Greek thoughts (09-11-2001)

And now today, after the euphoria of the ’90s has faded and a new modesty sets in among the Europeans, it falls again to Greece to challenge the mandarins of the European Union and to ask what lies ahead for the continent

Democracy’s Cradle, Rocking the World (New York Times)

alfanje:  I think History has very little predictive value but I am curious about your thoughts.

demi: Hola alfanje, I think History provides common (reference) elements and the basis for prediction. Do you mean my thoughts on the present situation?

alfanje:  Hola. I meant your thoughts on the article. I guess you could write a book on the present situation… and I would read that one too!!!

demi: alfanje, I am neither a historical analyst nor an economist. However, I’m a European citizen and mostly a pro-European one. I’ve had lived in several European countries where people really embraced me, plus I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to exercise my rights (and/or obligations) as a European citizen. I believe that the E.U., at this point of history, should evolve into a full fiscal union, with emphasis on the social dimension and the environment. In Greece, for many years now,the political system sucks (products of patronage driven system and corruption). Most politicians lack governing ability and they just push their way through for office (with very few exceptions); moreover, people are fed up with the ineffective economic austerity measures in the name of reducing public debt and deficit. As a result, we’ve lost our dignity worldwide. Cause of hard working Greeks? Where is (sustainable) development ?What about human rights? Where is the face of social Europe? The Greek media only speaks of Germany and its Chancellor-less France-what about the rest of EU&eurozone countries? Are they invisible? What happened to the so-called equality of member states? What is the kind of Europe that we really want?

Let’s assume that the Treaty of Versailles, the post-2nd world war compensations due by Germany etc. have become history, and, as you said,”has very little predictive value”. But, we are supposed to make a step forward (peacefully) in a common effort, under a common roof-to which now we-PIGS-pay our “mortgage”, really expensive, and, yet, no one seems to set aside their own interest. As a pro-European I consider that a real concern. Moreover, Greece is following requirements, and ironically endorses redistributive policies, at the expense of the poorest, to the benefit of the richest. I hope that the case of Greece would function as a kind of awakening for the E.U. of something greater than this, for all E.U.citizens, in order to become competitive facing the rest of emerging market economies. Also, I think that E.U. should focus on its democratic deficit, as well as inform Europeans-in depth- about its scope, and their rights and obligations. What are your thoughts?

alfanje: Thanks demi for all your ideas. I mainly read a lot of stuff criticizing Greece from outside and that’s why I am very interested in your opinion. I am quite pessimistic about the EU and its future, but I think that’s secondary now as there will no be politics about deepening the union for a while, only economics (i.e. survival).

The PIIGS didnt fare well. They were historically poorer, but Poland was even poorer and they kind of managed (maybe the only ones). For sure the people will pay. And sadly it will be the ones at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. I don’t live in Spain so that I don’t have to foot the bill in the form of unemployment.
Yes, there is only Germany and France, and nobody else has a saying in the Eurozone, the rest of the governments don’t have power even at home, not to say outwards. (Papandreu is out today, Berlusconi next week and Zapatero in the end of the month). The good thing for the PIIGS is that Germany is somehow on the same boat so they cannot totally rock it out of greed.

There was never a clear path towards the fiscal union. Some trusted the idea that trade would level the different economies, which hasn’t happened in 20 years. Whenever thresholds were demanded as for the euro some countries tricked the accounts, but the rest were equally guilty as they knew well what was going on.

I live in a tax haven on the edge of the Atlantic with a tradition of lack of European solidarity and I realise how difficult it is to persuade people to perseverate on the goal of a closer union. Now every country has to deal with a lot inside and nobody has time, patience and resources for anybody else. So my impression is that the key for the future PIIGS is more in the reforms (not only economic) they internally can agree on than in any money Ms Merkel can lend.

——-

Then we watched this sad TV report about the current situation in Greece (RTVE, in Spanish)

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