The riot police forces members are guarding the government residence Maximou after a spontaneous protest by police against the pension reform, Photo: Alexandros Michailidis / SOOC, source: lifo.gr
Less than a year after the third memorandum for financial assistance was signed Greece is again risking to end up without funding since the first monitoring on the progress of implementation of its commitments is ongoing. Creditors have expressed the hope that it could be completed by the days around Easter but the majority of Greek observers are not so optimistic.
Not only has the government of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks not passed the majority of the measures envisaged in the memorandum, but is also facing massive social protests. The representatives of various professional groups are protesting against the pension reform, which provides for an increase in the social insurance contributions and for no reduction of the pensions that have been granted so far. The rumours have become more frequent that the minimum parliamentary majority could split during the vote on this bill.
The refugee crisis has become one of the main problems as the government's inability to master it may cost Greece the closure of its borders and mainly hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants staying in the country.
The economic downturn over the past year was officially confirmed a few days ago, although the business and society are feeling firsthand the level of the recession. In addition, there have been frequent attempts by the government to control the information flow and to silence the media that it considers unfriendly.
These and other issues GRReporter discussed with the Greek writer and publisher Petros Papasarantopoulos.
Mr. Papasarantopoulos, about a week ago it was announced that passersby on the street outside the government residence Maximou in Athens would be searched. Do you consider this a sign of a primary form of authoritarian rule?
I think that there are clear signs of a tendency towards authoritarianism on the part of the current Greek government. They are not only the search of passersby outside the residence but also a series of other actions, such as the attempt to cancel the powers of the independent administrative authorities, the attempt to impose a state control over the media, the attempt to appoint heads of the judiciary persons who are close to the government.
All of these are signs of a tendency to authoritarianism. They are combined with the appointment of friends, acquaintances, relatives and party members to key positions in the state apparatus in the absence of any expertise.
It is claimed that the first signs appeared even during the term of the first SYRIZA government last year, for example, with the formation of a truth committee on the Greek public debt by former parliament speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou. How would you comment on this?
I have the feeling that the coalition cabinet of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks wanted to monopolize power from the outset. I recall statements by leading figures and the Prime Minister himself, indicating that "we have the government but not the power." This is a classic Leninist position.
Thus, they began trying to seize the state as early as last year, to say it figuratively. These attempts have recently intensified, the culmination being the attempt to silence the unfriendly media to the government.
The amendment to the law on granting licences to private televisions was voted on last Thursday, transferring the power to issue them entirely into the hands of the Minister of State. How would you comment on this as well as on the claim that the amendment was not adopted to be applied but to impose pressure on the media?
From technical standpoint, my opinion is that this law is not relevant in terms of its compliance with the Constitution and it will soon be cancelled.
Furthermore, it is clear that it is an attempt for patronage over the unfriendly media to the government, for granting licences to persons who are close to the government because they will be much more susceptible to the government line.
I would also like to note that the systemic television and radio stations may have opposed SYRIZA as a political expression, but they are largely responsible for the dissemination of the party agenda among Greek society. This is because they have adopted populism and created an environment that has allowed SYRIZA to have popular beliefs and convictions.
Therefore, the media are anything but innocent. However, this does not mean that they should be silent regarding the manner in which the government of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks wants this to happen.
Obviously, the government is unable to cope with the refugee crisis. How would you comment on the current situation, especially considering the fact that several ministers are openly speaking of the probability of Greece being excluded from the Schengen area?
The refugee crisis is a very complex issue. But let us consider what is fundamental in it, starting with two figures. In 2014, Greece had 45,000 registered refugees whereas in 2015 they were 850,000, i.e. about 20 times more.