Anti-austerity graffiti on a public building in Athens. Photo: George Tatakis
Hypocrisy of Eurozone leaders refusing to admit austerity has failed Greece
It’s difficult to write anything about the Greek crisis without it being immediately out of date although the crisis itself, and the suffering of the Greek people, continues unabated. After the stunning 22% “no” majority in Sunday’s Greek referendum (like Britain’s election result, you should immediately distrust any analysis which begins “I always knew this was going to happen…”), unions and economists have demanded that the Eurozone leaders reach an agreement with Greece which protects what is left of social justice, and for once puts the economy on the road to sustainable recovery. In particular, the IMF’s game-changing admission – leaked, because Eurozone leaders knew it was plebiscitary dynamite and wanted it held back – that Greece’s unsustainable debt was, indeed, unsustainable, increases the urgency of debt rescheduling and relief.
The ETUC’s immediate response was followed on Tuesday by a more explicit and powerful joint letter from European trade union leaders (including Frances O’Grady, even though we’re not in the Eurozone, and more importantly, the leader of the generally pro-PASOK Greek private sector union movement GSEE.) The ITUC, stressing the need for debt relief, and UniEUROPA have also weighed in, among others.
The ETUC joint letter calls for a “socially fair and economically sustainable agreement” and says:
“Greek people have voted against austerity, unemployment, and poverty that made Greek debt unsustainable. They have not voted against the EU or against the Euro.
“We consider that this referendum is a clear signal that policies imposed during the last five years are socially unbearable and an economic failure. People must not be penalised for the way they voted.”
Meanwhile top economists have reiterated their support for a change of course by the EU. A letter in the Guardian yesterday from Thomas Piketty, Dani Rodrik, Jeffrey Sachs, Simon Wren-Lewis and a former senior German finance ministry official, says that:
“The medicine prescribed by the German finance ministry and Brussels has bled the patient, not cured the disease.”
“Today we need to restructure and reduce Greek debt, give the economy breathing room to recover, and allow Greece to pay off a reduced burden of debt over a long period of time. Now is the time for a humane rethink of the punitive and failed programme of austerity of recent years and to agree to a major reduction of Greece’s debts in conjunction with much-needed reforms in Greece.”
Meanwhile Eurozone leaders continue to demand more detail from the Greek government on the cuts it is prepared to make, including – in public at least – requirements to tackle clientilism and tax evasion by the rich that the left-wing Greek Syriza government would have no objection to (having been elected on precisely that platform), were the call over a realistic time period, given the failure of the Eurozone to secure such changes from Syriza’s predecessors. Syriza is hypocritically condemned for not achieving in five months what previous governments failed to make any progress on in five years of rather less insistent Eurozone demands.