Economic ‘war’ in Greece
ICAME to live in Greece in 2009, on Feb. 12, the day of my birthday. On my first night in Athens, I had a fantastic, welcoming dinner with my Greek friends. It was normal for one person to buy everyone dinner at the time and it was a pleasure to share with friends. Money was enough then and trips, gifts… everything was possible! A few months later things started changing. Many stores closed. It was the first sign of an economic "war" that continues today.Having experienced the same situation in Portugal a few years back, I felt heartbroken! The crisis started in Portugal in early 2000. Working as an actor it became evident that my proceeds were decreasing, I started paying more taxes, fuel prices increased, leading to transportation, food and first aid goods becoming more expensive. It was the first sign of the crisis. The Portuguese governments - Socialists or Social Democrats - opened the door to the European Union, without setting any limits. I never had the illusion of a United Europe of common cultural interests and respect toward nationalities but the Socialist government that signed Portugal's commitment to the EU, really marked the beginning of the end.
Banking problems arose, corrupted members of governments and corporations were unveiled. A privatization scheme was put forward, while the government started to reduce the money allocated to Education and Health and unemployment rose. The situation soon deteriorated but the Portuguese have gone through 49 years of dictatorship; they are used to suffer and they stand still! When University students approached ex-prime minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, asking him to talk about the poor state of universities, he simply showed them the door; "Go abroad!", he said and he did absolutely nothing. Many students migrated to England and the United States. It is estimated that half a million students have gone abroad during the last few years. And amid a difficult economic environment Passos Coelho announced he had managed to reduce unemployment! It seems that Greece and Portugal have been sharing the same historical events; similar political developments, the same kinds of problems (economic instability, corruption) and finally the crisis. Also identical measures applied by the TROIKA have destroyed fundamental institutions, such as the public education, the health system and the labor market. But with no education and health, a country is as good as dead. Just over a year ago, the Greeks voted for SYRIZA, saying "no" to the previous governments of PASOK and New Democracy. It seems that SYRIZA started changing things but it's been a difficult fight against a Conservative Europe.