The Wilberforce Society | An Insider on the Latest from Greece
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An Insider on the Latest from Greece

An Insider on the Latest from Greece

MYRTO VLAZAKI: AN INSIDER PERSPECTIVE ON THE LATEST FROM GREECE – July 14th, 2015

As a result of the January 2015 elections, a coalition government was formed by the left-wing SY.RIZ.A. and the right-wing AN.EL., the agendas of which converged on the systematic negotiation of the lending conditions with Greece’s creditors. Contrary to what appeared to be the policy of most elected parties since 2009, both SY.RIZ.A. and AN.EL. extended their popularity by being adamant in that they would strike the best deal possible instead of accepting the creditors’ proposals outright. It can be undoubtedly said that after 5 years of deep recession, increasing unemployment, reduction of spending power and psychological erosion, the hurt national pride and the desperate search for hope and social justice were amongst the main determinants of SY.RIZ.A. and AN.EL. popularity.

 

A REFERENDUM WITH CLOSED BANKS…

To the average person that struggles to abstain from fanaticism it remains unclear whether this government was greeted with suspicion by its European partners and whether it managed to fulfill its mandate or not. The fact remains that the negotiations with Greece’s creditors yielded no result for more than 5 months although there was a number of times that the two sides were allegedly close to a deal. By the end of June and while it appeared that all parties involved were irritated and exhausted by the nature and repetitions of the negotiations, the Greek government decided to call for a referendum asking its people whether to accept or reject what was advertised as the creditors’ “final” proposal. Meanwhile, as a result of massive withdrawals of cash and the decision of the European Central Bank to not inject more money into the Greek banking system, the government decided to impose capital controls with an upper limit of 60 euros/day/account and close the banks.

 

THE “PARADOX” OF CLOSED BANKS IN A EUROZONE COUNTRY…

The imposition of capital controls and the closure of banks are both unambiguous and strong indicators that the Greek identity is changing. Before the implementation of these desperate measures and despite the high unemployment and media sensationalism, the youth were still convinced that Greece is a developed country at the heart of a European family with whom they share more than just common continental territory. The youth would occasionally complain about their “inability to find a job” and the “need to migrate abroad” but, broadly speaking, they would be optimistic in that this “hard decade” will soon be replaced by the “normal years” they had spent their childhood in. Nobody had ever informed us that our childhood years were the exception and not the rule in the economic history of Greece; nobody had ever warned us that the living standards we had become accustomed to were the result of monetary and fiscal policies that would perhaps be out-of-the-table in the years to come. But, on top of this, nobody had ever presented the European Union and the Eurozone as political, commercial and monetary unions of countries with well-defined, heterogeneous and inflexible policies and interests. On the contrary and rather ironically, half of the course on political science in the Greek educational system is dedicated to the idealized description of the founding principles of the United Europe.

 

FEELING BETRAYED…

The majority of the Greek people were raised and educated to be pro-Europeans. They believed that the reason for borrowing money from the European institutions and not from the free market far superseded the “lower interest rates”. They believed that Europe cared first and foremost about the developmental horizon of a country’s economy and the viability of its debt and, furthermore, they believed that Europe would prioritise decency over market rules. These were the reasons why many of the approximately 62% of the Greeks voted against the creditors’ suggestion in the referendum held last week. The voted “no” despite the clear warnings that such a result may endanger Greece’s position in the EU and the Eurozone and they did so despite the very rational fear of hyper-inflation and credit isolation in the case of a Grexit. They did so because they felt betrayed by this Europe they were raised to so much love.

 

WHAT IS NEXT…

Over the next few days, the government continued negotiating with Greece’s creditors in the aim of forging a new deal. The “no” vote was safely interpreted to be a “no” to that particular suggestion and not a “no” to Europe. Although many analysts wondered why this was the case, having been through the Greek educational system I can say with certainty that most Greeks take pride in the contribution of their very distant territorial ancestors to the founding principles of Europe: solidarity, democracy, dialogue, peace. And they would never abandon a Europe following these principles. The news of a deal arrived today, followed by the twitter hashtag “#this is a coup” and the average Greek person just realized that the suggestion he voted “no” to can become truly worse by a Europe that is clearly different from his textbook knowledge. The problem is that while it remains open to debate whether Europe is indeed the Europe presented in Greek textbooks, the Greek youth is dividing between those who say “no” to Europe and those who say “no” to THIS Europe.

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