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Monday, June 17, 2013

The show(down) must go on: Coalition row over closure of Greece's public broadcaster continues

Last week, we noted on this blog that the abrupt closure of Greece's public broadcaster ERT risked opening a rift in Greece's ruling coalition - as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras took the decision without the approval of his junior coalition partners, PASOK and Democratic Left.

Tensions have actually mounted within the coalition, and all eyes are now on a meeting later on today between Samaras, Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis (the leaders of PASOK and Democratic Left respectively). Here's a quick update of what happened over the weekend:
  • After both PASOK and Democratic Left hinted at snap elections as a possible outcome of the on-going coalition row over ERT, Samaras came up with a compromise proposal: have a cross-party committee hire a small number of workers so that a basic broadcast service (mainly news bulletins) could resume as soon as possible;
  • Samaras's coalition partners have both turned the offer down. They concede ERT needs restructuring, but want the state broadcaster to stay open while such a restructuring takes place;
  • This makes today's meeting (scheduled for 5.30pm GMT) very interesting. Venizelos and Kouvelis are apparently not planning to make doorstep statements after the meeting with Samaras, but will wait to speak until they are back at their respective party headquarters - possibly another sign that tensions are running high;   
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday spoke to Samaras over the phone and reminded him that "it is of vital importance" for Greece to stick to all its commitments with the EU-IMF-ECB Troika, including "those relating to public sector reform." Just a coincidence? Or an invite to Samaras to stick to his guns on ERT closure? 
  • Meanwhile, Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the largest opposition party, SYRIZA, is to deliver a speech in Syntagma Square this evening - right in front of the Greek parliament. No doubt he will use it to call for the government to resign.
  • Finally, it's worth keeping in mind that ERT workers have appealed to the Council of State - Greece's highest administrative court. The Council of State should issue its verdict later on today, and many expect it to order that ERT be immediately re-opened. Paradoxically, the ruling could help put an end to the coalition row. However, it would almost inevitably also weaken Samaras's position - given that his initial decision to shut down ERT would be overturned.  
We will keep a close eye on any future developments, so make sure you follow us on Twitter @OpenEurope if you want to stay on top of the latest events in Greece.   

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