Features

'We need a new word for crisis': the view from Athens

4 July 2015

9:00 AM

4 July 2015

9:00 AM

 Athens

On Sunday night, a protest in favour of staying in the euro gathered in Syntagma Square, in front of the Greek parliament building. They were quickly confronted by a group of anti-EU protestors. What could have been an ugly stand-off was avoided by an unseasonal downpour. The 28ºC heat plunged to 19ºC and the young protestors — organised by social media — fled home, as did the riot police soon afterwards. Things are in a terrible way here, but not quite terrible enough for a Greek to hang about in the rain.

As one Athenian journalist told me on the roof of the Amalia Hotel, while we watched the protestors scuttling home under their umbrellas, the country is suffering crisis fatigue. ‘We really need a new word for crisis,’ the journalist said. ‘A crisis isn’t supposed to go on as long as this.’

For six years, Greeks have watched as the country ran out of money, excuses, and time to pay off their unpayable debts. To begin with, they rioted — then riot fatigue kicked in. Now, instead of raw anger, a blanket of sad weariness has settled over the country as it prepares for the referendum this weekend — and the expulsion from the euro which may follow.

From Athens to Kalamata, in the southern Peloponnese, I watched as people formed orderly, quiet, resigned queues at cash machines, to collect their newly restricted maximum withdrawal of €60 a day. Everybody is queuing, including those riot police, who were stockpiling euros at a cash machine near parliament in the build-up to Sunday’s damp squib of a protest.

No one complained at the rank unfairness of my privileged position in the queues. Because of my foreign bank account, I could withdraw as much as I wanted — when the machines had any money in them. It is safe to say that anyone heading to Greece on holiday should take plenty of euros. They will be perfectly safe in this still exceptionally friendly country but, then again, who feels safe walking around with thousands of euros in their pocket? Or under their bed? This is the kind of misery and uncertainty that Greeks will have to live with for months, whatever happens.

In theory, Alexis Tsipras has at least four more years as Greece’s Prime Minister. In practice, he is playing for time, and running out of allies willing to play along with him. He is urging Greeks to vote No in the referendum this weekend, indicating that he’d resign in the event of a Yes. His creditors want him to make ends meet by trimming generous pension deals and other examples of state largesse. He initially refused. His last-minute intervention this week, accepting a slightly watered-down set of demands from his creditors, was the desperate action of a man about to be kicked out of the last-chance saloon.


The stakes are moving ever higher. Greece became the first developed country to default on an IMF loan on Tuesday. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, has said that a No vote on Sunday will mean No to the European Union itself. To the British, EU membership is a practical question about a rather expensive trading bloc. To Greeks, it’s about identity. It was the prospect of joining the EU that helped the country move from dictatorship in the 1970s. The Bank of Greece put it rather powerfully in a recent report. Failure to agree a deal, it said, would mean an ‘exponential’ rise in unemployment, deep income cuts and ‘a collapse of all that the Greek economy has achieved over the years of its EU membership’. Furthermore, ‘from its position as a core member of Europe, Greece would see itself relegated to the rank of a poor country in the European south’.

In the lobby of the Hotel Grande Bretagne on Syntagma Square, worried guests cross-questioned the concierge about where they could get euros. One American tourist said that his family had called him from the States, begging him to come home from the ‘war’ in Greece. If people are already thinking such nonsense, then holiday bookings will slump. Once a rumour has got its boots on, the world’s travel agents will have a hard job catching up. Now, at the start of the peak holiday season, the main shopping streets in the shadow of the Parthenon are half empty.

The greatest fear is that — as Panos Kammenos, the nationalist coalition partner in the Syriza-led government, recently said — Greece’s international creditors will force its politicians to ‘do a Kougi’: press the self-destruct button out of pique and humiliation. Kammenos was referring to Greece’s war of independence from the Ottoman Empire, when in 1803 a group of Greek soldiers blew themselves up at Kougi in north-western Greece, rather than be imprisoned by the Turks.

Mr Tsipras may take that option himself. It has taken just five months, but the groovy young Marxist hipsters of Syriza are already looking over the hill. A Greek psychotherapist recently pointed out that Yanis Varoufakis — the Greek finance minister with the shaven head, turned-up collar and showy motorbike — was a walking dictionary definition of narcissism. He was booked to appear on the BBC’s Question Time last Thursday and pulled out at the last minute — his cancellation was understandable, but why was he even thinking about jetting off to Southampton when the fate of his countrymen hung in the balance? The answer, it seems, is that he has a book out and is keen to grab attention. He has certainly succeeded in this, if in nothing else.

Signs of Greece’s disintegration are every-where. On Saturday night, as I left Plaka, the bohemian area below the Parthenon, I passed a parade of the destitute: a crazed woman, shrieking to herself in the doorway of a graffiti-splattered shop; a neat middle-class man squatting on the kerb in a beige corduroy suit, with a ‘homeless’ sign in English; a dapper, trim figure with an out-of-tune street organ, bearing the manufacturer’s address in ‘Costantinopoli’ — dating back nearly a century, to the days when Istanbul was Constantinople.

An American writer friend told me that he had rented a study from his Greek friend next door in a smart part of town, where the ancient Cynics used to stroll and philosophise. Recently, he discovered that his now-unemployed neighbour and his wife and two children were surviving entirely on the meagre rental income from the small study.

The Greeks — like the Italians and the Spanish — are admirably keen on keeping up appearances; la bella figura. And so Athenian grandes dames, supporting their grandchildren on shrunken pensions, still go to the opera three times a week, but they eke out their dwindling larders with free canapés and white wine at diplomatic receptions.

I’m told of a desperate incident at the soup kitchen in an upmarket Athenian suburb. There are two sittings: one for Syrian migrants flooding into the Greek islands and on to Athens; another for Greek nationals. Recently, a businessman in an immaculate suit turned up in the Greek nationals’ queue. When he got to the front of the line, he started making elaborate requests — ‘Don’t overcook the meat, please’; ‘I like my vegetables a little underdone’ — before he was gently told that soup kitchens don’t work quite like restaurants.

Already, much of Greece’s infrastructure, engorged with EU cash, is looking like a monument to a bygone age of splendour. A slick, blacktop motorway runs majestically from Athens through the Peloponnese; when I first visited 25 years ago, the Peloponnese was a spider’s web of higgledy-piggledy country roads, packed with donkeys and carts. The new road was preparation for a prosperity that never arrived. At rush hour, I had the motorway to Kalamata pretty much to myself. The Greeks can’t afford the new tollbooths that have cropped up every couple of miles — even though it’s only a euro or two each time.

The crisis kicked in before the motorway was finished. Just before Kalamata, the road stops dead, closed off by concrete blocks, petering out into a pitted white path, overgrown with weeds. You drive the last five miles to Kalamata on the old minor road. An empty road to nowhere, then, with no exits — a bonus for rich, foreign travellers, but unused by the broke locals. What an analogy for the mad, foolish tragedy of the euro.

For years, jobless Athenians have been heading back to their ancestral islands and hill towns, where jobs are also scarce, but there’s plenty of cheap food and drink on the family farm. For years, too, the Greek authorities have been awaiting this week’s earthquake. I was told in Athens that the rules for capital controls — the restrictions announced this week — were on the verge of being implemented in Greece in 2013, when Cyprus was subjected to ruthless capital controls. For years, it has all been about delaying the inevitable.

When Greece leaves the euro (and it is now a matter of when, not if), its replacement is all set to run off the printing presses. A designer has drawn up images of the nea drachme — the new drachma — a return to the currency that served Greece well, on and off, for over 2,500 years; unlike the euro, introduced here in 2002, which looks unlikely to last 15 years. What handsome notes they are. The 500-drachma note shows a saturnine, beautiful Maria Callas. The 100-drachma note has a brooding portrait of Melina Mercouri, actress, singer and Elgin Marbles repatriation enthusiast.

The joke in Athens is that the currency designer should demand that he is paid in euros, not in the notes he drew himself. If introduced, the drachma is set to plummet. This might be for the best in the long term, but it would mean an immediate world of pain. Greeks are sick to death of the euro crisis, but they are terrified of what will follow: the headlong flight into the unknown.

Harry Mount is the author, most recently, of Odyssey: Ancient Greece in the Footsteps of Odysseus, which is to be published this month.

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Show comments
  • Bonkim

    Greeks can’t lose with infantile P.M and Finance Minister.

  • aspeckofboggart

    Overcooked meat is tasteless and tough to chew. Overdone vegs lack vitamins. First things first.

    • William_Brown

      Ahhh…so that’s what ‘trickle down effect’ means: Better soup kitchens!

  • sir_graphus

    Everything that’s been done so far has been about saving the Euro, and saving European banks, saving the blushes of EU leaders and bureaucrats. The Greek people have not been considered for a moment.

    • post_x_it

      The Greek people were “considered” very generously by their successive governments right up to 2009, who made them endless concessions and spending promises vastly out of proportion to real economic activity. The Greek people lapped it up and not once asked who was going to pay for it all. They also didn’t see any reason why they should pay any tax.
      Since 2009 it’s chickens -> roost.

  • Precambrian

    Greece is going.

    Which country will be the next “Greece”?

    • JSC

      My bet’s on Cypress…

      • Precambrian

        A distinct possibility

      • William_Brown

        No, I think Cyprus might though…

  • Fraser Bailey

    Four more years? Tsipras will be lucky to get four more days. As for Varoufakis being booked to QT, I suppose it makes sense. After all, he’s a gormless, hypocritical and attention seeking leftie with a house on a Greek island that he lets out for 5,000 euros a month (or is it a week?) Just the kind of person the BBC loves.

    • GUBU

      Fair’s fair.

      Unlike Russell Brand (who some at the BBC probably wanted included in the election debates) Mr Varoufakis at least knows the meaning of the big words he uses, and you don’t have to fork out for a make up artiste to artfully coiffe his chest hair before he takes his seat.

      • alfredo

        We could certainly do with the services of the psychotherapist who identified Varoufakis as a narcissist. He could point out a few in public life in the UK. It might help the public to understand better some of their weird behaviour: the said Russell Brand, Galloway, Assange (he’s not dead, is he?), to name but a few.

        • GUBU

          You don’t need a psychotherapist to identify the common trait with those three – they are, in layman’s terms, a#rseholes, and proof that politics has become, as the old adage suggested, show business for ugly people.

          Mr Assange, by the way, is alive and well, and still residing in a filing cabinet in the Ecuadoran Embassy. Not a bad spot – a balcony to declaim from, and Harrods is handy if you fancy a bit of shopping (though Mr Assange probably does his online).

  • Cooper1992

    Very good article Mr Mount. I look forward to a Part Two about your travels.

    “A designer has drawn up images of the nea drachme — the new
    drachma — a return to the currency that served Greece well, on and off,
    for over 2,500 years; unlike the euro, introduced here in 2002, which
    looks unlikely to last 15 years.”

    This is probably the saddest line of the article. The Greeks traded in their identity, culture, freedom, and independence; and for what?

    ‘The Euro Dream’ has caused incalculable tragedy.

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  • Muttley

    Given that this has been going on for six years and doesn’t seem to be getting any better, why would the Greeks vote for more of the same? It’s madness to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. It may be a leap in the dark to leave the Euro, but they must either vote out or stop complaining about austerity measures imposed by the EU as a condition for continuing to accept their money.

  • bufo75

    Syntagma Square is not the whole of Greece.
    I could be unkind and say “just the a**ehole”.
    People in the rest of the country who want to get on with their lives will vote “Nai’ on Sunday.
    The two clowns who’ve been in charge will move back into obscurity or teaching at Essex University, and “Europe” will start “negotiating” with a more “amenable” administration.
    A new “can” anyone, or will we carry on kicking the old one down the road ?
    Pity about Grexit though, lots of us were hoping it might happen, as a prelude to Brexit !

    • alfredo

      It ill becomes anyone from the UK to describe the politicians of ANY other country as ‘clowns’.

      • Ahobz

        Why? All politicians are clowns, whose concern goes no furhter than the next election. The dangeros ones are those for whom no election looms, such as the electoral failures each country sends to the EC. They are still clowns but can pursue their pet projects without fear of nemesis.

  • jim

    Greeks think they are europeans but they are not They are Balkans.The EU now has several members who don’t belong.Bulgaria,Romania.The lunatics in Brussels still want Turkey to join. The Greeks should leave the euro. End of. They should accept what they are To change that country is the work of generations.With the drachma it will be back to the corruption and sunny laziness but it will still be a nicer place to live than UK. As long as they have tourists they’re safe. Doesn’t sound so bad to me.Who wants to be German?

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    ……next few days your life success days…spectator….. < Find Here

  • carl jacobs

    The Greeks were essentially asserting that they had the right to determine their own level of social support while the rest of the EU was responsible to fund it. You can’t have a currency union where one party can spend without regard to limits because it assumes another party will pay. There has to be fiscal discipline. The EU tried to impose fiscal discipline on Greece. It tried to drag Greece’s economy into the modern economic world, but Greece would have none of it. Greece wanted to keep doing things the way it always had. And Greece could get away with it if only it could keep externalizing its tax collection. But who in Europe wants to pay taxes to support Greece’s vision of a good life for Greece?

    The EU tried to beat Greece into being fit for the Euro. It assumed (correctly) that only necessity and pain would force change. That effort has failed. A “Yes” vote made under duress is not going to change Greek culture. Instead of trying to make Greece fit for the Euro, the EU should help Greece get out of the Euro. But it’s probably too late now.

    • Patrick G Cox

      I suspect Tsipras thought his good pal Mr Putin would bail them out, but I think the Russian ‘terms and conditions’ were probably even harsher than those offered by th ECB and the IMF …

      • post_x_it

        Varoufakis wouldn’t want the view from his island villa being spoilt by a pile of decaying Russian nukes.

  • Framing the situation in these terms is simply lieing. Why are you okay with that?

    >His creditors want him to make ends meet by trimming generous pension deals and other examples of state largesse.

  • tomgreaves

    The financial issue is rapidly transforming into a political crisis: the old Greek schism of extreme left against extreme right could easily return them to dictatorship. The deeply tragic facts so well outlined in this article may well be gathering momentum in Spain, Italy and Portugal too. In Spain, for example, following the introduction of the euro a corruption, which led to a boom in building white elephants all over the country, has left them in a financial mess they are not able to resolve. Politically, like the Greeks, Italians and Portuguese, the Spanish are in a post dictatorship era and they have not had time to evolve a more stable system to tackle these vast problems.

    And I see the financial problems in the eurozone alongside other threats to European stability such as the immigration crisis. Divisions are opening up in the very place the EU was designed to create unification. There is an old psychological law: what we most fear we are most likely to unconsciously create. That is precisely what has happened to the EU that dreamed of peace and harmony, only to find a nightmare of conflict.

    • VSP

      Well, well, yes , as maybe tonygreaves that old Greek schism is a perfect match for the EU, except there we can call it fascism.

  • AugustLudwig

    Brilliant writing. A Greece I have known. Tsipras’ outrage and passionate fight is not without merit when one looks at the “other side of the table” (and assumes Tsipras even has a chair to sit upon).

    Jean-Claude Juncker was the bain of Britain not so long ago, with David Cameron opposing his presidency of the Commission and the de facto expanded role of the job. So, why is Cameron so quiet now?

    Tsipras is doing what Ukip had hoped it could find a man of sufficient character to do. Tsipras is not, however, set on destroying Europe; he is pushing the Globalist Politburo–Troika is a curious choice of term for the MSM to adopt–to recognise Greek sovereignty and dignity in taking a fair amount of responsibility and cost for the dangerous predicament Eurozone entry in 2003 has put it in. He is right so to do.

    • carl jacobs

      Greece is responsible for its debts. No one made it borrow money. No one made it choose to live the good life on the assumption of an endless stream of other peoples’ money. No one made it build into its economy all the structural problems that presently burden its economic performance. Greece isn’t fighting a noble cause to reshape Europe. It is fighting for a perpetual free lunch.

      • AugustLudwig

        Nonsense. Cheap credit was the Global strategy to–
        1) Ensure property developers sweeter Olympic-2004 Games;
        2) Demosntrate EU-NATO drop of candy just across the Bosphorus from Turkey, when it was blacking US access to NATA bases during the Iraq Invasion; and
        3) Expand Eurozone powers at a time when the EU was Globally attractive.
        Greece did not qualify for entry in the Eurozone. London and Washington persuaded rules-based Eurozone-crats to see otherwise. Then, the EU Politburo was constructed to round out a new Globalist casting.

        • carl jacobs

          None of that is responsive to anything I said. Greece is not a victim that somehow had loans imposed upon it. Greece wanted into the Euro. Greece wanted the money. Greece wants even more money. It just doesn’t want to pay it back.

    • VSP

      Love it August…..well said…democracy comes first

  • Peter Stroud

    Greece should never have joined the EU, and certainly should have steered clear of the Euro. But, as we all know, they are not the only state in this position. Nevertheless, the EU bureaucrats will fight tooth and claw to keep Greece in, because they fear contagion. The whole currency system is fraught with problems, because it was based on political doctrine, not good economic sense. But Greece should bite the bullet and leave: her economy has gone too far from what is expected by the EU. They might start a landslide, but that is too bad – the Euro was was never properly thought through.

    • john carter

      hey buddy, Euro is good for europe and world , we need more strong currencies like this .. Why should american dollar be number one in the world.. those americans feel they are special kind, chosen by god?!..how come they can keep printing dollars in washinghton, but greece cannot print any more euros?. answer this to all the greeks..

      • VSP

        John, Get lost, you are lazier than what all the Greeks are accused of. Dumb and ignorant to boot. (hey buddy, Euro is good for europe and world ) Ha,ha you dim USA child revealing you value system for dominating the world with a USA one size fits all. for it generates bucks?? Yawn.. Well try it in the USA that simply has lost it democratic stance and has lowered itself into a totalitarian corporatocracy. Here we have ancient established and varied cultures and do not wish to emulate the USA or be other than our cultural selves. But really , you are to thick to get what anyone else means. so saddle up and back to bucking bronco land…bye.

        • john carter

          dumass i am from canada..

          • VSP

            I could not give a fig from where you hail John Carter but what you oh so ignorantly presume to say. Joke a minute guy with all the attributes of a demented second hand car salesman. You speak for the pillage’s charter that goes against our real interests, The blatant cheek you people have both in Canada and the more so the unique USA corporatocracy (not a democracy). Who knows what Canada has become? No the whole of the EU and Euro was a corporate dreamscape that has caused endless damage with its failure to recognise democratic determinations. Your new worlds are immature and arrogant with nothing to be arrogant about. You really do not get it nut head . But other democracies are your playground using your corporate fronted EU, but that does not matter to your sort, so bugger off will you, and ruin your own homeland , but keep the pillaging claptrap to yourself. We will let you know when we wish to deal with you on democratic honest, free market terms.. Got it twit…Nah you’re to thick.

          • john carter

            educate yourself , read Marx, ha ha.. you should understand there is no fairness in capitalism, only bubbles

          • VSP

            John Carter the dribbling pretentious heap pretends he has read something purposeful..in his dog kennel. My word pleb we had read all from Machiavelli to Marx before you could dispose of your nappy habit. so I might recommend other distilled ancients from Homer to those who like Montesquieu forged the USA constitution, the constitution of mass global exploitation that is said to be beyond par. What a laugh that is. The Jewish Protocols and a responsive Mein Kampf…also responding to Marx.to be read not for words but as an understood process of a national and human determination toward a given end. You touch upon your own motivation then John Carter in his Marxist communal dog kennel. So tell us all what your fascist prison experience there tells you. .but do not try telling us what is in our best interest after the issues you despicably aroused. Now go munch your bone Goofy..be a good boy.

          • Kennybhoy

            Are you two loons the same person? 🙂

            .

          • VSP

            Och aye Kenny lad, to you Scottish kenniies all the world except the Scots are the same loony person so we must be.
            When you sober up and grasp what people are arguing about other than SNP junk perhaps you will grasp the nettle is not the thistle or even tartan. So come back some years hence when you have a sober moment.

          • Kennybhoy

            TVG…? 🙂

          • VSP

            F>u2….? :-

          • john carter

            You are well read person, you might pass as Barron Münchhausen after all,..there is a note for you, cynicism will not lead you far!

          • VSP

            Dear John Carter, do not confuse satire as cynicism, they are in a very different league to create wholly different apertures of thought for action. At all events it got me far enough, as far as was needed. Otherwise I might agree. I was troubled by your outrageous call, and so your somewhat outdated perspective. So as with yourself, I am not blind to man’s perfections, especially the ones that befit man’s imperfect state, and so produce a greater imperfection..

          • Kennybhoy

            Are you two loons the same person? 🙂

      • fundamentallyflawed

        Because they are part of the “Eurozone” and are not supposed to print money as its against the rules.
        Pretty simple really – they are not in charge of their own currency

      • Kennybhoy

        This is parody surely…?

  • Alpha Farnell

    This is the saccharine, honey glazed view of the Greeks. There’s the other view – they’re lazy, pretty unpleasant and this is their bed, they made it, they lie in it. I’m still not convinced they’re going anywhere other than cap in hand on their knees to Merkel for a pardon and more Deutschmarks, probably without Syriza but by then who will care anyhow.

  • john carter

    Bla, Bla, this article is very loong.. but it doesnt even say the truth about greece,,its all propaganda to brainwash you.. Tzipras is a comunist, and this why this happened, they want him to fail, because he has a good communist plan , to clean Greece from rich corrupted officials, and give the land and power to greeks..he doesnt want to pay back any money , because after all most money they own is to – germany about 100 billions..germany doesnt need this money , they are rich.. but merckel want tziprass to fail because she doesnt like left communists, she is a right wing conservatives for god sakes.

  • john carter

    Greece will be better of if they join Russia and China in the Brics organization…Anyway in a few years all south europe will belong to Islamic state- u know the one that CIA and Pentagon are creating , just so that islamic state could be powerfull enough to destabilize Russia and Cnina.. playng games with the world , safely from quiet Washinghton Dc

  • john carter

    Of Course the former prime minister of Greece Samaras said now that Tsipras bancrupted Greece!!.. But he didn’t said who (him, and, ,other corrupted former politicians),borrowed all the 250 biilions dollars, that poor mr. Tsipras and all Greeks now have to pay back!

  • WTF

    So much for a new world order (at least in Europe) where it would be peaceful serenity and a paradise for all ! Just think about this for a moment.

    Since the first use of the Atomic bomb, mankind recognized there was a
    major flaw in using one as a method of subjugation or control against
    your enemies. That flaw isn’t the death of thousands of your enemy as
    you can replace them, its the destruction of the infrastructure and the
    irradiation of the land that leaves nothing of value you can benefit
    from. Adolf recognized this resource dilemma as Germany was short of
    natural resources like oil and he took over other countries natural
    resources they needed to assist their war effort. Ever since Hiroshima
    and Nagasaki western scientists have been trying to develop a nuclear
    device that takes out people with one massive dose of radiation, a very
    short radio-active life span but little concussion effects that leave
    the infrastructure intact. So far they haven’t achieved that to my knowledge but maybe one day.

    Wars in Europe haven’t been stopped by the formation of the EU but by
    (a) a tiredness of continuing wars by the people and (b) mutually assured destruction through the use of nuclear weapons just as it worked against the USSR. The UK had nuclear devices very soon after the USA as did France, Germany kept out of it but could easily develop some if it wished. In fact Germany has exported a range of machine tools and equipment to Iran to help their nuclear program. What I’m saying here is that wannabee fascist control freaks in the EU couldn’t go down the military route for control so they had to find another way.

    When you have a pliable populace across Europe it was an easy play to
    suggest a free trade club as no one could see a threat in that. Adding
    in the notion that it will stop wars in Europe to a continent that had
    been warring for centuries seemed an excellent idea and is, but that was
    just a convenient front. The plan all along was for a Federal States of
    Europe but without the checks and balances of the American constitution
    or the democracy that is enshrined in law over there. EU presidents
    aren’t voted for, they are nothing but place men appointed by the
    eurocrats and are certainly not accountable to the peoples of Europe.
    The EU knew it would take several steps to achieve full control of
    Europe where Adolf failed, and the Eurozone was a key objective in the
    greater plan. Step one was a cosy trading club, step two was Maastricht
    treaty handing over key powers to Brussels and step three was Lisbon
    where further powers were handed over despite several referendums before
    countries finally agreed to Brussels demands.

    Thrown in between various treaties was the Eurozone which just like
    the original free trade club, was the start of something much more
    sinister. Just like the fatuous claim that the EU will stop wars, it was
    claimed a common currency would benefit the peoples of Europe. We can
    all see the train wreck of that in Greece and as a side note, it didn’t
    stop banks charging us for Euro to Euro bank charges. It was a smoke
    screen for the real objective of introducing EU taxation control from Brussels and not sovereign states. Its unlikely that its on the table
    right now but it is a stated objective of the EU to force every member
    state to meet a common taxation directive set by Brussels.

    In summary, fascism has many faces, Adolf was one and the EU is another
    as the democratic process doesn’t exist there as it does in the United
    States of America. Over there you get to vote for your president like him
    or not and the most of the legislation that your affects daily life is
    drafted at state level not in Washington. We should try it sometime,
    its very refreshing seeing the best democratic system that’s been
    devised so far.

    The American Constitution was written to stop abuses by the
    federal state and has worked pretty well for 200+ years whilst we have
    caved in to the EU fascists who control every minutia of our lives, thoughts and actions.

  • VSP

    What an amusing article this , lethargy and weariness has set in it seems to say and Greeks cant afford to use their own roads; a new word for crises is to reverse it (sesirc,) in name and attitudes etc..
    Seriously however I cannot support socialism either in Greece nor how it has behaved to establish an EU in support of corporate entities, the two are an ultimate polarized extremism to ignore democracy.
    Yet I can see that Mr Tsipras holds to a greater principle for now at least.
    . He sticks to his guns that democracy must override the loony EU position, yet is fully aware of what a corporate engineered quagmire Greece has fallen into,
    All thanks to previous incumbents listening and being blind to irresponsible , undemocratic draconian EU corporate rulings,ruthless ambitions and gangster routines so corporations need not pay their tax., knowing that it would have an adverse effect upon even a moderate public sector, which Greece has not.
    All wrapped up in the ruthless tyrant’s charter that claims to be saving you from yourself, the interloping and stealthy corporate EU had the greatest handle on the Greek economy.
    Can this be the sort of capitalism and free market that Adam Smith said must be ethical and morally self regulating?
    So without going beyond up to date recognitions I do see the corporate driven EU with its dysfunctional Euro and its inhumane overriding contradictory human rights as a totalitarian fascism. Tools of the corporate trade are they not?
    It should not be a whole Greek nation forced into crises. but it should be the whole unethical undemocratic EU edifice forced into an abandonment, realising the self determination of varied European nations truly matters. There would be no need for nationalistic extremes if the extremist EU was not around and nations could face the world with their own responsible and accountable measure and moderate democratically what their national economy means for the people and not giant external forces that want to gobble everything up and own people like ancient Roman slaves..
    They are not nations with borders and a cultural flavour for no reason, nor is democracy to be overridden.

  • pobinr

    The Greeks have a crisis courtesy of the EU & so do we
    The social housing queue in my city is now 8+ years long. Every other name on the maternity unit costs is East european.

    TWO NEW HOMES HAVE TO BE BUILT EVERY MINUTE IN THIS COUNTRY DUE TO MASS IMMIGRATION
    The UK population grew by 500,000 last year
    That’s aprox 250,000 more homes needed in one year alone.
    There’s 50 x 40 = 2000 working hours a year for the building industry.
    2000 x 60 = 120,000 working minutes each year
    120,000 minutes / 250,000 new homes
    = A new home needs to be built every 0.48 minutes in this country = 2 every minute

    Not to mention 100’s of schools & hospitals, more roads, more traffic, more pollution, more electricity needed, more waste to dispose of more sewage to treat, more queues, more crowds & more urban sprawl into greenbelt.

    Our country is gradually being destroyed.

    Most of these migrants are just low skilled low paid. So they qualify from more in benefits than they pay in tax in the form of child benefit, social housing, family tax credits, NHS, subsidised nursery care, translators

    And the poor low population density countries they come from are just made poorer by losing their workforce & younger generation just to make min wage employers here richer.

    Yet articles on overcrowding, rising rents & rising house pricess never mention immigration
    So now you see just how dumbed down, PC & or naive OUR media hacks arehttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-33266792
    And now you see the damage done by weak government, loss of sovereigny to the EU and feeble leadership by the likes of Cameron who bow and scrape to the likes of Juncker.
    This country has been virtually leaderless ever since the days of Winston Churchill.
    Time to get our country back.
    Time to leave the EU

  • Cassandra

    Thank you, Ferdinand Mount, for your informative article. Those motorways going nowhere are all over the EU and it is hard to see who wanted them or benefits from them, except the contractors. Also thank you for saying “They will be perfectly safe in this still exceptionally friendly country”. I have spent a lot of time in Greece. I do not understand why even the British are so bilious and ignorantly critical of the country, its politics and people. The Germans, yes, it serves their agenda. But what has Greece ever done to hurt the self-pitying Brits?

    • WTF

      Motorways, airports and new towns, Spains full of them also and who paid for them, not the Spaniards but Northern European tax payers via the EU. I don’t hold the Spanish people to blame for this anymore than I hold the Greek people responsible for the problems there, The guilty parties are the politicians in the Med countries and the fascists in Brussels who bribed them with all manner of infrastructure projects to come on board the Euro folly.

      If you want to rehabilitate a drug user, you make efforts to wean them off drugs and if you want to change the mind set of people where tax evasion is a way of life, you certainly don’t fund them with even more money as Brussels has. From personal experience, Spain is corrupt by the standards of the UK at every level and its no surprise that individuals copy that corruption and do everything in their power to run a black economy.

      Ex-pats along with many citizens of the southern Euro states have if they were sensible have already shifted any assets they have to a safe haven for fear of a repetition of Cyprus and I don’t blame them. This train wreck has only just started and a lot more carriages will become disconnected from the locomotive before this is over.

  • Cassandra

    Whoops. Sorry, Harry Mount. Ferdinand’s another good writer but he didn’t write this.

  • DellerboyNZ

    Haven’t we allowed the Greeks to sell themselves to us as the new Palestinians?
    No matter what dopey duplicitous governments they elect, or what self-destructive actions they take, we accept that Israel (aka WB, IMF, ECB, A Merkel and her fellow Nazis) is to blame.

  • Michael Lynch

    A New word for Crises?, It will have to be Short and to the Point, I have an Idea Lets call it, A complete and Utter Balls up by Unelected Filth in the Cesspit that is The EU who Think its There Job to Tell Me What to Do, I can not wait for Our Vote so that i can tell the Useless unelected Knobheads to Sling there Poncing Hooks..Crises?, What Crises?,,

  • Terence Hale

    Hi,
    “We need a new word for crisis”. How about help from a friend.

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  • berosos_bubos

    The EU was built to protect French and German interests and nothing more. It is a barrier to free trade and prosperity rather than being conducive of.

  • mikewaller

    They should declare national bankruptcy, stiff their creditors, hound their own rich, dump the Euro, and then try and be sufficiently adult to make a success of a new drachma..

  • gamebird

    I feel for the Greeks.

  • Lady Magdalene

    I hope the British people – and the people in the rest of the EU nations – are looking at what the EU has wrought in Greece in order to try and protect its single-currency folly.

    This is not a benign organisation. It set out decades ago to destroy national democracies in Europe.

    We must get out and if that brings it down, all well and good.

    • Chamber Pot

      It is a kind of fascism that embraces you not like a lover but with an iron grip in a velvet glove which continues to squeeze relentlessly, one that you can never escape.

  • fundamentallyflawed

    Feck off the Euro. Return to the Drachma.. Sell Greek goods to Greek people at competitive local prices.. Rip of the tourists as usual (who will now benefit from massively devalued prices anyway) and then sell surplus Greek goods at ultra competitive prices to the rest of Europe.

  • Gilbert White

    So many incomplete useless monopoly sets around lets send them the notes to Athens, billions of them. This will save the Greeks a few million at the currency printers.

  • Chamber Pot

    Eleftheria ! Eleftheria ! Eleftheria ! The price of freedom and independence is always high but the value of freedom is incalculable.

    It will be excruciatingly painful but it will be worth it and that nasty old fascist Martin Schultz should button his lip and stop calling for the overthrow of Tsipras and his government and its replacement with an EU appointed administration.

    To this point we’ve already seen what happened in Ukraine after clumsy EU/US/NATO interference and those sitting in Brussels, Washington, and Berlin should be warned against another ugly and crude bid for regime change, and don’t anyone think for a moment that such an evil thing has not crossed their minds as they cling to their European wet dream with increasingly suicidal desperation.

  • thomasaikenhead

    Who will ask about the role Goldman Sachs played in concealing the true nature of the finances of the state of Greece?

    How about the activities of the French armaments companies in foisting unneeded tanks on the country in a deal worth billions?

    How about the activities of the German armaments companies in foisting unneeded submarines on the country in a deal worth billions?

    What can be done to ensure that the issue of tax evasion is addressed?

    What about the ‘Lagarde List’?

    How many Syrian and Iraqi illegal immigrants will pour into Europe if Greece goes bust just as they have done since Libya became a failed state?

    • WTF

      Yep, set a company or country up to fail by lending it too much money knowing full well you’re debt is covered by the tax payers of the Eurozone and you can charge exorbitant rates on the bail out fund ! Its a sly way of racking up the interest rates on the original loan to the new bail out loan. Par for the course with the banking pimps today !

  • WTF

    Its rather perverse that here we have Jean Claude Juncker an drunken sot dictating to the Greeks about how to run their country and pay their taxes when that piece of s*** was the architect who previously used his own country Luxembourg as a tax laundering conduit for major companies like Google, Apple or Starbucks.

    Corrupt fascism doesn’t go near enough to describe the EU and its control freaks.

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  • Istanballu

    What a misleading piece of shit article. You’re a privileged twat.

    • H Jackson

      If you don’t have any intellectual or social standards and have to resort to abuse, no-one is interested in what you have to say – why not join a discussion over at the Telegraph?

  • oresme2

    There is no crisis. Tsipras wants Grexit, but does not dare to say it, because his people is against it. Democracy with a populist as leader. The rest of the world has nothing to do with it.

    What is beautiful about Maria Callas??? Not her voice. Not her face. What is it then?

  • John Andrews

    All Europeans should study the idiotic investments EU institutions have made in Greece. The Road to Kalamata would be a good title for a book about it.

  • huw

    grexis [:`¬)

  • ‘A crisis isn’t supposed to go on as long as this.’
    Welcome to my life!

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