UPDATE: I spent quite a bit of time writing this stuff about the Greeks last night, but the situation is moving fast. Now the EU is threatening to bankrupt Greece if they don’t agree to the terms of the bail out immediately by withholding the next tranche of funds.
Sarkozy apparently thinks he’s holding a gun to the Greeks’ head:
“Our Greek friends must decide whether they want to continue the journey with us. We cannot commit European taxpayers’ money unless the rules unanimously adopted in Brussels are respected to the letter.”
As the French banking system will collapse and plunge France herself into a death spiral if Greece defaults, it’s hard to know what the fuck he thinks he’s playing at. The stakes are high and all you can take from his words is actually blind panic.
Anyway. More about Greece below.
UPDATE 2: According to the Beeb, Papandreou will be offering his resignation within the hour. The fogs are nowhere close to lifting on this. The threats of Sarkozy et al seem to have pushed Papa to the brink.
Before they parade around the estate, chest puffed out, it would, however, behoove the French to remember what happened the last time they were involved in a plan that put another sovereign country into austerity and ruin for a couple of decades.
If the EU plan goes ahead, how long before a Greek ‘strong man’ arises to awaken nationalist sentiment?
George Papandreou. Hailed as European Diplomat of the Year in 2003 by European Voice for his efforts to build a lasting, inclusive solution to the Cyprus dispute. The first person in Greece to introduce affirmative action. The first person in Europe to purge his army’s generals in how long? Decades?
Amongst the heat generated by his sudden decision to call a referendum on the EU’s proposed bail out (such as it is) his decision to sack the heads of the armed forces and make appoint loyalists was almost lost.
But the name Papandreou crops up throughout the last century of Greek politics. Both his dad and his grandad ran the place, back in day. Most notably, Papa Papandreou was caught up in the swirling torment of the Greek military junta.
Memories are apparently so short as to forget that as recently as 1974 Greece was under military rule. But Papandreou, it seems, has a longer memory than most – and his own family’s experiences must loom large in his thoughts. His decision to purge the generals can only tell us one of two things: Papandreou either fears his army or fears that he needs to use them.
Are things in Greece this bad? So far the intellectual firepower of the world seems to have been focussed on the Bad and the Ugly parts of the Euro crisis (there is no Good). To the elites, the demonstrators on the streets are every bit as much of an irrelevancy as Greek public opinion in general. Carl Bildt, Sweden’s foreign minister said:
“I truly fail to understand what Greece intends to have a referendum about. Are there any real options?”
Well, actually, Carl yes there are. The Greeks could leave the Euro. They could reject the plans that would leave them a vassal state of the EU superstructure.
They could revolt. Indeed, arguably, they have been for some time. People have already died on the streets.
Now everyone knows that the Greeks have long been taking a free ride on a gravy train funded by the workers of Germany (and, indeed, buying the products of German industry with the fruits of their ‘labours’). But the EU’s proposals are more about saving the Euro – and more particularly the French banking sector – than anything to do with helping Greeks themselves.
Whether or not there is a moral case that says that the Greeks should do whatever is asked of them to help repair the damage of the Eurozone, there is also the counter-argument that the Eurozone has been complicit from day one. The last 15 years have been an era of voodoo economics where the likes of Gordon Brown (to pick an entirely random example) seem to have fallen to the belief that money appeared infinitely from nowhere. Until Greek debt became an issue for the French banks, pretty much no-one gave a shit.
And now they offer 9 years of poverty and shackles – all to save France. All Greece’s assets to be stripped. Greek public services to be effectively closed down. Mass unemployment with no hope of relief. Indeed, the opposite of relief, because continuing membership of the Eurozone will mean a permanent enslavement in the name of protecting shareholders in French banks.
Why does any of this matter: after all, Greece is a far away country of which we know nothing, right?
Well, as I’ve been saying for nigh on a year now, ‘contagion’ isn’t just a word that the Euro must fear – it is an inescapable fact of history. If Greece fears the military then what of Spain – itself also under military rule until 1975 and swimming in the same economic waters? Just across the balmy Aegean, Italy was riven by paramilitary unrest into the 1980s. Never mind the “reaction of the markets”
Under this supposed ‘union’ of European countries lie nation states, long bitterly held memories and a boiling tempest of public opinion. Faster than they can comprehend, the Project is unravelling.