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By Marianella Kloka*.
We have almost had a month of coalition government since the elections of the 25th of January. There is no doubt that throughout this period we have heard things that the majority of Greeks wanted to hear, not only in the Greek Parliament but also during the visits of Tsipras and Varoufakis to some big European cities and during the meetings of the Eurogroup. The huge increase of popularity of those two men, reaching almost 80% approval according to surveys, proves that. They have spoken of a Europe that supports the voice of its people and not the demands of the markets; they have specifically mentioned the percentages that come from austerity policies in Greece and the deep recession we are experiencing and they have asked for recognition of the demands on which the recent elections were conducted. Those demands, as announced during the International Expo of Thessaloniki, are:
- To combat the humanitarian crisis (estimated cost: 2 billion euros)
- Immediate measures to restart the economy (estimated cost: 6,6 billion euros)
- A national strategy for labour recovery (2 billion euros for the first year and another 2 billion euros for the second year)
- Institutional and democratic transformation of the political system
Nothing was said about quitting the euro, so all the above measures we assume were to be implemented within the eurozone.
The agreement, in principle, of last Friday in the Eurogroup, was accepted with relief from one part of the Greek population that didn’t want Greece out of the euro but for the first time they have seen the Greek government negotiating with a Europe that was neither used to negotiating nor wanting to negotiate. The negotiations were entered into malevolently and undermined by those who felt insulted by the truths heard for the first time regarding the really difficult situation of our country and of Europe generally. It spread puzzling thoughts and pessimism to those who believed that “this is our chance!” and also the seed of discord inside Syriza driven by two major voices of protest: on the one hand, the communist component of the party that even asked for a change in the leadership and on the other one the MEP, Manolis Glezos, who asked forgiveness from the Greek people.
The atmosphere in Europe
In some European cities people have realized the significance of the moment and some of them have demonstrated in order to stand with alongside Greek efforts and demands. Though this was welcomed by every Greek heart that asked for it, surely it was not a strong and lasting movement for change, asking for a different Europe, asking for the wellbeing of the people instead of the wellbeing of the markets and pressing their own governments to demand solutions in the Eurogroup not only for the Greek issue but also for the European one. What if in Germany the articles talking about 10,000,000 poor people increase? What if in Italy there is a constant invasion with more austerity measures? During the second mobilization just before the Eurogroup meeting I was to be found in Ljubljana, where nothing was organized, nothing was happening. At the end the group I was working with on other issues I shared my initiative to hold a banner supporting Greece. It’s worth mentioning that 50% of the group consisted of Germans.
At a governmental level things were even more tragic; the reaction of the governments of countries supposedly “poorer than Greece” (e.g. Slovakia) was maybe even a bigger surprise than the reaction of the governments of countries that are also under memorandums (e.g. Spain) or the cynical reaction of the government of Germany (“if this is what the Greeks want, we ask Mr. Draghi to close the valves of the ECB).
Challenges for the Greek Government
As the Greek Government has never seriously mentioned the possibility of the Grexit, it is trapped into an agreement (blackmail) with the Eurogroup in which some small victories may be won but the major part still favours the German government. All of us who understand the framework in which negotiations take place, want to give time and not practice cannibalism and gossiping. As we anticipate the measures proposed by the Greek government and their acceptance by the Eurogroup we keep asking ourselves:
- As the funds of the ESFS destined to Greece are no longer under the control of the Greek government, where will the funds emerge from to fulfill the national strategy of reconstruction?
- Do we forget once and for all the issue of debt cuts even though we all believe that this kind of debt is not sustainable?
- Under this logic how can policies to overcome the humanitarian crisis be combined with the existing framework?
- Is it possible to find funds for the above only by chasing big tax evasion and if so, how can this be achieved in the short term?
Taking into consideration the circumstances that are not matured within the Eurozone concerning the implementation of policies that combat the humanitarian crisis of people in relation to the wellbeing of the markets, maybe it’s time to open the discussion seriously and with calmness about exiting the Eurozone. Let’s discuss and let the people decide with a referendum.
Challenges for the people
People’s movement in the squares must not be directed by governments: it has to support governmental choices, where this seems to serve the public interest, and to advocate constantly for the exit of the recession, the combatting of the humanitarian crisis, and asking for different values within Europe. It needs to demonstrate opposition to governmental choices if they turn back from the pre electoral declarations of the parties that form the government. It must demand referendums for all important decisions no matter how fresh some public mandates are (e.g. the recent elections).
Whoever demonstrates in the squares both in Greece and in Europe must not allow disappointment to contaminate their souls. Changes may come overnight, when the circumstances become mature. We must feed faith in change, independently of the government. We must increase all actions of solidarity and alternative ways of an active non-violent battle that have emerged in recent years.
We must keep on asking other European countries to understand the problem in the right perspective; the economic model and the current system that has imposed it has failed; simply because it placed money and markets over people.
Marianella Kloka is a life-long activist in the Humanist Movement in Greece and has developed political, social and cultural activities in different countries and continents over more than 20 years.