The «δεν πληρώνω» (“won’t pay”) movement in Greece is generating a lot of commentary in the press — but mostly in the Greek press, and so mostly in Greek. But I’ve been able to extract a few tidbits from the news via Google Translate.
Some background: The Greek government, trying to get on a stronger financial footing and pay off international creditors, is raising taxes and cutting spending — in effect, giving Greeks that winning sales pitch: “you will get less from us and it will cost you more, all so we can give money to foreign banks.”
In Greece, tax evasion is notoriously something of a national sport, so raising taxes either means further goring the few bloody oxen who can’t run fast enough, or coming up with creative ways to tax the faster ones. In this case, the government has decided to hike fees like highway tolls (or sell the rights to collect these fees to foreign companies) and tack new taxes on to utility bills. The “won’t pay” movement is largely attacking these new taxes.
- Members of union representing electrical power workers cut power to a federal government building on , protesting the hypocrisy of adding a new tax onto citizens’ electric bills while at the same time the government itself has been failing to pay its electric bills.
- About a quarter of electric bills remained unpaid as the deadline approached — “the value of unpaid electric bills to the utility reached… the highest level ever recorded.”.
- Some members of the movement are also trying a legal suit, claiming the new electric bill tax was not instituted in a constitutional manner.
- Protesters tried to petition their local governments to stand with them and against the tax, but a meeting of mayors refused. One tried to explain: “The government cannot advise citizens not to pay, since it is the one that imposes taxes and expropriation,” said Kallithea mayor Costas Askounis, president of the Central Union of Greek Municipalities, though some individual mayors did pledge support for the movement.
- The government of Italy is trying the same game, and is starting to get the same push-back from its subjects.