Europe

FROM ATHENS

A Difficult Summer for Tsipras

After a very difficult July, the crisis continues to hit hard in Greece. In the exhausting month of August, Tsipras government still faces great difficulties: a historic stock market crash, negotiations with the Troika and a difficult social situation that may bring more surprises after the summer.

Laura Varlet

From Athens

August 05, 2015

Spanish version from La Izquierda Diario, August 4, 2015

Historic Fall of the Athens Stock Exchange and Negotiations with the Troika for the Third "Bail Out"

In the coming period , in the context of the accelerated experience with the “leftist” government led by Syriza,the voices of workers and youth in struggle may be heard again, in a country that has experienced more than 30 general strikes since the beginning of the crisis.

On Monday morning, the Athens stock exchange opened with a historic drop of 22.83 % he stock market was closed by the government’s order on June 26, a day before the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced the referendum, which eventually took place on July 5th. The closing lasted five weeks and it was the longest since the 70’s. The European Commission stated that Greece goes into a recession in 2015, with a contraction of 2 and 4 % after six years of continuous crisis.

This collapse clearly expresses doubts and the uncertainty, despite the agreement sealed between Tsipras and the Troika on July 13. Within that agreement both sides would begin negotiations for the third “rescue”of 86 billion euros.

On Monday morning, the Athens stock exchange opened at a historic 22.83 percent drop. The stock market had been previously closed by government order on June 26, a day before Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced the referendum, which eventually took place on July 5. The closure lasted five weeks and was the longest since the 1970’s. The European Commission declared that Greece was in recession, with a contraction of 2 to 4 percent after six years of continuous crisis.

This collapse clearly expresses the doubts and uncertainty that continue to reign, despite the agreement sealed between Tsipras and the Troika on July 13. The agreement stated that both sides would begin negotiating for the third “bail out” of 86 billion euros.

These negotiations are expected to be very complicated for Tsipras, in particular with regard to the Greek debt. Several of the creditors consider the debt unpayable and claim it necessary to speak clearly of a restructuring plan; this is true of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and even the French government. However, the problem is that for the German government –with its key negotiating leverage in the European Union— restructuring the debt continues to be a “taboo” subject.

Moreover, ion t is uncertain whether Tsipras would achieved to implement the plans of adjustment (or austerity measures?). Many activists, political and social activists hold that the attack that Tsipras has to imposed in order to obey the Troika is too large. Taxes had been already increased, which has impacted basic products (productos basicos). Many believe that after the summer will return a conflictive social situation. Possible outbreaks and mobilizations, occurring in response to the practical implementation of the memorandum and adjustment policies, a brutal attack on the living conditions of workers and popular sectors in Greece.

Moreover, it is uncertain whether Tsipras would achieved to implement the plans of adjustment (or austerity measures?). Many activists, political and social activists hold that the attack that Tsipras has to imposed in order to obey the Troika is too large. Taxes had been already increased, which has impacted basic products (productos basicos). Many believe that after the summer will return a conflictive social situation. Possible outbreaks and mobilizations, occurring in response to the practical implementation of the memorandum and adjustment policies, a brutal attack on the living conditions of workers and popular sectors in Greece.

Moreover, it is uncertain whether Tsipras would achieved to implement the plans of adjustment (or austerity measures?). Many activists, political and social activists hold that the attack that Tsipras has to imposed in order to obey the Troika is too large. Taxes had been already increased, which has impacted basic products (productos basicos). Many believe that after the summer will return a conflictive social situation. Possible outbreaks and mobilizations, occurring in response to the practical implementation of the memorandum and adjustment policies, a brutal attack on the living conditions of workers and popular sectors in Greece.

Moreover, it is uncertain whether Tsipras will be able to implement the austerity measures. These days, many political and social activists contend that Tsipras would have to impose too many attacks in order to obey the Troika. The increased sales tax is already being felt, especially its impact on the cost of staple goods. Many believe that after the summer, a situation of social conflict will return, bringing with it new demonstrations and protests as a response to the implementation of the memorandum and austerity measures, which are a brutal attack on the living conditions of the Greek working class and the poor.

Furthermore, Tsipras is rushing to finalize the terms of the third “bail out” as soon as possible, since in September his party will hold a session in which the future of Syriza will be defined, depending on whether or not the majority approves of Tsipras’ agreements with the Troika.

This appears to be the final date; Tsipras was able to put together at the last Central Committee
of the party on Thursday, avoiding a special session that could have delegitimized their position
at the bargaining table before closing the agreement.

The situation still remains open; one cannot exclude the scenario in which Tsipras finds himself obligated to call for early elections. That is, total uncertainty.

Summer Reforms, Layoffs, and Strikes: What will Happen During the Rest of the Year?

By late July, Minister of Education Aristides Baltas announced that the government planned to introduce a measure to increase the education sector’s workweek by two hours. This has stirred a reaction from the teachers’ union (OLME), which clearly stated that teachers are not willing to tolerate new cuts and that they had already shouldered too much of the burden in recent years. Meanwhile, air traffic controllers announced the intention to fight the potential adoption of EU regulations – new attacks on their working conditions. Lastly, a few days ago, the private channel Antenna 1 carried out a massive layoff of about fifty employees, including operators and administrative and technical personnel. Today, the workers are fighting for reinstatement.

These may be small symptoms that herald greater social unrest in a troubled Greece facing new assaults on workers and the poor, already reeling from the austerity measures implemented in recent years. In the coming period, in the context of the accelerated experience with the “leftist” government led by Syriza, the voices of workers and youth in struggle may rise again, in a country that has experienced more than thirty general strikes since the beginning of the crisis.

The difficult problem that remains unresolved is whether workers from the education, shipyard and tourism sectors, the unemployed, and those who join the struggle, along with the youth and student movement will manage to draw lessons from the past months. This is an essential condition for the resurgence of a potent social force that is capable of advancing a program and strategy that challenge not only the Troika and European governments, but also Syriza’s plans and the Greek capitalists.

Translation Laura Arguello




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