The European Union and Greece: the Murder of a Nation By Anna FILIMONOVA
10 August 2013 — Strategic Culture Foundation
At the end of July, eurozone deputy finance ministers approved another transfer of money to Greece to the tune of EUR 6.8 billion (it had previously been thought that Athens would be allocated EUR 8.1 billion). Several days earlier, meanwhile, the Greek parliament approved the latest in a series of legislative acts, the adoption of which had been a condition of receiving money from international creditors – the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank. In order to push the legislation through quickly, legislators were even convened during the summer Parliamentary recess. The vote was the first test of strength for the new coalition government, which was formed on 25 June following the withdrawal of the Democratic Left party (DIMAR) from the coalition with the New Democracy party and the Socialist PASOK party.
As a result, parliament has approved a new tax code as well as a system of layoffs or the transferral of some 12,500 public workers to a “mobility pool”. The latter essentially means that the municipal police will be dismantled and 3,500 municipal police officers will be placed on reserve. In addition, 3,500 teachers, 2,500 school guards and 2,500 local government and ministry employees are expected to be placed in the same category. Employees on reserve will receive 75 percent of their salaries. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (New Democracy) declared that within two years, 15,000 out of a total of 700,000 public sector workers will have left. People will be placed on reserve by force if they refuse to do so voluntarily. Anyone who refuses to move to their new job as part of the reshuffle will be dismissed . The issue has already given rise to mass demonstrations in Greece, including a siege of parliament by protesters.
When Greece was accepted into the European Union, it did so on condition that it would privatise the strategic enterprises controlled by the state. As a consequence, a number of large-scale industries and five leading banks were privatised. The state’s share in the National Bank of Greece was initially reduced to 50 percent and then later to 33 percent. On the heels of the banks, telecommunication companies and factories producing construction materials were also sold. While there used to be several sugar production factories and knitting factories in Greece, there is now not a single one left. Even production of the renowned cognac Metaxa has moved into the hands of the British corporation Grand Metropolitan. The government has pulled out of profitable shipping operations and has started selling off its dockyards, which have now all but disappeared, and its seaports. EU directives have also resulted in a decrease in fishing and wine-growing industries, as well as many other agricultural industries.
To a certain extent, the so-called “Greek miracle” was based on American post-war subsidies and then, more recently, on support from the EU. It lead to the formation of a political class whose main dogma was blind faith in aid from international creditors. In establishing a welfare state on infusions from Western financial centres, Greece undermined its system of self-government.
In the meantime, the international community far from made it its aim to maintain the power structure or any layers of Greek society. Its aim, in fact, was to bankrupt the country. (It should be noted that Greece stands alone in European civilisation: Greek Orthodoxy is the state religion in Greece). Once the level of Greece’s external debt and the impoverishment of a significant proportion of the population had gone off the scale, the global corporatocracy began buying up Greek territory and Greek shares.
Greece was destined to become the testing ground for how to lead a country to complete catastrophe. The idea of international “financial aid” (according to the Bank of Greece, in 2010, Greece’s total external debt had reached EUR 432.5 billion) does not only not prevent the collapse of an economy, it actually works the opposite way and accelerates it.Agreements reached with the European Union in October 2011 to write off 50 percent of Greece’s debt really only applied to writing off the debts of the private financial sector (banks, investment funds and so on).
Structural reforms implemented by the Greek government under pressure from the “Troika” (the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank) acquired an openly coercive nature, while measures to reduce the budget virtually destroyed any prospects for economic growth in the country…Established in 2011, the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRDAF), having thrown out the slogan “Progress through privatisation”, organised for the country’s national wealth – beaches, forests, islands, archaeological sites – to be bought up by rich foreigners.
The result of this policy was a rise in the community’s feelings of fear and despair, a mass exodus of people onto the streets (strikes, industrial action and demonstrations became a daily occurrence) as well as the monopolisation of power amid a progressive strengthening of external dependence.
When the left in Greece refused to take part in the new coalition government at the beginning of 2012, it was made up of three parliamentary groups – PASOK, New Democracy and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) – agreements having been reached on cooperation in the implementation of public policy. However, the “troika” immediately came out against this coalition, proposing new stringent requirements and more or less driving the country’s political leadership into a corner. This triggered an internal political crisis in February 2012. Growing social unrest did not just manifest itself in strikes and demonstrations, but in attacks on politicians (most notably on Greek President Karolos Papoulias) and violence on the streets of the Greek capital.
On 20 February 2012, eurozone finance ministers finally agreed to give Greece a second aid package amounting to EUR 130 billion. However, the country could only receive the money through a special fund controlled by the European Union’s main donor Germany, which in its dialogue with Greece switched to a language of force and dictation. “We have no intention of poisoning commissioners to control every Greek minister…” it was declared in the Bundestag of the Federal Republic of Germany, “but we have to be sure that all fiscal obligations are going to be met. And for this we need close control”. The European Commission is currently micromanaging the Greek authorities with regard to those measures the Greek government has been obliged to undertake. “From this point on”, states a Reuters analyst,“Greece is owned by the international community”…
Here, attention should be paid to one remarkable detail. While the German media is a kaleidoscope of such insulting descriptions of the Greek people as “credit guzzling swine”, “leisure-time professionals”, and “a carnival nation”, the German military-industrial complex is receiving rather tangible benefits from the sale of German weapons to Greece. In terms of its share of military spending in the state budget, Greece ranks second among NATO countries after the US (3 percent of GDP). After Portugal, Greece is the second biggest importer of German weapons. At the time, Angela Merkel warned the former Greek Prime Minister G. Papandreou not only about the need to respect all previously signed agreements on the purchase of weapons from Germany, but also about the desirability of entering into new ones. Here are some more numbers for comparison: while spending on social programmes was reduced during the dramatic budget cuts by 9 percent (EUR 2 billion), Greece’s membership fees to NATO increased by 50 percent (EUR 60 million) and its military budget grew by 18.2 percent (EUR 1.3 billion).
(To be concluded…)