By Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos
Ambassador ad honorem
From the official website of the German Foreign Office we read the following excerpt of an interview of Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in his interview with Der Spiegel: ”In this crisis we need rapid help without torture tools such as troika or tough austerity measures…”
We cannoit condemn this statement because the German Minister is saying the truth, a truth that the majority of Greeks have felt.However it is the first time that a German minister has characterized the troika and tough austerity measures as tools of torture, tools that for ten years have tortured the people of Greece.
It was the tough austerity measures that resulted in the collapse of Greece’s health system by reducing about 42.5% of the budget that went for health care,that increased unemployment to 28% and youth unemployment to 60%,increased the yearly deaths from 70.000 to 124.000, and forced about 800.000 Greeks to leave their tortured country to find work abroad,mainly in other EU countries.Mistakes were made in imposing these measures upon the people of Greece,mistakes acknowledged even by the troika and the IMF.The former president of the Eurogroup J.Dijsselbloem in an interview he gave to the Greek newspapers “Ta Nea “ published on August 27,2018 admitted that mistakes were made by the europeans in handling the Greek crisis, saying that initially they experimented and it took four years for them to stand on their feet and set up mechanisms to confront the crisis.He conceded that a different policy should have been implemented in Greece,as the bailout programs were very strict and their implementation very difficult.More open was the former member of the European Commission Pierre Moscovisi who mentioned the following on his blog dated August 20,2018:”Yet mistakes were also made -in Athens,Brussels,Berlin and Washington-unnecessarily prolonging the crisis.We also underestimated the disastrous state that Greece was in when this started.What appeared to be a single budgetary crisis was,in reality a deep crisis of the Greek state and economy.So deep it took several years even to properly assess it.As a result the design of the three consecutive financial assistance programs was imperfect……The financial expertise of the IMF was initially necessary and had been useful ;but certain positions were were too brutal and personal,antagonised relations with the Greeks and even led the Eurogroup to adopt reforms that,in my opinion,were too harsh,particularly those on pensions due to kick in 2019.Eight years of crisis is far too long .Politicians bear some responsibility and I will accept my share…….It must be recognised that the methods used were sometimes intrusive and that these officials had a major influence on the process………”
And of course even the official reason that the memoranda programs were imposed on Greece which was the reduction of the public debt from 120% of GDP in 2010 failed, having reached today 185% of GDP.
The recent rejection by the troika of the request of the Greek Government to extend the legal protection for primary residence is another example of the use of the tool of torture, leaving tens of thousands of Greeks in the agony that they may lose their homes even amid the unprecedented situation of the coronavirus pandemic and its devastating effect on the economy.
By aknowledging that the troika and tough austerity measures are tools of torture, Minister Maas admits that torture has been used on Greece for the last ten years and this is a massive violation of human rights of 11 million people which was the then population of Greece.Consequently the Greek Government no longer has any obligation to continue the payments of the memoranda obligations, memoranda that were imposed upon the country and its people.There also exists two reports of UN independent experts on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations on States on the full enjoyment of all human rights,that of Cephas Lumina (A/HRC/35/50/ Add. 1. 7.3.2014) and of Pablo Bohoslavski (A/HRC 31?60/add.2 29.2.16).These reports aknowledge human rights violations in Greece as a result of the memoranda obligations.
The Greek Government must now inform Germany and the other creditors that it can no longer continue making the yearly payments of memoranda obligations,that were imposed on Greece under torture,so that these funds can be used to support the population of Greece during the coronavirus crisis.
We thank you Minister Maas for your honesty.