Saturday, December 10, 2016

What's Happening in Greece?


The question I get at virtually every booksigning event these days is, “How are things going in Greece?” It’s been out of the news over here in the US of late. In fact, it seems everything’s been out of the news over here except for one thing—and we all know what that is.

Regrettably, my standard answer is simply, “It’s a mess.”

Although tourists won’t notice, life goes on across most of the nation amid Great Depression levels of unemployment, a government and economy in disarray, leaders (of all parties) and their intentions suspect, and the people wondering when, if ever, things will get better.  

True, the US shares some of those same concerns, but our economy has recovered substantially since the crisis of 2008, and, of course we don’t have Germany and its EU minions pressing us to endure more pain on the economic rack for having gone along with a lot of their wrong-headed economic advice. Admitting they were wrong, and working toward a fair, amenable solution for all, requires a “learn to play nicely with others skill” they missed out in their “never admit you made a mistake” form of political schooling.

So, where’s it all headed? Good question. The current Greek government has several years left in its term—barring a call or need for earlier elections—and its Prime Minister is caught between a rock and a hard place. His government needs both more money from the EU, short term, to stay afloat, and a substantial debt reduction on what the nation owes for the country’s economy as a whole not to sink. 

In exchange, the EU has put forth its customary demands for further cuts in pensions and services, plus additional taxes.  What the ruling party has done so far to meet those sorts of past demands, has seriously cut into its Prime Minister’s popularity among his socialist supporters—despite his appearance as the only EU leader to attend Fidel Castro’s funeral, and speech comparing the Greek Revolution of 1821 to Cuba’s own of 1959. 

At the rate his popularity’s declining, he might soon rank down there with our own Congress…which I hasten to add, nevertheless keeps finding its incumbents returned to office.

To answer my own question, Greece and the EU seem once more to be playing their old game of financial chicken over the possibility and potential consequences of Greece leaving the EU.   BUT the track on which they race head-on at each other in their pedal-to-the metal macho game is a lot narrower and shorter now, what with Western governments facing imminent electoral assaults of the sort that brought the UK to vote itself out of the EU, and the US to vote Trump into the White House. 

Within months, Greece could have new opponents in their respective nation’s driver seat, each putting his or her individual national interests first, and little caring how Greece chooses to deal with its own destiny.

“Crash if you will, we’ll survive,” their new motto.

And then what happens? 

Well, if headlines like these from today’s Greek Newspaper, Ekathimerini, are any measure, I’d say Greece has a lot of work to do to get its house in order if it plans on making it on its own—outside or inside the EU.

For example:

“Greece May Miss the IT Revolution.” Political and educational reasons are causing Greece to “stand no chance of successfully becoming a modern state within Europe.”

“Courts Inundated With Primary Residence Protection Cases.”  More than 100,000 cases are pending.  Based upon Greece’s population of eleven million, compared to the US population of 320 million, Greece’s number of properties in such proceedings is approximate three times the current rate of that activity in the US.

“Refugee Response in Greece: A Flawed System.”  One can only imagine what it will be like should there be a parting of the ways with the EU.

“Islanders Seeking to Bypass Ferry Strike.”  An extended week-long strike by seamen over potential tax hikes and labor reforms required by the EU has farmers facing a loss of their crops and islands facing shortages.  Me first, will not work.

I think it’s time for all sides to wake up and smell the coffee.

A bit of visual trivia for you James Dean fans



  1. Bro, you know my sympathies for the Greeks. Una faccia, una razza! The Italians are patrolling the Mediterranean picking up African migrants (and corpses). The EU is doing the same thing to Italy, which is a few steps behind Greece financially, dealing with its own right wing threat, and still bringing all their compassion and humanity to the boat people. They are even making a database of the DNA of the dead, to memorialize their existence and suffering and, perhaps, to give their families closure if anyone comes looking for them. WHAT A DISGRACE that the rest of Europe and the world has decided to treat the refugees as sub-human. If they were blond babies in danger, people would be scrambling to adopt them. What a heartbreaking disgrace.

    1. The EU is far from engaged in its finest hour. Final perhaps. I've long held that the EU looks upon Greece as it's filter trap for migrants and refugees. Italy too. The recent decision of the EU (as announced by the Greek (!) chair of the appropriate commission) to fall back on its Dublin accord and remand all migrants arriving since March back to their first EU nation of entry into the EU for asylum processing will only increase the suffering and chaos on those least able to deal with the crisis. This is the largest migration since WWII and Europe isn't stepping up to the plate.

    2. for the Middle Eastern states not stepping in to help...a whole different story.

  2. Agree and agree. The refugee crisis is affecting tens of thousands of people in situations not of their own making.
    Europe should step up to the plate.

    As we have discussed here often, the Greek are stellar examples of how human beings should treat refugees, despite their own financial crises.

    Folks I talk to here are from Corfu and have relatives there. They say the pension cuts on small pensions are really hurting families.

    I don't know how Tsipras can make the comparison of Greece's revolution to Cuba's; maybe he means the gaining of independence. Who knows?

    My sympathy is to all the refugees and the Greeks and Italians who are suffering from the economic crisis.
    It's shameful how Europe has handled the refugee crisis, especially the wealthier countries.

    Well, we're still dealing with the aftermath of the Nov. 8 end of the world. Everyone I know is watching movies, reading comfort books and gaining weight from eating comfort foods. All are realizing we're not living in a dream; the nightmare is real. All of it, and it continues with each appointment or Twitter from you-know-who.
    I even fear for civil liberties for the press and every dissenter and protester.