Oxi, ley mordaza, walls and summer populism

2015-06-27 18.47.15Welcome to the Bistro POP. 2015-06-27 21.47.28

We serve fresh populism, of all types.

Hot summer in Europe. Tsipras asked the Greek people to refuse the conditions of the Troika – and the Greek people answered “oxi”, which is translated as “no” but in this case means “yes Alexis, we’re still with you”; Varoufakis announced – first via Blog and then in T-shirt, cool as usual – that he resigns from his position as Minister in order to help Tsipras with the negotiations; Spain approved a package of measures unprecedented during its democratic history, limiting freedom of expression and public protest; Hungary is preparing to build yet another wall of this Europe under siege, to halt the advance of the refugees on the eastern front.

The Greek referendum marked a watershed in the history of Europe, with consequences that will be fully understood probably in the next decades. Now it’s too early to draw conclusions. The words of Varoufakis from his blog are probably the best way to reflect on what happened:  “The superhuman effort to honour the brave people of Greece, and the famous OXI (NO) that they granted to democrats the world over, is just beginning.”

19274077960_937fda158c_hMaybe for the importance of the Greek situation, a very sad fact did not recive a lot of attention in the media. According to the New York Times, in Spain “the law on public security — dubbed the “ley mordaza” or “gag law” — would define public protest by actual persons in front of Parliament and other government buildings as a “disturbance of public safety” punishable by a fine of 30,000 euros. People who join in spontaneous protests near utilities, transportation hubs, nuclear power plants or similar facilities would risk a jaw-dropping fine of €600,000. The “unauthorized use” of images of law enforcement authorities or police — presumably aimed at photojournalists or ordinary citizens with cameras taking pictures of cops or soldiers — would also draw a €30,000 fine, making it hard to document abuses.”

The law has been introduced, with the consensus of the Parliament, by the government of Mariano Rajoy, PP (Partido Popular). The message is clear: the 15-M movement and its political off-shoots scared the power. The people in the streets and squares, scares the power. The power, scared and humiliated, reacts in the only familiar way: repressing, cracking down, helping itself to maintain the power.

The Costitutional Court, solicited by the opposition, will decide whether or not the government has the right to implement such a law.

The shadow of the Greek situation is really long if the new Spanish law punishes the same way the “manufacture or trade in weapons and explosives” and “events or meetings not communicated.”

The gag law will punish with fines of up to 6000 euros the journalists and the media that will photograph, publish or denounce cases of abuse or ill-treatment committed by the police, and punish the leaks and the publication of certain information and images.

Paranoia and repression are a short-sighted solution, whose consequences will be appreciated in the next years, or maybe already at the next Spanish elections next November.

Guardian graphs

Guardian graphs

Europe is going back to the 30s, at least this is the general impression. Podemos, Syriza, and others constitute the movement of resistance, maquisards, partigiani, populists. Nonetheless – in this historical moment – taking the part of the people while opposing the choices of the elites looks like simple common sense, in addition to a good election strategy.

In the meantime, another factor passed almost unnoticed in the news, overshadowed by the Greek referendum. Hungarian authorities announced that they intend to build a wall that will cover the 175km border they share with Serbia. A wall which is emotional and psychological, a wall of ideas, of fear, of closing. Symbol of a Europe that feels under siege, but that represents the worst enemy of itself. Kosovo, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia. Europe is paying the price for its political, social, cultural and strategic mistakes of the last 30 years, but prefers to close its eyes and build a wall.

Migrants keep arriving, desperate when not dead, while tourists bathe and the future of the fortress Europe seems to waver like a mirage in the desert. Nonetheless, it is to Europe that thousands of migrants, in the last months, have turned their hopes, their prayers, multi-ethnic and multilingual as a tower of babel that sinks into the Mediterranean Sea. In this Europe, alone and afraid, many people, even more alone and scared, place their slim hopes of salvation.



A last element of this dream of a midsummer night, which is in fact very realistic even if looks like a collective nightmare: Euclid Tsakalotos, the new Minister of Finances in Greece, was born in Rotterdam. What a mad summer, what a praise of folly.

When you close the borders you think you have shut out all the others…however, you only locked yourself inside.

Daniele Caramani, today, during lunch

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