Greece is in a deep hole, and everyone involved seems determined to keep digging. As the country bids for a third bailout since 2010, the momentum from economic damage inflicted during the last five years threatens to undermine the latest agreement.
The economy is in free-fall and politics are unstable. One crisis feeds the other. Just as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appeared to accept that he had no alternative but to work with Greece’s partners on a new bailout, hard-liners in his Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) declared that they wanted no compromise with creditors, and are now pushing to leave the euro.… Seguir leyendo »
The sea, as I look from my office window, is calm. Little white sailboats glide over silver waters in the Saronic Gulf. A picture of peace, but the scene of countless battles. In these waters, at Salamis, an alliance of free Greek states under Athens’s leadership defeated the Persian navy in 480 B.C., giving democracy room to develop. In 1941, as German forces swept into the country, a handful of allied airmen tried to stop black waves of enemy planes, with many pilots plunging to their deaths in the bay one April day.
Today, as my country rushes toward another battle of sorts — a referendum that will determine its place in the world and mark its history — I sense “the eternal note of sadness” that the poet Matthew Arnold imagined Sophocles hearing in “the turbid ebb and flow of human misery,” as he stood on this shore.… Seguir leyendo »
As Greece teeters on the edge of default and possible exit from the European common currency, foreign officials cannot understand how Greek government officials can appear so sanguine.
An explanation of the government’s motives and behavior can be found in spheres beyond the economy, where the government has moved swiftly to impose its agenda on domestic and foreign policy — to the alarm of allies, opposition parties and investors.
Nowhere has the government shown an appetite to compromise. This mentality is rooted in a century of conflict between left and right, when foreign powers helped right-wing governments maintain power at the expense of leftist forces.… Seguir leyendo »
When CNBC conducted an Internet poll asking which Oscar-nominated song best described the Greek crisis, 51 percent picked “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.” In Greece, we have grown accustomed to tension with our partners in the European Union. But when even a flippant American poll shows impatience with our plight, the magnitude of our isolation is frightening. A Greek television station reported the poll, and my son, who is 16, muttered, “They hate us even when they don’t know us.”
Fatigue with the Greek crisis has taken hold at a crucial time. With state funds expected to run out before the end of the month, the new government needs to persuade its creditors that it will carry out reforms and earn the release of funds tied to a 240-billion-euro bailout agreement it had promised to scrap.… Seguir leyendo »
In the past few weeks, as the radical leftist party Syriza barreled toward victory in Greece’s early national elections, it became a symbol both inside and outside the country: Everyone seemed to see what they wanted in the formerly marginal party that promised to reject the international bailout agreement that has kept Greece on life support for nearly five years.
For a growing number of Greeks, exhausted and desperate after six years of recession and insecurity, Syriza’s anti-austerity platform was seen as a promise of salvation and an effort to reclaim the country’s sovereignty; others saw the impending clash with Greece’s European Union partners as a deadly threat to an economy that was just beginning to show signs of growth.… Seguir leyendo »
In the powder keg of the Middle East’s religious and ethnic conflicts, the 40-year-long division of Cyprus between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots shouldn’t rank high on the list of dangers to defuse. This does not make the issue less relevant — nor less dangerous.
Turkey, already unsettled by the surge in Islamist extremism and Kurdish nationalism in the region, has now raised the stakes in the eastern Mediterranean. Demanding that the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union, stop exploring for gas and oil in the island’s offshore economic zone, on Oct. 20 Ankara sent an exploratory vessel into the same waters — accompanied by a warship.… Seguir leyendo »
Five years into the Greek crisis, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hope that it will end anytime soon. Perhaps we expected too much: that the largest international bailout in history would help set the economy back on its feet within a couple of years; that we could put the problems that had brought us to the brink of bankruptcy behind us; that our political system would change, with new forces sweeping away incompetence and corruption.
But it would take a revolution to overturn frameworks, mentalities and behaviors developed over decades. What we have had, instead, is a relentless devaluation at every level: Greek society has lost a great deal, and gained little in return.… Seguir leyendo »
Forty years ago this month, a series of monumental events shaped Greece and its people, leaving a legacy that still determines our politics, economy and society. Greece is like a modern parable in its trajectory from the collapse of a military dictatorship, through the restoration of democracy and the euphoria of European Union membership, to the current battle with economic crisis and political uncertainty.
In Greece, 1974 was more important even than 1981, the year we joined what was then the European Economic Community, today the European Union. We hardly noticed 1989, and the collapse of the Soviet bloc, until Europe, our region and the global economy changed.… Seguir leyendo »
Europe is covered in monuments to wars with invaders, neighbors and ourselves, and littered with peace treaties that failed. Thursday’s meeting of the European Union’s leaders in Ypres, the Flemish town that became a synonym for the slaughter in World War I a century ago, may take on an additional symbolic burden. Ypres might become a footnote in the story of the union’s great unraveling — the place where, after more than 60 years of peace, our leaders underestimated a threat, and gambled with the lives of millions.
It’s essential to understand history, but more crucial to know where we stand today, to grasp the importance of decisions we will make.… Seguir leyendo »
Greece has been at the epicenter of the European debt crisis, and in many ways, the political fallout here reflects the surge of extreme-left and extreme-right forces that the Continent witnessed in the elections for the European Parliament.
As in Greece, the center-left and center-right groups that form the core of national and European Union politics have seen their power eroded by the rise of extremist parties very different from one another, united only by their rejection of the way things are, both at home and in the European Union.
While Europe struggles to cope with the economic crisis, and voters’ focus on domestic issues is seen as a swelling tide of opposition to an “ever closer union,” debate on issues like banking and fiscal union, integration and keeping borders open could stall.… Seguir leyendo »
A friend and colleague at my newspaper is leaving to run for the European Parliament on the ticket of Greece’s main opposition party. The party, Syriza, has been leading in most polls in the run-up to the May 25 election, but there is no guarantee that my colleague will be elected. Yet, in his mid-50s, he is making the leap.
There is nothing strange in this — as old hacks used to say, journalism is a great profession if you get out in time — but my colleague’s decision reflects something significant: The economic crisis of the past four years is opening the way, after decades of stagnation, for radical change in Greek politics.… Seguir leyendo »
There was little schadenfreude in Greece last week when one of Germany’s most prominent public figures — Uli Hoeness, the former star footballer and president of the country’s most famous team — was convicted of tax evasion, brought down by a crime that the German tabloid press likes to portray as a Greek national trait. Instead, the conviction, and the way Mr. Hoeness accepted it, provoked envy among the Greeks, a sense that Germany is more serious about such issues.
Mr. Hoeness is not the first German celebrity to be convicted of a tax crime, but when he waived his right to appeal and said he would immediately serve his three-and-a-half-year jail term for evading 28.5 million euros in taxes through a Swiss account, this was seen as a heroic gesture.… Seguir leyendo »
A universally popular event common to both the Summer and Winter Olympics is the debate over whether the current host is up to the task or whether maybe the Games should find a permanent home. The argument has been running since the Olympics were revived in Athens in 1896; it has followed them to Sochi, Russia, and is likely to continue to Rio de Janeiro — returning every two years, until, after their travels around the world, the Games finally settle down.
In their original setting, a verdant sanctuary to Zeus in the Peloponnese Peninsula, the Olympics lasted close to 1,200 years (from 776 B.C.… Seguir leyendo »
The European Union’s rotating presidency may be a symbolic gesture toward equality, but it does allow us to measure a country’s fortunes each time it finds itself in the role. On Jan. 1, Greece took over the leadership at a crucial time for itself and for the union. The most troubled member, still dependent on loans from its partners and with its coalition government hanging on to power by a slim majority in Parliament, will represent the European Union for six months as its 28 members confront major questions on the group’s identity and future.
This presidency will not be business as usual.… Seguir leyendo »
The brutality of the crime would be shocking anywhere: the gunman walked up to three young men, all members of Golden Dawn, on a busy neighborhood sidewalk and fired 12 bullets in seven seconds, finishing off two victims with bullets to the head and leaving the third seriously wounded before escaping on a motorcycle driven by an accomplice.
It is hard to imagine many other countries — especially mature Western democracies — where the murder of two rank-and-file members of a relatively small political party could raise serious fears of political instability and national division. Yet this is how precarious things have become in Greece, as the country labors through its sixth year of recession and the third year of an economic recovery program that is long on austerity and short on growth.… Seguir leyendo »
My country is hurtling toward an election that will decide its fate — whether Greeks will fight on to remain part of Europe’s core or succumb to their own weaknesses and turn inward, choosing isolation, anger and uncertainty greater than that from which they wish to flee.
The vote on Sunday will change our lives — determining not only whether we remain in the euro zone but also the nature of our society and the fate of the democracy that was re-established just 38 years ago after a dictatorship. We are bitterly divided between those who want to carry on with the reform process and those who want to turn back the clock.… Seguir leyendo »
The road from Rethymno to my village in the mountains of central Crete — nearly abandoned now that an easier route has opened — is a living organism with its history, its patchwork of new and old pieces, memories of small and great joys, tragedies, miracles, its votive offerings, old detours taken over by the forest, its bridges, cliffs, landslides and endless turns.
My grandfather and his brothers, like many young men at the time, worked as laborers on the road to provide for the studies of their elder brother, so that the family could take a great leap forward and break free from the tight bonds of the earth and the weather’s wiles.… Seguir leyendo »
At a time when the Greeks are truly at the center of the global debate, when we are indeed the “navel of the world,” we want nothing more than to be left alone.
We want to ignore the fact that everyone — partners, friends, enemies — are concerned about us because they fear that either we will not return the money they have lent us or that our disease may spread to other countries.
We want to forget that we are part of the world, that we got into trouble because we participated in the global economy by borrowing mindlessly, without thinking that when the time for payment came the pain would be all ours.… Seguir leyendo »