Why I'm standing with Greece in Trafalgar Square this evening
29 June 2015
It’s all too easy, when you hear of markets in disarray and banks closing on the other side of the continent, to forget about the terrible human impacts of the crisis in Greece. Over 40% of children are living in poverty, a quarter of the workforce is unemployed, youth unemployment is at almost 50% and the healthcare system is close to collapse. Beyond the hackneyed headlines of a ‘Greek tragedy’ are people living on the brink, struggling to feed and clothe their families.
It’s abundantly clear that the Troika’s (the IMF, EU and European Central Bank’s) plan is failing in human terms – but it’s an economic failure too. Greece’s Government debt has grown from 133% of GDP in 2010 to 174% today. Since 2010 the Troika has lent €252 billion to the Greek government. Of this, the vast majority of the money was used to bailout banks, pay off the private sector to accept restructuring, and repay old debts and interest from reckless lending. Less than 10% of the money has actually reached the people who need it in Greece.
In light of this profound failure, it’s clear that a change of direction is desperately needed from the Troika. But the solution to such misery being offered by European Governments and the IMF is…more misery. They want more austerity inflicted on the Greeks, indeed they want to entirely strip down the Greek state and refashion it as a servant of capital rather than people.
The stand off we’re seeing this week matters to all of us. It involves a democratically elected Government that’s trying – against all the odds – to protect people from the ravages of austerity, pitted against an unelected Troika hellbent on defying the will of the Greek people.
The Greek Government isn’t rejecting any change whatsoever, but instead calling for a debt conference, based on the ‘London conference’ which agreed debt cancellation for Germany in 1953. That conference agreed to cancel 50% of Germany’s debt to governments, people and institutions outside the country, and paved the way for Germany to recover from the crippling war.
This evening I’ll be joining many others at the Greek Solidarity Demonstration in Trafalgar Square. Our demand is that our Prime Minister supports calls for a European Conference, along the lines of what happened in 1953, to bring Greece back from the brink.
The people of Greece have shown incredible resilience in extremely difficult times. They’ve worked together to provide on-the-ground assistance to those in need – from medical treatment to food banks. But there’s only so much cutting the social fabric in Greece can take before it tears apart. Any self-respecting democratic can see that further forced austerity in Greece is wrong. It’s time for Europe’s leaders, including David Cameron, to stand up for democracy and back a credible solution to Greece’s dire problems.
(Global Justice Now co-published a Greece solidarity letter in the Guardian today alongside NGOs, trade unions, Caroline Lucas and other MPs)