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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 15 August 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 15 AUGUST 2015 27 OPINION OPINION THEO THEOPHANOUS Greece’s slippery slope a reminder to stay sober Here I am in the main square of Athens outside the Greek parliament. I look around at the people demonstrating in this, the democratic heart of Greece, and as an Australian of Greek background I feel sad when I see in their faces the devastation left by five years of austerity. Successive Greek governments accrued massive debts which were largely hidden from ordinary Greeks. But to simply insist on more and more austerity measures with little or no attention to investment, jobs and growth strategies is wrong. Greece is stuck in a pincer movement where it cannot pay its debts and it has no control over the money supply to stimulate its economy because of its euro membership. I and about 30 Greek background MPs from around the globe enter the parliament for discussions about the Greek crisis and economy. We are in the old Senate chamber, being lectured to by the ultra-Left Speaker of the Parliament, Zoe Konstantopoulou, about how Greece did not owe any of its debt which was applied illegally by those nasty Germans and the dreaded troika made up of the European Commission, the European Central Bank LETTERS Boycott Germany As the world goes rationality is turned topsy-turvy. Germany provoked in one century (the 20th) two world wars which were the most catastrophic in the whole history of mankind. The worst of it is that it was the most immoral. Sixty million people died in WWII. A certain race, the Jews, whose offer to mankind (in arts, in litterature, in music, in science and in religion) was by far the greatest in length of time and in importance than what the German race has ever achieved, was persecuted in a most inhuman effort to be extinguished from the face of earth. It was the Germans who perpetrated the greatest number of attrocities and murder of innocents than any other nation in the civilised world. Finally the Germans, in their two endeavours during the 20th century to conquer Europe with stukas and tanks, lost all the wars. After WWII, benefited by the clemency of the victorious Allies with substantial benevolent aid to heal the morbid wounds they themselves inflicted in their own country. But then a morbid paradox occurred. Clemency was forgotten and the Germans continued their morbid desire to conquer Europe by changing the means of destruction. For their third round, instead of the tanks they now used the banks. The brutal attrocities remaining still, the solid ground of their DNA took a different hypocritical face. They took the clemency for granted and profiting by the benevolence of their former victims they succeeded in usurping a new prominent role of domination in the European world. They swallowed ungratefully their obligation to pay by reparations the cost of the damage they caused but they are now adamant, as the new Shy- locks, to demand their ‘pound of flesh’ from the Greeks as a threat, in their endeavour to intimidate other European countries in similar position and establish their domination by imposing the continuation of life of their moribond and economically disastrous euro. and the IMF. She distributes a report she had commissioned entitled ‘Truth Committee on Public Debt’. I am flicking through the report and I cannot believe what I am reading. Its conclusions include that "Greece should not pay its debt because it is illegal, illegitimate and odious" and that Greece was the subject of a "conspiracy" by other governments in the EU and the subject of "premeditated", "violent", immoral" attacks by the troika. I had been invited to speak on strategies for economic development but I felt that I had to point out that this document commissioned by the Speaker undermined the government's credibility. If the Greek government thought there was a genuine case that the debt was illegal, why had it not taken it to the European Court? The document did not address real issues facing Greece: endemic tax avoidance; a bloated inefficient public service; one quarter of the population on pensions; 26 per cent unemployment; 60 per cent youth unemployment; 30 per cent of the recurrent budget being spent on pensions and the rest on debt and public sector salaries; and very little money left to spend on new employment creating infrastructure and economic growth. My critical contribution was roundly attacked by the president of the Greek Parliaments Production and Trade Committee Litsa Ammanatidou, from the ruling SYRIZA party. She especially took exception to my suggestion that privatisation of assets in some circumstances was appropriate and was certainly not an attack on human rights as the ‘Truth’ document had claimed. When she became aggres- sive, I intervened, pointing out that in Victoria such sales allowed us to pay down debt when our debt had got out of control, invest in job creating infrastructure and still maintain low energy prices on world comparisons. I note recently that the Greek government-owned electricity company introduced new software that identified up to €2 billion in unpaid bills mostly from corporations and even five star hotels. No wonder they don't want to sell it. Even Greece's Prime Minister Tsipras is beginning to see that while the taxation and austerity measures are tough, if implemented in a thoughtful way with a parallel growth strategy they will ultimately benefit Greece. This is why he is staring down the ultra-Left in his own party. But the measures are tough and Germany in particular should be sensitive to the fact that despite the devastation of Greece resulting from German occupation, Greece had supported debt relief for Germany after World War Two. A Greek economist I spoke to also pointed out that the German Industry juggernaut gets a massive terms of trade advantage by the devalued euro, which is held low by struggling EU countries like Greece. Ordinary Greeks that I spoke to recognise that they have to get their own house in order. Even though they voted against tough new austerity measures, in the end, they want to stay in the euro even with tougher measures. They know they have to accept responsibility for reform including changing attitudes to tax avoidance at all levels. They don't believe the nonsense peddled by the extreme Left and the Fascist Right that they can go back to the drachma and denounce the debt. They know such a course would lead to shutting down the country in terms of trade and investment and rapid further decline in living standards. What amazed me was that through it all Greeks remain friendly and generous. They help each other with donations and patiently wait for cash from banks and for access to limited health services. They even accept responsibility for looking after boat people who arrive illegally. Australian Greeks are proud of our heritage and especially the fact that the heart of Western civilisation and democracy comes from the Greeks. We are proud of the fact that Melbourne is the third largest Greek city. We looked on in hope and pride when the Tsipras government decided to appoint an Australian Greek, Yiannis Varoufakis, as the countries finance minister. We overlooked the fact that he was a middle-level academic with little political or negotiating experience. Varoufakis made such a negative impact in negotiations and upset so many seasoned economists and negotiators with his idealistic lectures that in the end even Tsipras had to dump him. Recently he revealed a ‘plan B’ which involved the government hacking into the private accounts of citizens to set up a parallel banking system to allow transfers outside of the banks if they could not get money from the troika. Amazing. We ask our fellow Greeks to please not judge Australians by the contributions of Mr Varoufakis. In Victoria we should remember that the Greek debt problem has echoes of the debt that Victoria had accrued in the 1980s. What the Greek situation reinforces is that we should never again allow state budgets to go into deficit or excessive debt as we may not have the buffer of state assets to sell in the future. * Theo Theophanous is a political commentator and former Labor minister. It is time for the European nations, all former victims of the German attrocities and holocausts to revert the newly once again destroyed moral order. The next step must be recreating a European Union according to the standards of equality, fraternity, solidarity Have Your Say LAST WEEK’S QUESTION: Given the friction within the governing party of Greece do you think the sooner Greece goes back to the polls the better? 44 % YES 56 % NO THIS WEEK’S QUESTION: Do you agree with Abbott’s decision on same-sex marriage to be legalised by a referendum next year, instead of allowing an MP free-vote? Vote online now. Go to neoskosmos.com Published by Ethnic Publications Pty Ltd (ABN: 13005 255 087) of 169 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122. Printed by Rural Press Printing, Ballarat. 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Editor-in-Chief: Sotiris Hatzimanolis News Editor: Journalists: Christopher Gogos Michael Sweet Anastasia Tsirtsakis, Nikos Fotakis, Zoe Thomaúdou, John Pyrros Nelly Skoufatoglou, Contributors: Anthony Stavrinos, Dean Kalimniou, Theodora Maios, Alexandra Manatakis Proofreader: Graphic Design: Peter Kelidis, Fotis Petsinis Angela Costanzo Email your letter to: firstname.lastname@example.org and national liberty. After all, Europe is the peoples and countries bearing the seeds of the Greco-Roman civilisation. On this histori- cal basis it is absolutely clear that Germany is no Europe. President of the European League of Geneva Dr Nicolas Kaloy, Ph.D. Please note that the submission of a letter does not guarantee that it will be published. We reserve the right to edit your letter for clarity, grammar, spelling and style. Letters that use inappropriate language will not be published. All letters published will include the author’s name and location. 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