Behind this week’s headlines on Greece – of an economy in meltdown, of stock market losses and British holidaymakers having to hoard Euros before jetting off to Corfu – lies a country besieged by tragedy. People in Greece are suffering. Over 40 per cent of children are living in poverty, up from 23 per cent in 2008. A quarter of the workforce is unemployed and over half of young people don’t have a job.
This human tragedy, inflicted so deliberately on the Greek people, is compounded by the resounding failure of austerity in economic terms. The Troika’s plan – of enforced cuts to the Greek state- has seen Greece’s Government debt to GDP ratio go from 133 per cent in 2010 to 174 per cent today. Since 2010 the Troika has lent €252 billion to the Greek government. Of this, the vast majority of the money was used to bailout banks, pay off the private sector to accept restructuring, and repay old debts and interest from reckless lending. Less than 10 per cent of the money has actually reached the people who need it most.
The Troika’s intransigence on austerity amounts to nothing short of an attempted coup. A democratically elected Government is being backed in a corner by the servants of capital who are desperate to embarrass the Greek electorate for daring to question austerity. For those of us who believe in the EU as a body which should uphold human rights and value solidarity, this bullying is particularly repulsive.
You might be forgiven for believing that there is no alternative to further austerity in Greece. But, as history shows us, countries can escape crippling debt in a just way. In 1953, at a summit called The London Conference, Greece was among the European nations signing a deal which allowed for the cancellation of German debt, to enable the country to rebuild after the destruction of the Second World War. It’s now time for European countries to come together again and allow Greece to cancel debts, and begin the process of stabilisation. Indeed, it’s just been revealed that even the IMF is now saying debt relief must be part of any package to rescue Greece.
Sunday’s referendum gives Greek people a choice – but it also places them at the barrel of a gun. Say ‘yes’ to the deal and the remaining social security net will be ripped from them, but a ‘no’ risks bringing the forces of darkness to the door, further punishing Greek resistance by cutting off the country from the support it so desperately needs. A clear No vote, as the Syriza government is urging, would at least mean that the Troika might have to reconsider its plans.
If this was a natural disaster we’d be doing all we could to assist Greeks in their time of need. But, because solutions to this economic disaster fly in the face of our Government’s obsession with stripping down the state, no help is at hand.
No self-respecting democratic can stand by and watch while the Troika dishes out further pain to the Greek people, who are paying the price for a crisis that wasn’t of their making. The Greeks have joined together in these harsh times – setting up health clinics and food banks to support their neighbours – but there’s only so much more that the already crumbling safety net can take before it entirely collapses. If the leaders of European countries really do care about the human suffering in Greece then they’ll cast a failed ideology aside and work for a credible solution to the country’s crisis.