Understanding The Greek Fiscal Crisis

The Greek fiscal crisis has turned Greece, a once developed country, into a developing country.

greek-fiscal-crisisThe pioneers of European unity envisaged a Europe of people operating outside a zero-sum game framework. To political realists it was a just a dream of naïve idealists ignoring the basic facts of international politics and Thucydides’ writings on power.

The Greek fiscal crisis has corroborated certain timeless tenets of political realism related to power and opportunities. It bears elements of a politico-historical legacy for a number of interrelated, overlapping reasons. For a start, in three years it turned a developed country into a developing country. The domestic consequences of this massive downgrade are evident not only in terms of social stratification and state autonomy but also on the ability of the state to operate as a public goods provider.

The raw facts and figures of the crisis are indicative of the consequences of the unprecedented austerity that has drained society. The managerial layer of the crisis points to a new pedagogy of fiscal adjustment bearing consequences on the operation of the Greek Demos and human rights as articulated by the Council of Europe, a UN report, the European Trade Union Confederation and Members of the European Parliament. In an academic and historical framework it is coined as pedagogical imperialism.

Operationally and constitutionally it has dramatically eroded democratic institutions and has led to a practically non-existent welfare system. The burden of the political system has been heavy from the beginning of the crisis, a task politically and socially unbearable resulting from the obsession of certain EU leaders to impose exemplary punishment politics.

The Greek political system has failed miserably

The crisis and the total failure of the Greek political system has turned the Greek people into convenient scapegoats of a racist frenzy diminishing them to the status of barbarians in the way international relations theorist Martin Wight defined in his work. Greeks are treated outside the framework of international society, thus they constitute by default barbarians not disposing of the right of occupancy, autonomy and self-rule.

On the managerial level the divisions between the EU and the IMF have brought to the surface divergent views on debt management strategies. European partners seem to have lost touch with reality suggesting that the Greek debt is sustainable, a suggestion not corroborated by IMF officials. In international relations positivism may set a constructively limiting spectrum of scrutinizing things. Yet, in real economy it may lead to a non-factual truth. After six consecutive years of recession, a 25 percent loss of GDP, unemployment nearing 29 percent and youth unemployment nearing 60 percent Greece is unable to stand on its feet, simply because it has no feet.

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The intensity and time dimension of the debt crisis management has constituted a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure in the absence of two sustainability pillars. First, it lacked time and a socio-political mechanism to absorb the side-effects of massive unemployment and social deregulation. Second, it did not provide the means to safeguard the legitimacy of domestic Leviathan. The adoption of a post-democratic governance model bears elements of a regime that adds value to the German sociologist and philosopher Jurgen Habermas’ suggestion to “safeguard the dignity of democracy,” a sense of dignity Greece and its people lost three years ago.

The Greek fiscal crisis has illustrated that the power differential may operate as an opportunity for the stronger and a multilayer trap for the weaker ones. Mottos such as “united by diversity” bear little significance, since the way the EU is trying to deal with its crisis externalizes its organizational and cultural oxymoron. The policies imposed constitute a blatant deviation from the EU’s statutory ideals and legitimacy axis and go beyond the democratic ability of national elites to legitimately govern their microcosms.

George Voskopoulos is Associate Professor of European Studies, Head of the Department of International and European Studies, at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, Greece. He received his PhD in European Studies (UK, Exeter University) in 2001. George has published books and articles (in Greek, English and Russian) in Greece, the US, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Albania, India, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Turkey, the Czech Republic and the UK.

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