Παρασκευή, 25 Σεπτεμβρίου 2015

Financial Times: A fox inside the Greek henhouse

FINANCIAL TIMES


A fox inside the Greek henhouse, by Tony Barber

Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s re-elected prime minister, is finding the first few days back in government anything but plain sailing. On Thursday this blog reported how Mr Tsipras had demanded the resignation of a deputy transport minister barely 24 hours after having appointed him. The minister, Dimitris Kammenos, was from the rightwing nationalist Independent Greeks party, the junior coalition partner to Mr Tsipras’s leftwing Syriza party. Embarrassingly, his social media accounts contained anti-Semitic content.

Now some curious details are emerging about another deputy minister, this time from inside Syriza itself.


They concern Alexis Haritsis, who, as a deputy finance minister, has been given the responsibility of ensuring that Greece makes the most efficient use possible of the billions of euros that the nation receives each year in EU structural aid funds (money that is separate from bailout funds).


Greek social media are bubbling with stories that Haritsis once belonged to, or supported, an anti-austerity, civil disobedience movement that sprang up in late 2010. Activists in the movement, called Den Plirono (“I won’t pay”), refused to pay higher public transport fares and motorway tolls imposed in the early phase of Greece’s first, €110bn EU-International Monetary Fund bailout, agreed in May 2010.





These days, Den Plirono helps Greeks who find it hard to pay their electricity bills, distributes food to the poor and runs a medical clinic.




It is an intriguing thought – a minister said to have advocated public resistance to revenue-raising measures is now in charge of disbursing EU aid.


Perhaps the really interesting point is that Mr Tsipras has actually promoted Mr Haritsis. In the first Syriza government, which was in power from January to August, Mr Haritsis was secretary-general in the finance ministry – also with responsibility for handling EU aid funds.



Mr Haritsis has not denied involvement with Den Plirono.



The movement’s founder, Vassilis Papadopoulos, says the new minister was not a registered member but might have taken part in its activities. He adds that he would, in any case, not want Mr Haritsis as a member these days, ...
because the new minister belongs to a government that is administering an austerity programme dictated by Greece’s creditors in return for yet another bailout – the third since 2010.



The bottom line is that, since Mr Tsipras’s U-turn in July and August, when he caved in to the creditors’ demands, Syriza hasn’t been the radical leftist animal it used to be. Mr Haritsis’s promotion suggests it is something else – the fox in charge of dishing out foreign largesse inside the henhouse.





Αticle by Tony Barber can be found on Financial Times

Photos by Den Plirono archive






















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