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Smoke gets in Tsipras' eyes

My Big Fat Greek Week

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01 September 2017

-This space is usually reserved for a tongue-in-cheek approach to news coming from Greece, offering ample evidence of the often ridiculous nature of the motherland's public sphere.

-But riduculousness is not a Greek privilege, nor should we ever see it as such. Many other nations have the same rights to absurdity, ignorance, and stupidity.

-Take Estonia, for instance.

-Last week, the country, which now holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, held a conference on the "The Heritage in 21st Century Europe of the Crimes Committed by Communist Regimes".

-The Greek government was one of many that declined to participate (although the others mostly out of lack of interest, while Greece due to its lack of anti-communism sentiment), which led the Estonian Minister of Justice, Urmas Reinsalu, to write to his Greek counterpart, Stavros Kontonis a letter, in which he states: "The fate of our two states in the 20th century has been differrent. In Estonia, you do not need to be a historian to know what happened in Greece during the Nazi occupation. To bring but one example: Louis de Bernieres novel Captain Corelli's Mandolin has been translated into Estonian, and the film based on this book has been seen by thousands of my compatriots".

-There, you have it. Everything that's been going wrong in Europe, condensed.

-A Nicholas Cage melodrama, referenced by a high ranking official, as a work of historical validity.

-To put it into perspective, the films topping the Estonian Box-Office these past few months are 'Smurfs: the lost village'; 'The Mummy'; 'Spiderman: homecoming'; 'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets'; 'The Dark Tower'; 'The Emoji Movie'.

-Which might as well mean that Estonian ministers believe that there are little cute characters living in a city called Textopolis located inside their phones.

-This is not to say that Greek ministers don't believe in similar absurdities.

- Most of them, for instance, are absolutely certain that growth is coming, that investors are returning and the country will enter the markets and live free of the need to rely on external bailout programs.

-The Prime-Minister himself, Alexis Tsipras made a two-hour visit to one of the country's leading cigarette companies, Papastratos, where he was delighted to learn about 'Heat-not-burn' tobacco products.

-Which are marketed as 'healthy options for smokers', despite no scientific or medical evidence for that.

-It doesn't matter. The Greek government is so desperate for success stories and investments, that they would endorse a company manufacturing chemical weapons, if that would mean jobs.

-And truth be told, Papastratos is one of the very few exceptions of employers not taking advantage of the crisis to slash their workers' wages and rights.

-Alongside with Sklavenitis supermakets, Karamolegos bakery products and Papadopoulou biscuits, Papastratos has not reduced wages, nor laid off people - on the contrary, they hired more employees to work on this questionable 'Heat-not-burn' cigarette.

-Which makes the PMs visit, one of a high symbolic value.

-Especially since his goverment presented the bill on industrial relations, on the same day.

-It includes many provisions to secure the rights of workers deprived of overtime, or denied payment altogether (something not unheard of, these past few years), with serious implications for employers breaching contracts and agreements.

-The most severe of which is the exclusion of their companies from any government contracts.

-Of course, the same bill proposes slashing certain types of pension, but you can't please everybody.

-Captain Corelli had to learn this the hard way.

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