von Konstantinos Koulocheris, 6.8.15
Week #1, Wednesday, 4th of August, 2015, Athens, 37°C, Sunshine.
Three weeks since the third memorandum approved by the majority of the Greek MPs and Athens feels burning hot. It is not only the emerging heat wave, but also the mood. A few might recall the Greek capital as a ghost city at this particular time of the year in the past; masses of people taking time off for holidays and flocking to the beach. This isn’t really the case at the time of writing these paragraphs.
Meanwhile, last Wednesday was the first day of Troika’s third term in Greece since 2012. The tripartite committee led by the European Central Bank, European Commission, and International Monetary Fund finds most Greeks in social distress, uncertainty and finally, in despair. The ongoing capital controls in the Greek bank system remain tight in terms of allowances for cash withdrawals, whilst the economical situation in the country is reckless.
The internal problems of the left-wing led coalition government might have overshadowed the presence of the Troika in the country. The dreadful symbolism of Troika as an enemy for the Greeks, however, remains as it was back in 2012. The vast majority of mainstream media reports on yet another series of austerity is on track to undermine any ‘national dignity’ by way of cuts, taxation and labour rights.
With five years of austerity and more to come, any political approaches in this instance feel odd. The cultural identity crisis on whether Greece should be in Europe or not has been enriched with a wide political confusion on whether indeed a leftish Party was the right thing to vote for. This uncertainty is reinforced by the fact that the first left-wing government has been acting the same way as previous conservative governments did. If a right wing government had taken these decisions then Athens would be a huge barbecue — as it had been before — with extensive riots in the streets, continuous demonstrations outside the parliament with people asking MPs heads.
The enforcement of the third Memorandum of Understanding appears as a testimony of the above. Even decisions taken with a deep left-wing influence by the Greek leadership to hit the humanitarian crisis — as it was the case with the re-opening of the Greek Public Broadcaster, ERT, which gave more than 1,500 people their jobs back — have been criticised by the media as ‘excessive’ at the time unemployment rates have reached record highs.
One could say that the same Media who now blame the SYRIZA led coalition government for their irresponsible stance towards the negotiations hold their own share of responsibility for not duly educating the public, pre-election. Regarding the alternative currency, for example, the lack of informative coverage about reverting back to the Drachma has been critical as it would have likely influenced the election results back in January.
Overwhelmingly it seems that Greek voters were not completely aware of the implications of voting for a radical Eurosceptic party.
The threat of a Grexit in the bailout talks ultimately proved to be a non-viable solution. At the same time, the public mandate prompted by the referendum did not work in favour of a more flexible agreement with fair taxation, reforms in health care, pensions and less privatisation.
The geo-cultural identity crisis on whether Greeks are supposed to be and live like “Europeans” or not and whether they should have to live with or without austerity has now transcended to an almost ‘old-fashioned’ question on whether left was indeed the right thing to vote for.