Greek ‘tragedy’ could happen anywhere

GreeceThe unfolding crisis in Greece, some 34 years in the making, is no surprise – and it could happen to any other country… even Australia, according to one of the nation’s pre-eminent Greek scholars.

Flinders University Professor of Modern Greek Michael Tsianikas says despite being the birthplace of democracy, Greece has had precious little experience of it, leaving it vulnerable to financial predation.

He says the same vulnerabilities could befall other nations.

Professor Tsianikas says the seeds of the crisis were sown in 1981 when Greece was accepted to join the EU.

“Only achieving independence in 1826 after 400 years under the Ottomans, what followed was a century of wars against Turkey, then World War Two, then the Greek Civil War, then a dictatorship. In fact, Greece had only chalked up seven years of true democracy when it was accepted to join the European Union in 1981,” Professor Tsianikas says.

“The seeds of the tragedy began taking root in 2001 when Greece formally became a member of the Eurozone. It was inexperienced and ill prepared – the Greek economy was just a child compared to other highly sophisticated and developed European economies.

“Add to this to this the lack of big industries, tax evasion, astronomical numbers of public servants, corruption, and the irresponsibility of big international banks to lend more and more money to Greece, and you have the perfect scenario for the perfect catastrophe.

“This is a Greek tragedy now, and nobody knows what to do to fix the problem. Five years of severe cuts and inhumane austerity, imposed not by government but by the big European financial institutions, has plunged the Greek population into starvation and depression, triggered astronomical youth unemployment, and prompted a massive exodus of the best Greek brains.

“To quote Nobel Laureate in economics Josef E. Stiglitz:

‘We should be clear: almost none of the huge amount of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks. Greece has gotten but a pittance, but it has paid a high price to preserve these countries’ banking system.’

“There is no prospect for any better outcome for many decades – if not centuries – ahead.

“A compromise solution needs to be found – Europe must be more flexible, and Greece must be able to remain in Europe.

“This is a huge test for Europe, and a lesson which the whole world should learn from, because what is happening today in Greece could happened tomorrow to any other country,” Professor Tsianikas says.

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