Τετάρτη, 27 Σεπτεμβρίου 2017

AFTERMATH OF THE FRENCH PRESIDENT’S VISIT TO ATHENS *

AFTERMATH OF THE FRENCH PRESIDENT’S VISIT TO ATHENS *
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Emmanuel Macron, as a visitor to our country last week, appeared to be a pleasant person in his encounters, cultivated and also proud in his knowledge of ancient Greek history, like  any well educated Frenchman.

In the attempt of pinpointing possible problems (as usual), in relation to this visit, let me emphasize that these do not lie on the side of the French president, but unfortunately on that of Greek political leadership. The government, as well as the opposition, to a large extent, had great expectations from this visit, and paradoxically  seemed extremely satisfied after it, with no justification whatsoever.  Let us have a look at what the French President has brought to Greece with his speech, and what should have been the Government's, as well as the opposition’s response, which unfortunately was not.
A.    The Speech
Mr Macron's speech, if one excludes his references to the achievements of our ancestors, and his very successful attempt to speak Greek, was generic and did not include any concrete promise to alleviate the suffering that the EU has been imposing on Greece, for approximately 8 years. It is true that the French president mentioned the Greek predicament, but I could also discern some sort of underlying praise towards to our government for persuading  the people about the necessity, as well as the supposed benefits of this policy.

Mr Macron was perfectly clear, just like the German Finance Minister, that there cannot be any discussion of “debt relief” before the "reforms" are completed. For Mr Macron, who not only is one of the “enfants gates” of the international bankers but also neoliberal himself, as he does not fail to state at every opportunity, the "reforms" are the flagship of his worldview. Since the world we live in only has two macroeconomic systems, liberal and interventionist, this choice is by no means condemnable. But with the necessary addition obviously, that the smooth functioning of economies requires their combined application rather than the dogmatic imposition of one, with the exclusion of the other. It would be interesting, therefore, if Mr Macron proceeded to clarify the kind of "reforms" which he, along with the German Minister of Finance, consider as a prerequisite for the salvation of our country. The truth is that no member of the government or the opposition, nor even our "partners", has ever thought necessary during the last eight  miserable years to explain to us exactly what these mythical "reforms" consist of, exactly what is expected of them, and when they are supposed to end. It is clear that simply referring to reforms, without specifying their content, does not mean anything. As far as Greece is concerned, it is well known that, since the beginning of the crisis, "reforms", which are not reforms, are limited, first of all, to the sweeping elimination of all the improvements achieved by the social struggles of the last 200 years concerning the barbaric, up to then, labor market environment, and second, to the massive sell-out of the whole of Greece. The French, of course, and in particular  Mr Macron, as an economist, are well aware that these do not fall under the category of "reforms" as these are extensively taught in the economic schools of France. They are also aware that the impoverishment of the workers leads to devastating economic and social outcomes and that the sale of ports, airports, water, electricity and nationally sensitive social services in general, does not constitute any sort of reform and is undesirable and dangerous in many ways . There are, on the contrary, a number of real reforms that Greece urgently needs, but for which there is no interest.

Another point in the French President's speech was to emphasize the importance of Europe, its cohesion that we must rescue at any cost, so that it may play its important role in the international economic and cultural scene, in which the presence of Greece is obviously absolutely necessary. At the same time, he acknowledged (indirectly but very clearly) that this Europe needs to change (because it obviously has many problems) and to evolve into a federal one, with its leading representative a newly established Finance Minister of Europe. The idea is certainly not a new one, since it  forms the argument of all proponents of Europe in order to reassure the reactions of European citizens, among which the number of Eurosceptics has exceeded the number of those accepting the continuation of a united Europe. Apart from the fact that this long-standing vision was rightly described by the German newspaper Die Welt on the day after the French president's speech as  a "naive utopia," it hides a poisonous thorn embraced without hesitation by Mr Macron since the moment he came into power, against which there have been many reactions abroad (paradoxically not in Greece) and concerns, namely the transformation of Europe, consisting of equal member states (based on the its founding treaty), into a Europe of many speeds.  I wonder if the leaders of our own government, who with such emotional enthusiasm spoke about Europe and Greece's participation in it at any cost, have adopted with no hesitation the concept of our country as the fifth wheel of the European wagon.
It is natural and perfectly understandable for the French President to serve the interests of his home country as he perceives them, and thus to avoid taking sides which might cause him problems with Germany. The revival of the Franco-German axis is at the heart of the attempts to overthrow the collapsing regime in Europe. But our attitude, or rather the attitude of our politicians, can only be described as incomprehensible. In one word, the hurtfully submissive attitude of the Greek government, reinforced by its unprejudiced excitement about all that  Mr Macron said, is unfortunately proof of the acceptance of Greece’s role as a colony of Europe.

B.    What the Greeks  would like to hear from their rulers, in response to Emmanuel Macron
"Dear Mr. President of France, our great friend,

We are extremely happy to welcome you to Greece, and  also because you and your spouse have selected our country for your first official visits. We consider you a friend of our country, so apart from the traditional speeches and formalities, we will speak to you honestly about the unacceptable drama that our people have been experiencing during almost 8 years with the certainty that you will transmit it in any way you choose to the rest of our partners.

We agree in principle with you that the dissolution of Europe would be a shame and that the euro should be rescued  (if possible) in spite of its serious problems. But this is why Europe needs to change fundamentally, moving towards its peoples rather than more bureaucracy, elitism and minimization of democracy. This is a difficult task, perhaps at the limit of the impossible. We wish you every success. In the meantime, however, Greece cannot wait, because it is crumbling under the sheer weight of memoranda that lead nowhere, and of the quasi-reforms that impoverish it on a daily basis. Do not listen Mr President to all what we occasionally support in order to  appease the justified wrath of our compatriots. Greece is not and cannot get any better. In fact, unemployment is rising, but it is masked by the long-term unemployed who are too disappointed to look for a job anymore, by the many thousands of young people who have left Greece hoping for a better life away from it, and above all by the expansion of employment with no social benefits, also applying to those who work 1-2 hours per week, but are considered as employees. As an economist you know that, however much development is desirable, it is impossible in an economy where all development trends are ruthlessly crushed.  Let me mention one that is quite sufficient, namely the demand for basic food products, which has been sinking over the last few years. In spite of the impoverishment of workers, many of whom work for 200-300E per month, often for 10 or 12 hours a day, and despite the fact that the labor market (due to "reforms") has turned into a jungle, our partners call for their continuation, and have even reacted to the fact that the new Minister of Labor tried to pass some completely marginal improvements to a recent relevant bill. Taxes of every kind, many resulting from an extremely vivid imagination, shed the last straw of liquidity from the economy, thus completing the inhumane effect of spitting out the enormous primary surpluses required by our partners. Draconian wage and pension reductions continue unfledged. Public hospitals lack adequate staff, basic medicines and gauze. The number of closing businesses  is consistently higher than those being established. So, let us tacitly forget about development, since any form of development is a joke, under the conditions prevailing in Greece.

In the absence of growth however, it is impossible to repay this huge debt, not even in the year 3000. And it goes without saying that until its 75% repayment Greece will be under surveillance with some form of memorandum. So Mr President, do not take seriously, what we say, that coming out  in the markets, will also assure us of the abolition of the memoranda. On the contrary, in this case, we will pay much more for the loans ... but what is there to do, the people need some hope, even if it is unrealistic.
Let us therefore, Mr President, share your enthusiasm for the present or for the new Europe and not make disruptive moves (which, however, are absolutely necessary in our case). You will agree, however, that we have already made great sacrifices for the size and capabilities of our small country, in order to save the French and German banks and not to break-up Europe. Sacrifices that destroyed an entire nation and killed a  people. Now, however, time is up and we can no longer fool the Greek people for the sake of the EU, our people who are slowly dying under torture. The EU, albeit without the IMF, has to assume its responsibilities and cease to impose programs and measures on Greece, while knowing perfectly well that they are not only doomed to failure but also complete the so far disaster. You are well aware Mr President, that since the beginning of the crisis, Greece has been forced to implement inadequate programs with no chance of success, which are not revised to prevent the recognition of the errors made by our partners and the IMF. This criminal error, however, is constantly being condemned by individual EU and IMF officials, but is still forcefully imposed at the expense of Greece's survival.

This constant deception is inconsistent with the historical French people, it is incompatible with Democracy, which, as you said, was born in Pnyka, but neither serves Europe. Because sooner or later, the Greek people, who are ready and who have nothing to lose, will rise again. You certainly knowthat leading economists, including many French among them, (e.g. Professor Gerard Lafay), have taken a very clear position by analyzing in books and numerous articles (self-evidently), how and why memoranda and "reforms" destroy Greece instead of saving her.

Therefore, if you wish to save the EU from collapsing, we ask you to become our own precious ambassador, and explain to our other partners why the European programs for Greece must be urgently and radically revised.  Also, why all useless urges as to the need for quasi-reforms should cease, and why appropriate reforms need to be seriously considered, which will make it possible for the Greek economy to really improve through developing rather than shrinking.
Let us summarize, Mr President. For Greece, the growth potential (which has been foregone due to the memorandums and “reforms”) is infinitely more important than any form of debt relief. If this debt is relieved of its burdensome and odious part, and if Greece is allowed to develop, we will need no loans, memoranda, perpetual negotiations and other similar miseries. With an annual growth rate of 3.5% per year, which we can clearly achieve, we will pay our debt over time.

An honest solution to the Greek problem is now more urgent than ever, because it is no longer possible to forever continue narratives about development ... which is forever growing closer. Furthermore Mr President, you must understand that the counterweight of the ongoing deadly sacrifices you are asking of us is cannot reasonably be a servile position in the new Europe of  many speeds you envision.
Thank you for hearing us,

Maria Negreponti-Delivanis
former rector and professor at the University of Macedonia
president of the Delivanis Foundation






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