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06 April 2012

Europe's poignant wake-up call

For those who missed the story, a 77-year old retired pharmacist – Dimitris Christoulas – has shot himself to death in front of the Greek Parliament in Syntagma Square, protesting the degradation of his country.

It is a call to arms, a poignant moment in Europe’s unfolding drama, reminiscent of the Buddhist self-immolations of south-east Asia that so captured world attention.

His suicide note refers to the Quisling regime of George Tsolakoglou under Axis occupation in World War Two.

Needless to say, it is loose talk to compare the Greek technocrat premier Lucas Papademos in any way to Nazi puppets. He is an honourable man, broadly supported by the Greek people, appointed by the Greek president under legitimate – though dubious – constitutional procedure, doing the best as he sees it for his country.

It is equally loose talk to compare the democratic, well-intentioned Germany of 2012 with the rabble of gangsters who hijacked the Weimar state in 1933. Germany’s Angela Merkel too is doing what she thinks to be the best for both her country and for Europe (and which I think is deeply misguided, especially for Germany itself)

But the event has happened, and such events have consequences.

This from Athens News (via Zerohedge):

The Tsolakoglou government has annihilated all hope for my survival, which was based on a very dignified pension that I alone paid for 35 years with no help from the state. And since my advanced age does not give me any way to react (although if a fellow Greek were to grab a Kalashnikov, I would be right behind him), I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life, so I don’t find myself fishing through garbage cans to survive.

I believe that young people with no future, will one day take up arms and hang the traitors of this country at Syntagma square, just like the Italians did to Mussolini in 1945.

"This is not just a person that killed himself," Laos head Yiorgos Karatzaferis told parliament. "We have all pulled the trigger. What did this man see coming from us, before deciding to take his own life? He saw shady goings-on, he saw that none of those that stole from him and the Greek people are going to jail. He saw no help coming his way, as he tried to deal with his loans and debts. He was told that no slack would be given to him, no room to move."

"It wasn’t this man who should have committed suicide. Rather, it should have been those politicians that have knowingly let Greece to be crushed," said Independent Greeks leader Panos Kamenos.

Yiannis Dimaras, party leader of the Hellenic Citizens’ Chariot, said: "Those who have voted away all the rights of this country, those who have given our dignity away, are those that are guilty for spilling the blood of this Greek pensioner".

Little more needs to be said. We have entered perilous waters in Europe. Greece is not an isolated case. Variants of the Greek tragedy are unfolding in a string of countries as they embark on similar policies of self-feeding contraction, as will become clear over the next two years. Spain’s youth unemployment is already 50.5pc.

The structure of monetary union is the root cause of this deepening crisis, since it shuts off the usual solutions: the policy mix of fiscal and monetary contraction under way simultaneously in countries containing 140m people is making it even worse.

The sugar rush from Mario Draghi’s €1 trillion LTRO at the European Central Bank is wearing off, leaving a residue of concentrated risk (this is not a criticism: Draghi did the right thing, given the imminent collapse of the Club Med banking system last November). Yet little else is in place.

Much hope is being placed on belt-tightening, and on root-and-branch reforms that will take five to 10 years to bear fruit. Mr Christoulas has alerted Europe that civil society will not wait.


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