When Europe's politicians boldly said a few weeks ago what they have been repeatedly saying every year for the past three, namely that "Europe is fixed" usually just before it breaks all over again, what they meant was that the various stock markets were up. Because if they were actually referring to the European economies, Europe just broke (no pun intended) once more, with the Greek economy once again back to its "new normal" baseline state: a near complete halt as the cold of winter dissipates, and protests and strikes return. In this case, the biggest losers are the thousands of people living on various Greek islands who have now been cut off from the mainland for the 6th consecutive day. And everyone else, of course, reliant on the Greek economy actually posting an uptick one of these centuries.
From Reuters: "Greek seamen extended a strike to protest against government austerity for a further 48 hours on Sunday, meaning dozens of islands will have been cut off from the mainland for six days." They were not alone: "Farmers also briefly disrupted traffic on major motorways across Greece in the latest wave of protest over budget cuts and labor reform that is needed to satisfy international lenders." And that is just the start: "Greece's biggest labor union has called a general 24-hour strike for February 20." Happy days are back again, and with them, the warm up of the Syntagma Square riotcam, unless of course said riotcam was pledged long ago as ECB collateral for yet another loan which promptly ended up in G-Pap's or Venizelos' Swiss bank account, and is now long gone.
Caption of a ship generating zero GDP
The seamen are demanding months of unpaid wages and the repeal of a draft law that weakens their union by introducing a new employment contract between shipowners and crew.
"The law wipes out the seamen's profession and all the rules underpinning it," the PNO union said.
The strike, which started on Thursday, has begun causing shortages on grocery shelves and is hindering agricultural exports to the Balkans and beyond, the Athens Central Vegetable Market Association said in a statement.
The farmers disrupted traffic with sit-ins and by distributing free rice to drivers, to protest against tax increases that form part of the country's bailout.
"We have no choice but to go on, we're on the brink of desperation," one farmer told state television NET. Greece's latest austerity package mandates lower tax refunds and fuel subsidies for farmers and increases the social security contributions they must pay.
The Greek government is holding talks with the protesters but refuses to budge on any demands that might undermine its deficit cutting efforts, a condition of bailout funds and debt relief from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.
While in the past most labor strikes have been resolved peacefully, Greece is now at a point where even one day of economic standstill has unknown consequences as the economy is already on empty. Which is why last month the country invoked rarely used emergency powers to break a strike of subway workers, serving military-style orders instructing them to return to work or face arrest. Should the same "militant" intervention be used to break up wholesale day strikes, the path to full blown social unrest, mediated by what's left of the Greek army, will be a very short one.
Merchant shipping minister Costis Mousouroulis suggested on Sunday that the government might do the same against the seamen. "We can't be shutting our ears to islanders' desperate calls," he said.
Austerity has fuelled social unrest and extremism. Police on Friday arrested two bank robbers who turned out to be suspected members of a left-wing extremist group, Conspiracy of Fire Cells, which has claimed a spate of bomb attacks across the country since 2009.
Golden Dawn, an ultra-right, anti-immigrant party which ranks third in the opinion polls, staged its biggest rally ever in Athens late on Saturday, mustering about 5,000 supporters.
Needless to say, by the time full blown civil war is raging in Greece, we expect to be able to collect not less than par for the several torn up and completely worthless Greek bonds collecting dust in our collective attic.