Sunday, June 16, 2013

ERT - Cui Bono?

Having followed the various reactions to and analyses of the ERT-shutdown, I am still stuck with my previous position that it is not only the 'what' which matters but, particularly in today's Greece, the 'how'. And the 'how' was deplorable.

And then there is the 'why'. Why would a Prime Minister, allegedly almost single-handedly, do something which Nick Malkoutzis described so well as 'sparking the three-party government’s worst crisis since its formation, getting the world talking about Greece as a basket case again, making tourists wonder what strikes they might face during the summer and suddenly handing SYRIZA, which had started stagnating in opinion polls, a cause around which to rally people'.

Cui bono? Perhaps that is the question to ask.

If Greece has, in about 2-3 months from now, a new public broadcasting network which is lean and mean and of outstanding quality; which is totally free of political influence; which commands the respect of Greek viewers; etc. Well, if that happens, then one might be able to argue that the end justified the means. Fat chance of that happening.

If that does not happen, then all the negatives which Nick Malkoutzis mentions come into full force. They might blow away over time but I doubt it. There are things which never blow away. Pinochet's coup will never blow away regardless of the economic success which followed it. A Polytechnion will never blow away. The sudden shutdown of a public broadcaster could become one of those things which will never blow away.

A good captain on a weak ship will try to sail around any storms which appear on the horizon. If a captain on a weak ship steers directly into the storm (or even looks for one!), his officers and sailors will not be very happy with him. He may eventually manage to sail through the storm but he will rightfully be accused of reckless behavior.

And then there is also the chance that the ship goes under in the storm!


  1. Klaus: my initial reaction to the ERT disaster looks increasingly likely to be the correct one. I waited to see if anyone had more detailed knowledge than me or other analyses. I spoke with a Greek friend who had detailed insider knowledge of ERT from a year ago, and this also confirmed my analysis. The semifactual and anti-Syriza rantings of Plassaras, by the way, are just unacceptable; the guy is off his head.

    My view is that this is typical Greek-style emergency policy making. There are two basic styles of policy making in Greek history. The first is a long slow bureaucratic and closed process, where a friend of a minister is appointed to a commission, the General Secretaries of relevant ministries make their own positions, and behind the scenes a half-assed compromise is cooked up and served on Greece with inedible results.

    The second is what happened now. The PM and his inner circle react an event, become mildly hysterical in private, and 24 or 48 hours later produce a decision of such low quality, such a lack of insight and long-term planning, that everyone wonders if they are being governed by idiots or imbeciles.

    The immediate pressures on Samaras are the fiscal problem of the unsuccessful privatisation, and the obligation to the Troika of diminishing the civil service by 2,000 by year end. So, these cuckoos decided in the space of one or two days -- ah, we can kill two birds with one stone! Let's close ERT, and save some money by leaving it closed for 3 months or more, and we can also prove to the Troika that we are serious about cutting state employment.

    What evidence is there to support this theory?
    (1) evidence of no strategy at all, and last minute decision making, such as the non-registration of domain names
    (2) lack of technical planning to keep the relayed digital transmissions of BBC, DW etc open.
    (3) Lack of serious consideration of the political fallout from this -- basically, plunging the country into crisis and achieving nothing at all.
    (4) No serious plans for the structure of the replacement ERT, just vague bullshit. Presumably, the intend to occupy it with yet more political appointments, old-style ND corruption.

    All in all, this is clear evidence to show that Samaras (like Papandreou) is completely lacking in skills personally, and also short of them in his advisors. They are a calamity for Greece, like the Pasok mafia and Papandreou. Corruption and nepotism rule supreme, and nothing has changed.

  2. REWIND.Please bare with me and forgive me with providing links in greek, but links in greek are better than no links and writing out of my head.

    It is August 2011. Papandreou is PM. Venizelos, then minister of Economics, passes a law, with a list of DEKOs (state owned enterprises) that would be "closed,merged or restructured". In this list, ERT is included. (in fotos-thumbnails the goverment's gazette)

    But of course, as always, left and closing something pubblic, is easier said than done in Greece... Minister Mosialos, prepared a plan to restructure ERT while still functioning and shutting down only ET-1 and a TV paper magazine, which is pubblished by ERT, called "Radiotileorasi". The rest was merging of administration and radios, as well as upgrading ERT World and a change in character of NET (ET-2) This was the plan:

    It would give a lean, mean and efficient ERT. Of course, it didn't happen... Mr. Mosialos was confronted with a massive barrage of strikes, which in Greece don't work as one would imagine. POSPERT, the union of ERT, through some weird agreements, can proclaim a strike, which oblidges private owned media to go on strike too. Those who don't comply, are expelled for 3 months from the journalists' register, as happened lately with 8 SKAI tv journalists.το-πειθαρχικό-της-εσηεα-διέγραψε-προσ/

    Mr. Mosialos, inside the Parliament, was being literally hunted down by PASOK MPs and half the POSPERT unionists. Combined with the "blackout" in greek media and the classic pressure from PASOK's unionists (the vast majority of ERT unionists beloned to PASOK, as with most DEKOs), made so that mr. Mosialos' plan, was put by mr. Papandreou to the "delay lane" for months (in Greece there is a saying,with PASOK has transformed into an art: "nothing is more permanent than the temporary). Up until Papandreou himself, after the Cannes humiliation was forced to leave...Mr. Mosialos ceased to be minister and Papadimos' goverment came, which had focus on the PSI.

    Samaras' goverment came and, horror, the troika now demanded to do what the left could never do in Greece... Cut on the pubblic sector. Alas, you can't fire pubblic servants in Greece, as they are protected by the Constitution. The only way to fire them, is a) because of serious breach of duty, b) if you abolish the positions in which they work (shut down the entities in which they work).

    The only exceptions are the DEKOs, because, being enterprises, they are not strictly regarded as "pubblic sector".

    In the goverment, the main demand of DIMAR (Democratic Left), was to get the ministry of Labour, so that being leftists, they would make sure that working rights would not be leveled. And so they did. Minister Manitakis has taken the task of reducing the employees in the public sector. Several govermental crisis have occured in the meantime, because of mr. Manitakis' delay and troika getting impatient. Mr. Manitakis' reply was always "do not rush me, because i want to make things the right way. I will reduce the number of employees, but with meritocracy and logic". In the meantime, the goverment had signed that by May the goverment would have fired 2000 public employees. Mr. Manitakis, alas, wasn't ready, but the troika is again here asking for the 2000 "heads", while ANOTHER 2000 must be fired by December 2013.

    So, Samaras, decided to override mr. Manitakis, shutting down ERT, after passing juristiction to mr. Stournaras.


  3. ...continues

    Why ERT? Because it fit the bill (2000 can be fired quickly) and because it was a "juicy target".

    These were the salaries 2008-2009

    The text explains what a brothel ERT was.

    The top was one presentator getting over 400.000 for 6 months. Fake bonus, nepotism, etc.

    The president of the POSPERT trade union, was elected with PASOK support with 52 votes, while the POSPERT members are about 2300. Don't ask how, when a party RULES inside a trade union, anything is possible. The president was actually elected while pending his trial for embezzelemnt of 44.000 euros. He was re-elected in 2012 with SYRIZA support this time (since the bulk of PASOK voters and unionists has now moved to the greener pastures of SYRIZA).

    Hoping that a right goverment can "restructure" such a hornet's nest in Greece, means knowing nothing about Greece. Already this year, because ERT was still in the list of "to be closed" entities and to avoid wage reductions (which they did), there were cascade strikes on all important events (visits of foreign leaders, good news about the goverment etc).

    Ironically, Tsipras, before the closure, was accusing ERT for being "pro-goverment", actually, calling it "YENED", the tv of the junta, which was operated by the military.

    Tsipras, May 2013:

    Now that the goverment closed it, Tsipras says it was a "voice of free speech that the goverment wanted to silence". Of course, now, the ERT employees, that have made more strikes than anyone else, acknowledge that "yes, of course, there were problems in ERT that we are the first to recognize". Alas, this was not the case up until this day. They were the sole survivors of the "common wages" for the pubblic sector, still getting 3500-4000 euros for journalists and directors.

    ND, if tried the "mild way", would have been beaten much worse than PASOK and Mosialos. Because they would be accused of "party favoritism" and of "cleansing the ERT from leftists", "junta cleansing", etc. And of course, if tried to FIRE employees, the same would happen. Occupation of the building (classic tactic in Greece, be it a minister's office or a pubblic enterprise).

    Already 1 hour after the announcement, a KKE (PAME) regiment was sent as reinforcements to make sure the ERT building would be "secured". They beat even SYRIZA to the place, because of their much superior military-like organization and discipline and they are professional protesters that can camp day and night, chanting "EAM-ELAS MELIGALAS", to remember the glorious days of the civil war.

    SYRIZA's followers were content with the usual junta songs.

  4. Beside the political impossibility to "softly" change the ERT as it was (now it MAY be possible, because the "iron fist", FORCED the employees to "acknowledge that ERT needs restructuring", since when you are fired, you have to compromise, while before, you can go on without compromise), there is also a practical problem is "substituting" ERT with "another" ERT. MONEY.

    Τhis is January 2012 open letter of 127 journalists (ERT and radio), who are protesting because they are forced to strike, despite the fact that "after weeks of strike, where most of our demands were met, now we continue to strike, for now reason, just to strike):

    The troika demands to FIRE 2000 (by May, which has already passed). You can't say to the troika "wait, i will hire 1000 news, so that in 3 months, i will be able to fire the 2000). Also, ERT needs MONEY to operate. The technological equipment alone of ERT (which is inside the OCCUPIED building), is worth about 200.000.000 euros. Not to mention that you would need to take control somehow of the repeaters that broadcast the signal to various parts of Greece (being mountainous you can't emit from Athens and have the signal 150 km north) as well as the satellite. Where are you going to find the money?

    A gordian know is not solved, it is CUT. Unfortunately, Samaras had to do the correct stragegic move, but made tactical errors. Some say, he should have put up a "coulourful image with music" instead of "black picture". Unfortunately, this would require having control of ERT structures, which he hasn't. This could have been done, if he had sent the police before KKE arrived there, to forcefully evict the employees. Of course he would still be accused of junta tactics, but, this is something that if you aren't left, you can't avoid, no matter what, if you touch anything in the public sector.

    Of course, outside the dance, many songs are sung. But if it was easy to restructure ERT with a velvet glove, PASOK, that had control over the unionists, would have done it and Mosialos really wanted to do it. Samaras had informed since Sunday Venizelos and Kouvelis about ERT. They both pretended complete ignorance at first, because of course, they didn't want to be included in the "Junta tactic"...

    In Greece, whenever one touched the pubblic sector, he was evil. It's the price you have to pay. The first and only privatizations made, where in 1990-1993 ND goverment period, together with austerity, which turned the bankruptcy run of Andreas Papandreou with rising borrowing costs and deficits, into primary surplus and lowering borrowing costs. Of course, the goverment, not giving money like PASOK, lived only 3 years... That was the last really center-right goverment in Greece. Karamanlis was a PASOK-photocopy, as himself declared that he was the party of the center and no longer center-right.

  5. The new ERT, should be functioning by 29 August and this is the proposed statute. Of course most Greeks are unaware of it, many think that ERT is gone forever, because, POSPERT forced ALL media (private TV stations, radios and newspapers) in strike too, while the only emitting media are ERT (occupied but broadcasting via EBU or KKE's TV) and KKE's TV (902), which got special permission from the unionists not to strike, because it's "tv of class struggle".

    It will have 800-1200 employees, administrative and economic autonomy. The supervising board will have 7 members and will have 9 year duty, to ensure that the past tactic of "change of goverment= change of board members), will be halted. The new employees will pass new judgement and will partially be based on ASEP criteria (like the written competitions that are used to hire in the stricter pubblic sector).

    Bottom line: In Greece, you can't touch the pubblic sector, without getting your hands dirty and if you aren't left party, no matter how, you will be accused of being a junta and of "making political cleansing of your politicial opponents". In ERT this would be even easier, since 80% of the personnel is leftist, so, even if you fire ONE, you will be accused of firing "leftist journalists".

    Another detail. In case ERT wasn't shut down, the goverment will have by law, the right to fire only 30 persons per MONTH. To change that, it needs to be changed for ALL other pubblic entities or it will be violating the Constitution.

    This means, that it will take 66 months, to fire 2000 ERT employees.

    Go ask the troika if it's willing to wait. And ask the left if there is ANY, ANY kind of restruring plan, that they would agree with and not occupy and buildings and call you junta. If you think they would, please give an example of past case where this happened.


  6. Fortunately, ERT is now broadcasting 24h a day, "open for information and culture".


    Fighting for "polyphony" and freedom of speech. Of course since last week, they were the only tv/radio/newspaper allowed to transmit "news", always in the spirit of freedom of speech and "information" of course. We don't want to be like the goverment's junta, do we...

  7. Addendum: The Manitakis saga

    September 2012. Minister Manitakis threatens with resignation, because the troika is pressuring him to fire pubblic servants.Σε-παραίτηση-Μανιτάκη-οδηγεί-η-επιμονή-της-Τρόικα

    November 2012. SYRIZA's front line MP asks for Manitaki's resignation, accusing him that he is planning to fire public servants.

    April 2013

    Rumours that Manitakis will resign, because the troika is pressuring him and he doesn't want to be hasty.

    In all cases, Mr Kouvelis saved Mr. Manitakis, threatening with dissolution of the goverment if he is removed from office.

    Bottom line: Do you want something not done in the public sector? Entrust it to the greek left. Greek left advocates "change", while at the same time SYRIZA has collected all the ex-PASOK rotten to the bone unionists. Ιncluding the infamous DEI union president, Fotopoulos. Here attacking his superiors, accusing them of "coup" and "junta", because the administration board dared have a reunion without representative of the workers.

    Fotopoulos, after PASOK's demise, was again elected in 2013 thanks to SYRIZA.

    And of course, he too, was elected by SYRIZA, while being under trial for embezzelment and fraud of DEI for 615000 euros.

    This is the "material", witch with Tsipras plans to "change Greece". And this is how SYRIZA from 3% found itself to 23%. All the PASOK's ruling mechanism has gone to SYRIZA.

    Now, Samaras, with Venizelos and Kouvelis dragging their feet, can't go a long way. It is best to have elections now, have Tsipras show his "competence" and then have the people turn again to the center-right after being burnt twice (Papandreou-Tsipras). Otherwise, if Samaras continues with 2 unwilling partners and the opposition firing at him and yelling "junta", he will end up like PASOK and the voters will go to Golden Dawn and AN.EL., which is much worse. It's better take a quick pain with Tsipras now, than later a worse and longer pain.

  8. One correction: Manitakis got the ministry of Administrative Reform and electronic governance. At any case, he is responsible of the restructuring of public sector.


  9. Last note: The goverment, being overly generous, promiced that the fired personnel, will get indemnity with PRE-memorandum terms. Not with the much worse terms that "common mortals" get today when fired.

  10. Well, i guess this has to become addendum to my "last note".

    The ERT employees, to this day, always striked without ANY goverment daring detract the lost working hours from their salary. Why? Because exactly, when POSPERT strikes, they take down all the journalists in private TVs and newspapers. Private TVs can only show all day films, cooking transmissions etc. Nothing related to news or where a journalists hosts a discussion.

    It's tremendous power.

    Already, this weekend, the newspapers managed to pubblish the Sunday edition on Saturday, only because, 3 newspapers (Kathimerini, Real and Proto Thema), brought the case to the courts, which declared the strike "illegal". This, because in such harsh times, many newspapers are literally hanging from a thread for their survival and the Sunday edition is the one that sells the best.

    However, the ESIEA (union of Athens' newspapers journalists) later the same evening, replied as follows: "the strike in newspapers continues under responsibility of the unions. In radios and tvs strikes continue as per the respective unions).

  11. Article explaining how in ERT you can strike and still get paid, "legally".

    How it is possible for example, to have 3493 persons striking and 3243 getting paid at the same time?

    Well, it is easy. The trade union takes care of such things.

    You call them "safety shift". Which, by "chance" is almost the entire workforce. At the end of the month, only 1,5% of the strikers saw a reduction in pay check.

    But other that these small details, the employees were REALLY, REALLY acknowledging the need for change and restructuring in ERT. Honest!

    So, if you remember the fatigues of Hercules, one was the cleaning of Aygeia's stables. Hercules, rightly so, didn't attempt to clean them in a traditional way. He diverted 2 rivers into the stables and let the river's wild waves to clean what no man could ever clean... Probably the farmers of the area called him a fascist, arrogant, shelfish semi-God that could get away with it just because he was Zeus' half-son...

    But he cleaned them...

  12. Dear Mr. Kastner,

    I apologize for my repeated and long posts. I had promiced i will not post again in your blog, but i was directed to your article by a friend, who is supporting the ERT workers, as "proof of Samaras' mistakes" and i just couldn't resist.

    (no need to pubblish this and further spam your blog).


  13. The Constitutional Court just acted as Deus ex macchina, as was natural to avoid elections.

    The Court sentenced that ERT must keep emitting, until the new ERT can emit herself, at which point, the old ERT can shut down.

    The representatives of POSPERT presented to the court the thesis that shutting down ERT creates threats for national security and economic damage to the state.

  14. @Anonymous: I am sure that Klaus has no problem with your posts (although you could have condensed them into fewer!).

    My preferred comparison of Samaras and this fiasco is not with the Labours of Hercules, I am sorry to say. Rather, it seems more like "Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle" -- a popular English children's story. Indeed, I do wish that Samaras reminded me more of Hercules than of Noddy, for that is what Greece sorely needs at this time.

    1. @ Guest (Xenos)

      I am sorry, in deed i could have condensed them, but unfortunately i tend to forget things. I use links as reminders of points i should make, but i still forget some and remember them later.

      Why do you think it is a fiasco?

      Compare Samaras' last proposal to DIMAR/PASOK on June 15:

      With the clarifications given by the president of the Court:

      It looks like a carbon copy of Samaras' proposal for temporary opening of ERT with new special administrator who will have augmented powers to "maintain the current staff or fire in total or in part the existing one", while forming new public entity, which will be serving the public interest. At the same time, the shutting down of ERT is considered legal action. For the transitional period, the emitting entities will continue under current form, except the ERT orchestra and Radiotileorasi magazine that are shut effective immediately.

      It's exactly Samaras' June 15 proposal, modified to accomodate PASOK/DIMAR, that wanted ERT open and restructured. Now ERT will keep open (minus orchestras and magazine), but unfortunately will not be restructured, but replaced by new entity and in the meantime the old administration is null and void and you get new administrator with increased powers. You win some, you lose some, but Samaras can legally shut down ERT.

      What where the demands of the employees and opposition? That ERT isn't shut down and is restructured, without closing any channel and of course with minimum impact on working posts. And what where they hoping for from the appeal to the Constitutional Court? To declare illegal the shutting down. It didn't.

      I don't think the ERT employees' dream was for the Court to declare that "the band can keep on playing, until they get replaced by new entity", do you?

      Do you see in the video the ERT employees rejoycing and hugging each other at the breaking of the news? I don't.

      But i guess in a few months we will know better as to what happened.

      When you have a coalition with other 2 that don't want to change, you have to ask for 20 to get 10. If Samaras started with the usual "let's restructure ERT", he would have made the end of Mosialos' plan. Not that he still doesn't have problems with PASOK/DIMAR, since they have to decide on the exact transitional state of ERT, but the important is, that now nobody can say "ERT is our beloved, historical television and no democratic goverment can shut it down". The Court said it can... And those who wanted restructuring, may come to regret their fight of Mosialos' plan.


  15. Summary, after 2 tranches of clarifications by the court's president, from newspaper (which was pro-ERT, transmitting ERT's web signal during this period):

    - The state television must operate.
    - The state owned frequencies must be active.
    - The administration board of ERT is no longer valid, as it has been abolished.
    - A new manager must be appointed immediately.
    - The manager will have the right, according to arising needs, to maintain the existing staff or to fire it, in total or in part.
    - A state radiotelevision entity must be formed, serving public interest (it cannot be a private entity), as per 11.6.2013 ministers' decision.
    - The ERT orchestras and music groups are history.
    - The greek state is not expected to ask for suspension of this temporary order.
    - The next days, the request for suspension of the closing order will be discussed (this is a temprorary order).
    - The main case will be judged in September 29.

    Legal circles, comment, that from the moment that ERT is abolished, this is why the Court is addressing the 2 responsible ministers (Stournaras, Kedikoglou).

    The same sources, note that there is no mention to re-functioning of ERT by name, but to the public entity in general, since what the Court asks, is that the "black picture" is removed from screen.

    Bottom line. ERT as legal entity is dead. It exists only for her liquidation to be complete. The administration board is confirmed as abolished, anything non related to transmission is immediately abolished, the court asks for a new manager to take over and ensure that there will be a transmission, until the new entity can assume the work of public television. This new manager has free hand to do whatever he wishes with the staff.

    Of course, the employees may still occupy the structures. But, if they don't obey the new management, THEY will be responsible for putting the new manager into impossibility to apply the temprorary order. And no matter what they do, now ERT is legally dead. They can cry "junta" all they like.

    PASOK and DIMAR (that wanted restructuring of ERT and wouldn't vote for its closure) will have to thin their wine with water and Germany's pressure will help into that.

    Obstructionism is possible, but it won't be anymore Samaras the dictactor vs the world and if someone resists the new manager, he resists the Constitutional Court, not just Samaras anymore.

  16. Samaras sweetening the bitter coffee for Kouvelis-Venizelos.

    He is proposing to appoint a vice-minister with the only task to form the new public television. The surprise is, that he asks that they choose a man of their liking for the job. This way, nobody will be able to say that "Samaras shut down ERT and now is making a TV as per New Democracy's liking".

    The article also says, quoting govermental source, that Venizelos-Kouvelis had rejected Samaras' proposal for a transitional tv before the new one can emit, because they were hoping that the Constitutional Court would order the re-opening of the old ERT, even more so, because the President of the Court, is a friend of Mr. Venizelos... But it didn't go so well...

    On a more practical issue. What happnes if the ERT employees continue to occupy the buildings? It seems, that till they sort it out some way (judicially probably), the goverment is preparing a "small" emitter which will transmit just news and "can food" (documentaries, etc). If necessary, they will make 10-20 contracts and hire a private crew of technicians. As to "from where", the choise seems to be a studio in Mourouzi Street, which has been evacuated and guarded by the police since Tuesday night.

    Samaras will ask for the draft law for the new ERT (for now called NERIT), to be passed with emergency procedure from the parliament, so that they can commence the procedure for hiring the new personnel and transmit by August end.

  17. New clarification from the Court:

    ALL the ERT employees are to be considered as FIRED already. The 2 ministers, Stournaras and Kedikoglou, are to immediately hire staff to man the temporary public television. This staff, can be hired from the fired ERT staff or from the private sector, at their discretion. It is also at their discretion the amount of employees.

    The new staff is to broadcast in the state owned frequencies. This staff will operate for the transitional period until the "fully fledged" new public tv is ready to broadcast.

    Troika's requirement for 2000 fired is now officially met and actually exceeded.

    SYRIZA's MP Alexis Mitropoulos, university professor of Labour Law, admitted "complete acceptance of the goverment's position by the Court".

    Samaras is no Hercules, in deed. He is part of the old guard, sinful political system. But he is the lesser evil and at least, he is trying and contrary to PASOK, he actually met for a period the economic targets.

    1. I truly hope that they didn't do all this only for the Troika's sake. The problem from day 1, initiated by Papandreou, was that the government never showed real ownership of the project. Instead, they always said that they had no alternative because otherwise the Troika would...

      A reform project can only work if the leadership which is supposed to implement it shows total ownership. They do it for Greece's benefit and whatever is truly for Greece's benefit should also be for the Troika's benefit.

    2. Dear Mr. Kastner,

      Like it or not, the goverment is BOUND by the troika. If you ask Jean Claude Juncker, in his recent visit to Greece, he admitted that the troika's benefit wasn't exactly Greece's benefits.

      Samaras has repeated many times, that he does not like all the obbligations that come from the troika. He would like to lower corporate tax. He can't. He wanted since last summer to lower VAT. He can't. Today a newspaper says that the troika said to re-examine it for 2014.

      Also, some years ago, Roessler visited Greece with a team of businessmen. One of them (german) said to the greek tv, more or less "yes, we are interested in business in Greece, but when the country will have hit rock bottom". Similar statements have been made by greek-americans. Also many analysts sustain, that out of vast array of countries, a company that wants to produce for example something, also prefers a country with higher domestic demand, all other things equal. Greek businesses also didn't manage to capitalize as expected through the wages reductions, because of increased taxation, "extraordinary taxation" (Papandreou's gov) and hugely increased costs in electricity, which was part of troika's plan to "sanitize DEI's account sheets". Do you know many PMs, that on their own will would increase something like 30% the electricity cost, while trying to export? There are many "insane" things in the troika demands, which make it very difficult for a PM to go out and say "we do this because we want it". Samaras said it. And didn't gain in popularity. Not after the previous years of blunder...

      Recently, the IMF admitted, what the greek ex-IMF representative, Panagiotis Roumeliotis, has said 1 year ago. That the Fund, wanted to restructure greek debt early on, but Merkel was adamant against it. Roumeliotis argues, that according to Citi Bank, with a 25-30% haircut, the greek debt would now be around 90%. Papandreou in his latest interview, said "they (europeans) only gave me 10 minutes to agree to their terms". You can't fight idiocy, not in 10, not in 10.000 minutes. The debt alone and the uncertainty of the Grexit (cultivated in foreign press constantly mainly be german politicians), made Greece "mine zone" for investors and bank depositors alike. The PSI itself wasn't the "magic bullet" as advertized. Because of the repartition of the debt...

      Of course the losses of greek banks were then fixed through new loan...

      Under "foreign banks", you must include the Cypriot ones.

      6 years of recession and 25% of GPD reduction later, it is a bit difficult to come out and say "i am the defender of the troika program".
      Samaras is trying to do what he can. He is not alone. Now for example, he has to somehow allow Venizelos and Kouvelis to save face, because their electorate is leftist...


    3. Continues:

      The population is really tired. They need to see that this leads somewhere. Samaras has promiced no more wages/pension reductions. Unfortunately, it is a lie. Nobody can tell how the goverment alliance will endure the hit when it comes. PASOK and DIMAR at polls, are threatened with extinction. They have a declining trend on polls. They hope to survive, if the goverment manages to somehow arrive to primary surplus and gets a new haircut of debt. They hope that if this happens, they will be able to tell their electorate "see? we were the responsible left, we supported the goverment's goals and we did it!". If things don't go as smoothly, you can imagine... Also, next in program should be shutting down of more public entities, including for example, hospitals. This again, is very, very difficult for left parties to digest and even Samaras will have hard time to justify.

      Now, there are various theories, all good on paper. Tsipras has one, Samaras has one, Venizelos has one, a leftist economics professor has one, a right wing professor has another. But reality is a bit different when you have to govern and especially the youth is increasingly turning anti-euro. And it is european policy to call everything "reform". But this is a political act. Reform, at least in greek, has the sense of changing something to the better. This is true for some things. But under "reform" in covered also the "internal devaluation". Which doesn't work so well... But it is something one understands very quickly in his pocket.

      Italy has a cumulative recession for less than 5% and things went upside down in politics, Berlusconi yesterday said "we must say to EU to hell with 3% deficit, they don't dare kick us out" and he is blackmailing Leta to abolish the property tax on the first house. Leta on his side is trying to find measures of relief. Imagine what would happen with 25% recession. We are talking of people, not cattle, nor some electronic game where if you make a mistake, you start a new game.

      Last time Germany had such a recession, the "german" Golden Dawn, wasn't at 12%, but they took power.

      At the end, Samaras is doing what he can. The social fabric is poisoned, things in Athens are very tough, much worse than the province. Samaras has to go by troika's plan. If it doesn't go well, something will change, that's for sure. Many economists, both greek and foreign, argue that a return to the drachma in 2010 (and while all greek debt was under greek law), would have had less catastrophic conseguences to the GDP.

      Stournaras himself, while head of the IOBE, had his own plan for relaunching the economy. Did he follow it? No, he had to follow the memorandum...


    4. And if i may. Papandreou's as well as Samara's main problem, for me, wasn't exactly that they didn't go out and say "this is our program". Because, after a while, it becomes obvious that it isn't your program. When the troika comes here and orders "do this, do that, not this, not that", people read newspapers... Why do you think in Spain and Portugal the troika isn't popular?

      The big problem of Papandreou and Samaras, is that they completely failed to explain to the average person, with simple words, what is the situation of the economy, why internal devaluation is needed, what is budget deficit, what is current account deficit. The generic "we are bankrupt and have to reduce expenses", may sound logical, but it a world, where you have 1000 economic analysts, each going on tv and explaining his own "truth" to the viewer, you have to do better than that.

      And of course another problem is opposition populism, but this can't be changed in political parties that are old school, accustomed to this. Samaras himself, was "anti-memorandum" while Papandreou was in goverment, so when he became "pro-memorandum", he discredited himself to many of his voters. Of course, there is the theory, that had he not taken that position, the "trully" anti-memorandum parties, would have taken much more power and won the elections.

      Unfortunately, a country is not run like an enterprise. Political games, complicate things.

  18. Now PASOK/DIMAR ask to reopen the ERT anyway as it was before shutting it... Despite the Court's order that says that ERT no longer exists...

    a) They want something in exchange.
    b) They want to make "heroic exit" and elections, while trying to blaming Samaras as the cause.

    One way or another, this won't last long. We are still at early stages of the restructuring the public sector, as far as personnel goes. If they put so many obstacles each time, the goverment will soon be disfunctional.

    At this point, it's better to have elections, while Samaras can retain some strength... And wave the Court's decision at PASOK/DIMAR each time they accuse him... Let's see who gets to win.

    Note: Early elections, will cause the Lagard list scandal to fall in prescription and mr. Papakonstantinoy to walk away. So if elections come, everyone will accuse the other for the responsibility. The one with the better proof of responsibility wins...

  19. Do not miss Jean-Claude Juncker's new interview to Alexis Papahelas. It starts at 57:30.

    Juncker is always amusing, no matter the nationality of the viewer. They can all be amused, just in different parts.

    After Mrs Merkel's bleeding heart, now yet another one with Greece in his heart. But they all forget the mirrors and trinkets.

    20 years from now, i bet that everyone in the eurogroup, will be writing books, on how HE, singlehandidly, saved Greece and the euro, from the incompetence of the others and all accuse the IMF for bad advice.

    And now i salute you, once again.

    1. In my opinion, Juncker has got to be the greatest public chatterbox among EU-elites! His vanity defies description. Right after getting out of his car, he would look for where the microphone was and make a statement. The only trouble is that his statements varied almost from day to day. If there were a list of all the public statements he has made over the last 3 years, even a schoolchild would wonder what that kind of a person is doing in a public position of responsibility. I think he belongs the that small club which is accountable for all the EU-damage.

      Other than that, I agree that he has a lot of charisma...

    2. Mr. Kastner, i believe that at the end, most politicians do have an exagerated vanity. Some show it more, some conceal it better, it is a matter of temperament. I have yet to hear a politician say anything other than "i joined politics because i really wanted to offer to the society", but, when they do arrive to a position of power, you see that for every action, in the back of their mind, they have something "eating them": "how will i get elected again". And to get elected again, you also have to be "likeable", in a way or another. Some politicians are liked because they emit more an image of "strong leader", others are more "silver tongued". Juncker is silver-tongued, combined with a good dose of self-absolution.

      In a way, Juncker is close to George Papandreou's type of politician. George always delighting any foreigner that would listen to them. In the past, before he got elected PM and immediately afterwards, whenever i had tried to "warn" foreigners of George's "true skills", i was either labeled a "fanatic" or "not enough refined to appreciate this gentleman" or scorned at.

      In the greek case, you have all the wrong people in the wrong places at the wrong time. The Europeans had their own agenda, George Papandreou was hostage of his own "junckerism". The image he had created for himself, of an ambitious, capable, us-mentality politician, that was unlike his predecessors and ready to change the country.
      While in reality he was just a spoiled son of his dad, living his own political dream under dad's wing, getting the party of his dad by Simitis and zero concrete work. I am old enough to remember George doing "politics", occupying the DEI with workers of Fotopoulos' stock. The widow of Andreas Papandreou in recent interview said, that Andreas himself, knew his son wasn't able enough to inherit the party, that's why he didn't do it. And she adds, that when he divorced his american wife, one of the terms she put, was that he would ensure that little George would have a political career. So, dad kept his end of bargain and let George stay minister as long as he was alive. True or false, that's what she said and i believe it...

      Now, silver-tongued George, is paid to be MP, but 90% of time he travels in foreign countries getting some extra cash, explaining how he saved Greece and what needs be done to Europe.

      Even if he had said that "i adopt the program as mine", it would have made no difference. Even the stones in Greece knew that the nature of reforms signed were alien to PASOK's mindset and the fools that initially had faith in his abilities, soon came to terms with reality.

      It is the same, as if you had ex minister (PASOK) Pangalos, promice "i will make this diet my own":

      Would you believe he can lose 150 kgs in 3 months if he promiced? I wouldn't...


    3. (continues)

      Papandreou made repeated mistakes. He ignored any external advice (IMF, Roumeliotis, Lazard too which he had hired and Roumeliotis says that warned him about the debt too). He overestimated his own political abilities and that of his cabinet to implement such a heave and "alien" to PASOK program in a very short period of time. When he saw he couldn't do it, he changed into trying to fool the people and the troika, while at the same time, dreaming of "eurobonds", as his salvation. When he was politically trembling,from internal dispute, he got the referendum idea, as a way to prolong himself as PM and met his demise at Cannes.

      And after all this, he has the blatant face to go out on foreign tvs, the "tourist MP" as media call him (because he is paid to be in Greece, but he is always somewhere else) and say "i saved Greece", "i did everything right", "i didn't know the deficit was so bad, i had asked Karamanlis on tv and he had said 6%" (while Provopoulos, head of Bank of Greece had warned both of them since September that deficit would hit double digits), he forgets that he was "advertizing" in pre-electoral period 31 bn euros of debts to the state (but impossible to collect) that he would gather easily and thus "there is money" and that right after his election he actually gave some raises.

      Do not be surprised, if, after some years of lecturing how he saved Greece, he writes it also in a book: "George Papandreou, alone against the world - How i saved Greece from doom".

      PASOK has made so much damage to this country...Starting from his father, who wiped out any industrial base there was and just hiring everyone to the public sector (in greek films of 60s and 70s, there were the classic film stories: a) the evil industrialist that sucks the blood of the honest worker, b) the mother that wants to find a husband for the daughter and is horrified to hear he may be a public employee, because he was earning a misery). With PASOK all this changed. The dream of every mother became the public sector and the evil industrialist, disappeared. Simitis then shoved the euro down the throat without referendum or any serious debate. Same for the Olympics, which served the vanity of Melina Merkouri and the mania of grandeur of PASOK. In the meantime, the evil center-right that in 20 years had seen the power for only 3 years, had decided to become a copy of PASOK as the only means to beat it. And succeeded! And then George Papandreou, came sweeping again the floor, promicing 31 bn.

      And after all this, he still gets invited to lecture... Admittedly, outside Greece, the more to the north you go, the more becomes important not what you say, but how you say it. You can be a bubble, but, if you are well dressed and have a calm voice, a nice smile and a "moderate" temperament (i always say, that north of Florence, appearance and attitude is more important than arguments, because temperament lowers proportionally to the climate), no matter if you narrate something not supported by anything factual, they will think "look how well he speaks! Who would have guessed he is greek! Such a talented orator, a bliss for Greece to have him as politician! We should call him for a lecture!".

      Well, "may you live in interesting times"...

    4. Juncker is a comedian. Moreover, he was chair of the Eurofinance group when all this crap with the Memoranda was being drawn up: his only interest was the protection of banks, since this is the only thing (along with fake business location) that the Luxembourg economy has.

      Now he has the cheek to talk nonsense about the inegalitarian impact of depression on the Greek economy. Only a buffoon would pretend that this could have happened any other way, given the auterity policies foisted on Greece. Even now, the Troika is opposing the removal of the illegal collection of property taxes via electricity bills: like Juncker, their only interest is in themselves and their local environment. Conformity with legal and democratic principles has been abandoned from the very outset of this crisis.

  20. Klaus, I generally enjoy your commentary and agree with you. You seem to have a good understanding of Greece. So I was wondering why you would not consider the move to close ERT as the least contentious effort to break into the Unions' grip of a state-run entity and start the process of getting rid of state employees that have choked the Greek economy with their contribution ot fixed costs, lack of productivity and demoralization of the entire society more than the troika has? Frankly ERT is an inessential organization. Its programming is similar to the private tv channels. The quality of journalism and presentation is pathetic (if you could observe the quality of diction of the presenters over 20-30 years you would perceive present day anchors at ERT as illiterate). The educational and art component of their programming is minimal. Yet they extract mandatory fees from every Greek. ERT is no BBC and it does not deserve to operate as if it were.

    Yet many Greeks, presumably the left-leaning ones that are sympathetic to PASOK, DHMAP or Mr Tsipras's faction (or are public servants and see the writing on the wall) rushed to support the comparatively few employees of ERT (in comparison with the dozens of thousands that have lost their private-sector jobs so that the government can stay "solvent") that are affected by the (temporary) closure.

    But what is a leader meant to do in such a case? Please, leave idealism out of the equation. This is Greece, with a rapidly deteriorating economy from the financial cancer that grew since early 80's. Consensus cannot be built sufficiently fast (and by whom?). All one can do is to place ERT under bankruptcy protection and cleanse it up through the courts. Sorry, I was day dreaming. I live in NY where this is possible; in Greece this is not legally or technically feasible.

    So, to conclude this comment, I ask why would you not compare Samaras's effort as Thatcher-inspired; a n effort to break powerful unions. She closed the mines and there was revolt. OK, she was more powerful, capable and in country with better structures to effect political change, even though the UK of 1979 was a far more backward country, albeit a big one with better educational base, talent and tradition to rebuilt. Greece has none of these, although it has illusions of grandiose in abundance.

    (and don't flame me bros--I am Greek and I know how my former country is; I grew up there)

    1. 1 of 2
      Why I would not be on the side of 'the right decision'? For a very simple and pragmatic reason: I have learned over the years that the graveyards of the world are full of people who had been right. What matters, though, is to be pragmatically successful!

      Samaras said during his campaign of last year that he could easily wipe out 30 BEUR of waste in the public sector. If so, why start with the one which is the most sensitive one not only in Greece but also internationally? Why pick an unneccessary fight? For symbolic reasons like Thatcher? Ok, but then only when you are the entire government. Not so when you are in coalition with leftists. I had great admiration for Thatcher. Samaras is no Thatcher. For good or bad, Thatcher hardly ever changed her mind. Samaras has turned like a leaflet in the wind in the last 3 years.

      Reality says that we live today, certainly in Europe, in a world where political correctness carries the day. Where 'good people' carry the day. To fight against that is a losing battle from the start. So common sense would suggest: if you can't beat them, join them!

      If I had been in Samaras' position and if ERT had been my real target, I would have gone overboard to praise ERT. I would have made a speech in parliament about how wonderful ERT as a public broadcaster is and how important that is for Greece and Greek culture. And when I had my coalition partners up with standing ovations about my praise of ERT, I would have mentioned in passing that there are a few things which are wrong with ERT and that we would have to fix those. I would have waited long enough until my coalition partners would have forcefully agreed with that. And when the mood was revved up in my direction, I would have said something like: "This is why the only solution is to have a completely fresh start for ERT. We all, all of us including my own party, have misused ERT in the past for our own purpuses. We have to admit that. This is why we owe it to ERT and to the Greek people to allow it to have a fresh start. We will form an ERT-new and the plans are already in place. The ERT-new will be a lean and mean news organization which is free from party influence, certainly including my own party. I will work with my coaltion partners to implement that new plan and I cannot think of any reason why they would disagree. So to all of us who really want to have a top national broadcaster, I can only say: let's start working on that tomorrow! And in the meantime, we will also take measures to dissolve the ERT-old in an orderly way."

      When Kennedy wanted to commit the US to the flight to the moon, he faced enormous objections. So much money being spent for what? He gave that memorable speech where he said: "Some people ask: why climb the highest mountain? Why cross the largest ocean? (Then he paused to leave people with the right emotions. When he had them where he wanted to have them, he cried out) Why does Rice play Texas? (a classic derby in the Texas. That's when everybody cracked up laughing with enthusiasm and into that mood, Kennedy shouted) That is why we, before the decade is out, will send a man to moon and return him safely to Earth!" (The audience became franatic. From then on, there was no doubt that the US would fly to the moon).

    2. 2 of 2
      Do you see my point? It's not the what; it's the how. If you think you have to use the national broadcaster as your real target to get a message across, please do it the right way. Don't strengthen your opponents; weaken them (preferably in a way where they don't even notice it). Put them into a corner where, if they were to object, they would be perceived as the real blockers on the road to a better ERT. Don't ever tell people whom you are dependent on in a provocative way "I raise you, partner!" They may have the nerve to ask you to show your cards and you may not like that.

      If Samaras had hired a consultant with expertise in change management, that consultant would have advised him to do exactly what I suggested above. At least I think so. Change management is probably one of the greatest challenges in today's Europe. It's a very difficult task and one should seek all the advice one can get. To simply go off on your own with the mindset of "I will show you" may be impressive in Western movies but it hardy ever works in a pluralistic democracy, particularly in a democracy which is as split as the Greek one.

      I guess what I am talking about is leadership...

  21. Klaus, I really can't disagree with your analysis. You are right: change management is difficult, requires years of preparation to actually come to the right point in time and effect it. But you are making some pretty optimistic assumptions in your last comment: that the members of the House of Parliament in Greece are public servants; they are interested in the common good; they are putting the country's interest above theirs. There are many assumptions one can make about Greece and be about right. Call me a cynic, but the assumption that Tsipras, Papariga (or whoever the current master of communism is in Greece)and other peripheral, old-fashioned, clientism- and agenda-driven leaders would listen to words of flattery that do not serve their agendas is downright utopic.

    I can make similar observations about senators and representatives in the USA. But I won't; you know all too well how politics works here when issues such as faith are involved. But there's a middle class that understands its financial interests. A class that is noticeably absent in Greece.

    Samaras is no Thatcher as I implied in my comment. Yes, he is a flip-flopper since his early days as Foreign minister. But I like some of his partners, namely Stournaras, who from this side looks pretty solid. I am not sure how they manage to work with people like Venizelos, the leader of a dying party desperate to retain his electorate and his stronghold to it; or Kouvelis (not sure what his level of desperation is). People that are elected by the voters most likely to be harmed by any government cost-cutting measures.

    It is a bit disconcerting that ini 3 years the only measures that Venizelos and Kouvelis "happily" agreed to are the ones that could easily be blamed on the Germans or troika. Hard, painful measures (I know; my family lives in Greece). But the measures socialized the very simple problem of a government of high cost due to too many employees against too little revenue instead of hitting it where it hurts. And giving the freedom to entrepreneurial individuals to easily start companies, make something and sell it.

    I will now argue that Samaras is right. Time will tell. But don't you find it a little disappointing that after 3 years and so many sacrifices the government has not managed to rally electorate support for true government cost cutting measures? I am reminded of the Cavafy poem "waiting for the Barbarians", which appears to be the solution the average Greek seems to be hoping for.

    Oh, wait, we did find the Barbarians: they are called Germans, Troika and IMF.

    1. I think it is absolutely shameful how unevenly the pain of adjustment has been dished out in Greece in the last 3 years. The vested interests in Greece are seemingly almighty.

      All I am suggesting is what Sun Tzu called: "The successful general is the one who wins the war without ever fighting a battle". If you really think that ERT is the best place to start, build alliances before you hit the target. Obviously, an alliance with Tsipras & Co. would be an illusion. But just look at where the international flak came from. What if Samaras had built alliances with all those so that they would stand behind him as opposed to oppose him?

      I know I sound idealistic. My Greek friends never stop telling me that Greece will never change. But do you remember how the Soviet nomenclature, perhaps viewed as the most solid brick wall by many, collapsed virtually from one day to the next?

      A giant manipulator like Andreas Papandreou managed to steer Greece into the abyss. What Greece now needs is a giant manipulator who steers Greece out of the abyss.

      Again, don't criticize me for dreaming a bit. I know I am dreaming. But that's one of the foremost themes of my blog.

    2. One more thought. The first target I would have chosen is Piraeus; the harbor. There you have the classic comparison between Piraeus-old (Greek side) and Piraeus-new (Cosco). Everything I have heard about Piraeus-old is just mindboggling in terms of union control and union misconduct. On the other hand, Piraeus-new is simply one success story. That is where I would play the game of divide-and-conquer to the tilt.

      If Samaras came down with a sledgehammer on union structures which are essentially criminal, he would get applause from many. All he would have to do is to publish the salaries/perks of union officials and that would be the end of that story.

      He could shut down the Greek side just like that. Prior to doing so, he would need to have an agreement with Cosco to take over the entire operations and all the employees. He could strike a deal with Cosco that they offer those new employees terms which they are most happy with. In short, if done in a smart and planned way, he could really discredit all those who have taken tax payers for ride for so long. He might become the most hated man in Piraeus among Piraeus untions but in the rest of Greece, Greeks would probably applaud.

      Maybe Samaras should study a bit the propaganda techniques of Goebbles. There would be TV reports over all Greek channels showing happy Cosco-workers who express gratitude for having been freed from union control.

      I know this sounds bad but, heck, one has got to adjust one's methods to the methods which the other guy in the court is using. No point in playing Boy Scout when Hell's Angels are coming your way!

    3. Mr. Kastner, while i do agree with your analysis as a good, plan in theory, you are forgetting some details.

      1) It all starts by Manitakis being once more "not ready". This is why Samaras gave special juristiction to Stournaras, who normally should have nothing to do with this. In fact, in the Constitutional Court, the POSPERT side, in her defence line, included the fact that... "minister Manitakis was bypassed!!!".
      2) ERT is big enough to fire 2000 and still have a "safety margin" of about 1000, in case you need them to broadcast in the meantime. It seems yesterday Samaras proposed this to Kouvelis, who is still refusing.
      3) The opposition in Greece, especially the left, NEVER, EVER, supports ANY goverment law. Even when they agree on the need to change something, they disagree on how to do it. SYRIZA for example, now says "yes, ERT needs restructuring, but making it more efficient. 3200 employees aren't many, look at how many BBC has!".
      4) As explained earlier, you can't fire just anyone in the public sector, unless you abolish their working positions (replacing them doesn't count as abolition). Otherwise, you can fire 30 per month.
      5) Troika's clock is ticking.
      6) OLP (assuming it has 2000 workers), you cannot close, it needs to operate and it is in the " DEKO to sell list" of TAIPED. First, the opposition will yell "scandal" and second, it will probably be impossible to TAIPED, to make a competition to sell something, that is operated already by one of the possible contenders for the purchase.
      7) ERT was already "on the table", because PASOK had passed a law. Finding a new one (big enough), would mean further delays. If you take all the rest in the list of PASOK's law and close them, their personnel combined doesn't reach 2000.
      8) If you think ERT is the worst hornet's nest, wait and see DEI... When Fotopoulos will simply press the switch and have a blackout all over Greece. Maybe it will seem less important to you, living in Austria, while ERT used her foreign correspondents to use their connections with foreign journalists and make it a drama, but DEI IS the real drama, that's why they postponed the breaking up of the company and selling one part for the next years.
      9) PASOK and DIMAR, what they really want, is NOT to fire anyone. Be it in OLP or anywhere else. George Papandreou himself, made of OLP his battle cry when he was in opposition.

      Papandreou enduring tear gas for the fight to save OLP from the Chinese:

      Who do you think gave the priviledges to the OLP workers?


    4. (continues...)

      The first thing that would say to Samaras would be: "You can't just donate OLP to the Chinese! We will make a fair competition with TAIPED!". SYRIZA will attack of "fake competition, while the goverment is really trying to scare away all other contenders, as to silently put Cosco in, before anyone else". And just like with ERT, Samaras needs the votes of both DIMAR and PASOK to make the "special agreement" with Cosco that you propose. What makes you think that they would say "Sure, Antonis, do everything you like!".

      10) Μosialos, tried the "mild way", of "let us talk all for a better public TV" and we saw how it ended.

      Again, assuming the goverment has the time, to put OLP on the table and that there are 2000 workers that can be fired (remember, this happens in haste, because the troika is waiting to see the 2000 gone).

      You are right though, that Samaras, just like most ND politicians, is not shrewed enough to deal with the left.

      Usually, giant manipulators, come after big events that wipe out the "old guard". The troika program, allowed the old guard to survive. Eleftherios Venizelos, appeared because there was no other for the job. Andreas Papandreou himself, appeared after the junta, when there was "no old guard", since for 7 years, there was no "old guard party" and the left competition (KKE) was just forming. Andreas had easy game of them, adopting KKE rhetoric and then applying his own game when in power.

      Also, Samaras is like Alice in Wonderland and "you are not in Kansas anymore". This is the FIRST time that in Greece there is a coalition goverment between center-right and center-left (other than the 1989 special purpose goverment and Papadimos' special purpose goverment). On top of that, Samaras has the troika and the Europeans (Merkel called him these days, obviously to tell him not to go to elections). To this, add, that Samaras doesn't have many capable ministers in there. It is the sad truth, but this is the ND of the decadent Karamanlis' period. This is why, he, a ND politician, had to resort to Stournaras (a Simitis' choice) for FinMin. He couldn't figure one of his own that would do for the job. And also why he used Stournaras for the ERT job too. It's not like there are many geniouses in ND right now and it's not that HIS own MPs are thrilled with the idea to fire people.

      Giant manipulators are the ideal choice, but in the meantime, you have to work with what you have... It is like Papandreou's eurobonds. Sure, it would be much better for him. But in the meantime, you have to follow the troika's rules.

  22. I can't blame you for being optimistic. One has to be to avoid surrender. I wish my compatriots had not given up hope that things can change in Greece. I do believe they will but I have yet to see the trigger event or the right person. It's been long time since I read Gorbachev's memoir and my memory fails me but USSR has to be one of the most accidental collapses of an unfair establishment and if that happened, Greece can change to a modern country.

    It would be great if a person like Tony Blair worked his way through the established union party (well, all left in Greece) and modernized it before their eyes and then bring everybody to agree to a more capitalist, fair system.

    The Piraeus example is a good one. But the port is an unglamorous business. Other than come to conflict with the local union it cannot be leveraged by a government to shape opinions (unlike television). However the change was not frictionless even in this case. It took a nation accustomed to corruption to step in and start cleaning (could it be that China ultimately offers Greece its Gorbachev moment?)

    One of the biggest problems is that the tenure of each political party in government has been imbalanced: PASOK ruled long enough it established factions that ND did not have a chance to establish (and would have had, given the chance). It would have been great if government corruption were more distributed between left and right. Given the bias I suspect Samaras has hard time getting his message through ERT; I would expect the ERT channels to report with a pessimistic bias to give rise to protests against the government

    Now, when it comes to European outcry to the ERT closure (certainly not international from this side of the pond) I will just quote EBU's mission statement from their website "Professional association of national broadcasters that negotiates and advocates for interests of public broadcasters in Europe" Well sounds like a broadcasting union to me and it comes no surprise that they reacted vehemently to the closure.

    The best example of the propaganda techniques you allude to is Fox news in the US. Hardly qualifies as conservative outfit to me. It is just conservative propaganda based on populist ideas under the cover of conservatism. But Rupert Murdoch spotted a gap in US broadcasting, bought the channel and managed in due course to create an outfit that hides opinionated reporting under the mantle of objective journalism. Yeah, it would be great if ERT could be used similarly to rouse Greeks, indoctrinate them to force fundamental changes. Now, that is idealistic!

    In any case this is a very interesting conversation but I do not want to drag it on. And I apologize if I did not already congratulate you on your interesting commentary and your nice blog.

    1. Just another thought. There is a most interesting book titled "Why Nations Fail". One of the conclusions they come to is that in countries with a very well established but corrupt political and economic elite, to bring about real change is next to impossible (and least not through democratic and/or peaceful means).

    2. @ Anonymous June 20, 2013 at 3:37 AM

      You are correct, ERT has a very dense network of foreign correspondents in Europe. Some are full time ERT, others are collaborating with ERT, while working full time in foreign media. All these were put on "the path of war" to raise the european press against Samaras. In USA, ERT is much weaker, it has maybe 1-2 correspondents, so they couldn't do much about it.

      Also, there are worries amongst european state media, that Greece may set a precedent and "firing from public media" becomes common thing. The suspicion was "if this is troika's order in Greece, maybe it's part of europolicy and will strike us too in the future".

  23. In case you missed it Cosco Piraeus cargo terminal profits more than triple in 2012

    Giving Cosco the other half of Piraeus would create a monopoly there. Moreover a monopoly that's effectively owned by the government of a very large, very far away, foreign country.

    If one did want more Cosco then maybe one could get them to operate the international cargo operations at Thessaloniki, not sure which is worse a location monopoly or a functional monopoly. But it would seem to make more sense to have cargo going to & coming from Greece's neighbours (Bulgaria, Serbia etc) shipped via Thessaloniki, than via Piraeus - unless you're Trainose of course.


    1. Dear Mr. King,

      Yes, giving Cosco the other half, would require the green light from the EU Commission about free competition (anti-monopoly rules). Which could happen, with a political decision from the Commission. But it's uncertain. The leaks about Gazprom withdrawing from DEPA, say, that they did it, because the Russians are pretty sure that the Commission will cancel their bid for monopoly regulations. This was their concern for months. Their CEO had visited Samaras many times to ask if there was a way that would ensure that the upfront payment would be returned, in case the Commission would cancel the deal.

      Τhe problem with "observing Greece", while being foreigners, is the incapacity to follow news in greek.

      Cosco has been already proposed and denied to partecipate in Thessaloniki's competition. They are interested to activate the option of their Piraeus deal and get "dock III".

      Moreover, the competition for OLTH is to open in July, while for the rest of OLP in October.

      Giving OLP to Cosco now, is probably even more problematic than ERT.

      1) You need to abolish OLP as legal entity. So you can fire 2000 workers (assuming they exist).
      2) You need to make deal with Cosco to take over, logically with her own staff.
      3) You need to open the competition for OLP (which legally doesn't exist) in October.
      4) You need to do this legally, have PASOK/DIMAR vote it, take the flak from the opposition, do the competition in a way that is legal and not considered favouring Cosco and having the EU Commission say that Cosco getting it all, isn't violating anti-monopoly laws.

      Maybe it's doable. But it will be messy too and it politically, it will look like you want to "donate" OLP to the Chinese, now matter how you turn it. At least in the case of ERT, they can't accuse Samaras of wanting to expell the leftists in order to make ERT a "ND TV". Since he shut ERT down with all stuff in and proposes to PASOK/DIMAR to organize the new TV.

      With an accusation of rigging a competition for state property, you can end up in special court for damage to the state's interests and be dragged before enquiring commitees, like Papakonstantinou now.

  24. Α statement from another "mildly manner", "let us reason", ex PASOK minister (2004, minister of Interior), professor of Constitutional Law Alivizatos:

    "I don't know whether we could ever reduce the number of ERT employees while keeping ERT functioning".

    He, like Professor Mossialos (LSE), had made a draft law to restructure ERT back in 2004. Now as he says "I make draft laws, that end up in a drawer, someone remembers them after years and all hell breaks loose".

    Venizelos won't be happy with this "backstabbing" from a fellow PASOKer.

  25. And here, once more, the REAL obstacle. It's not about democracy, it's not about caring about quality, it's about the left NOT WANTING TO FIRE ANYONE.

    Despite being slapped by the Constitutional Court, PASOK and specially DIMAR, try to find ways to keep ERT, despite being dead, because bottom line is, they wanted to restructure the old ERT, without firing anyone.


    - Samaras, wants 2-3 months contracts to a minimum amount of employees for the transitional TV. One program that will be transmitted on all frequencies (all tv channels will show the same program).

    - Kouvelis wants "fully fledged" program, from all channels, each channel with its own program. Of course, this will require a much higher number of employees. (to be frank, almost everyone).

    - Both Kouvelis and Venizelos, demand that ALL employees get 2-3 month contract and AFTER that, to start purging and make the new tv.

    Translation: Kouvelis and Venizelos want once more to follow the tactic "there is nothing more permanent than the temporary":

    If the "transitional" television, has fully fledged program in all the existing channels and full crew, then chances are, that the "new" television, will also keep all channels and all staff! After all, if a "transitional" television has 3500 staff and is transmitting in 3 channels, shouldn't a "definitive" television have the same? Wouldn't it be the most natural conclusion? Yes, it would!

    Classic pasokisms, of how to pretend to want to change, while in reality changing nothing. I was young and i grew old.

    "Put them all in in the transitional scheme, chances are we will save them all and push them in the final ERT too, so we don't fire anyone really".

  26. After having Kouvelis and Venizelos, fighting despite the Court's order to keep in the transitional TV, ALL the ERT employees, you, as a good SYRIZA leftist, how are you going to top that and excel?

    Nikos Voutsis (SYRIZA MP and segretary of the party): "All ERT employees are need and should even be increased if needed! Τhe country needs a television that is not overspending and luxurious."

    But he also added, that "radical changes are needed in ERT".,Boytshs:Kai_alloi_ergazomenoi_sthn_ERT_.html

    Translation: "We will hire even more staff (SYRIZA loyalists), but we need to change ERT into an even more pro-SYRIZA tv station. This will make for a radical change and somehow it will cost less".

  27. In these days, it was written, that Samaras told the Kouvelis-Venizelos duo: "Ok, YOU tell me where to find 2000 in short time that the troika wants". Finally, today, a DIMAR MP, reveals that, HIS party, is not just doing obstructionism like PASOK.They did have a proposal: To shut down "the defence industry, where there are 5000 people, 4000 of which are killing flies".

    Unfortunately, there are some inexact statements, according to the employees:

    - EAS has 900 employees, which are currently "killing flies", because they haven't been paid for the last 5 months and because of insufficient funding of 30 mln euros, isn't able to execute work for 250 mln.
    - EAB has 1300 employees, which are executing international contracts, which if not executed, will mean the greek state will have to pay fines as per contracts' clauses.

    I would add, that an immediate closure of EAS and EAB, will mean, zero maintanance capability for army and airforce as well as no ammunition production. At this point, it makes more sense to abolish the army, the benefit in economic terms would be much higher. It makes no sense to keep armed forces with equipment that can't move, can't fire, can't train.

    PASOK hasn't honoured us with a counterproposal.

    1. Although I agree with your comment that the Left does not want to fire anyone, I think you miss the point that the Right does not want to either. The only reason that Samaras is doing this with ERT is because there is a fiscal crisis and a requirement from the Troika about cutting state jobs.

      Moreover, I do not think that ERT is properly a central part of the Greek state: it is a public service broadcaster. Its corruption and inefficiencies are explicitly caused by ND, Pasok and others -- including the current ministers of Samaras's government. It is pure hypocrisy and even lies to pretend that Samaras is interested in reforming ERT (or anything else, for that matter). His interest is nothing else than staying in power, in the short-medium term.

      AS far as employment reductions elsewhere are concerned, I do not accept that there is no place to cut jobs such as within ministries. Of course, it requires some serious thinking and a strategy, along with proper implementation to cut jobs on the basis of poor performance, corruption and no functional tasks. God forbid that we should ask Greek politicians to work so hard to run the country -- far simpler for them to close down all state broadcasting, relays, cultural life &c.

      No, Samaras is a disaster. That is not to imply that anyone else on offer would be better, though: choosing between a wide range of third rate people is never easy.

    2. @ Guest (Xenos)

      I agree with you.
      1) Under normal circumstances, Samaras wouldn't fire them.Adverse economic circumstances force him to do it? Fine! The important is to do it. The same circumstances were for Papandreou and he couldn't do it. I don't think there are many politicians that want to fire employees unless they are forced to, in any country. In theory, Kouvelis should also fire because he has to. But yesterday he proved that he prefers to leave the goverment than fire, in order to save his electoral strength.

      2) I agree with you that ND is also responsible for the situation. But when you hit the iceberg, the important isn't to open a trial of the captain and crew on deck, but to see whether the crew, is willing, to repent and help the people to the safety boats.
      Why, you think that Italian politicians have magically "changed"? In Italy, Berlusconi started self-austerity (pre-Monti), out of the fear that if not, a troika would come to Italy. Monti, same, was repeating "we must avoid external supervision". Samaras on his turn, was SCARED to see, that following the "usual policy" of the last 30 years, would make ND end up with 5% like PASOK. This is the difference. Papandreou, was dragging his feet, because he was waiting for a "european solution", as the means to stay in power. Samaras, has realised, that if he is to maintain some power, he HAS to try to meet the memorandum targets. Unwillingly, but otherwise he will end up with 5%.

      3) About employment cuts,I agree, but that was Manitakis' job. And now it is proved that he and his party (DIMAR), didn't want to do it. Manitakis had taken the responsibility to reduce the employees, by a combination of ways (firing them was the smallest part), which he described in great detail:

      By reading such details, one would expect that Mr. Manitakis had done an excellent plan. But here we are and he can't find anyone, despite that in his analytical plan, he explains how he will reduce personnel in 2014!


    3. (...continues)
      At this point, you need 2000 fast. Kouvelis yesterday night, proved that he doesn't want to take the political weight of having to fire anyone. Probably tried to take advantage that Samaras is pressured by the EUropeans not to make elections and this burns the main weapon of Samaras. Samaras couldn't say "Listen Kouveli, either you like it, or we go to elections". Even the IMF said that they will not give the next tranche, let alone Merkel that phoned and met Samaras. So Kouvelis played hard with maximalistic position of not firing anyone. Samaras had to bend already to Venizelos to keep 2000 ERT employees in the transitional TV, which is too high of a number and means that either a) they will have to find another 700 to fire shutting down something additional or b) that there is an agreement with troika to accept about 1300 fired now and wait for the 700 in the next months.

      The problem with firing withing ministries, is that it can't be done en masse in short time. That's why Manitakis was preparing his masterplan. You can't shut down a ministry. Small entities that are dependent here and there yes, but since Manitakis didn't do it, the quick solution is to find big DEKOs and shut down-fire. Ministries are considered "strict public sector". Firing in there is more limited than firing in DEKOs.

      Firing should have been a priority of Papandreou, when he had a powerful PASOK only goverment with 43% of the vote and there wasn't at the time a 3 year fatigue, lies, missed predictions and errors by goverment and troika. In a coalition of a weak ND and 2 left parties, now it's much harder.

      The Titanic's captain was also a disaster, but if you can't find another, you have to live with him.

      As Deng Xiaoping said "White cat, black cat, i don't care, as long as it catches mice". Samaras willing, Samaras unwilling,i don't care as long as he does the job. Manitakis can't do the job. Papandreou couldn't do it either nor could Kouvelis. They ALL had to, but only Samaras was ready to bite the bullet. Unwillingly or not, is secondary.

      P.S.: I am not a Samaras' voter. I voted a small party that didn't make it to the parliament. But outside the elections, in terms of realistic goverment choices, the choice is between Samaras giving it a try and Tsipras giving a try to his own "plan", whatever that is, i am not sure that even Tsipras knows.