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November 25, 2015

Athens bomb targets business group, damages Cypriot embassy

Athens bomb targets business group, damages Cypriot embassy

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A bombing outside the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises in central Athens, Greece early yesterday morning caused heavy damage to the Cypriot embassy across the street.

Nearby Syntagma Square, from file.
Image: Athenswalk.

The explosion hit Xenofontos Street around 3.30 a.m. local time (0130 UTC). Police had cordoned off the area after two local newspapers received calls warning of the impending blast 30–40 minutes before the blast. Unconfirmed reports state the bomb as being 3kg of explosives left in a backpack outside the office and detonated by a timer.

Police evacuated a hotel near the scene and warned kiosk vendors in the vicinity. Nobody was injured. The site is close to the city’s famed Syntagma Square. Witnesses report two individuals leaving the bag and police told Reuters a CCTV camera recorded two dark-clad men speeding off on a motorcycle.

Kyriakos Kenevezos, the Cypriot Ambassador, said to state media conglomerate CNA “Our embassy absorbed the full impact of the blast[…] there is incalculable damage to the interior from the ground floor to the sixth floor.”

Domestic anarchist and extreme left militants have been carrying out bombings and starting fires since 2010 saw the introduction of widespread austerity. Attacks have however decreased since left-wingers Syriza took power in January under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The government condemned the attacks, as did conservative opposition party New Democracy.



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March 19, 2013

IOC visits Madrid as part of 2020 Olympic bid process

IOC visits Madrid as part of 2020 Olympic bid process

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Merchandising for the Madrid 2020 bid
Image: Donperfectodewiki.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission is in Madrid, Spain this week as part of the city’s bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Sir Craig Reedie of Great Britain is leading the IOC delegation, whom Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy greeted at the start of their inspection process. Of the fourteen-member bid delegation, five have been through this process before as part of the city’s failed bids for the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2016 Summer Olympics bids.

Buen Retiro park in Madrid
Image: Onanymous.

On a cold but sunny day yesterday, the IOC visited four sites on their first inspection date including Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, Buen Retiro park and bullfighting ring Las Ventas. Today, the IOC is scheduled to visit the proposed venues for the Olympic village and stadium. The inspection is scheduled to last four days.

Inside of Santiago Bernabeu
Image: Chris Brown.

While at Santiago Bernabéu, IOC members met the Spanish national football team captain Iker Casillas and were given Real Madrid jerseys with their names on them.

As Spain is currently undergoing severe economic problems at the moment, with 26% unemployment currently and public debt in 2012 at 84% of the country’s gross domestic product, the 1.5bn (US$1.9bn, £1.3bn) costs of the Games have been a highly visible aspect of the city’s bid process. Security costs are estimated to add another €149m (US$192m, £127m) to organizing costs. Proponents of the bid including Madrid’s mayor Ana Botella believe the Games would provide an economic boost to the city and the country. IOC President Jacques Rogge is also on the record as stating that he does not believe Spanish economic problems will play a part in the IOC’s decision-making process. Spanish newspaper El Mundo quoted Rogge saying, “The crisis does not affect it, because substantial facilities have in most cases already been built. No major investment is needed”.

Botella outlined some of the costs, quoted by the Associated Press during the IOC visit saying, “The budget that remains for the construction of infrastructure, some 1.5 billion [euros] divided between the three administrations responsible and over a period of seven years, is a perfectly affordable amount.”

Local organizers have promised to follow the legacy of London, using historical landmarks and existing venues with 80% of proposed venues, 28 of 35, already in place, and providing a roadmap for future development of Olympic sites to avoid any “white elephants” that are unused after the Games, a situation that happened with a number of Athens Olympic venues. Madrid’s bid Chief Executive Victor Sánchez, quoted by Agence France-Presse, explained they avoided “[p]rojects that have no real use for citizens after the Games have finished. That is why we have given priority to existing infrastructures and then to other infrastructures that the city has a direct need for. Finally, where a future use cannot be guaranteed, we have opted for temporary solutions. Only three such temporary solutions will be used, while a mere four permanent facilities remain to be built. The result is lower costs, reduced environmental impact and less disruption to the everyday lives of the people of Madrid, all with government backing at central, regional and municipal level.”

Local organizers are preparing to cope with protesters trying to draw attention to Spain’s labor situation who planned to picket outside the Hotel Eurostars Madrid Tower where IOC members are staying. The planned protest is over cuts to the Municipal Government budget. Protesters did not picket yesterday, which was a holiday in Madrid. Bid organizers and the government feared potential strikes by people working for the public transport system. Botella explained to the media that protests and work stoppages should not be seen as evidence that Spaniards would not welcome the Games, but rather unhappiness with local economic issues, which Botella said the Games should help fix. Spain’s current unemployment level is the highest of any European country and the worst the country has faced since the 1970s. Botella’s view is supported by an IOC survey, which found 81% of Spaniards supported Madrid’s bid for the Games.

Madrid is one of three cities currently competing for the 2020 Games. The IOC visited Tokyo, Japan earlier this month and is scheduled to visit Istanbul, Turkey later this month. The host city is to be formally selected at a meeting of the IOC on September 7 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Shortly after that, Rogge is scheduled to step down from his position as IOC President.



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Madrid visited by IOC as part of 2020 Olympic bid process

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Merchandising for the Madrid 2020 bid
Image: Donperfectodewiki.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission is in Madrid, Spain this week as part of the city’s bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. Sir Craig Reedie of Great Britain is leading the IOC delegation who were greeted by Spanish President Mariano Rajoy at the start of their inspection process. Of the fourteen member bid delegation, five have been through this process before as part of the city’s failed bids for the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2016 Summer Olympics bids.

Buen Retiro park in Madrid
Image: Onanymous.

On a cold but sunny day yesterday, four sites were visited by the IOC on their first inspection date including Real Madrid‘s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, Buen Retiro park and bullfighting ring Las Ventas. Today, the IOC is scheduled to visit the proposed venues for the Olympic village and stadium. The inspection is scheduled to last four days.

Inside of Santiago Bernabeu
Image: Chris Brown.

While at Santiago Bernabéu, IOC members met the Spanish national football team captain Iker Casillas and were given Real Madrid jersey’s with their names printed on the back.

As Spain is currently undergoing severe economic problems at the moment, with unemployment that currently stands at 26% and public debt in 2012 at 84% of the country’s gross domestic product, the €1.5bn (USD$1.961bn, £1.297bn) costs of the Games have been a highly visible aspect of the city’s bid process. Security costs are estimated to add another €148m (USD$192m, £127m) to organizing costs. Proponents of the bid, including Madrid’s mayor Ana Botella, believe the Games would provide an economic boost to the city and the county. IOC President Jacques Rogge is also on the record as stating that he does not believe Spanish economic problems will play a part in the IOC’s decision making process. On Sunday, Rogge was quoted by Spanish newspaper El Mundo as saying, “The crisis does not affect it, because substantial facilities have in most cases already been built. No major investment is needed.”

Botella outlined some of the costs, and is quoted by the Associated Press as saying during the IOC visit as saying, “The budget that remains for the construction of infrastructure, some (euro) 1.5 billion divided between the three administrations responsible and over a period of seven years, is a perfectly affordable amount.”

Local organizers have promised to follow the legacy of London, using utilizing historical landmarks and existing venues with 80%, 28 of the proposed 35 venues, of them already in place, and providing a roadmap for future development of Olympic sites to avoid any white elephants that are unused after the Games, a situation that happened with a number of Athens Olympic venues. Madrid’s bid Chief Executive Victor Sánchez is quoted by the Agence France-Presse as saying, “Projects that have no real use for citizens after the Games have finished. That is why we have given priority to existing infrastructures and then to other infrastructures that the city has a direct need for. Finally, where a future use cannot be guaranteed, we have opted for temporary solutions. Only three such temporary solutions will be used, while a mere four permanent facilities remain to be built. The result is lower costs, reduced environmental impact and less disruption to the everyday lives of the people of Madrid, all with government backing at central, regional and municipal level.”

Local organizers are preparing to contend with protesters trying to draw attention to Spain’s labor situation who planned to picket outside the Hotel Eurostars Madrid Tower where IOC members are staying. The planned protest is over cuts to the Municipal Government budget. Protesters did not picket yesterday because it was a holiday in Madrid. Bid organizers and the government feared potential strikes by people working for the public transport system. Botella explained to the media that protests and work stoppages should not be seen as evidence that Spaniards would not welcome the Games but over unhappiness with local economic issues, which Botella said the Games should help fix. Spain’s current unemployment level is the highest of any European country and the worst the country has faced since the 1970s. Botella’s view is supported by an IOC survey, which found 81% of Spaniards supported Madrid’s bid for the Games.

Madrid is one of three cities currently competing for the 2020 Games. The IOC visited Tokyo, Japan earlier this month and is scheduled to visit Istanbul, Turkey later this month. The host city will be formally selected at a meeting of the IOC on September 7 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Shortly after that, Rogge is scheduled to step down from his position as IOC President.



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December 4, 2012

Australian Paralympian Janet Shaw dies aged 46

Australian Paralympian Janet Shaw dies aged 46

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

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Peter Marsh at a Wikipedia workshop in 2011
Image: Leighblackall.

Western Australian Paralympic bronze medalist Janet Shaw has died following a long battle with cancer. She was 46 years old.

A vision impaired cyclist, she and pilot Kelly McCombie earned a pair of bronze medals at the 2004 Summer Paralympics in the individual pursuit and road race/time trial events. She also won four medals at the 2002 IPC Cycling World Championships. Beyond cycling, Shaw worked as a motivational speaker and author, having written two memoirs, Beyond the Red Door and a follow up called Bit of a Super Hero: Choosing the Challenge – My Journey with Cancer.

Australian national team coach said of Shaw, “I was privileged to be a National Coach with the Australian Paralympic Team for Athens and have a role with Janet and Kelly leading into those Games. They dedicated themselves so solidly together, and came away medaling in two events…. Janet said losing her eyesight was the best thing that ever happened to her because it eventually led her to where she was standing, waiting to achieve glory in Athens. That quote has stayed with me ever since. She was an amazingly strong person who actually saw more than us.”

This is the second recent death of an Australian Paralympian. In late November, another Australian Paralympian, Peter Marsh of Queensland, died at the age of 64. He competed at the 1976 Summer Paralympics, 1980 Summer Paralympics and 1984 Summer Paralympics. Prior to his death, he was active in a project to document the history of the Paralympic movement in Australia on Wikipedia.


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February 17, 2012

Armed robbers steal valuable statuettes from Olympia museum, Greece

Armed robbers steal valuable statuettes from Olympia museum, Greece

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Friday, February 17, 2012

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Culture minister Pavlos Geroulanos, pictured from file, has resigned over the robbery

Armed robbers stole around 60 valuable statuettes from a museum in Olympia, Greece this morning. A state television channel reported that the Greek culture minister Pavlos Geroulanos tendered his resignation upon hearing of the robbery.

“We must wait and see what the local archaeology supervisor will say, but the items were of incalculable value,” local mayor Thymios Kotzias said. The value of the articles hasn’t been calculated yet.

The masked robbers initially demanded a female employee to hand over the articles. When she refused, they tied her up and snatched the articles through the glass planes themselves.

This is the second major robbery in the country recently. Paintings by Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian and others were stolen from Athens National Museum in January. Olympia is the place where the first Olympic Games were held.



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  • “Valuable paintings stolen from Greek gallery” — Wikinews, January 12, 2012

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January 12, 2012

Valuable paintings stolen from Greek gallery

Valuable paintings stolen from Greek gallery

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

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Art thieves in Greece broke into the Athens National Gallery on Monday and stole three valuable works of art.

Image of stolen painting “Woman’s Head” by Picasso
Image: codeproject.com.

Among them was a painting by famous Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, dated 1939, called Woman’s Head which was a gift to the Greek people for their resistance to the Nazis during World War 2. The other two works were Mill by Piet Mondrian and a sketch of St. Diego de Alcala by Guglielmo Caccia. A fourth painting, Landscape, also by Piet Mondrian was dropped by the thieves when pursued by security. All three works stolen were stripped from their frames.

The police stated multiple alarms during the evening of the heist in other parts of the building had distracted the gallery guard. Investigating yet another alarm, he saw the shadow of a fleeing individual. Citizen’s Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis apologized for the loss, citing that the security at the gallery was “non-existent”.

The value of the works stolen was not yet determined by gallery officials. The artwork in question was on display at the gallery as part of an exhibition called “Unknown Treasures”, including works of Albrecht Durer and Rembrandt.



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December 22, 2011

Cypriot court clears all of wrongdoing in Greek air disaster

Cypriot court clears all of wrongdoing in Greek air disaster

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

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This computer generated image shows the unresponsive aircraft being shadowed by Greek fighter jets.
Image: Anynobody.

A two-year trial concluded yesterday in Cyprus with the court in Nicosia clearing former senior staff of Helios Airways of manslaughter. They, alongside the defunct airline, had been accused of responsibility for killing 119 in a crash near Athens.

All 121 on board Flight 522 were killed but the prosecution did not charge manslaughter in relation to the two flight crew, deeming them partially responsible for their own deaths. The accident remains the worst air disaster to befall both Greece and Cyprus. Most victims were Cypriot tourists.

The Cypriot jet left Larnaca on August 14, 2005. It was headed for Prague in the Czech Republic. Contact was quickly lost with the aircraft, which flew itself as far as the Greek capital on autopilot.

The Boeing 737‘s pressurisation system is believed to have been incorrectly set by maintenance and oxygen starvation had knocked out German Captain Hans-Jurgen Merten and Cypriot co-pilot Pambos Charalambous. They never checked the system before takeoff, which had undergone testing prior to flight.

An alarm had sounded both on the ground and in the air but had been ignored by those flying, as the same alarm was used for a different problem and the pilots therefore misinterpreted the alarm. This design would later be cited by victims’ relatives in a civil case against Boeing.

As the unresponsive jet entered Greek airspace two F-16 fighter jets intercepted. The air force reported back that the civilian craft’s pilots were slumped over the controls. Passengers were similarly incapacitated. The plane reached Athens International Airport — an intermediate stop in Athens was planned — by itself and then began circling the area awaiting human input.

That input eventually came in the form of a trainee pilot working on-board as a flight attendant. Investigators believe Andreas Prodromou had used multiple crew oxygen cylinders to be the last conscious person on board. The fighter pilots were able to watch him enter the cockpit.

Map of the flight path.
Image: Mysid.

F-16 pilot Panayiotis Athanasopoulos was the last person to see Prodromou alive. He previously told the trial of initially receiving no response when signalling the jet in an attempt to get the pilots to follow him, then discovering the flight crew unconscious. The captain was out of sight. He testified he also signalled people wearing oxygen masks in the passenger cabin with similar lack of response. Prodromou, 25, entered the cockpit as the jet began losing altitude.

After trying but failing to resuscitate Merten, the fighter pilots saw the trainee pilot take over the controls himself in a bid to save the plane. He was out of time. By then the aircraft had been in the air for two hours, and it ran out of fuel before it could reach the runway. Although many were deeply comatose from lack of oxygen, everyone on board was still alive when the plane crashed into a mountain at Grammatiko, north of Athens.

Athanasopoulos says he gesticulated to Proprodomou and signalled him to land upon getting his attention. The trainee pilot simply pointed downwards, after which he “looked ahead and did not look towards me again as the plane went down”. The airliner struck the ground levelly on its underside after straightening out moments before impact. It was torn apart.

The following year saw an air accident report primarily citing human error, and an inquiry by ex-Judge Panayiotis Kallis. The Kallis report was never made public. Helios, which was renamed Ajet Airways, closed down in 2006. Helios and Boeing were sued by victims’ relatives; they sought 76 million but reached a settlement for an undisclosed sum. The accident report had also blamed Boeing for an “ineffectiveness of measures” over the dual-purpose alarm system.

The five defendants were charged in 2008. The defunct airline and four senior staff members each faced 119 counts of manslaughter, and alternative counts of causing death by a reckless, thoughtless or dangerous act. This gave a total of 1,190 charges. Manslaughter carries a potential life sentence with up to four years available on the lesser charge. “The charges concern two of the three most serious offences under the Cyprus penal code,” deputy attorney general Akis Papasavvas said at the time.

The prosecution case was that the pilots were unfit to fly and the defendants were negligent in letting them at the controls. The state prosecutor therefore needed to prove the actions of Merten and Charalambous caused the disaster, as well as that those in the dock were responsible for their employment and aware — or ought to have been aware — of inadequacies in their competence.

The prosecution had noted the accused failed to seek references from Jet2, Merten’s last employer. He lost that job owing to failings in his duties and was later the subject of Helios co-pilots’ complaints. Charalambous was considered unlikely to achieve promotion to pilot and his ability to handle stress was questioned at trial.

A file photo of the aircraft from less than a year before it crashed.
Image: Alan Lebeda.

In reaching a majority decision, two of the three judges noted Helios chief executive Andreas Drakos and managing director Demetris Pantazis would be acquitted even if the prosecution proved its case as they were not responsible for employing the pair. This fell to co-accused operations manager George Kikkides and chief pilot Ianko Stoimenov.

In any event, the verdict described “a dead-end for any procedure of identifying the competence of Merten” with only Jet2 among his previous employers being known to have a negative view of him. Subsequent official evaluations rated both him and Charalambous suitably competent to fly.

“The lack of any causal association between the defendants and the negligence they were charged with for the fatal accident completely disconnects the defendants with the accident,” said the 170-page verdict. “Regardless… [of] how the charges are viewed, they remain groundless and without supporting evidence. It’s judged that this reason is sufficient to dismiss all charges and acquit all defendants.”

Assize Court President Charis Solomonides read the decision: “we conclude, without reservation, that no case has been proven prima-facie against all the defendants in all the charges they face and therefore, all the defendants are acquitted and charges are dropped.” Solomonides made repeated mention of an inability for the prosecution to link the pilots’ actions to those on trial, and noted that therefore no assessment had been made of their performance that day.

Judge Nicolas Santis dissented. Nonetheless, he too had criticisms of the prosecution. He said they failed to properly define ‘competence’ and called very few experts to testify. Victims’ relatives shouted in the courtroom after he finished reading his opinion; cries included “killers!” and “is this justice?”.

Victims’ relatives had in fact predicted the acquittal and blamed the state for what they characterised as a poorly presented case. Relatives’ Committee president Nicolas Yiasoumis said “It was common knowledge that proceedings were weak due to the phrasing of the charges.” There were also renewed calls for publication of the Kallis report. Yiasoumis claimed the Kallis report reached different conclusions to those used at trial, and said “We did not believe they could be convicted on the basis of the argument that they had not employed the appropriate staff.”

Attorney General Petros Clerides initially said an appeal will be decided upon once the decision has been read, and that the Law Office was presently studying it. Yiasoumis said relatives may take Cyprus to a European court over the case once Cypriot legal matters are concluded. Clerides has now confirmed an appeal will be filed, which the prosecution has two weeks to do. He defended the performance of those who prosecuted “this titanic case”. The appeal would be to the Supreme Court.



Related news

  • Cypriot court begins Greek air disaster trial” — Wikinews, September 17, 2009
  • “Cyprus charges five over 2005 air crash that killed 121” — Wikinews, December 23, 2008
  • “Cyprus to charge five over 2005 plane crash that killed 121” — Wikinews, November 4, 2008
  • “Coroner makes first post mortems of Athens airliner crash victims; text message was a hoax” — Wikinews, August 15, 2005
  • “Cypriot plane with 121 on board crashes in Greece” — Wikinews, August 14, 2005

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June 28, 2011

Greek workers strike over austerity measures

Greek workers strike over austerity measures

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

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Greek prime minister George Papandreou

Workers in Greece have gone on strike in protest against the government’s second round of austerity packages. Greek prime minister George Papandreou announced €28 billion in cuts Monday; loans worth up to €155 billion from the European Union and International Monetary Fund depend on the measures passing.

Tens of thousands of workers are planning to march through Athens and five thousand police officers have been brought into the capital to supervise the strike. Most public services in Greece are affected, including hospitals, ambulances, trains, buses, ferries and even air traffic control. The Athens metro will remain open “so as to allow Athenians to join the planned protests in the capital.” Thanassis Pafilis, an MP with the Greek Communist Party, said that the budgetary measures “are a massacre for workers’ rights,” adding, “It will truly be hell for the working man. The strike must bring everything to a standstill.”

With a sixteen percent unemployment rate in Greece, between 70 and 80 percent of Greek citizens oppose the cuts. The measures are “tough and in many respects unfair,” said Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos, but the government continues to push for austerity measures, as failure to secure credit may force the government and banks of Greece to default as early as July on the €380 billion in debt owed to France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, Switzerland, Japan and Spain.



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November 9, 2010

At least eight dead after bus crash in Albania

At least eight dead after bus crash in Albania

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

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At least eight people have died when a bus fell off a cliff in southern Albania.

The bus crashed in southern Albania, near the Greece border
Image: Jeroencommons.

The bus crashed 300-feet off of the cliff during a rain storm during a journey from Tirana, Albania to Athens, Greece. Albanian Health Minister Petrit Vasili told media that 41 people are reported to have been injured, five of them seriously.

Shkelqim Pashaj, a spokesman for the fire brigade, said that survivors have stated that the Greek-born driver had been talking on his mobile phone for the majority of the journey. Other survivors spoke to local journalists and asserted that he had been “driving erratically”. An Albanian police statement has stated that the bus crashed over the cliff after the driver lost control.

Both the Albanian and Greek police are involved in the situation. Around 100 emergency service officials were assisting in recovering victims from the crash site. The Greek police have released a statement saying that the bus belongs to a Greek long distance bus company. The crash is due to be investigated.



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May 13, 2010

KKE: Interview with the Greek Communist Party

KKE: Interview with the Greek Communist Party

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wikinews reporter Iain Macdonald has performed an interview with Dr Isabella Margara, a London-based member of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). In the interview Margara sets out the communist response to current events in Greece as well as discussing the viability of a communist economy for the nation. She also hit back at Petros Tzomakas, a member of another Greek far-left party which criticised KKE in a previous interview.

The interview comes amid tensions in cash-strapped Greece, where the government is introducing controversial austerity measures to try to ease the nation’s debt-problem. An international rescue package has been prepared by European Union member states and the International Monetary Fund – should Greece require a bailout; protests have been held against government attempts to manage the economic situation.

Interview

KKE protestors atop the famous Athens Acropolis

Wikinews waves Left.pngIain MacdonaldWikinews waves Right.png Has slavish pursuit of free-market capitalism been the cause of Europe, and particularly Greece’s, economic woes?

Wikinews waves Left.pngDr Isabella MargaraWikinews waves Right.pngWhat we are experiencing today – not only in Greece, but in all capitalist countries – is a crisis of overproduction. The exploitation of the working class and the other popular strata is intensified due to the fact that the bourgeoisie has been keeping for itself larger and larger parts of the produced wealth. Behind overproduction lies the over-accumulation of capital. The average profit rate is decreased in the main sectors of the economy. This leads to destruction of part of productive forces, closing factories, inflation, mass redundancies of superfluous workers as waste – in order to permit a new process of accumulation to begin, when new sectors of the economy will secure the increase of the average profit rate. This has nothing to do with the ‘management’ of the system by social democrats or liberals; it is an inevitable outcome of capitalism.

The national deficits do exist. In fact, behind the debt are the huge tax reliefs for large monopolies, the massive bank bailouts, the inconceivable NATO military expenses, the subsidies in the name of capitalist development. In Greece at the moment, there is a clear expression of the imperialist rivalries between the US and EU, between EU countries and especially between Germany and France. However, it is now becoming clearer every day that the ruling class is using the existing deficits, in Greece and in Europe, in order to promote new anti-labour policies which will secure the profits of the capital. These measures have been pre-decided a long time ago in the Maastricht Treaty and are here to stay. Their aim is not just to exit the crisis, but to ensure stability and high profits for the capital in the next phases of the economic cycle.

Wikinews waves Left.pngIainWikinews waves Right.png How, given the Soviet collapse, and China being communist in name only, would your vision of a communist system have been better for the majority of citizens?

Wikinews waves Left.pngIsabellaWikinews waves Right.pngDespite the various problems of socialist countries, the socialist system of the 20th century proved the superiority of socialism over capitalism and the huge advantages that it provides for peoples’ lives and working conditions. The Soviet Union and the world socialist system constituted the only real counterweight to imperialist aggression – we recently celebrated the 65th anniversary of the Anti-fascist victory. The achievements of workers in the socialist states were a point of reference for many decades and contributed to the gains won by the working class in capitalist societies as well. In this way, everyone had guaranteed work, public free health care and education, housing, and access to intellectual and cultural creativity. The complete eradication of the terrible legacy of illiteracy, in combination with the increase in the general level of education and specialization and the abolition of unemployment, constitute unique achievements of socialism. In the Soviet Union in 1975 it was guaranteed by law that the hours of work could not surpass 41 per week, among the lowest in the world. All workers were guaranteed days for rest and relaxation and annual paid holidays. Non-working time was extended and its content was changed. It was transformed into time for the development of the cultural and educational level of the workers, for the enhancement of their participation in workers’ power and in the control of the administration of productive units. Social Security for working people was of utmost priority for the socialist state. A comprehensive system of retirement benefits, with the important achievement of low age limits for retirement (55 years for women, 60 for men), was created. Socialist power laid the foundation for the abolition of inequality of women, overcoming the great difficulties that objectively existed. Socialism ensured in practice the social character of motherhood and socialized childcare. It instituted equal rights for women and men in the economic, political and cultural realm, although not all forms of unequal relations between the two genders, which had become entrenched over a long period of time, had been successfully eradicated.

Our critical approach regarding various issues of building socialism in the USSR, namely decisions in the economy in critical times, or the extend of workers’ control and participation, do not change the fact that the first historical attempt to abolish the exploitation of man by man had many achievements for the majority of people and many of the rights that Soviet people had in 1975 seem like a dream for us today. Also, it does not change the fact that the contradictions of the capitalist way of production become deeper. The counter-revolution may have won one fight, but it has not won the war. As long as there is socialised production combined with capitalist property of the means of production, there will be crisis, unemployment and poverty – and socialism will remain the only way out.

Our Party in 2009 held its 18th Congress, during which we discussed and studied socialism and the causes of counter-revolution in the USSR. The conclusions we drew have been published and we have enriched our programme based on them. See here for more information.

Wikinews waves Left.pngIainWikinews waves Right.png For right or for wrong, we have now reached a situation where Greece is on the brink of an international bailout. If you were given power tomorrow, what steps would you take immediately to get Greece back on track?

Wikinews waves Left.pngIsabellaWikinews waves Right.pngAt the moment we are trying to build a front of workers, small farmers, the self-employed and working young people. This front needs to become a huge social and political anti-imperialist anti-monopoly coalition with only one duty – to bring the working class into power and socialise the basic means of production, namely energy, telecommunications, mines, manufacturing, and transportation. We would implement public and free education, health and national insurance systems. Next to the socialised sectors, there can be the co-operatives of small farmers and small tradesmen in sectors of the economy where concentration is still low. The production and distribution in both the socialised and the co-operative sectors will be under workers’ control as part of a centrally planned economy. This is a vital need in order to fulfil our contemporary needs, in order to ensure that all productive forces are mobilised, that science and technology will develop in favour of the people, and that all international economic co-operation will be used, on the basis of mutual benefit. The government, which will be the organ of the popular power, will have to ensure the participation of the people in building this new society. The debt is due to the power of monopolies. There will be no solution if the capitalist profits remain untouchable, if we don’t disengage from EU and NATO, if the capitalists continue to rule at the expense of the working class.

Wikinews waves Left.pngIainWikinews waves Right.png Why do you oppose the current austerity measures? What has the government, in your view, got so wrong?

Wikinews waves Left.pngIsabellaWikinews waves Right.pngMassive and drastic cuts to public and private sector salaries and pensions, further cuts of benefits, reduced overtime payments, increase of the VAT up to 23%, increase of the indirect taxes, abolishment of collective labour agreements, massive redundancies to public services and merges, right of unrestricted redundancies to private companies, and increases to the retirement age: Huge masses will be condemned to unemployment and extreme poverty. Health and Education will become a privilege only for a small minority. The recovery phase will lead to new concentration of wealth to the capital, to an increase in the degree of exploitation. The recovery, when it happens, will not have a positive impact on the people on one hand, and will lead relatively soon to a new crisis on the other. That is why we oppose the measures.

That is also why the working class should not be trapped in a discussion about bonds or interest rates, the simple reason being that it has nothing to gain from this discussion. The international loans will end up in the capital’s pockets, not the working class. The Greeks have suffered when the rates were down, they suffer now that the rates are up. We do not intend to share the capital’s ‘anxiety’ about the bourse, because it is becoming clearer every day that if plutocracy does not go bankrupt, then the people will.

The government is not doing anything wrong – in fact, it is doing a great job representing the interests of its bosses, the Greek capitalists, the imperialists of E.U., the I.M.F. But they want the working class partners to their crime. They are telling us that our sacrifice to live in poverty and work until we die is our patriotic duty. What they are not telling us is that the workers, the farmers, the owners of small shops; we do not have the same country as these E.U. fans of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises, the City-educated bankers, the corporate media owners. Their country and their god is exploitation and profit. Our people have proven their patriotism in every single crucial point in history for thousands of years now. But this case is different, the working Greek man and women should not make any sacrifices for plutocracy! The only ‘sacrifice’ that should be made is to fight the dangerous fear and hesitation and organise the struggle. That’s what will help our own country and our class.

Wikinews waves Left.pngIainWikinews waves Right.png I have heard that people in Greece are upset that the euro has weakened Greece’s economic position, as the Drachma’s low value actually encouraged spending by foreigners. What steps would a socialist government take to encourage new spending in Greece by both foreign tourists and investors?

Wikinews waves Left.pngIsabellaWikinews waves Right.pngAs mentioned earlier, since the agreements signed within the EU do not allow for manoeuvres in favour of the people, our disengagement would be inevitable and would be an essential term in order to plan the economy based on how we will fulfil our contemporary needs. The currency itself is not the main issue.

Tourism is another sector of the economy whose fate depends again on who owns the means of production. Only with a different economy the country will develop the infrastructures and provide quality services that will first of all guarantee decent working conditions, will be accessible to all the population and will be cheap.

So far, the development of Greek tourism has been based on profit. Therefore, the fees for ships and other means of transport are outrageous; many islands are left with no regular connection with the mainland because these lines are not considered to be profitable. Both PASOK Panhellenic Socialist Movement and ND New Democracy governments, under the EU guidance, have implemented policies that led to rough working conditions and wages in tourism. Besides, more than 60% of Greeks at the moment cannot go on any holiday and after the latest measures these numbers will increase; another significant portion reduces the time off work, and a third one relies on the hospitality of friends and family for their holidays, due to their low income.

For us, tourism and holidays are not a trade, they are a social right – for both the Greek workers and the tourists that will choose to visit our country.

Wikinews waves Left.pngIainWikinews waves Right.pngHow do you respond to the assertion that ‘democracy is the least-worst of all the political systems tried’? Would the Greek communists accept a multi-party system where some parties would be stridently advocating free-market economics?

Wikinews waves Left.pngIsabellaWikinews waves Right.pngDemocracy is not synonymous with the number of parties that exist in a country. For example, today in Greece we have dozens of political parties but despite the fact that the vast majority of the population opposes the austerity measures, the Parties that have the majority support them. How is that democratic? Nearly all strikes in Greece over the last decade have been declared illegal by the bourgeois court. In the workplace, there is no other law but the law of the employer.

In the process of building an anti-imperialist anti-monopoly Front, there will be a social coalition of the small farmers, the self employed, or other poor popular strata that will follow the working class since that will be their objective interest. Besides, people’s power is the real democracy, since capitalists and monopolies do not exist: it’s the democracy which is guaranteed by the direct political action of millions of people – in their workplaces, in their industrial units, in their neighbourhoods, in their popular organisations.

Wikinews waves Left.pngIainWikinews waves Right.pngHow would you respond to allegations that the recent protest from the Acropolis was not appropriate for a historic monument?

Wikinews waves Left.pngIsabellaWikinews waves Right.pngThe Acropolis is more than a touristic attraction. For the Greek people, it is a symbol of hope and dignity. KKE made this symbolic demonstration in order to emphasize that the attack against the Greek working class is a preview of the attack that follows to the other European people. And that the struggle of the Greek working class is indeed at the moment a struggle that gives hope to all the peoples abroad, who suffer the same. From that point of view, our demonstration not only was not inappropriate, but actually highlighted the true meaning of the monument. And judging by the impact this symbolic occupation had, I would think it has been very successful as well!

Those who accuse us of ‘blasphemy’ are those who have been shamelessly privatising most historic and archaeological monuments in Greece during the last decades. In 1992, Coca Cola used the Acropolis for a commercial, where the monument was built on bottles instead of columns! Samsung recently filmed its own commercial, let alone the various fashion shows that take place there. They have been selling out our beaches and forests to touristic monopolies and have been offering the monuments in order to promote commercial products – and that is not considered to be inappropriate. They accuse us of undermining tourism – in fact all visitors had free entry to Acropolis on that day!

A few days ago, being annoyed by the fact that the seamen prevented the strike breaking in a cruise ship, the bourgeoisie and its journalists accused the seamen of anti-patriotism for attacking tourism which is ‘the only thing we have left’. They even encouraged the government to ban the organisation of strikes. Despite the media efforts to turn even the tourists against the seamen, the majority of travellers expressed their solidarity to the strike. Their problem is not the historical meaning of Acropolis or tourism, their problem is organised struggle.

We have said it before and we’ll say it again: the images broadcast by the media of our struggle are an honour for the working people of our country.

Wikinews waves Left.pngIainWikinews waves Right.pngHow would you respond to the criticisms levelled by Petros Tzomakas of Xekinima, who denounced the KKE’s lack of co-operation with SYRIZA Coalition of the Radical Left in a recent interview?

Wikinews waves Left.pngIsabellaWikinews waves Right.pngSYRIZA are the tail of social democracy in Greece. Their analysis on the crisis is similar to PASOK. According to them, the way out is a more ‘human capitalism’, where ‘people will come first’ and profits will follow. What they are hiding from the people is that capitalist profits cannot co-exist with pro-popular policies, the basic contradiction between capital and labour cannot be overcome.

SYRIZA, being consistently pro-E.U. (it has voted for the Maastricht treaty after all), prefers the implementation of the same measures by the E.U. rather than the IMF and fights for different versions of the ‘Stability Pact’. As if the E.U. is the good cop and the IMF the bad one. We say: this is a fake dilemma; there is no good or bad imperialism. All of them are good for serving their own monopolies, their own fat cats. The bottom line is that there is increasing antagonism between the different imperialist centres and the Greek government is trying to play the game with all of them. KKE has warned that this leads to our even deeper involvement in the inter-imperialist rivalries, and this can be a very dangerous path. They all agree 100% on the measures taken by the government and they ask for more blood now. Contrary to the party of Syriza, we do not plan to choose our assassin or negotiate the terms of the assassination with any of them.

It is also important to notice that for years now, in the trade union movement and during the latest strikes and rallies, SYRIZA has been following the compromised leaderships of GSEE w:General Confederation of Greek Workers and ADEDY (the Greek TUC in the private and public sector respectively, controlled by PASOK) who originally boycotted the strikes, went on strike breaking and then dragged them in unwillingly under public pressure, in order to minimise the damage to the government.

Wikinews waves Left.pngIainWikinews waves Right.pngI notice that the KKE is seeking to distance itself from the recent deaths in Athens. Are the people responsible completely wrong in their actions, or can you sympathise with their anger? Do you believe they should be prosecuted?

Wikinews waves Left.pngIsabellaWikinews waves Right.pngThe burning of the bank at Stadiou Avenue by ‘anarchist’ provocation groups, which led to the death of three people, is clearly a crime and a provocation aiming at the intimidation of the people and the defamation of the struggle. It proves that the mechanisms of this system are ruthless when it comes to attacking the popular movement. Both the Greek as well as the international movement have had similar experiences in the past. Do you remember the bomb at Chicago’s Heymarket after the demo for the 8-hour workday in 1886, for which the pioneers of that movement were sentenced to death? Or the arson of the German parliament by the fascists, which allowed them to unleash the chase against the communists? Even the large scale provocations of today that are used in order to justify the ‘preventive wars’…

The question we urge people to ask themselves in order to understand why this happened is: who benefited from these actions? Clearly, it was the supporters of the anti-popular measures, all those who are scared by the huge numbers of working people who participated in the protests: the capitalists. Since they are the ones who are really responsible for the deaths, we have no illusions that they are going to be prosecuted. The main thing is that the Greek workers have got enough experience now and can differentiate between massive, organised and protected political struggle and isolated, criminal provocations that cause innocent victims, intimidate the people and at the end of the day, only facilitate the monopolies’ goals.



Related news

  • “Wikinews interviews spokesman for Greek far-left party Xekinima” — Wikinews, May 3, 2010

Sources

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