Busker in Thessaloniki. Ira Gelb/Flickr. Some rights reserved.Dear friends,
I am writing from an edge of Europe that has suffered a lot for decades and that today is fighting for its survival and dignity: Greece.
My home is struggling in a cold and anti-European Europe. We are impoverished, disgraced and disrespected, almost helpless before the power of the international media and the economic colossus.
Greek citizens have lived during the last years in a modern colony, robbed by corrupted politicians and crooked corporate executives. But wherever there is a corrupted person there is also a corruptor. The governments of the powerful states of Europe, amongst others, have created and enforced the corruption in our country. The Greek decline has profited the telecommunications, defence and construction industries based in Germany, Great Britain, France and elsewhere. It has also served the interests of the governments of those countries, whose pockets have been lined with the income of the Greek people—not their own.
The Greek political system silenced economic criticism through bribery, and tolerated the tax evasion of the powerful. Every contrary voice was suppressed or trivialised as naïve. The Athens Olympic Games of 2004 were the ultimate facade, the final banquet of a country systematically drained of its resources through profiteering. The same people who created and sustained this situation then sought to ‘save’ our country by appealing for help from the ECB, the EC and the IMF. The Troika was created, an unelected informal body with no legal accountability to the democratically elected European Parliament. And yet Troika effectively has ruled Greece for five years, being responsible for administering and implementing brutal austerity measures to deal with our debt.
But who actually pays this debt? It is the Greek people, a people that official measurements show are working harder than most of the other people of the European Union, but who continue to be accused of laziness and fraud.
The economic measures forced upon Greece have been wholly ineffective. They were not intended to deal with corporate tax evasion and corruption, and nor were they designed to facilitate economic growth. They were rooted instead in austerity, dramatic and systematic job cuts, drastic reductions in salaries and pensions, and huge tax hikes for ordinary working people.
In the five years of Troika dominance, unemployment has risen officially to 27%. Youth unemployment approaches 60%. One out of four Greek citizens live below the poverty line. Our national debt, as a proportion of our GDP, has risen from 124% to 180% of GDP. And new loans have been offered to the Greek state to enable us to pay existing ones, thus creating new debts that are impossible for us ever to repay.
What does our salvation look like? Our people have been asked to go hungry in order to bail out the debts created by a wealthy and powerful minority, not just in the country but internationally. Greece is still the ideal place for your vacations, but a very difficult place to live. Suicides have risen dramatically. People with health insurance, who have paid taxes all their lives, are dying without the medicine and treatment they need. Uninsured, unemployed patients die helplessly. Children faint at school due to malnutrition. Despair grows deeper. The neo-nazi party Golden Dawn has the third highest vote, even with its leaders in jail. All this happens in the Europe of 2015. And the debt grows bigger.
A few weeks ago, Greece chose hope instead of fear. Despite overwhelming scaremongering by the media and foreign officials who pressed us to vote once more for those responsible for the economic catastrophe, its people voted for a government that is determined to fight for the rights and wellbeing not only of Greek citizens but all the citizens of Europe. The Greek people do not want the money of other countries’ taxpayers to end up in the vaults of banks and institutions who created this crisis. They cannot be allowed to profit twice.
We are a small country. Our powers are limited. Our voice is not loud. We don’t have many allies in our struggle. But the fairness of our cause, our need for dignity, our hope of a humane Europe, the support of those who understand what is really happening, gives us the strength to keep going and keep hoping.
I ask you to stand in solidarity with the urgent, difficult, dignified and just struggle of the Greek people, which is also the struggle of every citizen.