Illustration by Ilias Makris
He meant it as a warning, but when Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said a few days ago that Greeks’ incomes would be returning to 2004 levels, it could have been interpreted as the most optimistic thing the government has said for months.
In many ways, 2004 was the most hopeful year Greece experienced for decades. It had a growth rate that was the envy of many eurozone countries, it pulled off the miracle of successfully hosting the Olympic Games and the national soccer team became the biggest outsider to ever win the European Championships. It was a time when everything seemed possible.
Posted in Economy, Greece
Tagged Evangelos Venizelos, Great Depression, Greece, Greece collective contracts, Greece incomes, Greece recession, Greece unemployment, Greek bonds, Greek crisis, Greek debt crisis, Greek economy
Solidarity is probably a word that you would not associate with Greece following the events of the past few days. Love and understanding were in short supply on the streets around Parliament, where protesters and police clashed this week, as well as within the walls of the prominent sand-colored building, where Greece’s politicians failed to strike a deal to form a government of national unity to oversee the latest austerity measures the country has to adopt to qualify for more loans from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
However, solidarity is a very relevant word in terms of Greece’s plight 13 months after the EU and the IMF agreed to bail it out with 110 billion euros ($157 billion) in loans. Firstly, it’s a word that’s on people’s minds because the government said it is introducing a “solidarity tax” that will lead to crisis-fatigued Greeks having between 1 percent and 4 percent of their incomes kept aside to help pay benefits for the rapidly growing number of unemployed.
Posted in Athens, Economy, Greece, Greek politics
Tagged EU, European Union, George Papandreou, Greece, Greece reshuffle, Greece solidarity tax, Greece unemployed, Greece unemployment, Greek crisis, Greek debt crisis, Greek economy, Greek riots, Greek taxes, IMF, International Monetary Fund
Illustration by Manos Symeonakis
“Europe is like a fruit salad,” says Frank Schwalba-Hoth, perched on the edge of his seat at the European Parliament’s cafe in Brussels. Normally, our surroundings would be a hive of activity but this week the MEPs have buzzed off to Strasbourg, the Parliament’s other home. But even if there had been a throng of politicians from the 27 member states around, the topic of discussion — Will Greece survive? Will the EU survive? — would have been too absorbing for us to notice.
Schwalba-Hoth, a German politician who was a founding member of the country’s Green Party and served as an MEP in the 1980s, is engaging company. He now works as a networker and consultant in Brussels and his knowledge of the workings and history of Europe’s institutions is unrivaled. He believes the Greek debt crisis and the threat it poses to the euro is just the latest in a long list of challenges that the EU, which traces its roots back to the European Coal and Steel Community founded in 1951, has faced in its long history.
Posted in Economy, European Union, Greece
Tagged Angela Merkel, EFSF, ESM, EU funds, EU funds Greece, euro, European Commission, European Parliament, European Policy Centre, European Union, euros crisis, eurozone, eurozone crisis, Fabian Zuleeg, Frank Schwalba-Hoth, George Papandreou, Greece, Greece debt crisis, Greece deficit, Greece eurozone, Greece income, Greece unemployment, Greek bailout, Greek debt crisis, Nicolas Sarkozy
Illustration by Manos Symeonakos
A year ago, a month ago, perhaps even a week ago, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comments about Greeks needing to work more would have gone down as badly in Athens as a joke about room service in the Strauss-Kahn household. They would have sparked another exchange of barbed comments between Athens and Berlin and further histrionics from the more rabid elements of the media in the two countries. This time, Merkel’s words landed quietly on a pile of other comments made about Greece over the last few days.
Greeks have been hit this week by a barrage of opinions on debt restructuring, new loan agreements and even political consensus. And at the end of it, they are none the wiser. Restructure now, say some economists and European officials. It is too early, others say. Only soft restructuring should be discussed, argue some experts. Substantial haircuts are required if Greece is to survive, say others. Greece will need new loans to stay afloat, say the whispers in the corridors of power in Brussels and Washington. We are not applying for any more emergency funding, say those who hold power in Athens. Get your political parties to agree, says a European commissioner. It is our democratic right to disagree, says the leader of the Greek opposition.
Posted in Economy, European Union, Greece
Tagged Angela Merkel, EU, European Union, George Papandreou, German pensions, Germany, Germany retirement age, Germany vacation time, Greece, Greece austerity, Greece retirement age, Greece unemployment, Greece vacation time, Greek austerity measures, Greek bailout, Greek debt, Greek debt crisis, Greek deficit, Greek pensions, IMF, International Monetary Fund, Mercer Human Resource Consulting