Mia Theodorou writes from Athens: The Greek capital is ablaze and it’s got nothing to do with partying. It’s all starting to look a bit like civil war, to be honest. On the one side, there are politicians and bankers and speculators, working closely with the European Union, and on the other side are the people, who, as we are told, are to blame for creating the current mess in the first place and should therefore pay the price for it. (If you think about it, what could be a better advert for ending Greece’s membership of the EU?)
Last Saturday the Greek parliament – surprise, surprise – approved the €130 billion EU and IMF bailout package that is supposedly intended to save Greece from financial meltdown. In fact, it would either bankrupt the country or force it to leave the euro.
The Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos has called on the people to accept the EU/IMF package rather than face the worst case scenario. Lucas Papademos, the unelected Prime Minister, has condemned the rioting and mayhem. ‘Vandalism, violence and destruction have no place in a democratic country and will not be tolerated,’ the unelected EU stooge said.
But who is to ensure that they won’t not be tolerated? Not the police. Their union has just published a statement calling for the arrest of all the members of the so-called ‘troika’ who have inflicted such pain on Greece. In other words, officials from the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund are no longer welcome in Athens. Perhaps it would be wiser for them to negotiate with the Greek government in Brussels or Washington.
What does all the above mean? It means that the chances of the austerity package being implemented are zero. Why? Just look at what is being demanded. The health sector is to be cut (make sure when you visit Greece not to fall ill), just like welfare and pensions. The minimum wage is being reduced by a quarter and those under 25 years will find their pay packet a third lighter. Would this make Greek goods more capable of competing with imported Chinese ones? Of course not.
The new bail-out package will push Greece further down the ladder and widen the gulf between the rich and the poor. At present only about 40 per cent of Greeks are in employment. Not surprisingly tax receipts are down and falling further.
The crisis has one conciliation: farmers have been giving away tonnes of free vegetables to the needy. There’s a new sense of community. For those without money, there are opportunities to pay in hours of labour. Those who have are beginning to share with those who are less fortunate.
However, there is an uglier side to the mayhem. Anti-German sentiment is on the rise. ‘We are under Berlin‘s heel’, is one comment. ‘F**k the Germans’, is more demotic. There are calls to boycott all German goods. If Chancellor Angela Merkel attempts to visit Athens she would not even manage to get out of her plane.
The parliamentary vote was forced through by warning members of the two remaining government parties that those who voted against faced expulsion. Over 40 MPs had the whip removed. This means that Pasok, the socialist party, has lost its parliamentary majority. Elections are looming. The parties which are ahead in the polls are the communists, Trotskyites and the far right. They all state that they will reject the ‘troika’ diktat.
And one more thing is expected as a result of the current mayhem in Greece: the growth of the black market that is already flourishing in the current mayhem. Every time a severe economic crisis hits a nation, any nation, illegal traders and dealers spring out of everywhere. So you may say the future of Greece looks black. Black market that is.