Posts Tagged ‘Democracy’

ERT: Appeal to foreign media and journalists

In News on June 12, 2013 at 10:27 am
pic by @polyfimos

pic by @polyfimos

Yesterday the Greek government (primarily New Democracy party, without the support of coalition partners PASOK and DIMAR) announced they would shut down ERT, Greece’s national broadcaster. The argument was that ERT is marred with corruption and that it operates at a cost to the public sector. First, ERT is profitable, as its employees testify. Second, the New Democracy spokesman Kedikoglou who announced the decision and raged about “corruption” was the same politician that has requested the hiring of 23 of “his” people in ERT!

More importantly, the decision was not approved by the parliament but was implemented through a ministerial decree (which is a violation of the Constitution and Greek legislative procedure). The decree is now at the office the President of the Hellenic Republic and parties opposing it have contacted him NOT to sign it. Neo-nazi Golden Dawn and New Democracy are the only 2 parties that have openly supported the decision (although it seems coalition partners were aware of it).

The decision was announced during the day and at 11pm riot police went to Mount Ymittos and turned off the digital and analogue signals. ERT was still broadcasting and used TVE (Spanish), and 902 channels (owned by the Communist Party), among others. A couple of hours later DIGEA (private operator of the digital signal in Greece) turned off the 902 channel, claiming it should not broadcast ERT!

ERT employs more than 2500 people and operates channels across Greece, in remote areas where other broadcasters have no signal. It also broadcasts across the world, informing Greeks living abroad and providing a live link to them with Greek culture and “home”. Protesters gathered outside the ERT building until 3 am in the morning and they are gathering again today.

ERT is the only broadcaster that actually operates legally in Greece, with all other TV channels lacking an official permit from the state.

Here in London, a demonstration has been organised to support ERT employees, at 5pm London time at the Greek Embassy  W11 3TP.

This is the facebook link

This is the announcement by the European Federation of Journalists.

This is the announcement by the European Broadcasting Union.

This is the announcement of the National Union of Journalists in London.

This is a petition to stop the shutdown of Public Television in Greece.

Please follow #ERT on twitter to find out more.

Please write about this and support us, we have no other outlet except internet and foreign broadcasters.

This is about freedom of speech, the right to independent information and democracy itself.

Thank you in advance for your support.


Europe’s elites and their democracy

In News on March 1, 2012 at 6:19 pm

The European Union (EU) was never famous for its democratic credentials. Discussion about the EU’s “democratic deficit” began in the 1970s two decades after the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was established in 1951 and later expanded to the European Economic Community (EEC, 1957).

The argument in favour of more democracy at European level was that as (Western – we are still in Cold War, remember?) European elites were engaging in economic cooperation, the executive branch i.e. the governments were gradually being empowered at the expense of the legislative branch i.e. the parliaments. As Ministers and Prime ministers were meeting in Brussels to agree on reducing cross-border barriers, liberalizing trade and setting a common external tariff, parliaments back home were only asked to ratify the international agreement, post-negotiation.

Following calls in favour of more democracy and accountability at European level, it was decided that European Parliament (EP) members would be finally directly elected by European citizens. The first EP elections took place in 1979, almost three decades after European integration (i.e. this process of European economic cooperation) had begun. The small print was that the EP’s role was consultative.

Over the years, the EP’s powers grew, just like the EEC transformed itself to a European Union with increasing powers not just in trade and agriculture, but also in economic and social policies, capital movements, justice affairs and immigration policy, education and consumer rights to mention a few. The gap between Europe’s elites and peoples widened with every treaty.

The Treaty of Maastricht was voted down by the Danish in 1992, the Treaty of Nice was rejected by the Irish in 2001, the European Constitutional Treaty was rejected by the French and the Dutch in 2005 and the Treaty of Lisbon was voted down by the Irish in 2008. Each and every time the reading of the negative results was the same: citizens were poorly informed and the “against the treaty” campaign was better organized. Each and every time the response was the same: conduct the referendum again (so that voters get it right).

In this light, it should come as no surprise that over the past few months a number of European officials and politicians have stated their preferences on the timing of the Greek elections. What shouldn’t they? European elites never thought much of their citizens and Europe has a tradition of placing markets above people.

For more on how democracy is currently re-invented in Greece, click here.

Europe’s democracy

In News on November 14, 2011 at 10:42 pm

European integration has always been an elite affair. From the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1951, which established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) to the negotiation of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, the governments of the European Union member states have been clear in their message: European integration is a process to be nourished and protected by national governments and not to be endangered by grass-root politics and citizens’ unpredictable voting in referendums.

As European integration was primarily controlled by member states’ governments, their role has been empowered. Over the past thirty years, the ministers’ council meetings multiplied, the Heads of State gathered more often than not, in scheduled (four times a year) and extraordinary meetings (see recent Eurozone meetings) and effectively, national parliaments were gradually by-sided. At the same time, as interdependence between countries increases in a globalized world, European cooperation is strengthened and nowadays, more often than not, the important decisions are taken at European level rather than the national level, despite what the British political class and media insist on telling the Brits.

These developments combined have ultimately led to a situation whereby governments are empowered vis-à-vis national parliamentary procedures, and ultimately vis-à-vis their voters.[1] This means that the extent to which  European voters’ policy preferences (or part of them) reaches the final policy outcomes at European level effectively lies first, in the ability of the citizens to transmit their interests to governments and second, in the ability of the governments to negotiate these effectively in Europe. However, what happens if a government decides to U-turn on the political platform it was elected on, does not heed public opinion at home, and has a weak negotiating position among its European counterparts? Well, in a nutshell this country’s voters are in a gutter.

This is no other than the case of Greece at the moment. The current Socialist government (PASOK) came to power on an anti-corruption and economic reform platform, claiming that it would fight tax evasion and thus regain lost government revenues to implement reforms in the economy. It would promote transparency and public deliberation. Two years later, the government’s policies are so right-wing, that even the centre-right opposition party is reluctant to support them: under the EU-IMF bail-out package auspices, PASOK has implemented harsh austerity measures, has not fought tax evasion and has thrown the economy into a -5% recession. The debt is higher than it used to be in October 2009 when PASOK came to power, while the country’s target year for reaching a debt of 120% of GDP is 2020. It should be noted that the target is close to the original debt levels in October 2009, which was 128%.

In addition, over the past two years, the government gradually lost all of its negotiating cards (e.g. instead of threatening it would leave the euro two years ago, if no assistance was provided by Brussels, it is now being threatened by the EU that Greece will be thrown out of the eurozone), it missed the opportunity to be viewed as a reliable partner by its European counterparts (many measures of the first bail-out package have not yet been implemented) and in the end lost all of its credibility in Brussels. What is worse, at the moment, the Prime Minister is negotiating a “national unity” government, demanded by the EU to ensure that the second bail-out package (which includes a 50% haircut of the Greek debt) will be approved by Greece’s politicians.

The Greek people have been demonstrating since June (see Athens’ Indignant) and the polls show that the majority of Greeks are against a second bail-out, which in effect will plunge the country into a deeper recession with an uncertain end date. Unemployment is currently 15%, reaching 20% in the 18-30 age group, and as rich Greeks buy houses in London, the country’s youth migrates to greener pastures abroad.

Politics is a game and all parties involved realize this to a certain degree. All political parties tend to exaggerate their platforms prior to elections to some extent and often promise more than they deliver; all politicians change their positions following the elections, even if it is simply because of changes around them; Just like politicians change their policies after being elected, so will citizens bash them for doing so, even if they realize that a government cannot lower taxes and increase welfare benefits and improve the economy, all at the same.

However, what happens when a government departs so greatly from its original pre-election positions that legitimacy issues are raised? In any other part of the world, the answer would be, elections. However, what happens when this country is part of a European monetary system, like the Eurozone, that in effect blackmails the current government to a “government of national unity”, in return for a second bail-out, in an unprecedented breach of national sovereignty? And what happens when in addition, this second bail-out will force a whole nation to implement harsh measures imposed by elites, to remedy a grave economic situation that was created by the national elites’ decisions over the past thirty years? What are the options of such a people in this kind of Europe?

The European project was about peace and prosperity. In a divided Europe, it was about the freedom of the West, juxtaposed against the oppression of the East. In the post-communist Europe, and as East European countries joined the club, it became about political and economic freedom, about free-market economies and liberal democracies. When did democracy stop being part of the equation?


[1] This power shift from parliaments to governments in the national level would have been tolerable, were it matched by a respective power shift from governments to the European Parliament (EP) at the European level. However, despite MEPs’ laborious efforts, the EP remains often by-passed (see recent Eurozone deliberations), while citizens view European Parliaments as secondary.