“A year and a half ago we were going through a catastrophe: the envisaged scenario was Greece’s bankruptcy and the implosion of the eurozone. It didn’t happen, thanks to dire sacrifices endured by the Greek population “, said Greek premier Antonis Samaras, leader of Nea Dimokratia (ND, centre-right, in the government coalition with Socialist party Pasok), past January 15, at the European Parliament, after having assumed the six-month presidency of the EU. Samaras spoke of the last difficult years in the history of his Country, marked by “weaknesses, shortcomings and mistakes in the adoption of the euro currency” and notably, by the “misdeeds of the Greeks, caused by decade-long governments” that failed to take into due account the need for economically sound national budgets. The failure began with the 2004 Olympic games. While the 2004 Olympics were a feast for sports, the same cannot be said for the Country as a whole. Expenses amounted to 8.9 billion euro, 1.7 in the private sector. Broadcasting rights profits (1.2 billion) were not enough. The Greek economy registered a 0.3% GDP increase, along with high tourist rates, but the long wave of that mad spending is dragging on still today. It is the case of corruption, scandals, and bribing, which has involved, and continues to involve, politicians and government officers. The scourge was firmly denounced also by the local Catholic Church. Contemporary Greece is overwhelmed by government cuts, and as Samaras said, “by unimaginable sacrifice”. “GDP plummeted. With the crisis, Greek citizens lost an average of 38% of their purchasing power. Unemployment rates surged, from 7 to 27% in six years, involving almost 60% of all youths”. The government cuts, along with the protection plans imposed by Berlin, or more specifically, by the Troika (EU, IMF and ECB) left the Country in a state of tragedy, forcing large population brackets to feed on expired foodstuffs, to rummage in garbage cans, give up healthcare, and stop using cars – 100 000 license plates were handed back to the DVLA between the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 – and stop using services such as electricity and gas heating in order not pay their bills. In this atmosphere of crisis a real and true silent divorce took place, separating Greek politics from power, which called into question also the concept of national sovereignty. Golden Dawn. Pushed at the end of its tether by a yet unidentifiable enemy (EU, Troika, Merkel, banks, corruption…), unable to react, Greece sought for a scapegoat. In fact, populist right-wing – Golden Dawn – and left-wing – “Syriza” – political parties identify various culprits as responsible for the crisis outbreak. Strengthened by the decline of moderate parties (New Democracy and PASOK), the two above-mentioned movements recorded a strong electoral increase. Golden Dawn rose from 0.3% in 2009 to 6.9% in June 2012. Even more surprising is the success of Syriza, which in the same elections gained 26.9% of all votes, a leap from 4.6% in 2009. Golden Dawn, a far right party established in 1993, is expected to attract almost 15% of votes in the upcoming European elections, even despite its leaders were recently arrested on criminal charges. It’s a clear sign that its positions, especially those against the Troika and illegal immigration – accused of stripping jobs and resources to “true” Greeks – are upheld by a large part of the Greek population. Even fierce oppositions to austerity policies enacted by the Greek government of Papandreou (until November 2011), Papademos (until May 2012) and Samaras (June 2012), in accordance with the demands put forward by Brussels, appear to enjoy popular support. Contrary to what one might expect, in the rhetoric of the Golden Dawn Europe and the euro crisis play a minor role. Statements such as “we will stay in the Euro zone for as much as we need to, and then we will recover our monetary sovereignty”, testify to the anti-European stands that the Golden Dawn party carefully avoids making manifest out of opportunism. Indeed, the movement is well aware of its incompatibility with Europe, but it equally knows that if its anti-Europeanism were overtly conveyed, it would lose a large portion of national consensus. “Syriza”. “Syriza”, founded in 2004 as a coalition of Greek post-communist political parties, and now led by Alexis Tsipras, the new man of the European Left (Gue) that nominated him candidate for the presidency of the Commission in the forthcoming European elections, is characterised by opposition to the Europe of markets and neoliberal policies. For Tsipras “Merkel will only bring poverty”, thus his proposal consists in “a European conference on indebtedness on the wake of the conference held in 1953, which cancelled most of the debts of post-war Germany, thereby prompting its recovery”. Tspiras claims that the “ECB must act as a true central bank, comparable to that in the U.S., with loans to the States, and not only to the banks”. Favourable to the permanence of Greece in the euro area, Syriza included cuts in military spending, the adoption of taxations on financial transactions, the legalization of same-sex marriage and the decriminalization of drug use in its electoral programme. “Golden Dawn?” “It’s the political product of liberalism, grown thanks to the crisis – said Tsipras – fomenting anger and despair, blaming the weaker and not the stronger”. The debate to determine the new direction to be given to Greece and Europe is in progress. And change won’t be brought about by slogans.
A Country in dire straits, striving to recover. Europe seems far away