October 9, 2012
This Tuesday (09.10.12) Chancellor Merkel is making her first visit in the capital of Greece, Athens. It has been a long time ago since the last German Chancellor visited Greece in the context of the traditional exchange visits between the leaders of the EU member-states. But after all, why is Merkel visiting Athens one day after Eurogroup and before the voting of the new austerity pact in the Greek Parliament?
It has been already two weeks that the Greek government and troika are still discussing over the new austerity measures that the government is planned to take in order to deal with its extreme public debt rates and get the “green light” for the new liquidity package. Discussions are reportedly hard and long-lasting, and until now concensus is not yet reached. Nonetheless, it is expected that both sides will reach an agreement and further cuts over wages and pensions, along with a series of new fiscal measures, are going to be discussed in the Greek Parliament during the next couple of weeks.
Mainstream media justify the visit of Chancellor Merkel on the basis that the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras wants to show that bilateral relations with Germany remain solid despite the issues merged and concerned with the austerity package. The pressure from Berlin is getting harder so that Greece can increase its spending cuts and be allowed to receive the new loan. On the other hand, Merkel is supposed to justify her visit in Athens on the basis that she vehemently supports the efforts of the Greek government towards the stabilization of its public finance. Merkel realizes the extremity of the situation and she possibly believes that by visiting Greece she is explicitly proving its declared statement that Greece will not exit eurozone.
To my point of view, even if the intentions are as aforementioned, there are two major issues that need to be further discussed:
1. Chancellor Merkel is a persona non grata for the entire Greek society that is hit by the counter-social austerity measures two years now. She is responsible, along with troika and the Greek government, for the current extreme recession in Greece, and the only thing she achieves by visiting Athens is to unveil once again the grievances and the unrest penetrating the Greek society. Greek police and the relevant Ministry have banned any organized protestation other than the one organized by the labour syndicates, which is at least an authoritative decision.
The main idea behind this measure is to avoid showing Merkel the level of turmoil and unrest of the Greek society and present her a completely illusive image, that everything is going well in the country and everyone is following and supporting austerity measures. There is also the alleged fear that “leftist” groups will endeavor to break down any manifestation, which is another piece in the puzzle of the perversed information that mainstream media want to pass abroad.
Therefore, the visit of Merkel can only ignite further tensions and extremify public feelings. In this respect, it is not at least “politically correct” to bring in Athens the very figure responsible for the Greek -and European- meltdown.
2. I firmly believe that Merkel’s visit has to be seen from a completely different pespective. Her tenure in office is expiring next summer and she will be obliged to support her policy and step in for another term in the German Chancellorship. Taking this into account, and being feared that her policy is not at all endorsed by eurozone’s counter-austerity streams in major member-states, like Italy, Spain and France, she is now more than ever vulnerable to negotiations. And this is the very element of political analysis that counter-austerity movements and parties have to realize and further press for an alternative economic policy in eurozone.
Therefore, the pressure from the public today in Athens has to be and should be fervid and outspoken so that she can feel even more pressed. Especially now that the Greek coalition government is showing no signs of negotiating with troika the new measures ahead. Today, I tend to foresight, that the harder and more massive the reaction to her visit, the clearer the message will be for the entire European society that battles for dignity and solidarity.Dimitris Rapidis