involved in a dubious real estate transaction, which resulted in a profit of 100 million Euros.

The details of this case, including the abbot's involvement, have been in the public domain for years. A high ranking Russian Orthodox church official linked the decision to arrest Abbot Ephraim at this time to Ephraim's recent visit to Russia, where he presented a precious relic to worshippers, the belt of the Holy Mother of God, and met Vladimir Putin twice.

According to a US embassy cable, the Vatopedi scandal is not an isolated case. Moreover, the cable says that the Greek government and Vatopedi colluded in their efforts to "limit damage". 08THESSALONIKI81 states (emphasis by the editor):

"The GoG and Vatopedi have tried to limit damage by proposing measures to reverse the transactions. ... The Church has sought to portray the scandal as isolated to Vatopedi but is concerned the fallout could affect other monasteries and patriarchates with similar ancient land holdings."


"The extent of the scandal is still unknown. It is likely to remain an embarrassment to the government for some time and could claim more political victims as Vatopedi, the GoG, and the courts attempt to unwind the numerous illicit land deals and the parliamentary investigation gets underway."

2012-01-11 The old boys club of the Holy Mountain

A recent real estate scandal brought Mt. Athos, or Holy Mountain, an autonomous part of Greece, and one of the last theocratic states, back into the spotlight of the main stream media. Yet, the validity of Ottoman land titles and the political connections of the 20 monasteries that include visits from Prince Charles and Vladimir Putin, are not the only controversies associated with the Byzantine community.

As it is often pointed out briefly in wire reports and newspaper articles discussing the World Heritage site, women, and most female animals have been barred from entering the peninsula for over 1000 years. Men may apply for a visa, at a fee of 25 Euros. Yet, this restriction does not only affect visitors wishing to visit the monasteries for spiritual recreation.

In effect, it bars women from conducting research on the monasteries themselves and the artifacts they hold, for instance Byzantine icons and vast library collections. At present, these items are only accessible on photographs, which may or may not be provided, in varying quality. A first hand inspection of the artifact, which would be required for scholarly publications, is per se not possible. There are no mechanisms in place that would grant access to the originals for all researchers in a pragmatic manner while preserving the rules of the monasteries, e.g. by temporary transfer to the mainland.

This policy is in clear violation of a 2003 EU parliament resolution on "basic rights":

"The European Parliament,...

2011-10-05 Greek 24h general strike proceeds among more scenes of police brutality #syntagma #greece #5ogr

ImageToday the Greek population is expecting more violent episodes against protesters around the country, as the second 24h general strike in a few months takes place. The estimates are that around 20 thousand people have stayed home in Athens alone: the strike was led by unions and called for in private and public sectors, including lawyers, teachers, state hospitals, air traffic controllers and public transport, who will operate under minimums to allow more people to reach protests. All day long people have been gathering in the iconic Syntagma Square, the center point of the movement in Athens, located right in front of Parliament. These actions are a result of the severe desperation of citizens around the country, who are being suffocated by the brutal austerity measures programmed by the Troika (IMF, European Central Bank and the European Commission). The latest news is that at least 30,000 civil servants will be laid off to try and reach the 7.5% public deficit benchmark, agreed for the second massive loan to take place (the figure is currently at 8.5%). This has led to the general notion that all the costs are being pushed onto the population, while the benefits of the bailout deal lie with the bankers, as ex-European Central Bank economist, Omar Issing, openly admitted to the New York Times: “Everyone knows this was a good deal for the banks [...] it will not help Greece at all.”

2011-07-16 After 10 days in #Syntagma... #europeanrevolution #globalrevolution


ATHENS - It was at night, and I asked my friend if it was dangerous to head there at that time. Police lines, with buses, were blocking the streets around the Square: "Can we really go there?". In front of Parliament, a crowd was shouting and pointing toward the building. I asked what they were saying and what was the meaning of the banners. "They're insulting the politicians". "The ass-holes will die", says that flag, the other one says "no more exploitation".

Climbing down the starts in front of the Parliament, I started to see tents, stands and a big crowd, where around a thousand people stood in a circle hearing someone speaking into a microphone. The sound came from improvised speakers hanging on the very lamp-posts of the square. The person speaking left while leaving the crowd clapping enthusiastically while another person took his post. I finally realized that I was in Syntagma.

2011-07-11 Solidarity, the word of #Syntagma - #europeanrevolution

Image ATHENS, July 11th - According to an official press release published yesterday by the City Hall of Athens and divulged by local TV channels, sanitary corps will perform a cleaning operation in Syntagma Square. This is the major square of the Greek capital and the location of the indignant camp since the 25th of May. This camp is the symbol of the Greek population's disagreement with current economical and social politics of Governments and banks and in a way to experience a new model of social living and organization .

But -once again - #solidarity is the word of current pro-democratic uprisings around the world. The cleaning agents of the local government of Athens refused to take part in the 'cleaning action' planned by the Mayor. Without the consensus of the local Popular Assembly, the agents who were supposed to clean the square - at 4 am last night - decided to disobey their orders in support of the people of Syntagma.

2011-07-01 Gaza Flotilla: a fight to take a stand [Updated]

The fight enroute to Gaza between the worldwide volunteers and the governments of Israel, the United States and Greece—has been portrayed from two opposite sides, yes, but opposite in a political and moral compass completely broken: on one side, the flotilla argues the desperate need of help and hope with which the Gazans live every day while, on the other side, the authorities trying to block the flotilla have accused it of being “ready to kill Israeli soldiers” or—more rhetorically convenient—“ready to kill Jews” due to the allegedly obscure intentions behind “Muhammad Sawalha, a senior UK-based Muslim Brotherhood figure connected to Hamas”, according to the website Gaza Flotilla 101.

2011-06-29 After a massive two day strike, #Greek parliament approves austerity plan amid brutal clashes #europeanrevolution

With Greece sinking in chaos, the country's MP's have voted in favor of the five-year austerity plans prescribed by the UE along with the IMF and other foreign banks. The vote, thought by some to be very hard to predict, turned out as a clear statement in favor of the harsh measures opposed by the population (a summary of the conditions can be found below). In the end PM Yorgos Papandreu achieved 155 votes in favor, 138 against and five abstentions, thus avoiding bankruptcy at a cost nobody seems to want to pay. The voting was made under such pressure that a member of the ruling party Panagiotis Kouroublis was expelled for voting negatively, reducing the party's majority to 154 seats.

Wikileaks: Неформалниот советник на Папандреу ја расветлува внатрешната динамика и регионалните предизвици на Владата на Грција

Депешата [09ATHENS1717] испратена од амбасадата во Атина на 20 декември 2009 година, а се води како доверлива (CONFIDENTIAL) е напишана од амбасадорот Speckhard и има наслов:

Неформалниот советник на Папандреу ја расветлува внатрешната динамика и регионалните предизвици на Владата на Грција

Американската амбасада во Атина ја дискутирала внатрешната динамика и клучните играчи во администрацијата на Папандреу, како и состојбата во Кипар и Турција со еден од неформалните советници на Папандреу. Советникот истакнал дека на Димитрис Друцас треба да му се даде повеќе време за да работи на проблемот со името на Македонија.

Wikileaks: Macedonia-Greece name issue Амбасадорот до Друцас: покажете му на Вашингтон дека можете

Депешата [10ATHENS77] од 3 февруари 2010 е напишана во амбасадата во Атина, класифицирана е како тајна (secret), потпишана е од амбасадорот Daniel V. Speckhard а има наслов:
Амбасадорот до Друцас: покажете му на Вашингтон дека можете

Кратко резиме:
На средбата од 20 јануари помеѓу амбасадорот Speckhard и грчкиот министер за надворешни работи Димитри Друцас, американскиот амбасадор го предупредил Друцас дека мора да му покаже на Вашингтон дека е способен да се соочи со отворените регионални проблеми. Тој го советувал да се подготви да зборува за деталите околу Македонија; какво решение Грција може да понуди за Кипар, и за Турција. Друцас рекол дека се надева оти Вашингтон гледа дека Папандреу прави напори во грчко-турските односи, а како и во случајот со Турција, така и со Македонија, Папандреу се обидува да воспостави лични односи за да се решат споровите. Турција останува приоритет во надворешната политика, а грчката порака до Македонија пред ЕУ средбата во декември била дека „се подготвени, ако и другата страна е подготвена“, но не виделе вистински напор од Македонија за изнаоѓање решение. Друцас ги опишал средбите со македонскиот министер за надворешни, Милошоски, како пријателски и топли. Рекол дека ако треба да испрати само една порака до Скопје, тоа би било да се избегнуваат јавни изјави кои ќе ги нарушат билатералните односи.

2011-06-26 The Battle of Athens #europeanrevolution #globalrevolution

ImageJune 27 and 28 are likely to be the next big dates for Greek protests.

Many Greeks dislike the revised Euro-Pact and Papandreau Austerity plan and intend on gathering in the streets. “Thieves, thieves,” are what many protesters call the members of Parliament.

But what makes the Greek protests different from other uprisings is the lack of organized groups on the Internet. Social media has not played a large part in Greece until now. This may be in part because protests have been a common occurrence in Greece. However, the economic crisis and revolution in Spain have intensified the situation in Greece, bringing more people out onto the streets. In short, Greeks are not on the Internet, they are on the streets.

According to WLC reporter Wikileaks World, covering revolutions on the ground across Europe, “Locals say that it is still very disorganized, different groups are protesting, anarchists, left and right wings, nonpartisan”.

Police action has been aggressive towards protesters, as have protester response. Scenes of police tear-gasing peaceful protests are common.

2011-06-20 Democracy vs Mythology: The Battle in #Syntagma Square #greekrevolution #europeanrevolution

What is going on in Athens at the moment is resistance against an invasion — and this invasion is being justified with the extensive use of mythology.

By Alex Andreou, originally published on SturdyBlog

I have never been more desperate to explain and more hopeful for your understanding of any single fact than this: The protests in Greece concern all of you directly.

What is going on in Athens at the moment is resistance against an invasion; an invasion as brutal as that against Poland in 1939. The invading army wears suits instead of uniforms and holds laptops instead of guns, but make no mistake – the attack on our sovereignty is as violent and thorough. Private wealth interests are dictating policy to a sovereign nation, which is expressly and directly against its national interest. Ignore it at your peril. Say to yourselves, if you wish, that perhaps it will stop there. That perhaps the bailiffs will not go after the Portugal and Ireland next. And then Spain and the UK. But it is already beginning to happen. This is why you cannot afford to ignore these events.

2011-06-15 Protesters block the Parliament in National Strike day in #Greece #greekrevolution #europeanrevolution


Beside the general aggression and violence which marked this Wednesday in Greece, the call for a national strike and the symbolic blocking of Parliament was relatively successful. According to a local correspondent, at least 100,000 people gathered in today Syntagma, the major square of Athens, to protest against the plans of austerity accorded between the Greek government, the IMF and the European Bank. Apart from some private sector businesses which did not follow the strike that was programmed a week ago, all public institutions were closed today. Rallies took place in different parts of Athens, although with more intensity in Sintagma main square, and all other important cities of Greece.

syntagma 15/06 par amaliak

2011-06-07 The #Europeanrevolution consolidates in #France and #Spain as hundreds of thousands protest in #Greece

Despite the obfuscation of information by major outlets in traditional media and Internet, the movement born in Europe on the past 15th of May is spreading all across the continent, each day with more intensity and popular support. The repercussions, both in economic and political scenario are still unknown, in the same way the effects of the Cablegate episode of November 2010 were difficult to apprehend in that date but step by step shows its importance to contemporary society. The revolution lead by the European youth holds all Western economical and political structures as its enemy and is the type of social movement that does not have its shelter- an essential characteristic of a revolution. Relevant information of the gatherings, protests and projects are provided uniquely by independent media, and in some occasions these are being boycotted. The website for the Real Democracy Now platform in Berlin claimed that they were attacked, and the independent media site, was finally put offline illegally, after having been blocked via DNS in, at least, France and Belgium. Below is a recollection of information from past events in different countries.

2011-05-25 #Europeanrevolution ignites after #spanishrevolution leads the way: massive protests happening now in France, Italy, Greece and Portugal

As the main camps in Puerta del Sol (Madrid) and Plaza Catalunya (Barcelona) prepare to pack their tents and leave on Sunday, organizers have started to spread their message to the rest of Europe. From the beginning the Internet was abuzz with proposals of a European revolution or a #globalcamp, and for that purpose thousands of blogs and independent websites have been opening, planting the roots of the protests happening now in over twenty major cities in France, Italy (full agenda and aditional information in English here) and Portugal. Greece has also taken the streets and an estimated 30 thousand people are protesting outside of Athen's Parliament as we can see from this live feed. Here you can find a live streaming of the General Assembly in Paris.


2011-03-26 Greek cablegate revelations: The secret people behind Prime Minister Papandreou, and the criticism from his party colleagues

WL Central continues the coverage of Greek diplomatic cables, revealed by SKAI media group and Kathimerini newspaper. Today’s cables refer to the internal party workings of PASOK from 2007 until today, with the last cable being especially interesting as it reveals key and unknown people behind the Prime Minister Papandreou.

PASOK, whose leader is George Papandreou, now Prime Minister of Greece, was the main opposition party during the period 2007-2009 and from 2009 until today it is the ruling party. PASOK self-indentifies as a socialist party. However, since PM Papandreou’s administration orchestrated Greece’s loan from the International Monetary Fund and the EU, and its subsequent impact on the living standards of Greeks, its popularity diminishes at an unprecedented pace.

PASOK’s leadership crisis; “Knives sharpened” states the American ambassador

“PASOK’s defeat in the September 16 [2007] election has prompted a furious internal debate over the party’s leadership” notes the American ambassador in the cable dated October 11, 2007. Immediately, after the defeat of PASOK in the national elections from the right-wing party New Democracy, PASOK’s president George Papandreou, was immediately challenged by former colleague Evangelos Venizelos.

Among others, the embassy’s attaché notes that even if Papandreou wins the internal party elections, his supporters believe that the party needs a leadership change and also that the best people for the presidency aren’t even candidates. He states that much of Papandreou’s support is lukewarm, and that he was considering resigning.

In an almost prophetical tone the cable continues: “Papandreou declared PASOK the party of "radical platforms;"[…] He sought, he said, a meaningful political mandate that would allow him to reconstruct the party and be ready for the next general election campaign”.

He concludes by saying that “Venizelos can win an election – But Papandreou can win the party”.

2011-03-23 Greek cablegate revelations: The "Buddha" Prime Minister and Macedonia's naming issue.

WL Central continues its coverage of Greek diplomatic cables, published by SKAI media group and Kathimerini newspaper. Today’s cables are focusing on the previous government of Greece, the right-wing New Democracy, with 2 cables on the internal workings of the government and 1 cable referring to the President of FYROM and the naming issue.

American ambassador: PM Karamanlis is the “Buddha” of Greek political scene.

In a cable dated October 3rd, 2008, the US embassy in Athens appears to be worrying about the various political scandals plaguing the Karamanlis administration, as well as his marginal parliamentary majority.

Daniel Speckhard, the US ambassador, notes that despite the scandals, and the internal party troubles, Karamanlis pushed through the parliament the controversial privatization of the national air carrier Olympic Airlines as well as a bill protecting homeowners against foreclosures due to the economic crisis.

The ambassador then characterizes Karamanlis as the “Buddha” of Greek politics “because he keeps his own counsel and rarely indicates what he is planning”. “The Buddha” he continues “is likely always contemplating ways to strengthen his position”.

Original cable

The former Foreign Minister is closer to PM Karamanlis than the current. Also former FM’s thoughts on FYROM’s naming issue.

During the Karamanlis administration, the US embassy in Athens, sends a cable, dated August 20, 2007, noting that former Foreign Minister Moliviatis was not only closer to the PM than the then Foreign Minister Bakoyianni, but that he is actually the “unofficial foreign policy adviser”.

2011-03-22 Greek cablegate revelations

The US ambassador on the state of Greek mainstream media.

Charles Ries, the then US ambassador in Athens, comments on the “incestuous” state of Greek media and newspapers. In a cable dated July 13, 2006 he notes that although at a first glance Greek media appear orderly arranged with constitutional guarantees in place, much like “the media in the U.S”, a closer inspection, “reveals a Greek media industry controlled by business tycoons whose other successful businesses enable them to subsidize their loss-making media operations”.

He states characteristically that Greece has the triple amount, or even more, of newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, compared to Portugal which has the same population. He also says that, due to the lack of newspaper subscriptions and the fact that newspapers have to sell themselves from newsstands, “even the occasional calm and partially accurate story will have a misleading or untrue headline that often has nothing to do with the story”, often using DVD and book giveaways as buying incentives.

Concerning the state of internet journalism he states that “the same media companies that own newspapers and broadcasting stations have established internet news portals, but they have not taken off”. Specifically, “there are no "Salons" or "Drudge Reports"”.

Although, he continues, the public generally distrusts the media, there are high levels of anti-Americanism “because people like to vent their frustrations”. However, he states, in a deeper level “you will find that the public is generally content with the decisions the government makes, even those where Greece and the U.S. are allied“.

He then refers to the ethnocentricity that prevails in Greek media, with the problems of the average Greek consuming a great portion of news and with foreign developments receiving a very limited and scarce coverage.

2011-03-21 Greek cablegate revelations

As WL Central reported earlier, the Greek SKAI media group has access to all of the US state cables and has begun reporting on them. These are WL Central articles based on the cables being released from SKAI.

Greek Riots of December 2008 – What happened and how they impact U.S. interests.

In the cable dated December 18th 2008, the American ambassador in Athens describes the social and other causes that lead to turmoil in the Greek capital after the murder of the 16 year old Alexis Grigoropoulos by a police officer.

Daniel Speckhard criticizes PM Konstantinos Karamanlis, talking about "lack of Karamanlis", while, referring to the causes of the unrest, he claimed that the Greek media have covered the events of the assassination "irresponsibly and inflammatory". Moreover, he called the two parties of the Left, Communist Party and SYRIZA "dinosaurs". Finally, he characterized the Greek security forces as “demoralized” and “weakened by post-junta limits and public distrust”.

He continues with a current assessment of the ruling party, noting its reluctance to push through reforms and the resistance it encounters from various interest groups.

He concludes noting that the Karamanlis’ government will now be even more inward-looking than before and that the Americans will now have to “monitor aggressively the growing domestic terrorist threat”.

Original cable.

Comments about the Papandreou government

In November 2009, the US ambassador sent to the State Department, the 09ATHENS1661 cable in which he describes the first seven weeks of Papandreou government. He refers to the operating mechanism of the PM’s office, the governmental policies that didn’t prosper and the dichotomy in the political culture of the ruling party’s executives.

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