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Defending the young Greek generation in Berlin

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Elina Makri


Reflections after the "European Disputes" debate held in Berlin on November 7, 2014. What is this blame game all about? Why can't Northern Europeans understand the South? 

At the European Disputes conference held in Berlin on November 7th, I participated in the "Europe and its South" panel which was introduced in the following way: "Dividing Europe into economic role models and black sheep is becoming the breeding ground for those who call for less Europe or even its end. But questions remain between austerity, growth and debt policy: how can Europe integrate its North and its South according to the principles of self-responsibility and solidarity? What needs to be done if France, back then the European engine, loses its economic strength? How should we react to massive youth unemployment and the resulting emergence of a lost generation? Is Europe implementing its economic and social policies at the expense of future generations? What about our striving for freedom and equality in a Europe divided into rich and poor? Savoir vivre and savoir faire: What is Europe about?"

Good heavens! Do I represent the "black sheep"? Am I the target subject of the principles of self-responsibility and solidarity? Who exactly was and is in solidarity with me? Am I not responsible enough? What about my peers and friends back home? 

Back in Athens, days before the panel

I talked to Hara, who is a notary, this morning. She said she was afraid. She was struggling to work; she works with the intent to never make a mistake, to never break a law. She's careful, but she can't keep track of all the new laws and regulations that keep popping up, which also change all the time; this translates into a fear of fines. She is exhausted. So is Eleni, the accountant, and Anastasia, the lawyer. We all live in a constant state of fear that we might do something wrong, that we might lose our next tax installments. The first years of the crisis, we worked in order to pay the state, now, we overwork, afraid of making a mistake. Stable economic and professional prosperity is a luxury. In this battle, your enemy is invisible but within the national borders. Alexandros reproached me for being too friendly with Germans: "You accept and are willing to discuss in their own terms, in the framework they impose you...''

In Berlin, once on the panel

The moderator asked me what young people in Greece do. What I take away from the panel for my life? I gushed poetically from my heart. I was prepared and on defensive. I told myself they would bombard me with all the hard questions, questions to which I am unable to give an answer, such as "what has gone so badly with the finances", "how can I justify the public debt" and "what do I want for the future of Greece and Europe?". 

But how can I think of what I want when I am powerless and constantly in a state of emergency? Again, I adopted the defensive strategy, I referred to the Greek military expenditure, the profits by selling weapons to the Greek taxpayers. These are political decisions. But I also wanted to tell them about corruption and that when you play nasty tricks, the danger is that the other side, aka, the politicians of Greece, can wind up being nastier. I got back to them with the Siemens bribery scandal where the head of Siemens Greece paid bribes to Greek politicians to secure contracts for the profit of the German engineering giant. Three European warrant arrests issued by the Greek justice and German authorities ignored them. And the favorite of Greeks: the German war reparation issue, where Greeks, after many years decided to do the math, calculate and revendicate the forgotten WWII reparations and the wartime loans Germany forcibly extracted from the Bank of Greece.

Two sides of two different coins

Who is preaching what here? Who is the black sheep here? I already feel so confused with the blame game that I don't feel concerned. Why do I have to constantly apologize for the choices of the older generation? What do I care? "Let me just remind you that the European project started because of Germans' irresponsible behavior, not towards arithmetic and statistical figures but towards human values." Should the Germans tell us how we can live morally and rationally in this continent? I am deeply sorry that I will leave from Berlin and live on facing unanswered and uncontrollable situations. But there is no certainty we are fighting the good fight.