Sunday

25th Feb 2018

As government verges on collapse, Papandreou fires military chiefs

EU supremos Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel have called Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou to a meeting in Cannes ahead of the G20 summit (3-4 November), following the shock announcement of a referendum on the EU's latest bail-out deal.

EU leaders are horrified at the Greek leader's plans to put the rescue plan and its accompanying austerity measures before the people, fearing a No vote could sink the euro and plunge the European Union into political crisis.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Greek soldier in ceremonial dress outside parliament. If Papandreou does not win the vote of confidence on Friday, his government will likely fall (Photo: Nikita Avvakumov)

Merkel and Sarkozy are to insist to Papandreou that the "only way to resolve Greek debt problems" is to adhere to the deal cobbled together at an EU summit in Brussels last week.

Ignoring the fury in capitals across Europe and in the face of public opposition to his referendum plan from some of his own ministers, Papandreou won grudging backing from his cabinet colleagues late Tuesday night (1 November) for his plans.

The leader pressed his cabinet colleagues over the course of a seven-hour meeting to either back him or to vote against the government in Friday's vote of confidence in parliament - where the centre-left administration's majority has been reduced to just 152 in the 300-seat chamber after yet another MP resigned this week.

"The cabinet expressed its support," government spokesman Elias Mossialos said after the meeting.

Given the discord within his party, it is unlikely that the prime minister will survive the confidence vote. Four MPs have said they will vote against the referendum and a series of party leaders have called on him to step down.

Pressure is also mounting on the streets, with fresh protests called to coincide with Friday's vote.

Meanwhile, in a development that has stoked fears of a potential military coup in the country, Papandreou on Tuesday also fired the entire high command of the armed forces along with some dozen other senior officers and replaced them with figures believed to be more supportive of the current political leadership.

The heads of the country's general staff, army, navy and air force were all dismissed following the meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence, the supreme decision-making body on national defense.

The ministry maintains that the change in the military high command had long been scheduled. But such reshuffles, which take place every two to three years, do not normally result in the dismissal of the entire leadership.

The opposition instantly attacked the move as irresponsible at a time when the governing party’s hold on power is hanging by a thread.

"You're finished. Hands off the armed forces," shadow defence minister Margaritis Tzimas said, calling the move "undemocratic".

The radical left Syriza party classed the reshuffle as "giving the impression that [the government] wants to create a highly politicised armed forces that it can control at a time of political crisis."

While a military junta known as the 'Regime of the Colonels' ruled the country from 1967 to 1973, the Greek armed forces have for more than a generation been under civilian command. Few analysts expect the military to autonomously intervene against civil unrest and rumours of a military coup have not been circulating in the country,

However, in late September, some 2,000 retired officers protested outside the defence ministry against plans to cut their pensions and some 300 stormed the building, breaking doors and dismantling weapon scanners.

Defence minister Panos Beglitis denounced the officers' actions as "anti-democratic bullying" by "the state within the state" and instructed the prosecutor of the Athens Military Court to conduct a preliminary investigation over whether the group had perpetrated any criminal offences against military institutions.

Then, in an open letter to the government, the Association of Support and Co-operation of the State Armed Forces, the professional association of full-time staff, warned that the Greek Armed Forces are monitoring the government's moves “with increased concern” and that their confidence in the "intentions of the state" have been "shaken."

In February this year, according to the Athens News Agency, the Hellenic Army staged a mock battle with anti-austerity protesters.

The army's 71st airborne brigade, which participates in EU peace-keeping operations in an EU battlegroup together with units from Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania, practiced "feuding parties control ... conflict deterrence ...[and] crowd evacuation", according to the newswire, which quoted military sources.

As police crush protests, EU narrowly wins Greek vote

As the Greek parliament managed to narrowly pass a package of sweeping privatisation and draconian cuts to public services at the insistence of the EU and IMF, police deployed an unprecedented level of violence to suppress mass protests and prevent demonstrators from blocking the parliament.

Greek police protest troika, German and French embassies

The very people who have been charged with protecting the Greek parliament and politicians from furious crowds and who have even been criticised by Amnesty International for their heavy-handedness, the Greek police, have themselves now begun to protest EU-IMF austerity.

Brussels issues 'urgent appeal' for Greek unity

On the eve of the G20 meeting of the world’s leading economies, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso went over the head of Greece’s prime minister and called for national and political unity in the country.

Opinion

Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme

Growth predictions are positive, exports increasing, unemployment dropping and credit-ratings up, says the head of Greece's Syriza delegation to the European Parliament. Now the government in Athens is looking to design its own reform programme.

Analysis

We are not (yet) one people

Talks on the next EU budget will start on Friday. Brussels wants to do much more than before – and needs a lot more money. But arguing about funds won't be enough.

News in Brief

  1. EU calls for immediate ceasefire in Syria
  2. UK's post-Brexit vision is 'pure illusion', Tusk says
  3. EU leaders express solidarity with Cyprus in Turkey drill row
  4. EU to double funding for Sahel forces
  5. EU parliament president: 'The immigration problem is Africa'
  6. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  7. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  8. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeAnkara Ban on LGBTI Events Continues as Turkish Courts Reject NGO Appeals
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU agrees budget to focus on defence, security and migration
  2. EU leaders nix transnational lists, cool on 'Spitzenkandidat'
  3. Regions chief: calls for smaller EU budget are 'impossible'
  4. Election fever picks up This WEEK
  5. EU-Morocco fishing deal casts doubt on EU future foreign policy
  6. EU leaders put 'Spitzenkandidat' on summit menu
  7. European far-right political party risks collapse
  8. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  3. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  4. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  5. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  8. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  10. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  12. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?