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Greece Behind the Headlines 2007 PDF Printable Version E-mail


Greece Behind the Headlines

December 2007

The following headlines and brief explanatory notes have been taken from just two editions of the weekly 'Athens News', Greece's only English-language newspaper. This is Greece as it really is, a beautiful country with a splendid climate in the hands of entirely the wrong group of people.

Greece has received massive subsidies since, with British help, it defeated an attempted communist takeover in 1945/49: for 45 years it was the only non-communist country in the Balkans and the only non-communist Orthodox country. It has been a member of the EU since 1981 and its 10.5 million people enjoy a steady income from 15 million holiday-makers a year. Why isn't it the paradise it only appears to be?

For the inevitable result of all this incompetence and profligacy, see: The Greek Tragicomedy 2012

Barry & Margaret Williamson

December 2007

Unions Wage War on Reforms: In a nation-wide strike on 12 December, thousands of workers took to the streets of Athens to protest the government's proposed pension reforms. Some rocks were thrown and riot police intervened.

Heavy Vehicle Death Trap: The average age of Greek trucks is 18.5 years; their accidents cost 10 million euros (₤7 million) in the 8 years between 1996 and 2004. The vast majority of trucks have no tachographs; this means that drivers' hours and vehicle speeds are not recorded. Public transport bodies which should be carrying out regular checks on heavy vehicles are non-existent. The death rate on Greek roads is more than 3 times that of the UK on a per capita basis, even though the Greeks own fewer vehicles and drive fewer miles per capita.

Police find Cannabis Plants at Nunnery: The elderly nuns deny all knowledge and 2 volunteer 'gardeners' are being sought.

Are They Worth their Paychecks? MPs plan to vote themselves a 60% pay rise on top of their existing 6,000 euros (₤4,300) a month.

Greek Students are Lagging behind Others in Europe: The OECD finds Greek schools are behind every other EU country.

Vandals Wreck School: Pupils occupied 6 schools in Athens during November 2007 in protest at the government's proposed educational reforms. During 3 weeks they caused damage costing 1 million euros (₤700,000). Libraries were trashed, the science labs set on fire, sledge hammers were used to smash all the windows in the schools and most of the computers were either wrecked or stolen.

Children Still Suffering in Greece: The UN Convention on Children's Rights (CRC) was ratified in Greece in 1992 but is still little known, understood or implemented by parents or in schools.

Spring Deadline in College Row: Greece has not yet met an EU deadline of October 2007 to recognise degrees awarded at a European University or at one of Greece's dozens of Private Liberal Arts Institutes (many of which are accredited by British Universities). At the moment, the government only recognises degrees awarded by its own state-run Greek universities.

Greece has the lowest level of internet use in the EU: Only 23% of households have internet access and less than 5% have broadband. (There is no system of public libraries, with or without internet!)

Greece Speeding Towards Climate Change: Greece has some of the highest CO2 emissions per kWh of electricity produced – 88% is produced by burning oil or lignite (the dirtiest form of coal). Progress on reform is well behind EU targets. Indeed, 4 new power stations are planned - 2 lignite-fired and 2 coal-fired – despite the country's obvious suitability for using solar energy and wind power.

Greece Absent from Climate Talks: Only the deputy Environment Minister attended the 2-week long UN sponsored Bali meeting, and only for the last few days at that.

Anger Stirs over Untouchable Water: The Association of Greek Chemists (AGC) reports that water from the Asopos river, from which the town of Oinofyta takes its drinking water, is not even fit for a bath. This is due to the presence of hexavalent chromium from polluting stainless steel, paint, ink, dyestuff and plastic industries along the river.

Greece to Buy 415 Russian Infantry Combat Vehicles: It is also planned to buy 30 fighter jets from Russia, all in order to counter the 'threat' from fellow NATO member, Turkey. The total cost would be nearly 6 billion euros (₤4.3 billion). Greece bought 15 French Mirage fighter jets in 2000 at a cost of 1.2 billion euros (₤0.9 billion), as well as American F16's.

Police Crack Major Sex Trade Operation: Lawyers were bribed to forge residence permits and the women (lured in from Eastern Europe with false job offers) were forced to work in 10 brothels in Athens and 4 in Thessaloniki.

Pakistanis Beaten Again: But not at cricket! The Greek police were more interested in whether the Pakistani victims had valid residence permits than finding the assailants who attacked them in their home.

Afghan Families Plea for Help outside Ministry: Greece's asylum-seeker approval rate is the lowest in Europe at less than 1%. The European average is around 26%.

193 Illegal Immigrants Land on Crete: 1 was dead and 7 were arrested for smuggling.

Greek Landmines Shatter Lives: 3 amputees, victims of landmines while illegally crossing the Greek/Turkish border, still seek compensation from the Greek government.

Immigrant? Then it's No Vacancy: In a university-conducted telephone survey involving 5,000 paired calls (Greek and Albanian) seeking rented accommodation, the Albanians were consistently refused a viewing, or quoted a higher rent, by prospective landlords. This is despite 16% of the population of Athens now being immigrants from Albania.

Trick and Cheat is Becoming Routine in Greece: There is a widespread belief that cheaters are clever and can only be blamed for being caught.

Greeks Expect Increase in Corruption: Political parties and the tax authorities are seen as the most corrupt. Over 27% of Greeks say they have paid a bribe, the third highest rating in the EU after Romania (33%) and Lithuania (29%). This compares with 1% in Britain.

Judges and Lawyers Charged in Trial-Fixing Scandal: 21 people including judges, lawyers, an astrologer, a military doctor and a priest are to stand trial themselves. 8 judges have gone into hiding and are still being sought.

Employment Reform Minister Accused of Flouting the Law: Vasilis Maginas is accused of employing 3 immigrants of Indian origin at his second home and estate near Athens, without paying the necessary social insurance contributions. He claims they are simply enjoying his hospitality. He built a luxurious villa, outdoor pool and landscaped gardens with planning permission only for a café, later declaring the property as only a 'parking lot' in the parliamentary register of interests

Balkan Countries Overtake Greece: Macedonia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia are going ahead with rapid economic reforms, with growth rates around 6%. In Macedonia, for example, it takes just 4 hours to open a new business, with an aim to reduce that to 2 hours. In Greece, it takes 15 steps and 38 days to start a new business – and that is the official version!

Greek Inflation sharply up to 3.9%

FYROM Issue Cries for Solution: Greece still blocks the Republic of Macedonia being called 'Macedonia', although over 100 countries already refer to it by that name. Greece has a northern province of Macedonia, largely consisting of land taken from Macedonia in the Balkan Wars of 1913 as the Ottoman Empire fell apart. The rest of Macedonia was shared between Bulgaria and the newly-formed Yugoslavia. Only the latter part is now independent.

Olympic Rings to be Squashed: The official, government-owned Greek Airline is about to be declared bankrupt. No-one wants to buy it and the Greek Government is likely to be fined by the EU for illegally subsidising the airline in a failed attempt to keep it going. Regular protest strikes by staff hindered previous attempts at a sale.

Barber arrested with 2,300 Ancient Coins.

Tougher Antiquities Legislation is now Proposed.

More Electoral Law Changes: In keeping with a tradition set by former Greek governments, the present administration is to pass a law from which it will benefit at the next election.