Squeeze Dry and Obscure

ATHENS/BERLIN | | griechenland

ATHENS/BERLIN (Own report) - The German austerity dictate is driving Greece - even after the most recent financial "bail-out" operations - deeper into the economic and social abyss. Economically, the country is still in a "free fall," according to the German Institute for Economic Research. Citibank experts are expecting the Greek economy to shrink by 7.4 percent next year and 11.8 percent in 2014, because the austerity policy being imposed by Berlin allows no margin of maneuver for measures fostering growth. The unemployment rate will rise to 40 percent during the same period, predict the economists. Social collapse is accompanying the escalation of the crisis, leading to not only a doubling of the suicide rate since 2010, but also to hostility toward Athens' political elite and the EU, under German domination, as well as to rapidly spreading xenophobic violence. Recently the UN High Commission for Refugees reported that from January - September, at least 87 migrants had been victims of brutal attacks - including murders. At the same time, neo-Nazi organizations are growing stronger than ever before - and are heating up rumors of a putsch.

Help for Hedge Funds

Even after the most recent "bail-out" operation, Greece is continuing to confront its catastrophic collapse. In spite of debt redemptions, the Greek economy is still "in a free fall," according to Ferdinand Fichtner, head of the Forecasting and Economic Policy Department of the German Institute for Economic Research. The redemption of 30 billion Euros in debts at a price of 10 billion - of a total debt of 350 billion - was "merely a drop in a bucket."[1] The debts that were redeemed had been devalued to one-third their actual worth, which was beneficial mainly to hedge funds. Hedge funds had stocked up on Greek bonds, when they had fallen to their absolute lowest values - not even worth 20 percent of their actual values. The hedge funds are raking in high double-digit rates of profits through the redemption, financed through so-called bailout funds for Athens. Those, who have been long-term holders of Greek bonds, on the other hand, carry the losses - Greek banks, social insurance companies and small investors, who bought the bonds at a much higher value than what they received as redemption.

Forty Percent Unemployment

Recently, Citigroup experts provided precise tabulations of the predicted extent of the looming collapse. According to their accounting, the recession, brought on by the German austerity dictate - imposed by Berlin against the strong opposition of numerous European countries - will continue and fall to new depths. Following shrinkage of the Gross Domestic Product by 7.2 percent this year, Citigroup experts predict a further decline of 7.4 percent in 2013, and 11.8 percent in 2014. The economic contraction will only slow to 3.7 percent in 2015. Unemployment will reach unimaginable levels. In the third quarter of 2012, the 24.9 percent has far surpassed the level of the previous year's 17.7 percent, disproportionately affecting the young up to 24 years old (56.6 percent) and young women (65.4 percent). Citigroup predicts an unemployment rate of 29.7 percent for 2013, 35.9 percent for 2014, and 40.3 for 2015. According to these economists, the austerity dictate should "gently squeeze" Greece out of the Euro zone, with a calculated exit in 12 - 18 months.[2]

Doubling the Suicide Rate

A trauma therapist, following his trip to Athens, has described the social consequences and the total collapse of the Greek economy, provoked by the German austerity dictate. The therapist provided supplementary training for his Greek colleagues, which was deemed exceedingly necessary because of the consequences of the crisis. In the process, he also became acquainted with the Greek social situation and since has been complaining of the "gigantic obscurantist capacity" of Western Europe, where the austerity policy is being continued, in spite of the catastrophic situation in Greece. For example, "entire residential blocks (...) are deprived of oil deliveries for financial reasons." Illegally felled trees are the sole source of heating. Whoever must go to the hospital, "must bring his own sheets and bed covers, as well as the own food." "Since the cleaning personnel was fired, doctors, nurses and orderlies, who, for months, have not been paid, are cleaning the toilettes." The EU is warning of "the danger of an outbreak of infectious diseases because of the devastating hygienic conditions." The trauma therapist reported that "women, in their late pregnancies, have to beg from hospital to hospital, because, having neither health insurance nor enough money no one wants to help them." The elderly, whose pensions have been cut in half, cannot even afford important medicine. Since the crisis began, the rate of suicides, on the other hand, has not been cut in half, it has doubled.[3]

Tremendous Rage

According to the report, one need be "neither a pessimist nor an expert, to imagine what this means for interpersonal relations" as well as "for the cohesion of Greek society." Rage against Greek politicians and "international policy of financial installments flowing into bailing out the banks, but not the people," is "tremendous and continues to grow." A society that can provide at least protection from the worst, would be able to absorb this rage, but Greece no longer has even this possibility, explains the trauma therapist. In Greece "the functional society was progressively undermined until it collapsed like a dilapidated house," because "the crisis has destroyed the welfare state." Rage is now turning into aggression and violence. As a matter of fact, in traditionally hospitable Greece, attacks - particularly against migrants - have suffered a vast increase. "The number of violent mobs that attack minorities is growing."[4]

Racist Violence

Human rights organizations have already been complaining about this for months. For example, following the murder of an Iraqi refugee in Greece, Amnesty International discerned a growing frequency of racist-motivated attacks.[5] The UN High Commission on Refugees reported in October that between January and September, alone, 87 xenophobic-motivated attacks had been counted. This is "exceptionally alarming," particularly in consideration of the fact that the actual numbers are likely to be far higher, since victims were either too scared to report attacks to the police or were turned away, when they did.[6] The repressive forces are also using excessive force against migrants. In mid-November, the US Embassy in Athens issued a travel warning against a rise in violent attacks against persons who, because of their complexion, are perceived to be foreign migrants.[7] Certain neighborhoods of Athens are considered "no go areas" for migrants.

Plans for a Putsch

In the throes of the crisis, the rapid rise of xenophobia that has overcome Greece is flanked by a just as rapid rise of the extreme right. The neo-Nazi Chrysi Avgi party ("Golden Dawn"), which is particularly known for its violence against migrants, won 18 seats in parliament in the last elections and - according to opinion polls - could win 12 percent today. Last fall, one of their parliamentarians declared that the party is waging a "civil war" against migrants and the left. According to publicist, Dimitris Psarras, who, for the past 20 years has been doing research on the Chrysi Avgi, "the escalation strategy (...) has a primary significance" for that party. "It is similar to the strategy of Italian neo-fascists in the 1970s and 80s: escalate the conflict on the streets, between the right-wingers and left-wingers - and in the case of Greece, the migrants - to create a climate of insecurity, so that a putsch can be justified." Psarras points out that not only the Greek neo-Nazis, but even "serious media organs (...) are speculating on possible plans for a putsch." He finds, "if the political and economic situation becomes even more instable and the society, more polarized, anything is possible."[8]

Further information and background on Germany's policy toward Greece can be found in the following: Impoverishment Made in Germany, The Traits of the Crisis, On the Relevance of Democracy and Only Misunderstandings.

[1] "Schuldenrückkauf nur Tropfen auf heißen Stein"; www.heute.de 13.12.2012
[2] European Economic Forecast Highlights; Citi Research Economics 28.11.2012
[3], [4] Eine Gesellschaft stürzt ins Bodenlose; www.faz.net 15.12.2012
[5] Greece must bring an end to racist and xenophobic attacks; www.amnesty.org 15.08.2012
[6] Racist attacks in Greece hit "alarming" levels: UNHCR; www.reuters.com 23.10.2012
[7] United States Embassy Athens, Greece: Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Safety and Security in Greece, November 16, 2012
[8] "Es sind richtige Nazis"; jungle-world.com 15.11.2012