World Press View: The Gloom Grows Again in Greece

Resignation and apathy have set in hard in Greece, where people have essentially given up fighting austerity despite some wan protests, world press reports say.

Some excerpts:

Resistance to Authority in Greece as Pessimism Takes Hold

The New York Times/Steven Erlanger

Yiorgos Kaminis has the privilege and misfortune of being the mayor of Athens, the suffering heart of bankrupt Greece, marked by both the majesty of the Parthenon and a relentless wave of graffiti hooligans, whose work he does not have the money to scrape off.

Now 61, Mr. Kaminis was born in New York and lived there until the age of 5, studied in France, taught law at the University of Athens and was re-elected last year as the nonpartisan mayor of one of the world’s great cities.

With Greece stuffed with migrants as it further cuts spending, Mr. Kaminis is gloomy, to say the least.

“When I look at Europe, I don’t have any optimism at all,” he said. “For a while, everyone will feel good, with the Germans and the Austrians the good guys, but it will help the far right.”

The same holds true in Greece, too, where he sees a bankruptcy of responsible politics. “We live in a situation of extreme urgency,” he said. “We’ve become tired, and we’ve become stuck.”

Greeks no longer believe, if they ever did, he said, in the functionality of politics.

“We have a crisis of the government system in the eyes of the people,” he said. Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister who led the left-wing Syriza party into government on a vow to reject austerity, won re-election on a pledge to enforce a new bailout as painlessly as possible.

“Tsipras would never have been re-elected if we had a credible opposition,” Mr. Kaminis said. “A vote for him was a vote against the old political establishment, and people decided to give him a second chance.”

But governing “will devour Tsipras, too,” he said. “And I’m not happy about that, because after Tsipras, what’s the alternative? It’s Golden Dawn.”

Luckily for Mr. Tsipras, perhaps, the leadership of Golden Dawn, a far-right party with neo-Nazi elements, is being tried on charges of running a criminal organization, and many of its legislators are facing other criminal cases. So he has some quiet as he reluctantly labors at austerity, rather like Sisyphus pushing his rock uphill.

But the real problem for Greece, Mr. Kaminis said, is not economic or political. “It’s cultural,” he said. “It’s our mind-set.”

A long period of occupation under the Ottoman Empire gave the Greeks, like the Serbs, a fundamental mistrust of the state and a pride in stubborn resistance, even if it is self-defeating.

The Ottoman word “inad” or “inat,” from the Arabic, meant something like resilience, but in Serbian, the term came to signal a spiteful, sometimes suicidal obstinacy in the face of power — in the best case, to defend the homeland’s religion and culture from occupation.

The Greeks have inherited the same mind-set, Mr. Kaminis said. If the dark forces from outside were first the Turks, then the Nazis, then the Americans for backing Greece’s military dictatorship, now it is the Germans, who stand simultaneously for Brussels and the Nazis in many Greek minds. Syriza, with its roots in the far left, views itself as an outsider, Greece as alone and the broader world as suspicious and dangerous.

Tolerance and Resignation

Kathimerini/Nikos Konstandaras

On one side of Syngrou Avenue, the lanes leading to the center of Athens were empty but the sidewalk crowded with people walking. A red and white police ribbon barred traffic, indicating another protest in the city center. On the other side of the inner-city highway, hundreds of people stood waiting for buses trapped in the center, with no one knowing when they would come. Those waiting, those walking, were expressionless. As if they had accepted their fate that in this city, in this country, even after six years of bankruptcy and hardship, they are obliged to face hardship every day. Without end. The faces of anxiety and silence are everywhere now. On buses, in shops, in every workplace we see the gaze of those who endure because they have seen so much and yet expect to see worse. Faces of resignation …

And yet some party and union officials continue to act as they did before the Fall; as if they are fighting against some mighty enemy and not against an exhausted state, at the expense of an exhausted but tolerant population …

The accursed troika of creditors may be responsible for many changes in our lives, and our politicians can certainly be blamed for not averting the crisis and then for prolonging it, but it is time for every professional group, for every union, for every one of us, to ask what we have done to ease the pain of our fellow citizens, to make their lives a little easier.

Greece Approves Reform Bill, Eyes Tranche

Reuters

Greece’s parliament approved early Friday a bill with reforms prescribed by the country’s international lenders, ahead of a euro zone finance ministers meeting in three days which will decide if Athens qualifies for fresh bailout funds.

Greece needs to legislate a series of reforms to pass the first review of a new bailout worth up to 86 billion euros it signed up to earlier this year. It must also revamp its banking system by the end of the year to start talks on much-needed debt relief which Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has made a priority.

A majority of lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament approved a bill which improves on previous legislation for the calculation of pensions, forces Greece to comply with EU energy efficiency rules, lifts obstacles for the sale of Greece’s largest port and scraps tax breaks for farmers.

Passing the bill was crucial, but there are still issues holding up a review which can unlock 2 billion euros of aid, a sub-tranche of an initial 26 billion instalment. Greece’s compliance assessment to date is set to be on the agenda of a session of euro zone ministers, known as the Eurogroup, on Monday.

Athens and its lenders are still at odds over an effective mechanism for Greece’s troubled banks – which will be receiving bailout aid – to address non-performing loans affecting businesses, but also thousands of mortgage holders.