July 14, 2015

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Tsipras pushes ahead with measures - SYRIZA MPs revolt - Kammenos to remain in coalition gov't (VIDEOS)

The agreement reached at the marathon Summit on Monday kept our country in the Eurozone and finally put an end to the uncertainty that has plagued us for weeks now. This painful compromise now puts a grand X to the word "Grexit", and gives way to a new word "Greekment". Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who faces many heaps and challenges this week on the domestic front, made the right decision because any other choice would have set back Greece at least 50 years.

While speaking to reporters after the agreement was reached, Tsipras said that the although the decision was difficult, his team managed to avert the transfer of assets to a foreign-based fund, and the credit asphyxiation that was being implemented in Greece.  The Greek Premier also noted that now the burden will be distributed according to social justice and stressed that despite the tough measures, the ‘Grexit’ is a thing of the past. He said that the agreement is going to finally allow Greece to stand up on its two feet and continue fighting for its sovereignty, while he underlined that the Greek crisis "left a significant legacy regarding the necessary changes throughout Europe”.

While the PM conceded that the measures are going to create recessionary tendencies and are certainly going to be difficult to implement, he expressed the optimism that with financial stability, there will be a prospect of recovery. Over the next few days, Tsipras has to take a number of initiatives in order to secure the 85-billion euro loan.

It should be reminded that a number of laws must be passed through Greek Parliament by Wednesday so that the bailout deal can be sealed. This might sound simple, but given the present political situation Tsipras is going to have a tough time passing these laws because there are far too many SYRIZA and ANEL MPs who openly opposed the measures.

One of the key figures expected to jeopardize the procedures is none other than President of Parliament Zoi Konstantopoulou. Her stance over the last few days and opposition allowed rumors to circulate in the press about a possible motion of no confidence from 151 MPs. Even if this motion was held in order to remove her from her post, Konstantopoulou made it clear on Monday that she will not step down. (Marxism at its best!)

Tsipras' greatest headache, however, will come from SYRIZA’s Left Platform which openly refuses to vote on the policies.  Knowing that he is up for a tough challenge,  Tsipras held a series of meetings with a selection of SYRIZA MPs on Monday night to come up with a plan to sway his party's Left Platform to accept the measures.

SYRIZA MPs Numb, Leftist Platform send warning to Tsipras

Reports claim that at least 32 SYRIZA MPs, mostly from SYRIZA's extreme leftist wing, are viewed as negative towards the final agreement. (The MPs include four ministers, that have, one way or another, distanced themselves from the government's actions.) As such, SYRIZA's parliamentary group would meet on Tuesday morning to discuss the bailout deal as well as analyze what will happen with these rebel MPs. There have been calls for them to resign.

On Monday, SYRIZA's Leftist Platform denounced the bailout agreement. More exactly, the agreement has caused major uproar in SYRIZA, with the head of the Left Platform and Minister of Productive Reconstruction Panagiotis Lafazanis urging the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to withdraw the agreement. In a statement, Lafazanis argued that the agreement is unacceptable and underlined that Greece’s partners, particularly the German leadership, treated Greece as if it were a colony. The Productive Reconstruction Minister called Greece’s partners “brutal blackmailers and financial assassins”. He concluded his statement by saying that Greece had and still has an alternative to the agreement and claimed that the dilemma posed by the creditors – agree or face catastrophe – was false, terroristic and against the people’s will, as expressed in the recent referendum, which was an overwhelming no to further austerity. Although he appears unwilling to resign voluntarily, sources suggest he will step down if the is asked to do so by the Prime Minister.

Lafazanis however is not the only SYRIZA MP or Minister to express objections to the agreement. During last Friday’s vote in Parliament, Alternate Minister of Social Insurance Dimitris Stratoulis also voted "present".

On the other hand, Alternate Minister of European Affairs Nikos Hountis resigned from his cabinet position and as a Member of Parliament. Hountis was amongst those who said that they would not support the agreement if it includes further austerity measures.

On his part, SYRIZA parliamentary group spokesman Nikos Filis sent a warning to MPs who want to vote against the deal reached with the country's creditors claiming that they are, in effect, aligning themselves with the "coup plotters" from abroad who do not want a left-wing government to last.
     "Wasn't what happened in Brussels a coup? What happened? Didn't they say, either this deal or we take Greeks' deposits and the banks go bankrupt? The government came under threat from economic and political forces that do not forgive the Greek people for making a different choice. I think that, often, we facilitate these plans. We cannot end with a left interregnum with the complicity of people of the left," Filis told reporters in front of the Greek Parliament.
Whereas Minister of Interior Nikos Voutsis told journalists that the “pressure verged on a coup”. Nonetheless he made it clear that everyone in his party is going to be permitted to express their opinion and their final decision will determine the future of the present government.

Speaking on ERT channel, Minister of Labor Panos Skourletis estimated that there will either be early general elections within 2015, or a special purpose government may be formed. The Minister underlined that the government’s majority in Parliament was at stake and as such, either general elections would be called later on this year, or a unity government would be formed, with the support of opposition parties, so that the agreement is implemented.
     “Europe is punishing us. We are not trying to make the deal look better, we are clearly saying it: this agreement does not represent us. I cannot easily accuse anyone who cannot agree to this agreement” he noted, before calling all government MPs who voted against Friday’s measures in parliament to resign.
When asked about the consequences of a possible "Grexit"’, he said that although Greek citizens are being forced into a violent impoverization, geopolitical issues could arise.

And if that wasn't enough, Minister of Health Panagiotis Kouroumplis expressed his frustration on Monday at four pharmaceutical companies for indirectly contributing towards a medicine shortage in Greece. The reports that there were shortages in medicines -and which some said were fear-mongering tactics prior to the referendum- are not only true, they are endangering the lives of countless people in Greece who are in need of these products. Kouroumplis said that the four companies in question supplied small quantities of specific medications in the Greek market during the crisis, and sent out a warning that he will impose harsh measures, should this practice continue.

From what we learn, Tsipras is not concentrated at the moment on making any changes within his party (such as the expulsion of those opposed the deal with creditors) and it is believed that he is not going to hold a cabinet reshuffle for the time being. This of course will change after the deal is sealed.

What will Kammenos do?

On his part, coalition partner and Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos, said that he was opposed to the deal but that his party will remain in the coalition. He stressed that he will continue to support the government and said that Europe aims to overthrow the government. Kammenos said that Tsipras was a victim of blackmail and that his party will "not allow the overthrow of the government”. He also underlined that ANEL is only going to vote on the measures that were agreed during the meeting of the political leaders last Friday.


The measures which will take away many privileges that civil servants have, as well as tax them for their astronomical wages was not received well by Greece's unions who over the past four decades have manipulated all governments to protect their interests.

As such, the trade union representing all public servants, ADEDY, called for a 24 hour strike on Wednesday when the bailout bills are going to be debated and voted in the Greek parliament. According to an announcement, workers in local authorities and pharmacists will also join the strike. In a statement that was released on Tuesday, ADEDY blasts the new bailout agreement, calls for the unilateral cancellation of debt and vows to continue the struggle every day on the streets.

On Monday night, The first “post-Greekment” protest was held outside of the Greek Parliament by some 400 participants from the extreme left and out-of-Parliament ANTARSYA party. Other groups that participated, included public workers’ groups, student unions and even members of ruling SYRIZA’s youth wing.

So what are the measures?

There has been a lot of talk about the prerequisites that have to be voted on by Wednesday night. So we have made it as simple as possible for you. The government is going to table a bill titled “Emergency Measures for the Negotiation and Agreement With the European Stability Mechanism  (ESM)”. This has two distinct chapters.

Chapter A (Article 1) contains the text of the Euro Summit Statement on Greece, which the Greek Parliament is called upon to approve.

Chapter B (Articles 2-3) deals with taxation and the Hellenic Statistics Authority (ELSTAT).

Article 2
  • - enumerates in detail the goods which are exempted from the 23% Value Added Tax (VAT) rate. (There are two lower rates, 13% and 6%. Electricity bills, hotel stays and many foodstuffs are taxed at 13% and medicines and books at 6%, among other goods.)
  • - Company tax has two bands, 29% for companies with profits up to €50,000 and 33% for those with higher profits.
  • - On islands with a resident (non-transient) population of OVER 4,100 inhabitants, cash transactions are limited to €70.
There are also clauses concerning:
  • - tax avoidance
  • - taxation of “luxury items” such as big cars, planes, helicopters, boats and pools
  • - and there is a “special solidarity contribution” that concerns annual incomes exceeding 30,000 euros.

Article 3
  • - details changes in the governance of the Hellenic Statistics Authority (ELSTAT) to enhance its independence from the government, as the creditors have demanded.
Chapter C (Articles 4-6) deals with pensions and social security.

Article 4
  • - abolishes, in stages from July 1, 2015, to the end of 2022, all early retirement , with the exception of “heavy and arduous professions” and mothers with incapacitated children. All others will be able to retire either at 67 or 62, if they have 40 years of employment by then.
Article 5
  • - merges all supplementary pension funds into one, retroactively from January 1, 2015
  • - freezes state funding of pension funds at 2015 levels until 2021
  • - and increases pensioners’ contribution to their medical expenses from 4% of the pension to 6%, from July 1, 2015.
Article 6
  • - is a technical provision giving the Labor Ministry the means to regulate the provisions in this law concerning him.

Editor's Note - The tragic mistakes that were made by the SYRIZA party over the last few months, and the catastrophic contribution of Yianis (with one 'n') Varoufakis, dramatically exacerbated Greece’s economy. All this made it all the more difficult to reach the necessary agreement and whoever denies this fact is lying through their teeth. Thankfully Alexis Tsipras finally realized that his responsibility is to Greece and all the Greek people first and then to his party and its supporters, because he is not a prime minister to his party, but the leader of all the Greek people. If all the reforms are implemented quickly then the consequences will be restricted and stability will once again finally be restored. We already know that this country needs major reforms and its citizens deserve to finally be told the truth without any sugarcoating, populist and petty political jargon. Costas Karamanlis attempted to do this in 2009 during his speech at a rally in Thessaloniki, but he was outweighed by the "Money Exists" George Papandreou who promised the moon and the stars to a population of people who for the past four decades do not want to hear the truth. What everyone needs to realize is that many sacrifices have been wasted since 2009 because every leader since Karamanlis has not dared to tell it like it is in fear of losing voter support. Power is a drug after all. The bottom line is, that we need to make radically make changes to the operation of this country so that we are not placed in this position again. We need to alter things because we do not want to have a Memorandum looming over our heads for survival. The does not build our levels of pride Frappers... it crumbles it. Our pride will only be restored again when we implement the reforms so that we rid our country of the cancers that caused it to be ill to begin with! If we just ignore the problems, not implement the changes and go on with business as usual we will be in the same state in no time again. This is what needs to be noted by all. Tsipras may have this country's reigns in his hands, as do our political forces, but we the people also need to face up to our responsibilities in its restoration.

References - SKAI Tv, ERT Tv, YouTube, Reuters, MEGA Tv, ANT1 tv, Kathimerini, Enikos, ProtoThema, The Guardian, Politico

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