Image via Wikipedia
The Greek coalition government claimed that it will stand by the new debt agreement. That deal reportedly has Greece cutting 15,000 government jobs and lowering the minimum wage by some 20 percent. Defense will be sliced another 300 billion euros. A senior Greek economic official said the Greek people had to choose between bad and worse. The government, however, may lack the political will. Over the last two weeks several politicians have quit the coalition and both far left and far right political groups say that they reject austerity (i.e., austerity budgets in order to meet lenders’ demands). However, rejecting budgets cuts and defaulting on loans could mean Greece will leave the Euro-zone and suffer even more lost jobs.
This cycle has been going on for over four years. The Greek economic crisis deepens. Creditors and economic modernizers demand reform. The Greek government debates reform and occasionally shows the political will to implement it. Implementation requires budget-cutting (austerity) in order to reduce debt and begin systemic economic restructuring. Populist politicians, however, blame foreign interests, conspiratorial capitalists, and other sinister forces. Street demonstrations break out, with anarchists and socialists and Communists and various flavors of rightists confronting the police and posturing for global media.
Meanwhile, European Union leaders worry that Greek default will lead to other euro-zone government defaults (Portugal, Spain, Italy, and perhaps Ireland). Lurking behind the fiscal worry is deep concern for political instability and spreading violence –conditions ripe for exploitation by political extremists.
This cycle started in Fall 2008 when riots in Greece led Greece to be described as an "economic Balkan powder keg" and Athens is a "war zone." That's a hyperbole-- but Greece's high unemployment rate and rising poverty level signal a society with deeply embedded problems. Some 40 to 50 buildings burned in Athens which is impressive but that still doesn’t rate as war zone-level destruction. However, failing to choose bad (harsh austerity) in 2008 has led to worse in 2012.
February 11, 2012: The Turkish government’s long-running Ergenekon conspiracy investigation is drawing increasing domestic and international scrutiny and condemnation. The Ergenekon charges have also become more byzantine. Critics of the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) allegations have started calling Ergenekon The Inquisition. This alludes to the Spanish Inquisition, of course, and has historical traction. In 1480 the Spanish government (a monarchy) decided it would enforce Christian orthodoxy or at least what it considered to be orthodoxy. Jews and Muslims were supposed to become Christians or leave Spain. The implication is that the AKP, which calls itself a moderate Islamist organization, is using the Ergenekon conspiracy to eliminate its political opponents or enforce its political Islamist orthodoxy and create a one-party state. For its part, the AKP government claims it is fighting a deep state that ties shady businesses to the Turkish military. What all sides agree upon is that scores of people, many of them military officers or retired military officers, are being held without charges. Some AKP leaders have also made increasingly wild and bizarre allegations, which is often a sign that the real case is weak. For example, a senior AKP leader recently declared that Ergenekon connected to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and French president Nicolas Sarkozy. The politician used the term Neocon-Ergenekon. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a reputation for being a very savvy politician, but he recently made the mistake of getting into a rather direct media debate with an American writer. Currently over 100 Turkish journalists are in jail, put there by the government. Some of the jailed reporters are being investigated for having connections with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Kurdish rebel and terrorist group, not for Ergenekon. However, the American writer accused the government, with a lot of justification, of abridging freedom of speech. Meanwhile, Turkish media which tends to support the AKP are attacking prosecutors who want to get testimony from Turkey’s senior spy, Hakan Fidan, who is undersecretary for Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT). Fidan is a political ally of Erdogan. The pro-government media does not want Fidan harassed by judicial investigators, which is a complete reversal of their editorial stance on Ergenekon. Critics of the AKP now claim that the pro-AKP media are hypocrites and that the AKP government is building its own deep state.
February 10, 2012: Spanish security personnel in the city of Valencia arrested Luka Bojovic. Bojovic is allegedly involved in the 2003 assassination of Serb prime minister Zoran Djindjic. He is also a suspect in some 20 other murders.
February 9, 2012: The Greek government indicated that it will propose new austerity measures in order to receive a $171 billion loan. Greek labor unions said that they would call a 48 hour-long strike if the government recommended further budget cuts. Other opponents of austerity measures called for a social uprising. Greece’s unemployment rate is around 20 percent.
February 8, 2012: Members of Turkey’s main opposition political party, the Republican Peoples Party (CHP), took control of the parliament’s rostrum in order to protest actions by the ruling party, the AKP, that the CHP claimed are intended to breach laws protecting free speech and freedom of the press. The CHP parliamentarians accused the government of attempting to silence opponents.
February 6, 2012: Romanian prime minister Emil Boc resigned after three weeks of protests against his government’s austerity budget. Romania’s new ruling coalition recommended that Mihai Razvan Unvureanu serve as prime minister. Unvureanu heads Romania’s intelligence service. Boc had recommended several tough measures. He wanted to cut public sector pay by 25 percent and reform the pension system. Unvureanu vowed to continue economic reforms.
February 1, 2012: France has, for the moment, decided to let passions cool. The French parliament recently passed a bill which made it a criminal act to deny that genocides had been committed. Turkey believed that the new law was directed at it. The issue is the Ottoman Turk massacre of Armenians during World War One. It happened, but Turkey argues that it was a mutual slaughter in the middle of a war and did not constitute genocide. Moreover, republican Turkey is not the Ottoman Empire; Turkish nationalists revolted against the Sultan’s government, the one responsible for World War One. The French law makes denying that the massacre constituted as genocide a crime. The Turkish government called the new law racist. France, after mulling over the Turkish reaction, has decided to refer the law to its constitutional council (high court) for a ruling on its constitutionality. Diplomats on both sides said that the new law could lead to a rift between the nations. Turkey and France are NATO allies but then so are Turkey and Greece.
January 26, 2012: Now they tell us. So how long did the Greek government succeed in hiding its deficits from the European Union? Banks, the German government, and some Greek economists are now saying the subterfuge began as early as 1992. The 1992 Maastricht Treaty stated that EU members had to keep their budget deficits to three percent of GDP or less. Greece agreed, but researchers reported that data indicates Greece was running a much higher deficit. Greece entered the Euro-zone January 1, 2001 and claimed it had a deficit of 1.5 percent of GDP. The real figure may have been 8.3 percent of GDP.
January 25, 2012: Protests against austerity measures continue in Romania. Faced with a looming budget crisis and the need to secure international loans the government has proposed hefty cuts in pay for government workers, pension reform, and cuts in social security payments. The street protests began in mid-January and have been increasing in size and intensity.
January 23, 2012: Despite European Union financial crisis, the EU looks good to Croats. In a recent national referendum sixty-six percent of Croats favored joining the EU. Thirty-three percent opposed the idea.
January 20, 2012: After 14 months of continuing political crisis Bosnian political leaders agreed to form a new government. Under the deal the prime minister will be a Bosnian Croat and the foreign minister a Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim).