Absent from a European celebration European Union (europa.eu)

A few days ago, Greece once again stepped up into a pivotal position in the European Union, by assuming the rotating EU Presidency. A decade ago, the spotlights also turned to Greece, while it was hosting the Athens Olympic Games. But while in 2004, Greeks were regarded with a kind of positive surprise in preparation for the Games, now they have become the focus of an uncomfortable and suspicious attention.

Today, everything has changed. Greece is widely regarded as the black sheep of the Eurozone. European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, Olli Rehn, has admitted that certain austerity measures were implemented (only) in Greece with the purpose of rescuing European banks. Even though they were, to some degree, the source of the problem, Greece provided an occasion to implement legislation that otherwise would not have been accepted in other democratic states. Greece remains Europe’s weakest link.

The position of European Union institutions with regards to the Greek crisis has generated a great wave of anti-European attitude among the Greek populations. This negative attitude can not be attributed to a general dislike, on behalf of Greeks, for other European countries but, in fact, to a general resentment over injustice. Injustice stemming from witnessing the erosion and slow destruction of one’s country, in order to save a flawed financial system, while being the target of derision on behalf of other countries.

Since the 2012 elections, we as Greeks have been idle but fearful witnesses of the death of democracy in our country. The facts to support this are abundant and I have mentioned them several times before, on occasion of my previous articles for One Europe: the financial drain, rising unemployment, increased politically-motivated violence and xenophobia, the closure of the public television channel and the illegal emission of a new state channel, the rise of neo-Nazism, the hidden government support for the action of neo-Nazism and, of course, the latest inhuman decisions taken by the current Health Minister, which sparked a collective outrage and led to the death of some of my fellow citizens, who could not afford to cover all of their health care expenses. Fortunately, the government has decided to step down on some of these decisions.

This coalition government, which I consider to be far-right, has lost some parliamentary seats within the last few, but remains in power despite the fact that Greece demands change. Poll rates show that the party New Democracy holds less than 17% of popular support, with the people becoming more and more disgruntled at Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the President of the other coalition party PASOK, Evangelos Venizelos. Nevertheless, they remain in power because they are supported by the European Union. Europe has become a contractual liability for the tolerance pointing to a right-wing government. This position of Europe, tolerating Greece’s right-wing government, reminds one of the position that the United States of America had towards the authoritarian Greek regime of 1967.

In Athens as well as Strasbourg, several events took place celebrating the new Greek Presidency. The Greek Prime-Minister has been repeatedly congratulated on the perceived progress Greece has so far achieved, and how the country is moving towards the right direction, which will improve the living conditions for the Greek population!

Reporters flocked around the Zappeion and the New Acropolis Museum, with the two of them dominating the entire broadcasting and hiding the reality of my country. This image of Greece that is being broadcasted throughout Europe is false. Greeks and other European politicians enjoyed a luxurious meal at Zappeion while many families struggle to make ends meet, every single day. The frustration and fatigue of the Greek people has not been able to reach the ears of other Europeans.

Celebrations were held in a quiet Athens. The government had outlawed all potential street protests. Still, in some places, many citizens took to the streets to shout. Unfortunately, their voices fell on deaf ears.

The celebration was only meant for a few. It addressed a blind European Union willing to let one of its member-states slowly and painfully wither away. It commemorated and acknowledged a regime (the Greek government) which is becoming increasingly undemocratic. This celebration will be remembered with shame by future generations of Europeans. It will also be remembered for the absence of those who were not invited in the first place: the majority of us, the Greek people. 

Edited by:
Margarida Hourmat
Photo credits:
European Union, 1995-2013