Apparently, it has been impossible to sell Greece any weapons at all, not even a water pistol, without bribing officials at the Defense Ministry. But it takes two to tango. And in holier-than-thou Germany, the defense industry has been all too eager to dance with Greece.
Entries in Europe - Greece (67)
German Election Finally Gets Messy: “Euro Is More Than A Currency” And Greece “Shouldn’t Have Been Allowed In”
No debacle is allowed to interfere with Chancellor Merkel’s efforts to hang on to her job, and debacles get swept under the rug at least until after the elections on September 22. Every time uppity opposition voices stir up some controversy, it’s brushed off, denied, ridiculed, or minimized – and it has worked admirably well so far. But suddenly there’s Greece again.
When going overseas, Chancellor Merkel doesn’t leave home without planeloads full of executives from Germany's most coddled companies – exports being the core of foreign policy. And if these deals get snagged on the rusty nails of payment risks, it’s up to the government to help out with guarantees, even if they’re infested with conflicts.
The Stunning Differences in European Costs of Labor: Or Why “Competitiveness” Is A Beggar-Thy-Neighbor Strategy
The ominous term “competiveness” is bandied about as the real issue, the one causing Eurozone countries to sink deeper into their fiasco. To address it, “structural reforms,” or austerity, have been invoked regardless of how much blood might stain the streets. And a core element of these structural reforms is bringing down the cost of labor.
Contributed by George Dorgan. Eurocrats claim that Greece and other periphery countries are on track to gain competitiveness because wages are falling. But wages are only part of the competitiveness story. Cost of labor contains pension schemes, taxes, etc. that might increase with austerity measures. And other production factors, notably capital, are missing.
“I’m wondering how much this society can endure before it explodes,” said Georg Pieper, a German psychotherapist who specializes in treating post-traumatic stress disorders following catastrophes, large accidents (including the deadliest train wreck ever in Germany), acts of violence, freed hostages.... But now he was talking about Greece.
“Private sector” is a rubbery term. Most of the bondholders that lost their shirts during the first Greek default last March, and during the second one currently underway, were banks, including banks in Greece, Spain, and Cyprus. They are now getting bailed out by the public. After nearly all of Greece’s debt was shifted to the public, a third haircut was announced. Now Portugal wants the same deal. The can has been opened.
“I cannot be disillusioned because I no longer have any illusions about Europe,” muttered Euro Group President Jean-Claude Juncker last week after the horse trading over Greece’s bailout had failed once again. But he isn’t the only one who lost his illusions. “There are better alternatives to the bailout policies of Chancellor Merkel,” declares the man who’ll run against her in 2013; alternatives that “protect taxpayers and don’t only benefit the banks.”
Young educated Greeks face a wall of unemployment. With little chance of finding a job in their field, they’re competing for any kind of job. Wages have plummeted. The economy has shriveled by 19.4% since 2007. Promises that education would open doors to a better future have evaporated. And Germans march around, telling Greeks how to run their country. Because the euro has become a religious dictum.
Bailouts have become known for their so-called “unintended consequences”—however intended they might have been. And now, unintended consequences strike again. The ECB’s purchase of decomposing Greek debt—an under-the-radar bailout of banks and insurance companies—are making the favorite solution to the Greek crisis, namely another deep haircut, legally impossible, says Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann.
On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel set foot in the European Parliament for the first time since 2007 and addressed the only democratically elected European institution—by design, an emasculated one. There, she laid out her plans to bring European nations together to where their budgets and other matters would become part of her “domestic policy.”
A Greek economist’s terse sarcasm: “GDP has decreased by €47 billion in the last five years. Economy is expected to contract by 3.8% in 2013, the 6th straight year of recession! Unemployment has reached 24.7%. Youth unemployment... 55.4%! No worries though—we have the sun, the sea, our cultural background.” And GOLD.
When an acquaintance of mine in Greece had dinner with one of his relatives, a ranking official at the Bank of Greece, the discussion inevitably came around to the Troika—the bailout and austerity gang from the EU, the ECB, and the IMF—and how Greece should send them packing. “Of course,” the central banker said, “it would help considerably if we actually had a functioning government these past 182 years.”
Awful as Greece’s GDP has been, it doesn’t do justice to the economic fiasco. Take new vehicle registrations: in August, they plunged 46.7% from prior year. Only 3,886 new vehicles were sold. A collapse of 80% from August 2008 at the cusp of the crisis. For the first eight months of 2012, sales were down 42% from prior year, and 65% from 2008. People have stopped buying new cars. And not just cars.
“European leaders have not been able to meet their responsibilities,” French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said about Germany and some other countries that are reluctant to pile more taxpayer money on Greece, whose economy is grinding to a halt, and whose government can no longer fulfill its promises. Yet, the very “responsibilities” of these “European leaders,” many of them unelected bureaucrats, have turned into a can of worms.
It started on Monday. “Poverty is returning to Europe,” said Jan Zijderveld, head of Unilever’s European operations. The third largest consumer products company in the world was adjusting its commercial strategy to this new reality, he said, by redeploying to Europe what worked in poor countries of the developing world. Other stars of the industry affirmed it. “The logic of pauperization,” L’Oréal CEO Jean-Paul Agon called it.
Counter Revolt In Germany: Gagging “Hardliners” As the Economy Tanks And Future Exports Drop Into The Red Zone
A hullabaloo has flared up in Germany over squashing democratic discussions on whether or not taxpayers should endlessly pay to keep Greece in the Eurozone and protect bondholders—the ECB and national central banks—from having to recognize reality on the worm-eaten Greek debt in their basements. The tools: political pressure, fake moral outrage, and ridicule. Now politicians have something big to hide behind.
With impeccable timing, it seeped out that a group of experts at the German Finance Ministry is studying ways to deal with a Greek exit from the Eurozone. A spokesperson clarified helpfully on Friday, rather than denying it, that the group has been in existence for over a year. Impeccable timing because it happened as Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was arriving in Berlin for his begging expedition. German Chancellor Angela Merkel must have smiled. The heat was on.
Euro optimism is once again gushing through the system on the hope that the debt crisis could be wished away with a nod by German Chancellor Angela Merkel or with a wink by the Bundesbank at the European Central Bank, which is dying to print unlimited amounts of moolah to buy sovereign bonds—and old bicycles, if it has to—in order to force yields down for debt-sinner countries like the US Spain and Italy. But in Greece there has been an incident.