Foreign Assistance in Greece
Updates to Greek Laws in 2009
UPDATES AND MORE 2009
….and what a year it was. This last year was perhaps the worse I’ve ever experienced in my last 20 or so years living in Greece. Where does one start?
It was the year of fraud and corruption ,deceit, and whatever else the govt. can come up with which by now seems natural to it. Throughout this last year my feelings have oscillated between passive disgust to outright anger; however, it’s not just I who feel like this but indeed most of the people, except the ones who thrive on this corruption , mainly the govt. or what’s left of it. I think 4 or 5 ministers were either fired by the prime minister or resigned to save their skin. Either way the lies continue and the average citizen gets it royally you know where.
The quality of life, or the standard of living has dropped remarkably in 2008 and into this year and yet it is heartbreaking to still hear the average Greek justify their miserable plight in the same, now boring, way. It’s still: “what do you expect after 400 years of Turkish occupation.” Or the new one: “We are good people it’s the system that makes us bad.” “ We are a product of a corrupt system.” This kind of justification infuriates me.
If the laws are almost frightening in their complexity and sheer stupidity, it is, let’s not forget, people who have made these laws ! If the govt. is corrupt, we voted it in ! If the lawmakers pass arbitrary laws which confuse even the ones who wrote them ,let alone the civil servants who, with a mandatory 2 years of high school to get their jobs have to implement them. They misinterpret what the laws say because these very laws were misinterpreted even while being written. Now the civil servants have to explain these laws to you who is waiting in line for some decent answers to important questions and what do you get? Nothing, of course. Confusing laws written by confused lawmakers handed down to confused civil servants who in turn confuse you. I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about: getting a license for this or that; buying , selling land; getting a residence permit; getting your degree recognized; trying to make sense out of what is by nature senseless. Most of you who come here and have to deal with this bureaucratic monster are educated or at least civilized coming from, what I call “real” countries. Greece has its own reality; the islands and coastlines in summer; the ouzo; the great mezedes (sometimes) the relaxing tavernas where you keep the table the entire night without being rushed to leave. This is the reality.
If the baby turns out bad, it is the mother who gave birth to the baby, not the other way around. The Greek antiquated, confusing (and confused) corrupt and stupid for lack of a better word, system is the way it is, it is because the Greeks made it that way ! We complain about the “fakelakia” or the little (not so little anymore) white envelopes that we surreptitiously give to doctors, govt. employees (the ones with the under high school education) and alike to get things done, because otherwise if you depend on the system helping you than you get the award for naivety. We complain about the mess we are in and yet we created the mess; we are the mothers of this ugly baby.
Ministers left and right have been fired. The minister of economy was shafted after the usual “doctoring up” of books painting a rosy picture of the financial state of affairs of the country, while the people got so poor that they had to cut back on almost everything just to survive.
The new minister of the environment who promised to plant trees and no more destruction of nature, has cut down more trees, poured more concrete to build business centers on already burnt out areas and as far as the pollution in Athens goes, it’s the worst yet. Two ministers of education have resigned or were sacked and still, to this day, Greece will not recognize degrees from foreign universities. Of course, the penalties and suits from the EU keep coming in and the average tax-payer foots the bill. If the govt. tries to adapt the educational system to EU standards, the students and teachers start marching and demonstrating, closing off the center of Athens to business, and of course the govt. doesn’t want this….looks bad for the next elections, so nothing happens.
Ouija boards have more movement here than the govt. The Greeks have virtually sentenced themselves to themselves. Then we see on tv how the various ministers justify themselves. It’s actually comical… tragically comical. With enough propaganda you can confuse anyone. The minister of the merchant marine was fired while the Sea Diamond, the cruise ship which sank off the coast of Santorini, is still submerged. No one knows what to do with it. The toxic stuff, including the oil, is still inside. I wonder how many “fakelakia” are needed to have some company get that thing out of there.
Before I get to the updates, I just want to relate a typical occurrence regarding our wonderful environmental minister. The actual explanation of a stupid action on the govt.’s part is nothing compared to the way the Greeks understood it. The real tragedy was that they more or less let it pass with the rationalization that “he’s the minister, he knows.” Part of knowing who we are is realizing we are not someone else. In this case, we are not the minister of environment.
The minister, (second one, the first got fired under pressure to do something about the pollution in Athens (co2) from cars ), came out with a “brilliant” plan which he already started implementing. This is the plan. Hold tight.
Athens has a problem with pollution coming from cars. The reason is that there are too many cars . (the people were all ears) Cars create pollution. (people watching on TV agree, “see what a smart minister we have? God bless you.”) The reason cars pollute so much is because they spend hours and hours using up gas to try and find a parking space. They go round and round using up energy and polluting, creating an asphyxiating atmosphere for your children who play in the parks. It makes the fathers and mothers irritable when they get home after spending all this time trying to park. This in turn can lead to tension and quarrels at home. (yes, yes, Mr. minister….you are so right. At last we have an intelligent person in our govt.) A typical scene at home between husband and wife could be like this: “You see, Nikos, that’s why we don’t get along. It’s got nothing to do with my screaming and nagging all the time; nothing to do with the fact that I caught you cheating on me, or that I won’t let you have sex with me, or that you refuse to get a better job, or that I don’t iron your clothes. It’s the tension you accumulate after driving around for hours trying to find a parking space. Now I see the light. Our marriage will be good again if you were more relaxed at home. You see, Nikos, Our minister is actually trying to solve marital problems as well as reducing pollution….he’s a genius.”
( …his speech to the people continues)
So I will immediately appropriate the trees in small parks (euphemism for cut down) and build underground parking. You see dear citizens, if one tree produces 2.000.35 micrograms of oxygen per 3.764 sq. millimeters of leaves of one branch, the average car emits 3.984 micrograms of co2 per 1/19 of a kilometer of the accepted 5 klm. per hour speed time of trying to find a parking spot. So scientifically and statistically speaking, we can create a healthier environment by adopting these measures and substituting greenery for parking. I hope this is absolutely clear to those listening to me tonight.
Everyone agreed or did not but said nothing about it other than, see how educated our minister is? The husband watching this might say, I want a bicycle….with power steering.
He is the minister of the incumbent New Democracy party, and, we all know, that God was a New Democrat. Don’t think about what he said, you can hurt yourself.
….and now to the updates.
CALL CARDS :
I chose this topic to start off from as something happened to me just a few weeks ago. I’ve always praised the merits of the SMILE card which I have been using for the last 4 years to call overseas. It was reliable and, I thought, cheap. For 5 euros you could talk what seemed like forever. I was wrong after seeing how many cards I was using up per week. Someone from a kiosk told me about the XRONOKARTA (chronokarta) from OTE which is the Greek Tel. company. It’s great. For 6 euros you literally forget about time when making long distance calls. You can even make calls from any tel. booth or stands found everywhere. There are about 14 tel. stands in the square next to me, Victoria sq. Just like Smile you scratch the back to reveal the numbers and then listen to the directions in English after punching in the 807-1122 code. I’ve had my card for 2 weeks , calling the States every night and it’s still going strong. Great card except for one minor flaw; the lady’s voice you hear giving you directions is definitely not the type of lady, judging from her tape recorded voice, you would want to flirt with. As opposed to the soft, sexy, voice on Smile where you hear: “welcome to Smile…please scratch the back of my neck….I mean the card….and press ever so softly the numbers to get me…..I mean the destination of your choice” the voice on chronokarta sounds like a Gestapo fraulein (sp) ready , with her whip, to administer your punishment. It sounds like: “ Scratch!! ( as if she wanted to say, you dumb idiot) and punch the numbers.” As though she was desperately keeping back from saying, what else would you do with them, play roulette? You unbelievable moron.
But who cares, it’s a great card.
First , let me welcome 2 more islands I now deal with for marriages: Crete and Kea. This now makes a grand total of 5: Santorini, Sifnos, Lesvos, Kea, Crete. Pretty impressive until you realize there are about 900 islands. Hey I’m getting there.
The laws have not changed except a new bill was passed prohibiting all marriages in Greece. What was that again?? Sorry, I meant to say that a law was passed, I disagree with it to the bottom of my heart, that undocumented immigrants are allowed to marry a Greek here. As I said before, confused lawmakers make confusing laws which only lead to trouble. This law states that an illegal immigrant, no papers, no identification, one who has crawled over mountains or took some raft (power steering of course) to cross over from Turkey or such, can get married here to a Greek thus securing his legal residence forever!!! This is absurd! Everyone, except the geniuses who contrived this brilliant piece of legislature, knows that this will lead only to marriages of convenience. Any idea how much money is going to change hands? Plenty. The illegal immigrant will pay, using the middleman of course, a fortune to get married to a financially desperate Greek. In turn the offspring, if any, after 12 years of legal residence , will become Greek. The color of the country will change just as the “wonderful parking scheme” mentioned earlier will change the color of the landscape. Bravo Greek govt., you’ve laid another egg. Let’s change the name of Greece. Let’s call it The United Hybrids of Southern Europe, or UHSE for short. Sounds pretty good….almost distinguished.
I call this govt. the govt. of trial and error. This is just another error among many. Say goodbye to permanent residence permits. It used to be that you could, after 10 years of living legally here, get a lifetime permit. No more. Now the best you can hope for is a 10 year permit which must be re-newed every 10 years. In other words, the holder of the permit will come under scrutiny every 10 years to see if he/she has been a “good boy” or “good girl.” Now listen to this; according to this law, even a misdemeanor such as a parking violation, walking on the street instead of a sidewalk, shouting too loudly walking home after a party, complaining to the tavern manager about the bill or, heaven help us, the quality of the food, everything except criticizing the govt. which is accepted, could lead to deportation, stripping you of your permit and even a light jail sentence of 62 years, unless you have a “fakelaki” which means you get another chance…..and of course they get another fakelaki. However, for foreigners, the name UHSE must be written on it. The cost for re-newal is going to go up from 900 euros to 1.500 if it hasn’t already. The EU is pissed off at us once again about the cost. The Greek highest court ruled it illegal and to stop immediately. The New Democracy govt. just ignored the court and the EU. By the way, after you have submitted the money and get rejected, the amount you paid is non-refundable. In other words, you lose your money and get deported. Better get that “fakelaki” ready.
....and what a year it was. Greeks woke up to the fact that the long overdue land registry, or land book is finally knocking on their front door. It was, and still is in courts packed with law suits and such, grab now or forever lose. Everyone had to scramble to declare that what is theirs is really theirs. Greece, the only country in Europe, apart from Albania, never had a land register. Can you imagine what happened? Here is a true story of what I have been going through for the last 2 weeks.
Greek-Australian uncles found out that there was property in some remote area of Greece which they believe they have a right to. Yes, after 25 years of never visiting Greece, see Australian dollar signs flickering before their eyes and decide to come to Greece and get their share. Easy? Right!! It just so happens that an aunt or two living in Greece have been taking care of the property for over 20 years. Yes, I know you know where I’m getting at….squatter’s law mentioned in my original article on property. Well that is just what happened….but worse. There are a few dangerous looking cousins (one was held for murder charges) who heard about this property and decided to cash in. To even complicate matters more, one of the aunts claimed to have a will. Upon my investigation the will was proved to be a fake. Added to this is forgery. Added to that is the threat I received from another (….who the hell was she….) cousin on a Greek island her really bad brothers are out after me if I continue this inquiry. Two lawyers I used for this both quit. They gave me excuses like they were too busy but I knew the truth….they were scared half to death. I kept thinking, how did this news about the land get around so fast? Easy.
There are three ways to communicate: 1) telephone 2) e-mail 3) tell a woman
In this case it was cousin to aunt to niece to and to and so on. There was even one young promiscuous niece of one of the “bad guys” who’s ears picked up the rumor of some “gold mine” in Greece and felt she has a stake in it as well. Funny, it was the first time the family had seen her vertically in years.
So why did I continue with the case? Two reasons: One I liked the intrigue, and two, I was promised one stremma, or ¼ acre of the property on this beautiful (I thought) island. It was supposedly on a sandy beach with crystal blue sea. I liked playing Mickey Spillane , going out ‘till 2 am or later, following some uncle in a cab going to some secret meeting with some secret cousin, jotting down times, tracing down notaries to see what was signed by faking an Australian accent over the phone claiming to be some lawyer from the land out under, that type of thing. I was getting 50 euros a day expenses and of course the main prize, the land, if I managed to prosecute and win thereby giving the title of the land to my client….one of the nephews.
Then the death threats came.
My client skipped the country in the middle of the night after he got threats, and then I decided to give it up, not because I was really that scared, but something more serious came up. I searched for that island on the web. It is nowhere near anywhere, there are no beaches, there is no sand, and the land in question was only about 4 acres for about 20 relatives. My piece would have been on top of a jagged cliff with 2 or 3 goats roaming around. My share amounted to roughly 30 dollars after taxes and a fakelaki or two.
So what is the point I’m trying to make? Simple; just because you hear you have rights to something, don’t think it’s always that worth it. Don’t forget, if the property is clearly yours and only yours, go for it….if too many relatives are involved, think again.
Here is where the laws have not changed. The almighty “tree” discussed in my original article still stands. All the paperwork is still the same as is all the bureaucracy involved. Actually the bureaucracy is getting worse.
I have a client from Colombia who wants his citizenship. His papers were perfect. Everything was ready until one civil servant at the ministry of interior pointed out that the translator in Venezuela is not an official translator and therefore we cannot accept the translations. I was going to ask her about her knowledge of foreign languages, including her own, and her level of education, but thought better of it. Rule : don’t get civil servants angry….don’t confuse them….don’t pretend you know more than they do. Be humble as though you are not very smart and depend on them for dear life. If you are a woman, start crying in front of them. This gets them soft and you’ll be surprised at the positive results. If you are a man, hold the temper even though you want to tear off their hollow heads and play soccer with it. I’ve found that many times complimenting them (they are usually women in these posts) on their hair, clothes, lipstick, anything even though they could have been used to pull Mussolini’s carts of watermelon across the Albanian border with Greece. Back to the Colombian.
When, I shouldn’t have, I pointed out that the stamp on the papers was from the official translator of the republic of Colombia, with her signature. And also that with that stamp was the stamp of the Greek embassy in Venezuela, and more than that, on the bottom of the paper in Greek, was the notice that this person is the translator for the embassy, the hollow-brained employee here said that she wanted an affidavit from the translator in Venezuela stating she is “really a translator!!” I’m still fighting this issue with the head of the ministry, who perhaps has graduated high school.
• There is no Greek consulate in Colombia, only Venezuela.
CARS AND CARS….ETC.
First about getting the Greek driving license. Nothing has changed except 2 transport ministers were fired because they couldn’t understand the laws they themselves made… that and the fact that some embezzling, kick-backs, and fraudulent land exchanges came into the picture. You still have to go through what I wrote in my 2008 updates.
Now the fun part; bringing your car into Greece. There are two types of laws in Greece: 1) what is written 2) what actually happens.
Rule no. one; don’t bring your car from overseas. The authorities may say it is tax-free for Greek nationals but it’s not. It happened to my mother and others. If you don’t own a Rolls Royce or something like it, just forget it. It’s not worth the hassle, let alone the “fakelakia.” (that’s plural for more than one)
For the rest of you in the EU here is what happens:
The EU law says that if you have owned the car for 6 months before entering this country, it’s tax free. Don’t bet on it. Rule 2 applies here. After tons of paperwork you’ll still get taxed. Law 83/183/EEC states that there are no taxes to transport cars from one EU state to another. Are your “fakelakia” ready? Read what happened just last week to this poor god-fearing soul who actually attempted to do this.
He is an EU national who drove his car over the border to Greece. All his papers were intact including the no-tax paper from Brussels. At the border the guards asked him to come into a small, dark room with a light bulb hanging from the center of the ceiling in an unused section of the border control building. The yellowish walls were peeling along side the two customs officers which reminded one of some Mexican sergeant during the Alamo, scrubby clothes, beer-gut and all. There were two of them together with our now infamous Flaulein with her black leather clothes and the whip whom we remember from the call card section. She didn’t quite fit in….apropos to nothing. In this incongruous ambience, one of the customs officers proceeded to remind the driver that he has to pay taxes on the car.
“Taxes for what?” he shouted. “The law says I don’t have to pay a tax for the car.” Meanwhile the other officer was surreptitiously playing with an empty white envelop in his hands but making sure the driver could see it. The “call card” was doing something with the whip, just moving it a bit….nothing threatening. Then it came out. This is word for word from what I read in the papers.
Customs guy: “ We know it’s illegal to tax EU citizens for bringing in their cars, but Greece is a poor country and we make so much money out of this we just have to tax them.”
Our Fraulein rustled her whip again, this time with a bit more authority. Our driver was looking at the envelope with a bit more attention.
ENG. 101. For extra points you can put your own ending to the story.
LEARNING SIGN LANGUAGE:
“Chave to go now, sorry. I’m going chome to have another look at my brand new Charly Davidson. I bought it especially for my cholidays in Chania Crete.”
Wife: Your chome late dear, it’s only 15 minutes from your office to Chalandri. Where were you, chaving a good time with your friends, right?
Husband: Oh stop giving me chell; I’m late because the cheater of my car started making noises and then the radiator started smoking and the whole car started overcheating. It’s the truth, choney.
Wife: You’re heating on me….I mean cheating on me. I know. This car thing is an excuse!
Husband: Look, let’s stop quarreling. We chave a chappy chome, we can snuggle up with some good chardy food and wine and watch an old Harly Haplain movie on t.v. I love you choney.
So what is this, a joke?? I’m afraid not. Again some wizard at some ministry decided all signs in Greece where English is displayed under the Greek, change the “H” to “CH.” This is brilliant.
One more case of how utterly stupid a govt. or country can get. I wonder how much money it entailed….taking down every sign from every road, from every airport, from every square, from every port, from every everything to make the “H” a “CH.” As if Greece doesn’t have more serious problems. Yes Greece laid the “egg” once again!!
So for all of you coming chere…sorry I meant here…for holiday (this one was tempting) beware. If you want to go to Xania on Crete, it’s spelled “Chania” but pronounce it Hania or else the taxi driver might nor know what you are talking about. Whenever you see the “CH” on a sign or on a map and when asking a Greek directions to a certain chotel….shit here I go again…HOTEL, please pronounce it as hotel with an “H.”
I had an endless fight over this when my daughter had to get her new Greek ID which is in Latin characters, ie. English. I lost the war. I was furious.
My daughter’s name is Holly.
June 12, 2009