Greece items of note.....
“Fresh milk” debate causes further friction within coalition government
MPs Kassis, Moraitis and Vlachos are opposed to the government’s deal with the troika regarding milkFriday, March 21, 2014
Greece’s deal with international lenders to unlock a nine billion euro installment was in peril after two more lawmakers from the coalition’s ruling parties said they would vote against it, objecting to a provision that would extend the shelf life of fresh milk in what was aimed at making the country more competitive.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives and his partner the PASOK Socialists have only a three-vote majority in the 300-member Parliament and three of its members earlier said they would reject the multi-bill that was put into one package for a straight up-or-down vote.
That strategy by the government to quell dissent appears to have backfired. The administration was confident the bill would pass because two other lawmakers in Parliament outside the coalition were backing it but now PASOK’s Thanos Moraitis and Nikos Sifounakis were added yesterday to what has reached four other MPs opposed to it. “Some people want to hand over the keys to the country to importers,” said Moraitis.
The rebellion prompted Samaras to say he was disappointed by the development which has put the government in a bind unless he and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos can twist arms and get the MPs to change their minds.
In the past the party leaders could eject members who disobey orders on how to vote as in the Greek system MPs are selected and told which way to vote on issues. Those who do otherwise or vote their conscience are booted from the party but with such a thin majority Samaras and Venizelos can’t afford to do that now.
Other mini-rebellions were quickly quashed by the party leaders as would-be dissenters were brought into line. Greece negotiated for seven months with the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) to reach an agreement on a series of unfinished reforms but most of the details have been kept secret from the public.
The demand to extend the shelf life of fresh milk past five days, essentially selling expired milk, is one of several liberalization measures and other reforms in the multi-bill that will go to Parliament on March 31. The draft law will have two or three articles.
This means that the provision on milk, along with other measures aimed at enhancing competition, will be included in an article with more of the reforms agreed with the Troika. If the government fails to gather the required votes, it would mean that the whole article would be rejected, undermining the deal with Greece’s lenders.
The coalition currently has 153 seats in the 300-seat Parliament but with six Golden Dawn lawmakers in pretrial custody that means that it would need a maximum of 148 votes to approve the multi-bill. By jailing the extremists on charges of running a criminal gang, the government has removed six votes in opposition.
Two independent MPs, Andreas Loverdos and Christos Aidonis, formerly of PASOK have indicated they would vote in favor of the whole package of reforms although they were tossed from the Socialists for refusing to go along with more austerity measures but now are backing the government.
Samaras was in Brussels as the trouble arose and he told journalists that, “It is unfair and saddening that there are dissenting voices at a time when Greece is spreading its wings to get out of the rut.”
Also of concern to the government is that Deputy Agricultural Development Minister Maximos Harakopoulos from New Democracy said he might resign if government proceeds with plans to extend the shelf life of fresh milk.
Samaras’s close aide, Takis Baltakos, held talks with Harakopoulos to appease him and get him to change his mind. That tactic has usually worked before as objecting MPs have squawked loudly about an issue they didn’t like and then voted for it anyway.