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Tag Archives: Euro elections

H Έλενα Παναρίτη καλεσμένη στη Δημόσια Ραδιοφωνία “Η αρχή του τέλους για το Ευρώ”

5 Jun

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zE_dr6AZB_I&feature=youtu.be

The New York Times:”As Goes Greece, So Goes Europe?” by Nikos Konstandaras

5 Jun

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Greece has been at the epicenter of the European debt crisis, and in many ways, the political fallout here reflects the surge of extreme-left and extreme-right forces that the Continent witnessed in the elections for the European Parliament.

As in Greece, the center-left and center-right groups that form the core of national and European Union politics have seen their power eroded by the rise of extremist parties very different from one another, united only by their rejection of the way things are, both at home and in the European Union.

While Europe struggles to cope with the economic crisis, and voters’ focus on domestic issues is seen as a swelling tide of opposition to an “ever closer union,” debate on issues like banking and fiscal union, integration and keeping borders open could stall. If the center wavers, Europe’s great project may fall apart.

The drama playing out in Greece over the past four years may hold useful lessons for Europe. Not every vote lost by the center is a vote against the Union. In Sunday’s election, a coalition of the remnants of the two pro-European Union parties that dominated the Greek political center for decades was hit by a pincer movement from left and right. Syriza, a radical left party, won the most votes (26.6 percent), while the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn finished third, with 9.4 percent. The senior coalition partner, the center-right New Democracy, won 22.7 percent, while its junior partner, the center-left Pasok (running as part of the “Olive Tree” alliance), got 8 percent.

This confirmed opinion polls that Syriza was the party with the strongest support since national elections in June 2012. Syriza is opposed to the austerity program imposed on Greece in 2010 but is not anti-European Union. Golden Dawn is against austerity but also strongly against the European Union. The two parties represent the often bloody historical divide between Greece’s left and right and would never agree on anything besides attacking the government.

Greece is not the first country to witness a protest movement against economic austerity, nor the first where xenophobic extremists have made their presence felt. But nowhere have the two extremes grown so influential so quickly, as formerly fringe groups fed off voters’ anger and insecurity and wore down the credibility of mainstream parties.

In national elections in 2009, before the crisis, Syriza won just 4.6 percent of the vote, while Golden Dawn barely registered, with 0.3 percent (just 19,624 votes). But their recent strong showing, and the coalition government’s weakening, suggests that if these had been national elections the results would have rendered Greece ungovernable, as no party could have formed a viable coalition with any like-minded group. With the economy still on life support, such political instability would be devastating.

The popularity of extremist groups not only undermines the political system’s cohesion but also threatens their own future: Thrilled by the success of their simplistic rejection of the state of things, these parties are unwilling or unable to compromise. They will either remain on the fringe or tear themselves apart. It’s the existence of a government with unpopular policies that in part empowers them. After six years of recession and four years of austerity in Greece, Syriza has been unable to break through the ceiling of 26.9 percent that it won in 2012, while the coalition has not fallen so far as to make governing untenable. The political system limps on.

The aggrievement and disillusionment that fuel such extreme movements can arise from real causes or perceived ones. People may feel fear and deprivation because of the impact of recession, unemployment and higher taxes. They may feel threatened by immigration, or by the idea of immigration. Nationalism can be provoked by outside factors, such as a belligerent neighbor or a sense of national humiliation and loss of control.

All have played a role in Greece, though they are common in many other countries as well. In what turned out to be a triumphant campaign, the U.K. Independence Party urged voters to “Take back control of our country.” In France, the anti-immigration, anti-European Union winner issued a similar call. “The people have spoken loud and clear,” proclaimed the National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, on Sunday. “They no longer want to be led by those outside our borders, by E.U. commissioners and technocrats who are unelected. They want to be protected from globalization and take back the reins of their destiny.” A day later, President François Hollande urged the European Union to change, accusing it of being “remote and incomprehensible, even for governments.”

Societies are united by a common past and common interests, by feelings of familiarity among their members (even when they disagree) and belonging expressed through their leaders. Losing that, or seeing it weakened, makes people angry and insecure. They cast blame and look for a group that comforts them. In Greece, the target is the government, and beyond that the creditors: the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The lesson that this troika should draw from the Greek crisis is that loans in exchange for austerity and reform may look good on paper, but unless the reforms are first carried out, austerity will lead to depression, and the backlash will not only worsen the economic crisis but might also undermine the political legitimacy of the reformers. Reforms will not work unless they offer justice and hope and the possibility of an easier life for citizens.

When policies result only in strengthening extremists’ sense of anger and self-righteousness, no solutions can be found. Domestic problems will become European problems. For now, centrist, pro-European Union parties are still in the majority in Europe and its Parliament. It is up to them to show leadership, remain calm and save the Union.

Η Έλενα Παναρίτη σχολιάζει τα αποτελέσματα των Ευρωεκλογών και την τρέχουσα ελληνική πολιτική κατάσταση

5 Jun

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joOWrX6SKYg&feature=youtu.be

Elena Panaritis : “Bruised and confused: why Greeks voted against the gods of Europe” (The Guardian)

2 Jun

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http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/01/greeks-electorate-voted-against-europe-eu-austerity

Elena Panaritis

Bruised and confused: why Greeks voted against the gods of Europe

Ravaged by austerity measures and caricatured as lousy managers and born tax evaders, the Greek electorate went left and right in their efforts to say no to the EU

In last month’s elections a majority of Greeks – now routinely depicted by the gods of Europe as lousy managers and born tax-evaders – reacted by shunning the pro-EU parties. They made the anti-European and populist left and far-right parties the rising stars at the polls. Even Syriza, the radical (though not so radical any more) leftwing party that secured 26.6% of the votes did not do as well as expected. Once very anti-austerity and ready to go up against Brussels, it has since watered down its tactics.

Analysing the results via ideological labels is perhaps less important than seeing beyond the political shake-up to the bruised reputation of a very proud people. The Greeks now often feel like unwanted guests at the EU table.

Add to this feeling the economic realities: the imposed never-ending austerity, GDP reduced by 30% and nearly wiping out the middle class, and the grim future Greek people face with youth unemployment running at over 60% (28% overall).

From the start of Greece‘s economic crisis, most of the richer EU members were emotional and openly angry, blaming the Greeks for all their woes when in fact it wasn’t a problem of household private deficit and overspending, but of public sector mismanagement and bad governance.

The crisis was the end result of an overly bureaucratic and cumbersome system that became even more bureaucratic because of additional European directives. A lack of transparency facilitated the mishandling of government and public budgeting.

What was so much needed was reform and simplification, allowing for transparency to build trust. This is the missing ingredient with the national government, and now EU governance.

Ironically the Greeks, in contrast with many other Europeans, have long been pro-integration since the Treaty of Rome in the 1960s. They adopted the euro – putting to rest the drachma, the oldest currency in the western world – with optimism. Compare this reaction with, say, France, where prices are still printed in both euros and old French francs. And when the troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF arrived in Athens to help the country put its financial house in order, they were widely welcomed. Most Greeks believed the troika could fix a broken system.

Instead, Greece’s “bail-out” packages, initially at high interest rates, were perceived clearly to be only money transfers for the Greek state to pay back its debt. Persistent austerity and fiscal measures eroded further some of the healthy forms of governance that remained (police and judiciary included). This allowed for the rise of the far-right ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn, especially in urban centres.

Not surprisingly, then, the troika’s welcome was short-lived. Those who are suffering the consequences of bad governance and politics are the middle class, the low-income earners, the pensioners receiving just ¤600 a month and now unable to cover their basic needs. They feel insecure and unprotected. Meanwhile, those who took advantage of the old ways of bad governance seem not to be touched that much. In short, the euphoric pro-European mood soured and turned into a silent vote of dissatisfaction and a clear: “Thank you, EU, but no thank you.” What did for the EU in the elections is the serious lack of leadership it has shown in tough times. The euro crisis, for instance, was persistently not seen as such, but blamed as a Greek crisis for its first three years.

More specifically, the stubborn unwillingness of Brussels to use its powers to make quick decisions and avoid the spreading of the crisis constituted a supreme error.

Instead, decisions were offloaded on to the national parliaments. The same parliaments were never asked to approve European subsidies on common agricultural policy or regional harmonisation policy.

The reality was a non-handling of the crisis. We observed the lack of any leadership and responsibility. This created two very different forms of punishment. The first, from the markets, spread the euro crisis and credit “downgrading” of several countries, including France (the second pillar of the Union with Germany). The second punishment, carried by grassroots anger, came from the people, demanding a change of the EU, as seen in last month’s elections

So, in the case of Greece, this is a response to the blind following of austerity which prolonged recession and created a great depression – as well as producing greater inequalities and making a recovery difficult to see.

In the north (France, Germany, Austria), the Eurosceptics are gaining for different reasons. The people are tired of being asked to give more to the south and to those “lazy and irresponsible Greeks” especially since they have their own domestic issues to address.

Leaders are asked to take brave decisions – these still haven’t been taken in Europe, and quite frankly I do not think they will be taken soon because Europe has become a big bureaucratic elephant with a life of its own. Large entities like this are not known for their ability to be flexible or adapt to the reality on the ground. I fear things will become worse before they start getting better.

A growing number of Greeks and other Europeans are now tired. They do not see any light at the end of the tunnel. Positive political statements about the end of the crisis mean very little to them. In general, the EU has disappointed the Greeks. Instead of making decisions, the EU postponed them. There was a lot of talk, endless meetings in Brussels; kicking the can down the road every time only prolonged the pain. This created anger, discontent and impatience.

Europe is no longer the club of the elite (De Gaulle and Adenauer, Mitterrand and Kohl) and these elections made it clear. Last month’s vote reflects this change. The bottom line is that the euro crisis game was played out in Greece, and the European vision has been lost in Brussels.

Elena Panaritis is an economist who has worked at the World Bank and was a Pasok member of the Greek parliament from 2009 until 2012