Thoughts on the 5th of July

The 23rd of April 2010, the Prime Minister of Greece at the time George Papandreou adresses to the greek nation from Kastelorizo. He announces that Greece requested a bailout deal from the Eurozone and the I.M.F. Negotiations follow and the first memorandum becomes a reality. This was the start of a very painful era for the greek people.

Five years and two bail out deals later, Greece has yet to see the end to the austerity measures and the situation has gotten even worse those past five months. You may have heard that on the 5th of July Greece held a referendum on the approval of the next bail out deal from the Greek people. The proposal (which was already withdrawn from the table of negotiations by the creditors after the announcement from the Prime Minister on Friday, June 26) was rejected by the voters with 61,31%.

“Oxi” was supported by the government that  propagandized their message. Putting “no” first on the ballot, adressing proclamations to the nation by the Prime Minister and the President of the Parliament every night up untill the referendum and changing the rules of radio and television broadcasting in favour of their left-wing party.

“Nai” was supported by the opposition, the New Democracy, Pasok and the River. Most of the tv stations were propagandizing the approval of the deal, causing anger and indignation to the people who sought objective information during one of the most crucial times after the political changeover of 1974.

Capital controls were imposed and the people queued at the ATM’s to withdraw their cash, that were now trapped in banks, under the fear of the “Grexit”. The super markets were filled with people stoking up on rise, pasta, dry food and essentials while the cafes and tavernas of Athens were deserted the week prior the referendum.

Everyone was anxious, some were angry(including myself), some exhausted and some hopeful. But the worst thing was that two opposite sides formed and started debating incessantly about the two options the greek government had. During these twenty days I have had some moments when I was sure there was no hope. I could see that none of the options made me sure that we could look at our future with optimism. Because these past five years, many people have been left without a job, the minimum wage has been decreased and there are way too many people living below the poverty line.

Now that the greek government accepted the terms and finally (for the first time in my opinion) negotiated in a serious manner, I know that maybe this whole thing might be over. Yes, we won’t have a “Grexit”, we won’t be the first country that abandoned the common currency willfully. However, this ordeal hasn’t taught us what it should have. We saw the parties of the opposition voting in favor of the bail out (not without harsh critisism) even though they could have left things as they were and watch the government fall and take the country with it down the drain. We saw the composition of the new government, which is disappointing. The Prime Minister could have gone down a difficult road with a government supported by technocrats, yet he chose the easy way out with a safe reshuffle and -possibly- elections in September.

These twenty days could have changed the future of Greece and lead the country in a different direction, a direction of inclusive institutions that will help create growth. The political reality, though, has showed us that this is highly unlikely. Greece did change and Europe showed a vicious face.

So what now? Do we remain divided? Or will we try to work together for a better country and a better Europe with solidarity and democracy?

I say we better do the latter.

Disclaimer: Photo by my sister A.