The Struggles Of Greece: Uncovering The Tragic Story Of A Country Haunted By Its Past
Trade deficits, fraud, deteriorating public services and soaring unemployment: these were the forces that nearly tore the eurozone apart during the Greek debt crisis of 2009.
For generations, Greece had been a symbol of inspiration to world culture.
But its images were only to be replaced with chaotic protests and people waiting in long lines outside banks closed for weeks.
The truth was laid bare when the government revealed their economy was in shambles and they were far deeper into debt than anyone expected.
This sent shock waves throughout Europe, highlighting issues and cracks in the very foundation of the European Union at large.
The story goes deep with instances of corruption in government, cruel austerity policies as well as individuals just trying to get by – often through illegal activities such as fraud and graft.
It also explores why investors thought Greece was doing better than it truly was before 2009, why so many on island cities lied about being blind to officials, and how religious groups can be tied to nationalist causes.
Greece’s past continues to haunt its present affairs and future for the foreseeable future with such a massive debt burden that almost shook Europe apart during this time period.
The Fateful Betrayal: How Greece’S Greed And Deception Led To Its Economic Collapse
When Greece joined the eurozone in 2001, its economy was doing very well.
Its growth rate was impressive and foreigners were investing heavily into the country.
Credit was easy to obtain, allowing citizens to purchase fancy items and increasing Greek retail sales.
The GDP rose by 4 percent each year.
Unfortunately, this economic boom was built on a credit bubble that would eventually burst.
Greece didn’t have a strong industrial sector compared to other countries in Europe and instead used most of the borrowed money to increase wages, pensions and benefits without actually investing it back into industry or training workers – leading to an unsustainable increase in debt without enough exports.
More importantly, it was discovered too late that the trust creditors had in Greece’s financial health had been based on fraudulent information passed by their government when they joined the euro-zone.
In 2009, records revealed that the budget deficit was over 12 times higher than initially projected – with evidence that points towards past misreporting from the government being used for accession purposes.
How The Greek Debt Crisis Put An Entire Continent At Risk
When Greece’s fraud was exposed, its credit bubble burst and the damage spread like wildfire.
Immediately, creditors began pulling out of the country and borrowing costs reached astronomical levels – a bad omen for both the economy and the state.
Companies heavily reliant on credit began to collapse, setting off a chain reaction of bankruptcies and closures that sent unemployment soaring to 29%.
The country’s banks were soon unable to keep up with obligations and shut down as well, leading to catastrophic consequences not only for Greece itself but for the entire eurozone.
Other countries such as Ireland, Spain, Italy, and Portugal soon found themselves in similar situations.
All eyes turned towards Germany and France who had been providing financial support thanks to their stronger economy but were now vulnerable too.
If they weakened, Europe would be done for – meaning leaders had to step in fast if they wanted a chance of containing the fallout.
The Greek Crisis Of 2009: A Tale Of Domestic Strife, Unfair Austerity Measures, And Political Revolution
When creditors stepped in to help Greece manage its debt crisis in 2009, they came with a very specific plan: aid and debt restructuring in exchange for strict financial and political reforms.
A total of €107 billion was written off from bondholders’ initial request, and €245 billion loan pledges were made.
Along with this came austerity measures that would include fighting tax evasion and cutting jobs wherever possible in the popular public service sector.
Unfortunately, the strict conditions that creditors set forth did not sit well with many Greeks who believed the terms to be too harsh – leading to over 20,000 protests and rallies against troika-led reforms.
Fundamentally, regular people felt it was unfair to bear the burden of mistakes made by the government.
Increased taxes and slashed wages in an already struggling market only widened Greece’s economic recession gap even more so.
Ultimately, these tough reforms implemented in exchange for debt relief was a difficult pill for Greeks to swallow; while they understood they needed help from creditors, the price seemed too high for them to pay.
The Greek Debt Crisis Ignites Political Tumult, Gripping The Nation In Social And Financial Woes
The debt crisis drastically changed the political landscape of Greece.
Before the crisis hit, Greece’s social democratic party, PASOK, had held power for some time.
Under Prime Minister George Papandreou’s leadership, PASOK agreed to a first bailout program which ultimately failed and created an even greater financial burden on the Greek people.
Papandreou later proposed a referendum to leave the decision up to the public only to abandon that idea shortly afterwards.
Following Papandreou’s resignation in 2011, Lucas Papademos took office and immediately pushed for a second bailout which caused massive uprisings in Athens.
Extremist political parties such as the far-right Golden Dawn began to gain more strength and win seats in parliament during this time.
Early parliamentary elections were called in 2012 with center-right party New Democracy emerging victorious.
This did not solve Greece’s problems though, as austerity measures continued to weigh down on citizens and 2016 saw Syriza’s anti-austerity platform become victorious led by Alexis Tsipras creating much controversy among European creditors.
The coming into power of Syriza’s far left showed just how much the debt crisis had altered Greece’s political environment over a relatively short period of time.
Greek Ingenuity In Scamming The System Reveals Unacceptable Fraud Within Greek Social Security
Bribing officials to make fraudulent disability claims was one way Greeks topped up thin incomes during the financial crisis.
In the island of Zakynthos, for example, hundreds of people cahooted with local doctors and claimed blindness in order to get a monthly check from the government.
Moreover, across the country many doctors or public employees would provide “patients” or other individuals with a fake health certificate in exchange for a fee (fakelaki,) allowing them to claim medical benefits.
These corrupted practices were one of the major issues addressed by the troika as part of their bailout packages since billions of euros were lost due to fraud.
The evidence was so clear once states started making compulsory checks that more than 36,000 people were receiving money through false diagnosis annually.
It was this systemic failure that caused countries like Greece to be put into such desperate conditions that it had no choice but to accept strict terms from its creditors in exchange for economic help.
Greece’s Middle Class Left To Burden Of Tax Evasion By Wealthy Citizens
Despite the immense pressure put on Greece’s government to reduce its economy’s huge deficit and national debt, wealthy citizens remain able to evade tax without fear of consequence.
Tax evasion by the country’s richest citizens has been a long-standing issue for Greece, with lawyers and doctors regularly earning less than €12,000 a year yet living in grand mansions with swimming pools.
The corrupt tax auditors who often cut deals with these people to reduce their overall tax burden further fuel this problem.
To make matters worse, when a report containing hundreds of names of tax evaders was discovered by the authorities, Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou downplayed it and even went so far as to allegedly delete data that indicated members of his own family were amongst those named.
As a result of all this, instead of rich individuals being called out and taxed properly, ordinary citizens have had to bear the brunt; with steep increases in consumption taxes hitting small businesses like cafes the hardest.
It’s clear then that despite the Greece government claiming they are fighting corruption and tax evaders, not much has been done to ensure that its affirmative words are translated into action.
Until this happens, wealthy Greeks will remain free to dodge paying their fair share while poorer citizens unfairly suffer the consequences.
How Greece’S Public Sector Spiral Out Of Control Threatens Its Financial Security
Greece’s public sector is bloated, and the government has had a mixed record when it comes to trying to trim down and set it right.
In 2009, one in five Greek citizens worked in the public sector due to the protection of law that ensured job stability regardless of changes at the political level.
This resulted in offices being filled and each successive government adding on to bureaucracy without thinning out or eliminating positions.
When austerity measures were implemented in order to reduce costs, laid off individuals would opt for early retirement so their pensions would remain intact.
This prevented jobs from actually becoming available for new applicants.
On top of this, Syriza’s 2015 takeover saw a vow to reinstate many previously laid off individuals, furthering increasing the size of the public sector yet again.
All these factors mean that even when trying to set it back on course, Greece is struggling with a long-standing overgrowth in their public sector.
The Plight Of The People In Greece: A Result Of Austerity And Misery
The consequences of Greece’s debt crisis and the ensuing austerity measures have been devastating for those on the lower rungs of society.
Unemployed and underemployed people have been hard-hit economically, as companies succumbed to the credit crunch and closed their doors leaving scores of jobless citizens behind.
Many college graduates can no longer find jobs in their fields, relegated to working menial jobs just for some extra cash.
Pensioners have also suffered brutally; with pensions either reduced or frozen entirely many elderly Greeks take to searching through dumpsters for food just to survive.
Austerity measures that were marketed as being able to help revive Greece’s economy had a harshly negative effect instead, with wages, pensions and benefits cut while taxes were raised – hitting the weakest parts of society even harder.
This has pushed more than one third of Greek citizens into poverty or social exclusion in 2013; a shocking jump from only a few years ago when most Greeks enjoyed a comfortable standard of living.
The refugee influx only makes matters worse; emigrating refugees continue arrive in Greece every year but there is little relief as the country struggles to cope.
Greece Is Struggling To Provide Refuge For African Refugees Despite Strict Eu Laws
Today, Greece is overwhelmed by immigrants, mainly refugees looking for safety in the face of violence and poverty.
Sadly, many do not find the welcome they crave in Greece and instead find a country struggling to cope without adequate support from the European Union.
Migrants often arrive in Greece expecting a refuge from war-torn nations only to find that their applications for asylum may take years to be processed.
To make matters worse, reception centers are overcrowded and ill-equipped — with limited access to food, water or even toilets.
What’s more, human rights organizations have reported cases of torture and negligence in detention centers across Greece.
This harsh reality forces many refugees to try to return Turkey before attempting a new route into another European country.
As such, while Greek hospitality appears plentiful when it comes to tourists with money; racism and restrictive immigration policies present real challenges for its future population.
The Rise Of Greece’S Far-Right Party Golden Dawn: A Threat To Human Rights
In Greece, the far-right political party Golden Dawn has used anti-immigrant sentiment to gain support in the midst of their country’s financial crisis.
Taking advantage of local racism and xenophobia, they’ve gained attention for purportedly aiding citizens in fighting against immigrants as well as attracting voters with their nationalistic ideology.
Human Rights Watch has documented hundreds of physical attacks on immigrants by Golden Dawn supporters in Greece, some being violent and unprovoked.
Despite this, many influential police officers and government officials have supported Golden Dawn, so these crimes often go unreported.
In 2012, the party received 7% of the national vote in Greece’s election and remained a potent force in parliament despite increasing pressure from other parties.
The tide seemed to turn when a Golden Dawn member murdered an anti-fascist protestor defending immigrants in 2013.
The public outrage led to government arrests of several high ranking leaders within the party but still it could not slow down its momentum and garnered enough votes to stay in parliament during the next election cycle.
As tensions continue to rise surrounding immigration issues, Golden Dawn is likely to remain a powerful political force until citizens decide how they want to approach this growing problem.
The Church Endorses Nationalism But Progressives Welcome Multiculturalism In Greece
Greeks have continually struggled to define their national identity throughout their history and many conflicts have arisen because of this.
Greek culture has been strongly influenced by the many foreign rules it faced, including that of the Ottomans – Greeks have lived in Turkey, and vice versa there are also many Turkish communities living in Greece prior to its fight for independence in 1821.
As a result, different political groups have used interpretations of Greek history for their own political ends.
The church and government attempted to ‘Hellenize’ the country after gaining independence.
This meant teaching children false stories such as that Greeks were oppressed when speaking their language or attending church schools by the Ottomans – something that was not true at all.
Unfortunately, this nationalist approach still continues today and is encouraged by radical church officials who view any non-Christian Orthodox influence as a threat to Greek culture.
The cynical result of this is demonstrated through opposition from the Church towards Turkish immigration into Greece, as well as a dislike from Jewish Greeks whose presence doesn’t fit within their narrow interpretation of what it means to be “Greek”.
On the other hand, progressive politicians embrace minority cultures by welcoming both Jewish and Turkish tourists/investors into Greece, stressing that “Greek culture” is a product of multiple influences rather than being exclusive or idealistic about one in particular.
Conflicts arise when radical churches oppose initiatives such as when Mayor Yiannis Boutaris planned to rename a street after Ataturk (a hero to some) dispite opposition from religious leaders who labeled him a “traitorous Turk lover”.
Overall, Greeces struggle with its identity has created many internal conflicts; tensions remain strong between those who embrace multiculturalism while classicists attempt cling onto an idealized version of the past which perfects excludes certain characters who don’t fit within its limited narrative – even if they too share some part in defining what it means to identify as truly “Greek”.
How Greece’s History Inspires Resentment Against Germany Today
Many Greeks today can’t help but be reminded of World War II when looking at Germany’s actions and attitude during the financial crisis.
This is especially true for Manolis Glezos and the citizens of Athens, whose hero was part of a successful effort to tear down a Nazi flag from the Acropolis in 1941.
Over the years, Greece has fought for reparations from Germany due to the devastating effects that Hitler inflicted on Greece during WWII.
Many Greeks still feel as if Germany is acting like an occupier towards their country with its harsh austerity measures brought about by the financial crisis.
The fact that German politicians continue to speak to their Greek counterparts in a judgmental and patronizing fashion only serves to intensify resentment between both countries.
It is further fueled by envy since while many Greeks are struggling to make ends meet, Germans continue live well and have outpacing economic growth.
Coupled with similarities in language and attitudes seen in Merkel’s recent speeches, it isn’t hard then to understand why so many Greeks see Germany’s policies and attitude reminiscent of World War II’s Nazi past, even prompting newspaper articles comparing Angela Merkel to Hitler himself.
“The Full Catastrophe” is a thought-provoking look at the effects of the Greek debt crisis.
The primary conclusion that can be drawn from this book is that the crisis was created through a combination of both international and domestic mistakes and missteps.
This includes economic mismanagement, such as allowing citizens to claim false benefits and wealthy individuals to evade taxes without consequence.
Additionally, the stringent requirements associated with bailout packages has resulted in ordinary Greeks bearing an unfair burden.
Greek anger has been directed toward foreign creditors, particularly Germany, as they perceive their policies as continuing a tradition of oppressive rule.
Ultimately, this adds up to an important reminder of how quickly things can go wrong if governments fail to properly manage their finances.