Gov’t sta­bil­ity in the bal­ance

Ju­nior part­ner Demo­cratic Left hints at leav­ing coali­tion af­ter third round of cri­sis talks on ERT founder

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The sta­bil­ity of the frag­ile coali­tion re­mained in the bal­ance late yes­ter­day as the third meet­ing this week be­tween Prime Min­is­ter An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras and his coali­tion part­ners, PA­SOK leader Evan­ge­los Venize­los and Fo­tis Kou­velis of Demo­cratic Left, failed to yield a com­pro­mise on the de­ba­cle over the clo­sure of the state broad­caster ERT, with Kou­velis in­di­cat­ing that he might with­draw from the govern­ment, a move that would leave the coali­tion with a wafer-thin ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment.

The two ju­nior part­ners left the Max­i­mos Man­sion, re­turn­ing to their re­spec­tive head­quar­ters where they were ex­pected to meet with their MPs while Sa­ma­ras sum­moned his min­is­ters.

It re­mained un­clear whether the dis­agree­ment was over as­pects of a po­ten­tial com­pro­mise on the is­sue of ERT or the signs of a broader cri­sis in the ranks of the govern­ment.

Ru­mors swirled of a clash be­tween Sa­ma­ras and Kou­velis in the meet­ing, with the lat­ter in­sist­ing that the pre­mier con­cede to his way of think­ing.

“No com­mon ground was found” on the is­sue of ERT, Kou­velis said, adding that ERT’s re­struc­tur­ing must be car­ried out with the broad­caster open. He slammed the govern­ment for re­fus­ing to im­ple­ment a court or­der to restore ERT’s sig­nal, say­ing that it was “un­ac­cept­able.” “For us it is an is­sue of demo­cratic le­git­i­macy,” Kou­velis added.

Not­ing that the sit­u­a­tion was “ex­tremely crit­i­cal,” Venize­los said that PA­SOK wanted sta­bil­ity and not elec­tions. “We want the govern­ment to con­tinue as a three-party govern­ment and we want Demo­cratic Left to be part of it,” he said. The PA­SOK leader re­peated calls for ERT to re­open “im­me­di­ately,” adding that the “sta­tus and out­look of the coali-

and ra­dio em­ploy­ees sit on the steps of the Coun­cil of State in Athens yes­ter­day, as the court ex­am­ined a re­quest by the ERT em­ploy­ees’ union to re­voke the de­ci­sion to shut the broad­caster down. tion” must be ex­am­ined.

Dur­ing the po­lit­i­cal up­heaval, a large crowd of dis­missed ERT em­ploy­ees and sup­port­ers gath­ered out­side the broad­caster’s head­quar­ters in the north­east­ern sub­urb of Aghia Paraskevi for a protest rally. A smaller protest was held out­side the cen­tral Athens premises of the Coun­cil of State, the coun­try’s high­est ad­min­is­tra­tive court, which was due to rule on a re­quest by the union rep­re­sent­ing ERT em­ploy­ees to re­voke a de­ci­sion to shut the broad­caster down. Ear­lier yes­ter­day there was up­heaval in Par­lia­ment with deputies from the main left­ist op­po­si­tion SYRIZA, the Com­mu­nist Party (KKE) and the right-wing anti-bailout In­de­pen­dent Greeks leav­ing the House in protest at the govern­ment’s de­ci­sion not to dis­cuss an amend­ment on the clo­sure of state broad­caster ERT.

The amend­ment, sub­mit­ted by KKE, was aimed at over­turn­ing the leg­isla­tive act that shut down the or­ga­ni­za­tion ear­lier this month. Al­ter­nate En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Stavros Kalafatis said that the amend­ment can­not be ac­cepted be­cause it would en­tail an ex­tra bur­den on the state bud­get – which would be in vi­o­la­tion of the Greek Con­sti­tu­tion. Op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers ac­cused govern­ment of­fi­cials of evad­ing the is­sue.

In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment, the govern­ment de­cided to tem­po­rar­ily sus­pend a li­cense fee for pub­lic ra­dio and tele­vi­sion, which is raised via elec­tric­ity bills, un­til a new pub­lic broad­caster has been set up. De­spite the po­lit­i­cal up­heaval at home, Prime Min­is­ter An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras sought to con­vey a pos­i­tive mes­sage dur­ing a light­ning visit yes­ter­day to Vi­enna, where he re­port­edly met with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel on the side­lines of a sum­mit of the cen­ter-right Euro­pean Peo­ple’s Party.

“Greece has cov­ered a lot of ground, mak­ing progress ev­ery day,” Sa­ma­ras told re­porters on ar­riv­ing at the sum­mit, adding that the coun­try was go­ing through a “dif­fi­cult pe­riod, which de­mands fis­cal sta­bil­ity and re­forms as well as strong and broad so­cial and po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus.”

Dur­ing a break from the sum­mit pro­ceed­ings, Sa­ma­ras is said to have met with Merkel, who re­port­edly en­cour­aged him to con­tinue with eco­nomic re­forms agreed with the coun­try’s for­eign cred­i­tors – the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank and In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund.

In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment, a se­nior IMF of­fi­cial re­buffed re­ports that the con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sion by Greece’s con­ser­va­tive-led govern­ment to close state broad­caster ERT last week had been rec­om­mended by the Fund. “The re­cent de­ci­sions re­gard­ing the state broad­caster have been the govern­ment’s,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said. “The au­thor­i­ties’ eco­nomic pro­gram is sup­ported by IMF lend­ing and that in­cludes a re­form of pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion... but does not make spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tions on de­ci­sions in­volv­ing state com­pa­nies,” he added. Euro­pean Mone­tary and Eco­nomic Af­fairs Com­mis­sioner Olli Rehn made a sim­i­lar state­ment last week, say­ing that the EC had not in­flu­enced the ERT de­ci­sion.

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