Mean­while, what are we do­ing?

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PA­PACHELAS

Is there a real risk of Greece ex­it­ing the eu­ro­zone? The an­swer is yes, though the odds are slim and de­pend a great deal on how we act as a state and as a so­ci­ety over the next few months. A part of the Euro­pean es­tab­lish­ment har­bors the im­pres­sion that Greece is a coun­try apart, that it is not com­pletely in synch with the Euro­pean sys­tem. Myr­iad small and ma­jor events have con­trib­uted to this stereo­type over the years: from the fact that we are in dan­ger of be­ing ex­cluded from the Schen­gen Agree­ment be­cause of our am­a­teurism and the fact that we haven’t been able to solve our waste dis­posal is­sues for decades, to the fact that the state appa- ra­tus is a sham­bles etc. At the same time, it is be­com­ing ob­vi­ous that our po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship is in­ad­e­quate; it has no know-how or sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity. Even a com­par­i­son with Por­tu­gal, which couldn’t be de­scribed as a par­a­digm of po­lit­i­cal ma­tu­rity by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion, casts Greece in an un­fa­vor­able light. Nev­er­the­less, the Euro­peans want to help. This is ob­vi­ously due to a great ex­tent to fears that if Greece de­clares bank­ruptcy, it may take other coun­tries along with it, to­gether with a siz­able chunk of the Euro­pean bank­ing sys­tem. How­ever, the Ger­mans and oth­ers are mak­ing painstak­ing and sys­tem­atic prepa­ra­tions to pro­tect them­selves in the case that a Greek de­fault be­comes in­evitable. No one can tell us with any pre­ci­sion when this point will be reached, when Greece will no longer be a sys­temic dan­ger to Europe. Ex­perts, how­ever, pre­dict that the lat­est this mo­ment will ar­rive is the spring of 2012. The ques­tion, mean­while, is what are we do­ing about it all? I have the im­pres­sion that the lead­er­ship of both rul­ing PASOK and op­po­si­tion New Democ­racy are liv­ing un­der and acting on the delu­sion that Ger­many and oth­ers live in fear of a Greek de­fault, there­fore giv­ing us time and room to ma­neu­ver. They are not tak­ing Ger­man vot­ers into ac­count, who one day will sim­ply refuse to shell out money to Greeks who re­tired at the age of 48 and will in­sist that the money be given in­stead to their banks so they can even out their losses from a hair­cut on Greek bonds. A coun­try can’t just sit by do­ing noth­ing ex­cept reach­ing out to Europe ev­ery year or so for help, us­ing its own bank­ruptcy as a lever. On the other hand, we could al­ways lis­ten to those in­sane, dan­ger­ous and al­ready bank­rupt busi­nesses that want Greece to re­turn to the “good old drachma,” in which case we will be­come the first coun­try in the world to opt for a spec­tac­u­lar sui­cide when ev­ery­one else was try­ing to save it.

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