Is Europe Demanding Too Much From Greece? (Video)

With Greeks battling police in Athens’ central Syntagma Square, the Greek Parliament or Vouli voted on Monday morning to pass another package of austerity measures in order to receive the next installment of bailout funds to avoid defaulting on its loans. While the days prior to the vote were full of impassioned debate and saw the resignation of several ministers, the final results were not close: 199 voted yes, 74 were opposed and 27 abstained or cast blank ballots.  The Vouli also gave the Greek government the authority to sign a new loan agreement with foreign lenders, to reduce the amount of debt that Greece has to pay  back to its creditors.

The vote brought some relief, but of a bittersweet, painful sort. Greece is in its fifth year of a recession and unemployment is hovering at 21 percent and approaching 50 percent for twentysomethings. The austerity package — not the first that the government has devised to cut Greece’s massive debt of €340 billion (about $444 billion) debt — includes a 22 percent cut in the minimum wage and 150,000 government layoffs by 2015.

As the members of the Vouli were debating and making the final vote, a Starbucks went up in flames and Athens’ central Syntagma Square convulsed with 80,000 Greeks protesting and squadrons of police armed with tear gas. Demonstrators threw rocks and, in the night, Molotov cocktails. 40 buildings were set on fire including a historic theater in downtown Athens; it was the worst violence in Greece since May of 2010 three people were killed when protesters firebombed a bank.

Protests also occurred in the north in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city.

While the prospect of  a Greek default and of Greece leaving the euro zone have been seen as an unthinkable catastrophe, and while European leaders still speak of these as such, some are arguing that these scenarios would not be such a tragedy after all.  Writing in Foreign Policy, Mark S. Sheetz argues that, with Greece’s debt burden of 160 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and its economy still shrinking, default is a “virtual certainty” and questions whether the hoops officials are jumping through to get European banks to write off €340 billion (about $450 billion) in Greek debt will be all in vain.

Greeks themselves have been bristling at what is seen as a loss of their sovereignty. Not only has it been necessary to pass the austerity measures to receive the bailout funds (and please the European Commission); Greece has also had to concede its sovereignty. Germany and the Netherlands want an escrow account to be established to hold the new money lent to Greece. Creditors would be paid with the funds before the Greek government could access them: Greeks fear that these increasingly complex financial arrangements mean poverty for themselves and future generations, at the expense of the banks.

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Image of protesters in Syntagma Square on February 2, 2012, from a video by aperigraftos via YouTube.

41 comments

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim4 years ago

Thanks.

Nancy L.
Nancy L.4 years ago

Meant to say - We're going the way of Greece if we don't STOP spending money we don't have! The new budget is more than what we're taking in ... AGAIN.

David Anderson
David Anderson4 years ago

Ron B.
2:19pm PST on Feb 14, 2012
What needs to be discussed more is the role that greedy venture capitalists and international investment banks, spearheaded by Goldman Sachs, had in the financial demise of Greece.

They forced the Greek leaders to spend like drunken sailors?

Nancy L.
Nancy L.4 years ago

We're going the way of Greece if we don't keep spending money we don't have!

Paul B.
Paul B.4 years ago

Take a good look at what is going on, rioting and all as entitlements are being cut back for this is the reality that awaits those in the US when the money runs out and people are forced to "earn a living" rather sucking at the government teat.

Democrats love DC dependency as it gives them voting power and increased control. want to get anything done, threaten to take away a couple of abused freebies. the masses will conform as to NOT lose their free ride.

The safety net was designed for people who CAN"T fend for themselves, not for the millions who just DON'T WANT to fend for themselves, continually asking for more and more. The more DC doles out the more the dependent roles grow.

Move over Greece, you ain't seen anything yet. People here are just as radical. Just look at OWS to get a sense of what COULD happen. People on the left are nuts as they believe any means is justifiable to accomplish any ends they feel are justified... even selfish ones... makes no difference to them.

Edward M.
Edward M.4 years ago

It seems to have slipped the minds of these negotiators for bail-out funds, along with certain members of the general public, that the Government of Greece which allowed this to happen was Conservative and very 'business friendly'.
The banks operating alongside this Government must have known the true financial situation of the Greek economy for a very long period of time and should, therefore, be held fully responsible for allowing such a situation to develop. It was criminal negligence at the very least!
Those who benefitted from the excesses of that Government and then abandoned the Country should be legally made to repatriate their ill-gotten gains, which would help to address this colossal deficit and be seen, to everyone, to be a fair and honest approach in helping put right Greece's ongoing problems, which are not being helped by increasing the predicament facing the majority of the Greek people, those same people who never caused this debacle in the first place.

Ori M.
oriana M.4 years ago

Europe to me is definitely demanding too much. Does Greece not have any debtors that should pay them first?
If I had a choice, I reckon Greece would have been better pulling out of the EU.

Past Member
Past Member 4 years ago

it is the eu that is demanding too much from every one. it is like an old white elephant stall at a market it wants getting rid of because its no good.

Mary B.
Mary B.4 years ago

Who decides how much money there is to spend? And who decides when it's gone? What does it mean to 'be lazy'? If people have no means of exchange because money has been with drawn from circulation, how does 'hard work' make any difference? People work hard taking care of their own homes and families and don't get paid. This whole debt BS is orchestrated robbery justified by wealthy people believing their own stories and lies. It will be the death of them and of course they'll be whinning all the way down that it's the fault of all those 'lazy irresponsable people who wanted the government to 'give them everything'. Since we're not hunter/gatherers any more I don't know how they think the working classes are to survive if government doesn't provide for them. If people spent all their time meeting their own needs they couldn't be making money for others now could they.

Carlos Pereira
Carlos Pereira4 years ago

I think China is now smiling about all that conversation