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Viewpoint: The magically burning Greek tax offices

Fed-up citizens have apparently been taking the law into their own hands, despite government claims of economic “recovery.”

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When the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) government along with the IMF imposed a provisional property tax known initially as the “haratsi” and later ENFIA (“unified property tax”) so as to then reduce pensions, wages, and welfare services anywhere between 40-50 percent, these taxes were collected via electric bills which traditionally also included the television license fee. Failure to pay the tax or the license fee implied being cut off from electricity.
The electric utilities employed private security guards to go around and cut electricity from vulnerable people, sending Greeks back the to the 1940s-era dark ages when the country wasn’t electrified to any large extent. Vulnerable citizens such as diabetics would have their fridges cut out in the summer heat, ensuring they met their maker early. Committees of citizens were created which attempted to block the electricity cutoffs and which would illegally reconnect those whose electricity was cut. When the electric workers’ union got involved and stated they would re-connect all vulnerable citizens, the pro-IMF governments were obliged to retreat and were forced to transfer the burden of the IMF taxes onto the tax offices.
After this, the public would receive their tax bills electronically via the tax office, and then their wages and pensions would be targeted for debts. SYRIZA initially was against all the above but then magically adopted the logic of austerity and its so-called “leftist” MP Nantia Valavani stated “it’s a patriotic duty to pay the ENFIA.”
This tax allegedly raises €2.7 billion annually, but this being Greece such claims can be taken with a grain of salt. What actually happens is anyone’s guess. Why does one assert that? For one thing, legislation was later passed stating that if one owes more than €500 to the tax office, they are then subject to immediate withdrawal of funds and the freezing of their bank accounts. SYRIZA then instructed citizens to declare an account to not be touched by inland revenue, but SYRIZA then targeted citizens’ accounts anyway. Now, having adopted the third memorandum of permanent austerity, house repossessions can take place for outstanding debts as low as €500. This is SYRIZA’s crowning achievement in social policy: issuing threats for repossession.
There was a famous case last summer on the island of Crete where one woman’s accounts were frozen and money seized for the tax debts of her husband, even after she had informed the bank that her account should not be bothered. She went to the bank to inquire why it was frozen and was told by the bank that the issue was out of their hands. She then went to the local tax office, which blamed the bank. Sensing this was not right, she started hurling computers around the tax office and shut it down after police was called. For the next three days the employees went on a strike claiming their life was constantly threatened.
Another news report stated a disgruntled 70-year old who was being threatened with electricity cut off turned up at the local electricity offices with petrol and threatened to burn the building down. No day passes when some type of incident occurs. Despite the lack of organised political responses, life in Greece goes on, and the struggle always continues in one form or another.
The incident to crown them all is the recent burning down of the second tax office of the city of Larissa on March 3. It burnt down fully and no explanation was given as to why, just pictures and images. This was apparently followed by a similar case in the city of Ierapetra, on the island of Crete, where the tax office was taken out of commission due to “strong winds.”
News of course is never news, just politics. The politics of austerity supersedes all, which is why just one week later it was announced that all is well and that the Larissa and Ierapetra tax offices have reopened somewhere else. But even though all is well, apparently citizens have to resubmit files which were lost in the …fires!
Opinions expressed are those of the author alone and may not reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Hellenic Insider, its publisher, its editors, or its staff, writers, and contributors.

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Archons of Greek Orthodox Church issue toothless letter about abortion law

The good news is the Archons did say some good things in reaction to the New York abortion law. But there was no consequence.

Seraphim Hanisch

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In relation to our previously published piece about Governor Andrew Cuomo signing abortion into the New York State Constitution, we noted that at the time of the article’s writing, no entities within the Orthodox Church in any jurisdiction issued any kind of statement condemning this law. Of all fourteen universally acknowledged Local Churches, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Greek Orthodox Church was particularly of note, since their Archons awarded a humanitarian award known as the Athenogoras Award to extremely liberal, pro-abortion politicians, Andrew Cuomo being one of these.

Well, the Archons did issue a statement yesterday:

The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Condemns New York’s New Abortion Law

The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, strongly condemns the State of New York’s new Reproductive Health Act that was passed on January 22, 2019. This new law allows abortions up to the moment of birth and gives people who are not doctors the right to perform abortions.

The Order also deplores the celebratory atmosphere surrounding the new law, as One World Trade Center was lit pink to commemorate the passage of the law, as if it represented a great advance for the rights of women. The rights of no human being are ever advanced at the expense of another. The State of New York will not truly have respect for the rights of women until it once again restores legal protections for every human being, from his or her first moment of existence until natural death.

Hailed as progress, New York’s Reproductive Health Act is not actually an advance, but a regression, a return to a time of barbarism when the weak were at the mercy of the strong and had no protection from legal structures or governing authorities.

The Order implores New York’s legislators to reconsider this dangerous new law and reinstitute protections for all human life, no matter how weak and vulnerable. Only when such protections exist can any society truly prosper.

Rev. Alexander Karloutsos
Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Spiritual Advisor of the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle

Is this enough?

It does not seem to be so. Governor Cuomo and his award, along with pro-abortion Roman Catholic Vice President Joe Biden, also received this award at the same time Governor Cuomo did.

What did not happen in this letter was that neither politician was named, nor were the four (out of five) Greek Orthodox politicians in the New York State Assembly that voted FOR this law.

Neither did the Archons move to rescind the Athenagoras Awards they gave to Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Biden. This move appears to be still far too politically calculated, and keeping with the tragic, curious and distressing behavior of the leadership within the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Monomachos.com is a popular blog site whose editor, George Michalopulos, is undoubtedly one of the giants among those Greek Orthodox who seriously uphold at the notion that the Church ought never compromise herself. Yet, he was very happy with the letter that is shown above because for him it represented a “180-degree turnabout” in terms of the history of the Archons’ behavior, which he noted elsewhere as smacking of “the feeling that their primary job is to raise money for Istanbul.”

He neglected to mention the lack of mention of the Awards, but perhaps understandably, his surprise at any sort of traditional statement by this group was leading to exuberance where perhaps it is not deserved.

The Greek Orthodox Church seems to have an overall alignment with very liberal figures, and it is unclear as to why. But this tendency of people that are considered good and faithful Greek Orthodox churchgoers to align with liberal politics in the United States is very different than the sharply conservative tendencies of Russian Orthodox churchgoers, or Greeks or Romanians in the US.

The other rather liberal church is the US is the Orthodox Church in America, but this group does tend to involve itself in social causes in the US – especially abortion – in a very conservative, if rather feeble, manner. They do make their presence known at the annual March for Life and this is of great value.

We wish to name all the Greek Orthodox elected New York assembly members here, with their votes regarding the state abortion measure:

Michael Gianaris             (D) (co-sponsor)   – Yes.
Andrew Gounardes         (D) (co-sponsor)   – Yes.
Nicole Malliotakis           (R)                            – No. (and she is a woman!!)
Aravella Simotas             (D)                            – Yes.
James Skoufis                  (D) (co-sponsor)   – Yes.

This measure enshrined abortion at any point in a woman’s pregnancy as a constitutional right. The law stipulates several following procedures are now “rights:”

  • The law allows non-physicians to perform abortions.
  • The law allows abortion through the third trimester.
  • and the law repeals protections for babies that survive abortions (this means that if the baby gets delivered alive, it will still be killed.)

This is a barbaric law, and a resounding victory for people aligned with some very dark ideas about life and death. It is a tragedy, and while the Archons’ letter condemning it is at least a token statement, it really wants a full-throated response from the Christian world.

In fact, even Muslims and religious Jewish people ought to be outraged as well. All the Abrahamic religions understand that only God is the author of life. In this viewpoint, people do not themselves create life. We only cooperate with God to bring it into existence, by his blessing.

But we can cause death, and this power is influenced by forces that are not interested in God, traditional values, family, children or anything of the sort.

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Greek MPs pass Prespes deal with 153 votes in 300-seat House

Opinion polls indicate that most Greeks oppose the settlement, a fact which may not bode well for Tsipras in an election year.

The Duran

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Via Ekathimerini


Greece’s parliament on Friday ratified a landmark accord that changes the name of neighbouring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), ending a decades-old dispute and opening the way for the ex-Yugoslav republic to join the European Union and NATO.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who hammered out the deal with his FYROM counterpart last year, secured the parliamentary majority needed to get the accord approved with support from independent and opposition lawmakers.

“Today we are writing a new page for the Balkans. The hatred of nationalism and conflict is giving way to friendship, peace, and cooperation,” Tsipras wrote on his social media account.

FYROM has already ratified the deal, brokered last year, and its prime minister promptly sent a tweet hailing the Greek parliament’s vote.

The settlement seeks to end a 28-year old row between Athens and Skopje over the use of the term “Macedonia” by renaming the tiny Balkan state “Republic of North Macedonia” to differentiate it from Greece’s northern province of Macedonia.

Greece’s European Union allies welcomed the ratification.

“They had imagination, they took the risk, they were ready to sacrifice their own interests for the greater good,” European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted. “Mission impossible accomplished.”

Opinion polls indicate that most Greeks oppose the settlement, a fact which may not bode well for Tsipras in an election year. A general election is due by October, and his party is trailing the opposition New Democracy by up to 12 points.

The debate in the Greek parliament was heated, with voting almost interrupted on Friday when an MP for the right-wing Golden Dawn Party, asked to cast his vote, responded: “No to treason!”

Several MPs in favour of of the accord reported attempts to intimidate them.

Many Greeks fear the agreement could lead to territorial claims against Greece and say it constitutes an appropriation of their country’s ancient cultural heritage. Macedonia was the birthplace of Alexander the Great.

Protests against the deal have at times turned violent this week, and on Thursday evening police fired teargas to disperse crowds outside parliament. Smaller groups of people braved heavy rain on Friday to demonstrate outside the parliament.

New Democracy slammed the agreement.

“This deal should never have been signed or brought to parliament for ratification,” party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament. “It is a national defeat … a national blunder that is an affont to the truth and history of our country.”

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