Published on 21 Feb 2012

Bailing Greek tears

You are 25 years old, you have completed your education and have lived through five years of the worst recession any western European democracy has experienced since the end of the Second World War.

You wake up today to the news that leaders of other European democracies have decided a course of action which means that your country’s economy will still be in debt to the tune of 120 per cent of GDP by the time you are 35.

You think of your chances of buying or leasing a home, you think of getting out of your parental home, you think of relationships and eventually your own family. Your destiny is poverty. You surely think “NO!”

You are Greek. What is happening to ordinary people in what we once thought of as an ordinary country somewhere in the south of Europe that was a sunny, musical, historic, olive place to visit, defies imagination and seems to fly in the face of anything we in northern Europe could, or would ever accept.

And on this February winter’s day, it is hard to imagine that this 25-year-old Greek will accept it either.

More from Channel 4 News: The eurozone, the ant and the grasshopper

Cynically, one wonders whether last night’s 14-hour odyssey in Brussels represented the final chapter in a gamblers’ book of buying time.

The banks are ready, the euro system is more ready than it was, to suffer and survive the eventually smallish matter of a Greek default.

Such an event, eight months ago when this journey of Greece’s bailout began, could have proved terminal for the euro. No more.

Few market speculators are betting on the implosion of the euro. Portugal is still deeply vulnerable, but as small as Greece. Italy is doing what Italy had to do. France is saving its banks and clinging on to Germany‘s unloved shirt-tails. Spain? Who knows… but it is not deemed to be in as bad a pickle as either Portugal or Greece.

And Ireland, whose characterful President Higgins is here in Blighty today, is performing as the euro’s model prisoner – awash with austerity and loss and unimprisoned bankers, property developers, and politicians – Ireland is on the surprising road to eventual recovery.

Beware Greeks bearing tears – who will dry them?

If you really want a different and courageous take on Greece’s grief, do watch the moving report from one of Greece’s leading economists Yanis Varoufakis which we aired last night:

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28 reader comments

  1. Mudplugger says:

    The ‘deal’ in the early hours of Tuesday morning is nothing more than window-dressing to buy a little more time.

    Fellow bloggers may wish to ensure they have no cash still tied up in Greece exactly a month from now – you have been warned.

    Then the major sufferers, for decades to come, will be the mass of the ordinary Greek people, who never deserved this externally-determined fate.

  2. adrian clarke says:

    There is no one to blame,but politicians. Politicians the Greeks elected,under a system they previously agreed.A system where it is difficult to get anything done because of the diverse groups in power.Asystem there are those who would have us adopt in this country.We are already seeing the effects of coalition .
    I have no sympathy with the Greeks, who not only did not have sound government but will now let external Powers dictate to them what they can and can not do

  3. Saltaire Sam says:

    As one person commented on the radio this morning, none of the bail out is going to help the Greek economy grow.

    Most of the money will go to the banks and yet we heard on Newsnight that the only people to make money out of the Greek crisis have been Goldman Sachs, paid millions for dreaming up the lie that allowed Greece to qualify to join the euro.

    It was the same here with the bail out and with QE, it was all to salvage the banks in the theory that they would provide the means to salvage the economy. But it appears banks don’t see it the same way.

    If I were a Greek, young or old, I’d be looking for a different solution.

  4. DaveJ. says:

    In the late forties the Americans rebuilt the German economy with their Marshall Plan starting them on the road to become the economic powerhouse they are today. This despite the germans starting the war.
    Now we see the hideous spectacle of german economic expansion due to to the euro’s low exchange rate, whilst treating the greeks as virtual war criminals, condemning them to the miseries they themselves suffered after the punitive piece of 1918, with the delicious added slice of telling them not to bother with elections.
    I used to scorn those old tories who railed against the anti-democratic European Union but I think they were right.
    Churchill invested a lot of his political capital in Greece, trying to rid them first of the Nazis and then post war keeping the Communists out. I wish we had such statesmen to help them now but I guess that’s just wishful thinking.

  5. james coull-kidd says:

    If Yanis Varoufakis is a leading greek economist and having watched his report he obviously has a high opinion of himself can I just ask, where was he when Greece got itself into this financial mess in the first place?

    1. Peter Stewert says:

      Well before the crisis he was screaming to the EU about the goldman deal aqnd anyone else that would hear him, back around 2004/5. Nobody wanted to know, or at least the 1% with 99% of everything didn’t want to know in the Greece, the EU, and the world… and they still don’t because they, the “house”, keep on winning.

    2. anemosUK says:


  6. tommy5d says:

    I am 25. I live in the UK and my country’s economy will still be in debt to the tune of 95% of GDP by the time I’m 30.

    Actually, that’s only government debt. My country’s actual economy is currently in debt to the tune of 500% of GDP, the highest of any non-bailed out country.

    How exactly is my future different to someone in Greece?

    1. jon snow says:

      Tommy, a good question..the reason you at least have a chnace is that you live in an economy with a floating economy which can go up or down depending upon our prosperity. there is no such luxury in Greece lashed as it is to a hopelessly over valued Euro over whose value no Greek has any influence. You can also vote the managers ogf the UK economy can’t in Greece, they are not Greeks, they are Euro-crats, unelected by anyone..and I speak as a passionate European!

    2. Kes says:

      Jon, Tommy is absolutely right that the UK is in a real mess too. That is why we must swallow the bitter austerity pill. many years of a socialist government which raised expectations to an absurd level are largely to blame.

      Where you are spot on is finally acknowledging the deeply undemocratic nature of the current European Union. Incidentally, Italy also has a Eurocrat government.

      I am a passionate European as long as it is a common market (as originally intended). I am implacably hostile to what is developing now, namely an undemocratic technocrat-elite led supra-bureaucracy which is serving its members at the long term expense of the mass of taxpayers.

  7. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    Thrown out of houses, treated as inferiors, studying and title up the swanee, scrapping against the criminals for every penny it is possible to collect, fighting the establishment who have got their survival tied up,working for the minimum income every hour God sends ( if you are lucky enough to get it) Watching the dreams for your children melt into a junk yard of spivvery, no chance to establish relationships; its a good job the weather is ok in Greece.

  8. Philip Edwards says:


    For the umpteenth time – welcome to capitalism. Don’t kid yourself this won’t happen here sooner or later. You need only listen to the worst neocon politicians and the Daily Mail.

    Now, any bets the same people who caused this tragedy – the banking liars, cheats, spivs and crooks (the same kind who infect London at its rotten heart) – will go looking for a fire sale of unprivatised Greek national assets? That is the real prize sought by transnational economic thugs.

    Yanis Varoufakis is a good man who speaks sound common sense in a most moving way. But clearly he is close to despair. In the historic short term this may not mean anything more than a few burned buildings. In the historic long term there are likely to be obvious much more serious repercussions. What then, more American and Brit backed Colonels?

    Don’t kid yourself either Europe has seen the worst of it. It’s only just beginning. And as capitalism gets more desperate it will get more evil – “recovery” or no “recovery.” Don’t say you weren’t warned….again and again and again.

  9. Bob says:

    Funny Margaret it could have been the U.K. as an ethnic minority or ‘Non White Middle Class English’. That’s my theory anyway. As for that eduction, pointless really. Today I signed on. The principles of linguistics, photography, design, semiotics, artistic skills, work experiences and other CV filling moments are about as useful as a chocolate fireguard. Shouldn’t us educated folk have jobs before the undereducated ones? Is that a socio-economic issue? Is it possible to have intelligence that us doesn’t fit in to a demographic causing a form of social leprosy. Did Papillion ever make it off that Island on the coconut raft? I think of that Island as Northern Ireland only with gang stalking, misinformation, entrapment and on/off psychological torture. In my experience we now live in an era that is distinguished by a significant lack of interest in medical or psychiatric ethics. This is why we have mass benefit culture, where there was once working class culture. Everyone is written off, I could be a poor madman, but I have fought classification by doctors because I want more than disability allowance to live on. Skilled, educated employability is becoming increasingly rare. Ahhh!

  10. Moonbeach says:

    The EU is the problem not the solution!

    It was cheap money to those that could not afford it that got us in this mess. Now the Bankers and their lackeys, the politicians, have given more of our money to a country that has no chance of ever repaying it.

    The grossly over optimistic deal requires everything to go right in Greece for years to come. Some hopes.

    Are you really sure, Jon, that speculators are not betting against the Euro? Wait until the elections in Greece and France!

    Why do our politicians refuse to let the people speak yet continue to pour our money into this failed experiment like an arsonist trying to put out a fire with petrol?

    1. Kes says:

      The politicians are part of the elite that run things for their own benefit. They earn money from perpetuating the nonsense of the EU and the euro. That money comes from the newly re-impoverished taxpayers of Europe (us). The experiment will be propped up at any cost to us – have no doubt.

      We should have a referendum on EU membership in UK as soon as possible. we won’t get one, of course. NO major party wants it.

  11. Bob says:

    Don’t you think we are in a long term process of the Western economy being levelled?
    I think the entire marketplace will be redefined over the next ten years or so. If the government thinks wisely they will devised a new model of sustaining small and medium sized business to co-exist with the corporates. Corporates and big bucks play with the law and that in turn has a devastating knock on effect on the rest of each countries economy. The eurozone is a great concept in terms of better infrastructure and increasing trade between countries. However a more feasible solution of mass marketing over corporate dominance will be one of the the only ways to rebuild the diminishing returns of the middle class businessman and small business out there. Privatisation and corporate businesses are becoming more powerful that countries. Hence the 1% which is really 0.001% Years of radical innovation, a new era of industrialisation, improved global triade links and a reduction in military spending will be a few of the only solutions. If say, within the UK the business of war was turned into constructive international infrastructure reinforcement we would all be laughing.

  12. Paul Ries says:

    the anti german sentiments above are as deplorable and of a similar kind what some footballers have recently shouted on the pitch. they were disappointed and frustrated that things did not go their way.
    some people might argue that goldmann sachs were the bane of the greeks, who fell for their dicey offers, the euro countries are trying to save the greeks and the dollar and pound speculators are exasperated. good. but no doubt channel 4 will go on gabbling its sensational rubbish about the demise of euro. as bad as gawin on the beeb. could british journalists please stick to british politics and history. they clearly get their spiteful predictions wrong, and why does even channel 4 think that journalism is the same as speculation and opinion. please,get the facts wright and publish them after you have checked their veracity.

  13. Vindice says:

    Jon Snow: ‘Tommy, a good question..the reason you at least have a chnace is that you live in an economy with a floating economy which can go up or down depending upon our prosperity.’

    Really Jon, is that the best you can come up with? The fact remains that the UK economy is in perhaps worse shape than any European country – regardless of its floating economy. In fact a recent study by Morgan Stanley stated that the UK has a debt-to-GDP ratio of some 1000%. So Tommy is absolutely right to be concerned for his future – any graduate would be. Of course we never hear much about this in the corporate media (after all, business interests come first). But the reality is that we are in a WORSE situation than Greece.

    You seem, however, to think that we can grow our way back to prosperity because of monetary independence. But this is clearly mistaken. And for three reasons: 1) our government is pursuing a suicidal austerity policy, leading to higher unemployment, cuts to public services, and economic stagnation 2) system-wide de-leveraging by banks is preventing investment in jobs, 3) export markets remain weak as countries absorb the risky bets of banks.

    In short: wake the hell up!

    1. Margaret brandreth-jones says:

      There are always those outside the constraints of government legislation, due to factors us poor folks will not be able to understand, with entrepneurial expertise who manage just at the right time to take off e.g. Richard Branson

      If we have to rely on a collective to use flair and prospect in line, our best would not even have a chance. In times like these we have to buckle down and remain hopeful that talent is allowed to flourish.

      I have had enough of being kept down to keep in line with others on a personal basis . I know how counterproductive it is to fit policies bills and the rest to adhere to the slowest and worst of us. I understand what it is to be milked of 40 years work and growth to be leveled to dross . Can you imagine Greeces’ Europa being taken out of context to let the few keep us down. There is something outside money that will not let us heel and not let us use violence.

    2. anemosUK says:

      Reading your next report I have to call you an IDIOT and an IGNORANT commentator, PAPANDREOU was the worst politician ever in GREECE, the referendum he requested and you think it was a good idea was tried after the fact that he agreed to all the terms in EU and then the comment REFERENDUM EU kicked him out if you know anything about greek politics he was elected by a majority and no one can get him out SO LET YOU IGNORANCE COMMENT OTHER MATTERS leave Greece out of you comments you have ZERO knowledge

    3. Moonbeach says:

      I bet the Greeks would love to be in an economy as bad as ours!

  14. anemosUK says:

    I moved and live in UK since 11y ago, I follow the Greek politics and the Greek situation my whole life,my opinion is that very soon the people will stand up to all that unfairness, the politicians of today they are trying to save their skin, because they know that PASOK and father Papandreou was the one that started the borrowing and spending in a wild propaganda to establish PASOK like Hitler did in Germany they wanted to be the immortals, and they manage to go on and on for more that 20 years in power,today’s Minister of Economy Venizelos belongs to that group, and they know where is the money he knows very well that if they let power go they will all go to jail or be killed, they like to call what is happening in Athens these days “Hooliganism” they don’t want to admit that there many people that agree of what is happening, and every time these uprisings start they pray that they will overthrow the regimes that are now in the government, but of course no one dares to admit it and as for the Minister of the Police he can’t be bothered how many shops burn or how many will die or injure,unfortunately Greece is on the Road of no return

    1. Vindice says:

      One thing we can say in Papandreou’s favour: at least he wanted to hold a referendum on the IMF’s brutal austerity policy. But, of course, he was forced down from this position – by his finance minster, amongst others.

      Now the Greek people no longer have a say in the future direction of their country. And, ruled over by a former central banker, Papademos, they will be pulled – kicking and screaming – ever further into the belly of the Euro beast.

      No referendum. No elected leader. No opposition. Totalitarian democracy now rules over Greece.

  15. Elizabethquake says:

    In Greece we have a saying: Greece eats her own children. I left my country 10 years ago because I could not accept the levels of corruption. The smart ones got out ages ago because in order to survive in the Greek system you had to become one of them or get eaten alive. Sorry but the ones who turned a blind eye are the ones protesting. Yes the Natzis emptied our banks in WW2 and nobody talks about Germany paying reparations for the atrocities inflicted on Greeks, but we must take responsibility too. We would not have been in this mess now if during the years of prosperity and “la dolce vita” we had stopped for a fraction of a minute to ask ourselves of there was a price to pay. Or did we really think that we wouldn’t have to pay the bill?
    We allowed ourselves to be deceived by the American bling dream, only to end up being the Haiti of the Mediterranean . All we need now will be a few thousand UN “peacekeeping” troops descending on Athens together with the Troika. “Europe” is a Greek word & concept, so I don’t know what they are talking about when they talk about throwing Greece out of Europe? And to conclude we have always had a diaspora, we invented the word!!!

  16. Andy Alexander says:

    I just wanted to say that I thought your coverage on Ch. 4 news tonight (Tuesday) had a fair mix of Greek opinion on the new package–crucially focussing on the young generation that are becoming ‘lost’. Moreover, you conducted it professionally, with courtesy and a concern that is, sadly, missing in other British commentators and so-called ‘economic experts’. To the young Greeks, I have no doubts: you will survive, and Greece will rise through these challenges, even if they seem insurmountable at this time.

  17. taglet says:

    Jon, in the hullabaloo, take a look (again?) at John Ralston Saul’s ‘The Collapse of Globalism” and particularly what he writes about 1998-2000 in Malaysia.

    “At almost the same time Malaysia responded to an economic meltdown in Asia by refusing to follow the Global rules. The government pulled its currency off the market, made it nonconvertible, pegged it just low enough to favor exports, blocked the export of foreign capital, and raised tariffs.

    These measures were met by an explosion of Western moral fervor. Malaysia could not do this. Their economy would not survive. The leading international emerging-markets index expelled them. Then everyone averted their eyes from the inevitable collapse. In 1999, a short year later, that same index sheepishly readmitted Malaysia. Smarter merchant bankers began to praise the possible long-term investment advantages of pegging certain currencies in certain conditions.”

    MALAYSIANS discovered that THEIR actions in THEIR country mattered again !

  18. brightgolight says:

    It is sad that the one word that struck me when reading this blog was the “stab-in-the-back legend”. I really hope this comparison shoots way beyond the target and all the long-term austerity measures and all this blaming and shaming others does not give way to another extremist government anywhere in Europe.

  19. Neil H says:

    I have always admired the Greek people and their way of life but perhaps this outcome was inevitable. Ever since Europe embraced the single currency, the countries whose way of life doesn’t fit into the capitalist agenda of work more, produce more, seem to be struggling. It appears that the fat cats and politicians of Greece have creamed of any money that would have helped Greece to transition and survive as part of a single European economy and left the average person in dire straits. Maybe it is time for the world to wake up and realise that market growth is not going to be sustainable forever without being detrimental to the vast majority of peoples lives. Maybe then we can all learn to enjoy the important things in life as many Greek people have done in the past and build an economy that works for the 99% not the 1%. If I was Greek I would rather take my chances with a default, go back to the drachma and rebuild the economy on tourism and education than live with the imposed austerity from Brussels.

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