Skip to comments.Greece adopts austerity bill amid protests (union rules changed, abbrogates agreements two years)
Posted on 10/21/2011 10:12:06 AM PDT by longtermmemmory
The parliament approved a painful set of austerity measures on Thursday, defying violent protests in central Athens and a general strike which shut down much of the country.
The government won the parliamentary vote with 154 votes in favor and 144 against, despite the decision by one deputy in the ruling party to oppose one article in the package.
The victory should ensure the European Union and International Monetary Fund release a vital 8 billion euro loan tranche which the government needs to keep paying its bills past November.
The mix of deep pay and pension cuts, tax hikes and changes to collective bargaining agreements has been bitterly opposed and at least 70,000 people joined protests in Athens' Syntagma Square in front of parliament.
Groups of black-clad youths clashed with rivals from PAME, the communist-affiliated labor group, and police later cleared the square.
At least 74 people were taken to hospital with injuries and one man died of a heart attack on the fringes of the protest, but officials said he had not been hurt in the incidents.
Papandreou now flies to Brussels for a meeting of European leaders on Sunday to try to prevent the debt crisis spinning out of control. A second summit is also expected to be held on Wednesday.
"We are at a critical point, not only for us but for European history. I have never, in my memory, heard before from leaders of major European countries that there is danger of Europe coming apart," Papandreou told a cabinet meeting before the vote.
"It is time for all of us now to assume our collective responsibility."
As night fell, streets were strewn with rubbish and debris after hours of sporadic clashes but the square in front of parliament was cleared of demonstrators.
The head of the Communist party, Aleka Papariga condemned the violence which she said had been deliberately provoked by groups of "hood-wearers".
"This was a pre-meditated attack," she told reporters, saying the rioters served the interests of what she termed "specific mechanisms".
"No matter what happens, we're not leaving," she said. "There's no other way out, people have to take the situation into their own hands."
With Greece reeling from three years of recession and a mountainous public debt which has shut it out of bond markets, Papandreou's government is trapped between lenders demanding tougher action and public anger at the cuts.
Hostility to the new austerity measures has also imposed a severe strain on Pasok and Papandreou expelled Louka Katseli, a close family friend, after she voted against an article in the bill restricting collective wage agreements.
"Today's vote is not a matter of party discipline, it's an issue of national responsibility," Papandreou said in a letter read out by the house speaker.
Two other deputies who had threatened to rebel bowed to pressure from party leaders but deep unease remained at measures many feel punish the weak and will only drive the stricken economy further into the ground.
"I will vote in favor, but this is the last time -- I am struggling with my conscience," said Vasso Papandreou, one of the dissenters who decided to go along with the package.
"Enough is enough, society is despairing, the country is collapsing," she said to applause from other Pasok deputies.
The general strike called by unions representing around half the Greek workforce was one of the largest protests since the start of the crisis two years ago and brought more than 100,000 people to the streets on Wednesday.
"I will be protesting every day, it's a matter of survival. They must go," said 49-year-old Yannis Zahariadis, a civil servant and father of four. "I was forced to borrow money from my mother, a pensioner, to make ends meet."
There has been widespread speculation the government will fall early, forcing a election before the scheduled date in 2013, but Papandreou has repeatedly ruled out stepping down early.
"People sent a message on Wednesday that they have reached their limits and can't take any more austerity," said Theodore Couloumbis of the ELIAMEP think-tank.
Banks, schools and government buildings were closed, transport services were hit and hospitals ran on skeleton staffing on Thursday and unions have vowed to continue their opposition with further stoppages.
Greece needs a new population with a better work ethic. The one it has now sucks.
How many government employees have been laid off?
also...what do these people expect?...their country has no money....they are bankrupt.....you can't get blood from a turnip.....
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The law was just passed last night.
we shall see if it is another pretend austerity.
Greece pretents to pass austerity and the EU pretents to help. (see also “I am from the government and I am here to help”)
I did not know this but in August one of the austerity measures as an elimination of “University School Immunity”. Police authorities were not allowed on university grounds without explicit permission of the Provost. The universities became dens of illegal activity.
Many of the protesters are these university students. No more guarantee of cushy do nothing governemnt jobs.
this is the articl for that...
No More ‘Asylum’ for Greek Academics
October 21, 2011 - 3:00am
Jack Grove for Times Higher Education
Freedom of speech laws that banned police from entering Greek universities and led to campuses being labeled havens for criminals have been repealed as part of sweeping higher education reforms.
The academic asylum rules were introduced to protect freedom of thought and expression on campuses in 1982, when memories of Greeces repressive military dictatorships of the late 1960s and early 1970s were still raw.
The rules made it illegal for police officers to enter university property without the permission of rectors, and guaranteed students sanctuary from arrest or state brutality.
But in one of the huge haul of diplomatic cables leaked to WikiLeaks in 2010, Daniel V. Speckhard, the former U.S. ambassador in Athens, said the law was nothing more than a legal cover for hoodlums to wreak destruction with impunity and threatens the academic and student communities.
In December 2009, he wrote: Campuses have become havens for criminals, most of [whom] are involved in crimes such as drug trafficking, assault, theft, counterfeiting of DVDs and CDs, looting and vandalism.
Professors who spoke out against the rules had been attacked and badly beaten, he added, and their names posted on anarchist websites.
This made rectors unwilling to call the police for fear of reprisals, he asserted. During riots in December 2008, police were refused entry to the University of Athens, where a gang of Molotov cocktailthrowing vandals were based, Speckhard wrote.
Permission for police action on campus had been given just three times in nearly 30 years, he added. One occasion was the removal of 620 6-foot-high marijuana plants from a field owned by the University of Crete in 2002, the cable said.
The ban was finally scrapped in August in an emergency session of the Hellenic Parliament, in which reforms to university governance and course structures were also passed.
Elias Katsikas, associate professor of economics at the University of Macedonia, in Thessaloniki, said: Surprisingly enough, this has not produced a lot of anger on the students part.
The description by the American ambassador is fairly close to the reality. After so many violent episodes inside universities, the arguments in favor of the asylum have lost their moral ground.
He added: Violence inside universities [was] not only expressed in the form of students assaults against the academic staff, but between groups of students of different political persuasion. I have seen myself many times such regrettable scenes.
Vangelis Tsiligiris, a cross-border education researcher and principal of MBS College, a private higher education institution in Crete, agreed.
It was a common opinion within Greek society that this was a clearly outdated and abused part of the law, he said. The idea of the academic asylum remains, but only in the form of free movement of ideas.
The Greek reforms have also introduced U.K.-style university administration, with vice chancellors chosen by university governing bodies — as distinct from the previous system of election by students and academics.
Students are also given a maximum amount of time to complete their courses or face expulsion.
If the Greeks can grow olives on trees, why not Euros?
Have you read the ingredients to olive oil in you super market?
most are combined olives from Greece, italy, spain, and some with argentina.
itallian companies buy up Greek olives and bottle them as italian olive oil, just read the label.
Greece needs to unlease the power of the free market. Everyone knows this and the slackers are scared.
EU are a bunch of fools if they think this will stand.
The Greek people are going to boot this government from office at their first opportunity. Repudiate the Debt will be the one and only issue. This deal will be dead faster than you can say Stephanopoulos.
Greece’s Socialist government had no choice. Europe would have turned off the money tap.
Economic meltdown was staring them in the face. All the protests by communists and radical anarchists wouldn’t have altered that fact.
Greek voters can dump their government. But if they repudiate their debt, no fool in his right mind will invest in Greece. Papandreou is well aware that in today’s global market, Greece’s survival is integrated with that of Europe’s. The fact of the matter is any thing else is simply not sustainable. And its not about ideology. We’re going to learn that lesson, too. A country is not too big to fail.
interesting how “no choice” to save the ecconomy means abandon socialism and socialism driven unions.
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