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Opinion: Greek Youth Acting Out Against Broken System

As young Greeks continue to riot, many are wondering what exactly they want. They are fed up with the current system, says Spiros Moskovou.

Opinion graphic

In the midst of a cold winter, German friends always like to remark that “it must still be warm in Greece.” Is Greece a perpetually green, sunny paradise? Of course not!

Deep fissures have appeared in Greek's sunny weather idyll following the death of a 15-year-old student who was shot by a police officer. The shooting was followed by protests of thousands of high school and university students across the country. Anarchists and enraged teenagers rioted in a dozen large cities.

The street battles, destruction and plundering in central Athens throw a sad light on the former cradle of democracy.

Middle class anger

Spiros Moskovou

Moskovou says Greeks have lost faith in their institutions

Who is actually demonstrating against what in Greece? Is it only rebellious teenagers lashing out against police arbitrariness? There is a big difference between Greek rioters and those who took to the streets in the suburbs of Paris.

The perpetrators in Athens are not poor, but rather the offspring of the middle class. And they are protesting against hopelessness. The anarchist scene, which is always blamed after such happenings, naturally has added its own contribution.

Their wrath is directed at the battered educational system, the country's scandal-ridden politics, the official church, and the citizen-hostile police.

Crisis of institutional proportions

Greece is experiencing a never-before-seen crisis of its institutions. The two-party system is viewed as one which seeks to give itself power at the expense of the public. The church, until a few years ago a stalwart entity in society, was recently rocked by financial scandals. The educational system urgently needs basic reform. The government has tinkered with it for the past decade, but has failed again and again.

Young people, especially those who are well trained, are not happy earning a basic salary of between 600 and 700 euros ($800-900) per month.

Something is rotten in the state of Greece , that much is clear from the protests. Will the political leadership listen and at least adopted basic solutions? This is questionable.

The acting government of conservative Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis has a razor-thin parliamentary majority. and in the meantime it is more than clear that he is not capable of causing the promised reversal and the “rebirth of the government.”

The opposition party PASOK under Giorgos Papandreou does not offer a realistic alternative. It seems that the descendants of Greek's political gurus, the nephew of Konstantinos Karamanlis and the son of Andreas Papandreou, can no longer lead the country out of its economic and social crisis. A good nose for politics is not enough to clean up Athens.

Spiros Moskovou is a Greece expert and correspondent with DW-Radio’s Greek department in Bonn and a contributor to Greek weekly newspaper To Vima.

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