Austerity in Greece, Ukraine, and Iceland

This video says about itself:

Into the Fire – The Hidden Victims of Austerity in Greece

20 April 2013

A hard hitting documentary which shows the plight of refugees and migrants in recession hit Athens, Into The Fire is a film with a difference.

Shot and edited with sensitivity and compassion, it doesn’t pull its punches and makes for harrowing viewing in parts. It is the product of crowd funding, dedication, self-sacrifice and a burning sense of justice. …

In times of severe austerity things look bleak for Greek people, but they’re far worse for those who have recently arrived. Without housing, legal papers or support, migrants in Greece are faced with increasing and often violent racism at the hands of the growing Nazi party Golden Dawn and the police in Athens. Many are trapped by EU laws and legislation of other EU countries meaning they’d be returned to Greece if they managed to get to another member state; they are desperate to leave the country.

This film gives incredible insights to the reality faced by people who simply want to lead peaceful, normal lives.

Having been to Athens to shoot footage about austerity in April last year, Reel News video activists started talking and working with a young Somalian refugee, they made many contacts in the migrant world and those contacts gave them access to a huge number of untold and shocking stories.

By Brian Denny in Britain:

Time to revise the Iceland lesson

Saturday 12th September 2015

As unelected EU apparatchiks sanction the pillage of Greece and Ukraine BRIAN DENNY points to a striking alternative

Anti-austerity campaigners often call for banking controls, long-term public investment, the creation and protection of jobs and taking control of interest rates and monetary policy back from the Bank of England.

All these demands are, of course, illegal within the European Union (EU) and its neoliberal treaties, which demand the free movement of capital and outlaw all forms of protectionism and any real democratic control over the economy.

The reality is that European bankers and their institutions — the European Commission, European Central Bank, IMF, and European Stability Mechanism (ESM) — are turning themselves into virtual feudal dictators on behalf of monopoly finance capital.

Under the guise of promoting competitiveness within the EU through various impenetrable and obscure texts, the world’s biggest corporations are accruing enormous powers in order to dominate the modern wealth-accumulation process.

In other words parasitic speculative capital has been allowed to assert its political power over productive capital and the nation state itself through the thoroughly anti-democratic institutions of the EU.

It wasn’t always this way. Between the end of WWII and 1972 economies grew because speculative finance was controlled, thus creating welfare states and full employment.

Since then the forces of so-called “globalisation” began the long march of rolling back democratic and state control and unleashed the orgy of unbridled and destructive capitalism known in Britain as Thatcherism.

As the regional arm of globalisation the EU was the agent of speculation and austerity — particularly after 1993 — and the coming of the deeply neoliberal Maastricht Treaty which institutionalised this economic mumbo jumbo as a legal requirement.

The strict criteria of the Economic and Monetary Union, which limits public sector expenditure and government borrowing, simply prevented states from re-inflating their economies, ironically with the full support of social-democratic and left parties across Europe.

The European Fiscal Compact further consolidated the Maastricht criteria for the single currency known as the Stability and Growth Pact. Member states now face annual fines up to 0.1 per cent of GDP if they fail to cut spending deficits.

As such the EU is developing a new form of colonialism whereby compliant ruling classes are allowed to share in the wealth extracted in exchange for being permitted to rule on behalf of the colonisers.

The current austerity torture chambers being inflicted on the most heavily indebted nations, particularly in Greece and now Ukraine, are a case in point.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed last month by the pro-EU Syriza-led government and the troika adds another £63.5 billion to Greece’s debt, raising Greece’s total debt to more than £260bn.

Nearly all the £63.5bn is earmarked for debt payments to north European banks that already own the ever-rising debt, while Greek workers must work harder for less in order to generate a surplus that will return to the troika institutions in the form of interest.

Under this form of structural adjustment the troika has effectively become the agent of financial wealth extraction and transfer.

Under the MoU the Troika will oversee the writing of any budget, intervene in all wage negotiations and no Greek legislation can be enacted without prior approval of the Troika.

The MoU also states that Troika staff will manage Greek banks and any branches outside Greece will be sold off to other Euro banks, ie the ones that own all the debt.

This neocolonialism also demands the sale of government assets directly to those already benefiting from interest payments on the debt.

These new feudal overlords insist that any new money must pay the interest on old debts and that no new money goes into growth, claiming that debt repayment will reassure private investors so that they will pump in more speculative capital — not a chance.

In Ukraine this transfer of wealth is even faster.

Loans were promised to Kiev only after the Western-backed government swore in US-born Natalie Jaresko as finance minister and Lithuania’s Aivaras Abromavicius as economy minister hours after giving them Ukrainian citizenship.

Jaresko was previously attached to the US embassy, while Abromavicius can’t even speak Ukrainian. Yet both fanatically support austerity, deregulation and privatisation and their friends in the US and the EU can expect to do very well.

The IMF also quickly announced a new £26bn deal raising Ukraine’s debt from £7.7bn in 2007 to £65bn this year. The new £65bn debt will mean a massive increase in financial wealth extraction in the form of interest payments.

Frenzied privatisations will also hand state enterprises to the same speculative capital that already owns the debt. No fewer than 342 companies are slated for sale this year including power plants, mines, 13 ports and even farms.

This process of imperialist accumulation and colonisation will, of course, not serve the interests of the peoples of these unfortunate countries.

But there is an alternative and it has been done — in Iceland.

When global capitalism collapsed under a sea of speculation in 2008, instead of imposing devastating austerity measures and bailing out its parasitic banks, Iceland did the opposite.

Reykjavik refused to dump the odious debt onto its population or join the EU and its failing eurozone — as demanded by Brussels — and went on to throw those criminal bankers responsible for the crisis into prison.

“Why should we have a part of our society that is not being policed or without responsibility?” asked special prosecutor Olafur Hauksson in the wake of the collapse.

Now, less than a decade after refusing to kow-tow to the outrageous demands of EU institutions and the IMF, the Icelandic sky hasn’t fallen in but, in fact, the nation’s economy is booming.

The International Monetary Fund has even recanted, announcing that the country had achieved economic recovery “without compromising its welfare model” of universal health care and education.

Inside the neoliberal EU prison things look very different. So why on Earth would socialists and trade unionists campaign to stay in it?

Brian Denny is spokesman for Trade Unionists Against the EU.

With no anti-corruption prosecutor, Sytnyk says future of Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Bureau in doubt: here.

Amidst continually worsening economic and social conditions and a tentative ceasefire with separatists in eastern Ukraine, the right-wing US-backed government of President Petro Poroshenko is seeking to move forward with plans to carry out large-scale privatization of thousands of state-owned industries in 2016: here.

9 thoughts on “Austerity in Greece, Ukraine, and Iceland

  1. Pingback: #Austerity in Greece, Ukraine, and Iceland | Dear Kitty. Some blog | sdbast

  2. Great documentary.

    I just wish that I could help somehow. I’m basically housebound, so I obviously can’t do much, but I’ve been wondering who would be the best organisation to donate to. Ideally, I’d just like to sponsor someone and give a little money on a monthly basis to help them.

    If you have any info on that, I’d be grateful.


  3. Tuesday 22nd September 2015

    posted by Morning Star in Editorial

    IT IS sadly unlikely that the re-election of Greece’s Syriza government will end the pain for the country.

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras claims a “clear mandate to carry on fighting inside and outside our country to uphold the pride of our people.”

    A 46 per cent abstention rate shows that many are wearying of this game, however.

    The slow suffocation of the Greek economy by the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund “troika” continued after his first election victory and will continue after this one.

    The Syriza leader has resolved his immediate problem in commanding a parliamentary majority. The tearaway Popular Unity outfit, composed of those members of his party who baulked at his surrender to EU chiefs in July, barely registered with the electorate and won no seats in the new parliament.

    Tsipras still lacks a majority, but can maintain his coalition with the right-wing Independent Greeks in order to carry out — what exactly?

    He promises a “gentler” austerity, but is vague on the details. And if he thinks the EU is going to redefine its demands in deference to his democratic mandate, he hasn’t learned much from his nine months in office.

    An overwhelming No vote in his country’s referendum on whether to accept punitive “bailout” terms — conditions attached by the troika to loans which merely add to Greece’s debts and benefit predatory foreign banks — did not move Jean-Claude Juncker and his Brussels bruisers one inch.

    Within days of the moral victory of the referendum, Tsipras signed up to the polar opposite of the people’s demands — agreeing to billions more in cuts and the most extreme neoliberal privatisation bonanza yet tried in Europe.

    More than a dozen airports, the key ports of Thessaloniki and Piraeus, stakes in the water supply, the electricity grid, the postal service, motorways, telecoms — even whole islands have been or are being sold.

    The only possible consequence of this reckless firesale is the further immiseration of Greece and the continued decline of an economy that has lost a quarter of its value since the economic crash.

    The “gentler” austerity now on offer includes cutting wages and increasing pensions contributions (again), deregulating a number of professions including the taxi sector, and reinstating charges to see a doctor that Syriza was originally elected on pledges to remove.

    The European Union will be keeping a close eye on Athens to make sure it carries out this extremist wish-list. Ministers’ hearts must have sunk when they saw their victory was immediately met by a tweet from the Eurogroup of finance ministers leader Jeroen Dijsselbloem promising to “continue accompanying Greece in its ambitious reform efforts.”

    Some defend the Greek prime minister on the grounds that he has had to surrender in the face of overwhelming pressure from the troika in a deal memorably described by one of his own ministers back in July as “the political murder of our economy.”

    Maybe, maybe not.

    The Morning Star agreed then and agrees now with the Communist Party of Greece’s assessment that ending austerity is not possible within the straitjacket of EU and single currency membership, but it is true Greece has not voted for such a course.

    But whether Tsipras is personally to blame or not, the role of the European Union in the Greek tragedy is clear.

    It has ridden roughshod over the democratic wishes of a member state and forced a party elected on a left-wing, socialist platform to implement right-wing, neoliberal policies.

    This is a disaster for Greece. And it has implications too for socialists in every other EU member state who wish to challenge austerity, including us here in Britain.


  4. Friday 18th December 2015

    posted by John Haylett in World

    Kiev court upholds attempt to wipe out party in Ukraine
    AMNESTY International hit out at Kiev’s banning of the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) yesterday as a “decisive blow for freedom of speech in the country.”

    The District Administrative Court in the Ukrainian capital upheld the Justice Minister’s decision to ban the KPU on Wednesday, preventing it from operating officially or participate in elections.

    “The banning of the Communist Party in Ukraine sets a very dangerous precedent,” said Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia director John Dalhuisen.

    “This move is propelling Ukraine backwards not forwards on its path to reform and greater respect for human rights,” he added.

    Amnesty deplored what it called a flagrant violation of freedom of expression and association, demanding its immediate reversal.

    Under four new laws adopted in May 2015, collectively known as “decommunisation” measures, displaying communist or nazi symbols invites criminal prosecution and up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

    The use of the term “communist” is explicitly prohibited by the legislation. However, the KPU refused to alter its name, logo or constitution.

    The KPU accused the regime of seeking to ban the party since it represents the only political opposition.

    “The Communist Party opposes the country’s external management and transformation of Ukraine into a colony. It opposes the social policy of genocide imposed by the IMF,” it declared.

    “It is against the freezing of salaries and pensions, against raising tariffs, against the theft and corruption that have increased significantly since US State Department henchmen came to power.”

    The Kiev authorities’ attempt to equate communism with nazism is entirely bogus, as shown by its decision to approve monuments across the country to war criminal and nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera.

    The Ukrainian authorities wanted to ban the KPU last year, accusing it falsely of financing the self-styled people’s republics set up by anti-fascists in eastern Ukraine.

    The Security Service claimed to have provided evidence to the Ministry of Justice, which filed a motion to ban the party in July 2014.

    No proceedings ever took place because appointed judge Valery Kuzmenko pulled out of the case earlier this year, citing pressure from state forces who had raided his office, confiscating files on the case.


  5. Wednesday, 13 January 2016

    Greek pensions strike!

    GREECE’S Seamen’s Pension Fund union held a general assembly to decide on further action on the second day of a two-day strike over pensions.

    Pension Fund (NAT) were on strike on Monday and Tuesday in protest at the government’s proposals for social security reform. The next stage of Greece’s bailout from the EC-ECB-IMF troika is dependent on huge savings from the pension system.

    In order to find savings worth 1.8bn euros or 1% of GDP in 2016, the Greek government is proposing increasing employer contributions and merging pension funds, among other measures. Troika representatives are due to begin a review later this month.

    The Seaman’s Pension Fund workers’ union is particularly opposed to the idea of NAT being merged into a main pension fund. Civil servants’ union ADEDY on Monday called for a new protest against the government’s proposed pension reforms.

    ADEDY said it would hold the demonstration at noon on Saturday in Omonia Square, central Athens. Representatives of other unions that oppose the planned changes, including private sector umbrella group GSEE, also took part in Monday’s meeting where the decision for Saturday’s protest was taken.

    GSEE and ADEDY say they are against plans for employees’ social security contributions to be raised by 0.5 per cent. Workers are angry at the betrayal of Syriza leader, prime minister Alexis Tsipras, who campaigned with a promise not to cut pensions again.

    They are sceptical of his pledge on Sunday that his government would not give in to ‘unreasonable’ demands from creditors. He added that the pension system was ‘on the brink of collapse’ and needed to be overhauled.

    The Syriza-led coalition government aims to submit the pension reforms bill to parliament by mid-January and have it voted into law by early February. Labour Minister Giorgos Katrougalos said last Sunday that Greece is not prepared to compromise with lenders on some key aspects of its pension reform plan, which the government expects to be voted through Parliament with the full support of all the coalition MPs and perhaps some from the opposition.

    Less than a week after submitting the plan to the country’s lenders, the minister argued that there is no reason for the institutions to quibble with it. Katrougalos said: ‘The memorandum of understanding does not give them the right to ask for the adjustment to be carried out exclusively by pension cuts if we meet the targets in another way.

    ‘Anyway, there have been 11 rounds of cuts so far based on the argument that the pensions system needs to become sustainable. How can people be convinced that it will actually work the 12th time?’

    He said that most of the pension savings demanded by lenders were achieved through measures that have already been passed, leaving another 600 million euros to be cut. Katrougalos said almost 400 million would come from increasing employers’
    contributions by one per cent and another 150 to 170 million by raising employees’ contributions by 0.5 per cent.

    The minister argued that his proposals would lead to minimal cuts and that it introduces a comprehensive overhaul of the social security system to put it on a sustainable footing. He said: ‘For the first time in Greece we will have single-speed pensioners. All the pensioners will be subject to the same rules.’

    The plan foresees new pensioners bearing part of the adjustment burden as they will receive lower retirement pay than existing pensioners, at least in the short term. Those earning supplementary pensions are also likely to see their earnings reduced.
    Katrougalos claimed: ‘Main pensions are our red line. We are not intending to sacrifice auxiliary pensions, though. We are entering negotiations with a proposal to save them.’

    Apart from insisting that existing main pensions should not be slashed, Katrougalos said that the other point the government is not willing to give in on is its proposal for anyone who has completed 15 years of work to receive a basic pension regardless of their income during that time.

    The EC-ECB-IMF troika of Greece’s lenders seem to favour a system by which pensions are only paid out if 20 years of work have been completed and that they be linked to the recipients’ income during that time. The Labour minister assured: ‘The 15-year period is non-negotiable. The income criteria are non-negotiable.’

    Katrougalos expressed confidence that all 153 coalition MPs would vote for the proposals drafted by the government. He also said that he has received encouraging signs from some opposition deputies and believes there may be wider support for the measures.

    His statements followed an angry demonstration organised by the Communist-affiliated PAME union last Friday. Scuffles broke out in central Athens during the protest against the proposed pension reforms. Tensions flared when demonstrators broke past a line of riot police near the prime minister’s office.

    Several hundred protesters supporting the PAME union displayed a huge banner outside the office of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday demanding the proposals be scrapped. Riot officers fired tear gas after demonstrators broke a police line.
    Earlier, hundreds more public sector workers and pensioners had marched in the city centre.

    One of the protesters, 74-year-old Babis Kattis, said: ‘The government tricked the workers and the farmers into thinking that it will create a better society with more justice and less unemployment. ‘Pensioners are about to become beggars. Alongside shrinking pensions, the elderly have already been hard-hit by high unemployment, increases in VAT and rising taxes.

    • The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will examine a complaint by 42 Bangladeshi workers against Greece over the violation of European laws prohibiting slavery and forced labour, it was announced last Friday.

    The case, which concerns the shooting of 28 migrant farm workers who were demanding unpaid wages by foremen at a strawberry farm in the southwestern town of Manolada in April 2013, will be examined after January 20, according to the Greek Council for Refugees.

    The Athens-based NGO said: ‘The appeal to the ECHR will hopefully mark a first step in the effort to restore legality and avert similar incidents in the future.’ In 2014, a Greek court acquitted the farm owner and a supervisor, and sentenced two foremen to prison terms of seven and 14 years on charges of causing grievous bodily harm.

    The decision prompted an outcry from unions and rights groups. An appeal against the decision was later turned down by the Supreme Court.


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