(09e) Greek stories: Today

Here I will discuss how Greece has changed from its early days we still admire to what is happening at this moment. Of course, many Greeks are not to blame, but still ... . It will also show how much Europe changed within a very short time. It starts with the release of Mr Vaxevanis, ordered by the Greek Court, showing that not the whole of the country is corrupt. What is the story?


Mr Vaxevanis is a Greek Journalist who, according to his account, was arrested by a large police force as if he was one of Greece most important criminals. What was his crime? He did what every self-respecting journalist would do: he published a list he discovered containing more than 2000 names of high-earning Greeks who had failed to pay taxes because their money is on an HSBC-account in Switzerland and they didn't declare this money. He was arrested on charges of breach of privacy (in an earlier article I wrote that the only time journalists should publish about someones privacy is to expose criminal activity or corruption).

Two years ago, Mrs Christine Lagarde, then French finance minister and currently head of the IMF (International Monetary Funds), gave the list to the Greek government, as she also did to governments in her own country France, Germany, Spain and Italy. These lists contained names of important people who allegedly avoided paying taxes. It seems all except the Greek government acted and revenues were accrued. The Greek government, however, decided to keep the list hidden until Mr Vaxevanis wrote about it in his investigative magazine Hot Doc after which he was arrested on charges for breaching privacy laws. I wonder why the government kept the list if they didn't want it to be used? Maybe they thought that one day they could use it to control some people? The arrest was also a warning for other journalists not to publish about fraudulent rich people. And it seems it worked because few if any other newspapers reported this in Greece, while foreign newspapers wrote about it. In the end the Greek court found Mr Vaxevanis not guilty on the charges.

It shows a serious threat to democracy in Greece when the press and Parliament no longer publish about and speak against corruption (although I read that Parliament started to question the behaviour of the finance ministers). Democracy had its birthplace in Greece because people had enough of tyrants ruling Athens, and up to our days we acknowledge the Greek civilisation for the introduction of democracy, philosophy, art and sciences, although some of those who claim to be "real Greek" probably do not agree with this and probably only mourn Greece lost its "real" power. Much of the press in Greece is now owned by magnates (as it is in other countries); I thought this would help the independence of newspapers and thus democracy, but it seems I was wrong. Even international media magnates want to influence power, not expose its dangers when those dangers are in their own interests. They should know their real power is in informing people correctly.
Throughout the centuries, people continued to admire the achievements of ancient Greece. An example is this painting of Paris and Helen (from Troy), painted by Jacques-Louis David in 1788, more than 2000 years after the story was written and almost 3000 years after the event happened.
There is more evidence Greek democracy is under threat. There is evidence of police violence against protesters (sometimes necessary during protests when the police is attacked but that should not happen after arrests are made unless the arrested misbehave). People told they were stripped and beaten although the police denies this happened while there are some videos showing the improper behaviour of the police (should the police not response by saying they will investigate these claims?). It seems Golden Dawn, (Greek extreme right political party) infiltrated the police (those in the police should know that when extreme right becomes too powerful they may one day fight against them to control them unless Golden Dawn will become the party in government and then the police have to obey them, as in the time of the military dictatorship, a low time in the history of Greece).

Golden Dawn not only infiltrated the police, they also won 18 seats in the Greek Parliament during the last elections. Above this, they use and promote violence against immigrants and other minority groups and even against other MPs during television interviews and against journalists. To win votes, they give meals to those who lost so much during this financial crisis. Why do I not hear more condemnation from the Greek government? Why does the Greek Court not interfere when people are attacked? I understand the anger of people against a failing government, certainly when people become poor. But people should know that voting for an aggressive extremist party and tolerating their violence will not be a solution. Those who do not take those people serious can fall ones they are in power, because then they no longer need to be nice to people to gain votes.

And why are the EU and IMF silent? Both the EU and IMF demand many sacrifices from the Greek in order to give financial help. Thus, should the EU and IMF not ask the Greek government why they didn't investigate the suggestions of possible fraud (it may even raise their profiles in Greece). Did Greece take no action because many people on the list are friends of politicians and lawyers? Or because the list can be used one day to control powerful people? Because that would suggest a corrupt Greek government. Can the EU and IMF tolerate corruption when they give so much money? I don't say Greece should not be helped but here there is a strong case to demand an investigation. If the EU and IMF don't ask clarification from the Greek government, then I think they can no longer demand more sacrifices from ordinary people. It would also suggest, in my opinion, that even politicians at the EU and IMF became corrupt and protect powerful people against paying taxes.

Concerning the attitude of the EU towards Golden Dawn and the behaviour of the police, I remember a time when Europe would make a stance against extremism (extreme right) in Austria and France while there was less evidence of organised use of violence. In the Netherlands, one was upset with Mr Pim Fortuyn while he never spoke about the use of force against others including immigrants, only about respect for others and obedience to the Dutch law (for this he was murdered). Now it seems there is a much larger threat in Greece because violence is openly used, and it seems to me the European politicians are silent, although I understand their focus is mainly on stimulating the European economy and some countries. Nevertheless, Europe should speak out and warn for the consequences when people allow that such a dangerous party can use violence and become a political power (but I think democracy should always be defended, even when that means people suffer because of the choices they made while it is not defensible when people suffer from a system that is not elected). One of the consequences can be that no longer help is given and thus that the people will suffer even more (although then probably even more people may vote for extreme parties). Has the fear for a collapse of the Euro become so large that all other things become unimportant, even human rights? At the same time, governments have to try to manage problems people experience.

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