Twitter legend "The Greek Analyst" is back for his take on the latest installment of the Greek debt crisis, drama included.
"The Greek Analyst" has been analyzing and occasionally mocking Greek politics since Athens seemed poised to leave the Eurozone last year. He spoke to us about what led to the problem, how it could be fixed, Yanis Varoufakis, EU failures - and why unfortunately this Greek drama won't be over anytime soon.
DW: Mr. Greek Analyst, who are you and why the anonymity?
"The Greek Analyst" was created by chance at a very tumultuous time, right before the Greek legislative elections in January of 2015, with the intention of providing an independent and accurate view of the Greek political economy. My readership blew up at some point in the summer of 2015, right before the referendum, as everyone was interested in Greece.
Of course, the 'veil of anonymity' does not help much. But it is necessary, at a time when the Greek public sphere and government have turned vitriolic and extreme, trying to silence any and all centrist voices. My proudest twitter moment was when former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis called me a "Troika-like".
How would you explain the Greek debt crisis to someone outside of Europe?
The Greek debt crisis is a good example of what happens when political constraints and shortsightedness triumph over basic economics and long-term economic prosperity, over a long period of time. This is why the crisis has been a "perpetual" one, coming back every few months or so, with a new and craziest ‘episode’ to add in the series, rather than organically subsiding after a while.
Greece represents less than two percent of the European Union’s GDP. In effect, it has always been a perfectly solvable problem for European countries to deal with collectively in terms of economics. Yet, the lack of a strong political will (both on a domestic front, but also on an EU level) makes the equation seem repeatedly unsolvable, even when you think a solution is within a finger’s reach.
Not even watching your favorite characters dying time and time again in Game of Thrones leaves you with such a sour taste as the one derived by the repeated episodes of the Greek crisis drama.
What is your favorite Tweets describing the situation in Greece?
Now that’s a tough one! Not one tweet is good enough to encapsulate the craziness of the Greek crisis. Perhaps Tom Nuttall’s tweet of Bart Simpson covering a blackboard with the sentence: “I will not fall for unsubstantiated Greece rumours” does the trick. I think that’s a good lesson for everyone, one that we should not forget as we prepare for the new acts of the Greek crisis drama to unfold.
Would Greece have been better off it had never joined the euro?
Unequivocally not. The euro has been a blessing for the country, a blessing which, unfortunately, Greece failed spectacularly to take advantage of.
There is this myth making the rounds in Greece, but also across pseudo-academic circles abroad and Greek ex-finance ministers infamous for their large egos, leather jackets, and disastrous tenure, which wants Greece being better off had it stuck to the drachma. But this is wrong, and shows zero understanding of the Greek context and underlying structural problems that led to the Greek debt crisis in the first place.
So let me make this as clear as it can ever get: Greece was destined to face a serious economic crisis regardless of its currency. Unfettered statism, crony capitalism, corruption, complacency, populism, tax evasion, debt overdependence, economic and democratic illiberalism, all were existent and prevalent in Greece already. It was a matter of time until Greece would face a severe economic and political crisis, and not a matter of currency.
What have you learned about your country and its perception in Europe since 2010?
I have learned that Greece has a very tough time admitting to its own mistakes and indulging in any form of collective self-criticism. But the same can be said about our European counterparts since 2010: They are still unwilling to admit to their own mistakes regarding the Greek bailouts, push for haphazard policies that do not bring substantive solutions to the country, and have yet to shake off the ridiculous idea that all Greeks are lazy and deserve to be punished for their past mistakes, ad infinitum. Some self-reflection could go a long way, for all of us!
Is there an end in sight? Why (not)?
Yes and no. If the history of the Greek crisis teaches us anything, it is that the Greek drama is not over yet. Perhaps I have become more cynical after the latest act in the drama, but I believe that things will get much worse, until they get substantially better again. The Syriza-led government certainly did not take advantage of the positive turn in the economy in mid-2014, has only exacerbated the recessionary conditions in place since coming to power, and rather than implementing (and showing ownership) of structural reforms, it has begun an unstoppable over-taxation spree. To paraphrase the famous sardonic proverb: In Greece, nothing can be said to be certain, except for death, taxes, and even more taxes after you die. So, no, things do not look good in the near future. Of course, nothing is over until the fat lady sings.
What will happen to Europe if the UK votes to leave the EU?
It will be bad for Europe, but it will be even more terrible for the UK itself. The EU will certainly suffer economically. Some say the withdrawal of any country from the EU will set a negative precedent that could spiral out of control, eventually tearing the union apart. But I am not that sure. While it can certainly go that way, it might also go another: the protracted and painful negotiations that will follow the referendum, as well as the immense economic, commercial, and financial consequences that the UK will face, could perhaps be an important deterrent to rising populists across the EU looking to repeat the ‘feat’. EU leaders definitely have every incentive to make a Brexit as painful as possible for the UK.