Multi-ethnic squad 'a world away' from 1992-1995 conflict which saw hundreds of thousands killed, millions displaced + 'wild' nationalism—
Asad Yawar (@Mediolana) March 25, 2013
Tag Archives: Greece
One of our number recently had one of those once-in-a-while experiences which makes a person wonder whether they are tuned into the same reality as the majority of the world’s population. It came in a Central London eatery, a glass-and-steel clone which one imagines was once the last word in high-definition living but now resembles just another asset on a private equity balance sheet.
Sipping a reasonably warm Earl Grey tea – a beverage which by some happy coincidence appears to have escaped total plasticisation – our representative was party to an extraordinary monologue emanating from the lips of someone who seemed to carry the entire burden of the heavily-indebted southern EU on their slender shoulders. A visibly upset former denizen of this now benighted economic black hole, this person passionately railed against the entire European project with all the force of one whose convictions have gone beyond the point of absolute and are now in the realm of sublimity.
Thoughts ran through our representative’s head, of course. Lots of them. Perhaps it was not only the wealthy northern core of the EU which was to blame for the current crisis; maybe the generation of politicians in the periphery of Western Europe which signed over their countries to what they believed was a relentlessly prosperous future did not read the small print of accession; yes, even the possibility that nations such as Greece, Spain and Portugal – all in their own way prisoners of their own very different yet ultimately similar histories – could have run into the arms of the perfect Europe they perceived that little less uncritically…this dangerous ‘perhaps’ also entered their mind.
Monocle magazine – a self-styled briefing on global affairs, business, culture and design – is rarely anything less than a showcase of truly excellent typography and cutting-edge ideas. Yet part of a recent issue (December 11/January 12) devoted to the topic of soft power made our CSO begin to wonder if the editorial team at one of our favourite publications had collectively taken leave of their senses: Greece was a new entry (at number 30) in the magazine’s soft power chart.
Ironically enough, we do not fundamentally disagree with Monocle‘s appraisal of the troubled Mediterranean nation’s excellent beaches, delicious food and rich collection of outstanding historical sites. But the vague dismissal of the eurozone crisis as a mere blip which Greece can somehow transcend by reverting to the drachma (it is not specified how this route can be taken, perhaps owing to considerations of space) left us wondering if many journalists outside of Greece recognise just how serious a situation the country is confronted with.
Recent developments in the nation’s education sector underline just how precarious anything like normality is in today’s Greece. On 28th March 2012, the Athens News reported that no less than six Greek universities claimed they are faced with immediate closure after all but €33m of €120m of monies that were deposited by the country’s higher education institutions in state bank accounts vanished. This reverse alchemy was made possible by the Bank of Greece, the country’s central bank, whose assets were converted to state bonds which were then subject to a ‘haircut’, i.e. a reduction in value during a bond swap transaction owing to the perceived high risk nature of holding the asset.
To recap: redeemable euros belonging to universities were transmogrified by the state into paper with a fraction of the face value of the cash. The missing money has for all intents and purposes vanished, never to return in its original form. Given that Greece is not exactly overflowing with institutions of higher education, the disappearance of six of its HE corpus is hardly a negligible loss.
But this scandal is yet another sign of an economy that is self-destructing: when an estimated 40% of tax fines are embezzled by the very officials that are meant to collect them and when the state coffers are so bare that the sale of islands to erstwhile regional rival Turkey is being contemplated, it is clear that Greece is undergoing a systemic failure of vast proportions in public. To speak of the acquisition of soft power at a time like this is not just erroneous, but illustrative of a basic lack of comprehension as to the reality on the ground.