A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Greek Ex-Army Joins the Protests

Communists, the army, and discredited central government? Greece has been here before.

Prime Minister Georges Papandreou is rumoured to be considering stepping down, and hundreds of retired army personnel stormed the Ministry of Defence chanting 'down with the junta.' They rampaged throughout the building, one of the only government buildings in Athens that had not been occupied by protestors, tearing off doors and pulling down security systems designed to check for weapons. It eventually took the Chief of the National Defence of the General Staff, Air Chief Marshal Ioannis Giagkos, to persuade them to leave, at four 'o' clock in the evening. The Defence Minister, Panos Beglitis retailiated, saying that they would be 'immediately repressed' if they acted in an anti-democratic matter. 'What with?' was the question that immediately sprang to mind.

Will the existing military intervene to quash violent disorder? Yes, temporarily. But what affects their retired comrades now will affect them later - and you don't often get people fighting for their pensions to be taken away. That's a rule that applies everywhere. Including Greece. 'The executives of the Greek Armed Forces are monitoring with increased concern the latest developments regarding issues related to their needs after retirement,' says a letter from the Association of Support and Cooperation of the State Armed Forces. Most worringly, if you're Papandreou, is that their confidence in the state's intentions has been 'shaken.' That's never a good thing to hear if you're Prime Minister of a state that only came out of a military dictatorship twenty years ago, and the military is still regarded as a 'state within a state' - even by the Defence Minister.

The CIA has previously warned of the possibility of a military coup if further austerity measures were implemented. That was back in May. There have been billions of euros in additional austerity measures since then. And nothing gets army types more riled than the suggestion that the country is no longer in command of its own affairs. Papandreou has made such a suggestion. This is the quote that Eurosceptics - and virtually all Greeks - have been waiting for. The FT Deutschland, says that he had spoken about resignation to several close aides, on the basis that 'Greece no longer takes decisions itself.' It has been dismissed as 'nonsense' by his spokesmen. But they would say that, wouldn't they? Rumour sticks - especially in a country on edge.

There are too many factors at play, and information has not yet disseminated by the mass-media. It is impossible to come to any conclusion, as yet, about what might happen next. But, if we compare these latest events to the peaceful marches that army personnel conducted back in 2008, it is impossible to deny that there is a clear escalation, and not one that bodes well for the Greek government, and the stability of Greece in general. Events will start moving quickly now: Greece perpetually sits on the edge of running out of money. At current rates, it will no longer be able to pay all its public sector workers - including army personnel - by the end of the month. And that certainly is not a good position to be in.


  1. Yes,

    I had seen this report before and have been following Russia Today (RT) news as they are a very useful corrective to the BBC when it comes to reporting the EU - but so far no confirmation.

    If I were the EU's man in Greece, I would be carrying suitcases full of euros to the senior members of the Greek General Staff to keep them sweet.

    Incidentally, the soldiers in the pictures above look remarkably like British paratroopers circa 1945 to me. The shape of the cap badges is right and the way the berets are worn, I can see what looks very like the barrel and curved, top-mounted magazine of a Bren gun and the shape of a Sten gun magazine held by the man at the rear. The only thing I can't place is the model of rifle in the foreground. It's not, I think, the Short Magazine Lee Enfield - but, of course, paras got much special equipment, as they still do. Of course, British forces under General Scobie played a great part in preventing the communist takeover of Greece.