When a threat becomes a possibility
“The memorandum, whether we like it or not, is the only political text which set out specific targets, which were binding to the Greek state as a whole,” noted Yannis Stournaras in October 11, 2013, during his tenure as finance minister.
Currently Bank of Greece Governor, Stournaras is still systematically taunted by those obsessed with a Greek rift with the eurozone, people whose behavior and actions, nevertheless, reaffirm his evaluation.
Back in 2009, the country’s entry in the European Stability Mechanism and its guardianship was caused by the sensational collapse of Greece’s entire economic and social model developed after the fall of the military dictatorship in 1974.
The system was based on the idea of a partisan state, clientelism, under-the-table transactions and choices guided by the desire to impress or benefit certain closed, special interest groups. The structure survived either by transferring the weight onto the next generation or by taking advantage of conscientious taxpayers – salaried employees and pensioners – through a system based on tolerating and rewarding tax evasion.
This was rooted in a kind of parallel economy which existed within the framework of a strange perception of democracy, where everyone enjoyed sacred rights but very few had obligations.
The memorandum – for all its mistakes and weaknesses – forced the Greek state to adopt obvious changes. These should have been implemented years ago but the political leadership did not have the willpower or strength to carry them out.
Unfortunately, the memorandum was essentially decided by the lenders, and all those who had to implement it presented it as an onus imposed by the “evil” partners. Not only did they fail to present a plan of their own to exit the crisis but they never spoke of the country’s obligation – given that Greece had willingly decided to take part in a supranational organization such as the European Union and the monetary union – to undertake the cost implied by this choice.
They never spoke about the fact that we have to decide whether or not we wish to become a modern western European state – which in a globalized world must constantly strive to strengthen in terms of competitiveness – or remain a democracy of cronies.
As a result, almost six years after the crisis began, the country’s European acquis is no longer a given and the European accomplishments of the last 35 years are being challenged. What’s more, a return to the drachma is no longer a threat but an openly supported possibility weighted with ideological tension, populism and the idea that it can be subverted. This position is adopted SYRIZA’s radical left wing, the extraparliamentary left and Golden Dawn.
It remains to be seen whether or not it will develop into a new dividing line which will replace the equally handy, but highly confusing, memorandum-anti-memorandum dipole.