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In Greece it is austerity itself that has caused the tragedy

By Dimitris Pavlopoulos

(Dimitris Pavlopoulos works as an assistant professor in Sociology at the Free University of Amsterdam.)

The Greek elections on January 25th are sending a message to whole Europe.


On January 25th the Greek citizens are going to cast their votes. Since the announcement of the early parliamentary elections, intimidation of Greek citizens begun. The President of the European Commission warned the Greek people that they should not vote for “extremist parties”. The German Minister of Finance claimed that he expects the continuation of the austerity policies regardless of the result. The media in many European countries are engaged in a discussion about the threat of a “radical left” government in Greece.

All parties participating in this intimidation propaganda want to ensure that the austerity programme will be further implemented in Greece at all costs. The Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) have already made agreements with the current coalition government about a new round of austerity measures: the minimum salary to be reduced to 150 Euro, the VAT to be increased, thousands of civil servants to be laid off and home evictions due to unpaid taxes or unserviced bank loans to be further facilitated.

Humanitarian crisis

In Greece, it is the austerity programme itself that has caused the tragedy and not – as the Troika suggests- its poor implementation. This austerity programme, instead of reducing the sovereign debt, has increased it from 120% of the GDP in 2009 to 179%. The GDP is reduced by 25% because of the austerity measures. The investments are in such a free fall that Greece ranks among the countries with the lowest investments in the world. The positive figures concerning economic growth and the primary budget surplus are nothing else but a calculating trick of the government in agreement with the EU. For example, the royal subsidies to the banks are not calculated as government expenses.

At the same time, this austerity programme has caused a humanitarian crisis. One third of the population (and two thirds of the young people) are jobless, whereas almost half of the population lives below or almost below poverty line. Almost three millions workers receive their salary with one to twelve months delay. Three million Greek citizens have no access to public health services. Approximately 300.000 children live in households where both parents are jobless. Even basic state services have been hardly hit by austerity as illustrated by the inefficient mobilization of the Greek rescuing services during the disaster of the ferry Norman Atlantic in the Adriatic Sea.

Other course

The economic crisis is a European crisis and not just a Greek crisis. Many European governments – the Belgian government included- implement austerity policies that are based on the same principles as the ones of Samaras-government. These policies have resulted into increased unemployment, increased social inequality and consist also a threat to democracy in Europe.

On January 25th Greek citizens will be the ones that have the mandate to decide . It ishigh time that Greece follows a different course. The needs of the population should be set above the interests of the creditors of the state. since the EU and the governments of the member states are not planning to revise this austerity policies, it is highest time that European citizens take their future in their own hands. Therefore the Greek elections on 25th January are important for Europe as a whole.

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The article was translated by ReINFORM.


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