Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Those Greeks

Those Greeks. They're making world headlines again. What a headache. No One really cares what happens to those Greeks - They have Their own problems. But They talk about those Greeks a lot. What happens to those Greeks will eventually have significant impacts on Them. Some of Them will be winners, while some of Them will be losers. That's all that matters:
The Greek election results were not surprising: people voted against the whole establishment. And not just in Greece: France, a country with an economy quite the opposite to Greece's, did much the same thing at the same time as Greece. In one weekend, the decisions that the troika 'had worked so hard for' are again up in the air: those Greeks voted against the bailout measures (but not the bailout), those Greeks rejected the EU's plans (but not the EU), and those Greeks made the euro's value plunge immediately (along with petrol prices, thank you very much).

Can Anyone make Greece do what They want her to do? As I write this, I'm reading the BBC's latest Greek headline:
Greek election: Syriza 'to tear up EU austerity deal' (BBC, Wednesday 9 May)
... at the same time as:
"The European Commission and Germany say countries must stick to budget cuts." (BBC, Wednesday 9 May)
No One really knows what is going to happen in the near future because of the likelihood of new elections in Greece, which adds an element of fear to the whole issue. We are always scared of the unknown. But one thing is clear. Everyone is scared. Well, almost everyone. Everyone is scared except those Greeks. They know they haven't got much to lose from now on. They've lost most of the financial security that they thought they had for life - nearly all of it, in fact. The fear is elsewhere - it's in Them:
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Tuesday: "What member states have to do is be consistent, implementing the policies that they have agreed." (BBC, Wednesday 9 May)
... while...
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has written to Mr Hollande, saying that it is "up to us... to prepare our societies for the future and protect and advance prosperity in a sustainable way". (BBC, Wednesday 9 May)
OK. Sure. But how? On the one hand, the Greek Parliament prior to the 6th of May 2012 had accepted all the terms of the troika for budget cuts and austerity measures. But now:
"The two big parties of Greek politics, Pasok and New Democracy (ND), have been punished and that issue of punishment is vital to the aftermath of this election.The voters appear to have decided that they did not fulfil the expectations of both the poor and the middle classes. The two parties did not push for development with a search for growth, nor did they manage the debt.They did not negotiate properly with the troika (the EU, IMF and ECB) and did not have a team with the strategy or knowledge that could have produced a better deal for Greece. Athens made mistakes from the start of talks in 2010. The whole tone of negotiations might have been different had Greece appreciated the real anxieties of the EU."
As for those Greeks, they're having the last laugh - before new laughter starts up again with a second election:
"Greeks may decide instead to vote for the devil they know and cast their ballots for ND and Pasok. ND in particular has been outspoken in criticizing Syriza, rightly claiming that a rejection of the bailout could well result in Greece's exit from the EZ. Voters in Greece are overwhelmingly still in favour of EZ membership, and consequently may come flocking back to the two traditional parties. Furthermore, ND and Pasok are nationwide party machines. With abstention rates at record highs, they may succeed in mobilizing voters in a second election."

It souds a bit like separating the sheep from the goats. Up until the 6th of May 2012, it was the politicians' image of 'those Greeks' that Greek identity had been matched with in the global stereotype. Whatever happens in the next elections, the Greek identity will become clearer.

Just this minute, the Guardian is asking its readers: 
8.39am: Do you believe Greece will exit the euro, or can the single currency hang together? Either way, you can vote in our poll. (Wednesday 9 May)
For Gawd's sake, not that one again: Give us all a break! Haven't we been down that channel before?

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