Former Greek Diplomat Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos talks to RT International as Greek PM Tsipras announces his resignation to clear the way for Sept. 20th election.
Ο Πρέσβης ε.τ. και μέλος του Ε.ΠΑ.Μ., Λεωνίδας Χρυσανθόπουλος μιλά στο RT για τις εκλογές του Σεπτεμβρίου 2015 και το Ε.ΠΑ.Μ.
by Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos, Ambassador ad.H.
Published in Diario de Noticias 29.06.2015
After five months of fruitless negotiations between Greece and its lenders, the Greek Prime Minister blasted the Institutions for submitting proposals that would destroy Greece and humiliate its people. So he proposed that a referendum be held next Sunday with the question of whether or not the Greek people support the EU proposals. On Sunday morning parliament adopted the proposal and the referendum will be held next Sunday.
The EU proposals were rejected because they would have devastating effects on the country. They anticipated reduction of wages and pensions, increase in food prices and other measures affecting the middle and lower classes.
The EU never expected that the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras would dare ask for a referendum. Now attempts will be made by the EU and other circles to prevent the referendum from happening as was done in 2010. Already Christine Lagarde of the IMF made statements today saying that the Referendum will be invalid because after Tuesday the proposals will no longer exist. The Eurogroup also rejected a request from Greece to extend the exisiting program until after the referendum. Consequently as from Tuesday, the so-called financing of Greece from the institutions will stop and Greece will be obliged to pay its outstanding debt to the IMF. More attempts will take place during the week by creating panic to the people in the means of preventing access to their accounts, fomenting internal unrest etc. The EU is good in this. We saw what happened in Kiev in December 2013. But panic exists in the EU where the fear is spreading that the eurozone is collapsing.
If the outcome of the referendum is NO, then presumabely the government will inform the institutions of the will of the Greek people. It cannot be excluded that the Government denounces the Loan agreement of 2010 on the basis of articles 48-52 of the Vienna Treaty on Treaties which anticipate under which conditions an international treaty is null and void,and it covers the Greek case too. The denunciation in written form will be sent to the Secretary general of the UN, since the Vienna Treaty has been deposited at the UN, and Greece will legally stop all payments to the lenders since the Loan Agreement will be null and void. The money kept will help Greece in its road towards economic recovery. The next step will be the gradual and orderly exit of Greece from the eurozone, which will take place in a period of six months to one year. This position is also supported by the Unified Popular Front (EPAM), a party of which I am a member, and it will actively participate in support of the no vote.
If the outcome of the referendum is yes then the road for Greece to achieve colonial status will become a reality.
We are witnessing an incredible event, the EU destroying its member-states. During the last five years, the member states of the Eurozone, the EU as an institution, the IMF which is only a specialized agency of the UN, and the previous Greek governments,have violated most existing international treaties on the respect for human rights, i.e. the Lisbon treaty, the International Covenant of economic, social and cultural rights, the UN Charter etc, making them also criminally responsible for these violations. But this not our EU, it is not the EU that neither Greece, Portugal or Spain joined. It is an aberration.
I personally hope that this Greek revolution spreads to Portugal and Spain and to the other EU countries for the benefit of the peoples of Europe and of humanity.
The question of the referendum vote is whether the Greek people except the positions that were submitted in an ultimatum form on Thursday night to the Greek government.
Former Greek Diplomat and ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos talks with RT about the current situation in Greece.
Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos is a third generation diplomat and former Ambassador of Greece to Canada, Poland and Armenia. He was Director General in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece and Secretary General of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization. Extremely knowledgable on issues of the EU and on what is happenning in Greece now, Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos was a junior diplomat in the team that negotiated Greece’s accession to the EEC. He is now against Greece’s membership to the EU and believes that the EU is destroying his country. He is a member of EPAM (Unified Popular Front), a movement that was founded in the wake of the protests of 2010 and 2011.
Julia Vladimirova met him.
“You were on the delegation that negotiated Greece’s accession to the European Community. Why are you now against it?”
” I was in the team that negotiated Greece’s accession to the EEC, as it was called then. The decision to join the EEC was taken in 1975 by Konstantinos Karamanlis and it was based on two political reasons : The first was to consolidate democracy in Greece, that had just been restored after a seven year dictatorship. The other was to give us some protection against Turkey that had just invaded Cyprus in July 1974. During that period the EEC was a serious organization. During the dictatorship it rendered enormous assistance to the democratic forces to fight against the military regime.”
“Now you want to take Merkel and Barroso to court and to leave the EU.What brought about such a radical change in your thinking?”
“In December 2009 I gave an interview to the Greek newspaper “Eleftherotypia” and the title of the interview was “Nightmare a fascist Europe”. It is true that the EU has become more and more undemocratic. It is no longer the democratic organization that we had joined back then. It is also destroying its member states. In Greece it is being done with the austerity measures that have been imposed upon us. Everything is being destroyed : our society, our economy, our culture, our education and our people. So why should we belong to an organization that destroys us. Only a masochist would. I would suggest that the EU be dismantled and be replaced by a new EU that would be working for the interests of the European people and not for the interests of the European bankers.”
“What advice would you give to the young people who believe in the EU? For example in Bulgaria we are also in crisis. There are protests in Sofia. All intellectuals, the elite, and also young educated people believe that their future lies within the EU and that it will help our country to reach higher standards, higher wages. What would you say to these people?”
“I would tell them to closely follow the events in Greece, since what happens to us most likely would happen to them. We are being told by the EU, that in order to become competitive, we must reach Bulgarian standards, as far as wages are concerned. However they will never tell you that you must reach Greek standards, but perhaps they might propose to you to reach Pakistani levels. However, I do not wish to impose my opinion upon them. Just let them follow the developments in Greece and reach their conclusions.”
“How was EPAM created? I know that it was created as a result of the protest movement of 2010.”
“EPAM’s members come from all aspects of politics. From the Communist left, center and right. It is a movement created by the demonstrations of 2010. It became a party about one and a half year ago. We participated in the first elections during the crisis and received 60000 votes or 1% of the total national vote, which can be considered as quite satisfactory for a six month old party. We believe that Greece needs a regime change. We do not recognize the debt or the memoranda. We support the formation of a provisional government and then the election of a Constitutional Assembly that will formulate the new constitution that would, for example, prohibit former politicians to run for parliament while allowing the new ones not to serve more than two terms and in this way end the profession of politicians. We shall also leave the eurozone as a first step and later on the EU. All those who have contributed to the destruction of the country will be tried. We shall also file charges against Brussels at the competent International courts for crimes against humanity, since about four thousand people have committed suicide because of the pressure of the crisis and also ask for reparations for the damage done. In brief this is the EPAM program.”
Speech made by Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos (*) at the Conference held at the University of Athens on March 11,2014 organized by the Institute of International Legal Studies by Professor Elias Crispis and by the Circle of Diplomats.
We all know in general terms about the history of the EU and I would not want to repeat it here. I will try to develop a brief description of the Treaties of the EU, the problems created, the situation of Greece and proposals for resolving the crisis.
The Treaty of Rome of 1957 created the EEC and its four institutional instruments, the Council of Ministers, the European Commission, the European Court of Justice and European Parliament. The original Member States were six which had to manage a free movement of goods, services, capital, labor and a common agricultural policy.
In 1987, the Single Act is signed which set up the single or internal market that made non- tariff barriers to trade illegal under EU laws. It also established harmonization so that there would be no differences in products or services produced in the Member States. Unanimity ws replaced by qualified or weighed majority voting across most economic areas in the EU, with the bigger Member States being allocated most votes.
The 1992, the Maastricht treaty required all EU Members, with the exception of Britain and Denmark, to abolish their national currencies and adopt a single EU currency, the euro. The 18 countries involved have abandoned their national controls of their rates of interest and their exchange rates. The European Central Bank decides these now.
The 1998, the Amsterdam Treaty extended the qualified majority voting to a number of new areas. It gave the EU its own code of human rights and its own external border and immigration policy. Under this Treaty, the European Arrest Warrant has removed many of the traditional safeguards in the extradition process, since action is taken even if the offence alleged is not an offence in the EU state, whose citizen’s extradition is requested.
The 2001, the Nice Treaty abolished the national veto and the extended qualified majority voting further into non-economic areas. It also anticipated enhanced cooperation.
Finally, we arrive to the Lisbon Treaty of 2009, which provided for the abolition of the European Community and its replacement by a constitutionally new European Union with full legal personality separate from and superior to that of the Member-States. The Treaty provides that as from this year a qualified majority for the purposes of making EU laws by the Council of Ministers, will consist of 55% of the States – which means 15 out of the 28 – as long as those 15 comprise 65% of the total EU population of some 500 million. With Germany and France among them having 1/3 of the EU’s population and half the population of the Eurozone, it allows those two countries to create a blocking minority if they can get one or two smaller allies as well as a powerful say in pushing through whatever measures they want. Lisbon also made the “European Council” into a formal EU institution for the first time, establishing the Permanent President of the European Council, who essentially presides over the Council of Ministers, thus reducing drastically the importance of the rotating presidency exercised by the Member States which now became more of an administrative presidency rather than one of substance. Lisbon also incorporated all the previous Treaties as well as the Charter of Fundamental Right of the EU.
Until the big enlargement of 2003, the EU was functioning effectively – even if not as effectively as it did during the 70’s and 90’s.Until then the Foreign Ministers, within the framework of the General Affairs Council, were able to solve issues pertaining to the budget, agriculture as well as other issues without the presence of experts. They locked themselves in consultations until the wee hours of the morning and resolved the problems in a direct dialogue. And of course, they took into consideration the interests of their peoples, in contrast to what is happening today.
From 2004 onwards the General Affairs Councils were held in the following way: The Ministers arrived, read an intervention written by someone else on all the subjects of the agenda, and then departed to hold bilateral talks, without listening to what their colleagues were saying. Many did not even stay for the working lunch. So, we have a United Nationalization of the EU which does not work for its advantage or for its effectiveness. If the EU politicians were serious, they would consecrate at least three days per month for the General Affairs Council. But they do not have the time to give three days to Europe and consequently the EU fell into the hands of the Brussels beaurocrats. Another negative effect was created by the constant celebratory statements of the European Councils which created the wrong impression that each meeting was resolving all the problems of the EU. The biggest failure was the Lisbon Strategy that had as aim to make the EU the most competitive and dynamic economy of the world by 2010 with better and more work positions and better social cohesion. In 2009, it was admitted by all that the strategy had failed. In 2000 the unemployment in the EU of the 27 was 20 million while in 2013 it was 26 million according to Eurostat.
Let us look into the situation of Greece. There were the reasons that made Konstantinos Karamanlis push for the accession of Greece to the EEC as it was then called. The first was to consolidate democracy, the second was to protect the country against Turkey and the third was to promote the economic development of Greece. It should be recalled that the then democratic EEC had countered the military dictatorship with every means possible particularly by freezing the Association Agreement and the Financial protocol. NATO on the other hand, had supported the junta. Xenofon Zolotas in his book published in 1978 wrote about the positive contribution of Greece to the EEC; he had underlined three areas where Greece had competitive advantages over the other Member States. These were mineral resources ,its geographical position with easy access to the Middle East and its Mercantile Marine. When Greece joined the EEC in 1981, it had a dynamic industry with a yearly rate of development of 7.4%, a dynamic agriculture and self-sufficiency in most products and with 24.2% of the population working in the latter. After its accession, Greece was obliged to limit its steel production since there was an overproduction in the EEC, and it dismantled its nascent automobile industry. Greece reduced its olive oil production since there existed olive oil lakes in the EEC, it restructured its agriculture reducing the percentage of population actively employed in that field. And for many years, by the purchase of military hardware, Greece kept the Belgian, French and German workers employed in their respective industries. Of course, the EU funds helped the development of Greece and many infrastructure projects were done with EU co-financing. Agriculture was also assisted, even though it remains unclear how much funding actually reached ita objective .On January 1,2002 Greece joined the eurozone, and after a few years, the problems started that resulted in today’s situation. After September 11,2001 and after the terrorist attacks in Madrid and London, the democratic deficit of the EU started increasing with measures that were either imposed on the EU by the USA or adopted by its own initiative. The result of these measures is a constant surveillance of the European people by their authorities.
Let us examine now the Greek economic crisis. The Greek government signed the Loan Agreement in May 2010, so that it could, through austerity measures, restructure the state and development policies to reduce the public debt which in 2009 was 129% of the GNP or 299 billion euros in absolute numbers. After two Memoranda and mistaken policies from the EU, the IMF and the Greek governments, Greece is on the verge of disaster. Greece has borrowed a total amount of 191 billion euros from 2010 until the end of 2013. And not only was the public debt not reduced, but it increased to 175% as percentage of the GNP or 321 billion euros. Unemployment of 470.620 people, or 9.5% increased by the end of 2013 to 1.374.054 people or 27.6%. The main reason for the failure of the measures was that the human factor was not taken into consideration. The Greek citizen was totally ignored and as a result Greece is facing today a social disaster without precedence and the beginning of a humanitarian crisis. And in spite of the fact that they had acknowledged their mistakes, the EU and the IMF continue to implement the same erroneous policy which has proven to be ineffective.
When the crisis broke out in 2010, the government, instead of asking the loan agreement, should had at least attempted to request the implementation of article 122 par.2 of the Lisbon Treaty which mentions the following: ”Where a Member State is in difficulties or is seriously threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, may grant, under certain conditions, Union financial assistance to the Member State concerned…” Paragraph 2 was not applied because the European Commission and others presented the difficulty as a purely Greek problem – and not as recognized later on by the same European Commission – as a result of the global financial crisis for which Greece was not responsible.
But it is not only that the measures are erroneous, they also constitute a blatant violation of the Lisbon Treaty. Articles 2 and 3 have been violated. Article 2 mentions that the Union is founded on the values of respect of human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights etc. Article 3 para.1 says that the Union’s aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples. Also Articles 145-150 on employment,151-166 on social policy ,education and vocational training have all been violated. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, that is incorporated in the Lisbon Treaty, has also been violated as follows: Articles 1 on human dignity, 11 on freedom of expression and information,12 on freedom of assembly and association, 14 on the right to education, 15 on the freedom to choose an occupation and the right to engage in work, 17 the right to property, 20 equality before the law, 25 the rights of the elderly, 26 on the integrity of persons with disabilities, 30 on protection in the event of unjustified dismissal, 34 on Social Security and Social Assistance and 35 on protection of health. On this last issue, German citizens have filed a lawsuit at the International Criminal Court of The Hague (OTP CR 345/12) against unknown people for damaging the health of the Greek people. Hundreds of witness reports are being submitted by the victims in support of this lawsuit.
In order to avoid the destruction of Greece the following solution is proposed:
The denunciation of the Loan Facility Agreement of May 2010, signed between Greece and the Member-States of the Eurozone will be based on articles 48-52 of the Vienna Convention of the UN concerning the Law of Treaties. These articles anticipate the invalidity of Treaties if there was an error in the treaty , fraud, coercion of a representative of a State and coercion of a State by the threat of use of force. Greece will at the same time request compensation from the EU for the damage done to the country. The damage done, according to conservative estimates, is about the amount of the so-called debt. Article 41.3 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU mentions that ”Every person has the right to have the Union make good any damage caused by its institutions or by its servants in the performance of their duties…….” The cessation of paying interest that will occur with the denunciation of the Loan Facility Agreement and the compensation that will be given to Greece, will allow the country to take the necessary measures to repair the damages done and at the same time instigate development. Greece will also withdraw from the eurozone in order to implement beneficial economic policies that it cannot under eurozone rules. The proposed solution is not easy in its implementation. But it is much better than the erroneous policy followed today that is leading Greece, with mathematical accuracy, to disaster. And it is a positive sign that there is a political party supporting such an approach.
PROPOSAL FOR THE EU
In order that the EU functions effectively, it must be transformed so that it would have as sole priority the protection of the interests of the peoples of Europe and not of the bankers of Europe. Its inefficiency must be changed by the adoption of a new constitutional document to replace the violated Lisbon Treaty. The new document must not be drafted by the existing failed institutions of the EU. It must be drafted by movements of citizens of the Member States who will submit their proposals to a European Assembly composed of representatives of movements of citizens of the EU. The final document will be submitted, on behalf of the peoples of Europe, to the new EU institutions for implementation. In the in-between time, the EU will carry out only everyday business. With such a solution, the EU will stop destroying its members and intervening in a blatant way in third countries ,as was the case with the Ukraine.
PROPOSAL FOR HUMANITY
The deletion of the global debt which is about 600 trillion USD, will allow humanity to restart on a new and healthy basis. There exist many examples in history of debt deletion. From the ancient Greek Sisahtheia to the Jubilee of ancient Hebrew communities where every fifty years the debts among themselves were cancelled. Even during the 70’s the developed countries of the West deleted the debt of the non-aligned movement thus allowing the economic development of Yugoslavia. The only ones who will lose from the deletion of the global debt will be the banks, but the bankers will not go hungry as is a large part of earth’s population. Humanity as a whole will benefit because it will be able to restart on more sound principles.
For the implementation of the previously mentioned proposals, it is necessary to have politicians with imagination, vision and courage, politicians who care about progress of humanity and not about power. Such politicians do not exist today. But we have to invent and create them.
(*) Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos is a member of the Political Secretariat of EPAM and a candidate for European Parliament.
Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos on the Greek economic crisis: could this Greek Tragedy lead to civil war?
Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos interviewed by Barbara Van Haute in Dec 2012
By Barbara Van Haute
Editorial Note: Of all the nations experiencing traumatic economic difficulties during the course of the current Great Recession, Greece has suffered the most adverse consequences. The country’s five year economic problems have been longer and deeper than that of any developed country. In fact, Greece has gone through a catastrophic depression otherwise unknown in the West.
The standard of living has dropped drastically; unemployment has reached 26%; the debt to GDP ratio is over 180%; the country’s “fiscal cliff” is looming bankruptcy; social spending and the “safety net” have been eviscerated; while demonstrations and riots target both domestic debt reduction measures and the financial institutions of the European Union power brokers. In response, the European Union and the IMF have authorized a bail-out of 240 billion Euros, some debt relief, and longer repayment schedules in exchange for severe austerity legislation and economic restructuring.
As of last month, the European Union signed off on a further agreement, with mixed benefits and results, to address the crisis. As one analysis put it, “This deal provides little ‘free’ cash for the government to spend. The vast bulk of the package provides for further recapitalization of the banks, repayment of arrears and maturing debt, and a debt buyback from private holders. That leaves only a modest amount of discretionary fiscal spending for the next few months. As before, Greece will depend importantly on sales of government debt to Greek banks to finance itself, which in turn is made possible by liquidity from the ECB. That’s a new definition of recycling, whereby the monetary authority is the ultimate provider of financing to service official debts.” [Council on Foreign Relations website, Nov. 27, 2012: “Greece Gets Its Deal”]
The causes of the crisis and configurations of its long term solutions have been hotly debated. Does the fault (and the resolution) lie primarily with Greek governance, with the financial policies of the European Union, or some combination of the two?
To get an informed insight on how this Greek tragedy is, and should be, playing out, I interviewed Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos. Ambassador Chrysanthopoulos and I became friends while he was Ambassador of his country to Canada from 2000-2004. The following is a series of questions and responses conducted by email. As the reader will see, the Ambassador does not pull any punches in his candid comments.
QUESTION: What do you think are the primary causes of the Greek debt crisis? Conventional economic analysis claims that the root problems stem from over-spending, excessive borrowing, crushing debt to GDP margins, tax evasion, and an irresponsible political culture of entitlement and excessive social welfare programs. Recently, Transparency International also placed Greece at the top of its European Union list of corrupt government public sectors and worse than many Third World countries. To what extent are these valid critiques?
RESPONSE: It is a combination of many factors. When Greece joined the EU in 1981, it had flourishing industry, agriculture, tourism and services. Gradually, Greece was obliged to restructure its agricultural production and to reduce the amount of population working in agriculture from 7% to 3 %. We were also obliged to reduce our olive oil production since there was a surplus EU production then. The influx of EU agricultural subsidies also reduced production. Since there was also an overproduction of steel at the time, Greece was obliged to gradually close down its steel industry and at the end it was left only with tourism.
At the same time, the Greeks wanted to have all the luxurious goods, nice cars, houses and other consumer goods. And the banks were giving them loans without checking to see if the individuals had the means to repay the loans. Many EU programs started to help the Greeks increase their standard of living and to help the industrialized countries of the EU to sell their products to Greece. And the Greeks kept on consuming. The new economic trend of globalization added further to this spiral.
In the meantime the EU created a common currency, the euro, a currency that 60% of the Greeks and 90% of the Germans did not want. The eurozone became a collection of markets and nations under one common structure that could not be more diverse. The income structures were greatly different as were the tax, pension and social security systems. All of the eurozone members were obliged to use the euro, but without the possibility of adjusting the competitiveness of their industries by currency devaluation.
Of course, there were rules that had to be followed. According to the Maastricht Treaty, the eurozone countries were not allowed to have over 60% GDP/debt relations. But the Treaty had already been violated: Italy had 105.8%, Greece 97.6%, Belgium 89.6%, France 68%, Portugal 66.4% and Germany 65.9%. So the question then arises why did the EU politicians of the time establish the euro, fully aware that six nations were violating the rules from the outset?
Finally the Lisbon Treaty-which very few EU politicians had ever read-gave all decision making authority on these matters to Brussels.
And then the whole system failed.
Is it the fault of the Greek government? Not only. Of course all Greek governments managed the economy in a dismal way, appointing friends to administrative positions, spending money for no reason, and even being involved in corrupt practices.
And what about the European politicians? They only care to promote their own personal interests and they lack any kind of vision on the future of Europe. Because if they had a vision, the French would not have obliged a country on the verge of default, Greece, to buy frigates valued at billions of euros on the eve of the first austerity measures in 2010; nor would the Germans have exercised pressure on Athens to buy aircrafts and submarines. On the contrary, it should have been prohibited for members of the eurozone to sell armaments to other members who are on the verge of defaulting. Which brings us to an interesting fact: Greece has been spending roughly 4% of its GDP for armaments since 1974, and the biggest amount of armament purchases has gone to Germany at a cost of 300 million euros per year; for a total of 2.6 billion euros in the last five years. And it is not right for the people of Greece to support financially the German workers of the armament industry.
QUESTION: How would you describe, in general terms, the impact of the economic crisis on the lives of average Greeks? Can you provide some examples of creative and productive responses that attempt to cope with the crisis?
The implementations of the EU austerity measures have had tragic implications on the lives of the average Greeks. For the first time since the German occupation of 1941 we have seen food lines in Athens giving free food to the many needy. For the first time we are witnessing Greek citizens searching the garbage bins for food. There are, for the first time, 25,000 homeless in Athens. People have restricted their consumption to the minimum necessary to survive. The population is suffering and the suicide rate has reached 2000 per year in comparison with 200-300 in the pre-crisis period. People are coping by creating balcony vegetable production and by reverting to bartering, particularly in the country side. Agricultural associations are being created that bring the products directly to the market at low cost because they avoid the middleman.
QUESTION: Many observers also believe the crisis has been aggravated by political trends in Greece: prime ministers with their “heads in the sand” to avoid tough decisions, weak minority governments, destructive protest movements, the growth in extremism, etc. How do you assess the contemporary state of Greek democracy and the ability of political parties to create an environment that can promote solutions or create obstacles?
RESPONSE: I believe that the crisis has been aggravated by the wrong measures of austerity imposed on Greece by the so-called Troika (IMF-EU and the European Central Bank) and the lack of courage of Greek governments to oppose or negotiate them. IMF has admitted in public that mistakes were made. Many Greeks are suffering because of these measures .The IMF recently admitted that it did not anticipate the high levels of recession. But mistakes have to be paid. It is a shame that the Greek Government did not estimate the cost of the damages of these mistakes to the country and ask that they be reduced from the so-called debt.
Democracy no longer exists in Greece. The austerity measures recently adopted were unconstitutional according to Greece’s highest courts. One Member of Parliament and former minister said unabashed on television that the measures are unconstitutional but he has to vote for them. In this way, he blatantly violated the oath he took when he was sworn in to protect the Constitution.
The Greek government recently made an agreement with the successor company of Blackwater to hire mercenaries for the protection of Parliament. Parliament, however, in democracies needs no protection. Guidelines have been issued to the mass media of what can be said and tolerated and what cannot be tolerated. Journalists that do not conform are being harassed by government agents or arrested. Another journalist was summarily fired from state television because he showed the Prime Minister being booed at the October 28 National day celebrations. And the EU does not give a damn about democracy in Greece as it does about democracy in other countries like Turkey.
QUESTION: The roles of Germany, the European Central Bank, and other European financial institutions have been heavily criticized in Greece. Given the substantial bail-outs promised and paid out, what do you think is a fair critique of the additional responsibility for the rest of Europe to help Greece get out from under the debt load?
RESPONSE: The bail-outs are money that is given to the lenders of Greece. Nothing goes to the country or to its people. The issue should be seen from the EU more as an attempt to save the EU rather than Greece. Because if Greece collapses then we might have a domino effect leading to the collapse of the other southern EU members. It will cost less to the EU if it agrees today to zero the debt of Greece rather than continuing the bail-outs. This will allow Greece to focus on its development rather on never ending debt payments. And one must not forget the high interest rates of 4% that were imposed for the first bail-out. This is called usury. Fortunately, it was later corrected.
QUESTION: Are the details and amounts of the ECB/IMF recent financing ‘deal’ realistic in terms of allowing Greece’s domestic economy to stabilize and grow?
RESPONSE: No, it is a continuation of the same mistakes. These measures like the previous ones enhance recession and deprive the population of any consuming ability by unfair and heavy taxation. There can be no growth without consumption. The new deal gives priority to the protection of the lenders of Greece.
QUESTION: The Bank of Greece believes that the Greek economy will recover if all of the terms of the EU/IMF deal are implemented by the Greek government. Do you think that the government of Greece can fully implement the terms without further negative impacts for the people of Greece?
RESPONSE: The Bank of Greece is mistaken. It has made such forecasts before. The Minister of Finance was saying last year, in another capacity that in 2012 Greece will start to develop. Today the Prime Minister said yesterday that at the end of 2013 Greece will start to develop. So basically they are telling the people nonsense and thus have lost their credibility. The results of the measures imposed on Greece since 2010 have been disastrous. Unemployment only from 16% in 2010 has now reached 26%, as a result of the measures. The structure of society is unraveling. Criminality has increased, nobody feels safe to walk the streets of Athens anymore, people are asking for loans to pay their taxes. No the tolerance level of the people is on the verge of being breached. However, it should be made clear, that all Greeks would make any kind of sacrifice if they knew that the measures would be effective and the country would be out of the debt crisis. But unfortunately this is not the case. If the aim of the exercise is to reduce the debt GDP ratio to 120% from 190% by 2020, what happens after that? Austerity measures will continue to be imposed. And the people of Greece are not willing to spend the rest of their lives in such conditions.
QUESTION: IMF and EU finance ministers have acknowledged that total forgiveness of Greek debt may be required at some point in the more distant future. Do you agree with this acknowledgement, or is it possible that debt removal should be considered in the very near future if Greece’s economy is to stabilize and grow within the next few years. Other analysts argue that complete debt forgiveness would be a disastrous precedent and a financial calamity for the lenders. How could the case be made to reluctant European financial institutions and government lenders that this would be in their self-interest?
RESPONSE: As I previously stated, the only solution for Europe and for Greece is the total forgiveness of the Greek debt now. This will be a cheaper cost for the EU since such a measure will also save the eurozone. Once Greece has gotten rid of the debt, then it can focus on true development of the country with investments and increased consumption. If the debt is not forgiven now Greece will default and if it does, it will most likely leave the eurozone with possible domino effects to Portugal, Spain and why not Italy. So if the eurozone collapses it will cost money, much money to the EU. But even if it doesn’t, the EU will have to make many more bailouts to keep Greece afloat. It would be a precedent, of course. But my heart does not bleed for the lenders since they will never become homeless or destitute. The social impact will be much smaller when the lenders lose money than when the people do. These are simple arguments and you do not need much wisdom to find them. One needs, however, guts to implement them; something that is missing from today’s politicians in Europe.
QUESTION: Some observers believe abandoning the euro would be catastrophic even given the current situation. Others claim it is necessary because default and deprivation are inevitable with the euro. What do you think would be the consequences for Greece if the country abandoned the euro and returned to the drachma?
RESPONSE: The situation in Greece is dramatic. If we continue the path of austerity we will end up in disaster. If Greece were to abandon the euro and revert to the drachma, the situation would be difficult but easier to cope with. If we were to return to the drachma, this would be done gradually with both currencies co-existing for a one year period as we did when we adopted the euro. But with a national currency Greece will be able to devalue it and make its economy more competitive in that way. And we must never forget that the drachma worked effectively.
QUESTION: If the crisis is viewed as sustained and structural (regardless of bail-outs and government programs), are there structural socio-economic changes Greece can undertake—regional decentralization, emphasizing commodities over cash, growth of cooperatives, etc?—that could be effective substitutes for austerity?
RESPONSE: Of course there are. For example in order to make investments in Greece more effective, the Troika proposed a drastic reduction of the minimum wage in the private sector. Instead the best solution would have been for the Government to simplify the bureaucratic procedures that are needed in order to obtain an investment permit and also to reduce the cost. But that is not a structural change. Better use of new technologies and innovation and less state intervention in the economy will be helpful also. Restructuring of the State mechanism is another must but it cannot be done overnight. It has to be done gradually and it must be well planned. These are but some small examples.
QUESTION: Finally, are you personally optimistic or pessimistic as to what will happen to Greece over the next five years?
RESPONSE: If the situation continues as it is today then I am pessimistic. It will be difficult to avoid social unrest and perhaps civil war under such circumstances. If the situation changes and the debt is forgiven, one way or another, I would be optimistic in my outlook. However, since we Greeks have been around for a much longer time than our European counterparts, I believe that we will survive this onslaught also. However you cannot save a country by destroying it.
Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos is a Greek career diplomat. In 1977 he was a junior member of the team that negotiated Greece’s accession to the EU. During his service, he also assisted in the negotiations between the Greek and Turkish communities in Cyprus; serving in close contact with the Secretary General’s Office of the UN.
In 1993 he became the first Greek Ambassador to newly independent Armenia, where he also represented the Presidency of the European Union. He has served in legations in Toronto and Beijing, as well as in his country’s missions to the European Union in Brussels and the United Nations in New York. He has served as Consul General of Greece in Istanbul and as ambassador to Poland and Canada.
From 2006 to 2012 he served as Secretary General of the BSEC (Black Sea Economic Corporation Organization) International Secretariat with its Headquarters in Istanbul.
His writings include commentaries in various Greek and international newspapers. The ambassador has also authored publications on the 1974 invasion of Cyprus and nation-building in Armenia.
Barbara Haute is a recent resident of Almonte and has a background in political analysis. She has done graduate work in Political Science and International Relations at Carleton and is currently a Research Fellow for the Centre for Security and Defence Studies at the University of Manitoba. Barbara has also worked with the Conference Board of Canada and various national Aboriginal organizations.