Coali­tion part­ners seek com­pro­mise with PM on ERT

Sa­ma­ras stands by broad­caster’s clo­sure

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Prime Min­is­ter An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras’s coali­tion part­ners, Evan­ge­los Venize­los of PA­SOK and Fo­tis Kou­velis of Demo­cratic Left, ap­pealed to him yes­ter­day for talks on the fu­ture of state broad­caster ERT but the pre­mier stood by his de­ci­sion to close and later re­open the TV and ra­dio ser­vice, leav­ing the govern­ment’s fu­ture in doubt.

Venize­los and Kou­velis met for al­most two hours yes­ter­day af­ter­noon to dis­cuss the fall­out from the clo­sure of ERT, which came a few hours af­ter the govern­ment an­nounced its plans on Tues­day. Af­ter the meet­ing, al­though both lead­ers made their op­po­si­tion to the strat­egy clear, they also left the door open to a com­pro­mise with Sa­ma­ras.

“The govern­ment can carry on and com­plete its work if it can se­cure some com­mon ground,” said Kou­velis in the wake of spec­u­la­tion that the coali­tion rift over the han­dling of ERT could even lead Greece to snap elec­tions. The Demo­cratic Left (DIMAR) leader re­quested talks with the prime min­is­ter “to find com­mon po­lit­i­cal ground, es­pe­cially on the is­sues where our dif­fer­ences in po­lit­i­cal views are vis­i­ble, such as in the case of ERT.”

Kou­velis, how­ever, in­sisted that any dis­cus­sions would have to take place while ERT is still broad­cast­ing. He la­beled Tues­day’s move to take the state broad­caster off air as “un­ac­cept­able.” “ERT un­doubt­edly has need of re­struc­tur­ing but this has to hap­pen while it re­mains open,” he said.

Venize­los fol­lowed a sim­i­lar line, say­ing the broad­caster should not be closed and call­ing for a meet­ing with Sa­ma­ras to ad­dress the is­sue.

“We want fun­da­men­tal re­form of the pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing state broad­cast­ing, but one that is agreed and voted by Par­lia­ment, and with ERT func­tion­ing,” said the PA­SOK leader.

Sa­ma­ras, how­ever, ap­peared far from will­ing to com­pro­mise. Speak­ing

a cig­a­rette next to an an­tique TV in­side ERT’s head­quar­ters in Aghia Paraskevi, north­east­ern Athens, where hun­dreds of peo­ple gath­ered last night de­spite heavy rain to protest the broad­caster be­ing taken off air. at the Athens Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try (EBEA) last night he said that the clos­ing down of ERT was jus­ti­fied be­cause it had be­come “the sym­bol of waste and lack of trans­parency.”

“This ended yes­ter­day,” said the prime min­is­ter, who did not make any ref­er­ence to the ear­lier re­quest by Kou­velis and Venize­los for talks. “We are not clos­ing down pub­lic ra­dio and tele­vi­sion,” he said. “In fact, it is only now that we are go­ing to get proper pub­lic ra­dio and tele­vi­sion.”

The three lead­ers had met on Sun­day to dis­cuss struc­tural re­forms, and the sub­ject of what to do with ERT came up then. Venize­los and Kou­velis voiced ob­jec­tions to the broad­caster be­ing shut down. Sa­ma­ras’s de­ci­sion to pro­ceed with the plan has placed the coali­tion’s fu­ture in doubt. How­ever, sources close to the prime min­is­ter in­sisted he has no in­ten­tion of trig­ger­ing early elec­tions. At the same time, though, it is not clear what kind of com­pro­mise could be found.

The govern­ment pre­sented yes­ter­day a draft law for the new pub­lic broad­caster it wants to set up, un­der the name of NERIT. As op­posed to more than 2,600 staff em­ployed by ERT, the new ser­vice would have close to 1,000 em­ploy­ees and would cost 100 mil­lion eu­ros to run com­pared to the 300 mil­lion ERT ab­sorbed.

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