The people of Greece, whose pay and welfare levels are much lower than ours, are facing further living standards cuts if they want to remain in the euro and potential chaos if they can’t meet the conditions.
As a result of the relatively much milder medicine we have taken here, Ireland has now put deep blue water between itself and Greece and is in a much better position than Portugal which is struggling to meet its obligations.
Stephen Collins, Inside Politics, The Irish Times – Saturday, February 11, 2012
This is a translation of a piece by Isaac Rosa, originally published on Público on Wednesday.
What Greece is for
The Greeks can calm down now, Europe will not abandon the country. It will keep it hanging over the abyss, seized by the hair and always a few minutes away from total bankruptcy, but it will not permit it to sink completely, since Greece today fulfils an essential function in Europe. The image of a broken country, suffocated, subjected to blackmail, stripped of its sovereignty, with its population suffering continuous turns of the screw and its streets on fire, has various uses.
For the rulers, it is the opportunity to use the Greek ‘bogey’ to convince us that we have to behave well, do our homework and meet the deficit target, since if we don’t, well look how the Greeks have ended up because of their recklessness. “Look what is happening in Greece right now”, Sarkozy said to the French on Monday: “who wants France to be in the same situation as Greece?”
(image from “mmgeissler ” on Instagram, via @soundmigration)
The apostles of shock also make the most of the Greek situation: it is a laboratory under real conditions, with citizens as guinea pigs, to probe just how far one can liquidate, impoverish and humiliate a country without it bursting altogether. Yes, they burned buildings, they threw rocks, but life goes on, and underneath the noise and the smoke Greece still hasn’t experienced a social explosion, so we will keep applying the pressure to see just how much it can bear.
As for European citizens, what Greece teaches could not be clearer: “There you go, that’s what protesting is for, just for breaking everything, but achieving nothing”. “Why are we going to go on strike, the Greeks have already had plenty and got nothing.” And even: “Well, the labour reform is tough, but we aren’t so badly off, the Greeks are worse…”
The claim that they achieve nothing is not quite true. The cutbacks have not been stopped, but in the latest vote there were 43 deputies who deserted, and Papademos is sweating over proceeding with his plan. And among the police, agents are starting to appear who are not prepared to keep gassing their neighbours, such as that police union that called for the arrest of the Troika. And at any rate, the lesson for us should be a different one: “The Greeks cannot do it alone. They need our help.”