Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Oh were they angry...

I haven't seen anything like it. The Iraq demos were as big maybe, but not as intense. There was palpable outrage in the air. I mean calls for burning the parliament building dominated the demo, chanted not by hard-core black-block anarchists by by pensioners and mothers with baby-carts.

The situation is unstable. Imagine what happened here in December 08, but on a much larger scale - that is the mood. Perhaps a bit more desperate. Tens of thousands of young people, at the same time, are looking for opportunities to emigrate. Shops are closing at an impressive rate.  

I'm writing a diary about the situation in Greece for about a week now, and I keep postponing it because new developments make previous summaries obsolete. A few hours ago the Greek parliament voted to accept the IMF package and the resulting transfer of sovereignty. But both major parties had leaks. 3 socialist MPs abstained, and one major cadre of the conservative party (a candidate for its presidency a few months ago) voted for the agreement. All were banned from their parties. The far-right supported the socialist government for "patriotic" reasons: for the survival of our homeland.

It's a mess. And the only hope, I can see, is some sort of large scale euro relaunch in the framework of a tighter political union. Otherwise there will be a European Union in the street protests, because it seems from here that Portugal and Spain are not far behind where we are now... But that is a wider discussion.

I'll try to post the diary by tomorrow (I hope :-) )

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Thu May 6th, 2010 at 01:53:16 PM EST
Is there anybody, or any party, out with an alternative plan to the IMF take-over?  If there is, are they out there letting people know what it is?

If not, these protests are futile.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu May 6th, 2010 at 02:11:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there anything Greece could do in isolation?
by generic on Thu May 6th, 2010 at 02:37:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know.  If I understand the underlying causes correctly, the situation was created by a combination of a corrupt ruling class, international financiers, and external -- mostly German? -- banks.  So Greek internal actions are only part of the problem suggesting, to me, a purely internal solution is problematical.  But note the first sentence of this paragraph!  :-)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu May 6th, 2010 at 03:13:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What could the EU really to do to Greece if they default? Not much that mattered...

The brainless should not be in banking -- Willem Buiter
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 6th, 2010 at 07:08:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not after Greece spent 50 billion euros on military hardware during the last decade.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri May 7th, 2010 at 08:36:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An alternative plan would possibly involve an orderly restructuring a couple years from now after some political cleansing in Greece.

But there are other silver bullets, such as state asset sales, land sales (250 billion worth of land), huge reduction in military expenditures, etc.

The best thing for the country would be for the ministers to resign en masse. That would create the political will to get Greece on the right track. The protests would not be futile at all if they simply focused on one of the main messages of the protest: "Thieves, Thieves."

Other than Papandreou and the financial team, the entire party structure has to go, and one of the best signs visible today is that New Democracy kicked out Dora Bakoyannis or her supporters. This is the kind of bloodletting that Greece needs. Factions within the parties tearing at one another. (I am not criticizng Bakoyannis and I suspect that she'd be more resolute on some issues than those who kicked her out).

Force the ministers out, establish a unity gov't with totally new clean leaders, and start building jails for white-collar criminals.

If I were Greek, I wouldn't care what comes next. I would gladly accept austerity measures if the following was accomplished.

by Upstate NY on Thu May 6th, 2010 at 04:48:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Any way to import some to the US?  Long overdue!

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu May 6th, 2010 at 04:56:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At this point not exactly (although there are academic opinions that some part of the left endorses - see final paragraphs).
I mean apart from protesting: The productive thing about protests is that although the government admitted that it can draw no "red lines" with the IMF, meaning its veto powers are limited, I sense (and this might be wishful thinking but there are indication that it is probably true), that massive protests and the threat of chaos in an EU member-state (as other EU-states are at the precipice of IMF peonage themselves) might temper IMF demands AND provide enough incentive for pushing the brunt of the measures a little bit more toward our oligarchs and corrupt elites, and a little less towards the peasants.

As Upstate NY said one could, for good measure, start with the military budget. Freeze all military purchases (at 2,3 billion Euros/year currently - that's after a recent 25% cut). Take a serious look into church and monastery wealth - tax it, hard, heck confiscate most of it. Chase large scale tax evasion seriously. Reform the tax system. Do something with the banks and with eschewing corporate taxes legally. A moratorium on small housing and consumer loan payments for those who lose their jobs would be nice. A confiscatory tax on anything over 100k Euros/year personal income... etc.

I should note that the IMF recipe is neoliberal economics writ large: a condemnation to a Latvia-style depression which, in the best case scenarios lead to some sort of rebound only under ideal global economic conditions. Otherwise a whole generation is screwed for life. I mean in 2014 the IMF's estimates is that Greek public debt would be at 150% of GDP, unemployment over 20% and most of the higher qualified working force will be working abroad. And then they say that the economy would rebound - from Vietnamese wages and rampant child malnutrition I guess.

In these circumstances, I note, destruction becomes enjoyable for its own sake for an ever widening part of the impoverished populace.

There is of course the opinion, that even if Greece rejected (or insisted in negotiating harder) the IMF bail-out, the consequences of its default would be such to the global monetary system (not to mention the european banking system) that some sort of less destructive solution would be necessarily offered. This might be true, but some of these same people insisted that Merkel was bluffing, that she couldn't risk destabilizing the euro for some local elections in Germany...
And there are those that reckon that a quick default/restructuring (some say within the euro, and some say after leaving the eurozone) would be the better option. Again there are those that say this because they think that debt restructuring is unavoidable even with the IMF/EU package (and say that restructuring/partially defaulting on 300 billion Euro now is better than restructuring/partially defaulting on 400 billion Euro in 2-3 years time - and Krugman seems to move toward this camp) and others who are saying that this (or even a total default) coupled with a return to the drachma (something that they acknowledge would be disastrous, but they claim less disastrous than the alternative) might offer a chance for some Argentine-style lightning recovery.

Me, I expect that the crisis spreading to Iberia and beyond, might change the rules of the game considerably. So I protest and I persevere, and I froth in anger at the injustice of measures which reward the most egregious villains in the Greek economic saga - the kleptocracy (...And I'm semi-seriously starting to check abroad for job opportunities)...

[I'll put up a diary soon, BTW, I know I will]

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Thu May 6th, 2010 at 06:40:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First of all, things for your contributions.  This kind of information from actual Greeks is hard to come by in the mass media (in the US at least).

I agree entirely that the political change is what is most important here.  There are options for dealing with the economics and I think there is will to take "austerity measures" but only if the responsible parties have first been deposed and the people feel like they have control of their government again.

Germany suggested selling some land and many scoffed but I think that in a situation like this, fuck it, here's an island, now go away.  I don't think the Greek people would have a huge problem with that either. As an American I know that if we could sell Montana to get out from under our debts we'd all do it in a second, as nice as the place may be.

by paving on Thu May 6th, 2010 at 09:44:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They might sell gov't land to private buyers but they won't selling islands to countries any time soon.

That would be like much like the USA selling Hawaii to Japan.

by Upstate NY on Thu May 6th, 2010 at 11:04:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hawaii has strategic/unique importance, it's value in a straight transaction would probably be ridiculous, in the trillions.

That and we don't rightfully own it haha.

by paving on Thu May 6th, 2010 at 11:07:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many of those Greek islands are a kilometer way from the Turkish border.

That's what I was referring to.

by Upstate NY on Fri May 7th, 2010 at 12:26:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Two birds, one stone.  I would think the Germans would love to have their island next to Turkey.
by paving on Fri May 7th, 2010 at 01:25:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If Turkey realizes the Greek islands are for sale, then do you really imagine the Germans could sun in peace with missiles flying over their heads?
by Upstate NY on Fri May 7th, 2010 at 09:56:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That would be like selling Miami to the Fidel Castro...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri May 7th, 2010 at 04:08:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it is just this sort of thinking that holds back all progress.

that said, Fidel doesn't want Miami, that's where he sends all of his undesirables.

by paving on Fri May 7th, 2010 at 05:59:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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