Greece is facing one of the worst financial crises the EU has faced since the end of the Cold War. GREXIT, the return to the drachma and a significant bailout are just around the corner, and Greek citizens are facing one of their worst fears since 2010: the fear of exiting the Eurozone and the creditors to leave the country without cash flows within the following week, raising the capital flows form the Hellenic Banking System. It is indicative to mention that only the previous Thursday, more than €1bil cash were either transmitted to external banks, or received by public, within a panic’ environment, so as to ensure having a Euro cash flow in case of a bailout. The SYRIZA/ANEL government pushes negotiations to their limits believing that the possible outcome of a GREXIT will affect not only the domestic economy, but also the European economies, and it tries to make the European leaders move towards a more social policy for Greece, to make significant changes on the austerity measures, to avoid the cuts on pensions and public sector payments and – in any way – to try to keep Greece in the Eurozone.
The problem with this approach is that Alexis Tsipras and his coalition government seem not to take into great consideration the huge damage that will be caused to the Hellenic economy and society from a bailout, as he chooses to present himself as the negotiations’ hero and not as a responsible leader of a country at the brink of its disaster, trying to make significant progress on the rationalization of the public sector, reform the taxation system to a more realistic, fair and equal basis and also support in practice the sustainable development of the country. Of course, the Greek Prime Minister is not the only responsible for the current situation Greece faces. It is a result of many years of thoughtless squandering of public money, corruption in every level of the public sector and irresponsible policies from the governing parties since the entrance of Greece in EU and Eurozone and even before this period. Just remember the fake “Greek statistics” for making Greece eligible to enter the Eurozone. Nevertheless this doesn’t make the SYRIZA/ANEL government less responsible on the given situation, since the endless negotiations since February have deepened the recession, multiplied the unemployment in the country, downsized the incomes and have made not only the Greek citizens, but the whole Europe worried about what will happen if Greece exits the Eurozone.
The main problem is that now Mr Tsipras has to take tough and serious decisions for the future of Greece and his political party seems to have no cohesion, no realism in their actions and no sense of the impact their irresponsible stance will have to the country’s economy.
The impact of the crisis on daily life of Greek citizens
The daily life of a Greek citizen is now characterized by two words: waiting and uncertainty. Everyday Greeks are waiting for the negotiations results and the end of this path, worrying on whether it will end up to more financial measures against the average citizens or to a generalized bankruptcy, causing severe damage to the economy and to every family’s income.
You might think that the average Greek supports the negotiations strategy or the government’s chaotic approach, but let me explain you this: the current leading party of 32% majority in total has simply received a tolerance and last resort vote in order to follow more social policies according to the debt handling and proceed with the structural reforms of the public sector. This doesn’t mean that the “democratically elected government” is authorized by its voters to exit the Eurozone or the EU, nor to bankrupt Greece, and this is something that unfortunately is not clear to some of the SYRIZA/ANEL officials.
Given this situation it is extremely difficult to make short or long term planning, not only for families but also for the private sector, since everyday there are several alterations of either the negotiations or the financial situation. Especially SMEs are unable to entrepreneur or serve their financial obligations to third parties, while the public sector has limited every financial transaction to the minimum necessary, namely operating expenses and employees’ payrolls and in case an SME holds any amount to invest; they delay every other activity fearing a financial collapse.
While the Greek economy has totally frozen waiting for the agreement, the Greek government is pushing everyone to its limits, which is leading to rupture with the partners, a possible GREXIT, and a division of the domestic society, since 56,2% of Greeks wish Greece to remain in the Eurozone even under the scope of a painful agreement; 56,3% believe it is the partners’ responsibility that we have not yet achieved an agreement the latest 5 months, while the 37,4% which blame the country’s government for this result (GPO Company Opinion Poll, 15th of June, 2015, presented at MEGA Channel).
“The Greek government is playing with fire,” as the German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel mentions and I cannot agree more with his statement, giving equal responsibility percentage to the partners, as well. But what this “game of bluff” of both “players” really deals with is: (the following statistics were retrieved from the Hellenic Statistic Authority annual data analysis)
- 200.000 young talented persons have left Greece, 50% of them are not willing to return
- 26,6% the unemployment rate for the first quarter of 2015, while youth unemployment rate rises to 51,9% the same period
- 34,6% of Greek citizens (6,3 million people) were living under the poverty line in 2013 with less than €432.00 income per month, a percentage which has steadily increasing since 2010
- 44,8% of pensions are under the poverty line, receiving less than €700.00 per month (during the crisis’ years the pensions reduction are of 45% average, while the 89,4% of those receiving the pensions are over 61 years old)
- Fertility Index 8.6 (94.134 persons in 2013/6,21% decline from 2012) and Mortality Rate 10.2 (111.794 persons in 2013/4,15% decline from 2012)
And more remains to come. I am definitely against catastrophology, but what came as a result of SYRIZA taking the leadership of Greece at its most crucial time was hope. Hope that translates not only to a more social policy, civilians’ oriented, but also that Greece changes the values of the previous governors combating corruption and attitudes of those benefiting from managing public money in every level of its state.
The responsibility of the current situation lies also with the European Leaders, European Institutions and the IMF for the selected strict austerity policies. It is not realistic on their behalf to believe that by promoting further austerity measures and by deepening the social cuts policy they can rehabilitate the Greek economy.
As I final note, yes, I was part of Thursday’s protest at Syntagma Square “Staying Europe” (Menoume Evropi). It wasn’t my support to austerity measures that influenced my decision to attend, but rather my need to say that Greece benefitted from entering Europe by modernizing its structures, from entering the globalized economy from a position of a powerful and equal partner and from adopting more social innovative policies. I find it essential for Greece to remain equal partner within the EU context. But at the same time I find it essential for Europe to transform into a more collective, transparent and social oriented entity, serving and implementing the most basic principle of its Treaty, the Article 3 of the Lisbon Treaty, “the Union’s aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples”.
Despina Papadaki, 24′ aged Postgraduate Student from Greece