Greece 2020: A Year in Review
This is an Athens Live Wire special edition. It’s 2020 in Review. As we wave goodbye to this year, we know it certainly will not be missed. In Greece, the pandemic came after a decade of crisis for a psychologically and financially drained population. If we had to describe in a nutshell what happened in 2020 in Greece, it was a deep slide towards authoritarianism, an erosion of democracy in the country that used to be its cradle.
Disastrous bills passed while the citizens were under the shock of the pandemic. Erosion both of the spirit and of the letter of the Constitution. State money spent with absolute negligence of the citizens’ hardship and of the struggling NHS. Refugees faced with a hostile policy and were abandoned to their fate. And, for all these to be achieved, an army of praetorians, the police, was boosted beyond prediction and left untouched to their conduct and abuses of power. At the same time, citizens were striving to sustain a livelihood — and to breathe. Plus, natural disasters. And Turkey’s breath, we felt behind our backs all year long.
We chose to shed light in retrospect on major events, but also on smaller ones that reveal the drama and the agony of the people. Hence, here are the events that marked 2020 in Greece.
Greece elects its first-ever woman president: On 22 January, 63-year-old high court judge Aikaterini Sakellaropoulou became President of the Hellenic Democracy. She has also been the first woman to preside Greece’s top administrative court, the Council of State. Greece had ranked 84th on the annual Global Gender Gap Index, while at the time of the election, the Greek Cabinet included two women out of 22 senior positions. In her first remarks as president-elect, she cited as 21st-century key challenges “the financial crisis, climate change, the mass movement of populations and the consequent humanitarian crisis, the erosion of the rule of law and all manner of inequalities and exclusions”.
Greek hospitals can’t provide chemo: On 22 January, for one more time during the Memorandums decade, Greek hospitals were reported as incapable of providing any more chemotherapy to cancer patients due to a lack of basic anticancer drugs used for it. There were big delays and even cancellations of scheduled chemotherapy appointments in many hospitals. Moreover, doctors had been unable to perform certain transplants due to lack of cheap basic medicine in Thessaloniki, surgeries were interrupted due to lack of doctors and medicine in Aghia Olga (Athens) and there were immense problems in administering certain treatments in Heraklion. Doctors warned that at least three clinics in public hospitals were closing down due to lack of personnel — claims Health Minister Kikilias dismissed as “fake news”. This was the state of the Greek NHS at the beginning of 2020. The state budget for health has suffered severe cuts during the crisis years. Only hospital funding has been reduced by 700 million euros in the last seven years, another 64 million for 2019, and now a further 37 million.
Meanwhile, the government had decided on 8 January an annual grant of 2 million euros per year to the private Theological School of Boston, commencing last year.
La Croix and Deutsche Welle German journalist Thomas Jacobi was beaten by supporters of the Greek Neo-Nazi party on 20 January, while covering their anti-immigration rally in Athens. Neo-nazis were beating him for more than four minutes until the -present- police special forces decided to intervene. The perpetrators disappeared. A year before, Jacobi was assaulted in an almost identical attack. He has co-produced a documentary about the Golden Dawn with Angelique Kourounis.
Greece announced plans to install a half million euros 2.7 km long floating fence as a barrier to stop refugees and migrants from reaching the islands from the nearby coast of Turkey. Amnesty International slammed the plan. Floating barriers technology has been designed and deployed to collect… plastic waste that has been dumped into the sea.
A dispute over football in January reflected power rivalries in Greece: The Greek Professional Sports Committee (EEA) voted on 27 January to demote PAOK FC and Xanthi FC, following complaints by Olympiakos FC that the two clubs had multiple ownership. According to the complaint claims, Greek-Russian PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis has also shares in Xanthi FC. Directly intervening in Super League 1, the Greek government replaced the relegation penalty for the Greek football clubs PAOK and Xanthi due to alleged infringement of ownership rules with a mere points reduction in a controversial legal amendment. The PAOK and Xanthi development appeared to be in the context of the rivalry between football club owners Ivan Savvides and Vangelis Marinakis, who both also own newspapers and TV Channels in Greece. Marinakis media group, widely perceived as siding with the New Democracy party, released a massive attack against the government, following this decision.
Documento newspaper editor Kostas Vaxevanis, sued by ex-Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, was sentenced on 21 January to five months imprisonment suspended for three years, for retweeting a meme in his personal Twitter account.
Greece seeks support amid tensions with Turkey — Secedes more sovereignty to the US: As the country’s row with Turkey over energy reserves intensified, Mitsotakis welcomed on 27 January a decision by France to dispatch naval frigates to the eastern Mediterranean. US President Trump “highlighted the importance of Turkey and Greece resolving their differences in the Eastern Mediterranean” in a telephone call with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after the Greek Parliament had ratified an updated defense agreement with the United States, allowing the use of Greek military facilities, including the airbases at Larissa and Stefanovikio in Magnisia prefecture.
On 27 January, the Turkish research ship ORUC REIS entered the Greek continental shelf, out of its NAVTEX stated area of research and entering Greek interests’ area. Bad weather conditions were indirectly blamed for the ship getting out of its route — an excuse which would prove ludicrous since the ship would stroll in Greek waters all year long.
Meanwhile, the Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had made a supportive statement on 8 January of the US president’s decision to kill the Iranian commander Qassem Suleimani, being the only one of his European counterparts to do this. “I understand that this particular decision was taking into consideration what is the US national interest and we stand by this decision”, he stated speaking at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, before his meeting with Trump.
Lesvos was rocked by refugees’ protests, starting on 4 February. The new Greek asylum law, which gives priority to “newcomers” asylum requests, leaving older ones behind, added up to overwhelming desperation -given the squalid living conditions in Europe’s largest and grimmest refugee camp, Moria. Refugees demanded freedom and better living conditions. The Greek police eventually cracked down on protesters, tear-gassing even families with little children.
The Greek government scapegoated NGOs for the situation, with Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis stating that Greek authorities are exploring the “possibility of these reactions being incited” and Alternate Migration Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos describing NGOs as “leeches” that was “set up overnight in order to have access to EU funding”.
Following the protests, the government reconstituted the refugees’ right to public healthcare, which it had deprived of them when elected.
Fake news circulated massively in Lesbos. An announcement allegedly from some Lesvos people called on citizens to take the guns and announced the blowing up of Moria camp.
A small group of extremists turned into a vigilante squad: wearing full-face and holding sticks, they released a pogrom against refugees, migrants, and NGO members in Moria streets. Several arrests were reported.
An anti-fascist demonstration also took place on the island.
Northern Aegean regional governor Kostas Moutzouris requested for the islands Lesbos, Chios, and Samos to be declared in an emergency situation, a request turned down by the government.
The Greek government pushed ahead with its plans to replace overcrowded refugee camps on the islands with “closed facilities”: It announced on 10 February requisitions of land and buildings on the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos and later Leros and Kos, to provide for these facilities, renamed now “controlled closed facilities” probably to satisfy the EU that had made it clear it does not fund detention centers. Newcomers, criminal elements and those to be pushed back will be held all together there.
Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis stated: “The centers should be closed (…) Not even mosquitoes should be able to exit from there; Never, 24 hours a day. Until they go. The message should be this: ‘Do you want to go to Greece, sir? You’ll be locked in (…) If they are locked in, they would eventually go back to Turkey. We don’t want them here. Full stop. This is the message: Don’t come here illegally.”
The very next day, Lesvos and Chios municipalities decided to take countermeasures, including seeking legal measures, set up “guard teams” to prohibit interventions in designated areas, and deny any help to government and state authorities.
Islanders and members of the municipal councils staged a series of protests against this plan, kicking out of them prosecuted Golden Dawn members.
The first fully documented case of an illegal push back to Turkey by Greek authorities in May 2019 was revealed on 12 January.
Towards the end of the month, the Greek government had unleashed a full-scale “war” against “disobedient” islanders.
After suppressing big refugee protests, riot police units arrived on Chios and Lesbos under conditions of secrecy in an invasion-resembling scenery to protect big public works contractors to start building the new camps on the islands in question.
Clashes broke out almost immediately on both islands as residents tried to prevent the arrival of riot police and excavating machinery brought for the construction works. Police reacted by firing tear gas and flash grenades. Chios mayor and a priest were reportedly treated in hospital for breathing difficulties due to extensive use of tear-gas. The government employed even the army to help with construction plans.
Lesbos and Chios islands declared a general strike on 26–27 February. Public services and shops remained closed.
Protesters in Chios clashed with the police also in Aepos Mountain, with the police using tear gas, and therefore setting fire to the woods, and protesters throwing stones and rockets they use for Easter festivities.
For the first time in history, on 26 February, sixteen Chios militiamen went to lay down their guns to the local Army Brigade -it was reported- in protest of riot police and government violence.
The same night, riot policemen were stopping Chios citizens and beating them up for no reason.
At their departure from Chios, riot policemen in civilian clothes, wearing helmets, after having thrown dozens of chemicals at the crowd, started behaving like hooligans, smashing cars, bullying and insulting locals. The Chios-Samos Port Authorities denounced this behavior. A lawsuit was filed against them in Chios Port Authority.
In Lesbos, riot police reportedly beat people, set fire to the woods due to tear gas use, and left the area smashing cars and swearing against Lesbos citizens, calling them “Turk’s descendants”. Lesbos lawyers sued anyone responsible for police violence on the island, while the Athenian Lawyers Association denounced this violence.
Censorship was imposed in state broadcaster ERT regional broadcasting stations referring to police repression.
Meanwhile, Turkey announced on 28 February it will no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe by land and sea, in anticipation of the imminent arrival of refugees from Syria’s Idlib, where nearly a million have been displaced. Greece maximized border controls at land and sea borders with Turkey and closed Kastanies (the border gate to Turkey in the northeastern Evros region) to effectively prevent hundreds of refugees and migrants from entering the country.
Moreover, the Greek delegation, consisting of ND, SYRIZA, and KINAL representatives had withdrawn in protest from the NATO Assembly on 19 February: They denounced the acting president Attila Mesterhazy’s stance. The Greek delegation highlighted how the Turkey-Libya Agreement violated Greek sovereign rights and Mesterhazy “has systematically interrupted our positions and questions, impeding the development of our positions”, they stated.
Before that, on 6 February, the Greek government had confirmed that it will send Patriot anti-aircraft missiles to Saudi Arabia accompanied by 130 military personnel, under a program involving the US, Britain, and France “to protect critical energy infrastructure”.
Meanwhile, DiΕΜ-25 General Secretary Yanis Varoufakis had handed in his recordings of the 2015 first semester Eurogroup meetings to the President of the Greek Parliament Kostas Tasoulas on 14 February. Tasoulas turned them down, despite Greece’s Supreme Court decision that the recordings are legal. Varoufakis announced later all recordings will be made public.
Mega Channel, Greece’s largest TV network and the first private one started operating again on 12 February 2020. Mega Channel had “died” on 28 October 2018 declaring bankruptcy after 29 years. Its assets were finally bought by Vangelis Marinakis’s Alter Ego company. Marinakis -also a shipowner and owner of big Greek football club Olympiacos FC- now established his position as the biggest media mogul in Greece.
The first coronavirus case was reported in Greece on 26 February, a 38-year-old woman who had traveled to Italy.
Mitsotakis linked coronavirus with the refugee issue and called upon preventing the spread of the virus to justify border controls tightening.
The Greek Carnival was canceled on 27 February due to coronavirus.
Panic purchases started in supermarkets and surgical face masks “disappeared” from the pharmacies.
Legendary partisan Manolis Glezos dies on 30 March at the age of 97: An uncompromisable man whose whole life was a fist raised against fascism, injustice, and oppression. It would have been one of the biggest funerals ever, if not for coronavirus lockdown. Glezos gave his whole life for Greece, and Greece could not escort him on his last journey. This “First Partisan of Europe”, together with Lakis Santas, tore down the swastika from the Akropolis on the night of 30/31 May 1941. The life of this man of humbling greatness was like a myth, as Manolis Glezos was one of these rare figures that his actions were even greater than his words. This is why he was deeply loved by the people, transcending ideology, and deeply respected even by his fiercest political opponents. An uncompromisable genuine, who literally dedicated his whole life to fighting for humanism and democracy.
After Erdogan opened the borders, thousands of refugees had been crowding the Northeastern Greek-Turkish border of Evros, hoping to cross to Greece. Local Evros newspaper “Gnomi” editor Giannis Laskarakis in a Facebook post on 4 March, referred to locals “carrying around guns like they were militia, against the migrants and refugees’ ‘invasion’”, while “the Church blesses the guns and elected officials take pictures with the gunmen”. He talked about German neo-nazis “on their way to take part in the ‘resistance’ against migrants (…)”, while “we, locals, already receive threats and insults” and called on progressive citizens for support.
In Evros, some locals tried to provide comfort to refugees.
Soldiers serving near the border released a statement saying it is no-one’s business “to drown refugees and migrants in the river nor beat them up in Andrianoupolis”. It is “not in a soldier’s duties, it is illegal and we have not joined the army for that.”
The Greek government retaliated against the victims, suspending for a month the right of refugees to apply for asylum.
On the islands, NGO staff were leaving after being targeted, locals in Chios besieged the refugee center VIAL, a solidarity organization’s warehouse reportedly been set on fire, there were attempted push-backs of refugee boats.
Big anti-fascist demonstrations took place all over the country on 6 March.
Forensic Architecture organization released a video allegedly documenting that a Syrian man had been shot dead at Evros. The Greek government dismissed reports of killed refugees as “fake news”.
Just a handful of countries appeared willing just to accept a few unaccompanied minors from Greece.
On 6 March, refugees and migrants started evacuating the border buffer zone in Evros, after Putin and Erdogan reached a deal on Syria.
As to the pandemic, with cases surging, the first restriction measures in Greece were imposed on March 6. By then, there were 3 deaths and 190 reported coronavirus cases in the country. Businesses were then shut down in groups.
The Holy Synod declared on 9 March that Holy Communion, the partaking of wine-soaked in bread from the same chalice for atonement from sins, would continue despite the coronavirus outbreak.
Health Minister Vasilis Kikilias made a plea on 12 March to doctors, nurses, and paramedics in Greece to apply for a job at the National Health System.
On 13 March, the Greek state laboratories run out of reagents.
The first coronavirus case was reported on Lesbos on 12 March.
IMO and UN suspended the Migrants Relocation Programme on 17 March due to all measures taken by states to contain coronavirus. This happens while NGOs have called for an immediate evacuation of overcrowded island camps due to the pandemic
Meanwhile, Yanis Varoufakis had released his infamous 2015 Eurogroup recordings on Saturday 14 March. They were uploaded here.
Hospital doctors demanded from Day 1 immediate government action: “Mr. Mitsotakis, what we primarily need at this moment is not a ‘compensation’ you implied you’ll give us. In the battle against the ‘invisible enemy’, we need SOLDIERS (permanent personnel), OFFENSIVE guns (ventilators and beds in intensive care units), DEFENSIVE GUNS (protective means for all hospital employees so we don’t become decommissioned). This is what we demand to face the epidemic.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, Greece had only 557 beds in Intensive Care Units, instead of 3,500 as expected by international standards.
The government announced on 19 March that there would be 500 mobile “clinics” which would test and provide healthcare to people at home. We never saw them realize.
Doctors of many hospitals around the country were lacking surgical masks, plastic surgery glasses, and waterproof surgical gowns.
In mid-March, the government shut down organized beaches and ski resorts and banned the gathering of more than ten people with strict fines. News of the massive exodus of Athenians to villages proved fake. The government banned traveling to the islands for non-residents, banned access to certain mountains, shut down some parks, and set a 1,000 euros fine for “no purpose” walks in parks and squares.
Churches were shut down as late as 16 March.
Medicine Plaquenil supposedly containing a substance helping fight coronavirus had disappeared from pharmacies on 19 March.
On 23 March, the government called for doctors, nurses and hospital staff, psychologists, health sciences students, and pensioners to volunteer.
The government imposed a full lockdown with movement restrictions on March 23. Τhe citizens would now need to fill lockdown movement permit forms or send SMS to move.
Greece banned parades for the 25th of March National Holiday but celebrated with the air force flying above our heads.
On the finance front, Finance Minister Christos Staikouras had announced on 17 March that Greece is no longer bound by the 3.5% primary surplus target for 2020, following Eurogroup decisions on the economic response to the pandemic.
The Greek Prime Minister announced on 19 March a 10 billion euros support package as a result of Greece’s inclusion in a 750-billion-euro emergency asset purchase program announced by the ECB. Diem25 General Secretary Yanis Varoufakis claimed this money will go to the derivatives market.
The first 11 million euros in media state funding for “communication and information services” regarding corοnavirus were announced on 26 March.
In March, 41,903 jobs were lost, while 77,044 open-ended job contracts were suspended or closed-ended contracts were due.
Greek author and activist Periklis Korovesis died at 79 on 11 April: He was a symbol of resistance against the military junta, an activist, an uncompromised voice. He became famous worldwide with his first book “The Method: A Personal Account of the Tortures in Greece” (Anthropofylakes in Greek, 1969), a personal account of the tortures that he experienced at the police headquarters in Athens during the colonels’ junta.
The pandemic already from 2 April proved a catalyst for a long-overdue technological upgrade in Greece, which until now ranked close to last in the EU regarding digitalization.
National Broadcaster ERT did not transmit the Hospital Doctors Union Press Conference on 2 April, despite having sent reporters.
Attikon Hospital Staff reported on 6 April an order from the Hospital Manager to talk to the media only after the management’s approval.
Stavros Niarchos Foundation launched on 7 April an International Initiative against Coronavirus, donating 100,000,000 dollars for the alleviation of social and economic repercussions of the pandemic.
Solidarity initiatives from citizens were launched, like the “Emergency Seamstresses” initiative producing masks
The Ministry of Culture announced on 8 April that hospital staff will be given 20,000 free tickets for the National Opera — which had suspended its shows.
The government has till now hired only 3,073 hospital staff of which only 381 doctors with short-ended contracts.
The government launched at the beginning of April a subsidized training program for scientists -including doctors, lawyers, mechanics- distributing more than 85 million euros to private vocational training institutes, with no substantial investment from their side. Reports indicating unprecedented sloppiness in these programs, angry denunciations from unions of professionals, and merciless critique and trolling in social media made the government cancel the program and announce that the money would be given to the scientists directly in the form of an allowance. Reporting revealed some of the companies’ owners have close relations with prime minister Mitsotakis’ environment.
The Greek government as of 8 April changed its position according to which refugees could not apply for asylum for a month. Newcomer refugees were again provided access to the procedure.
The first verified coronavirus cases were reported on 9 April in Ritsona and Malakasa refugee camps (Evia and Attika regions respectively).
Ministers in the Eurogroup marathon meeting on 8 April failed to agree on the needed initiatives to fight the pandemic: Northern countries objected to an unconditional stabilization mechanism, while the South, predominantly Italy, was determined to even drop the ESM credit line conditions. Eurogroup came to an agreement on a €500 billion euros rescue package, leaving conditionality in vagueness.
Italian professor Mauro Ferrari resigned as European Research Council president on 8 April, emphasizing in his catapult statement that his idealistic motivations “were crushed by a very different reality, in the brief three months since I took office” The ECR replied that Ferrari’s resignation had been “unanimously requested” by all ERC members.
The EC approved on 9 April a 1.2 billion euro Greek aid scheme to support the Greek economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. However, the lenders’ institutions are reported as insisting that Greece lifts first residence protection for debtors by the end of April.
The government decided on 9 April to sell four (more) Greek ports through the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF).
The Greeks “celebrated” Easter on 19 April behind “nailed” doors, with even cemeteries closed (including on Good Friday) under new stricter measures. The Epitaphios Procession took place behind Churches’ closed doors.
Greece has been praised all this time by the international press for reacting promptly and effectively to coronavirus.
As Greece was preparing towards the end of the month to exit the strict lockdown, the Prime Minister completely ignored the Hospital Doctors Union requesting a teleconference with him to discuss the next phase when the measures will be relaxed but the pandemic will still be here. It was on 23 April.
Tourism Minister Theocharis stated on 24 April that the tourism sector hopes to open in July. It would become evident later, this was not optimal, but an ill-advised plan.
Popular singer Alkistis Protopsalti and some musicians on the back of a truck toured the streets of Athens on 25 April to bring some joy to the “deserted” city. The initiative, supported by the Mayor of Athens, backfired when the prime minister himself and dozens of people were photographed crowding outside the prime minister’s residence to enjoy the concert.
On 28 April, the Prime Minister presented the roadmap of lockdown lifting. He famously emphasized “personal responsibility” instead of presenting articulated governmental protection measures.
Amnesty International released on 28 April a landmark report on the Greek Health System. Entitled “Resuscitation required: The Greek Health System After a Decade of Austerity,” the report gives an eloquent yet grim picture of the wounds inflicted on the country during the decade of crisis.
Imprisoned Vasilis Dimakis, who was on hunger strike on 24 April and then on thirst strike, won and stopped the strike on 30 April. Dimakis had been unexpectedly transferred from Korydallos (Athens) prisons to Grevena, making it impossible for him to attend University, a constitutional right he exercises. He went on strike to demand his return to Korydallos and his right to education.
It was announced on 2 May that TV outlet owners can now pay 50% less for three months for transmitting a signal through DIGEA. This happened after the 11 (soon to be 20) million euros granted to the media by the state for the “COVID information campaign” and the 21 million euros the channel owners saved as they were released from their obligation to pay the dosage for the transmitting permit.
A “Gravestone for the Environment” bill becomes the law of the state on 5 May. The ND government passed a bill euphemistically called “Modernisation of Environmental Legislation,” which releases an unprecedented assault against the environment, Natura protected areas and forest, opens all doors for the oil and mining companies to proceed with the extraction in areas that should be protected. The government had put the bill to fast track public consultation during the pandemic lockdown, being tabled before a pared-down emergency Parliament and almost doubled in size, with 64 more articles than its version brought to public consultation. Due to the pandemic, public opposition was restricted to environmental NGOs' petitions and a small demonstration.
On 6 May, Greece came next to last among 24 European countries as to additional coronavirus spending to boost the NHS, according to WHO.
Owners of restaurants, cafes, and bars in an act of protest placed 200 empty chairs at Syntagma Square on 6 May in front of the Greek Parliament.
9,500 cleaners sent a letter to the government on 8 May emphasizing they worked wherever the government asked them to fight the pandemic yet, as they are outsourced labor, they have no employment or insurance rights. “Even cancer patients were pressured to work every day after chemotherapies, risking their lives”, they cry out.
Schools opened in phases, starting on 11 May.
On International Nurses Day, May 12, nursing staff at public hospitals in Greece staged protests at hospital entrances, pointing out the chronic problems of the Greek health system.
Pupils took to the streets on 14 May to protest that the government made legal live broadcasts for teaching classes, citing educational purposes for students unable to attend school during the pandemic. This amendment was passed without the consent of the Greek Data Protection Authority (AADA).
It was revealed on 14 May that the ruling ND party owes 308,6 million euros to the banks, according to its balance sheet for 2019.
Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has the highest debt from all members of government, reaching 1.36 million euros, according to the published asset and funds-source declaration to which all members of Parliament are obliged.
Mayor of Athens Kostas Bakoyannis, member of the Mitsotakis family political dynasty, inaugurated on 14 May the refurbished Omonoia square at the heart of Athens, in a provocatively crowded ceremony which was proudly presented in the media.
In mid-May, the police unleashed attacks against people for hanging out in squares (Aghia Paraskevi, Kypseli, Kallithea — Thessaloniki), with tear-gas and arrests. One of those arrested reported being attacked for no reason, while he was in his pajamas and was shouting he had just gone down to see what happened and beat him. He ended up with injuries and broken teeth.
On Tinos island, riot police used violence on 20 May to disperse citizens demonstrating against the installment of wind turbines in two villages of immense beauty. Later in the month, the installation of 11 from 32 (in total) wind turbines planned for the island was suspended.
On 22 May, Turkey was reported to have occupied Greek soil in the northeastern border region of Evros. The Greek Foreign Ministry logged a démarche, but only after the issue gained publicity in a British newspaper SUN reporting piece.
Dimakis went on a hunger strike again on 23 May for promises were given to him were not kept and for being transferred to the terrorist ward. His demands were later accepted and he ended the strike.
The Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB) workers were on strike most of May, but for the Greek media, this never happened: The strike was triggered when, on 30 April, amidst quarantine, the Finance Ministry decided to curtail the EAB workers wages by a considerable amount. EAB employees immediately mobilized and stalled production. Despite the industry is crucial to the country’s defense and fire-service, the media never said a word about the strike.
Greece prepares to open up to international tourism at the beginning of June without tests or 14-day quarantine. International flights from 20 countries with good epidemiological data were to resume on 15 June and, from 1 July, from all destinations. The last internal traveling restrictions were lifted on Monday 25 May, allowing traveling to all islands.
Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis referred to a “boosted coronavirus case handling capability”, translating into boosting non-existent health structures in tourist destinations
The Labour Ministry rolled down its shutters against hundreds of desperate workers in the tourism and catering sectors and Athens International Airport employees, who had gathered on 28 May outside to protest the new anti-labor laws and the precarious “pandemic” working conditions. The police tear-gassed them.
By the end of the month, live briefings on coronavirus we had been accustomed to every day at 18.00 stopped.
Despite opening up to tourism, it was reported on 27 May that refugees in all islands and some mainland camps would remain in lockdown until 7 June. Restrictions for the general population had been lifted since 4 May.
Some 11,000 recognized refugees would face eviction as of 1 June since the Greek government proceeded with its plan to stop hosting asylum seekers with recognized refugee status in camps and EU subsidized apartments and hotels.
“Elena” Public Maternity Hospital Breast Centre closed down on 28 May.
The only public children’s Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit in Aghia Sofia Paidon Hospital was reported as closing down since the government decided to turn it into a Covid-19 Children’s ICU. Until much later in the year, it was reported as not being properly operational.
On 29 May, it was reported that the government plans to turn over to private investors 80% of the country’s water reserves (this is what the External Water Providing System of Athens corresponds to) through a joint public-private management scheme.
In May, registered unemployment in Greece skyrocketed to 25.13%.
Archbishop of Greece Ieronymos donated on 2 June on behalf of the Holy Synod 49,000 euros to the Greek government, not only for military equipment purchases but also for the extension of the fence along Evros river North-Eastern Greek-Turkish border, a project for which the UN has expressed its concern.
Turkey announced on 1 June it will start drilling in Greek waters south of the Greek islands of Crete, Karpathos, Kasos, and Rhodes.
Greece signed an Exclusive Economic Zone Agreement with Italy on 9 June: It was intended to send a message to Turkey as to Greece’s sovereign rights. Potential downsides to it include that EEZ was signed without Greece first having unilaterally extended its territorial waters from 6 to 12 nautical miles.
Meanwhile, the Greek tourism 34 million marketing campaign was given without a bid to private company Marketing Greece: Turmoil and resignations in the National Tourism Organisation (EOT) followed on 4 June.
After public outcry, the government published a list with all media that received part of 20 million euros funding: They omitted the amount given to each one. Money had been given even to sites with no publications, no visitors, diaspora and church sites, sites that are not even on the Ministry’s Online Media Registry. Media critical to the government had been excluded.
The Mayor of Athens proceeded on 10 June with the “Great Walk” plans as extravagantly expensive as with benches costing 5,249.70 euros (each) before VAT and jardinieres up to 4,605 (each). The plan will soon prove also ill-designed and cause traffic chaos.
The ESM in its published annual report on 11 June admitted mistakes in the Memorandums imposed on Greece and that priority was given to Eurozone stability instead of what Greece’s goals
The Eurogroup statement of 11 June 2020 on Greece called among others the government to proceed “with the legislation of an effective new insolvency code (…) and the abolition of the current scheme for the protection of primary residences by end-July 2020.” It emphasized that the Greek economy is expected to be among the hardest hit in the EU in 2020 This law would be passed in October.
The Top Administrative Court Fourth Department ruled on 17 June as unconstitutional the selling of 50,003% of EYDAP and EYATH public water companies to the Privatisation Fund “Greek Shareholding and Property Company Inc” (EESYP), which took place under the SYRIZA government.
Novartis agreed on 25 June to pay a huge fine (233 million dollars) in the US for bribing officials in Greece — and sparked a heated political debate in Greece. Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis prepared the ground for Corruption District Attorney Eleni Touloupaki prosecution. Touloupaki investigates the Novartis case, including Georgiadis’s alleged involvement. He states that Touloupaki should go to jail for prosecuting KINAL’s Andreas Loverdos.
Meanwhile, the Greek PM had triumphantly announced on 13 June the start of the tourist season in Santorini with the sunset in his background. What follows will not be so romantic. “Come to Greece. Tell your friends, your readers, your audience, that we opened and we are waiting for you.” Health Minister Vasilis Kikilias had announced on 12 June the plan for “shielding” the islands as to Covid-19 necessary infrastructure. On 4 June, the Panhellenic Hospitals Employees Union POEDIN had published research revealing immense problems as to human resources and infrastructure of the island health units.
After lockdown lifting, coronavirus cases had started to spike — but they were still at two-figured numbers. All incoming tourists were tested until 15 June.
Public Hospital Staff declared a strike on 16 June, demanding more money for public health, hiring of necessary staff, and turning close-ended contracts to open-ended.
The Ministry of Education would increase on 23 June and amidst pandemic the maximum number of pupils per classroom in Kindergarten and Primary Schools from 22 to 25.
Despite suggesting caution to the general population, the Prime Minister himself has been photographed several times without a mask and not keeping the distances while talking to people, including pupils in a school he visited. Photos from the inauguration of a statue in Piraeus on 8 June by Development and Investment Minister Adonis Georgiadis revealed overcrowding.
The closing of the Breast Center in Helena Hospital was annulled as reported on 30 June, thanks to strong reactions, but the only Public Children’s Cardiac Surgery Centre remained inoperable.
A 9-year-old girl collapsed while standing in the queue inside a bakery in Rhodes, on 24 June, revealing the drama of the tourism sector workers: her mother, a hotel employee, had been unemployed since August 2019.
A Labour and Human Resources National Institute study on the coronavirus pandemic consequences had estimated already since 10 June that more than 940,000 private-sector employees, that is one out of two, had to face either layoffs or contract suspension due to the lockdown.
Unemployment rose by 19.9% in June 2020 as compared to June 2019.
Erdogan converted UNESCO monument Hagia Sophia into a mosque, with a decree signed on 10 July. Iconic Hagia Sophia is a former cathedral-turned-mosque that since 1934 has served as a museum. UNESCO issued a detailed statement on the matter. Erdogan scheduled the first prayer there to coincide with the anniversary of the landmark 24 July 1923 Lausanne Treaty, which defined the borders of post-Ottoman, contemporary Turkey after World War I and which Erdogan disputes.
It is revealed that a secret trilateral meeting among Germany, Greece, and Turkey took place in Berlin on Monday 13 June. The meeting was reportedly brokered by Germany, a few days after Erdogan’s decision on Hagia Sophia and before the EU Council of Foreign Affairs Meeting. Berlin reportedly made a specific proposal with the aim of resuming exploratory contacts between Athens and Ankara, which have been frozen since 2016. Opposition criticizes the move as “secret diplomacy.”
A series of Turkish NAVTEX reserving areas within the Greek continental shelf for research and Greek and Cypriot counter-NAVTEXs were issued within the month. Tensions would ease at the end of July, pending the talks between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the Greek government passed an “anti-protest” bill on 9 July, with 187 votes, including those of KINAL and the Greek Solution MP. The law was actually reported as having copy-pasted clauses from one of the junta’s legislative decrees. The Minister of Citizen’s Protection Michalis Chrysochoidis stated that “the bill abolishes anachronisms that were named rights.” The Association of Imprisoned-Exiled Resistance Fighters during the 1967–1974 Dictatorship issued a harsh statement against the bill, while it was slammed even by a Parliamentary Scientific Committee report, Greece’s Lawyers’ Unions and the Steering Committee of its Presidents’ Plenary Session and Amnesty International.
26-year-old Vasilis Mangos died a month after being severely beaten and tortured by the Greek police. Mangos with a post on Facebook, on 16 June, had detailed how the police treated him. “I am at the hospital with 6 or 7 rib fractures and a strain in the liver and gallbladder, savagely beaten and tortured by the police forces.” On 13 July, the young man was found dead by his mother in his house in Volos. Autopsy fist results showed that his death was caused by acute pulmonary edema. The family mentioned that after his torture their child “broke down psychologically, something that inevitably influenced decisions for his life”. Mangos had been a rehabilitated drug user.
Locum doctors appointed in service in public hospitals during the pandemic had not been paid their wage for the last three months. On 31 June, hospital workers had faced riot police with POEDIN president injured. On 1 July Mitsotakis thanked them in a speech.
A “Corona-Memorandum”: Greece announced on 21 July it had “secured” 72 billion from the EU Recovery and Resilience Fund, but only 19.5 billion in grants and 13,2 billion in loans from the RRF (38 billion will be given under the National Strategic Reference Framework). But the decision provides grants and loans will be given only under the rules and to the sectors the EU Commission decides. Greece is again under strict supervision. For this deal to be achieved, the 9 billion EU4Health programs disappeared.
Within less than one year of governance, ND government managed a record hiring number (2,817) of non-permanent staff (“metaklitoi”) as of May, it is reported on 29 July.
ND is large with public money, as it became evident also on 6 July, when the government published the list on how the 20 million funds were distributed to the media. Big money was received by big conglomerates owning several media. Some media announced they would return the funds. Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) initiative sent a letter to the Greek government calling for greater transparency and objectivity in the distribution of public advertisement funds to the media.
Meanwhile, the tourism season had kicked off on 1 July, when the first flights from abroad landed at regional airports. Opening up to tourism under pandemic conditions was characterized as “a huge experiment” by Infectious Disease professor Nikos Sipsas.
Travel company TUI had openly threatened the Greek government that it would cancel all trips to Greece should the government proceed with enforcing the 36-hour quarantine on those tourists tested upon arrival, German newspaper Bild revealed. The PM ultimately took back the measure.
A TUI charter flight from Sweden landed on Rhodes at the beginning of the month, despite the direct flight ban having been extended until 15 July for Sweden, the UK, and Turkey due to these countries’ high epidemiological data.
Tourism minister Theocharis’ visit to Crete on 2–3 July was met with discontent, as most catering facilities had closed in protest of deficient government support measures.
All tourists coming through Promahonas (the crossing from Balkan countries) will from now on be tested, due to high epidemiological data from these countries.
Since the official start of the tourist season in the country on 15 June and until the end of July, 1,247 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed, more than 700 of them imported.
Only in Athens Airport, 70% fewer tourists than last year were expected to arrive in July.
Most Greeks won’t go on vacation “not due to the pandemic, but due to the lack of money”, research showed. 53% are expected to stay in the city for this reason.
The Finance Ministry announced for the January-June 2020 semester a deficit in state budget balance of 9,232 million euros as compared to an initial target of 2,626 million. The primary result recorded a deficit of 6,101 million euros as compared to the 313 million primary surplus target. Only in July, there is an estimated 30% drop in state revenues and a 1.5 billion “hole” regarding VAT.
Unemployment jumped up by 12% in July 2020 as compared to July 2019.
Meanwhile, it is in effect the measure that all public transportation means should reach maximum capacity up to 65% and should this be exceeded, passengers and the driver would be fined.
The use of masks would become obligatory again on July 29 in all closed spaces, but the Church is excluded — only mandatory use of masks there.
Greek Ministers for Citizen Protection, Michalis Chrysochoidis, and for Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachis jointly decided to extend until 19 July the movement restriction measures in the country’s hot spots due to coronavirus.
A couple of weeks before that, on 7 July, these two Ministers along with Deputy Minister for Citizens Protection Yorgos Koumoutsakos had reportedly made a disgraceful appearance in front of the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee, as they failed to provide satisfactory answers regarding reports indicating that the country’s police and border guards systematically prevent migrants from entering Greece, using violence and even shooting at them, both at the land and sea borders.
As to the Novartis case, the District Attorney was prosecuted under a government including politicians she was investigating: Greece’s leading anti-corruption prosecutor Eleni Touloupaki was charged in mid-July with one felony and five misdemeanor counts, including abuse of power, for investigating the Novartis scandal. In this scandal, reportedly ten former government officials were initially incriminated for taking bribes from the Swiss pharmaceutical giant.
After mid-July, wildfires erupted and raged in Greece in Peloponnese, Lokrida, Rethymnon, and Lesvos. Locals and tourists are evacuated from some areas, like Kechries. These fires coincided with the tragic anniversary of the Mati fire in 2018, which claimed the lives of 102 people. Kathimerini brought to light a shocking audio recording on the Mati fire, revealing machinations of people in power and power games within the Fire Brigade.
Six Greek ports opened up to cruises from 1 August, despite the registered spike in cases.
The government increased ship maximum capacity from 65% to 80–85% on 2 August.
The government extended the lockdown to all refugee-hosting structures until 2 August.
A mini cabinet reshuffle took place on 4 August.
The first set of restrictive measures was re-imposed on the island of Poros on 6 August, after a spike in cases, including the prohibition of operation of all facilities of the catering sector from 23.00 until 07.00 the next day.
Further measures followed, increasing the categories of those coming in the country with a negative test, suspending all public fiestas with standing people, including concerts and plays, while bars and restaurants will remain shut from 12 midnight to 7 in the morning in many areas, including Crete, Thessaloniki, and Rhodes. The Thessaloniki Annual Fair in September was canceled.
The tourism sector is estimated to have lost 15 billion euros as compared to last year.
The “gap” in the state budget for the first seven months of 2020 already reached 10.9 billion euros.
The government applied the same measures with the lockdown period for the prisons, banning visits, prisoners’ leaves, and advection as of 13 August.
As things deteriorate, it becomes more obvious that the government has done next to nothing to boost the NHS. ICU beds are estimated to have risen only from 560 to 720. And while vacancies are estimated at 5,000 specialized doctors and 25,000 hospital staff. 450 doctors were hired, almost all as locum doctors with a one-year contract and 3,500 of the rest hospital staff specialties.
Doctors were reported as not quarantined after vacation due to a lack of personnel.
Greece will receive 3 million anti-Covid19 vaccine doses at the end of December, Health Minister Vasilis Kikilias stated. The EU Commission refutes his claims.
A shocking spike is predicted by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Daily cases could reach even 2,000 in December, they warn.
More state support for TV channels is announced on 11 August through subsidizing advertising and thus saving them from paying this year’s license rent.
The Greek public debt climbed above 200% of the GDP.
Meanwhile, deadly floods on Evia island on 9 August cost the lives of eight people and revealed a non-existent state mechanism for emergencies. More than 2,000 homes flooded.
Furthermore, Greece had signed an EEZ agreement with Egypt on 6 August. Turkey reacted aggressively, stating the agreement is void and the delineated zone is “within Turkish continental shelf.” It issued a NAVTEX for a military exercise with real ammunition between Rhodes and Kastellorizo Greek islands and canceled preliminary talks with Greece. Quite a few Greek analysts, however, refer to a deeply problematic agreement for Greek interests.
International reporting on 14 August claimed Greece has resorted to illegal pushbacks. The Greek government denies it.
Tensions with Turkey escalated this month, with provocative statements from Turkey and research vessel Oruc Reis strolling in Greek waters. French President Emmanuel Macron announced he will temporarily enhance the French military presence in the area and a Greek-French joint military exercise was also carried out in Eastern Mediterranean. US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Piatt tweeted that the huge American helicopter carrier base, USS Hershel “Woody” Williams will be arriving in Greece the following days.
The government’s security advisor vice-admiral Alexandros Diakopoulos stated that Oruc Reis “has conducted surveys, no need to hide behind our finger.” This statement caused his resignation on 20 August.
The informal meeting of EU foreign ministers on 28 August confirmed EU non-action as to the Greek-Turkish dispute since they suspended any weight-bearing decisions for 24 September.
Wider Europe has started to see Erdogan as a danger much greater to only concern Greece: There are articles from leading figures like politician Daniel con Betit and musician Dionysis Dervitsiotis-Bournias in Liberation, British intellectuals who sent an open letter to London’s Times etc.
As to the Novartis scandal, Greece’s anti-corruption prosecutor Eleni Touloupaki’s house in Athens was broken into on 23 August. The perpetrators did not take money or objects of value. Touloupaki said that a hard disk drive and several documents were stolen and certain information about her health may have been taken, explaining that politic
al rivals have previously argued that she is medically unfit to serve as the country’s top anti-corruption prosecutor.
Great greek poet Ntinos Christianopoulos died aged 89, on 11 August. A sui generis personality and poet, with one of his dominant characteristics being that he never hesitated to say straightforwardly what most wouldn’t dare.
Popular Greek singer Yiannis Poulopoulos died aged 79, on 24 August.
Greek police arrested Manchester United defender Harry Maguire on 21 August. In an interview with the BBC, Maguire stated he feared for his life during the arrest.
On 30 August, 3,000 years-old Mycenae, one of the greatest archaeological sites of all times, caught fire. Culture Minister Lina Mendoni, disgracefully tried to downplay the incident. The Greek Archaeologists Union slammed her in a press release, referring to a really “heavy” symbolic and ethical damage.
After 5 and a half years and 453 sessions, the Golden Dawn trial concluded on 4 September. The decision would be announced in October.
A huge new military expenditure estimated between 7 and 10 billion euros was reported on 2 September as decided by the government, expected to start immediately and skyrocket from 2021 onwards. Reports verify that “at the same time the specific priority [for increased military expenditure] suspends anew the tax reduction program, which at best is going to start after the mid-2021.”
NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg announced on 2 September that Greece and Turkey have agreed to enter technical talks at NATO “to establish a deconfliction mechanism and reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean.” The Greek government denied it agreed to such talks as long as Turkey continues with aggression. Turkey accused Greece of not being ready for the talks.
On 2 September, Turkey announced two Russian Navy exercises in the East Mediterranean, after the US partially lifted a three-decade-old arms embargo on Cyprus.
The Greek Prime Minister admitted in an article “secret diplomacy” with Turkey in the context of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s initiative for settling the Greek-Turkish standoff.
Oruc Reis, which had been strolling the Greek continental shelf for weeks, returned to its base in mid-September. Erdogan stated that this decision was for the sake of diplomacy with Greece — but that the Turkish operations had not yet finished.
Later in the month, the EU Summit scheduled for 24–25 September was canceled due to a coronavirus case among participants, while “Die Welt” claimed the actual reason was member states were deeply divided as to foreign policy issues.
Moreover, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit in Athens 28–30 September had one definite result: to permanently dock the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams helicopter ship at the American base of Souda in Greece. Nothing specific as to the Greek-Turkish stand-off.
Meanwhile, coronavirus cases were now spiking in three-digit numbers, which ended up averaging 300 daily towards the end of the month.
The National Blood Donation Centre made it known on 1 September it had run out of tests.
The first Covid19 case had been verified in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Lesvos on 3 September. The camp was put in quarantine until 15 September, but it would not last until then.
On 9 September, Moria camp was burned down. When the first fire was put off, then another fire started. And another, and another — revealing in essence what seems to be a predetermined plan on burning down the camp. The refugees were trying to escape the fire and also find some shelter, water, and food. They even resorted to cemeteries. They also had to face the riot police the government sent to stop them from crossing into some areas. They were tear-gassed, amongst them a lot of children. Thousands of refugees protested demanding to be let free. The whole island was declared in a state of emergency for four months as of 9 September. Only after the burning down of the camp, it was announced that ten EU countries will accept the 400 unaccompanied minors living in the camp. Thousands of people protested in more than 60 cities in Germany for accepting refugees in the country. Later, the police would arrest six suspects, refugees, for the blaze.
A new structure with tents was set up in record time in a huge area in Kara Tepe, Lesbos, where refugees started to be gradually transferred. Reports on the new camp were showing tents with no flooring, easy to flood later in winter. Wind and the lack of shadow would complete the picture of the “New Moria.”
Journalists stated they were obstructed from doing their job in Lesbos.
Six areas of Attica were declared in a state of emergency following new large wildfires on 9–10 September.
The Janus cyclon which raged in Greece 14–18 September claimed three lives and left a huge disaster behind it in parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the tourist season seemed to have come abruptly to an end with a domino of cancellations around the 9th of the month, after Britain and the Netherlands put Greece on their “red” list. The tourist accommodation turnover slammed up to 94.3% and the catering sector up to 59% in comparison to the same period last year.
In mid-September, the government announced new measures for Athens and the broader region of Attica, including stricter crowd control, return to work from home for private and public sectors, restrictions in social events, and quarantine of asymptomatic vulnerable groups such as migrants.
Schools opened on 14 September. The Ministry of Education gave each student a water flask and gigantic masks (in another money-loss government fiasco, they made them too big) in the context of… anti-COVID strategy.
Only days later, pupils in some schools squatted their school in protest for lack of protective measures and demonstrated on 24 September, demanding classes with fewer pupils, more masks, teachers, and cleaning personnel. Mainstream media tried to present these squats as against the use of masks. The Minister of Education threatened to block rebel pupils from the compulsory e-classes and an increased number of “absence” in their records. ND MP Kallianos called them “little trumps”, a comics creator depicted them as monkeys and another ND MP called them “snakes”. State Athenian-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA) tweeted a reporting piece on a pupils’ demonstration, using a photo from an older students’ demonstration, showing “pupils” attacking the police with bats.
Pictures and videos from overcrowded Athens city buses and underground circulated widely in the media on 22 September. Mitsotakis told us that 500 more buses will operate until the end of the year.
The Prime Minister in his televised message on 24 September conveyed (again) the responsibility for the course of the pandemic to the people. He told us the dilemma is to “Self-protect or quarantine.”
Meanwhile, Athens’ hospitals were already reaching their capacity. Non-Covid19 ICU beds were turned into Covid19. Heads of Hospitals were even handing out their resignations. A detailed report from the Panhellenic Hospital Staff Union revealed that only 607 ICU beds were operating. The data given each day, with no more than 600 patients intubated verify this number.
Hospital doctors went on a 24-hour strike on the 24th, protesting the desperate lack of personnel and infrastructure.
The government sent the riot police against public hospital doctors and staff protesting (again) for personnel shortages, on 30 September.
Moreover, the EU Commission’s seventh “after-Memorandum” 130-pages report on Greece was very ill-omened for the country, with the word “uncertainty” repeated quite a few times in it.
However, the EU Commission had clarified already on 10 September that there would be no permanent tax reductions and increased welfare provisions “which could mid-term cause a problem to the Greek budget.” This, despite 188,537 jobs being lost from April to June, that job creation during the first eight months of 2020 had been at the lowest point of the last six years and 105,000 jobs were precarious in the immediate future.
But two million euros of public money would anyway go in the bin: the Mayor of Athens admitted on 23 September failure on the “Great Walk” plan.
The European Commission report Rule of Law 2020, published on 30 September, identified problems in Greece regarding the administration of justice, the pluralism in the media, and the fight against corruption.
On 2 October, five days before the announcement of the Golden Dawn trial verdict, the member of the party and wife of Golden Dawn head Nikos Michaloliakos was hired as an employee in the Greek Parliament, to work for Michaloliakos. PM Mitsotakis intervened to cancel the decision.
Greece reported multiple Covid-19 cases in nursing homes.
The government decided “mini” lock-downs in coronavirus “hot-spots”, which did not include movement restrictions.
Germany ruled out imposing sanctions on Turkey and the European Council special summit on 2 October concluded it will review Ankara’s behavior in… December. Just after the summit decision, Turkish officials stated that Aegean islands must also be on the table of talks.
7 October — The Golden Dawn finally goes behind bars in a historic court ruling: This was the one bright day in a horrible year. Finally, the Golden Dawn was convicted as a criminal organization. The verdict of the three-member tribunal was unanimous. Presiding judge Maria Lepenioti announced the decision, which was in contradiction with the provocative Public Prosecutor’s Adamantia Oikonomou’s proposal that the Golden Dawn is not a criminal organization — the prosecutor has gone down in public perception as a Nazi sympathizer. The tens of thousands of people who had gathered outside the heavily guarded court complex roared in excitement. Circa 40 seconds after the announcement, the police turned the water cannon against the people and started throwing tear gas. Iconic figure Magda Fyssa, whose son Pavlos was murdered by the Golden Dawn, walked out of the court and raised an otherworldly yet earthy cry: “You won, my son! My son!”
The prosecutor shockingly proposed in the next days' suspension of the sentence for all convicted criminals apart from Fyssas’s murderer and that no one should serve jail until their appeal. The presiding judge challenged the prosecutor openly, and the tribunal decided 38 out of the 50 convicted members, including all in leadership, would be thrown immediately in jail.
The Nr 2 in Golden Dawn hierarchy Christos Pappas, escaped arrest and till the moment these lines were written he hadn’t been found.
Another big trial started on 21 October, the trial for the murder on 21 September 2018 of queer activist and human rights defender Zak Kostopoulos. Two shop owners and four policemen will stand trial. Zak was horrifically lynched in daylight, in central Athens.
A BBC documentary released on 14 October shed light on the Moria arson, as testimonies suggest it was known there was going to be a fire and that the perpetrators could have been some refugees helped by local far-right groups. The Greek police have not even bothered to announce if there is an official investigation into what happened.
Meanwhile, the pupils' movement was growing and riot police cordoned and detained pupils on 15 October who continued their protests demanding proper anti-Covid19 measures in the schools.
A 14-year-old pupil was detained for four days in the police headquarters with felony charges, after a blind arrest on 15 October in the pupil’s demonstration. The police allegedly had not allowed him to be provided with clean clothes and food. He was holding nothing incriminating. The charges against him weren’t dropped at the time of his release.
And while the police were “bullying” children, on 16 October Turkey held for 20 minutes in the air the plane that was transporting Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias after his trip to Iraq. The incident took place over the Turkish-Iraqi border, as Ankara refused to grant an overflight permit to the aircraft. Turkey’s “explanation” was that the plane hadn’t provided the required flight plan. Greece just commented that “the important thing is not to be repeated” — and a demarche was ordered to be delivered by the Greek embassy to the Turkish Foreign Minister.
At the same time, Greece got nothing from the EU Summit on 15–16 October, which just repeated its conclusions from the 1–2 October summit and emphasized that the issue of the Eastern Mediterranean will be raised again in December’s summit. Greek PM Mitsotakis insisted on the December timetable for imposing sanctions on Turkey, while he raised the issue of the EU imposing an arms embargo on Ankara.
Kara Tepe New camp in Kara Tepe (Moria II) drowned in the mud with the first rains.
The government would again manifest later in the month its intentions towards migrants, as on 30 October, the police evicted residents of the self-organized PIKPA camp in Lesbos, which, since 2015, has provided housing to the most vulnerable — disabled, sick or pregnant, unaccompanied children and the families of victims of shipwrecks, as well as local people in times of crisis. They have supported over 30,000 people.
Meanwhile, the Court of State slammed Athens’ Mayor’s decision by ruling on 15 October that Athens Great Walk traffic restrictions are “Covid-19 irrelevant”
The New Insolvency Law was passed on 26 October — One of the worst bills in the whole crisis decade: Under a veil of silence by the media, the government tried on 21 October to pass “quietly” from Parliament the New Insolvency Law, when the main opposition SYRIZA tabled a motion of censure -that requires a three-day discussion in the Parliament- against Finance Minister Staikouras. The bill was finally passed on 26 October. Under this, not only businesses and enterprises could go bankrupt -as is the case until today- but also people and households! The bill clearly aspires to throw into poverty thousands of hard-working people that ended up in debt due to this double crisis but provides all the best for the “vulture-funds.” Plus, with this law, the protection of the first residence is practically lifted. The Eurogroup June “orders” had now been fulfilled.
Umbrella union GSEE Labour Institute Annual 2020 Report found that “A huge part of the Greek population is at risk of permanent impoverishment.” Key-facts: Greece has recorded a dramatic increase of people living on a salary below the poverty line: one in eight workers earns 200 euros per month / The percentage of employees receiving from 0 to 200 euros increased from 1% to about 12% in the second quarter of 2020 as compared to the same quarter in 2019 / The average monthly wage decreased by 10% in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter of 2019 / More than 100,000 employees have “exited” the workforce and live on €534 per month state aid for more than 3 months / 3 in 10 workers receive a salary lower than the minimum wage, the amount of which — despite the increase in 2019 — is below the poverty line / 7 in 10 have salaries below 1,000 euros.
Meanwhile, Mitsotakis had announced new measures for coronavirus, on 22 October, including mandatory use of masks outdoors and a curfew from 12.30 a.m. until 5 a.m. in regions that belonged to risk levels three and four in the four-tier system.
The owner of a nursing home in northern Athens where cases of Covid-19 had been detected committed suicide on 21 October. 41-year-old owner Dimitris Kampanaros shot himself with a rifle. In the handwritten note, Kampanaros left he wrote: “I’m a failure. I discredited the nursing home. I did not succeed. I failed. No one will ever trust me again. Coronavirus defeated me.”
The national celebration day on 28th October passed quietly as events were banned due to coronavirus.
The government announced on 31 October suspension of regular surgeries by 80% in public hospitals for the “red areas”, calling upon coronavirus.
Hospital Doctors Unions characterized suspension of surgeries as “disastrous and lethal.” “It corresponds to an open confession that during the previous months the government did not boost the NHS (…) This is an open confession that the government is not interested in the skyrocketing of mortality and morbidity as to medical conditions requiring surgeries. It’s not interested in deaths that are not to be on the news.”
A strong earthquake of 6.9 magnitudes close to the North-Eastern Aegean island of Samos rocked Greece and Turkey on 30 October. Τwo teenagers 15 and 17 years old were found dead in Samos after part of a wall fell on them. Eight people were reported injured. Neighboring Turkish Izmir was struck much harsher, with 81 dead and 1,000 injured. PM Mitsotakis called Turkish PM Erdogan to invite him to “stand together” on this.
A day after the earthquake and just a week after the previous measures were announced, the PM announced new, yet only repressive measures, as Greece had now exceeded 1,500 cases daily. The regional units in lockdown now became seven, including Thessaloniki. Measures included wearing masks indoors and outdoors all over the country, movement banned from 12 midnight to 5 am all over the country, and closure of restaurants, bars, theatres, cinemas, gyms in increased risk areas 3 and 4. They “forgot” to close the churches.
Other events in the month include the so-called “lawmaking coup” in relation to Novartis: The government decided to abolish the position of Corruption Prosecutor Eleni Touloupaki, who was investigating the Novartis scandal. They have merged the Corruption Prosecution position into this of Financial Prosecution, aiming clearly at putting Touloupaki out of the way.
Noor 1 trial: The court found innocent the defendants initially convicted with suspension, including a close associate of the ship- and football teams’ owner and media mogul Vangelis Marinakis, Emilios Katsonis. For this associate, the prosecutor had proposed a bigger sentence. The rest of the defendants are now to be convicted with smaller sentences than life. Noor 1 ship was caught in Elefsina (Greece) in June 2014 carrying 2.1 tons of heroin. The case allegedly involves Vangelis Marinakis. Nine witnesses have died during the course of the trial, three magistrates have quit and three judges have been exempted.
Greece ranked last in the EU on the 2020 Gender Equality Index. Its ranking has remained the same since 2010.
As of 3 November, 500 families in Samos remained homeless after the big earthquake.
The first mosque in Athens opened for prayers on 3 November, with a 16 years delay.
This month started with violence, as, on 2 November, the police invaded a coffee bar in the Galatsi area (Athens) after an anarchists’ demonstration and started hitting blindly around. They were even reported beating a 5-year-old child with the mob. The police said the child was “just” irritated by the tear gas. Eye-witnesses would deconstruct the police’s narrative, referring to an unprovoked blind attack in the bar.
On 4 November, the government announced they would institutionalize a “university police force.” The Deans Council unanimously rejected the idea.
Greece went into the second full lockdown on 7 November, just a week after the PM had announced new measures. New registered cases now average 3,000 daily.
The trial for queer activist Zak Kostopoulos’ murder was suspended due to the new lockdown.
High schools also closed, and the school e-learning system crashed on day one of its operation (9 November).
The same day the lockdown was announced, the government approved legislation that defined full removal of protection for the first residence, abolished the position of Corruption Prosecutor Eleni Touloupaki, who was investigating into the Novartis scandal (in which ND government officials are allegedly involved), while it effectively grants amnesty to several thousand alleged tax offenders.
“Greece passes bill critics warn is de facto amnesty for tax offenders,” the Financial Times reported on the aforementioned legislation.
It was reported that the state would save (again) Piraeus Bank at a loss of 2 billion euros in public money. DieM25 analysis explained how Piraeus Bank bailout had been put on track since 2015.
Meanwhile, on 12 November, the Deputy Finance Minister defined national debt at 204–206% and he threatened with a new “Corona-Memorandum” that could be imposed if “we get derailed” regarding expenses.
Revenues from tourism were now found to be 78.2% down for the first nine months of 2020, as compared to the same period in 2019, according to the Bank of Greece.
And the Mayor of Athens insisted on buying Christmas decorations for 800,000 euros.
In the meantime, as of 3 November, NHS doctors remained unpaid for on-duty days and over hours of work.
Half of the Covid-related deaths do not happen on ICUs but on simple beds, due to lack of ICU beds, according to a Greek authorities paper revealed by the newspaper “TA NEA” on 3 November.
But “the main reason the virus spread in Greece is young people’s entertainment,” according to the PM’s statement on 12 November.
At the same time, his wife was photographed in the big family mansion for the Financial Times, exposing her luxurious lifestyle and expensive tastes.
On November 6, the government had decided to urgently hire 300 doctors. After eight months in the pandemic.
A few days later, on 10 November, the government made a call to private doctors to go and help out in Thessaloniki hospitals with a 2,000 euros net wage, while the net monthly salary of a Curator B hospital doctor is 1,250 euros.
The situation with the pandemic became desperate in Northern Greece, and especially in Thessaloniki city.
Lockdown measures became more strict as of 13 November, extending curfew from 9 pm to 5 am.
The President of Thessaloniki Hospital Doctors Dafni Katsimpa stated on 11 November: “[Health Minister] Kikilias lied! He lied! No ICU beds were created, they just closed the ones for other diseases and integrated them as Covid19 beds (…) We are desperate. There is no infrastructure, patients come all the time for various diseases…”
Thessaloniki doctors protested on 12 November, detailing the situation.
Shortly after, a Public Prosecutor ordered an urgent preliminary examination to conclude if the crime of calling to disobedience is conducted by Thessaloniki Hospital Doctors Union announcement for participation in the Polytechnical School 1973 Uprising commemoration events on 17 November. He ordered for Katsimba’s statements to be examined. The police ordered another doctor to go to the station, as his union had also called for participation in the commemoration events.
Commemoration events for the 17 November 1973 Polytechnical School of Athens Uprising were officially banned, calling upon the pandemic.
Shortly after, on 13 November, the police invaded the historical building of the Polytechnical School and arrested people inside, allegedly for holding a meeting on organizing events. Pictures that circulated showed policemen putting the arrested to sit down side by side and one of them even taking a selfie with his “captives” in the background.
On the same day, the police attacked Exarheia, persecuting, prosecuting, and beating people for no reason, even people who went into shops or passing by or walking their dogs.
On the same day, the police purchased 100 new motorcycles on 13 November (totaling 778 new vehicles for the police since the beginning of this year), just eight days after the PM announced “they can’t give birth to buses” so that people avoid crowding.
DieM25 head Yanis Varoufakis stated that Chrysochoides had threatened his MPs with arrest if they marched on 17 November.
The head of the Greek Police, by a decree issued on 14 November late at night, lifted the citizens’ constitutional right to public assembly for three days, banning public gatherings of more than three people nationwide. Violators of the ban would be fined €3,000 if they were individual persons and with €5,000 for legal entities — the prohibition said. A blanket ban on all public gatherings nationwide has happened in the past on 21 April 1967, the day of the General’s Coup in Greece, and on 17 November 1973, the day the Junta crushed the Polytechnic Uprising with the tank smashing down the building’s gate, behind which thousands of students had crowded.
The ban brought together for the first time ever three opposition parties, SYRIZA, DiEM, and KKE, who signed a joint statement against it. The Judges & Public Prosecutors Association issued a government slamming statement and Amnesty International called for lifting the ban.
On 17 November, citizens defied the ban and paid tribute to the Polytechnic Uprising, wearing masks and keeping physical distances.
A middle-aged woman was fined for leaving a flower at the (closed) Polytechnic gate on 17 November.
In the afternoon, the center of Athens resembled a war zone, with 6,000 policemen on the streets, going wild. Riot police squads and water cannon trucks marched like an occupation army in the Greek capital.
A new police unit exclusively for protests made its first appearance this day.
The police detained, verbally, and physically harassed a reporter who was covering the event, releasing him a few hours later.
In Sepolia they reportedly chased and arrested one protester in the entrance of his house, beat his mother, arrested his sister, and prohibited the doctors from examining the father of the family who was taken to the hospital after having an ischemic incident.
On the same day, In Thessaloniki, a 17-year-old girl, who went for a walk on 17 November, was reported as ending up being arrested by policemen in civilian clothes, and the mother didn’t know where she was.
Later, on 23 November, following the filing of a complaint, the Public Prosecutor ordered an investigation concerning the heads of three elected political parties, Alexis Tsipras — SYRIZA, Dimitris Koutsoumbas — KKE and Yanis Varoufakis — DieM25, as to if they committed criminal acts-breaking the antiCovid19 measures during the Polytechnic Uprising anniversary.
And on the 25, the Greek Police would “celebrate” International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women by arresting 11 out of 15 female activists who they had detained in downtown Athens for raising banners in Syntagma square on the International Day occasion. They charged them for violating anti-Covid19 restrictions.
Meanwhile, the situation with the pandemic had been deteriorating.
An official document revealed doctors of all specializations and degrees would participate in Covid19 patients’ healthcare. The (Thessaloniki) Papanikolanou Hospital Pathological Ward head stated that there are one curator and one under specialization every 35 patients, but only two doctors every 200 patients that are specialized in what the patients suffer from.
The government responded to the situation by transferring police to Northern Greece on 20 November to intensify control of the measures.
A video showed unreasonable brutality against a young woman during a lockdown check control, and another showed a policeman running out of a police car to grab a skater.
The government requisite two private clinics in Thessaloniki.
Archbishop Ieronymos was admitted to an Increased Care Unit with coronavirus and mild symptoms on 19 November. He had been quarantined since 11 November for coronavirus cases were detected within the hierarchs, a quarantine that he broke by meeting with the Prime Minister on November 14.
A 61-year-old man with heavy disabilities was found crying, hugging his 90-year-old mother in the town of Kavala. The mother had died two days earlier. Both were diagnosed positive for Covid-19 and were advised to quarantine at home by EODY.
Number of Covid19-related deaths started averaging 100 per day by the end of this month.
“Yes, we celebrate because we are 12 times better than Belgium,” as to coronavirus, Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis screamed in an interview.
If we had more ICUs, we would have more deaths, State Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis stated in an interview.
KKE and ND MPs who are doctors and have offered to quit their parliamentary duties in order to offer their services as volunteers to the public hospitals were told they cannot work due to some legal obstacle.
The 2021 Health budget in discussion in parliament was cut by 572 million euros as compared to 2020.
But the government decided to support Aegean airlines with 120 million euros.
On the refugee “front,” the Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee (CPT) in its 19 November report slammed Greece for its behavior towards migrants.
This was published shortly after Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis and European Commission head Beate Gminder, signed on 13 November a financing agreement for the construction of new closed structures on the eastern Aegean islands of Samos, Kos, and Leros (The ones that the EU wouldn’t fund?)
The European Parliament voted in favor of sanctions against Turkey on 26 November.
The ugly new cement paths to Acropolis created recently under the current Culture Ministry’s approval were opposed by ICOMOS.
At the end of the month, the credibility of the Covid19 data registration system is seriously disputed as two conservative mainstream newspapers report there is a second Covid19 patients registration system in the country.
Greece mourns an average of 100 dead daily, at the beginning of the month. The lockdown had been gradually extended until 7 January.
The PM and his wife are caught in pictures circulating on 1 December mountain biking on Parnitha mountain, an hour and a half distance from their residence. They also posed for photos with several passers-by who were doing moto-cross, all of them not wearing masks and not respecting physical distancing rules. The PM’s wife is caught in a video riding one of the motor-bikes while this is forbidden in Parnitha, a National Forest under Protection.
The Greek Hospital Doctors Unions Federation (OENGE) unanimously decided to investigate the prospect to sue every potentially responsible government official for the health situation in the country.
The Stretcher-bearers Union vice president Lambros Tsampalis announced on 2 December he was going on a hunger strike, demanding for those who failed in preparing for the second wave of the pandemic to resign.
Locum doctors were called to sign new contracts providing that they won’t be paid by the national budget, but from the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), as reported on 3 December. A locum ambulance employee was stating they remain unpaid for the last two months.
The 6th Health District Manager (appointed by the government) called for hospital doctors of his district to go and help out in Northern Greece, doubling their wage.
Cleaners from the children’s hospital “Paidon” were being laid-off.
Government-appointed officials persecuted doctors for catching coronavirus. Three hospital doctors who got sick from coronavirus were called to undergo an official inquiry, as reported on 4 December.
An innovative treatment for coronavirus in Papanikolaou Hospital has been halted because 200,000 euros needed for the final research stage to be completed “could not” be found.
A 37-year-old nurse died because it seems it proved impossible to find an ICU bed on time.
Public hospital staff mobilized once again on 10 December, demanding mass personnel recruitment and proper measures against the pandemic.
The government announced on 11 December that only small bookshops, hair salons, and MOT facilities will open.
57% of Greeks said their budget for Christmas shopping, including food and drinks, would be circa 200 euros.
Agia Varvara mayor sent a letter to the ministers responsible, denouncing that “power cut-offs were realized by [public] Electricity Company DEDDIE employees who were escorted by riot police to households that cannot afford to pay the bills.”
A blood donor was fined by the police for… breaching the anti-Covid19 measures, just as he was coming back from the hospital.
The police attacked a humble artistic event dedicated to the homeless, in Hania (Crete) — for breaching the measures.
6 December, Remembrance Day of the murder of 15-year-old Grigoropoulos by the police, turned into a crescendo of authoritarianism. The government unconstitutionally lifted again the right to assembly. A strong police force was stationed to cut access to the monument sight-spot of the murder so that no one can leave a flower, as it usually happens.
Grigoropoulos then school headmaster was prohibited by the police to approach the monument and leave some pomegranates, at 8.30 in the morning.
The police were arresting anyone who dared approach the spot and all those that tried to move to the city center in small groups, including two lawyers, the director of Rosa Luxemburg Institute in Greece, a girl with special needs. A riot policeman took a bouquet of flowers a woman had left close to the monument and hit it against one of his colleagues. The police entered a block of flats entrance, throwing flashbang grenades in, policemen on motorbikes threw themselves on journalists and photographers. Hundreds of arrests were made on that day in the name of “violating public health prevention measures,” all held in crowding conditions in the police headquarters. Circa 100 juveniles were arrested.
Minister of Citizens’ Protection Michalis Chrysochoidis delivered in the Parliament one of the most deeply regressive speeches that have been delivered in this country in the post-civil war era. He also declared that “the police are less violent, people in the neighborhoods are enjoying its presence.”
The General Assembly of UNESCO’s ICOMOS with a great majority (621 votes in favor, 58 abstains and 4 against in a total of 691 voters) decided in favor of the Thessaloniki Venizelos station antiquities to remain “in situ” and called on the Greek government to not proceed with its plans.
Greece’s Culture Ministry passed an amendment, stipulating the export of museum collections including antiquities and even “an entire monument” to museums or “similar places” abroad for up to 50 years.
On 10 December, the Acropolis flooded for the first time in some thousands of years, following heavy rainfall. Videos released to prove that it was the cement path blocking the water around the Parthenon.
The 10–11 December European Council meeting postponed the decision for possible sanctions against Turkey until March 2021.
DiEM25 MP’s Aggeliki Adamopoulou’s parliamentary immunity was lifted on 16 December after the Central Macedonia Police Officers Union filed a complaint against her on the charge of libel. The Parliament decided to lift her immunity only with ND and four KINAL MPs votes (162 for, 116 against, and 15 “present” out of 300). This was an unprecedented blow to democratic institutions since it was in the context of a parliamentary speech that Adamopoulou documented that Greek policemen act disguised during protests, wearing balaclavas and throwing Molotov bombs in order to disperse demonstrations.
Renowned journalist, novelist, and scriptwriter Elena Akrita’s column in the newspaper “TA NEA” was censored for the first time in 20 years. In her censored column, she was criticizing the government for “inventing” a “scandal” to turn public attention away from its failure with the pandemic.
Leading mainstream newspaper “TO VIMA” (also Alter Ego media group) managing editor Dimitra Kroustalli quit, reporting governmental pressures after publishing the reportage revealing the two parallel coronavirus registration systems.
It was revealed that the Greek Government has secretly signed a deal with obscure data mining company Palantir allegedly for the management of the pandemic. Official requests for the disclosure of the agreement had been filed by SYRIZA and DiEM25 as well as Vouli Watch.
A 31 million euros armament program for the Greek Police -one of its largest in its history- had been announced, including the purchase of (another) 675 police cars, dozens of jeeps, 15,690 bullet-proof vests, hundreds of helmets, and high-shielded boots. Since the beginning of 2020, the police have received more than 1,453 cars.
A potentially lethal cut of electricity in Gennimatas hospital in Thessaloniki on 12 December, where none of the backup systems worked due to the antiquity of infrastructure, lack of technical personnel, and no renewal of maintenance contract.
Four suicides marked the Christmas week.
Three employees in the catering sector were arrested after staging a symbolic protest outside the Maximou Mansion holding a banner writing “We are hungry.”
Poor, industrialized areas in Western Attika, namely in Aspropyrgos, Mandra and Elefsina, and Kozani were called since 18 December to obey a curfew starting from 6 pm. The industries remain open and largely unchecked.
The government made concessions to the Church, allowing an increase in the number of the participating faithful the days that will be allowed to serve.
A three-year-old girl was found raped in Kara Tepe on 15 December.
The Greek police detained a 38-year-old man and his 14-year-old son as suspects for the attack at the accommodation center for unaccompanied refugee minors in Oraiokastro on the second Christmas day.
Just before the end of the month, another 18.5 million euros was decided to be given to the media, this time distributed by the Ministry of Health supposedly for a campaign to inform the people on the need for the vaccine and reassure them on its safety.
The first batch of Covid-19 vaccines arrived in Greece on Christmas Day. Only 9,750 vaccines arrived, however.
An ICU nurse and a care home resident were the first Greeks who received Covid-vaccine.
The PM, the President of Democracy, and all the heads of the political parties also received the vaccine.
Government officials, however, grabbed vaccination places from health-workers. OENGE secretary Panos Papanikolaou denounced on 29 December that the mass vaccination of dozens of doctors and nurses at the Sotiria hospital was canceled with “orders from above” and that an equal number of ministers and entourage rushed to the hospital to get inoculated.
The massive outrage triggered Mitsotakis’ response who reportedly “ordered,” on 30 December the suspension of the priority vaccination program for the state officials in crucial positions for the government operation.”
Α second larger batch of Pfizer’s vaccines arrived in Greece on 29 December. A whole delegation consisting of members of the health ministry, the civil defense service, the armed forces, police, and the fire brigade were at the airport to accept the delivery. Greece is expected to have received by the end of March a total of 1,255,800 million doses.
On 30 December, there was an unprecedented police invasion in a students’ hall of residence, following some students' mobilization on the problems they face. It was reported that they even smashed down doors and arrested students for squatting rooms used as warehouses.
On New Year’s Eve, Kara Tepe refugees’ letter to the European Commission was published, detailing why the situation in this new camp is much worse in many aspects than in burned down Moria camp. They wonder where all the money the EU had given Greece for the refugees went. “Would they treat us like that if we were animals?” they ask.
Christmas was in lockdown, New Years’ also in lockdown, with 10,000 policemen on New Year’s day on the streets of Greece, in the name of protecting our health.