Wednesday

20th Sep 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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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.

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

Do we still need political parties?

The question is a legitimate one, especially in a German election campaign that is avoiding pressing topics and leaving many voters helpless.

Ukraine: NGOs need EU help

EU governments should stop Ukraine from hampering the work of NGOs in revenge against their anti-corruption work.

Turkish journalists on trial for fake crimes

Journalists from Turkey's Zaman newspaper stand trial this week on fake charges that include "perception engineering" and "violating the rights of statesmen".

Ukraine: NGOs need EU help

EU governments should stop Ukraine from hampering the work of NGOs in revenge against their anti-corruption work.

Turkish journalists on trial for fake crimes

Journalists from Turkey's Zaman newspaper stand trial this week on fake charges that include "perception engineering" and "violating the rights of statesmen".

News in Brief

  1. Hungary set for fresh campaign against public enemy Soros
  2. Iceland's PM leads in polls ahead of October elections
  3. Erdogan demands Iraqi Kurds cancel referendum
  4. Ireland to hold referendum on ownership of water
  5. Report: May to offer €20bn as Brexit bill in Florence speech
  6. Merkel poised to win election despite CDU dip in polls
  7. EU unveils cyber security ideas
  8. EU must do more to cut emissions, auditors say

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  2. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  3. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  5. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  6. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  7. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  8. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel
  9. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Urges Bigger Global Role for Emerging Economies
  10. EU2017EEAre We Socially Insured in the Future of Work?
  11. European Jewish CongressFrench Authorities to Root Out "Societal Antisemitism" After Jewish Family Assaulted
  12. European Federation of Local Energy CompaniesClean Energy for All? On 10.10 Top-Level Speakers Present the Clean Energy Package