Friday, March 6, 2015
Ever since the global economic meltdown hit the country, its affairs kept the European media busy. All the shortcomings of the Greek economy and society were exposed, by every media organization across the continent.
Stories kept being published about how the Greeks are not working hard, how they all tax evade, or how corrupt the country's institutions are.
Most of these articles or reports, have of course a great dose of truth; no one ever denies in Greece that nepotism and corruption was a major obstacle to Greece becoming a real European economy.
Yet I do not recall any newspaper analyzing the US economy so much, where the crisis begun. There haven't been any condemning articles about the mismanagement of the US finances and the totally irresponsible policies that its banks adopted.
Nor I do not remember any harsh and analytic reports being made for Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Cyprus or Portugal, many of those being also under an EU/IMF bail-out agreement, or facing hard economic realities.
I live in Ireland for more than 10 years now and I am very familiar with its weaknesses as an economy and a society. I was surprised that no media organization visited the country to write about people collecting social welfare while working illegally, or how corrupt its property market is, once under IMF supervision.
I doubt that Portugal, which has a very similar economy to that of Greece is less corrupt, or Spain for the same matter. In Italy it is well known the extend of the activities of its famous Mafia, yet no one ever portrayed the whole nation as thieving, murdering thugs.
There have been of course a numerous reports, speculations or analyses on the faults of the euro currency, but never any blame was placed on any current or former EU official and leader of any national government, for creating a totally shambolic single currency.
Again it was the former Greek governments who were blamed for "lying" about the country's finances to adopt the euro. If that is true it exposes how the euro currency was established with extremely weak foundations.
I doubt that no one knew about Greece's "lying". If only, it is most likely that such practices were widely common among European governments, to keep their economies afloat.
Most Western European nations are heavily indebted. Perhaps Greece just went overboard and its economy could not support so much borrowing. That is not a reason to punish and humiliate the ordinary citizen of Greece though.
It would be refreshing for once, to have the media focus dropping Greece and turning on the shortcomings of the European banking system and the EU institutions instead. There we have transactions worth of billions, not a few hundred euro of tax evasion like in some cases of citizen fraud.
In addition, after being totally humiliated for years in a row, the Greeks are fed up of being treated like the black ship of the continent. Thus they decided to revolt and vote for a so called "radical" party into government.
Once more the European media started the mud throwing and propaganda campaigns. This time they focused on Greece's newly elected leader and Finance Minister, Mr. Tsipras and Mr. Varoufakis. They criticize anything from their lack of "professionalism," to their casual dress sense.
The truth is that the European elites do not like to be challenged, by what they see as arrogant politicians. Yet the Greeks had to deal with inflammatory comments by many of the continent's "arrogant" media and politicians, notably from Germany and its satellite states.
It must be understood that Germany should stop being seen as the one pulling the strings in the euro-zone crisis, even if everybody knows that it is true. How could anyone convince the Greek voters, to accept policies from a finance minister of another EU country, that they have not voted for?
This reality creates a major democratic deficit, where one country must follow the economic policies that are promoted by another EU member's government. The German leadership may still have a major say, but in my opinion they should leave to the EU institutions the implementation and adoption of such policies by Greece or any other country.
Either it is the European media's fault, or the German leadership's arrogance, constantly criticizing another EU government, naturally creates divisions. Besides, it is not all about Germany or Greece; there are 17 other members of the euro-zone.
Any policies or recommendations by Germany to Greece, should come through the EU institutions. The German leadership should avoid throwing oil to the fire, by directly "advising" or commenting on the Greek affairs.
Finally I wish that the EU could stop punishing the ordinary Greek citizens for the mistakes of the previous governments. Of course they were voted in power by the Greek voters, but one must understand the political reality of the country.
Sadly Greece has inherited a lot by its Ottoman rulers and Byzantine past, where the governing elite were seen as the absolute rulers that could not be challenged. The only way you could deal with them was through the exchange of personal favors.
This mentality still prevails among the majority of the older generation and it can only be changed through education. Something that requires increasingly more funds, that right now the average Greek family is struggling to come by.
In other words the more Greeks are remaining in instability, poverty and ignorance, corruption will never be eradicated.
In addition, the more they are being slandered and used as a scapegoat by the European media to cover the faults in the euro, the more hard-lined their attitude will be towards reforms and change.
By constantly criticizing them and their new "radical" government, Europe is actually pushing them to stand more firmly behind Syriza and even pushing them towards Russia.
Maintaining a pro-European sentiment among the Greek population, by encouraging them or communicating the more appropriate things to them, it is vital to keep pushing for reforms and even bring back a more "mainstream" political party in power.
The German leadership must remember, that it was not just their nations' hard work that made their country wealthy today. After WW2 many nations, that include Greece, signed a debt forgiveness agreement for Germany.
Not only that, but funds kept pouring into the German economy by the US (Marshall Plan) and other creditors, in order to lift the German economy out of a permanent recession. If something must be taught by Germany's history is this: its economic success is not solely down to the hard work of the German people.
Besides, hundreds of thousands of Greeks migrated to Germany over the decades, worked hard and helped the German and other European economies. How can anyone now call them lazy?
What helped Germany to rise again back then, is what Greece needs right now too: not just austerity and "hard work", but also investments, debt forgiveness and a growth stimulus.
The Greeks have sacrificed a lot and they proved their willingness. Why aren't we seeing some investments yet into the country? The Europeans' lack of trust for the Greek government, draws a very bad image on European solidarity and cooperation, if that ever truly existed.
And it definitely underlines the need for more transparency, a stronger fully functional democracy and less intergovernmental-ism in EU. Something that seems like a very distant vision, when EU governments and citizens are constantly divided by the media.