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Posts Tagged ‘Greece’

ERT: Appeal to foreign media and journalists

In News on June 12, 2013 at 10:27 am
pic by @polyfimos

pic by @polyfimos

Yesterday the Greek government (primarily New Democracy party, without the support of coalition partners PASOK and DIMAR) announced they would shut down ERT, Greece’s national broadcaster. The argument was that ERT is marred with corruption and that it operates at a cost to the public sector. First, ERT is profitable, as its employees testify. Second, the New Democracy spokesman Kedikoglou who announced the decision and raged about “corruption” was the same politician that has requested the hiring of 23 of “his” people in ERT!

More importantly, the decision was not approved by the parliament but was implemented through a ministerial decree (which is a violation of the Constitution and Greek legislative procedure). The decree is now at the office the President of the Hellenic Republic and parties opposing it have contacted him NOT to sign it. Neo-nazi Golden Dawn and New Democracy are the only 2 parties that have openly supported the decision (although it seems coalition partners were aware of it).

The decision was announced during the day and at 11pm riot police went to Mount Ymittos and turned off the digital and analogue signals. ERT was still broadcasting and used TVE (Spanish), and 902 channels (owned by the Communist Party), among others. A couple of hours later DIGEA (private operator of the digital signal in Greece) turned off the 902 channel, claiming it should not broadcast ERT!

ERT employs more than 2500 people and operates channels across Greece, in remote areas where other broadcasters have no signal. It also broadcasts across the world, informing Greeks living abroad and providing a live link to them with Greek culture and “home”. Protesters gathered outside the ERT building until 3 am in the morning and they are gathering again today.

ERT is the only broadcaster that actually operates legally in Greece, with all other TV channels lacking an official permit from the state.

Here in London, a demonstration has been organised to support ERT employees, at 5pm London time at the Greek Embassy  W11 3TP.

This is the facebook link http://www.facebook.com/events/551233141581740/551427951562259/?notif_t=plan_mall_activity

This is the announcement by the European Federation of Journalists.

http://europe.ifj.org/en/articles/closure-of-public-broadcaster-in-greece

This is the announcement by the European Broadcasting Union.

http://www3.ebu.ch/cms/en/sites/ebu/contents/news/2013/06/ebu-urges-greek-government-to-re.html

This is the announcement of the National Union of Journalists in London.

http://www.nuj.org.uk/innerPagenuj.html?docid=2950

This is a petition to stop the shutdown of Public Television in Greece.

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_the_shutdown_of_Public_Television_in_Greece/?awfVmdb

Please follow #ERT on twitter to find out more.

Please write about this and support us, we have no other outlet except internet and foreign broadcasters.

This is about freedom of speech, the right to independent information and democracy itself.

Thank you in advance for your support.

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Catastroika made in Greece

In News on July 8, 2012 at 1:47 pm

According to Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, the Greek government will pursue an aggressive plan of privatisation, in an effort to satisfy international lenders, the European Commission- ECB – IMF troika. Privatisations have always been part of any IMF lending agreement in the world, as have trade liberalisation, reducing the budget deficit and the public sector and generally following a neo-liberal economic agenda (see here).

The rationale behind the IMF’s SAP (Structural Adjustment Programs) have been toe reduce the state in order to “unleash” the private sector to create growth, but in reality to allow – primarily the US and Western – multinationals to enter the developing countries’ markets on a privileged basis.

For Greece, Stournaras’ list of companies to be privatised the former Airport at Hellenikon, the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA), the National Gas Transmission System, the Greek Petroleum (ELPA), the General Mining & Metallurgical Company (LARKO), the Greek Organization of Football Prognostics (OPAP), airports, ports, marines and the Greek National Railway (OSE) and many other assets.

It is a no-brainer that since Greece is essentially a bankrupt country in all but paper, the Greek assets will be sold at bargain prices. But even so, for anyone who still doubts how privatisation harms citizens, both as consumers and as taxpayers, there is the Catastroika documentary to watch.

http://www.catastroika.com/indexen.php

Immigrant stabbed in Athens

In News on June 20, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Dear non-Greek friends, this is a video where you can see (or rather hear, unfortunately in Greek) members of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn attacking an immigrant with a knife in Athens metro. The view that they belong to the Golden Dawn comes from their clothes and the mob-style of their attack.

The person whose voice you can hear is pretending to be on the phone to film the incident. This happened on 17 June 2012, one day after the Greek elections.

No Greek tv channel showed this, no politicians mentioned it (they were busy trying to form a coalition government and secure their position in power), no DA started an investigation. This is the state of the Greek democracy today, where human life costs less that repaying a debt created by corrupt politicians.

Who knows, maybe if you share, some foreign journalist may pick it up among everything else and something will change.

Memorandum of Understanding

In News on June 7, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Below is a link with the Memorandum of Understanding between Greece and the IMF. It should be noted that the Greek parliament voted on the draft. The final contract has never reached the Greek parliament.

Here it is in English and in Greek.

Point of no return

In News on May 14, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Last week, the Greek elections were at the centre of international attention. The first reason was that the election results saw a neo-nazi (yes, not far-right, neo-nazi) party, Golden Dawn, entering the parliament. The second reason was the rise of SYRIZA or the Coalition of the Radical Left. SYRIZA, which traditionally received 3-4% of the vote, reached 17% and became the second party, following New Democracy with 19% (full elections results here).

For those who are not familiar with the Greek political system, here is some background information: The country has been ruled by centre-left PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Party) and centre-right New Democracy parties alternating in power since 1974 – the year when democracy was established in Greece, after the end of the dictatorship 1967-1974.

New Democarcy 1974 1977
New Democarcy 1977 1981
PASOK 1981 1985
PASOK 1985 1989
New Democracy-KKE coalition 1989 1990
New Democracy 1990 1993
PASOK 1993 1996
PASOK 1996 2000
PASOK 2000 2004
New Democracy 2004 2007
New Democracy 2007 2009
PASOK 2009 2012

The two mainstream parties have set the internal agenda for almost 40 years. They are the ones responsible for hiring public servants based on party politics, of not using EU funds efficiently and feeding them to their voters, of excessive borrowing in the decade which followed the introduction of the euro. The two large parties are the ones that have left their stamp on Greece’s political scene.

The latest elections were viewed by many spectators in Greece and abroad as surprising and many tried to understand the”angry” vote or the way voters shifted across the political spectrum. (here is a good analysis by BBC’s Paul Mason)

While the international media are trying to make sense of Greek politics and Greek politicians are trying to shuffle a new government of “personalities” which will lead the country out of the state of ungovernability (and chaos) (e.g. see here), the anger of Greeks is rising. This anger is reflected in the rise of SYRIZA. And this anger consists of three elements:

1. anger and despair by the economic reality that has hit most Greeks, which includes income reduction by 40%, abolishing labour laws, reducing pensions, unemployment at 21%.

2. cumulative anger at the bashing Greeks have received by foreign and domestic commentators over the past two years about the Greek statistics, working hours, laziness, spending more than producing etc.

3. a cumulative anger at the political system and the mainstream parties‘ politicians who have been repeatedly lied to citizens and have brought the country where it is today. All politicians lie and Greeks like their tales. But in the past two years the hypocrisy of the Greek mainstream parties has reached new levels, as PASOK has basically become a right-wing party and New Democracy is tiptoeing around it awkwardly (e.g. New Democracy voted in favour of the 1st Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and opposed the 2nd).

With every political tactic followed by the mainstream political parties, with every article published by the Spiegel, with every comment expressed as a threat by Angela Merkel, these feelings of anger and despair are increasing.

Many Greeks no longer care for the country’s stability, Greece’s image abroad, the critique by international media and Europe’s politicians but instead want their lost dignity. SYRIZA seems to have realized this and expresses a new narrative and hope.

Increasingly, Greeks are reaching a point of no return.The sooner Europe’s political elites (and Greece’s pro-austerity political elites) realize this, the better for everyone.

Eurospeak – when words are abused and meanings are distorted

In News on March 8, 2012 at 5:52 pm

For the past two years, the overwhelming majority of the Greek politicians have been using a list of expressions to describe the Greek debt crisis and to support their proposed solutions, i.e. austerity measures and neoliberal policies in exchange for European bail-outs. The new language “Eurospeak” has been promoted by the Greek media and enjoys the support of European institutions and politicians.

This is a dictionary to help us understand the new language:

Euro

Former meaning: a common currency adopted by European countries first as an accounting currency in 1999, then in physical form in 2002. Its inception can be traced back to other forms of currency cooperation in the 1970s between members of the then European Community. Its rebirth in the beginning of the 1990s was partly triggered by a fear of a strong Germany, which was unified in 1990. The euro was a political project, dressed in economic terms and many economists at the time argued that it may not be a good idea for two reasons: First, because the European economies were too divergent and in different phases in the economic cycle to be synchronized (with the euro, a common monetary policy is to be followed for all countries). Second, because a common European currency cannot be sustained for long if there is not a common fiscal policy to complement the common monetary policy.

New meaning: Financial stability and social justice

(Remaining in the) Eurozone

Old meaning: DATA NOT FOUND

The issue was never examined. When placed on the agenda, it is recommended that a sober discussion take place on the advantages and disadvantages for a country with an unsustainable debt to remain in a currency union. Proposed outline: costs and benefits of devaluation versus remaining in the currency union, including growth path, social and economic benefits, and timeline, terms of bail-out agreements etc.

New meaning: the only option available

Monetary stability

Former meaning: One of the macroeconomic goals for sound economic government in a country/ region. Also known as low inflation, typically between 0-2% and sometimes meaning currency stability as well. Other macroeconomic goals include economic growth (% increase of GDP year after year), employment levels, balance of payments (balancing exports and imports)

New meaning: Full employment

Stability in the banking sector

Former meaning: Banking sector is an industry which among other things mediates for lending and borrowing in the economy, following interest rate setting by a central bank. It is considered to have a pivotal role in an economy as a market for credit, which potentially could drive growth (when economic outlook is positive, banks tend to lend) and as a place for people’s saving. Hence, government provided financial support to banks following the 2008 global financial crisis to have stability in the banking sector. Critics say that the banking sector should be allowed to fail (i.e. go bankrupt) just like companies in other sectors of the economy. More so, since it appears many banks were engaging in “gambling” investments, following a wave of bank deregulation in the early 1990s in the US and Europe.

New meaning: Growth

Austerity measures

Old meaning: Measures usually promoted by the IMF as part of its lending agreement with emphasis on trade liberalization, reducing government budget deficits, reducing wages, keeping inflation low, abolishing minimal wages, privatization, exchange rate fluctuation. Imposed as conditions of the IMF lending agreements to developing countries in the 1970s and 1980s.

New meaning: support and solidarity from European partners to Greece

Economic Crisis

Old meaning: High unemployment, slow economic growth or negative economic growth, lowering standards of living, uncertainty in economic expectations.

New meaning: Opportunity

Decreasing wages

Old meaning: Decreasing wages. At an individual level, it is usually followed with falling disposable income and deterioration in the standard of living. At an aggregate level, it is followed by lower consumer demand in the economy, which leads to lower economic growth or even recession.

New meaning: Flexibility in the labour market

Reducing the national minimum wage

Old meaning: Reducing the national minimum wage which ensures a level of income for the least qualified workers. At an individual level, it is usually followed with falling disposable income and deterioration in the standard of living. As an economic measure, it has the effect of “pulling” wages downwards, thus reducing wages. Then follows lower consumer demand in the economy, which leads to lower economic growth or even recession

New meaning: Flexibility in the labour market

Abolishing collective labour law

Old meaning: Collective labour law – Tripartite relationship between employer, employee and trade union. Among other things, it allowed trade unions to negotiate on behalf of workers for better working conditions, fewer working hours, better wages, increasing their collective bargaining power. It is considered more beneficial to employees as they don’t have to negotiate individual contracts for work. Abolishing collective labour legislation means employers have more bargaining power in imposing their own terms, including unjustified firing.

New meaning: Flexibility in the labour market

 

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?… Has it ever occurred to your, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?…The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now.Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” – Syme

George Orwell, 1984, chapter 5

Europe’s elites and their democracy

In News on March 1, 2012 at 6:19 pm

The European Union (EU) was never famous for its democratic credentials. Discussion about the EU’s “democratic deficit” began in the 1970s two decades after the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was established in 1951 and later expanded to the European Economic Community (EEC, 1957).

The argument in favour of more democracy at European level was that as (Western – we are still in Cold War, remember?) European elites were engaging in economic cooperation, the executive branch i.e. the governments were gradually being empowered at the expense of the legislative branch i.e. the parliaments. As Ministers and Prime ministers were meeting in Brussels to agree on reducing cross-border barriers, liberalizing trade and setting a common external tariff, parliaments back home were only asked to ratify the international agreement, post-negotiation.

Following calls in favour of more democracy and accountability at European level, it was decided that European Parliament (EP) members would be finally directly elected by European citizens. The first EP elections took place in 1979, almost three decades after European integration (i.e. this process of European economic cooperation) had begun. The small print was that the EP’s role was consultative.

Over the years, the EP’s powers grew, just like the EEC transformed itself to a European Union with increasing powers not just in trade and agriculture, but also in economic and social policies, capital movements, justice affairs and immigration policy, education and consumer rights to mention a few. The gap between Europe’s elites and peoples widened with every treaty.

The Treaty of Maastricht was voted down by the Danish in 1992, the Treaty of Nice was rejected by the Irish in 2001, the European Constitutional Treaty was rejected by the French and the Dutch in 2005 and the Treaty of Lisbon was voted down by the Irish in 2008. Each and every time the reading of the negative results was the same: citizens were poorly informed and the “against the treaty” campaign was better organized. Each and every time the response was the same: conduct the referendum again (so that voters get it right).

In this light, it should come as no surprise that over the past few months a number of European officials and politicians have stated their preferences on the timing of the Greek elections. What shouldn’t they? European elites never thought much of their citizens and Europe has a tradition of placing markets above people.

For more on how democracy is currently re-invented in Greece, click here.

Greece and the Shock Doctrine

In News on February 15, 2012 at 11:54 pm

In the weekend leading to Sunday 12 February 2012, Greek politicians were debating the necessity of the latest austerity package. The austerity plan was to be approved, as a condition for Greece to receive a second-bailout package by the IMF-EU of €130 billion and to a debt restructuring. The majority of the Greek people are against further austerity measures, which come on top of previous tax increases and public spending cuts. The government knows this and is defying the will of the people.

According the Greek government, represented by appointed and unelected Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and its ministers:

  •  The dilemma facing Greece is “austerity package” versus “leaving the eurozone” – no middle ground exists
  • “Leaving the Eurozone” would entail social and economic disaster, which would see Greece’s standard of living reduced to that of thirty, forty, fifty years (number vary, depending on the emotional state of minister/speaker)
  • As a result, the austerity measures are the “only alternative” to a catastrophic default (more about this here) and should be approved, as it is the only way for the country’s growth and prosperity.

The facts:

  • The bailout package is a loan  and most of its funds will be used to pay previous loans.
  • In line with the neo-liberal agenda of the previous memorandum, the austerity plan foresees: reductions by 22% of the national minimum wage to €600 per month (before social security payments); Employees made easier to be fired (these two measures are known in neo-liberal-speak “reform of the labour market”; Reduction in the supplementary pensions; Reduction in public health expenditure
  • Greece is now in the 5th year of recession, starting in 2008. Its unemployment levels have reached 21%, with youth unemployment at 48%.

During the ten-hour debate in parliament, there was a large demonstration in Athens and other cities of Greece. In Athens, the riot police kept trying to push protestors outside Syntagma Square (where the Greek Parliament stands) and was throwing tear-gas, unprovoked, to  peaceful demonstrators. At some point, riots erupted which ended up in looting and fires across Athens during the night.

In the early hours of Monday 13 February 2012, the Greek parliament approved the austerity plan, with 199 out of 283 votes.

The mainstream media in Greece focused on the destructions that followed the demonstration; the violence; the fire in a historic theatre “Attikon” in Athens; the fact that the Greek government needs to implement harsher measures to gain its lenders’ credibility; the reactions of European officials to the result of the vote.

Not a word was said in the Greek mainstream media about the size of the demonstration, not a word about the fact that demonstrators were shouting “We are not leaving” amidst clouds of tear gas. Not one commentator questioned the legitimacy of the government or even bothered to wonder aloud whether this demonstration was any different from previous ones.

Over the past two years, the Greek people are being bombarded by mainstream media with falsified information that Greece is on the “brink of disaster”, scare-mongering speeches by their politicians about the future of the country, insulting comments from foreign commentators and politicians about Greeks and their “overspending”. Over the past two years, the Greek parliament passes law after law, entailing cuts, tax increases, and anti-social measures at great speed, before it has any time to recover.

Sunday’s events were no exception to this pattern. Is there anyone who still thinks Greece is not under the Shock Doctrine?

Europe’s fiscal compact: A political economic perspective

In News on December 16, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Over the past, there has been a proliferation of analyses, reports, commentaries on the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis, its causes, the economic and political situations in Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, on the handling by European leaders, on the structural and other issues of the European Monetary Union (EMU).

Some commentators focus on Greece and its high sovereign debt levels. Some, usually at the more sophisticated end of the spectrum, provide an analytical approach to identify the causes of the Greek debt: 1. the low interest rates available to the Greek government, as a result of EMU, which led to an increase in government borrowing 2. the increase in Greek imports (from Germany and the European north) which led to a current account deficit, translated into debt accumulation and, of course, 3. corruption. Others analysts of course, at the less sophisticated end of the spectrum, indulge in the bashing of the “profligate” Greeks, who did not respect the Maastricht rules, “spend more than their means allow them” (colloquialism for borrowing), work 5 hours a week and have taken the term “tax evasion” to a whole different level. Of course, the Maastricht rules were first broken by none other than France and Germany back in 2005 and the shift towards spending-by-borrowing (rather than by reducing your savings) is a universal one, but these are different issues.

Other analysts look at the Eurozone as a whole and point to its well-known deficiencies and often startle at its problems: For example, that the Eurozone has a currency but not a government (really? Wasn’t this in the Maastricht Treaty of 1992?), or that the European Central Bank (ECB) only focuses on low inflation rather than high employment and growth (again, really? Wasn’t the ECB modelled after Deutchebank, inheriting its anti-inflationary obsession?) Others stress the centrifugal powers within Europe, which will lead to the break-up of the Eurozone, as Brussels interferes more and more in nation-states’ politics,economics and societies. Although an increasing transfer of powers from the national to the European level is taking place with questionable methods (see rule by bankers in Italy and Greece), the break-up of the Eurozone seems to echo less the reality and more Conservative British wishful thinking.

What is often downplayed, is a more political reading of the Eurozone debt crisis. The Eurozone debt crisis debate has been framed in terms of “more or less growth”, or “Europe versus national economies”. However, the developments in the Eurozone over the past two years are more political than ever.So, let’s clarify a few things:

First, to go back a year, the Greek austerity measures, all-too-easily accepted by the Greek political elite, are well-known for their neoliberal character among development economists. Similar IMF-backed Structural Adjustment Policies, as the ones being implemented in Greece at the moment, have taken place in developing countries since the 1980s and failed to create growth and employment. It should not come as a surprise to the Greek media and political elite that increasing taxes and reducing deficits threw the Greek economy into depression, more so as the Greek government could not devaluate its currency.  This is another well-known fact among economists, and even the World Bank allowed for more social spending in the programmes it proposed to developing after the end of the 1990s.

Second, economic growth can be stimulated in a variety of ways. One of those is to reduce deficits and debt, reduce the role of the state, privatize, open the economy to trade and foreign direct investment, and facilitate the private sector domestically. Another way to stimulate growth is by increasing investment made by the public sector. In theory, were the IMF a different institution, it could very well bail-out Greece not on the condition that the role of the state in the economy is reduced through tax increases and public spending reduction, but provided the government invested in the economy, and, for example rebuilt its industrial base.

Third, fiscal stability is a fine and noble goal. The whole idea is that a government’s revenues must more or less match its expenses, because if it borrows excessively, it mortgages the country’s future, as these debts have to be repaid. However, among other things, one of the reasons why a government may borrow in the first place is to stimulate the economy by public spending in the case of a recession. Put differently, the government could (and should) borrow to implement an expansionary policy when the private sector is not confident enough to invest, as is the case presently in Europe and the US.

It is in this light that last week’s “fiscal compact” should be read. The rule (government deficits not to exceed 3%) exists since the Treaty of Maastricht (1992). However, the idea back then was all about making European economies converge ahead of the adoption of the common currency. This time, the rule will be stricter and harder and presumably incorporated in constitutions or legal texts of similar legal force. While this will essentially render counter-cyclical economic policy at the national level illegal, the European Union has yet to provide an equivalent mechanism at the European level. The Brits may have stayed out of  Europe’s deal to protect the interests of their City, but in effect they retained the one of the most powerful government policy tools.

There are many who like to present austerity and fiscal stability as simple economic rules, in the far-far-away land of technocratic, depoliticized issues. This is not about economics. This is about good, old traditional left-right politics. And up to now, the Right is winning.

Europe’s democracy

In News on November 14, 2011 at 10:42 pm

European integration has always been an elite affair. From the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1951, which established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) to the negotiation of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, the governments of the European Union member states have been clear in their message: European integration is a process to be nourished and protected by national governments and not to be endangered by grass-root politics and citizens’ unpredictable voting in referendums.

As European integration was primarily controlled by member states’ governments, their role has been empowered. Over the past thirty years, the ministers’ council meetings multiplied, the Heads of State gathered more often than not, in scheduled (four times a year) and extraordinary meetings (see recent Eurozone meetings) and effectively, national parliaments were gradually by-sided. At the same time, as interdependence between countries increases in a globalized world, European cooperation is strengthened and nowadays, more often than not, the important decisions are taken at European level rather than the national level, despite what the British political class and media insist on telling the Brits.

These developments combined have ultimately led to a situation whereby governments are empowered vis-à-vis national parliamentary procedures, and ultimately vis-à-vis their voters.[1] This means that the extent to which  European voters’ policy preferences (or part of them) reaches the final policy outcomes at European level effectively lies first, in the ability of the citizens to transmit their interests to governments and second, in the ability of the governments to negotiate these effectively in Europe. However, what happens if a government decides to U-turn on the political platform it was elected on, does not heed public opinion at home, and has a weak negotiating position among its European counterparts? Well, in a nutshell this country’s voters are in a gutter.

This is no other than the case of Greece at the moment. The current Socialist government (PASOK) came to power on an anti-corruption and economic reform platform, claiming that it would fight tax evasion and thus regain lost government revenues to implement reforms in the economy. It would promote transparency and public deliberation. Two years later, the government’s policies are so right-wing, that even the centre-right opposition party is reluctant to support them: under the EU-IMF bail-out package auspices, PASOK has implemented harsh austerity measures, has not fought tax evasion and has thrown the economy into a -5% recession. The debt is higher than it used to be in October 2009 when PASOK came to power, while the country’s target year for reaching a debt of 120% of GDP is 2020. It should be noted that the target is close to the original debt levels in October 2009, which was 128%.

In addition, over the past two years, the government gradually lost all of its negotiating cards (e.g. instead of threatening it would leave the euro two years ago, if no assistance was provided by Brussels, it is now being threatened by the EU that Greece will be thrown out of the eurozone), it missed the opportunity to be viewed as a reliable partner by its European counterparts (many measures of the first bail-out package have not yet been implemented) and in the end lost all of its credibility in Brussels. What is worse, at the moment, the Prime Minister is negotiating a “national unity” government, demanded by the EU to ensure that the second bail-out package (which includes a 50% haircut of the Greek debt) will be approved by Greece’s politicians.

The Greek people have been demonstrating since June (see Athens’ Indignant) and the polls show that the majority of Greeks are against a second bail-out, which in effect will plunge the country into a deeper recession with an uncertain end date. Unemployment is currently 15%, reaching 20% in the 18-30 age group, and as rich Greeks buy houses in London, the country’s youth migrates to greener pastures abroad.

Politics is a game and all parties involved realize this to a certain degree. All political parties tend to exaggerate their platforms prior to elections to some extent and often promise more than they deliver; all politicians change their positions following the elections, even if it is simply because of changes around them; Just like politicians change their policies after being elected, so will citizens bash them for doing so, even if they realize that a government cannot lower taxes and increase welfare benefits and improve the economy, all at the same.

However, what happens when a government departs so greatly from its original pre-election positions that legitimacy issues are raised? In any other part of the world, the answer would be, elections. However, what happens when this country is part of a European monetary system, like the Eurozone, that in effect blackmails the current government to a “government of national unity”, in return for a second bail-out, in an unprecedented breach of national sovereignty? And what happens when in addition, this second bail-out will force a whole nation to implement harsh measures imposed by elites, to remedy a grave economic situation that was created by the national elites’ decisions over the past thirty years? What are the options of such a people in this kind of Europe?

The European project was about peace and prosperity. In a divided Europe, it was about the freedom of the West, juxtaposed against the oppression of the East. In the post-communist Europe, and as East European countries joined the club, it became about political and economic freedom, about free-market economies and liberal democracies. When did democracy stop being part of the equation?

 


[1] This power shift from parliaments to governments in the national level would have been tolerable, were it matched by a respective power shift from governments to the European Parliament (EP) at the European level. However, despite MEPs’ laborious efforts, the EP remains often by-passed (see recent Eurozone deliberations), while citizens view European Parliaments as secondary.