This is our weekly round-up from Greece.
This week, there were massive protests all over Greece and a 24-hour strike against the new labor bill, expected to be voted on in Parliament on 17 June.
While the governing party promotes a bill curtailing labor rights and wages, they themselves have been borrowing massively from the banks -and not paying back- accumulating a huge debt, increased under Mitsotakis leadership.
Moreover, Greece designated Erdogan’s Turkey as a “safe country,” apparently creating the base for an “asylum limbo.” At the same time, a new report says children in camps are traumatized to the extent of suicidal acts.
Finally, more anti-Covid19 measures are lifted, thanks to tourism, while the epidemiological situation of the country improves due to vaccination. And the PM says the most monstrous lie.
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Labour bill & Parliament discussion on ND debt: When a governing party spits on rights and democratic institutions.
Citizens in Greece massively took to the streets on Thursday 10 June, the day of the general 24-hour strike, to protest against the new labor bill the government has tabled in Parliament and which is expected to be voted on 17 June. Employees and workers seem to be planning a new mobilization on 16 June.
We have extensively analyzed this labor bill in a recent newsletter, its most contested points being abolishing 8-hour work, institutionalizing unpaid over-hours (the employee will be “paid” with days off, given actually at the discretion of the employer), and fiercely attacking the right to strike.
To understand the extent of the proposed changes, even the Greek Judges and Prosecutors Union issued a press release against this bill on Thursday, emphasizing it “deregulates labor relations” and practically annulled the progressive 1982 law on unions.
“Most importantly, however, it shakes the Constitutional balance between the right to the ownership of the media of production and the obligation of the State to accommodate for the ‘moral and material leveling of the working population and to ensure the unabated exercise of unionism rights, especially the right to strike (articles 22 and 23 C).”
The Greek Judges and Prosecutors Union emphasized the contested clauses of the bill mentioned above, including the abolishment of eight-hour work, the practical annulment of the right to strike “which is constituted a dead letter as with the already existing confinements 90% of the strikes do not fulfill the strict prerequisites of the law” and the abolishment of Sunday as a day-off for many employees’ categories.
“We reckon voting this bill constitutes a significant institutional regression and will widen the already existing legal and real inequality in labor relations,” the press release concluded.
The Athens and Piraeus Lawyers Unions also took a stance against the labor bill on the same grounds.
And while ND MPs try to persuade citizens they have to work over-hours with no pay, it seems that they themselves have “cut” a huge “wage” to themselves. What would you think if the governing party of your country had a massive debt, more so if this debt increased hugely during the pandemic? And while if you’d owe a few thousand euros to the bank, the bank could confiscate even your only residence according to the new insolvency law that this very party voted for and came into effect on 1 June? Well, this is exactly what is happening in Greece. According to data the main opposition SYRIZA brought in Parliament, New Democracy’s debt to the banks is 343 million euros. What is more, under Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ leadership, according to the same data, ND borrowing from the banks has been going up by an average of 30 million annually. In 2020, the increase was 34 million. Thus, SYRIZA estimates that since Mitsotakis became the leader in 2016, ND debt has increased by 118 million euros. ND has given no details in publicity and no plan on how they plan to repay this debt. ND MP Theodoros Roussopoulos tried to justify what is, in essence, unjustifiable by shamelessly calling on high-interest rates.
What followed was even more worrying as to how New Democracy “treats” democracy. Tsipras took the stand in Parliament to talk on Mitsotakis’s decision to be absent in the discussion of SYRIZA’s question as to ND debt. Then, the President of the Parliament (and ND MP) Kostas Tasoulas prohibited SYRIZA leader from speaking, insisting that this is not provided by the Parliament Regulation - and actually closed Tsipras’s microphone! Tsipras reacted by calling on Tasoulas to justify his actions. Tasoulas insisted, adjourning the meeting and stopping its live broadcast.
Tasoulas act is considered to be institutionally inept. In short, Tasoulas breached a political practice in place since the reinstitution of democracy in Greece in 1974 and provides for the main opposition leader to speak in Parliament whenever he asks to. Despite insisting he protected Parliament work to continue uninterrupted, he interrupted it himself by adjourning its meeting where parliamentary questions were discussed.
It becomes more and more evident that New Democracy has evolved into an authoritarian government.
Did you know that Turkey is a “safe country” for asylum seekers? Neither did we.
Turkey was designated as a "safe country" for asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Somalia with a joint ministerial decision on Monday. These are the countries of origin for the majority of refugees and migrants reaching Greece. Greece's Migration and Asylum Ministry claimed that the decision is based on a recommendation by the asylum service and all updated information collected by Greek services on the situation in Turkey as to living conditions and human rights for these specific categories of third-country nationals seeking asylum. According to the recommendation, these specific third-country nationals are not at risk in Turkey due to their racial, religious, national, or political beliefs.
Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis said the decision is an “important step in tackling illegal migration flows and criminal activities of smuggling rings” and that it “fully complies with the International Law and shields the legal tools of Greece towards requests by asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia who objectively do not have a reason to not regard Turkey as a safe country.”
According to Are You Syrious, the Legal Centre Lesvos stated: “Turkey is not a safe third country for migrants. Most migrants are unable to access any form of protection in Turkey, owing to a geographic restriction that it imposed to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, and migrants there are at grave risk of exploitation, inhumane detention, and deportation.”
But Greece didn’t hesitate to designate Erdogan’s Turkey as “safe”.
Der Spiegel journalist Giorgos Christides summarised tentative info and expert evaluations on this decision on Twitter:
“Decision applies, according to Der Spiegel info, to asylum seekers reaching the country from the land border as well. It is not clear yet if it also applies to pending asylum applications or to migrants who have been registered by police but have not applied for asylum yet.
Asylum applications from Syrians, Afghanis, Somalians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis can now be rejected as “inadmissible”, i.e. Greek asylum authorities can reject them without getting into their merits, referring this decision to Turkey where they are supposed to be deported.
Asylum seekers from these countries retain the right to contest the inadmissibility decision based on their individual circumstances. But the burden of proof that Turkey is not safe now falls on them.
A big question is: Turkey has stopped receiving rejected asylum seekers from Greece since March 2020. This means Greek asylum authorities should in fact examine such cases on their merits (since the “safe country” refuses to take them back)…
Greece and the EU are pushing for returns, but at the moment it seems likely that many “inadmissible” asylum seekers will remain in a state of legal limbo.
Remain where? is another good question. Some asylum experts say that here’s where the EU-funded, new reception centers to be built at the so-called hotspot islands will become useful: hosting asylum seekers pending deportation.
Greece on the other hand is hoping that the lack of decent prospects to get asylum here will act as a powerful deterrent against future arrivals.”
Two days after this decision was announced, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) revealed that 456 children in the migrant camp of Lesvos had to be treated for mental health problems between 2019 and 2020, including 32 unaccompanied minors. These children displayed trauma and fear-induced symptoms, often triggered by their lives in the hotspot, MSF said in a report titled “Constructing crisis at Europe’s borders.” Symptoms included sleep disturbance and nightmares (39%), generalized fear (24%), behavioral regression and development delays (30%), helplessness and detachment (25 %), and psychosomatic complaints, such as headaches, stomach aches, and dizziness (10%).
Crucially, according to the report, there were also “alarming” high rates of self-harm and suicidal acts among children. Shockingly, out of the 180 MSF patients who had experienced self-harm, suicidal ideation, or had attempted suicide, more than two-thirds were children, the youngest of which was a six-year-old child.
Words have drained on the disgraceful, inhumane policy of Greece and Europe towards migrants and refugees.
Coronavirus: Measures are lifted - Pretense revealed.
The roadmap for further lifting of coronavirus-related restrictions was announced on Wednesday by the head of Civil Protection Nikos Hardalias.
Thus, from today 12 June, music will be allowed in restaurants, only outdoors and only for seated customers. In case of non-compliance, the fine is 5,000 euros and, if it happens twice, a 15-days shut down will be imposed.
As of today, the night curfew will be from 1:30 a.m. until 5:30 a.m. - and will be lifted altogether on 1 July. The fact alone that Hardalias announced so much earlier the lifting of the night curfew proves that this measure served nothing as to coronavirus protection. It was only a means of exercising biopolitics.
Also, dining in ventilated galleries with only two entrances will be allowed. The capacity in theaters and other facilities will increase up to 75% for 5000 seats. The use of face masks will remain mandatory.
On June 14 all practical, laboratory and clinical exercises for all students of all semesters as well as the lifelong learning centers of the universities will resume (Universities are the only institution that did not do classes with physical presence at all during the lockdown. Quite convenient for promoting University Police and the other regressive policies).
From 1 July, apart from the abolishing of the night curfew, the maximum number of guests at receptions will increase to 300 people (weddings, etc).
The situation in Greece as to coronavirus is gradually improving. On Friday, 11 new Covid19 deaths were recorded - down from 34 a week earlier and 52 a month ago. Covid-19 patients on ventilators were 375 from 445 last Friday and 732 a month ago. Finally, 791 new cases were reported, while last Friday were 1,112 and 3,197 a month ago, on May 11.
According to the official data, as of Thursday 10 June, 2.6 million citizens of Greece were fully vaccinated -that is, 25% of the population- while 4.13 million have been injected with one vaccine dosage. It has been estimated that if we add the more than one million citizens that had been infected by a coronavirus, it is safe to conclude that 3.5-4 million people in the country are not at risk of Covid19.
Meanwhile, the Greek government has started to employ implicit or explicit threats against people who are not vaccinated. Speaking to state broadcaster ERT, Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis said that companies have the right to lay off workers who have not been vaccinated. Moreover, the PM said at an online conference that it’s not unlikely that some restaurants will allow entrance inside only to vaccinated people.
This is not the way to persuade people. This is a way to enhance conspiracy theories.
However, what is most remarkable about what Mitsotakis said in this online conference is that “We invested in the national health system and fared better than richer countries.” It is very rare that you hear such monstrous lies from the top country official. As we have repeatedly analyzed here, the Greek government during the pandemic “invested” only in police equipment and vehicles, in financial “support” to the media in a provocatively non-transparent way, and other such schemes. The only thing they certainly did not invest in was the NHS, with doctors and hospital staff crying out for help needed in human resources and ICUs all the way. Unions that until today the government arrogantly denied meeting them and discussing with them. They “magically” increased the ICUs, not by creating new ones, but by turning ICUs and wards for other diseases to Covid19. Plus, they reduced the state budget 2021 for the NHS.
The result was an extended health crisis, for Covid19 and non-Covid19 patients, counting for 12,381 total Covid19 related deaths until Friday - and who will ever know about the fatality from other illnesses not treated in time or properly due to the NHS kneeling down?
An example of what the PM called “investment” became evident on Wednesday night, in Athens’s biggest hospital Evangelismos, which was on duty. Half the hospital experienced a “blackout” for circa an hour due to a problem in the electricity network.
Like all hospitals, Evangelismos has its alternative power generators, which serve exactly the scope to keep the hospital going when the main power system faces problems. However, the generators did not manage to keep the electricity going. Why? Well, Evagnelismos employees have many times in the past exposed the problem of insufficient technical support of the hospital due to budget cuts. It is not the first time something like that is happening.
This is your “investment”, Prime Minister, yes?
Mitsotakis to meet Erdogan in Brussels on Monday afternoon.
Greece overhauls properties “objective values” with hikes reaching up to 250%.
Deputy Finance Minister urges property owners to increase rents due to value hikes - The unprecedented advice comes as salaries remain low and with the new labor law workers will receive day-off for overtime work instead of payment.
Frontex is set to become the biggest and most heavily funded EU agency with some 10,000 officers and an annual budget of around 900 million euros ($1.1 billion). The agency had 45 staff in 2005. The European Union’s border and coast guard agency FRONTEX is being given additional tasks, like playing a greater role in the deportation of migrants, at a time when it is incapable of fulfilling the duties it was ordered to carry out five years ago, the European Court of Auditors warns in a report.
Frontex turning ‘blind eye’ to human rights violations, says former deputy: Gil Arias Fernández says EU border agency, which is under investigation for illegal migrant pushbacks, cannot stop far-right infiltrating its ranks.
Legislation to bolster US defense partnership with Greece, F-35 sale and loans.
When journalism became a dangerous profession - Journalists in Europe are facing threats and intimidation for doing their job.
Athens hit-and-run victim may be missing transgender woman, reports say.
Acropolis now: Greeks outraged at concreting of the ancient site.
Acropolis makeover stirs Greek antiquity row.
Stefanos Tsitsipas becomes the first Greek to reach the French Open final.
Curse pot with over 30 inscribed names and chicken remains found in Ancient Agora.
Athens Concert Hall celebrates World Music Day on June 21 at its Megaron Garden, on summer solstice, with three special concerts at two different stages. Entrance is free, but with priority slips and confirmation links two hours ahead of the event. The Megaron Box Office is located at the Athens Concert Hall, Vas. Sofias Ave. & Kokkali Street, tel. +30 210 7282333.
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