Today EU threatens Greece over border controls! As a draft report of the European Commission says: Greece has “seriously neglected” its obligations to control the external frontier of Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone.
Some days ago at the ‘Annual Team Building’ of the Elite at Davos, the Chief Accountant of the EU, Mr. Schauble with his linguistic games referred to the democratic elected PM of Greece as an idiot!
As anyone can understand, Greece’s humiliation has no limits! Of course, this humiliation is reinforced by the strong opposition inside the country from the partisans of the left/ right wing and ala Greek style neo-liberals(an interesting amalgamation of right wing people).
One thing is the common truth and the curse for the Greeks, they are not able to see themselves as an entity and being accompanied by their notorious low self esteem they are blaming each other (an ongoing attitude) for any governmental action.
The above combination is an easy target for the failed leaders of Europe and their politics.
Last year Angela Merkel, as formidable Hegemon of Europe -in terms of financial power only- announced without taking consideration the rest of the European countries and mainly the countries that are the entrance of the refugees-such Greece, which at the moment is an impoverished country- the acceptance of the Syrian refugees. Consequently, quite a few Europeans (Poland, Czech republic, Denmark, few German states, Britain) either closed their borders or started seizing the valuables of the Refugees (Denmark, some states of Germany…).
It was a matter of serendipity by seeing the above two artefacts at the Victoria Gallery in Bath the other day and so ironic at the same time. The two figures represent Europe and Asia. Europe as an emancipated intellectual woman proud of the great achievement of the Enlightenment being accompanied by Asia, who is holding her ‘valuables for better or for worse’!
At the beginning of the 21st Century Europe’s leaders are trying to set aside their responsibilities by finding their all times scapegoat, Greece! The values of the Enlightenment have been replaced by the motto ‘show me the money’ for better or for worse.
At the moment the European Parliament debates the Greek crisis
where it has to be from the beginning and not behind closed doors.
The debate is taking place among the European leaders elected
democratically by their own people and not by Banks CEOs.
Some of the speeches of the parliamentarians so far.
Donald Tusk, president of the European Council,
“Our inability to find agreements may lead to the bankruptcy of Greece and the insolvency of its banking system.
“I have no doubt that this will affect Europe, also in a geopolitical sense.”
“As Plutarch once said: “to find fault is easy, to do better may be difficult”… let us prove him wrong.”
Alexis Tsipras, Greek Prime Minister
“This is not exclusively a Greek problem, this is a European problem and European problems require European solutions”
“I’m not one of those politicians who claim that foreigners are to blame for all of Greece‘s woes.”
“Our proposals for financing our obligations & restructuring our debt will not burden European taxpayers.”
Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the liberal group in the European Parliament
He outlines his plans for reforms.
- End the clientelist system in Greek politics i.e. party cronyism and rewarding loyalists with jobs.
- Downsize the public sector.
- End privileges – privileges of the military, the orthodox Church, the Greek islands and the political parties.
Almost right! Shame he didn’t take part in the Troika’s reforms which the word “reforms” was translated as a pipeline which sucked money from Greece (the Greek loans) back into the Banks!
Love my compatriots. They are really tough lot! Despite all the terror from all the sides -the Creditors and all the Greek mass media- bullying them constantly with banks shut for a week and perhaps more and with no really light at the end of the tunnel, I can say, more hardship is yet to come, they decided to stand up against any terror.
The first results of the Referendum ( the question was : do you accept the austerity measures of the Eurozone ):
61 % No
38 % Yes
There will be more drama and more hardship to come but for tonight : JUST RESPECT!
“Things are happening for a reason” my auntie Eftalia was saying to soothe us when we were under pain or discomfort due to life’s unlucky circumstances. Until she died and she took her secret with her. We never found out what was this bloody reason for our occasional incidences of suffering throughout the years.
This age of austerity brings to my mind the famous auntie’s phrase, there must be a reason for all this suffering and I think, I have unlocked the secret code for the reason of the austerity.
If there weren’t austerity how some anonymous would be able to buy Picasso’s “messy” painting to show off in their private drawing rooms and take immense satisfaction not so much from the view of the picture but from their glimpse in the surprised and envious faces of their visitors, in other words to satisfy his/her “Vanity Unlimited”?
If there weren’t austerity how London would be able to be a no-no city for the middle class families-let alone the lower middle class- with an average salary?
If there weren’t austerity how could be able the global élite to exist – born rich, bankers, hi-tech internet wizard kids et al. – meet up all together at the exclusive resorts of Switzerland and discuss about the hazards of the increasing gap between rich and poor either people or countries?
If there weren’t austerity how could be able the bankers to go from strength to strength and support the super power Merkel’s party? It’s what the Greeks say “κράτα με να σε κρατώ ν’ ανεβούμε στο βουνό – holding me tight to climb up to the mountain”.
If there weren’t austerity how then a leftist party would be able to come into power in the most strangled by the austerity country, Greece? If there weren’t austerity maybe the Left wouldn’t never have the opportunity to reconsider its role and value in the society and how to serve the needs of the real people. The Left has been haunted by its past, they weren’t able to see through and serve the needs of the ordinary people. It’s in the human soul the need to excel and make something better and yes, we (human beings) are not all the same and for that reason we have to give a sort of platform to stand to those who are less fortunate in terms of intelligence, resources and cunningness. It’s a big breakthrough what it’s happening at the moment for the role of the Left and Socialist in the society despite the huge attempt to strangle every effort of the Syriza’s leaders. The party leaders are a kind of traitors for the insiders – the well off, the cowards, the suspicious and scared Greeks – and the outsiders (the well off leaders of Europe).
The Greek Finance Minister with all his faults and weakness with his comment “I cannot sign something that it will be disastrous for the Greeks” in the latest negotiation with the Eurogroup adds a moral value in the human relationships and signals the importance of the innate human moral compass.
I cannot agree more with what Antonio Munoz Molina said “I have spent a great deal of my life being part of minorities. Some of the people I admire the most in the world have had the courage to defend, against wind and tide, minority viewpoints in those frightening times when any disagreement with universal conformity is identified as treason.”
Odeum of Herodes Atticus
Athens is back on stage – in the frontlines of the international newspapers -and I was back to Athens for some days to watch with my own eyes the whole performance . There was a new government and for first time in the Greek history a left party in power! And from that point, Athens’s fascinating story began.
The main characters are real bold and attractive and they are with the side of common people.They are young -Alexis Tsipras, the Prime minister is only 40 years old – handsome and eloquent – the Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, a man with real bravura, speaks eloquently English and Greek and he is expertised in Game Theory of Economics.
Alexis and Yanis went out and about in Europe as formidable actors starting their campaign by telling their story, the Greek story in a different and attractive way – not any more the old humiliated story of the capitalistic Europe about the corrupt little Greek cheaters. They were using heartfelt titles for their movement “government of national rescue” symbols and fashion, no ties, scarfs with a mischievous brand history in order to convey easily their message to everyone in the planet. All the international community of economists, economic analysts, journalist common people, even my uncle Raymond in his isolated farm somewhere in Wales, were fascinated by them and they want to listen and support them.
What they were saying was to remove Greece from “Palliative Care” and stop paying the big fat “doctors” and “Institutions” for this care. Let Greece and Greek people get real medicines and be responsible by themselves for their recovery. Meanwhile, the co-stars came up on the stage and the whole performance became a bit sloppy, not any more storytelling but some murmurs about numbers and graphs…
And as Simon Kuper wrote :
If you want to be heard, you need a story. If you don’t want to be heard, don’t tell a story. Be boring. Banks and Brussels both do that brilliantly. Put out long legal documents about “collateralised debt obligations” and people will switch off. Brussels jargon about “additionality” and “subsidiarity” achieves the same effect. Once nobody is listening, the actors can do what they like.”
Journalists from Netherlands interview Greek people in Monastiraki, Athens
In Greece there is an air of hope and I think at the moment the hope is more than the fear. The new elected government of Alexis Tsipras, leader of the leftist party Syriza which according to my opinion is not so radical as the mass media wants to portray it, has already started to give signs of hope not only to Greeks but to all Europeans who are contemplating about the notion of Democracy in Europe. The French PM Francois Holland made the first step to attract the solidarity of the leaders to support free speech, one of the most important tool of Democracy and Alexis Tsipras has awakened the Europeans about another very important issue of Democracy which was deliberately forgotten.
Alexis’s Tsipras “left” hand, the highly eloquent and more flamboyant personality, the finance minister Yianis Varoufakis made the first step of repatriating Democracy in Europe. He stopped negotiating with Troika – a team of bank administrators of IMF, ECB and EU Commission- and made clear that he was rather seeking direct talks with the individual governments and IMF than negotiating with Troika. This first step of negotiation is the most significant for the European Union as a democratic Institution..
The supervision of the UNELECTED Troika-IMF, ECB and EU Commission- of the Greek government implementations was deeply humiliated not only for Greece but for all the European countries. It destroyed Europe’s integrity and respect for sovereignty much needed in Europe at the moment.
But as Paul Krugman has often pointed out, ‘economics is not a morality play… in which virtue is rewarded and vice punished’. The debt has to be paid and as Thomas Fazi at The Trokia saved banks and creditors-not Greece writes “unfortunately economics is never just about economics: whether we like it or not, morality and culture shapes people’s attitudes to economic issues, and nowhere is this clearer than with the issue of debt (private or public). It would be fair to say that the common man’s prevailing stand on the issue is that debts incurred have to be repaid”.
But at the moment, someone doesn’t need to be leftist or member of Syriza to see that Greece’s debt cannot be fully paid (roughly $270 billions) without driving Greece and its population into extinction.
Therefore European Union has to bring to the surface the forgotten core values of this Union, which except economics , is Democracy, Unity and Solidarity. Tsipras and Varoufakis’ struggle is in progress towards achieving this target..
P.S : After so much humiliation and despair for my country, I really feel proud of its leaders for showing to Europe the right direction without being cheap.
Today’s zeitgeist dictates that everything should be interpreted in economic terms in order to make sense in our times, even the term happiness! Walt Whitman, the American poet, wrote “happiness, not in another place but in this place … not for another hour, but this hour”. This quotation is going hand in hand with the economist Maynard Keynes’s belief that it needs immediate actions whatever concerns the economics:
“In the long run we are all dead”.
This year, except the never-ending economic crisis other awful things happened in Europe and around the world – Ukrainian, Syria… and religious terrorism. But again, we’ve noticed people react and show an unprecedented courage and resilience when there is the right leadership to support them. The obscure and weak French president Hollande had shown amazing leadership skills by inviting all the leaders in Paris to march along with 3.7 millions of people in the name of free speech. The movement of “Je suis Charlie” has more connotations other than in the name of free of speech that had been analysed extensively on the media. In this occasion, I fully agree and support what Woody Allen said :
“Life becomes so painful at times that there’s a need to slip a barrier of comedy between you and it”.
Returning to the issue of economic crisis which has swept away the last trace of happiness from the Greeks and the rest southern Europeans, there is a glimpse of good news. There is a big movement “pro Greece’ in Europe and in the circles of intellectuals and economists who have studied history in depth and they are in position to compare the past with the present. Gillian Tett(Columnist of the year 2014) referred to the conference she had attended last summer, where the economist Benjamin Friedman gave a brief history on debt forgiveness without mentioning at all the word Greece, but obviously all the attendants knew very well what he meant. He said :
“Germany was one of the greatest beneficiaries throughout the last century: on multiple occasions (1924,1929,1932,1953). There is no economic ground for Germany to be the only European country in modern times to be granted official debt relief on a massive scale and certainly no moral ground either. In Europe, the mood is so punitive that is akin to the 19th century retributive philosophy that created debtors prisons. Default is deemed immoral.” (A debt to history? by Gillian Tett, FT weekend magazine 17/1/15)
She added that officials from Europe’s periphery nations were even more indignant.To them, Germany faced a moral duty to help places as Greece, given the aid that it had previously enjoyed as Friedman mentioned above.
Therefore, there is a bit of good news for this year since the crucial election in Greece looms and things and changes can happen.The support exists, what Greece needs is a good leadership to make the most of this support. Francois Hollande showed the way : When there is a good cause everybody follows. The Greeks and the new government after the elections on January 25th, have to show to the world that they can tackle the corruption and the rest will fall into place.
When there is hope there is happiness! Happy New Year to all!