The horse meat that was found in beef products has increased Europeans’ insecurity about their world, after they have already been forced to face the frightening fact that their leaders don’t know how to preserve their living standards. Each day that we learn of more countries’ involvement in the food scandal, we understand that despite countless regulations and a gigantic EU bureaucracy, the region’s citizens still don’t know what they are eating. Each month that our economic indicators worsen, we see that after countless Eurogroup meetings and summits, the policies that have been implemented are not leading us out of the crisis – not in Greece, not in the rest of the eurozone.
On Thursday, Eurostat announced that in the last quarter of 2012 the overall GDP of the Eurogroup’s 17 members dropped by 0.6 percent from the previous quarter. In the same period, Germany, the EU’s largest economy, saw its GDP decrease by the same amount. Greece’s economy shrank by 6.5 percent in 2012. Last November, Greek unemployment hit 27 percent, from 20.8 percent a year earlier. In one year, it increased by 323,808, reaching 1,350,181. Unemployment among those aged under 24 climbed to 61.7 percent.
These figures were announced as debate rages in Greece over the IMF’s mistaken calculations regarding the effect that spending cuts would have on GDP – cuts that, combined with reforms, were part of the bailout program. The IMF acknowledged the mistake, but, along with the European Commission, made clear that the program had to be implemented in any case and that it was mainly Greece’s dysfunctional state and double elections last year that worsened things. What is important, however, is that the Greek people feel that though they have made great sacrifices, those who are supposed to be leading them don’t know what they are doing.
The Greeks’ insecurity is justified by the rapid drop in living standards and by the fact that we have seen no sign of recovery. However much the recession may have been expected as “part of the program,” citizens cannot live with the consequences continually without any hope of salvation. And hope comes only from faith in policies. Each failure of the program, each misguided comment by a foreign or Greek official, every opportunistic opposition party statement increases the sense that we are being led blindly, without anyone knowing where we’re headed.
The lack of trust is perhaps the greatest obstacle to Greece’s revival – citizens don’t trust the troika or the government, and neither do they have faith in themselves in this climate. They wait and they worry. In the past, a besieging force would catapult dead horses into a city to spread deadly diseases. Today no enemy is needed; insecurity breaks the people’s will, it tears at the social fabric. Even now, no one knows how this story will end.