East 60

FRONT PAGE – Greece forsaken

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This issue’s cover is dedicated to the most glamorous European minister of the moment, who on more than one occasion has been labelled incompetent by the international press, despite a résumé that boasts prestigious university posts at Essex, Cambridge and Sydney.

The so-called experts claim surprise over Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis’ inability to assess the consequences of even simple statements that have devastating effects well known and analysed in economic texts. Yet we do not intend to be swayed by gossip and would rather stick to the facts. Before handing over his country’s leadership to the Syriza party in January, former Greek PM Antonis Samaras was beginning to reap his first rewards. After five years of crisis had burned up 25% of its GDP, Greece started to show signs of recovery in 2014 and 0.6% economic growth. This was followed by 2.9% projected growth for 2015, according to the draft budget presented before Parliament. Real estate prices stopped plummeting last July and unemployment and retail sales figures moved into positive territory for four consecutive months for the first time since 2010. Even the EU confirmed the recovery. And Greece’s debt-to- GDP ratio, after peaking at 174% in 2014, is estimated to drop to 168% this year. Just as the country was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the road suddenly got steeper. Understandably, the people (families in particular) – who perceive the positive benefits of growth only down the line – had by then suffered to such an extent that they were ready to cast a vote of despair. But it was the duty of the new government to read these numbers. It should have shown strength and authority in explaining to the electorate that turning the tables – Syriza’s campaign promise – was counterproductive and that the benefits of the tough but necessary austerity measures would soon reach their doorsteps too. Instead, we find ourselves once more facing a complicated, collective risk due to the approximations of a Greek ruling class not equipped to represent its people. The conclusion is always the same and could also be used to defeat other populist movements (like Podemos or the National Front): we have to give 500 million Europeans a dream of a political European Union. Our economic problems cannot be settled by economic solutions alone. We must serry our ranks and projects around one shared, winning ideal that can be achieved tomorrow, for our children if nothing else. Dilettantes and populists can only be defeated by unified tax, defence and foreign policies. By a European government elected by its citizens. 

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