It is sad to watch a great nation bludgeon another weaker nation, a supposed ally and friend, into submission and humiliation, especially when both sides are at fault over a debt situation that has spiraled out of control. Yes, Greek voters did take the easy path since the 1970’s. I myself remember arguing against further integration back in the summer of 1991, when I visited the place. Older folk and younger kids, die-hard communists and fascists alike were all for it. I nearly got stabbed when I stated, “One day German tanks will be rolling down the streets of Athens once more…”
I guess it was clearer for an outsider to see the logic in my statement. My argument back then, and remains to this day, was based on circumstances surrounding the American Civil War. The early United States was a federation of colonies with vastly different types of economies. When the incompatibilities between the industrialized northern states and the agricultural slave-based southern states emerged, the south dissented and formed its own economic federation. The North saw this as a catalyst of further disintegration, so for motives none other than self preservation they sort to quash the Confederacy at all cost, and they did paying an enormous price. This is how I saw Greece’s membership in this European Economic Community panning out. Once in, there would be a devastating cost to ever getting out.
Now what’s so bad about getting in on this deal? Well, only a fool would think such an economic union would not lead to political union, and therefore a forfeiture of sovereignty, starting with the weaker nations. When the Hellenic Republic got its first un-elected Prime Minister in 2011 it showed that the current turmoil boils down to one thing, whether the Hellenic Republic is valid anymore.
So ever since the Greek War of Independence began in 1821, all the human sacrifice, all the hardship that went into building a democratic, free nation, meant absolutely nothing. As hard it is for me to comprehend, a generation of free citizens of the modern Hellenic Republic literally sold off their country for cheap, ‘fiat’ money, with total disregard for the past struggles, nation building and sacrifice of previous generations. Obviously, one could argue, and they do, that letting go of nationalism is the price to pay for stability, peace, and prosperity. This is just fantasy thinking. Try taking German nationalism away from Germany. Try curbing power away from the Bundestag. Stronger powers will always tread on the necks of weaker powers, expecting the opposite is again fantasy thinking.
But blaming the Greek citizenry is like blaming drug users without allocating any blame or punishment to the drug dealer. In what society do we punish only drug addicts and let the manufacturers and distributors of addictive and deadly substances free to carry on their malpractice? (Oh yes, I keep forgetting how modern technocrats operate like legal drug barons.) Yes, Germans and Eurocrats are as equally guilty of creating this current debt crisis. Yet ignorance rules, especially when geopolitics is fueled by greed. You would expect such affluent and educated people to be able tell the difference between good policy and bad policy.
No, affluence and education are never substitutes for real intellect.
Here’s the thing, while most of Europe benefited from the Industrial Revolution and from the Age of Enlightenment, most of Balkan society remained stagnate under Ottoman rule, 400 hundred years of no real development in terms of economic, technological or political institutions. (How the Balkans ended up this way is another story, ask the Doge of Venice, Pope Innocent III, and the Franco-German princes involved with the Fourth Crusade debacle.) Every western European country experienced it, even the southerners. Portugal, Spain, Netherlands were each colonial powers, even Italy’s northern regions. Greece only became a nation as a byproduct of the West’s determination to break up the Ottoman Empire, (which I suspect would never had achieved such power had the Byzantine Empire not been weakened by its western neighbors, again another story), in essence Greek Independence was a vanity project for British, French and Russians to indulge in. They took a peasant girl and dressed her up like a princess. They gave this new country a German king named Otto and ever since they treated this peasant girl like a princess. Forget the fact that since independence this Princess had endured constant warfare, numerous bankruptcies, multiple dictatorships, multiple constitutions, all this before the catastrophic destruction of the Second World War, and then an equally destructive civil war, followed by a mass exodus of its population (myself being part of that story), then the destruction of it’s oldest institution, it’s Monarchy, another dictatorship, which in turn was overthrown by students who inherited this peasant girl dressed up as a princess, albeit tattered, and found out how easy it was to exploit her to access easy wealth from Western Powers.
And how they did. In 2004 they gave this peasant girl an ultra expensive brand new dress and vanities across Europe were satisfied.
The Princess of the Olympics Games, everybody. If it were not for a bunch of monks whose Byzantine caper brought down the Greek government this charade would still be at play.
So my question is, how stupid does a politician or government or private bank or people have to be to pump money into an economy that does not possess the same economic and political fundamentals as other first world European nations??? Greece is not Italy, it barely had any roads going anywhere back in 1991, (oh yeah, one highway with 1.5 lanes each way,) so how does burdening it with a debt suited for bigger industrialised economies make any sense?
It doesn’t. Yet ratings agencies, private and central banks pumped money into a what was at best a second world country. In more U.N technical terms, still developing. Greece’s land registry was non-existent until a decade ago. What you had before was a contract that stated “from this olive tree to this rock and to this fig tree is mine…” What happens if the fig tree is no more? More than a billion euros later the country’s modern land registry is still not even half complete. Go to the Republic of Hrvatska, a country barely twenty years old and half the size, type in your family name into the Croatian Land Registry’s web page and bang, topographic map, contracts, everything. Due to it’s Italian and Austrian Empire influence Croatia has better economic fundamentals than an ex-Ottoman Rumelia.
Even with the knowledge of Greece’s poor performance in terms of corruption, a well known attribute, anyone saying, “I didn’t know” is a complete and utter moron, these ratings agencies gave the thumbs up, and these banks invested heavily in a bad deal. Normally, at a corporate level, the market obliterates any individual or institution that engages in such stupidity. Not at a political level, stupidity it seems is the norm. And rewarded.
So next question. How does destroying and humiliating an entire population enhance European unity?
What is the whole point of the European Union anyway? What started as a free trade agreement is evolving into a superstate not dissimilar to the United States of America, only difference is those British colonies were newly established states comprised of colonists and immigrants, they were not kingdoms with thousand year-old histories. This Eurocrat push to cram together under one umbrella all these diverse and rigid cultures and economies for the sake of peace and stability is naive, stupid and utterly dangerous. (Think Yugoslavia, and they were all Slavs. Fact is, one of the reasons why a wealthier Slovenia broke away from the Socialist Federal Republic was that it didn’t want its economic output controlled by Belgrade. Sound familiar?)
A proper, peaceful and stable European Union will never work unless Britain and Russia are full members. This constant Eurocrat vilification of Russia is at best a sign of extreme incompetence. What you have now is unfinished business from the Napoleonic Wars, an unsuccessful polemic attempt to unite all of Europe that failed. This was followed by another polemic attempt in the first half of the 20th century. Another attempt during the Cold War solidified the factions. So instead of building a Union that could accommodate all Europeans, these Eurocrats, who are merely nationless technocrats of a European flavour, built a political and economic model that suited one type of constituent and favoured one type of economy.
The German technocrats and their clones can blame and torture the Greek people all they please, but the fundamental problem remains. Economic unity cannot be achieved without a political amalgamation, and this will never occur unless there are no losers in the deal. Something has to give, so instead of pushing the political lever which does have the potential to spill into violent extremism and nationalism, pushing for a more flexible economic system would be better for all in the long term. The Euro should never have been set at and remained at such a high value. Local currencies should never have been automatically phased out, running dual currencies for a period would have set a far more realistic value for the Euro. Who lost out in the currency conversion? Did anyone from the developed north with their stronger national currencies lose out? I don’t think so.
These northern technocrats are indeed partly to blame, and made it obvious and worse when they duped their own citizens by sneakily converting the private debt of bad banks into public debt, without consulting their taxpayers, so in reality German taxpayers might take a long hard look at the dirty antics of their own politicians before lecturing and bitching about a fellow European. Peace and stability will never be achieved when all parties don’t take responsibility for their negligence, nor when economic models only suit one player.
It’s ironic as well as sad when a great people like the Germans, who in recent history have experienced the worse extremes an economic depression can unleash, would bestow the same thing on a supposed friend and ally.