OPINION

On the future for Greece, the euro, Germany, Papoulias

A ship that has had its hull punctured needs a large amount of fuel to keep its pumps operating if it is to stay afloat. Ultimately, the hull must also be fixed.

Greek parliament needs to fix the hull now. Fix the tax system, eliminate draconian red tape in the public sector, take stock of the number of members of parliament and their salaries and perks, and cut, cut, cut. In general, look over the long-term complaints that citizens, visitors, and businesses have had regarding the ability to live in, visit and do business in Greece and fix these issues. These issues are holding the country back and must be addressed. Cutting salaries and pensions will not plug the hole on their own and also reduce the amount of fuel available to operate the pumps.

On the fuel side, Greece has many natural advantages that can be leveraged to grow the economy (shipping, tourism, power (sun), agriculture). Greece has been dealt an excellent hand of cards, but government inefficiencies need to be addressed in order to play these cards for the benefit of the population.

Greece and its people are beautiful and inspiring. A complete reform of its political system and public sector, combined with a forward-thinking look at developing its natural, historic and human resources will let the nation sail confidently into the future.

Michael Devanney

Canada

Mikis Theodorakis

I love your music, Mr. Theodorakis but your views are dangerous!

Mikis Theodorakis published an open letter alleging a conspiracy between certain Greeks and foreigners to destroy Greek society and Greece.

No conspiracy would find followers if it didn’t include elements which either appear to be true or even are true. Mr. Theodorakis states many facts which are true and some which appear to be true.

I would agree with him when he says that «the Greek people became victims of the robbery duet between Germans and Greeks who enriched themselves at their expense.?

Since he didn’t clarify what he meant by «Greek people,» I will offer my own definition. I would mean by that the masses of Greeks (hopefully still the majority) who are decent, correct, hardworking, friendly and open-hearted people who work tirelessly so that their children can have a better life. These «Greek people» probably had not many benefits from the euro-party.

And instead of the «Germans» I would probably clarify that Germany accounted for about 15% of Greece?s current account deficit since the euro. Thus, there are another 85% somewhere who had fun with the Greek euro-party, too.

Mr. Theodorakis is blatantly wrong and misleading when he says «Mr. Papandreou could have countered the international crisis of 2008 by taking up foreign loans at 5% interest. Had he done that, there wouldn’t have been the slightest problem for our country. On the contrary, the opposite would have occurred because we were in a period of economic upswing which means that our living standard would have increased even further.”

I will not argue why this is wrong because it is so obvious. Why is this so dangerous?

It is always painful to be a victim. Anyone who wants to manipulate people to rise against something or someone will project on to them the victim’s role. The victim does not think rationally. The victim hurts and reacts to pain irrationally. Convince someone that he is a victim and point out to him how he can get revenge, and you have control over him.

What Greece needs now are leaders who can motivate people to rise for something. For a better future; for a better Greece; for a better world for their children.

About a year ago, the Huffington Post published an article titled «What Greece needs now is a new hero.”

That is, indeed, what Greece needs now. And I would love Mr. Theodorakis to compose some beautiful music for that new hero instead of appealing to some of the worst human instincts (such as feeling to be the greatest victims in the world).

Klaus Kastner

Austria

Greece hitting the buffers; enter the military?

I’ve almost got the point where I stopped commenting on the progress of Greece like a runaway train hurtling towards the buffers.

I heard an interesting report on the Russia Today website about the possibility that NATO and the EU will see to it that the Greek Armed Forces are not deprived of their ability to face off Turkey, even while the rest of the Greek state is imploding.

I can think of another reason why the NATO and the EU want to keep the Greek Armed Forces in good condition: military intervention once Greece actually does hit the buffers.

The German finance minister has said in not so many words that he doesn’t think Greece will stabilise its debt situation by 2020. That is a full seven years away. In other words he is saying he doesn’t think that Greece will stabilise its debt situation at all. I think the Germans are actively preparing for a Greek default, followed by a Greek Eurozone exit, followed by some sort of intervention to enable the drachma to takeover from the euro without too much chaos and confusion.

I see it even in the letters appearing in this newspaper. There is an increasing quality of shrillness, a sort of increasing desperation about them. It’s as if everyone wants to get in front of that runaway train called the Greek state to stop it hitting the buffers and somehow to turn it in another direction, and yet they know that this simply isn’t going to happen. So everyone is just shouting and screaming and shouting and screaming etc.

Reading this newspaper every day is a bit like watching the wheels of this runaway train go round and round and round. It’s as if they are making a full circle every 24 hours and every 24 hours we read this newspaper, only to read the same news. Every so often it’s the same bailout, every so often it’s the same negotiations for some more money, every so often it’s everyone screaming at the politicians and hurling metaphorical rotten eggs and tomatoes at them. Every so often these people are asking why Greeks are or have been so stupid as to get themselves into this mess. And the themes of the letters are beginning to repeat themselves as the train of the Greek state is getting nearer and nearer to the moment of truth when the reforms will be judged to be inadequate and the money will be withheld, the default will be announced as happening, and eventually Greece will withdraw from the euro and adopt a new drachma. There is such a logical inevitability about it all.

And men in the military are watching from the sidelines and telling everyone «oh no we won’t intervene it’s against the constitution». And yet there seem to be preparations afoot for just such an intervention when the Greek state does hit the buffers. Everyone knows this could well happen. All they are doing at the moment is playing games to pretend it can’t happen until it actually does happen. That will be the defining moment of truth for the Greek state and the Greek nation after 200 years of messing around with itself.

Then we’ll see what 11 million people are made of.

Philip Andrews

War reparations

Will the German Government put pen and paper for the war reparations?

Greece declared neutrality in WW2 only for the Nazis to come in put a Nazi flag on top of the Parthenon, steal all the gold, money and food supplies causing the deaths of 300,000 Athenians alone (source Encyclopaedia Britannica). Germany has paid back Greece a pittance of this. In today?s terms the bill would be in excess of 100 billion euros, if you can actually put a figure on human life. Will Germany pay up what they owe Greece? The silence is deafening.

Germany is also to blame for allowing Greece to join the eurozone. They knew that Greece was a basket case, so why did they persist? As for Merkel, 53% of Germans want Greece out of the eurozone, why isn?t she listening?

George Salamouras

To Mr. Ruud Holland

Asking Greeks for thanks is funny, when your government — and even you — continuously make statements that are insulting to an entire nation. Why are you so offended by the President questioning your government?s motives? Do the Greeks not have the right to the same indignation that you feel? Their country has attempted to meet all the criteria that has been asked of them, only to have your government continue to move the markers further and further away? Is that really negotiating in good faith, or do you have something «cooking» in the back-rooms as well? Europeans again show the world how to fail — something Europe has always been good at!

Michael Khang

Hong Kong

PASOK in no rush to elect a new leader

Since PASOK and the Communists got rid of the King, Greece has been plundered and destroyed by the Papandreous, father and son. You got rid of the King because he supposedly cost too much money. Well, where have Greece’s gold reserves gone? PASOK and the Communists have bankrupted and humiliated the country. Are Greeks better off now compared to when the King was in Greece?

Jack Hatzi

Re: Race on to pass draft law by Sunday

?Families with four or more children and with an annual income of more than 40,000-45,000 euros will not be paid an allowance. That would save some 40-42 million euros.?

Did any one think to cut the children allowance off after the children are grown. I personally know people who still receive the allowance and their children are 50 years old. The people receiving the allowance are grandparents and even great-grandparents.

No wonder this country is broke.

R. Callahan

UK Lords? comment

In a gloomy assessment the former Tory Chancellor Lord Lamont described Greece as the ?canary in the mine,? warning of the dangers ahead for the Eurozone.

Lord Lamont said Greece was being forced to choose between the ?utterly impossible and utterly incredible.?

He warned it now seemed a ?certainty? that Greece would be forced to leave the single currency, leaving the eurozone facing a ?bleak future.?

During angry exchanges in the Lords a UK Independence Party peer suggested that German economic policy recalled slogans used by the Nazis.

Lord Willoughby said the German ?remedy? in Greece was ?austerity macht frei? — echoing the German phrase arbeit macht frei, meaning ?work sets you free.? The slogan was placed over the entrances to several Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz.

Peter Day

UK

Economic task force

Now that Lucas Papademos has successfully guided the political parties into adopting the austerity measures demanded by the Troika in order to provide the bailout funds for Greece to avoid bankruptcy, he ought to utilize the remaining two-and-a-half months of his tenure, before a new prime minister is elected, to assemble an economic task force to assist him in formulating a plan or plans for stimulating the Greek economy. The lack of such a growth plan is the one clear deficiency in the agreement between Greece and its creditors. Greece’s citizens needs to have hope, and some relief from the suffering they face in the years to come. One does not need to be an economic psychoanalyst to realize that all work and no money to play with makes for a dull, deadening, and disturbing political child.

Acting Prime Minister Papademos ought to reach outside the government and appoint technocrats like himself, drawn from the plethora of talented young Greeks who have returned to Greece to live after having lived and studied abroad. Papademos should try to inspire these technocrats to utilize the knowledge and experience they gained in fields such as economics, mathematics and social planning, as well as the more balanced world view one hopes they have gained from living abroad, far away from the unfortunate insular outlook and prejudices of most traditional Greeks, to develop a master plan for their country. Greece’s responsible citizens need a road map they can follow to stimulate their economy, one that is realistically achievable, and, most importantly, one they can believe in because it has been provided by the best of their own young citizens, and not by edict from foreign powers.

Sincerely,

Socrates Mamakos

Spilt milk; stop crying

I’d like to open the paper and read an article, with a positive spin, on the bigger picture of what’s happening in Athens/Greece/Europe/the planet.

I strongly believe the media has a greater responsibility than simply «kicking a downed populace.”

And I can hear the rebate: «You aren’t unemployed, didn’t loose your pension, you can leave, your national identity hasn’t been destroyed, etc».

Greece/Greeks still have every reason to smile, the country itself was founded on struggle.

So please, a feel-good story, find some Greek who made a difference, chant the praises of «democracy» — if it wasn’t for the state as it is you wouldn’t have a voice at all. If you?re stuck for ideas, let me know how many more papers your selling with continual fear-mongering.

Remember, if Greece surrenders, we all sink together.

Ed Safe

A prophesy coming true?

In this time of crisis it might be worth remembering the following quotation:

?Europe’s nations should be guided towards the superstate without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps, each disguised as having an economic purpose, but which will irreversibly lead to federation.?

Jean Monnet, Chief architect of European Unity, 30 April 1952

Anthony Stott

Crete

Germans and Greeks

Our president Wulff has resigned. That’s good for Germany and a clear signal to the European peoples. We are absolutely fed up with personal profits of politicians, corruption, bunga, bunga and so on.

Although there were very bad remarks about Greeks and and Greece by German politicians and in the media, there is still a majority of Germans who think: yes we have to and will help Greece, in our own interest. Being the strongest economy in Europe, we know that we also have to take the greatest responsibility.

But I ask my Greek friends, why didn’t your government stop the illegal transfer of Greek money to German, Swiss and British banks? Why didn’t you ask the German, Swiss and British governments to help you to bring back this illegally transferred money? Big Greek finance is buying assets in Berlin and London. Neither of our governments has stopped that.

It is your far-right LAOS leader Karatzaferis who earns more than 200,000 euro a year, and it is his followers who dress Angela Merkel in a Nazi-uniform? Angela Merkel might be a selfish Suabian housewife, but she isn’t a Nazi.

The absolute majority in Germany doesn’t want a war but want to live in peace and good neighbourhood.

Our politicians had to use the crazy and absolutely untrue argument of preventing an Auschwitz in Yugoslavia to get a minimal support for destroying that country. We didn’t engage in the Iraq war nor did we so in Libya. The absolute majority of Greeks shared the same opinion.

Let our peoples not be divided by the interests of big finance and corrupt politicians.

Otto Kern

Where Greece goes, the rest of the EU will surely follow…

Further to my comments [above] I would like to change my analogy.

The analogy of the speeding train was incorrect because this is not only Greece that is heading in that direction. The whole of Europe is part of the same process.

A more appropriate analogy would be of water down a plug hole.

Greece is the water that is most immediately about the spiral down the plug hole. Everyday she spirals a little more. But following behind her are Portugal, Spain, Italy, and the other Balkan states. Behind those of Luxembourg, Belgium and Ireland — not necessarily in that order — while Britain, France and the Scandinavian countries are probably right at the back.

So where Greece goes everyone else will go eventually.

I would not be surprised if the powers that be in Germany and in the US had already ?arranged? for an intervention by the Greek military to ensure a smooth transition from the euro to the drachma. Once this has been accomplished I think that the Greeks would be very much left to their own devices. I think everyone will breathe a sigh of relief that Greece had gone and that other debts ridden nations in the EU should take notice of Greece’s fate.

Everyone will then have to deal with the basic problem in the EU which is this:

1) Germany expects the countries of the EU to constitute a natural (colonial) economic outlet for her exports, without which she will undoubtedly fail economically and implode, and perhaps return to the military imperialism of Third Reich. This is the understated but understood and implied threat that Germany can be said to wield psychologically over the rest of the continent. Of course modern Germans would never put it in these terms to the non-German public in Europe. They would put it in much more ?politically acceptable and correct? terms. Germany’s domestic market simply is not large enough to accommodate the power of her export sector, so she has to have a captive European market in her ?regional area of the world? in order to guarantee her physical economic and national survival in her own economic space.

2) By contrast, the other countries of the EU see Germany as a provider of interminable financial resources and security, concomitant with her status (these days usually unspoken) as the war guilt redeeming member of the European continent. As far as most European countries are concerned Germany, after two world wars, will for ever be repaying her war guilt debts in terms of resources and as guarantor of the European economic region. In other words the other countries can be as irresponsible and as profligate as they want to be and they will always claim that Germany owes them for war guilt, war debts, and war reparations, ?even unto the umpteenth generation.? Thus in effect Germany can never redeem herself from her war guilt and in the eyes of the rest of the nations of Europe, will be paying out reparations of some sort for as long as the rest of Europe demands it.

These two understandings of the EU are mutually contradictory and will eventually lead to a break-up of the whole set-up. We are already seeing the beginnings of this now. Greece is simply the first country to be whirling around the plug hole, while all the others look on, horrified at the implications for themselves.

Philip Andrews

The president

All through the crisis, and even now, the president has been a big disappointment for me. The situation has demanded and cried out for someone to take a lead, to stand above the messy and petty politicians, unions, special interest groups, anarchists, etc. — to spell out to the Greek people exactly what the situation is, what the choices are, and what the various outcomes may be — and perhaps to act as a nucleus for the essential wholesale transformation of Greek politics, the Constitution and the Greek mindset.

If he had done this (or chose at last to do it now) he may go down as an heroic figure in Greek history. Instead he has sheltered behind timidity, and his ‘largely ceremonial’ role, and now his unworthy populist remarks about German opinions — so he will go down as a pygmy, at a time when a giant was needed. Very sad for Greece!

Robert Skailes

Re: ?Solidarity and scapegoats?

When you as the editor of one of the leading dailies of Athens speak in your commentary of February 17 of «impatience and frustration» that some of your partners display, I can only laugh !!

Greece has really exhausted the patience of everybody else since everybody else is trying for more than two years to help, however, with very little avail. Instead your partners have been consoled, lied to, and are still being given wrong figures etc.

Would you not be frustrated after all? The problem with Greece is that nobody here is willing to take responsibility. It is always the others who are at fault, who want to humiliate you when they express their opinion etc.

Get up on your own feet yourself as you have so often done in history, even if it is thousands of years ago, and do not only talk about it. Do it! This is the only way of regaining credibility, and not by constantly referring to humiliation, torture, insulation etc., inflicted upon the Greeks

Gerhard Fischer

Athens

The wrong answer

I have lived in Greece for 4 years, and I see a large part of the population suffering under the austerity while another part of the population is not affected that much. The State still has much to do in fighting fraud and corruption. But even a well organised State cannot win this fight alone.

I listen to the Greek media, as well as some people around me. So many complain about the lack of solidarity of the rest of Europe. The rest of Europe should certainly do more, mainly investment, but it is already doing a lot, and has been doing lot for 30 years. And when it comes to the Greek society, I don?t see any massive popular movement against fraud and corruption, and this really disappoints me.

Why do the people in the street complain about the lack of solidarity of Germany but do not complain that much about the many tax evaders and corrupted?

Mark Evans

The euro crisis

My wife and I are regular visitors to your beautiful country — mainly the islands — and we love the culture, scenery but most of all the very hospitable Greek people, so we are very sad to see the troubles being encountered as ordinary Greek people protest against the austerity measures being introduced as a result of pressure from the eurozone members but in particular Germany.

The value of the euro was originally set in such a way that only a few of the eurozone countries would benefit and, as we have all seen, Germany has benefited far more than anyone else, making it difficult for smaller economies such as Portugal and Greece to keep up with the «big players.”

Watching the Greek people’s protests against the Germans is no surprise considering that Germany appears to be calling the shots and almost dictating to the other eurozone countries how things should be run and what measures must be taken — my parents always said that Germany could not conquer europe by military means so now they are trying to dictate matters by financial means.

My wife and I noticed that after Greece’s entry into the euro, prices rose very sharply, which meant that people such as holidaymakers were spending less money therefore less taxes went to the government so surely would Greece not benefit by coming out of the euro and returning to the drachma?

Prices would return to a competitive level giving more value to the day-to-day purchases of Greek people and encourage visitors to spend more while on holiday in Greece.

I would like to finish by saying my wife and I fully support the Greek people in their stand against what is basically German bullying, and I would hope that you could pass on my message in Greek to the lovely people of your beautiful country.

Pam