AuthorTopic: Greeks Get Souvlakied  (Read 59974 times)

Offline Palloy2

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Re: Greeks Get Souvlakied
« Reply #390 on: February 17, 2017, 07:42:58 PM »
The Greek Government puts it foot down over more austerity.   ::)

https://www.rt.com/business/377686-greece-no-euro-more-austerity/
Greece says 'not a euro more' from its austerity-impoverished population
17 Feb, 2017

European Union officials are urging Greece and its creditors to strike a financial aid deal for the country quickly to safeguard economic recovery. However, Athens has refused a demand from its creditors for more austerity measures.

The Greek government said it would not ask for “a euro more” from its impoverished citizens.

Failure to agree on debt relief and economic reforms raises doubts over the future of the €86 billion Greek bailout program, with new aid withheld until the talks move from deadlock.

To avoid a disaster, EU officials were urging speed with one German politician hinting the role of the International Monetary Fund – one of the major bones of contention - was no longer crucial.

“An agreement on the way forward for the Greek program is absolutely necessary. With a little effort from all stakeholders, it seems to me doable,” said European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici, hoping the deal would be accomplished before a meeting of eurozone finance ministers next Monday.

Another EU official, who asked not to be named, said it would be better to conclude negotiations soon but there was no real financial crunch.

“The liquidity situation in Greece is benign,” said the official, who has in-depth knowledge of the negotiations.

However, crisis-torn Greece remained firm, refusing to impose more austerity measures on its population than already agreed. The country is suffering from a deep recession, deflation and the highest jobless rate in the eurozone.

    Greece jobless rate eases to 23%, still highest in eurozone https://t.co/sDLMmVCnqu meanwhile US dumps the refugees it created on Greece.
    — Diana 🌒 (@devinedianakins) January 13, 2017

“The Greek government is negotiating with responsibility and resolve... but all of that must, however, be without any additional burden, and without extra cost for Greek society. Our aim continues to be an agreement with not even a euro more of additional measures” said Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said, as quoted by Reuters.

Athens has resisted the imposition of more austerity by the lenders, particularly on such groups as pensioners who have already seen 11 cuts to their income.
"The State is a body of armed men."

Offline RE

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Re: Greeks Get Souvlakied
« Reply #391 on: February 17, 2017, 08:19:31 PM »
The Greek Government puts it foot down over more austerity.   ::)

Tsipras grew a backbone?  His balls regrew after Schauble cut them off?  What?

RE
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Offline Palloy2

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Re: Greeks Get Souvlakied
« Reply #392 on: February 17, 2017, 10:10:49 PM »
Options:
1. He is banking on them showing some pity on him
2. He has finally got the Drachma transition worked out
3. China has made an offer for the whole country
4. Albania has made an offer for the whole country
"The State is a body of armed men."

Offline RE

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Re: Greeks Get Souvlakied
« Reply #393 on: February 17, 2017, 10:24:39 PM »
Options:
1. He is banking on them showing some pity on him
2. He has finally got the Drachma transition worked out
3. China has made an offer for the whole country
4. Albania has made an offer for the whole country

I would hope for Door #2 on that one Monte.  I would really like to see how that clusterfuck would play out.

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Offline RE

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Greece is Committing “Financial Suicide”
« Reply #394 on: May 22, 2017, 12:38:49 AM »
http://www.globalresearch.ca/greece-is-committing-financial-suicide/5591189

Greece is Committing “Financial Suicide”
By Peter Koenig
Global Research, May 21, 2017
Region: Europe
Theme: Global Economy, Police State & Civil Rights, Poverty & Social Inequality

Thursday late night, 18 May 2017, the Greek Parliament voted to accept another round of devastating troika (EC, IMF, ECB) conditions for an additional debt package of close to 5 billion euros. All of the 153 delegates of Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza-Anel coalition voted ‘en bloc’ for the suicide package, all 128 opposition members against. Nineteen didn’t show up. Perhaps they were too afraid to vote for the opposition. Just as a reminder, PM Tsipras, a socialist, is leading Syriza, Greece’s prominent left-wing party, that for reasons of majority decided to align with the extreme right-wing party ‘Anel’ which currently holds a mere 10 seats in Parliament.

And another reminder- Alexis Tsipras, for the last two and a half years, since 26 January 2015, to be precise, has been selling his soul (if he has one), and more importantly, the country that trusted him, to the western crime oligarchs, i.e. the IMF, the European Commission, akin to the European (non-) Union and the Goldman Sachs-run European Central Bank – and Germany. James Petras calls him the Traitor of the year. This may be an understatement.

This new hateful and odious debt – Tsipras and his clan know that its fraud – this new debt will pave the way for more ‘rescue’ packages (a neoliberal term for legal robbery) that will help servicing (pay back) the odious debt – meaning the illegally acquired and imposed debt. Odious Debt, according to all international standards and laws, is illegal debt and may be defaulted on, or canceled at any time by the debtor nation.

This new debt is supposed to alleviate the already monumental and monstrous burden of debt, close to 200% of GDP. Repayment ever is impossible, even by the words of the IMF. Not a penny of the new loan benefit the poor and the destitute, those that have lost everything – those 30-plus percent that are already under the poverty line, of which 1.5 million live in extreme poverty, about 13% of the 11 million Greek population. They stagnate along, many as beggars as a last resort, without jobs, no income, no pensions – all gone, by the troikas criminal imposition of debt and austerity.

The new 5 billion-euro debt comes with even more austerity strings attached, more cuts in pensions, salary reductions, of the remaining meagre social services, privatization of what’s left of social capital and infrastructure – in total cuts of about 4.9 billion euros until 2020. These cuts will further increase poverty, misery, famine, child mortality diseases without cure, no medications, no hospitals, desperation, the suicide rate – and the economy that collapsed by 25% since 2011, will further shrink – beyond the point of no return.

How can anybody in his clear mind think or pretend that this will help Greece out of its strangulation? – It is sheer Suicide that you, Mr. Tsipras and your spineless fellow Members of Parliament are driving your country to commit; slow and hurtful hara-kiri. Not you, of course, Mr. Tsipras. You will be rubbing elbows with the elite that destroys your country. Have you given your people a rational justification, why they should continue to suffer? Why are you still reluctant, even unwilling to talk about exiting this horrendously corrupt construct, called the European Union with is fraudulent, dollar-based and totally unsustainable currency, the euro?

You can take that decision any time. You could have prepared for it – so transition would be smooth. And if you haven’t, it’s never too late. Just give your people hope they can count on. You could gain back your country’s pride and sovereignty – a country and a people that is the symbol of western civilization in more ways than one.

Why do you think you are so important, that your staunch egocentricity is ranked higher than the well-being and the recovery of the people who love their country and who have elected you, believing in you? – Why do you betray your people, Mr. Tsipras?

Where is your love for your country, for your countrymen who have given you a mandate to lead them out of their predicament? Just think for a moment what love could do for them and for your own Peace of Mind.

Are these dark forces behind the money cartels threatening you? Your family? – If you don’t obey, you may be ‘wasted’, in the jargon of western secret services. It has happened before and keeps happening. As a Statesman, step up and tell the world, while saving Greece.


To the people of Greece – why do you accept this humiliation, this betrayal, this usurpation of your resources, robbery of your social capital – your beautiful country – destruction and humiliation of your rich culture, philosophy, mathematics your forefathers created and that have spread around the globe? – Why do you allow this crime being perpetrated upon you – your children and children’s children? –This colossal crime will put future generations in peril

Step out from this straight-jacket of debt and misery, default on your illegal debt, bring back your own currency, the drachma, and start afresh as a new sovereign country. More than half the world is in solidarity with you. Even in the west. Many countries would like to support you, Greece. The diabolical western Brotherhood’s fist in their neck prevents them from doing so. In the East, there is no fear. They will stand by you. The East is the future. Be aware: The East Is The Future.

President, Mr. Xi Jinping’s massive “Economy for Peace” ingenuity, the OBOR – One Belt One Road, now also called the Belt and Road Initiative – BRI, is China’s response to the western world’s economic collapse from greed and aggression. It’s the largest economic platform in the world, encompassing already now more than a dozen countries, more than half of the globe’s population and at least one third of the world’s GDP. The BRI promotes economic development, transportation, infrastructure, energy, education and research – in dimensions unseen in the past.

The idea is to connect all nations and people from Vladivostok to Lisbon and from Shanghai to Hamburg. All are invited, not forced to join. Greece – open your minds, eyes and hearts to OBOR / BRI and you will see a bright future, a quick recovery from your current state of demise. Be courageous. Enough is enough!

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, Sputnik, PressTV, The 4th Media (China), TeleSUR, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.
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Offline RE

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Why are so many young Greeks turning to farming?
« Reply #395 on: June 05, 2017, 04:07:55 AM »
Nice upbeat story about "Back to the Land" young Greeks, but how many Greeks actually have a family farm they can go back to?  ???  :icon_scratch:  How many are "so many"?

Still, it's a rather positive story theme, and makes you hopeful that at least a few people can make the transition back to the Amish type model.

RE

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/04/young-greeks-turning-farming-170417123546814.html

Why are so many young Greeks turning to farming?

Why are so many young Greeks turning to farming?

Eight years into an economic crisis, a shortage of jobs is leading many young Greeks to turn to the land.

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A worker spreads olive harvest netting at an olive grove at Plomari village in Lesbos, Greece [Orestis Panagiotou/EPA]

By

 

 

Lesbos, Greece - Odysseas Elytis, the Greek Nobel laureate and poet, once wrote: "If you disintegrate Greece, in the end you'll see that what you have left is an olive tree, a vineyard, and a ship. Which means: with these you can rebuild it." 

Having endured eight years of a deepening economic crisis, thousands of young Greeks are taking heed of Elytis' words by leaving the cities to work on the land. 

One of them is 35-year-old Alexandros Kleitsas­, who until four years ago had spent his entire life in Athens, the capital of Greece, working for a private company that certified organic products.

After spending two years being unemployed, Alexandros decided he had no other option but to leave everything behind and move to his grandparents' village in Kalabaka, four hours' drive north of Athens. There he started a farm with his brother and three friends.

"Someone has to start producing again in this country," Alexandros says. "We can't all be in the service sector and so I left the city. I started from zero, without any land or experience."

Alexandros isn't alone in his thinking. For the first time in 20 years, employment in the agricultural sector has been rising, from 11 percent in 2008, a 35-year low, to 12.9 percent in 2015, according to the latest available report by the Greek Statistical Service. Almost half of all new farmers come from the cities.

Unemployment is a major factor in the rise in people working on the land. The unemployment rate for people under the age of 25 is 48 percent and sits at 30 for those aged between 25 and 34. With many university-educated Greeks unable to find jobs in the public or private sector, thousands of 20- and 30-somethings like Alexandros are turning to agriculture.

According to figures provided by the Association of Young Farmers, there has been a 15 percent increase in farmers between the ages of 18 and 40 since the start of the economic crisis in 2009.

Despite the country's mild climate and fertile land, for decades most Greeks opted for better-paying, comfortable, jobs in the city. EU and government agricultural policies that hurt mostly small farm owners, the majority of Greek farmers, resulted in the speeding up of urbanisation with half of the country's population living in the two biggest cities, Athens and Thessaloniki. Land was either left uncultivated or tended to by poorly-paid migrant labourers.

Today, Alexandros cultivates organic olive oil and St. John's wort, a herb with anti-inflammatory and antidepressant properties. He combines the two to produce a variety of skincare products called Dimitra which are sold throughout Greece and also exported to Germany, Belgium, Florida, and Bahrain.

ALSO READ: Greek punk bands raise money for refugee squats

Obstacles for first-time farmers

Greek farmers face obstacles like any other business owner or entrepreneur in the country. Constantly changing tax laws and the lack of available bank loans, especially for farmers, are some of the main challenges.

Due to the economic crisis, banks have mostly stopped lending money, even to healthy businesses, while the government sold the formerly public Agricultural Bank of Greece to a private bank in order to raise money and repay its creditors.

Jars of St. John’s wort in olive oil is left out in the sun to make Alexandros Kleitsas' range of Dimitra skincare products. [Courtesy of Alexandros Kleitsas­]

Since the start of the crisis, the number of first-time farmers applying for EU subsidies has doubled.

On April 25, the Ministry of Rural Development and Food reported that more than 15,000 people applied this year for the 12,000 EU subsidies available for first-time farmers in Greece, an increase from the 11,400 applicants in 2014 and the 8,600 in 2009.

"The [EU] subsidies are helpful," said Yannis Tsironis, the alternate minister of rural development at a press conference in late April.

"Agriculture and farming are Greece's future. There are regions in the country that are solely based on the primary sector."

Even so, the government this year raised farmers' income tax from 13 to 22 percent, and to 45 percent on those whose annual income exceeds $43,600 (40,000 euros).

"We need small funds so we can invest, either from EU subsidies or from an agricultural bank," says 35-year-old Thodoris Vasilopoulos, the president of the Association of Young Farmers and a third generation farmer.

"But most young farmers don't have access to EU and Greek subsidies because of an anachronistic Greek law from the 1990s," he adds, explaining that because of this law, farmers who were active in that decade still receive funding while younger people cannot access them. Many of the subsidy recipients are now in their 80s, he says.

Greek bureaucracy is also a hurdle.

"We farmers have to be out in the fields," Thodoris says. "Things that can be done electronically should be done online and not have someone at the tax office tell you 'I'm swamped, come tomorrow'. We're not beggars. We don't want money or political favours. We just want things to run smoothly."

More young people have taken up farming during the eight years of Greece's economic crisis. Pictured here is a view of the Kalaboka family's olive grove near the village of Plomari on the island of Lesbos [Nikolia Apostolou/Al Jazeera]

IN PICTURES - Lesbos: The refugee crisis in 2015; the island today

Farmers' initiatives

Thodoris and other young Greek farmers have turned to organic farming as well as processing, bottling, and exporting their products themselves.

 
UpFront - Yanis Varoufakis: Grexit 'never went away' (11:50)

For years, Greek farmers didn't brand or bottle their olive oil. Instead, they'd sell it to Italy and Spain in bulk. There, it was bottled and sold as Italian or Spanish olive oil around the world. With the crisis, many Greek farmers decided to stop selling their olive oil in bulk and to instead bottle their own product, create a brand and market it around the world on their own.

"A surplus value is added to our agricultural products when we process and bottle them, so we can make a bigger profit," Thodoris explains. "This keeps us alive."

In the meantime, a movement called "Without Middlemen" has sprung up. Since 2012, on sporadic Sundays, producers across Greece bring their products to the cities and sell them directly to consumers, maximising their profits and lowering costs for buyers who have been hit by the crisis.

Many farmers have also created websites to sell their products online. Thodoris sells his on his website and at small stores which promote local products and take less of his profit margin than big supermarkets.

Some have turned to new products like so-called "superfoods," such as certain nuts, berries, and whole grains. "Both in Greece and abroad, quality wins over price," Thodoris says.

Distribution has also changed. "Door-to-door and skipping the merchant are also ways for us to increase our profit," he says. "Everything changes from below, from the people. We go to exhibitions together to showcase our products. We advise each other."

ALSO READ - On Dimitris Christoulas: 'He is a part of history now'

Moving to the family farm

For many young Greeks who have the option, returning to their family farms once they've completed their studies, has become their most viable chance for employment.

"Growing up, I always thought that farming would be an extra income like it has been for my parents," says Maria Kalaboka, 27, who this month earns her master’s degree in law in Thessaloniki.

"But seeing the unemployment that exists in the city, I decided to make our family business my full-time job. If you're unemployed in the city, you don't have any options," Maria says. She moved home this month to start working full-time on her family's olive grove.

Speaking in her family's olive mill near the village of Plomari in Lesbos, Maria paints a bleak picture of how life in Thessaloniki means homelessness, unemployment, and depression: "Here, you won't go hungry. At least you'll be able to grow your own food."

The Kalabokas produce extra virgin organic olive oil, which they bottle and in 2012 started exporting to countries such as Germany, Denmark, Norway, and Japan. Eirini Olive Oil, named after Maria's grandmother, often sells out a few months after bottling. The family says they produce more than 12 tonnes of olive oil per year.

Maria is poised to take over the running of the family business. Her 18-year-old sister Irini, a senior in high school, hopes to study chemistry or agriculture to later support their work.

The family's choice of product seems a natural one on an island which, with more than 11 million olive trees, is the third-most important olive oil-producing region in Greece. After Spain and Italy, Greece is the third-largest producer of olive oil in the world.

The family cultivates 20,000 olive trees - some theirs, others they rent - on the Aegean Sea.

The horses they keep in the grove are the best weed cutters and provide manure to fertilise the trees, explains Maria's mother Myrta.

There's no stigma around farming, the sisters explain, although Irini says it can sometimes prevent them from going out with their friends on a Saturday night. 

"But most of our friends' families have a few olive trees themselves, just enough for the family's olive oil, so they know how it is," she adds.

Maria Kalaboka moved back home to Lesbos this month Lesbos from Thessaloniki to work in her family's olive oil producing business [Nikolia Apostolou/Al Jazeera]

ALSO READ: Inside the world of human smuggling

Focusing on the family business

Plomari, with a population of 3,000, is also known for its ouzo distillation. In the 19th century, it became an important trading centre because of its tanneries and soap and proximity to the Turkish shore.

"In summer, it's really crowded here," Maria says. "There are tourists visiting us. We take them to the olive grove, we show them the mill, then cook for them and they do some olive oil tasting. We explain to them how our olive oil is like medicine. They're always impressed by how young we are."

Her parents, both teachers at local schools, slowly set the foundations for the family business. Before the crisis, turning olive oil production into their main source of income wasn't on their minds. But after their public sector salaries were cut and their taxes increased, they saw how hard it would be for their children to find jobs, and decided it would be prudent to focus on their business.

All four Kalaboka children have grown up working in the grove - many Greeks have family farms where children help during the harvest - but Maria says that until recently, she never thought it would be her career.

"We're working here in order to have a job for all of us, especially due to the crisis in Greece," she says.

"It's a difficult job," Maria says. "But I really enjoy it. What the ancient Greeks called 'ef zin' - a good quality of life - I have it here, in this beautiful environment, through this job, which I already know well, so why should I not want it? It makes me happy. I'm always happy here and that's the most important thing. I can't imagine myself locked in four walls, doing the same thing every day." 

Her parents say they never pressured their children to work in the family business.

"We told them to study whatever would make them happy and afterwards feel free to do whatever job they wanted," Nikos, the father, says.

Eirini Olive Oil, which the Kalaboka family produces, is exported from the Greek island of Lesbos to countries such as Germany, Denmark and Japan [Nikolia Apostolou/Al Jazeera]

Economic hope

Since the crisis started, Greece's GDP has shrunk by 25 percent, while household spending is down by 40 percent. For years, EU funds were mismanaged and in some regions of the country, instead of being invested in the primary sector, they were turned into expensive cars and luxury houses.

Speaking last December to a crowd of farmers in Crete, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said: "It's the country's ethical and political obligation to support farmers. Because we have a vision, to boost the country's economy, not only depend on tourism. A country can't depend only on tourism, especially one like Greece that has the ability to produce such great quality products."

Today, the agricultural sector's contribution to the economy has risen by one billion euros from 3.1 percent in 2008 and the beginning of the crisis, to 4.2 percent. Agriculture's contribution to the Greek economy is twice that of any other country in the EU, according to the Agricultural University of Athens.

"We, the young people in the primary sector, have the key to recovering from this economic crisis," Thodoris says. "We can do it, as long as we work together, and work hard."

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Offline RE

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Sellouts in the Room: Greek Debt Crisis and SYRIZA Betrayals
« Reply #396 on: January 03, 2018, 01:23:59 AM »
http://www.mintpressnews.com/sellouts-room-eric-toussaint-greek-debt-crisis-syriza-betrayals/235924/

"Sellouts in the Room:”
Éric Toussaint on the Greek Debt Crisis and SYRIZA Betrayals


SYRIZA gained popular support and came in with a program that was really radical. They said we will socialize or nationalize the Greek banks and put in practice a very radical fiscal policy and increase the taxes on the rich, the Orthodox Church, and the oligarchs. They wound up doing just the opposite.
by Michael Nevradakis

December 29th, 2017

By Michael Nevradakis

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ATHENS, GREECE – For years, throughout the severe economic crisis that has plagued Greece over much of the past decade, the international media and financial press have held Greece up as a striking example of financial folly and mismanagement. Greece’s debt, we have been told, is the product of fiscal irresponsibility, of “lazy” and “unproductive” Greeks living beyond their means and spending recklessly. Moreover, Greece has been chastised for not emerging out of its economic doldrums despite being the recipient of hundreds of billions of euros worth of “free bailout money.” In short, Greece has been presented as an example for other countries to avoid at all costs.

Éric Toussaint, the spokesman of the Brussels-based Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM) and scientific director of the Greek Debt Truth Audit Commission, adopts a radically different view.

In an interview that initially aired on Dialogos Radio in December 2017, Toussaint describes the findings of the commission and describes the legal avenues available to Greece for the repudiation of a significant portion of its debt, which he describes as odious and illegitimate. He also criticizes claims made by economist and former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis in his recent book regarding the supposed lack of options available to Greece in its negotiations with its lenders in 2015.

 

Toussaint illustrates the capitulation of Varoufakis and current Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, resulting in further harsh austerity measures and no solution for the issue of the Greek public debt.

 

MPN: You recently wrote a three-part series of articles looking at the actions of, on the one hand, the SYRIZA-led government in Greece under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and, on the other hand, the actions of Yanis Varoufakis, the well-known economist and Greece’s finance minister under the SYRIZA-led government in the first half of 2015. Your critique comes following the publication of Varoufakis’ recent book, Adults In The Room, in which Varoufakis gives his account of the Greek crisis and his actions in supposedly standing up to the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund). We’ll use this as a starting off point for our discussion. What were your general impressions of the book?

 

Éric Toussaint: The book really should be read, because it’s a very useful testimony about what happened. I disagree with the orientation of Varoufakis, but it’s a unique presentation of what happened before the Greek parliamentary election of January 2015 and what happened in the first six months thereafter — leading to the capitulation of the SYRIZA government in July 2015, following its overturning of the result of the July 5 referendum rejecting a new German-backed austerity plan.

 

MPN: In Adults In The Room, one of the claims apparently made by Varoufakis is that Greece was bankrupt in 2009 and that this set the stage for the so-called “bailouts” and austerity that followed. You dispute this claim, however. What do the facts show?


Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis speaks during a parliamentary session in Athens, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP/Yannis Liakos)

ET: In reality, the main problem was on the side of the private debt, the debt of the Greek banks, but also other businesses and households. There had been a process of huge growth of the private debt just after the integration of Greece into the Eurozone, because the big French, German, Dutch, and Belgian banks wanted to lend money to Greece, knowing that there was no risk of devaluation because of the monetary union.

They had a surplus of liquidity before the crisis of 2007 – 08, and after the crisis because, as you will remember, the Federal Reserve of the U.S. and the European Central Bank injected a huge amount of liquidity into the banks. These banks used that money to lend where they were having the better profits, and the countries of the “periphery” — like Greece but also Portugal, Ireland, and Spain — were more profitable than countries like Germany, France, Benelux, the U.K. or the U.S.

So the main issue was the problem of the bubble of private credit, but the main problem of the Greek government of George Papandreou in 2009, and the problem of the French government of Nicolas Sarkozy and the government of Angela Merkel in Germany, was that it was impossible to tell voters that we have to once more bail out the private banks. Therefore, it was necessary for them to build a fake narrative of what was happening in Greece, telling the public that the main problem was the huge level of public debt and the incapacity of the Greek government to keep on financing its public and external debt. In reality, they created this fake narrative to convince public opinion about the need to give money to the Greek government to “bail out” the Greek private banks and the French and German and Dutch and Belgian private sector, mainly the banks.

So, I disagree with the dominant narrative and I disagree with Varoufakis, who wrote in his book that the Greek government was bankrupt. I think the main problem was the banks, and the Greek government had the choice to either bail out the private sector or to “bail in” and socialize the banks (forcing the banks to take losses). It ultimately decided not to socialize or to expropriate the private banks. It was an error of the Greek government, and the other European governments were accomplices, along with big financial capital.

In summary, there is a difference between what Varoufakis is saying and what I am saying, and the conclusions are also different. I would say that what the Greek government should have done would have been to suspend the payment of the external debt, including the public debt. Varoufakis is saying the Greek state should have recognized itself that it was bankrupt and should have sold public assets to the foreign private sector, including selling to the other European countries and investors, and to the Greek banks. Do you see the difference?

 

MPN: Much has been said about Greece falsifying economic figures to enter the Eurozone, but you point out in your articles that Greece’s debt and deficit statistics were falsified by the Papandreou government in 2009 and 2010 and by IMF employee Andreas Georgiou, who was placed in charge of the Greek Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) by the Papandreou government. How were the Greek debt and deficit figures falsified, and is this something that Varoufakis addresses in his book?


International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, right, arrives at the special Paris court, France. (AP/Thibault Camus)

ET: No, he says absolutely nothing about this falsification. But this falsification is evident. There is the case of Andreas Georgiou, the director of ELSTAT, who was sued, and at the beginning of August 2017 was found guilty of falsification by the Greek courts.

What happened? Papandreou met with the leaders of the European Central Bank — at that time it was Jean-Claude Trichet, very linked to the French banks — and the IMF, whose general director at that time, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was also very linked to the French banks. The Papandreou government asked the director of ELSTAT to add some debt to the official public debt. At the first step, Eurostat, the European organization of statistics, told ELSTAT that it was an error to add this debt, but Eurostat was afterward also convinced by Trichet and by José Manuel Barroso, then the president of the European Commission, to be part of the falsification of the Greek public debt.

I would estimate they increased the debt more or less 15 to 20 percent in relation to the Greek GDP, so that the official figure reached the huge ratio of 125 percent of GDP for the public debt, and the budgetary fiscal deficit reached something like 13 percent. So with these figures, the troika could say there is an emergency, we have to intervene to “help” the Greek government, with 110 billion euros of loans to Greece. So in this case, I would say that it was a conspiracy. I am not a conspiracist, but in this case we really now have the proof of a huge level of falsification and of the building of the fake narrative to misrepresent what was the real situation.

 

MPN: You point out that Yanis Varoufakis, despite his radical and leftist profile, maintained friendships and close contact with such figures as the head of the Greek conservative party, Antonis Samaras, who was prime minister of Greece between 2012 and 2014; Yannis Stournaras, who was the finance minister under the Samaras government during that period and who is the current governor of the Bank of Greece; and George Papandreou, who led Greece into the austerity and memorandum regime in 2009 and 2010. Describe the nature of Varoufakis’ relationships with these figures.

 

ET: You know, Varoufakis is very happy to share that he has developed and maintains many relations with the traditional political class in Greece. In some ways, when you read his book you see that he is trying to convince world leaders that what he was proposing was a better solution for everybody, including for the leaders of the world. And so he insisted on stating that [then-leader of the Greek opposition] Antonis Samaras called him one evening after [Varoufakis] publicly criticized what Papandreou was doing, with Samaras telling Varoufakis “I don’t know you but I like very much what you said on Greek television and to Greek public opinion.”

It shows that Varoufakis has a very complicated personality, because he says he wants to be at the side of the oppressed people, and he’s promised to his voters not to betray them, but at the same time he wanted to convince world leaders and to maintain very good relations with everybody — with Stournaras, with Samaras, with Papandreou, with Christine Lagarde, with [then-German finance minister Wolfgang] Schäuble, with [German Chancellor] Merkel. And in the U.S., if you read the book, he says he was very happy to maintain a very good relationship with Larry Summers and Jeffrey Sachs.

People in the U.S. should know who these guys are. Larry Summers was in charge of the U.S. Treasury in the Clinton administration at the end of the 1990s and he was responsible for the revocation of the Glass-Steagall Act [that had been a way of protecting the economy from unduly risky behavior by banks]. After that he was the president of Harvard University and was totally [chauvinistic] in his declaration of the difference between men and women. He can be fairly described as a right-wing Democrat. Sachs, who was also a friend of Varoufakis, was responsible for the first economic “shock therapy” [harsh and sudden economic austerity policies] imposed on Bolivia in 1995, and the “shock therapy” imposed on Russia and Poland in the early 1990s. So it’s really problematic to see this contradictory posture of Varoufakis.

 

MPN: In his book, Varoufakis goes on to say that he convinced SYRIZA to depart from its policy platform of 2012 and the Thessaloniki platform of 2014. Instead, Varoufakis convinced SYRIZA to adopt his own set of economic proposals. For instance, Varoufakis seems to have proposed advocating for a debt restructuring instead of a debt reduction. What was SYRIZA originally proposing; what were Varoufakis’ proposals which were ultimately adopted; and why were Varoufakis’ proposals, in your words, doomed to fail?
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015 file photo, a man walks past street art depicting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Athens, Greece. Tsipras' decision to sign off on a bailout led to many in his left-wing Syriza party to quit in protest.


A man walks past street art depicting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Athens, Greece. Tsipras’ decision to sign off on a bailout led to many in his left-wing Syriza party to quit in protest.

ET: In the electoral campaign of 2012, SYRIZA succeeded in increasing its popular support. In the election of 2009 SYRIZA received 4 percent of the vote, and in June 2012 26.5 percent of the vote. So it was very clear with the election of June 2012 that sometime in the future SYRIZA would become the government of Greece. And they gained such popular support in 2012 with a program that was very radical.

They were saying that if you elect us as government, we will suspend the payment of the debt and we will audit the debt to identify the illegitimate part of the Greek debt. They also said we will socialize or nationalize the Greek banks. And they said that they would put in practice a very radical fiscal policy and increase the taxes on the rich, the Orthodox Church, and the oligarchs who are active in the shipping industry. So it was a radical program, and they also said that we will not make any more sacrifices for the euro.

Varoufakis was opposed to this orientation, and in his book he explains how he succeeded in convincing Alexis Tsipras and his inner circle to moderate, to soften the program and to say that it was not necessary to suspend the payment of the debt — that it was possible to convince the creditors to restructure the debt without reducing the debt and without a suspension of payments. Varoufakis also wrote that he convinced Tsipras that it was important not to increase the taxes paid by the private sector, the Greek corporations and financial industry, and foreign corporations based in Greece.

What I can say as a comment on Varoufakis’ book is that Tsipras, after the election of June 2012, was also looking for people like Varoufakis, who could help Tsipras to soften the program of SYRIZA while not openly confronting the rest of SYRIZA’s leadership. So I would say Tsipras and Varoufakis organized something like a shadow cabinet within SYRIZA to prepare another official platform. Varoufakis explains that actually they did this against the official line of SYRIZA. For me, at this level, Varoufakis has a huge responsibility for the capitulation that happened at the beginning of July 2015.

 

MPN: One of Varoufakis’ proposals to the leaders of SYRIZA was to accept a primary budget surplus of up to 1.5 percent of GDP. For those unfamiliar with economics, what is a primary budget surplus and why is it harmful for a country whose economy is in a depressed state, as is the case in Greece?

 

ET: To achieve a primary budget surplus, you need to cut expenses, and it is clear that the type of expenses to be cut are social expenses and infrastructure investment. A primary surplus is achieved prior to paying the debt. When you say that I will guarantee as a government a primary surplus, it is to use this surplus to pay the debt. You will not question the payment of the debt when you guarantee a primary surplus.

The alternative would have been to say, as a legitimate leftist government, we should have a fiscal deficit, because we should use the money of the government to stimulate the recovery of the economic activity and we should improve the quality of life of the population — and to accomplish this we need more money for health, for education, to create jobs. And so, the proposal of Varoufakis was at odds with a truly radical negotiating position on the part of the Greek government.

 

MPN: Yanis Varoufakis and Alexis Tsipras have spoken, for instance, at the Brookings Institution, the well-known neoliberal Washington think tank. Can such actions, in your opinion, be reconciled with their supposedly leftist and radical image?

 

ET: I would say it is not really shocking. Personally I don’t like to do such things, but we can understand that certain people want to be in government and are therefore willing to give some speeches to different publics. But at the same time it is absolutely clear that Tsipras prioritized his being invited by institutional authorities who are neoliberal, and he did that and he has kept on doing that because he wants absolutely to be recognized as a political leader, one who is very responsible to the markets and to the stability of the financial system.

In the case of Varoufakis, he wanted to create, I would say, a more complex image — in some way provoking but in some way saying yes, we need to reach a compromise, an agreement. And he also gave an absolute priority to invitations from right-wing or systemic institutions. It’s very clear, for instance, that he liked very much the conservative leadership in the U.K. and accepted several invitations from them; and he also accepted, precisely at the beginning of his tenure as finance minister, an invitation to go to London to give a speech to foreign investors. It showed, in this way, that he and Tsipras were the main interlocutors with creditors and capitalists. In Varoufakis’ book, he also writes a lot about the good relations he tried to build with China and Chinese authorities investing in Greece.

 

MPN: You have been the scientific coordinator of the Greek Debt Truth Commission since it was established in 2015. Has the SYRIZA-led government shown any intention of adopting the findings of the commission, and was there any point during your participation on the commission when you realized that perhaps the SYRIZA government’s policies were going in a different direction from the work that you were doing?


Members of left wing parties shout slogans behind a burning European Union flag during an anti-EU protest in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki. (AP/Giannis Papanikos)

ET: I would say that frankly, since the beginning, when I spoke with the then-president of the Hellenic Parliament Zoe Konstantopoulou on February 16, 2015, I told her that I came to you, came to the parliament to make a proposal to you to launch an audit commission, and I can convince people from 10 different countries to work with no payment in favor of the Greek people and in favor of the truth about the debt. Telling that to Zoe [Konstantopoulou], I added that I was convinced that Alexis Tsipras would not be enthusiastic about that proposal. She told me, “No problem, I will do that, I will call Alexis and I will convince him.” She immediately issued a press release regarding our meeting on February 16, 2015. She also called Tsipras, and Tsipras officially told her “do it, it’s part of our program in 2012; do it and do it with Eric Toussaint.

We held the first meeting of the commission on April 4, 2015 in the Greek parliament. Alexis Tsipras came at the beginning of the inaugural session. The president of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, came also, and so officially they showed their support. Almost all the members of the government also attended, including Varoufakis. But it was clear to me that Varoufakis was not in favor of freely supporting the commission, and the same from Tsipras. Zoe Konstantopoulou was convinced, because she was a political friend and a friend of Tsipras, that he was sincere when he was telling her that he wanted to support our work.

Several weeks later, it was very clear that neither Tsipras or Varoufakis were open to publicly, in front of the media, mentioning the work of the commission. They never — you know, they traveled a lot to Brussels and Varoufakis traveled a lot to Washington to meet Christine Lagarde, the general director of the IMF — and they never questioned the legitimacy of the debt. So for me it was very clear that they were in some way forced by the president of the Greek parliament to express official support, but at the same time it was very clear that they didn’t want to radicalize their position.

I performed this work with the 13 members of the commission. The work done by the commission, I would say, consists of more than 1500 or 2000 hours of work performed over eight weeks among 13 persons. We worked day and night to produce a very efficient and rigorous report, and my expectation was that there was some possibility that several ministers of the SYRIZA-led government — ministers of the then-SYRIZA faction “Left Platform,” jointly with Zoe Konstantopoulou and the pressure from the streets and from the other radical-left groups and the trade-union left — could pressure the government to use our work. But I was not really very optimistic because I was very well informed about what Varoufakis was doing with his team of advisers. I was receiving clear information about the concessions that he was ready to give to the creditors.

But I don’t regret having done this work, and people who participated in the commission — people from France, Spain, Greece, Ecuador, Brazil, the U.K., Belgium — these people are very proud to have done this work. They are convinced that because we have done very serious work, it will be useful in the future — in Greece but also in other parts of the world, because in Spain, in Portugal, in Italy, in Slovenia, in other countries, people are reading our report, are asking us a lot of questions, trying to implement the same methodology to the specific case in their own country. I’m sure it will be useful.

 

MPN: Describe the findings and conclusions that were published in your report, and also the recommendations made by the Debt Truth Audit Commission.

 

ET: In the first two chapters, we analyze the building of the Greek public and private debt before the crisis. We explain what happened in the 1990s and in the first decade of the 21st century. We showed that the accumulation of debt was linked to huge amounts of military expenses encouraged by the U.S. government and the French and German governments, which are the main sellers of weapons to Greece. We showed also that interest rates paid by Greece at the end of the 20th century increased the debt, as also happened with the peripheral countries.

Additionally we showed the responsibility of the previous PASOK and New Democracy governments in giving tax gifts to the rich that reduced the government revenue and forced the government to finance its budget by debt. And we showed also that the debt increased after the addition of the Greece to the Eurozone, because a lot of money came from the German and French investors.

Following that, in chapters 3 and 4, we showed the transformation of the debt from the troika’s first memorandum, when the private lenders were replaced by public lenders — the troika, the European Commission, 14 different states of the Eurozone, the IMF and the European Central Bank. We showed that they did that to bail out the private banks — foreign and national — and not in the interest of the people. We demonstrated that the lenders added conditions to the new loans, conditions that violated international treaties on economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights.

In other words, we demonstrated that the debt to the troika was an odious debt, meaning a debt accumulated against the interests of the people, and that the creditors or lenders knew that they were giving loans against the interests of the people. And, in the case of the troika, this was absolutely evident, because the troika was dictating to the Greek government the terms of the loans — which laws to change, which new laws to adopt, what wage and pension reductions and privatizations to enact. The troika were not only accomplices but they were direct commanders — they were the initiators of these violations.

After that in the report we demonstrated the clear impact on the quality of life of the Greek population. In chapter 5, we named concrete international treaties and which article is being violated by the conditions imposed by the troika. And in the last two chapters we explained in legal terms why the Greek debt to the troika should be rejected as illegitimate, odious, illegal, and unsustainable.

Our conclusion was that the Greek government fully has the right to suspend the payment of the debt, to question the debt, and also to repudiate the part of the debt identified as odious. Notable lawyers helped us, as members of the commission, to write the conclusion based on international law and Greek domestic law. It is clear that should Varoufakis and Tsipras have used this report, they would have had very strong arguments against the creditors, instead of capitulating in front of them in July 2015.

 



A pedestrian passes anti-austerity graffiti in front of Athens Academy. (AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ET: The Debt Truth Commission was dissolved by the new president of the Greek parliament, Nikos Voutsis, in October 2015. We were opposed to its dissolution, and so we decided collectively to transform ourselves into an independent organization with the same name. We are active now as the Debt Truth Committee, recognized by Greek law, and we have met several times in the past two years.

We met once in the European Parliament, invited by several members of the European Parliament — French, Greek, German and Spanish European MPs who are supporting our work. We held several meetings in Greece, not in the parliament because we are no longer invited, but in the office of the Greek Association of Lawyers. There were many Greek citizens who attended the public part of our meetings.

Several of us have published different articles. I published a book in Greek last July with new material about the Greek debt. We also produced several videos and a documentary, “Audit,” a 26 minute film. It is very interesting, I recommend to you to view it. I have to check, but I think that very soon it will be available with English subtitles. So we are keeping on with our work. It is clear that we are not supported by the government. And the right-wing press maintains silence about our work — but we enjoy significant support in the Greek social movements and radical-left organizations.

 

MPN: In looking at Greece over the years of the economic crisis, we’ve often heard that Greece has been given all this money by the troika, insinuating that the money was simply given away to Greece. In reality though, where have most of the so-called “bailout” funds ended up?

 

ET: It’s absolutely clear that more than 90 percent of the loans given to Greece went back outside of Greece to pay back the private banks and public creditors, or to bail out the Greek banks. Less than 10 percent has been used by the regular government as an input to the budget, but they used even that to promote the neoliberal policies! So this money also was used against the interests of the Greek people, because it was used to finance privatizations, to finance the layoffs of thousands of public servants, et cetera.

 

MPN: What options does Greece have available to it under domestic law, European law, and international law today — with regards to the public debt, and also with regards to the potential abolition or overturning of the austerity measures and memorandum-related policies, such as privatizations, that have followed?


Riot police clashes with protesting farmers outside the greek Agriculture Ministry, in Athens, Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Police fired tear gas to prevent farmers from forcing their way into the ministry building, while protesters responded by throwing stones. No injuries or arrests were reported. Protesters are angry at increases in their tax and social security contributions, part of the income and spending cuts Greece’s left-led government has implemented to meet bailout creditor-demanded budget targets.(AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ET: There is something very concrete that could be done with the Greek bonds owned by the European Central Bank. The ECB bought Greek bonds in 2010, 2011, and 2012 at a discount price, a discount of 30 percent. After that, after the “haircut” [downward revaluation of Greek bonds] of 2012, the ECB refused to be part of the “haircut.” Now the ECB is demanding that Greece repay the full amount of the Greek bonds the ECB bought at a discount price. It is demanding the full nominal value of the bonds — and with a very high interest rate, 6.5 percent — at the same time that the ECB is lending money to the private banks at zero interest.

What the Greek government could do is to change the legal status of the Greek bonds, because they are still covered under the legal jurisdiction of Greece. The Greek government could say we are enacting a haircut of 50 or 80 percent on these bonds, to reduce the payments, because we want to use the money in favor of the Greek people’s interests. It would be possible to do that. Tsipras can do that or a future Greek government can do that.

What should complement this, what a government that would like to really help the Greek people’s interests could do would be to, on the basis of our audit, enact another unilateral, sovereign action of repudiation of other parts of the debt. It is clear that this would provoke a huge verbal reaction. But for the past seven years, since the first memorandum of 2010, the creditors have criticized the Greek government and the Greek population, shown the Greek population as “lazy” and as “delinquent” at the level of tax payments. I think that they cannot, as creditors, inflict more pain on the Greek people than they already have.

A legitimate government can affirm the popular sovereignty in the interests of the Greek population, can resolve an issue in favor of the general interest of the population — and not only the Greek people’s interests, but humanity, I would say. We need justice, and if there is no justice for the Greek people, there will be no justice for all the people in Europe and the rest of the world. We have to launch and to expand the struggle to oppose illegitimate and odious debt all over the world.

 

MPN: Debt, as you say, is not just a Greek or European problem. Total world debt is said to surpass $230 trillion dollars. Is the current global economic model sustainable under such conditions, in your view?

 

ET: No, it’s not sustainable. As you certainly know, recently the IMF but also the Bank of International Settlements — it is a bank of the big central banks based in Basel, Switzerland — have been saying there are new financial bubbles. These bubbles have been provoked by an inflation of the price of assets, with a massive injection of liquidity decided by the big central banks like the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of England.

In the next months or years this will provoke a new financial crisis. Exactly when it will happen we don’t know. It can happen in one week or in six months or in one year. Certainly it will happen with a stock exchange crash, and a crash on the market of obligations emitted by private corporations and also sovereign debt. Where it will explode — Wall Street, Paris, Frankfurt — we don’t know. Maybe Beijing. But it will explode in the near future.

This model of huge global debt, which is accumulated in favor of speculative activities and to enrich the richest, will end via a new general crisis. Not a terminal crisis of capitalism, because the structure of capitalism has survived such financial crises since the beginning of the 19th century.

But these types of crises generally deliver a huge amount of pain to the majority of the population, so we should be conscious of what capitalism is preparing for the population of the world. We have to combine a struggle against illegitimate debt with other demands about private banks, about taxes, against climate change, in favor of social justice. We need to chart a radical turn opposing the capitalist model.

Stories published in our Daily Digests section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.
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