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Greek olives and Viennese crisis

20 July 2011 / 12:07:46  GRReporter
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Elitsa Tsenova, "Bulgarians in Austria" magasine

Exclusively of GRReporter

"Well, the Greeks finally have taken a drastic decision. They will probably make it." These were the words of Michaela Weiss who met me at the neighbourhood school on June 30 –  a day after the Greek Parliament adopted the package of measures for avoiding bankruptcy proposed by the European Union. We have been waiting with her the end of our children’s classes for several years. We talked about the teachers, the social and educational system long ago. For almost a month now, we have been thoroughly discussing the crisis in Greece. Michael is a 35 years old energetic and educated woman working in a small company for advertising services and has two children. She likes Greece, she was there on vacation and loves the olives - "just such big and black," she is making a circle with her thumb and forefinger. Now, she is unable to understand why and what is happening in the Greek country.

If most of the economic analysts and political elite have been aware of the debt crisis of Greece, it has been almost a shock for the average Austrian. Despite what is happening in Ireland, the fears of Spain and the concerns of Portugal, which were present in the press occasionally, it has never happened to an established EU country to fall into such a heavy financial collapse. The fact that this refers to a member of the euro area makes the situation even more dramatic.

Austria is among the disciplined members of the European Union and one of the countries, which derive most benefits from its participation in the euro area. Although they are not many, but there still are conservative citizens or supporters of the far-right Freedom Party, who claim that, the EU is an unnecessary "occupation" violating the constitutionally strengthened neutrality of the country. The Alpine republic is notable for its financial stability, high credit rating (AAA), low unemployment and social stability. It was among the countries the global economic crisis affected the least and it managed to recover relatively quickly and painlessly.
When it became clear in late 2009 that the situation with the Greek finances was much more tragic than anticipated, Europe embarked on the search for measures to prevent the debt crisis of the country. In early 2010, giving promises of structural reforms and budget cuts, Greece managed to sign a memorandum of financial support with the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund. Even then, Austria stated it would expect the island country to be more active and take substantive measures to comply with the agreement. Days before the vote on the third installment of € 9 billion, the Alpine republic was the first major country of the European Union to say "stop" to the Greek indecision and inability to take drastic measures. On November 16, 2010, the then finance minister Josef Pröll warned that Austria could refuse to support the granting of another tranche in December, since Greece does not meet its obligations.  At the end of last year, our southern neighbour started with a long delay the unpopular measures that led to protests and riots in the streets and squares of the cities. There appeared the first unpleasant comparisons with the situation in Argentina in 2001.

"Obviously, the Greek government has spent a lot more money than it could collect from taxes," thought Michaela sometime in early May, when the first data on the generous social policy in Greece, the ineffectiveness of the public sector, tax evasion and corruption appeared. Gradually, her liking for the islands, the blue and white houses and olives began to melt. She knew that the Greek crisis would cost more than € 2.3 billion to Austria. "When they took the big bonuses they did not ask where the money came from, and now they are protesting," she resented the thousands of protesters in front of the Greek Parliament. This was the dominant mood in the online forums of major Austrian newspapers. The fact that in 2001 Greece has misled the European Union on its willingness to meet the requirements for accessing the euro zone actually increased the fears of many Austrians. Could the southern country make another financial trick to hide its growing internal debt, which is 160% of GDP? "Even if people stop eating, shopping and spending and give all the money they earn for debt repayment, they would need at least two years – calculated the advertising specialist quickly. – However, this is impossible to happen! They will have to give up lots of extras. "

Tags: Greek eonomic crisisAustriaTaxpayersEuropean UnionElitsa Tsenova
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