Amid all the hullabaloo of EU summits, eurozone crisis meetings, oh-so-clever ‘leverage’ schemes to turn the four and tuppence nest egg the EFSF has into one trillion euros to save the world (or something), I bet no one, but no one, could have predicted the latest development. It is this: Greece’s socialist government, which has largely been paralysed by a series of strikes by its civil servants, has more or less told the EU and everyone else involved in ensuring the European economy doesn’t go tits-up ‘Fuck off, we don’t want your money’. Not in so many words, of course, and with the sensibilities of my male readers in mind, I have sanitised their message. But that is what it amounts to.
At the moment, all those Greeks not rich enough to afford a spiv accountant and the necessary bribes to avoid paying their taxes (of which there are quite a few, I gather – it’s not as though there is no money in Greece, it’s just that those who have it take the attitude that the government and everyone else can go hang) are facing ruin. Their salaries are being cut, their pensions are being cut, the working week is being extended to four day, a great many, especially young people, have no job and almost everyone has been taking to the streets to riot in protest. But the money the government is saving is still not enough to get on top of the national debt. As it is all those Greece owes money to are being told they will now only get back 50c in the euro, but still that isn’t enough and Greece has been told to double its austerity measure. So far, so bloody stupid. How do you take another drachma of a chap who doesn’t have any? Now – I shall ask you to sit down in case you haven’t heard the shocking news – the socialist prime minister George Papandreou has decided that, given the anger over his government’s austerity measures and given that is told he must make more if he want any more moolah from the EU to bail him out, he will hold a referendum to ask the voters what they think. The question will be simple: do you want to have your wages and pensions cut even more and do you want to pay more taxes? To which I think no one expects a resounding Yes! Pile on the misery, please!
For once that old cliché of shockwaves resounding through the chancelleries of Europe is apt: no one could or can believe the stupidity of it. The stock markets have been plummeting (again – how often are stock markets allowed to plummet before we are obliged to seek out new clichés?) and it seems pretty obvious to everyone that the whole euro project as it now stands is a dead duck. The referendum isn’t likely to be held for another two months, so there is even more time for a disaster to turn into a catastrophe. The only halfway sensible explanation I have heard is that Papandreou is playing one huge – and hugely dangerous – game of bluff. He knows that the Greeks will kick out any more austerity measures. And he also knows that Germany and France are desperate not only to save the euro but, more important, to save face. So the theory goes is that he thinks they will do anything to avoid disaster, including handing over the moolah with far less stringent strings attached. In as far as what is really going on, it might be completer cobblers, but at least it has the virtue of being plausible. And the Greek reputation for producing good businessmen isn’t just hearsay. But it doesn’t say much for the spirit of brotherly and sisterly live which is supposed to underpin the EU.
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Talking of Merkel’s warning that we shouldn’t take peace for granted, the Mail, bless their cotton socks, subsequently commissioned pop historian Dominic Sandbrook to write an outline of War In Europe. Overall, the piece was utterly
here. At least the Mail admits Sandbrook has let his imagination run riot. That’s about right.