OPINION

On the Greek haircut, illegal immigrants and Papandreou on CNN

Who’s responsible?

The debt crisis is the direct result of decades of accrued interest on money borrowed to correct budget deficits.

Nothing more. Nothing less. In 2009, it reached critical mass and our government could no longer borrow money at favorable rates. In an attempt to avert default, our government went to the troika and asked for even more money, which has only been used to pay the interest on all the other loans they previously secured. In other words, the principal sum is still owed and is not decreasing. In fact, it increases with every tranche. Throughout this period of time, PASOK and ND have been the only two political parties governing our nation. Their ridiculous nepotism and corruption have led to an unsustainable nanny state in which less than 50% of the population pays any tax, and of those that do, less than 25% pay their fair share based on their actual income as opposed to their reported income. And so now we have an appointed PM, a banker no less, pushing through the reforms that neither PASOK nor ND dared attempt despite this being a condition of being a member Euro state. Imagine being extremely well paid for 10 years for doing absolutely nothing and then complaining when an outsider, in this case a private citizen, steps up and does what you have failed to do despite accepting the responsibility to do so and receiving an income to boot. That’s what our MPs have been doing and that is why we should vote them all out and elect people with character and ideas to serve us and our country. Mind you, the troika will probably tell us when we can hold elections but when that day eventually comes, remember who is responsible for this mess.

Jonathan Reynik

EU Task Force

The Ekathimerini deserves praise for publishing a lengthy report on the activities of the EU Task Force. One of the key questions/answers in this interview is the following:

«Do you understand why some Greeks might view the Task Force’s presence in Greece with suspicion? How would you respond to those who fear that you and your colleagues are here to impose orders from Brussels or somewhere else and that this implies a loss of sovereignty for Greece?

?The main stakeholders with whom we work — the ministries, the different public organizations but also the private sector — know that none of this is true. Colleagues in the public administration and at the ministries know that we do not impose anything on them, we respect their wishes and it is for them to make the decisions. We are very much aware that if you impose a decision that is not accepted, it will never work. We want all the resources that Greece and the European Commission put in this effort to bear fruit.»

Any «European» reading this interview (or the 1st Report of the EU Task Force) should be proud to be part of an EU which provides such assistance to member states and any Greek reading it should be glad to belong to such an EU! The mission of the EU Task Force is summarized in the executive summary of its 1st Report as follows:

«The Task Force is a resource at the disposal of the Greek authorities as they seek to build a modern and prosperous Greece: a Greece characterised by economic opportunity and social equity, and served by an efficient administration with a strong public service ethos.»

Can one think of any better news for a country which has been in dire straits for quite some time now?

Unfortunately, it is not sufficient that only the «main stakeholders» are familiar with the objectives of the EU Task Force and that there is a huge difference between the EU Task Force and the Troika. The EU Task Force aims at the interests of Greece; the Troika aims at the interests of Greece’s creditors. Both are important but there should be no question that the EU Task Force is the more important one for the future of Greece.

Thus, the Ekathimerini article will hopefully be only a first step in communicating to all Greeks that there can be light at the end of the tunnel if one only goes for it, and that it could indeed be quite a bright light.

I strongly hope that there will be more publicity given to the objectives and activities of the EU Task Force (following the motto: «Don’t only do good things; do also talk about them!”). My Greek friends, «experienced Greeks», call me an illusionist when I talk like this but I have this unwavering belief that Greeks, when told what the mission is and what positive things will come out at the end of it, will be prepared to rally around such a cause.

And once the majority of Greeks (perhaps beginning with the young generation) rally around such a cause, politicians who spend their time fighting over petty things may start feeling very lonely. One can only hope that they will!

Klaus Kastner

Austria

Opportunity for doctors in England

Dear Editor

A large hospital in central England has closed its Accident and Emergency Department because of a lack of doctors to keep it safely working.

Mid Staffs NHS Trust and the Chief Executive of Stafford Hospital have stated they intend to pay a higher wage to doctors than in other NHS hospitals in England, so as to recruit staff for the A and that is the European cloth. We must find a new way forward. Certainly Greece needs to become a producing nation. We need to organize and perform. Look at tiny Switzerland, or Denmark; why not Greece? Let’s ask Europe for training, investment and empathy.

Stephen Katsaros

Cyprus partition inevitable — get on with it

Never has the Greek side ever even considered the cultural, linguisitic and civil rights of the Turkish Cypriots, and it has refused, consistently (most recently in its rejection of the Annan Accord), anything except pure majority (i.e., Greek) rule. «Cyprus is Greek!» remains their slogan. No Turk, not one, would ever support such a arrangement. So the only solution is partition, which, in fact, has already happened. So finalize it, and get on with life. History has made its judgment.

John Kaminis

New ?pro-citizens? party more than welcome

With many, I am of course of the opinion that having failed in the end to protect all Greek citizens, the current politicians are not public servants as innocent as lambs. If you insist on getting votes by raising the public sector to a ridiculous level, one day, anywhere in the world, you meet your own personal greediness in the form of multitudes half-starving thanks to you. In most cases the thirst for power probably immunes politicians — which are a breed of their own — against anything exept self-respect, gratification in kind and perpetual glorification… But, let’s face it, if there is a new chapter to write, if one insists on imagining some paving the way towards a new modern democracy, clearly the new party formed will not harm just debating at least the way the country is being run: When you have nothing, what is there to lose? People must be taught what new directions are available, what exists elsewhere. At the moment I am quite amazed to read so many points of views expressed in the columns of this newspaper in English… And that is pretty impressive. But it is clear Greek citizens still think they are totally powerless and that it is quite normal, that even the past humongous and inefficient public sector was maybe less responsible for the crisis than individual rich people or politicians touching bribes on everything. Of course that never helps. But all being directed from 350+1 PM in Athens is worse. A new Greek federal modern, decentralized Constitution, empowering the citizens, is what is needed. Unless a lot of noise is heard from some members of the Parliament it will never happen… So frankly, nearly anyone new is welcome… Fanatics no one has ever needed.

Marc Sursock

Geneva, Switzerland

Euro collapse or well-conceived plan?

It comes as a shock to me how little people know about how the world really works. The EU and its fiat currency, the Euro, was decades in the making, and now that the European debt swap is under way, why would the private bankers walk away from this very lucrative opportunity? All the citizens of Europe will be paying higher taxes and suffer the consequences of extreme inflation for years to come. Just like their American counterparts. A Euro collapse? Hogwash. This was and remains a well-conceived plan to make a wealthy select few even wealthier. For anyone interested, the only way to thwart this scenario is for governments to take back control of their monetary policies issuing money that is backed by something of value like gold, silver, platinum, or similar in addition to refusing to pay the debts on the Euro fiat currency. There will be a period of great hardship but the bad debt will finally liquidate and real prosperity can begin anew.

Jonathan Reynik

Papandreou, EU also to blame for Greek debt

Mr. Papandreou is wrong with this. I lived in Greece from 2000 till 2006 and everyone knew that the Greek Government was overspending and running up huge debts. But nationalism had taken over in Greece and the Greeks thought of themselves as number one in the world. We as foreigners cautioned the Greeks on the road they were traveling and that it would lead to this disaster. That was 2004. Euro states knew of this debt and indeed informed Brussels, which looked the other way, because everyone thought that the Greeks were a responsible people. Now we know that the Greeks are simply not able to govern themselves responsibly. That there is a real problem with the Greeks getting carried away with themselves. They are too proud and I am afraid that pride is equal to stupidity. So now Brussels will have to be in charge of Greece. This is the only way for Greece. They will be told what to do from A to Z. Not a pleasant situation to be in. For Greece to move forward they should first accept that they are ultimatly responsible for their own destiny. This happened in the Greek/Turkish war too. The Greeks blamed it on the English. But how could a small Greek nation of several million think they could invade a large nation like Turkey with an army three times the size of Greece?s? This shows to me that the Modern Greek has a real thinking problem. The Greek needs to become humble. Every time arrogance and nationalism take hold Greece will be punished. So, you Greeks, please make an effort to become smart and become humble.

Elroy Huckelberry

Illegal immigration

I constantly hear Greeks complaining about illegal immigration and I think they are right to complain since the situation is unbarable.

On the other hand I never hear them talk about the catastrophic asylum situation in this country which is one of the main drivers for the current situation.

With the ongoing conflicts in countries like Afghanistan, it is clear that Greece became one of the main doors to Europe for refugees, and for sure Greece is suffering right now more than others from the Dublin II contract.

If we look at the numbers though, we see that in 2009 only 15,925 immigrants applied for asylum in Greece, even though estimations talk about more than 100,000 immigrants entering Europe every year via Greece.

From these 15,000 applications, only 1.1% were proven positive, that means a total of 165 individuals were granted asylum in Greece.

If you compare this with other European countries it is clear that Greece has totally failed to establish a sufficient asylum system.

In the same year the Netherlands had 16,000 applications and granted 48% as positive. Germany and the UK had 30,000 each and granted 36% and 26% as positive.

If we look back to the peak of the Balkan conflicts, Germany had to deal with almost 450,000 applications just in 1992 and with a total amount of almost 1.8 million applications from 1990 to 1999.

It is a shame for Europe and for Greece that we, as one of the richest regions in the world, are not able to arrange a fair and human procedure for refugees that may have suffered difficulties in their home countries that we cannot even imagine.

In Patras the police just chase the refugees from one side of the town to the other and try to keep them out of the harbor. They never catch or gather them to register their data so they don?t fall into Greek responsibility according to Dublin II.

The refugees on the other hand try to avoid being registered in Greece because it would mean that their chance for asylum is almost zero.

It is not the immigrants that want to be illegal, it is a failed system and lack of political will that doesn?t leave them another chance.

Sebastian Schroeder

Patras

Re: EU also to blame in Greek crisis, Papandreou tells CNN

Phrased more starkly, Mr. Papandreou is tacitly admitting that the Greek governments of the past were simply not trustworthy or not competent (or both), and Europe should have kept a closer eye on Greece. What a damning admission coming from a former PM.

Of course had the EU done so, these same governments would have accused the EU of unjustified interference. The EU would have been damned in the eyes of the Greeks if they did what Mr. Papendreaou suggests, and damned if they didn’t.

Nick Kanellos

Haircut was terrible mistake

The haircut was more than a mistake; it was also a terrible mistake that Greece made getting into the mess in the first place. Investment towards Greece will stop for the next 30 years as a result of this trust broken.

Elroy Huckelberry

FYROM A few comments and thoughts on your article:

1. Why do you refer to George Karatzeferis as being «far right» in the political spectrum? If anything, his rhetoric smacks of the organized market. Even if we accept for the sake of argument that he is a racist, does that mean all racists are rightwingers or that a socialist cannot be a racist? Incidentally, Hitler and his Nazi party were all socialists.

2. Why does Mr Karatzaferis think that the Greek nation needs to hold a referendum on the name of a foreign country? That notion is as absurd as is the notion that Mr Karatzaferis’ resignation from the unity government could possibly have any bearing on the decision of the Hague court.

3. I read the judgment of the court and, with respect to the court, consider it to be wrong. The court’s reasoning was based on a strict interpretation of the interim accord based on the contra proferentem doctrine of contractual interpretation which provides that an ambiguous term will be construed against the party that imposed its inclusion in the contract. In my view, the result does not not give effect to the good faith intention of the parties and is contrary to the stated purpose of the contract, which is to establish a spirit of good faith and cooperation between our two countries. In my view, the decision makes a mockery of the common-sense, everyday meaning of the words used by the parties and is an example of (dis)ingenious lawyering to be avoided in the future. Having said that, life goes on and while we may feel upset at the result, the judgment has no bearing whatsoever on the name issue and we should get on with the business of settling that issue so that we can have one more friend in the region, rather than cultivating hatred and resentment.

Amicus Patriae

Well said!

I couldn’t agree with you more Mr. Papachelas. The rampant abuse of power by incompetent and immoral politicians in Greece has been a major factor in her collapse. Cronyism and corruption, which are the cancers of democracy, are deeply embedded philosophies of the major parties despite the ravings of party rhetoricians to the contrary. I think many people are acutely aware of the hypocrisy of those politicians purporting to be the vanguards of democracy.

But politicians come and go. What alarms me is something Bismarck said many years ago: «The future of a nation depends upon the intelligence of its economic elite.» Therein lies Greece’s problem.

CB: I accept the terms of use.

John Palikarides

Haircut was a mistake

While I agree with Mr. Orphanides that the way the haircut was proposed was a mistake, or better said a blooper only worthy of incompetents, I would not say that the result is one.

Governments have to learn to live within their means, that is, a credit should not be normalcy but the exception. There is absolutely no justification for governments to push a mound of debt ranging from 60 to 150% of GDP ahead of themselves.

In that sense the hike in lending fees is much to small and hardly adequate to force anybody to save.

Alf Meier

Tough new euro pact?

Another chapter in the Merkozy series «Send in the Clowns.» Hilarious. But a very sad ending in the next chapter, flogging a(nother) dead horse. Warning to sensitive viewers. They’re afraid they might upset too many viewers, so I’ve heard the ending might be changed, showing the empty stable, the door still open. Comes down to the same, whether the horse is dead or has bolted. So this tough new Euro pact is going to be «new», «improved», «washes twice as white”? Erm… forgive my stupidity, but what about all the original pacts, laws, regulations, agreements, conditions for, amongst other things, the Euro zone, deficits, sovereign debt, etc., etc., which were ignored, broken, brushed aside, swept under the carpet? Pray tell, what is going to make any EU or Eurozone country take heed of any new pact? Automatic sanctions? «agreement… in March… because we must move quickly…» What on earth have they been smoking for the past few years? «Quickly» should have been applied 18 months ago, then we wouldn’t have half the mess that we now have.

Mary-Ann Faroni

Zurich

Dear Ms Lagarde…

You and most of Europe’s politicians know very well that Greece’s politicians are of dubious character and cunning in nature… so what do you expect from us the citizens? We’ve paid taxes, more taxes, more taxes — we can?t pay any more. We don’t have anything left. Greek politicians in all their wisdom have refused to sell state assets, cut the corruption and immense waste in the state, cut the eternal red tape we experience etc etc… the list goes on. You know better than us, the stupid citizen on the street, what goes down in Greek politics.

So, leave the Ivory Tower, all of you so called ‘leaders’… and get these so-called Smurf politicians we have to hand over power to people who can do the job required. Greece, like any country, is a ‘business’ that is managed with utmost corruption and with highly, again, highly inept ‘management’ in Parliament.

The EU/IMF know full well that you’ll get nothing done/solved whilst this lot of 300 crooks sits in Parliament. Getting Greece’s citizens to see that handing over management to people who can and are not in it for the ‘chair’ is something you should concentrate on. Greek politicians will solve nothing. They’ve wasted two years already running around like headless chickens… how much longer do you want to wait for?!

The riots you see are the smoke before the fire….

Lionel Luthor

Rioting, with teen?s death as justification

I witnessed these events personally today. It seemed to me that the whole affair consisted in the main of an excuse for less than 100 youths armed with Molotov cocktails, chunks of marble, and what appeared to be a number of stun grenades, doing their best to injure police. Their efforts resulted at a minimum, in huge police and cleanup expenses for the state, inconvenience for the citizenry, and further degradation of the cities facilities and environment. I noticed a couple of inconsequential tear gas canisters being thrown by the police but no attempt whatever to arrest, or prevent these juvenile delinquents from doing their damage. They seemed to roam around freely after running out of ammunition and were clearly enjoying themselves. The only question it leaves me with is why is this tolerated… or is that a stupid question?

Peter Kirkis