Posts tagged "Greece"

h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW

The violentextreme right Golden Dawn, a Greek political party implicated in organized crime, has found an ally in VDARE’s Nicholas Stix, who claims that “Golden Dawn is simply resisting this genocidal process.” He lauds Golden Dawn for “resisting the extermination of the Greek people” in the face of “mass non-white, Third World immigration.”

“And if they want to survive, other Western nations will, one way or another, have to make the same choice – no matter what names they are called,” Stix writes.

 

I knew that someone on the US far-right would defend Golden Dawn eventually. 

h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW

Emboldened by its meteoric rise in Greece, the far-right Golden Dawn party is spreading its tentacles abroad, amid fears it is acting on its pledge to “create cells in every corner of the world”. The extremist group, which forged links with British neo-Nazis when it was founded in the 1980s, has begun opening offices in Germany, Australia, Canada and the US.

The international push follows successive polls that show Golden Dawn entrenching its position as Greece’s third, and fastest growing, political force. First catapulted into parliament with 18 MPs last year, the ultra-nationalists captured 11.5% support in a recent survey conducted by polling company Public Issue.

The group – whose logo resembles the swastika and whose members are prone to give Nazi salutes – has gone from strength to strength, promoting itself as the only force willing to take on the “rotten establishment”. Amid rumours of backing from wealthy shipowners, it has succeeded in opening party offices across Greece.

But the campaign has met with disgust and derision by many prominent members of the Greek diaspora who represent communities in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

"We don’t see any gold in Golden Dawn," said Father Alex Karloutsos, one of America’s leading Greek community figures, in Southampton, New York. "Nationalism, fascism, xenophobia are not part of our spiritual or cultural heritage."

But Golden Dawn is hoping to tap into the deep well of disappointment and fury felt by Greeks living abroad, in the three years since the debt-stricken nation was plunged into crisis.

"Golden Dawn is not like other parties in Greece. From its beginnings, in the early 80s, it always had one eye abroad," said Dimitris Psarras, whose book, Golden Dawn’s Black Bible, chronicles the organisation since its creation by Nikos Michaloliakos, an overt supporter of the colonels who oversaw seven years of brutal anti-leftist dictatorship until the collapse of military rule in 1974.

"Like-minded groups in Europe and Russia have given the party ideological, and sometimes financial, support to print books and magazines. After years of importing nazism, it now wants to export nazism,” added Psarras. By infiltrating communities abroad, the far-rightists were attempting not only to shore up their credibility but also to find extra funding and perhaps even potential votes if Greeks abroad ever won the right to cast ballots in elections.

"[Golden Dawn] not only wants to become the central pole of a pan-European alliance of neo-Nazis, even if in public it will hotly deny that," claimed Psarras, who said party members regularly met with neo-Nazis from Germany, Italy and Romania. "It wants to spread its influence worldwide."

As part of its international push, Golden Dawn has also focused on the US, a magnet for migrants for generations, and Canada, which attracted tens of thousands of Greeks after Greece’s devastating 1946-49 civil war.

"It’s a well-studied campaign," said Anastasios Tamis, Australia’s pre-eminent ethnic Greek historian. "There is a large stock of very conservative people here – former royalists, former loyalists to the junta, that sort of thing – who are very disappointed at what has been happening in Greece and are trying to find a means to express it. They are nationalists who feel betrayed by Greece over issues like Macedonia, Cyprus and [the Greek minority] in Voreio Epirus [southern Albania], who cannot see the fascistic part of this party. Golden Dawn is trying to exploit them."

The younger generation — children of agrarian and unskilled immigrants – were also being targeted, he said. “They’re the generation who were born here and grew up here and know next to nothing about Greece, its history and social and economic background. They’re easy prey and Golden Dawn will capitalise on their ignorance.”

Tamis, who admits that some of his students support the organisation, does not think the group will gain traction even if Australia’s far-right party has been quick to embrace it. But the prospect of Golden Dawn descending on the country has clearly sent tremors through the Greek community.

"This is a multicultural society. They are not wanted or welcome here," said one prominent member, requesting anonymity when talk turned to the group.

Greek Australian leftists have begun collecting protest signatures to bring pressure on the Australia immigration minister, Brendan O’Connor, to prohibit Golden Dawn MPs from entering the country. In a statement urging the government not to give the deputies visas, they said the extremists had to be stopped “from spreading their influence within the Greek community and threatening the multicultural society that Greek Australians and other migrants have fought to defend”.

The neo-Nazis have been given a similar reception in Canada, where the party opened a chapter last October. Despite getting the father of champion sprinter Nicolas Macrozonaris to front it, the group was quickly denounced by Greek Canadians as “a black mark”.

The culture of intolerance that has allowed racially motivated violence to flourish in Greece – with black-clad Golden Dawn members being blamed for a big rise in attacks on immigrants – had, they said, no place in a country that prides itself on liberal values.

"Their philosophy and ideology does not appeal to Greeks living here," insisted Father Lambros Kamperidis, a Greek Orthodox priest in Montreal. "We all got scared when we saw they were giving a press conference. But it was a deplorable event and as soon as we heard their deplorable views they were condemned by community leaders and the church."

Despite the resistance, the far-rightists have made concerted efforts to move elsewhere, with Golden Dawn supporters saying Toronto is next. But the biggest push by far to date has been in the US. As home to close to 3 million citizens of Greek heritage, America has the diaspora’s largest community. At first, cadres worked undercover, organising clothes sales and other charitable events without stating their true affiliation. Stickers and posters then began to appear around the New York suburb of Astoria before the organisation opened a branch there.

But while Greek Americans have some of the strongest ties of any community to their homeland, senior figures have vehemently denounced the organisation for not only being incongruous with Greece’s struggle against fascism, during one of Europe’s most brutal Nazi occupations, but utterly alien to their own experience as immigrants.

"These people and their principles will never be accepted in our community. Their beliefs are alien to our beliefs and way of life," said Nikos Mouyiaris, co-founder of the Chicago-based Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), whose mission is to promote human rights and democratic values.

The victims of often violent persecution at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan as well as wider discrimination (in Florida in the 1920s restaurant noticeboards declared “no dogs or Greeks allowed”) Greek Americans proudly recount how, almost alone among ethnic minorities, they actively participated in the civil rights movement, their spiritual leader Archbishop Iakovos daring to march alongside Martin Luther King. “Our history as a diaspora in the US has been marked by our fight against racism,” said Mouyiaris.

Many in the diaspora believe, like Endy Zemenides who heads HALC, that Golden Dawn has deluded itself into believing it is a permanent force because of its soaring popularity on the back of the economic crisis. “The reality is that it is a fleeting by-product of failed austerity measures and the social disruption this austerity has caused,” he said.

In Greece, where Golden Dawn has begun to recruit in schools, there are fears of complacency. Drawing parallels with the 1930s Weimar period and the rise of Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ party, the historian Mark Mazower recently warned against underestimating the threat posed by a party whose use of violence was so disturbing. “Unfortunately, the Greek state does not seem to realise the urgency of the situation,” he told an audience in Athens.

h/t: The Guardian

(Reuters) - Arm raised in a Nazi-style salute, the leader of Greece’s fastest-rising political party surveyed hundreds of young men in black T-shirts as they exploded into cheers. Their battle cry reverberated through the night: Blood! Honour! Golden Dawn!

"We may sometimes raise our hand this way, but these hands are clean, not dirty. They haven’t stolen," shouted Nikolaos Mihaloliakos as he stood, floodlit, in front of about 2,000 diehard party followers filling an open-air amphitheatre at Goudi park, a former military camp near Athens.

"We were dozens, then a few hundred. Now we’re thousands and it’s only the beginning," cried the leader of Golden Dawn, a far-right party that is seeing its support soar amid Greece’s economic collapse. Last month’s rally revealed the party, which describes itself as nationalist and pledges to expel all illegal foreigners, has a new-found sense of triumph, even a swagger, that some find menacing.

Riding a wave of public anger at corrupt politicians, austerity and illegal immigration, Golden Dawn has seen its popularity double in a few months. A survey by VPRC, an independent polling company, put the party’s support at 14 percent in October, compared with the seven percent it won in June’s election.

Political analysts see no immediate halt to its meteoric ascent. They warn that Golden Dawn, which denies being neo-Nazi despite openly adopting similar ideology and symbols, may lure as many as one in three Greek voters.

"As long as the political system doesn’t change and doesn’t put an end to corruption, this phenomenon will not be stemmed," said Costas Panagopoulos, chief of ALCO, another independent polling company. "Golden Dawn can potentially tap up to 30 percent of voters."

The party now lies third in the polls, behind conservative New Democracy and the main opposition, the radical leftist Syriza. Violent behavior by Golden Dawn members, who often stroll through run-down Athens neighborhoods harassing immigrants, seems to boost rather than hurt the party’s standing.

As the government imposes yet more austerity on an enraged public, the collapse of the ruling conservative-leftist coalition remains on the political horizon. The possibility that Golden Dawn could capture second place in a snap election is slim but real, say pollsters.

Analysts believe that, ultimately, the party lacks the broad appeal and structure needed to gain mass traction. In World War Two Greece suffered massacres and famine in its fight against the Nazis, and the spectre of the 1967-1974 military junta still hangs heavy over its modern politics. So why are many Greeks now turning to a party whose emblems and rhetoric, critics say, resemble Hitler’s?

Golden Dawn denies any such resemblance. In an interview with Reuters at an open-air cafe in the Athens district of Papagou, a traditional neighbourhood for military personnel, Ilias Panagiotaros, a Golden Dawn lawmaker and spokesman, explained the party’s appeal. “Golden Dawn is the only institution in this country that works. Everything else has stopped working or is partially working,” he said.

"We operate like a well-organized army unit, because the military is the best institution in any country." Greece’s far-right party goes on the offensive (PDF) link.reuters.com/rut83t > Greece’s other debt problem (PDF) link.reuters.com/ryq82t

Short, squat and combative, Mihaloliakos once praised Hitler and denied the Nazi gas chambers existed. A former special forces commando in the Greek army, he met the leaders of the Greek military junta while in prison for carrying illegal weapons and explosives as a member of a far-right group in 1979.

When pressed on such issues, Golden Dawn says they are all in the past and it is looking to the future.

For years after Mihaloliakos founded the party in 1985 it remained marginal: in the 2009 elections Golden Dawn won just 0.29 percent of the vote, or fewer than 20,000 votes. Yet in June, the party amassed votes from across the political spectrum, wiping out the more moderate nationalist LAOS party and winning support from as far left as the communist KKE party, pollsters said.

Now it is stealing votes from New Democracy, which flip-flopped on the international bailout keeping Greece afloat and, after coming to power, imposed harsh cuts instead of relief measures. Though Golden Dawn attracts mainly urban male voters up to 35 years old, the party is also gaining its share of women and the elderly, primarily those suffering unemployment or falling living standards, say pollsters.

Part of its appeal is down to the sort of welfare work that Hamas, the Palestinian party, does in Gaza. Golden Dawn distributes food in poor neighborhoods, helps old ladies get money safely from ATMs - and has also set up a Greeks-only blood bank.

A short film showed highlights of the year, which included attacks on immigrant street vendors, clashes with police outside parliament and food distribution to the poor. When the film showed Golden Dawn lawmaker Ilias Kasidiaris slapping a female communist lawmaker, Liana Kanelli, across the face on live TV, youths bellowed profanities against the victim.

"Golden Dawn’s target is simple. We want the absolute majority in parliament so we can replace the constitution with our own," Kasidiaris told the crowd. “It will then be easy to immediately arrest and deport all illegal immigrants.”

Pollsters were ready to write off the party when Kasidiaris slapped Kanelli after she swatted him with some papers during a dispute he was having with a Syriza lawmaker. Kasidiaris says he was defending himself; Kanelli says she was coming to the aid of the Syriza lawmaker after Kasidiaris had thrown water at her.

Painting Golden Dawn as an aberration stemming from the financial crisis, pollsters said the party’s support would dwindle. The opposite happened - the party gained 3 to 4 percentage points in polls as a direct result of the Kasidiaris incident.

In parliament Golden Dawn’s 18 lawmakers cluster in a rear corner of the marble-covered hall, but make no attempt to hide their ideology. Recently, Panagiotaros asked the welfare ministry to find out which babies admitted to state day-care centers were actually Greek. Eleni Zaroulia, wife of party leader Mihaloliakos and also a lawmaker, described immigrants as “every sort of sub-human who invades our country carrying all sorts of diseases.”

Artemis Matthaiopoulos, another Golden Dawn lawmaker, was formerly the bassist for a heavy metal band called Pogrom, which produced songs such as “Speak Greek or Die” and “Auschwitz”.

Rights groups say racist attacks in Greece have been surging, but that many immigrants are reluctant to report them because of their illegal status or mistrust of the police.

Like other victims, he accuses Greek police of supporting Golden Dawn and hindering immigrants in reporting attacks. In a July report, advocacy group Human Rights Watch said gangs of Greeks were regularly attacking immigrants with impunity and authorities were ignoring victims or discouraging them from filing complaints.

Greek police deny accusations they are soft on, or even sometimes work with, Golden Dawn. Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias has vehemently denied reports that police were beating up illegal immigrants and has threatened to sue British newspaper The Guardian over the issue. He is at such odds with Golden Dawn that the party ridiculed him during the youth festival at Goudi park.

But a member of the police officers’ union, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, admitted there was some sympathy for the party among the ranks. “There are some among the police who ideologically support Golden Dawn and a handful that have been violent against illegal immigrants,” the unionist said. “But these cases are being probed by justice.”

H/T: Reuters

As middle-class Greeks have fled the centre of Athens, immigrants have moved into their empty properties. It’s common knowledge that if you want to get squatters out of your flat, you call Golden Dawn, not the police, who at best will quietly pass you a Golden Dawn telephone number. The story has become a staple of dinner-party conversation; in the version I heard from unemployed journalist Julia Iliakopoulou, the Golden Dawn heavies who cleared the Pakistanis out of her friend’s flat by “beating them black and blue” made them clean it up and paint it afterwards. “Don’t upset yourself,” they said. “We’re Greeks helping Greeks.”

Greek lawmakers approved the country’s 2013 austerity budget early Monday, an essential step in Greece’s efforts to persuade its international creditors to unblock a vital rescue loan installment without which the country will go bankrupt.

The budget passed by a 167-128 vote in the 300-member Parliament. It came days after a separate bill of deep spending cuts and tax hikes for the next two years squeaked through with a narrow majority following severe disagreements among the three parties in the governing coalition.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras pledged that the spending cuts will be the last Greeks have to endure.

"Just four days ago, we voted the most sweeping reforms ever in Greece," he said. "The sacrifices (in the earlier bill and the budget) will be the last. Provided, of course, we implement all we have legislated. "

Finance ministers from the 17-nation Eurozone are meeting in Brussels later Monday, with Greece high on the agenda. However, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has indicated it is unlikely that the ministers will decide on the disbursement at that meeting.

"We all … want to help Greece, but we won’t be put under pressure," Schaeuble told the weekly newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

Schaeuble said the so-called troika of debt inspectors likely won’t deliver their report on Greece’s reform program by Monday. The creditors also want to see what the debt inspectors have to say about Greece’s debt sustainability.

But speaking minutes before the vote, Samaras pledged the bailout funds would be disbursed “on time.”

Disbursement of the next installment is essential “because the state’s available funds are marginal, although better than expected because the 2012 budget is being executed better than expected,” he said, adding that the funds are needed to pay salaries and pensions, as well as for the import of medicines, fuel and food.

Hours before the vote, 15,000 people converged outside Parliament in a peaceful demonstration. The crowd was far smaller than the 80,000-strong crowd which protested last Wednesday’s austerity bill vote. That demonstration degenerated into violent clashes between riot police and hundreds of protesters.

Greece is mired in a deep recession heading into its sixth year, with more than a quarter of Greeks unemployed. Battered by a mountain of debt and a gaping budget deficit, Greece has been relying on international bailout loans from other Eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund since May 2010.

Alexis Tsipras, the head of the main opposition Radical Left Coalition party, or Syriza, insisted the new austerity cuts are unfair and would leave Greeks unable to buy essentials such as food, fuel and medicine this winter.

"This is why we say you are dangerous for this country," Tspiras said, addressing the government. "You are incapable of negotiating."

Tspiras promised to repeal the austerity laws and negotiate “on an equal footing” with the country’s creditors if he were to come to power.

The poll showed Syriza, which placed second in the June elections, ahead of the coalition leader, the center-right New Democracy party, by nearly 3 percentage points. The extreme right-wing nationalist Golden Dawn party continued its strong showing with more than 10 per cent of respondents preferring it.

h/t: CBC.ca

guardiancomment:

Frightening piece by Yiannis Baboulias on the rise of the extreme right party Golden Dawn in Greece:

“We feel disgusted in the parliament,” said their leader, Nikos Mihaloliakos, in a speech to his followers on 25 August. “If they want us to, we can abandon it at any given moment and take to the streets. There, they shall see what the Golden Dawn is really about, they will see what battle means, they will see what struggle means, they will see what bayonets sharpened every night mean”. Holding torches, they  shouted “blood, honour, Golden Dawn” – a direct translation from the German “Blut und Ehre”, the motto once carried by the Nazi SA. “It’s you who are our Storm Detachments (Sturmabteilung). Let them come after you!” he continued, in his usual Nazi-inspired terms. Singing their official hymn “Raise the flags high” – again, a direct translation of the Nazi  stormtroopers hymn “Die fachne hoch” – young men and women call for open, violent conflict both with the state and with any opponents on the ground.

Photograph: Yorgos Karahalis/Reuters

Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party is increasingly assuming the role of law enforcement officers on the streets of the bankrupt country, with mounting evidence that Athenians are being openly directed by police to seek help from the neo-Nazi group, analysts, activists and lawyers say.

In return, a growing number of Greek crime victims have come to see the party, whose symbol bears an uncanny resemblance to the swastika, as a “protector”.

One victim of crime, an eloquent US-trained civil servant, told the Guardian of her family’s shock at being referred to the party when her mother recently called the police following an incident involving Albanian immigrants in their downtown apartment block.

“They immediately said if it’s an issue with immigrants go to Golden Dawn,” said the 38-year-old, who fearing for her job and safety, spoke only on condition of anonymity. “We don’t condone Golden Dawn but there is an acute social problem that has come with the breakdown of feeling of security among lower and middle class people in the urban centre,” she told the Guardian. “If the police and official mechanism can’t deliver and there is no recourse to justice, then you have to turn to other maverick solutions.”

Other Greeks with similar experiences said the far-rightists, catapulted into parliament on a ticket of tackling “immigrant scum” were simply doing the job of a defunct state that had left a growing number feeling overwhelmed by a “sense of powerlessness”. “Nature hates vacuums and Golden Dawn is just filling a vacuum that no other party is addressing,” one woman lamented. “It gives ‘little people’ a sense that they can survive, that they are safe in their own homes.”

Far from being tamed, parliamentary legitimacy appears only to have emboldened the extremists. In recent weeks racially-motivated attacks have proliferated. Immigrants have spoken of their fear of roaming the streets at night following a spate of attacks by black-clad men on motorbikes. Street vendors from Africa and Asia have also been targeted.

Paschos Mandravelis, a prominent political analyst, attributed the rise in part to the symbiotic relationship between the police and Golden Dawn. “Greeks haven’t turned extremist overnight. A lot of the party’s backing comes from the police, young recruits who are a-political and know nothing about the Nazis or Hitler,” he said. “For them, Golden Dawn supporters are their only allies on the frontline when there are clashes between riot police and leftists.”

Riding the wave, the party has taken steps to set up branches among diaspora Greek communities abroad, opening an office in New York last week. Others are expected to open in Australia and Canada. Cadres say they are seeing particular momentum in support from women.

With Greeks becoming ever more radicalised, the conservative-led government has also clamped down on illegal immigration, detaining thousands in camps and increasing patrols along the country’s land and sea frontier with Turkey.

But in an environment of ever increasing hate speech and mounting tensions, the party’s heavy-handedness is also causing divisions. A threat by Golden Dawn to conduct raids against vendors attending an annual fair in the town of Arta this weekend has caused uproar.

h/t: The Raw Story

ATHENS/MADRID, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Demonstrators clashed with police on the streets of Athens and Madrid on Wednesday in an upsurge of popular anger at new austerity measures being imposed on two of the euro zone’s most vulnerable economies.

In some of the most violent confrontations, Greek police fired tear gas at hooded rioters hurling petrol bombs as thousands joined the country’s biggest protest in more than a year.

The unrest erupted after nearly 70,000 people marched to the Greek parliament chanting “EU, IMF Out!” on the day of a general strike against further cuts demanded by foreign lenders.

"We can’t take it anymore - we are bleeding. We can’t raise our children like this," said Dina Kokou, a 54-year-old teacher and mother of four who lives on 1,000 euros ($1,250) a month.

In Madrid, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy faced violence on the streets of the capital and growing talk of secession in Catalonia as he moves cautiously closer to asking Europe for a bailout, aware that such an action has cost other European leaders their jobs.

In public, Rajoy has been resisting calls to move quickly to request assistance, but behind the scenes he is putting together the pieces to meet the stringent conditions that will accompany rescue funds.

Rajoy is gradually shedding his reluctance to seek a sovereign bailout for the euro zone’s fourth biggest economy - a condition for European Central Bank intervention to cut his country’s borrowing costs.

He suggested on Wednesday that he would make the move if debt financing costs remained too high for too long.

"I can assure you 100 percent that I would ask for this bailout," he told the Wall Street Journal.

He also said he had not made his mind up on whether to allow pensions to rise in step with inflation, which could cost the government an extra 6 billion euros this year.

"We need to be sufficiently flexible in order not to create any further problems," he said when asked about pensions.

His remarks, coupled with the central bank’s warning on the economy helped drive up Spain’s borrowing costs, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year bond jumping to 6 percent, a level seen as unsustainable in the medium term. The index of leading stocks fell 3.46 percent to a two-week low.

SAMARAS FACES TEST

With Rajoy under new pressure from the Catalans, his fellow euro zone struggler, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, also faced a major test, in the shape of a 24-hour strike called by the country’s two biggest unions.

Ships stayed in port, museums and monuments were shut and air traffic controllers walked off the job. Trains and flights were suspended, public offices and shops were shut, and hospitals provided a reduced service.

Union anger is directed at spending cuts worth nearly 12 billion euros ($16 billion) over the next two years that Greece has promised the European Union and International Monetary Fund in an effort to secure its next tranche of aid.

The bulk of those cuts is expected to come from cutting wages, pensions and welfare benefits, heaping a new wave of misery on Greeks who say repeated rounds of austerity have pushed them to the brink and failed to transform the country for the better.

h/t: Huffington Post, via Reuters

The political and economic dynamics threatening the European monetary union are complicated enough on their own. But there’s tremendous uncertainty about which choices European voters and leaders will make, and each hypothetical outcome there prefigures even more difficult-to-forecast consequences in the United States.

Still, economists and analysts have examined a range of scenarios — from ongoing recession in Europe, to a disorderly dissolution of the Euro and ensuing depression. And even the least bad of likely outcomes across the Atlantic will continue to put downward pressure on already-sluggish U.S. economic growth.

Late last year, Reuters looked at the consequences for the U.S. of a mild European recession, a protracted Euro recession, and a full-on meltdown. The upshot is that the American recovery can weather the Euro crisis even if leaders there insist on muddling through instead of taking the sorts of politically difficult actions experts say would be required to fix the problems there.

That was November 2011. Since then the U.S. economy has cooled down. But the same basic threat assessment holds up today, according to Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

“Such turbulence in Europe, with the massive wealth destruction, bankruptcies and a collapse in confidence in European integration and cooperation, would most likely result in a deep depression in both the exiting and remaining euro area countries, as well as in the world economy,” the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said last year.

Big U.S. financial institutions have taken steps to protect themselves from direct exposure to a European financial collapse. But the falloff in demand, and a worldwide financial flight-to-safety, would likely lead to a significant decline in U.S. GDP, which would be exacerbated if European countries and the United States didn’t quickly abandon the austerity programs baked into their current budgets.

“The spillover effects, the chain of consequences are very difficult to assess,” said International Monetary Fund President Christine Lagarde last month. “We can certainly assume that it would be quite messy.”

h/t: Brian Beutler at TPM

BERLIN — Eurozone countries extended Sunday a hand of compromise to Greece after the victory of parties supporting the country’s international bailout, signalling some flexibility on the painful reforms.

“There can’t be substantial changes in the engagements” undertaken by Greece in the bailout deal. “But I can imagine we discuss again a delay” in achieving the targets, he said on Germany’s ARD public television.

The job, spending and wage cuts required under the 130 billion euro ($165 billion) bailout were a key issue among voters in Sunday’s Greek parliamentary election, with all parties calling for a relaxation of the terms if not outright cancellation of the deal.

Germany has been one of the most hardline eurozone nations and insisted that Greeks have to implement the agreed deal if they want the bailout funds needed to keep the country from going bankrupt and possibly exiting the euro.

French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said eurozone finance ministers would soon release a statement on how they will approach the situation in Greece.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble called the results a “decision by Greek voters to forge ahead with the implementation of far-reaching economic and fiscal reforms in the country.”

But Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said that there is “room for maneouvre” on the time Greece needs to deliver on bailout commitments.

New Democracy party won the election and will be able to form a pro-bailout majority with the socialist PASOK party.

But even New Democracy chief Antonis Samaras has called for the terms of the bailout deal to be revised.

Revising the deal doesn’t come without risks to the eurozone however. Too much flexibility risks calling the Eurozone’s credibility on seeing painful but necessary reforms being carried through.

Too much flexibility also risks provoking calls for leniency from Ireland and Portugal, which are struggling to implement austerity policies.

The anti-austerity leftist Syriza party, which placed second, had vowed to tear up he European Union and the International Monetary Fund bailout deal that has given Greece a credit lifeline in exchange for harsh spending cuts.

“There is no other road but reforms,” said Westerwelle.

However there appears to be greater appreciation of the austerity fatigue among Greeks, who are now suffering through a fifth year of recession.

H/T: The Raw Story

thepoliticalfreakshow:

Report: Greece’s conservative New Democracy gets 127 parliament seats, leftist Syriza gets 72, socialists get 32, poll says - @Reuters

ATHENS, Greece — Greek lawmakers on Monday approved harsh new austerity measures demanded by bailout creditors to save the debt-crippled nation from bankruptcy, after rioters in central Athens torched buildings, looted shops and clashed with riot police.

The historic vote paves the way for Greece’s European partners and the International Monetary Fund to release $170 billion (euro130 billion) in new rescue loans, without which Greece would default on its mountain of debt next month and likely leave the eurozone – a scenario that would further roil global markets.

Lawmakers voted 199-74 in favor of the cutbacks, despite strong dissent among the two main coalition members. A total 37 lawmakers from the majority Socialists and conservative New Democracy party either voted against the party line, abstained or voted present.

Sunday’s clashes erupted after more than 100,000 protesters marched to the parliament to rally against the drastic cuts, which will ax one in five civil service jobs and slash the minimum wage by more than a fifth.

At least 45 businesses were damaged by fire, including several historic buildings, movie theaters, banks and a cafeteria, in the worst riot damage in Athens in years. Fifty police officers were injured and at least 55 protesters were hospitalized. Forty-five suspected rioters were arrested and a further 40 detained.

Since May 2010, Greece has survived on a $145 billion (euro110 billion) bailout from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund. When that proved insufficient, the new rescue package was approved. The deal, which has not yet been finalized, will be combined with a massive bond swap deal to write off half the country’s privately held debt.

As protests raged Sunday, demonstrators set bonfires in front of parliament and dozens of riot police formed lines to keep them from making a run on the building. Security forces fired dozens of tear gas volleys at rioters, who attacked them with firebombs and chunks of marble broken off the fronts of luxury hotels, banks and department stores.

Clouds of tear gas drifted across the square, and many in the crowd wore gas masks or had their faces covered, while others carried Greek flags and banners. Masked rioters also attacked a police station with petrol bombs and stones.

A three-story building was completely consumed by flames as firefighters struggled to douse the blaze. Streets were strewn with stones, smashed glass and burnt wreckage, while terrified passers-by sought refuge in hotel lounges and cafeterias.

"I’ve had it! I can’t take it any more. There’s no point in living in this country any more," said a distraught shop owner walking through his smashed and looted optician store.

Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis said rioters tried to storm the City Hall building, but were repelled. “Once again, the city is being used as a lever to try to destabilize the country,” he said.

Conservative New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said the rioting “hurts the entire country.”

"We are seeing scenes from a future that we must do our utmost to avert," he said.

Papademos’ government – an unlikely coalition of the majority Socialists and their main foes, New Democracy – had been expected to carry the austerity vote. Combined, they control 236 of Parliament’s 300 seats.

Still, they faced strong dissent: Besides the 37 lawmakers who voted against the bill or abstained, a further six voted against sections of the proposed measures. After the vote, the coalition government announced those 43 lawmakers had been expelled.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said the measures were vital to the country’s very economic survival.

"The question is not whether some salaries and pensions will be curtailed, but whether we will be able to pay even these reduced wages and pensions," he told lawmakers before the vote. "When you have to choose between bad and worse, you will pick what is bad to avoid what is worse."

The new cutbacks, which follow two years of harsh income losses and tax hikes amid a deep recession and record high unemployment have been demanded by Greece’s bailout creditors in return for a new batch of vital rescue loans.

Greece’s eurozone partners, meanwhile, kept up the pressure for real reform.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was quoted as telling the Welt am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday that Greece “cannot be a bottomless pit.”

Highlighting previous pledges he said weren’t kept, Schaeuble said “that is why Greece’s promises aren’t enough for us any more.”

Asked whether Greece has a long-term future in the eurozone, Germany’s Vice Chancellor Philip Roesler said “that is now in the hands of the Greeks alone.”

h/t: Huffington Post