ATHENS – Watching Greeks having their pay cut and taxes hiked on orders of international lenders to keep rescue loans coming, President Karolos Papoulias said he will give up his annual salary of 300,000 euros, some $392,000, and blasted German officials who said Greece can’t be trusted to carry out terms of a new bailout that includes reducing the minimum wage up to 32 percent.
Papoulias told Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos of his decision during talks they had about European Union officials delaying approval of a second bailout for Greece despite approval of new austerity measures that were approved by Parliament in the face of protests by more than 100,000 Greeks and anarchist-sparked violence that destroyed 48 businesses.
Leaving the President’s residence, Venizelos described the decision as “a symbolic gesture which honors him, particularly in the context of the sacrifices that the Greek people are being asked to make.” He did not offer to do the same nor did other Greek politicians, although many are affluent, and have voted to cut workers’ pay, raise their taxes, slash pensions and begin the layoff of 150,000 of them.
Papoulias didn’t mince words either when he lashed out at German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble who has reportedly been undermining Greek efforts to keep convincing the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) to provide more loans. Greece is surviving on $152 billion in a first bailout and negotiating a second deal for $169 billion that would include a writedown in debt of 70 percent.
Papoulias, who fought against Nazis with the Greek Resistance during World War II, said Schaeuble has insulted Greece for suggesting the country should not hold new elections to replace a coalition government in power only three months because its politicians would not keep promises to stick to the deal. “We all have a duty to work hard to get through this crisis,” he said during a visit to the Defense Ministry. “I will not accept Mr. Schaeuble insulting my country. I don’t accept this as a Greek”.
“Who is Mr. Schauble to insult Greece? Who are the Dutch? Who are the Finns? We always had the pride to defend not only our own freedom, not only our own country, but the freedom of Europe.” Papoulias was upset with other countries of the Eurozone using the euro as a currency, who he said are piling on Greece by demanding harsher conditions as a prerequisite for getting more loans. German officials have also characterized Greeks as lazy.
What seemed to set Papoulias off was a suggestion by Schaeuble that Greece should follow Italy’s example by forming a technocratic government. Greece’s coalition is now led by interim Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, a former ECB Vice-President, but consists of a shaky, quarrelsome group of 49 Ministers that includes holdovers from the former ruling PASOK Socialists including Venizelos and their bitter rival conservative New Democracy. The far Right-Wing LAOS party dropped out during disagreements over terms of the second bailout.
Papoulias said Greek politicians were being unfairly maligned as the Troika has said they were responsible for the crisis for packing public payrolls with hundreds of thousands of needless workers for generations in return for votes. “After (the technocrats have completed their work) the democratic process can resume with the effects that we have all seen over the last few decades,” he said, although that record has included lying by politicians about the Greek economy to get into the Eurozone and stay there.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, a technocrat who is resurrecting his country with accolades from EU leaders, warned in a speech at the European Parliament that the crisis was creating divisions in Europe. “The Eurozone crisis has given rise to too many resentments and recreated too many stereotypes, it has divided Europe into central countries and peripheral ones; all these categories must be decisively rejected,” he said.