European Op-eds Bicker Over Greece's Economic Plight

Writers from Greece, France, and Germany illustrate the political divisions roiling the EU

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Greece's economic woes have been news since December, when the Atlantic Wire covered debate over whether the EU would step in to avoid destabilizing the euro. Since then, bickering has erupted on the continent over the best course of action. While some Europeans are as loath to bail out Greece as Americans were to bail out the banks, others claim the action to be a necessity, and foot-draggers to be engaged in a deliberate campaign to sink the Greek socialist government. Here's a sample of the heat from across the Atlantic:

  • Ordinary Greeks Take a Hit In a bit of a Joe-the-Plumber moment in Greek publication Kathimerini, Nikos Konstandaras contends that Greek economic woes aren't merely a matter for those in Davos and Brussels: "The crisis has hit our neighborhoods, our streets, our villages." For example, "the owner of a small grocery store says that his turnover has plunged from about 600 euros a day to about 60." The message is clear: whatever the politics at the European-wide level, ordinary Greeks are feeling the strain of the economic crisis. "The Greek economy's lack of credibility cuts like a knife through the country, from its leadership to the citizen. The prime minister and Cabinet ministers are obliged to keep providing explanations to their counterparts and international news media."
  • It's Because of Greece's Dreadful Government, was the position articulated in the international edition of Der Spiegel at the end of December. "For years, the conservatives and socialists who took turns running the country borrowed as if there were no tomorrow," scold Ferry Batzoglou and Clemens Höges. "Through mismanagement and nepotism, they drove their country to the brink of bankruptcy." But they don't let the citizens off the hook either, whom they say "reacted by engaging in corruption and fraud." They're skeptical of the Greek elite's belief that simply forcing EU members to, in German Finance MinisterWolfgang Schäuble's words, "pay for the Greeks' mistakes" will actually solve the problem.
  • Right-Wingers Want You to Think the Government Is Dreadful, counters an irate George Sidéris today in Le Monde. He alleges the Greek government is being slandered by conservatives both within Greece and abroad--there are certain other governments "not unhappy to see the Greek socialist government in difficulty. It permits them to maintain social demands under pressure in their own countries." In fact, he argues, "were it not for the issue of euro destabilization, it is clear that Greece would be completely abandoned to these speculative attacks." The conclusion? "We must support Greece," declares Sideris, "as it is the test case of those who wish to break social policies in Europe."
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