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Street protest paralyzes Greece

Thousands fill the streets of Athens to protest further austerity measures

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Protesters fill the streets of Athens carrying flags and chanting slogans against austerity.
Thousands of Greek workers, students, union members, and the unemployed crowded in unison as part of a general strike.
The nationwide strike has brought public transportation to a stand still.
Even restaurants, shops, and schools are closed.
Many in the streets are carrying banners, signs, and flags of various political persuasions.
Brief clashes between protesters and riot police have broken out in various parts of the city.
This is nearly the 50th general strike since the austerity measures began nine years ago.

Pavlos Alexandros, the head of a union representing construction workers, carried a banner along with fellow protesters as they made their way to the parliament.
“Wages have shrunk a lot for construction workers [throughout the crisis],” he told Al Jazeera. “We are here fighting against this.”

The Socialist publication, wsws.org reports

Following its landslide election victory in January 2015, Syriza betrayed its mandate to end the austerity imposed by previous conservative and social democratic governments on behalf of the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Ignoring a referendum vote decisively rejecting austerity in July of that year, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras signed a Third Memorandum with the EU committing his government to carrying out even more brutal cuts.
On August 20, Greece is set to formally exit the EU bailout and return to the international financial markets to seek funding for its colossal debts. Since its debt crisis began in 2009, Greece has received €260 billion in loans in exchange for the implementation of the austerity measures, including public-sector layoffs, tax hikes and pension cuts. This has not reduced the country’s mountain of debt by a single euro. Virtually every cent has been handed back to the banks to meet interest payments. The EU and IMF are demanding that Greece pay £57 billion in loan obligations and interest over the next four years.
Syriza plans to pass another austerity package by June 14 that will include the privatisation of the energy sector. A meeting of euro zone finance ministers is set for June 21 to judge Greece’s compliance with the EU’s diktats.
The idea that austerity will cease when Greece exits the bailout programme is a sick joke. The programme agreed by Syriza has been specifically designed to ensure a reduction in workers’ living standards for years to come so as to hand over further billions to the international financial elite. Proposed measures include tax increases and further cuts in pensions of 18 percent to be imposed beginning in January 2019, with 300,000 to 700,000 families hit. Further cuts are scheduled for 2020.
On May 21, Kathemerini reported that “top cabinet officials declared publicly—both within Greece and to the country’s creditors—that pending measures, including pension cuts, will be enforced.”
This week, the European Commission published a Supplemental Memorandum of Understanding with Syriza to run from 2019 to 2022. It stipulates several years of high primary surpluses and the implementation of dozens of agreed austerity policies.
It states, “Success requires ownership of the reform agenda by the Greek authorities. The government therefore stands ready to take any measures that may become appropriate for this purpose as circumstances change.”
Syriza cannot enact any legislation without the say so of the “troika.” The memorandum notes, “The government commits to consult and agree with the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund on all actions relevant for the achievement of the objectives of the Memorandum of Understanding before these are finalised and legally adopted.”
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras boasted to business leaders at the annual conference of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) that his government has imposed every attack on the Greek working class demanded by the troika. He referred to the praise he received earlier this month from Angel Gurria, head of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Gurria told him in person, “I would like to congratulate you, your administration and the whole of Greece for an impressive stabilisation effort and one of the most ambitious reform packages we have seen at the OECD in recent times.”
An article on the Stuff news site noted: “Tsipras smiled, hugged Gurria and promised to keep reforming the economy—and demanded debt relief.”
Under PASOK, New Democracy and Syriza, austerity and the evisceration of democratic rights have been imposed by means of state repression. That this will continue was symbolised Wednesday by the stationing of riot police around Athens. The police, including a contingent protecting the offices of the SEV, attacked a number of protesters.
The cuts already in place are still not enough. The European Commission, endorsing a call by the OECD, issued a report stating that the only avenue left to bring Greek pensioners out of poverty is to raise the retirement age for all!
Since 2010, Greece’s gross domestic product has been reduced by a quarter. Wages have been slashed, with the active collaboration of the trade unions, by an average of average of 15 percent.
In the private sector, the collapse has been staggering. In 2012, the minimum take-home pay of a full-time private-sector worker was US$848 a month. This was slashed to US$690 a month in February of that year. Many workers are earning much less, as the figures mask the fact that half of all new jobs are part-time or seasonal. After three years of Syriza in power, Labour Ministry figures reveal that the poorest one-third of private-sector workers now received a starvation wage of just US$445 a month.
Masses of people remain unemployed, with official unemployment still over 20 percent and at 45 percent for young people.

According to recent polls, Syriza’s support has dropped to 21.5 percent leaving the conservative New Democracy the largest opposition party.
The Golden Dawn holds eight percent and the communist party lies below six percent.
Over forty percent of Greeks are disillusioned with all parties.
“Today, we want to send a clear message to the government that exiting the memorandum should also mean the end of austerity,” she told Al Jazeera at Wednesday’s demonstration. Many people are saying that if the end of the austerity is soon, “When can we have our jobs back?”

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Greek Opposition Leader Mitsotakis Coming To Moscow For High Level Talks

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Archons of Greek Orthodox Church issue toothless letter about abortion law

The good news is the Archons did say some good things in reaction to the New York abortion law. But there was no consequence.

Seraphim Hanisch

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In relation to our previously published piece about Governor Andrew Cuomo signing abortion into the New York State Constitution, we noted that at the time of the article’s writing, no entities within the Orthodox Church in any jurisdiction issued any kind of statement condemning this law. Of all fourteen universally acknowledged Local Churches, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Greek Orthodox Church was particularly of note, since their Archons awarded a humanitarian award known as the Athenogoras Award to extremely liberal, pro-abortion politicians, Andrew Cuomo being one of these.

Well, the Archons did issue a statement yesterday:

The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Condemns New York’s New Abortion Law

The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, strongly condemns the State of New York’s new Reproductive Health Act that was passed on January 22, 2019. This new law allows abortions up to the moment of birth and gives people who are not doctors the right to perform abortions.

The Order also deplores the celebratory atmosphere surrounding the new law, as One World Trade Center was lit pink to commemorate the passage of the law, as if it represented a great advance for the rights of women. The rights of no human being are ever advanced at the expense of another. The State of New York will not truly have respect for the rights of women until it once again restores legal protections for every human being, from his or her first moment of existence until natural death.

Hailed as progress, New York’s Reproductive Health Act is not actually an advance, but a regression, a return to a time of barbarism when the weak were at the mercy of the strong and had no protection from legal structures or governing authorities.

The Order implores New York’s legislators to reconsider this dangerous new law and reinstitute protections for all human life, no matter how weak and vulnerable. Only when such protections exist can any society truly prosper.

Rev. Alexander Karloutsos
Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Spiritual Advisor of the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle

Is this enough?

It does not seem to be so. Governor Cuomo and his award, along with pro-abortion Roman Catholic Vice President Joe Biden, also received this award at the same time Governor Cuomo did.

What did not happen in this letter was that neither politician was named, nor were the four (out of five) Greek Orthodox politicians in the New York State Assembly that voted FOR this law.

Neither did the Archons move to rescind the Athenagoras Awards they gave to Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Biden. This move appears to be still far too politically calculated, and keeping with the tragic, curious and distressing behavior of the leadership within the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Monomachos.com is a popular blog site whose editor, George Michalopulos, is undoubtedly one of the giants among those Greek Orthodox who seriously uphold at the notion that the Church ought never compromise herself. Yet, he was very happy with the letter that is shown above because for him it represented a “180-degree turnabout” in terms of the history of the Archons’ behavior, which he noted elsewhere as smacking of “the feeling that their primary job is to raise money for Istanbul.”

He neglected to mention the lack of mention of the Awards, but perhaps understandably, his surprise at any sort of traditional statement by this group was leading to exuberance where perhaps it is not deserved.

The Greek Orthodox Church seems to have an overall alignment with very liberal figures, and it is unclear as to why. But this tendency of people that are considered good and faithful Greek Orthodox churchgoers to align with liberal politics in the United States is very different than the sharply conservative tendencies of Russian Orthodox churchgoers, or Greeks or Romanians in the US.

The other rather liberal church is the US is the Orthodox Church in America, but this group does tend to involve itself in social causes in the US – especially abortion – in a very conservative, if rather feeble, manner. They do make their presence known at the annual March for Life and this is of great value.

We wish to name all the Greek Orthodox elected New York assembly members here, with their votes regarding the state abortion measure:

Michael Gianaris             (D) (co-sponsor)   – Yes.
Andrew Gounardes         (D) (co-sponsor)   – Yes.
Nicole Malliotakis           (R)                            – No. (and she is a woman!!)
Aravella Simotas             (D)                            – Yes.
James Skoufis                  (D) (co-sponsor)   – Yes.

This measure enshrined abortion at any point in a woman’s pregnancy as a constitutional right. The law stipulates several following procedures are now “rights:”

  • The law allows non-physicians to perform abortions.
  • The law allows abortion through the third trimester.
  • and the law repeals protections for babies that survive abortions (this means that if the baby gets delivered alive, it will still be killed.)

This is a barbaric law, and a resounding victory for people aligned with some very dark ideas about life and death. It is a tragedy, and while the Archons’ letter condemning it is at least a token statement, it really wants a full-throated response from the Christian world.

In fact, even Muslims and religious Jewish people ought to be outraged as well. All the Abrahamic religions understand that only God is the author of life. In this viewpoint, people do not themselves create life. We only cooperate with God to bring it into existence, by his blessing.

But we can cause death, and this power is influenced by forces that are not interested in God, traditional values, family, children or anything of the sort.

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Greek MPs pass Prespes deal with 153 votes in 300-seat House

Opinion polls indicate that most Greeks oppose the settlement, a fact which may not bode well for Tsipras in an election year.

The Duran

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Via Ekathimerini


Greece’s parliament on Friday ratified a landmark accord that changes the name of neighbouring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), ending a decades-old dispute and opening the way for the ex-Yugoslav republic to join the European Union and NATO.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who hammered out the deal with his FYROM counterpart last year, secured the parliamentary majority needed to get the accord approved with support from independent and opposition lawmakers.

“Today we are writing a new page for the Balkans. The hatred of nationalism and conflict is giving way to friendship, peace, and cooperation,” Tsipras wrote on his social media account.

FYROM has already ratified the deal, brokered last year, and its prime minister promptly sent a tweet hailing the Greek parliament’s vote.

The settlement seeks to end a 28-year old row between Athens and Skopje over the use of the term “Macedonia” by renaming the tiny Balkan state “Republic of North Macedonia” to differentiate it from Greece’s northern province of Macedonia.

Greece’s European Union allies welcomed the ratification.

“They had imagination, they took the risk, they were ready to sacrifice their own interests for the greater good,” European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted. “Mission impossible accomplished.”

Opinion polls indicate that most Greeks oppose the settlement, a fact which may not bode well for Tsipras in an election year. A general election is due by October, and his party is trailing the opposition New Democracy by up to 12 points.

The debate in the Greek parliament was heated, with voting almost interrupted on Friday when an MP for the right-wing Golden Dawn Party, asked to cast his vote, responded: “No to treason!”

Several MPs in favour of of the accord reported attempts to intimidate them.

Many Greeks fear the agreement could lead to territorial claims against Greece and say it constitutes an appropriation of their country’s ancient cultural heritage. Macedonia was the birthplace of Alexander the Great.

Protests against the deal have at times turned violent this week, and on Thursday evening police fired teargas to disperse crowds outside parliament. Smaller groups of people braved heavy rain on Friday to demonstrate outside the parliament.

New Democracy slammed the agreement.

“This deal should never have been signed or brought to parliament for ratification,” party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament. “It is a national defeat … a national blunder that is an affont to the truth and history of our country.”

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