As of today Greece is in biggest arrears to IMF in history. If the troika (IMF , EC and ECB) does not leave the current neoliberal austerity policies, other European countries will end up in the same misery and hopelessness.
“I feel betrayed” responded Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission after he had learned that Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece announced a referendum on the international support program to Greece.
According many European politicians the Greeks owe this misery onto themselves. An image that mainstream media in all European countries uncritically embraced over the past five years. It does not matter what European country you are in, if you ask the man on the street about the situation in Greece, you will no doubt hear that it’s their own fault. Indeed, it is generally known that the Greeks are lazy, corrupt, clientist etc.
Yes, corruption and clientism are a problem in Greece but what is also important in the Greek debt crisis was the role of the international sector headed by Goldman Sachs and German and French banks. Also, the German defense companies which found a good market through bribes as Greece bought their products at inflated prices.
Afterward billions of euros were needed throughout Europe and Greece to rescue banks which had speculated in financial markets. In the case of Greece they knocked on the door of IMF. Since it is an EU country, the IMF wanted ECB and EC on board.
If the IMF lends money it surely is not out of the goodness of their hearts, nor solidarity. IMF involvement means in fact the country looses its sovereignty. This is because the policies that you have to carry are dictated by IMF.
The reforms imposed by the Troika are neoliberal as they involve privatization of public services, austerity measures, dismantling of the welfare state etc. According to the Troika, Greece would come out of the crisis, reduce debt, boost the economy, reduce unemployment etc. It just needed to reform.
No other country in Europe has carried out more reforms than Greece. The Greeks want to reform, but reject austerity and privatizations. What have these reforms achieved five years later?
Greece is still in a deep crisis. The debts continue to grow. The average Greek became 40 percent poorer the last five years. Unemployment has continued to grow with youth unemployment at 60%. Wages continue to fall and the middle class is disappearing.
What about the 240 billion euros that Greece borrowed in 2010? 90% of this went primarily to German and French banks. Not to the Greeks.
That is why the Greeks massively voted for Syriza, a leftist party that does not want to simply accept the imposed reforms. They reclaim the sovereignty and dignity of the Greeks by demanding a say in negotiating the reforms. This is too much of a demand for the troika.
Because Tsipras no longer accepts these unilaterally imposed neoliberal reforms he is the bogeyman of European politicians, media and opinion makers. To some even coward who turned his back to Europe.
Where have we heard this before? Whenever a country does not do what the European institutions demand than they are considered against Europe. It was no different with Ireland when they voted against the European constitution. Ireland nor Greece are not against Europe. They want a different Europe.
For the European rulers and their colleagues at the IMF the idea of different Europe is equally unacceptable. This is the easiest way to discredit and subdue every voice opposing the current neoliberal policies.
It is about more than Greece. It is no coincidence that the Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy of the right-wing Partido Popular loudly calls that Tsipras steps down. He knows that Spain is the next country which will no longer accept the neoliberal policies if Podemos wins the next election. The wind of change is already blowing in Spain because Madrid and Barcelona are recently led by two leftist and progressive women. A nightmare for a neoliberal and conservative politician like Rajoy. Spain and Greece are not the only countries that are no longer willing to accept austerity and the troika knows this very well.
Recent secret documents from the troika confirm Greece’s argument. The austerity will not work and without debt relief the economy will not recover. An analysis which is shared also by leading economists Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz and Thomas Piketty. And yet, the troika holds its heels because the interests of the financial, industrial and political elite take precedence over those of ordinary citizens.
It is therefore more than a bad politician or lazy country story. It’s the troika that wants to maintain the neoliberal hegemony at all costs. Even the cost of human lives.
Bleri Lleshi is Brussels based political philosopher and author of various books. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.