They spoke about us (and about you) without us (and you)…

Greek riot policemen rest in front of graffiti during violent demonstrations over austerity measures in Athens

Greek riot policemen rest in front of graffiti during violent demonstrations over austerity measures in Athens

Lees hier het stuk in het Nederlands op

We are Greek students in Dutch universities and we take this initiative to write you this letter regarding the event that took place on Monday, 6th of June at the Faculty of Economics of UVA [About the situation in Greece, eds.]. We write this letter in order to provide our perspective on the situation in Greece and its interconnection to the Dutch public financial sector.

We would have liked our position to be heard during the recent event that took place at your faculty, but we did not have the opportunity even though we tried. The event was in Dutch, despite us asking politely for it to take place in English so that international people could understand and participate.

We also kindly requested to speak, but we were not allowed to do so. Your colleagues, surprisingly enough, were also not allowed to speak; the reasons for this seem dubious. While the world was watching the US economy and its financial institutions stumbling under the crisis, we knew little about what was coming towards Europe. What the European public did not know was the amount of US mortgages purchased by the European banks. These loans created the current conditions, centering the economies on these debts.

Regarding the situation in Greece through the years, on the one hand, the State (like the majority of developed states) borrows huge amounts of money to finance the Greek banks, the large companies (e.g. mega projects for the 2004-Olympics that produced a 5-billion deficit) and the Greek and international military industry (Greece is one of the most popular clients of these industry by spending 100s of millions in armaments) and also, to re-pay the previous loans. Since 2008 the subsidies and guarantees that the Greek state has given to the banks, amount to 140 billion. In addition the Greek State was spending (and still spends) huge amounts on weapons and maintenance of an overmanned army (Greece has 100.000 soldiers while Germany has 200.000). At the same time, the vast majority of the upper class was engaged in a large scale tax evasion that was encouraged by the State. A very characteristic calculation claims that if the Greek taxation was in the average of EU in the period of 2000-2008 the revenues of the Greek State would have increased by 95 billion euros. All this resulted into an unprecedented increase of the budget deficit.

As this crisis evolved, the global and domestic capitalists (the speculators) saw in Greece a great opportunity to make huge loads of money and the EU saw an opportunity of applying a ‘shock-therapy’ of ultra-neoliberal policies for the first time in the European Union. With the full agreement of the EU, the socialist Papandreou-government transformed the sovereign-debt problem into a borrowing crisis and in May 2010 this government presented the EU-IMF 110-billion loan as the only and ultimate solution. This loan was accompanied by full-range austerity measures to reduce the budget deficit and create a competitive neoliberal economy. One year later, the consequences for the Greek people are devastating. Unemployment rose from 7.7% in 2008 and from 9.5% in 2009 to 16.2% in early 2011. Salaries of civil servants and pensions are cut by an average of 15%. Collective wage agreements and employment protection are abolished. Now, the minimum wage is 590 euros and taking into account the inflation the mean wage decreased 9.3% in 2010 and it is predicted that it will fall more 6% in 2011. The first memorandum did not manage to stimulate Greek economy at all. This type of policies in Greece which were also implemented in the past in Chile, in Argentina and other countries, has the same results: the austerity policies destroy not only the lives of millions of people but also the economy as a whole. It also happened in Greece: after the agreement in May 2010 until today, 250.000 more unemployed occurred (40% increase) and around 62.000 small and medium enterprises closed.

In this context, the Dutch government and media present Greece as being in an entirely different situation as the northern countries. It stigmatizes Greek people, characterizing them as lazy, unproductive and prone to tax evasion. In this way, the Dutch system also justifies the less-harsh austerity measures that are applied in the Netherlands. The austerity measures of the right-wing government are beginning to have an impact on public transportation, which in some regions will be suspended by 40%. Moreover, the educational system, through the introduction of higher financial obligations for the students and lower public funding, will be less available to the average youngster. The measures prepared for the Health care system, the Social security system and other public sectors are going to have even greater consequences. A good example is the rising of the retirement age for the normal Dutchman from 65 to 67, while the people responsible for the crisis are again getting big bonuses.

Regarding the working issues, according to official data[1] from the OECD and Eurostat (2011), the Greeks work longer hours that the Northern Europeans (in Greece it is 2119 hours per year, while in Germany it is 1389). While long-working hours in Northern states would imply greater financial benefits, in Greece these hours are paying the debt and the financial aid to banks (in Greece, in the last two years, 78 billion euros were given to banks). Given this background, we are in front of a new trend in Southern Europe: the youth deprived of a future in their own countries.

From all the money that the EU (including the Netherlands) lends to the Greek State, not even a single cent went to the pockets of the Greek people. All these money that the Dutch government gave as a part of the loan to the Greek State ended up to the banks saving them from bankruptcy. In the agreement between Greek State and troika (EU-IMA-ECB) it is not allowed to spend the money on anything else but the refinancing of old debts. The numbers give evidence: in the last 10 years, the Greek state borrowed 490 billion. From this money, 450 billion were used to service old debts; 18-20 is the cumulative budget deficit of these 10 years. For the rest 20 billion, no evidence has been provided on where they have been spent.

Against this situation, which threatens and deteriorates the living standards and the rights of all the European people, there is only one solution: all the European people have to unite and struggle against these austerity measures and cuts that European governments decide and implement. We have to struggle for changing this system that makes the poor people poorer and the rich people richer, for showing them, that they cannot decide anymore for us, without us, and that this has to be subverted. We have to struggle for living with dignity by our work, without the constant terrorism of unemployment, for having public and free health and education, for not working until we die! We have to decide for us and not let others decide for us; a message, which comes from the occupied European squares, by the people who started to react and to decide collectively! We will not pay the crisis that they created!

Archontaki Ioanna, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Chala Foteini, Riksuniversiteit Groningen

Daniilidis Alexandros, Riksuniversiteit Groningen

Gkliati Mariana, Universiteit Utrecht

Goniadis Giannis, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Kaldeli Eirini, Riksuniversiteit Groningen

Kapitsinis Nikos, Riksuniversiteit Groningen

Kontakis Apostolos, TU Delft

Liangoridi Elektra, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Logkaki Anna, Riksuniversiteit Groningen

Maniatakou Foteini, Riksuniversiteit Groningen

Mixalakea Taygeti, Universiteit Utrecht

Polidora Eirini, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Roumelioti Stavroula, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Roussos Konstantinos, Riksuniversiteit Groningen

Sidirourgos Lefteris, Centrum Wiskunde en Informatica

Tselekis Kyriakoulis, Universiteit Utrecht

Tselios Kostas, Riksuniversiteit Groningen

Tsoumani Olga, Riksuniversiteit Groningen

Tzagkaki Kalliopi, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Vasilakis Giannis, Riksuniversiteit Groningen

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