Monitoring the Greek Case during the Financial Crisis

 

Athanasia Zagorianou, Global Education MagazineAthanasia Zagorianou

Strathclyde University, Master in Human Rights Law, Researcher & Member, Trustees Council, Citizens’ Rights Watch (CRW)

E-mail: nassia_izago@yahoo.gr, /  zagorianoua@gmail.com

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Abstract

In the effort to inform, condemn and most importantly prevent global poverty this paper examines the promises and policies of Greek politicians during the Greek crisis and its social effects and consequences on people’s lives and rights. Aim of this paper is not only to condemn poverty and the Greek politicians’ broken promises (that played a significant role in the country’s bad course) but also to put a global pressure on governments in order to take substantial measures to deal with poverty and protect their citizens properly. Through the study of various sources it becomes apparent that the financial crisis that stroke the country had inevitable and catastrophic consequences on the country’s prosperity. Lies, wrong policies and bad governance within the country seriously aggravated the situation. As a result, the unemployment rates increased and many civilians were forced to live under conditions of extreme poverty without any help or protection. The case of Greece is only one example among many other countries around the world that have been lost in the abyss due to poverty and corrupted political systems.The key element to welfare is the promotion and the maintenance of the following core values: solidarity, freedom, human dignity, tolerance, social justice and the rule of law.

Keywords: Greece, Financial crisis, Solidarity, Poverty, Politicians, Promises.

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Παρακολουθώντας την Υπόθεση της Ελλάδας κατά τη Διάρκεια της Κρίσης

Απόσπασμα

Σε μία προσπάθεια να πληροφορήσει, να καταδικάσει και σημαντικότερα να αποτρέψει την παγκόσμια φτώχεια, αυτό το άρθρο εξετάζει τις υποσχέσεις και πολιτικές των Ελλήνων πολιτικών κατά τη διάρκεια της Ελληνικής οικονομικής κρίσης, τις κοινωνικές της επιδράσεις και τις συνέπειες της στις ζωές και τα δικαιώματα των ανθρώπων. Σκοπός αυτού του άρθρου δεν είναι μόνο να καταδικάσει την φτώχεια και τις ανεκπλήρωτες υποσχέσεις των Ελλήνων πολιτικών (που διαδραμάτησαν σημαντικό ρόλο στην κακή πορεία της χώρας), αλλά και να ασκήσει παγκόσμια πίεση στις κυβερνήσεις με σκοπό τη λήψη ουσιαστικών μέτρων για την αντιμετώπιση της ανέχειας και την σωστή προστασία των πολιτών. Μέσα από τη μελέτη διαφόρων πηγών καθίσταται προφανές ότι η οικονομική κρίση που έπληξε τη χώρα είχε αναπόφευκτες και καταστροφικές συνέπειες για την ευημερία της. Ψέματα, λανθασμένες πολιτικές και κακή διακυβέρνηση στο εσωτερικό της χώρας επιδείνωσαν σοβαρά την κατάσταση. Ως αποτέλεσμα, τα ποσοστά ανεργίας αυξήθηκαν και πολλοί πολίτες αναγκάστηκαν να ζουν σε συνθήκες ακραίας ανέχειας, χωρίς καμία βοήθεια ή προστασία. Η υπόθεση της Ελλάδας είναι μόνο ένα παράδειγμα ανάμεσα σε πολλές άλλες χώρες του κόσμου που έχουν χαθεί στην άβυσσο εξαιτίας της φτώχειας και των διεφθαρμένων πολιτικών συστημάτων. Το στοιχείο κλειδί για την επίτευξη της ευημερίας είναι η προώθηση και η διατήρηση των παρακάτω βασικών αξιών: αλληλεγγύη, ελευθερία, ανθρώπινη αξιοπρέπεια, ανοχή, κοινωνική δικαιοσύνη και κράτος δικαίου.

Λέξεις κλειδιά: Ελλάδα, Οικονομική κρίση, Αλληλεγγύη, Φτώχεια, Πολιτικοί, Υποσχέσεις

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Introduction

In 2005, under the resolution 60/209, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared 20 December as the International Human Solidarity Day (UN, 2008). This day is all about bringing people together to promote unity and solidarity towards the initiative to fight poverty. A day that reminds and prompts politicians and governments to keep their promises and stand up for their countries’ prosperity, peace and sustainable progress. According to the UN’s official website “Solidarity is identified in the Millennium Declaration as one of the fundamental values of international relations in the 21st Century, wherein those who either suffer or benefit least deserve help from those who benefit most.” Since 2009 and the outburst of the financial crisis in Greece, the Mediterranean country is one of the countries that suffer the most and have benefited the least among the other countries-members of the European Union (EU).

Financial Crisis & Broken Promises

The financial crisis arose in 2007, in a rather shady and relatively unfamiliar to the majority of people, part of the U.S. economic system. Triggered by the known “United States housing bubble”, the 2007-2008 financial crisis soon led to the 2008–2012 global recession and subsequently affected Eurozone by contributing to its sovereign-debt (Baily and Elliot, 2009 & Lin and Treichel, 2012) Although the crisis that the EU faces has been mainly correlated with Greece, the truth is that it has also dramatically shaken many countries of the Southern Europe. It is a fact though that Greece is one of the most affected and weakest among other member states of the Euro area. Findings have revealed that some of the most important causes of the Greek economic crisis (among others) were: the country’s long history of budget deficits (particularly since 1973), the extensive dimensions of tax evasion, bribery, political corruption, falsified data and political interfering in the country’s deficit and debt statistics (European Commission, 2010). In 2009, serious concerns about the country’s economy and the possibility of a coming debt crisis had already raised within the country. Although it seems that the crisis had already knocked Greece’s door, Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou decided to conceal it. In his pre-election speech Papandreou stated with confidence that the country has the money that are needed to pull Greece out of a financial crisis claiming that “he will inject up to 3bn euros into the [country’s] economy” (Papachelas, 2011 & BBC News, 2009). His pre-elections speeches/campaign were filled with “great” promises, with primary goal “to change the country’s course into one of law, justice, solidarity, green development and progress”(BBC News, 2011). Ironically, soon after the Greek general election 2009, the elected prime minister, Papandreou revealed that the country had “[a] budget deficit of 12.7% of GDP and a $410 billion public debt” (Crumley, 2010). Even though he had promised that there will not be any tax rises and that Greek citizens will not be subjected to salary and pension reductions, he failed to keep his promises and the situation soon changed dramatically. In response to the dawn of the financial crisis, in 2010 the Greek government along with Troika (European Union (EU), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) introduced a strict austerity program in order to receive its first bailout loan. However, that was only the beginning for civilians’ economic burdens and soon the Greek government introduced more austerity measure packages, imposing more taxes, salary, pension and benefits cuts and reductions on Greek citizens. The austerity measures seriously affected the economic situation for the mid and lower-income classes, measures that the Greek public did not welcome (Matsaganis et al, 2011, pp.8-11). Even though United Nations (UN) independent expert on foreign debt and human rights, Cephas Lumina had warned that the introduction of a second austerity package could constitute a serious violation against the Greeks’ human rights, this did not stop the government from going forward (OHCHR, 2011) A massive wave of protests and riots full of anger and desperation erupted within the country condemning Papandreou’s policies and the austerity measures. National strikes started taking place more and more often while people began selling their properties to survive and confront the new economic reality. After Papandreou’s resignation, from 2011 to 2012 the country’s governance was passed to many temporary hands (Lucas Papadimos and Panagiotis Pikramenos). In 2012, Antonis Samaras won the General Elections and was appointed new Prime Minister. Samara’s tactic to win the elections did not differ much from the one that Papandreou had adopted to win in 2009. In his pre-election speech Samaras promised to get the country in a better course by stating that there will be “no other horizontal cuts, no more reduction in wages and pensions, no more cuts in public investment programs, not more new taxes”(Athens, Zappeio Megaro – Speech of Antonis Samaras, 2012). After his election, Samara’s promises for restoration of low pensions, new jobs and others that for a moment had given hope to many Greeks, appeared to be a big lie. Following the steps of his predecessor in government Papandreou, Samaras introduced new austerity measures, also leaving behind him a long list of broken and uncompleted promises to the Greek citizens. In the view of the new austerity measures, people strongly doubted Samara’s credibility. The rise of unemployment rates, the constant firings, the cuts and reductions in benefits, pensions and salaries showed that the burdens of Greek citizens were just in the beginning (Labropoulou et al, 2012 & Hellenic Statistical Authority, 2014).

Greek Crisis: The Consequences

The austerity measures introduced by the Greek government, its weak governmental system, politicians’ broken promises and the new economic situation spread an intense climate of frustration and social unrest across the country. National strikes, daily protests and riots that reached their peak during the 2010-2012 period became a common phenomenon within the country. In the wake of the government’s proposition for spending cuts and tax rises, a wide strike began on 5 May 2010 and was followed by one of the biggest protests that have taken place in Greek history. The wide protest that took place in the capital, Athens, resulted in violent clashes between the authorities and the protestors and caused the injury of many and the death of three people (Bilefsky, 2010). Two of the most important consequences that the financial crisis and austerity measures brought to people’s lives were the escalation of poverty and unemployment rates. Many families started living under conditions of impoverishment, turning to charities and NGOs for help and food. The austerity packages came in waves while basic needs such as food, housing, health care and heating became luxurious necessities for middle and low income citizens who saw their households’ incomes steadily shrink. In 2013, Greece had one of the highest poverty rates making the country one of the poorest among EU members with a percentage of 34.6% as noted by Eurostat in its 2014 estimations. According to the 2014 Hellenic Statistical Authority’s data, from 2010 to 2013 Greek unemployment percentage increased from 19.5% to 27.8%. Even though a few years ago Greece was considered to have one of lowest suicide rates among EU countries, since 2010 suicide rates have sadly increased approximately 40-45 % (Chalari,2014, p.90). In 2014 it was noted that the suicide percentage has slightly decreased showing some steps of improvement. Nevertheless, it is a fact that suicide incidents are still high across the country (Chalari,2014). One of the most concerning consequences was the outburst of racism and xenophobia across the country (Egeland & Sunderland, 2012). The nation’s anger and desperation fed discrimination and prejudices against immigrants and asylum seekers who started to be targeted as the country’s biggest suffering. Racist feelings were triggered and started to spread under the control of the extreme-right political party, Golden Dawn that have been intensively criticized and accused for their extreme fascist perceptions and actions (Egeland & Sunderland, 2012 &Smith- Spark, 2012). Human rights representatives strongly expressed their concerns about the issue of violation against immigrants’ and asylum seekers’ rights noting the worrying dimensions of the issue (Alafouzos, 2013).

Conclusion

Through the study of Greek politicians’ broken promises and the impact of the crisis that led to the impoverishment of Greek citizens, this paper aimed to deliver a lesson of benevolence and unite people under an initiative to eradicate poverty. In the case of Greece, the economic crisis has been really hard for its people while the politicians’ policies did not help improve the situation. Watching a government ignore its nation’s needs and political leaders trick their citizens with promises they are unable to keep (to get more votes), serious concerns rise about the country’s governmental system. The weak Greek system of governance and its bad decisions and policies are the main reasons for many people’s sufferings. Poverty can bring more afflictions than people can possibly imagine. Suicide and racist incidents are only a small sample of poverty’s horrible effects and the only way to eradicate it and avoid its harsh face is by sharing the idea and value of solidarity amongst governments, people, nations and countries.

References

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This article was published on 20th December 2014, for the International Human Solidarity Day, in Global Education Magazine.

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