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 Day 19

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Robbing the Taxpayers for the Benefit of Hedge Funds

Back to a Feudal Europe

by SERGE HALIMI

Are the economic policies needed to maintain the euro still compatible with democracy? Greece’s state broadcaster was established after the fall of the military dictatorship. Last month the Greek government (which is implementing EU injunctions) decided to shut it down without authorisation from parliament (see Where Syriza stands). Before the Greek courts suspended this decision, the European Commission could have recalled the public service broadcasting protocol to the Amsterdam Treaty of 1997, which states that “the system of public broadcasting in the member states is directly related to the democratic, social and cultural needs of each society and to the need to preserve media pluralism.” Instead, it backed the Greek government’s actions, stating on 12 June that the closure “should be seen in the context of the major and necessary efforts that the authorities are taking to modernise the Greek economy.”

Europeans know all about constitutional projects that have been pushed through despite being rejected by public referendum. They remember candidates who, having promised to renegotiate the terms of a treaty, then get it ratified without changing a comma. The people of Cyprus very nearly had a percentage of their bank deposits seized by the government (1). But this is a new milestone: the EC is washing its hands of the dismantling of the only Greek media not yet owned by shipping magnates, since this will make it possible to sack 2,800 workers immediately from the public sector, which the EC has always abhorred. It will also allow Greece to meet the targets for job cuts that the troika (2) has imposed on a country where 60% of young people are unemployed.

This misplaced zeal coincides with the publication in the US media of a confidential report in which the IMF concedes that the policies it has implemented in Greece over the last three years have resulted in “notable failures”. Were the errors due simply to over-optimistic growth forecasts? Probably not. According to the Wall Street Journal’s interpretation of this verbose document, the IMF admits that “an immediate restructuring [of Greece’s debt] would have been cheaper for European taxpayers, as private-sector creditors were repaid in full for two years before 2012 using the money borrowed by Athens. Greece’s debt level thus remained undented, but it was now owed to the IMF and Eurozone taxpayers instead of banks and hedge funds” (3).

The speculators have extricated themselves without losing one cent of the loans they made to Greece at astronomical interest rates. Obviously, such skill in robbing Europe’s taxpayers for the benefit of the hedge funds qualifies the troika to make the Greek people suffer. There are also hospitals, schools and universities that could be closed without any opposition. And not just in Greece: it’s only by making such sacrifices Europe that will be able keep its place in the triumphal progress towards a new Middle Ages.

SERGE HALIMI is director of Le Monde Diplomatique. He has written several books, including one  on the French press, Les nouveaux chiens de garde and another on the French left in the 20th century – Quand la gauche essayait – both are fine works.  He can be reached at Serge.Halimi@monde-diplomatique.fr

This article appears in the excellent Le Monde Diplomatique, whose English language edition can be found at mondediplo.com. This full text appears by agreement with Le Monde Diplomatique. CounterPunch features two or three articles from LMD every month.

Notes.

(1) See Serge Halimi, “Anything’s possible now”, Le Monde diplomatique, English edition, April 2013.

(2) The European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

(3) “IMF Concedes It Made Mistakes on Greece”, The Wall Street Journal, New York, 6 June 2013.