Greek coalition averts collapse over closure of state broadcaster but court order ERT back on air


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The Independent Online

Greece’s governing coalition avoided collapse on Monday night in the wake of a dispute over Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s decision to close the state television broadcaster.

A Greek court has ordered that state broadcaster ERT, which was shut down by the government last week, can resume transmissions. But the court also upheld a plan by Mr Samaras to replace ERT with a smaller broadcaster.

Mr Samaras announced his decision to shut down Hellenic Broadcasting Corp (ERT) on 11 June, axing nearly 2,700 jobs, in a bid to meet austerity targets. The decision to close the broadcaster had initially risked breaking apart the deeply divided coalition, with Mr Samaras’s key allies threatening to revolt.

But last night, after more than three hours of talks, the Prime Minister’s centre-left minority partners said talks would continue this week on how to keep the service going until a new public broadcaster was put in place.

A government official, who asked to remain anonymous, said Mr Samaras had offered his coalition allies - the Socialist Pasok and Democratic Left  - a summer Cabinet reshuffle and greater influence in ERT’s transition.

Earlier on Monday, Greece’s high court issued a provisional ruling that the decree shutting off ERT’s signal last week was illegal. But the court also said Mr Samaras’s government was within its rights to close the company.

The dispute over ERT also rekindled anti-austerity protests, and even led to warnings from within Mr Samaras’ own conservative party that the dispute was putting sacrifices made by Greek taxpayers at risk.

Outside parliament, left-wing opposition leader Alexis Tsipras demanded elections, saying: “You’re done, Mr. Samaras. You have embarrassed the country internationally. ... You are desperate and alone.”