Thursday

23rd Feb 2017

Opinion

Greek workers face arrest for being on strike

  • The right to strike is a fundamental entitlement in any functioning democracy (Photo: u07ch)

A law selling off one-third of Greece's Public Power Corporation (PPC) to private investors was recently rushed through parliament by the government following demands by the Troika, which has been effectively decreeing policy in the country since 2010.

Both the New Democracy and Pasok parties (partners in government) backed the arrangement, which includes lucrative terms offering remarkable privileges for investors in the shape of major energy companies like Germany’s RWE and the French EDL.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

While the jumble sale of state property (industries, infrastructure, and utilities) has been a characteristic of the last five years, and chiefly apparent in Greece, the "everything must go" approach to public goods is regrettably not just a Greek phenomenon.

Privatisation is one of the preconditions of the mantra that has directed policy across the European periphery since the beginning of the Greek crisis.

Privatisation's champions maintain that selling public assets is good for competition and hinders price-fixing, as well as benefiting state coffers and consumers. What we have seen instead are greater costs, added inefficiencies and redundancies.

Internationally, experience shows that, in contrast to this rosy image, privatisation often results in reduced access to services which then become more expensive and less efficient, with Margaret Thatcher's Britain in the 1980s standing as the classic, gloomy monument to this economic lunacy.

Arrested for being on strike

But market fundamentalists and their allies are testing something even more dangerous in Greece. Genop-DEH, the main union to which most PPC staff is affiliated, has been fighting the government policy by calling a series of strikes.

Worryingly, in reaction to this, the government issued civil mobilisation orders to 19,000 PPC workers, meaning that they face arrest for being on strike. This move effectively abolishes the right to strike - a fundamental entitlement in any functioning democracy, not to mention something which is enshrined in the EU's own charter of fundamental rights.

In the context of such shocking government tactics, the left in Greece is calling for a referendum on whether the PPC should be privatised.

This way, the Greek people can decide on the issue rather than leaving it up to a government that has shown itself to be both deeply unpopular and without democratic legitimacy already twice in elections - European and local - this year.

For us, access to energy is a human rights issue and so its supply should remain under public control and ownership. The people must have their say by referendum on such crucial decisions, which will impact on their lives and the lives of generations to come, and so it will remain our core priority for the near future.

We are also gathering support to counter moves to sell off other vital national assets, while pushing EU institutions to condemn the recent breaches of the charter of fundamental rights by the government in Greece.

Nightmare vision

Against this theft of public property, local initiatives have been springing up, and often halting the privatisation of utilities such as water services and hospitals.

From Thessaloniki to Berlin to Porto, the value of common goods is gaining traction as an essential idea in the popular response to the flogging of public assets on the cheap.

Five years of economic and social crisis under the austerity-fixated European leadership have prepared the groundwork for an exceptional transfer of resources from the shared democratic space to the realm of impenetrable multinationals.

The Greek left, alongside our allies all over Europe, is putting forward a vision of genuine democracy in Europe. This involves shutting down tax havens, fighting for a banking sector at the service of society, developing a proper training and investment plan to bring down youth unemployment, and democratisation of the EU institutions - especially the European Central Bank.

Vanquishing existing and imminent moves towards privatisation must form the nucleus of struggles to position the citizen in her rightful place at the centre of a much-needed democratic and social Europe.

This is the means by which we can present an alternative to the right's nightmare vision for the future of our continent.

The author is member of the European Parliament representing Greece's Syriza party in the GUE/NGL group

Romania, the endless anti-corruption race

Romanians take to the streets in anti-government protests due to a proposed amendment to the country's anti-corruption legislation. But will this have any effect?

Column / Crude World

Nordstream 2: Alternative pipeline facts

Arguments put forward by Nord Stream 2's Brussels lobbyist in defence of the Russian-led project are not consistent and ignore some basic facts.

The need for global cooperation in stopping Iran

Although Trump said he would tear up the Iran Nuclear Agreement, the new administration seems to want to work on a new policy toward Iran. Let's hope European leaders will respond in kind to this approach.

News in Brief

  1. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  2. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  3. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions
  4. Irish PM expected to quit amid police scandal
  5. After Brexit vote, 100,000 UK firms registered in Ireland
  6. Bayrou to support Macron in French presidential election
  7. British by-election tests Ukip strength after Brexit
  8. Romanian parliament buries controversial corruption decree

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  2. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  3. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  4. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  5. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  6. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  7. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  8. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  10. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  11. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  12. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year