As Greece enters its third year of recession, media attention surrounding the crisis has remained fixated on the possibility of a Greek default. Meanwhile, markets around the world have oscillated uncontrollably as various European heads of states continue to negotiate the first installment of the €110bn rescue package, with eurosceptics and bankrollers alike already proclaiming the failure of the whole ‘European project’ altogether.
Elsewhere, key eurozone players, such as Angela Merkel’s government, have demonstrated a reluctance and at times outright aversion to Greece’s distress call – it is clear that such a bailout is one that comes with immense risks, notably at a time where most European governments are undertaking tough measures in order to reign in public expenditure and maintain economic recovery.
Yet with its sovereign debts elevating at 160% of its GDP, George Papandreaou’s government has had to force through the toughest of European austerity measures, under the mentorship of the European Union (or as some would argue, Angela Merkel’s terms) and the dreaded IMF. Measures have included the privatisation, liberalisation and selling off of key infrastructures, public services and assets, to a major downsizing of the national budget, finalised by an increase in taxation. And while, private commercial and banking groups were only too willing to profit from such an “auctioning”, millions of Greek citizens have felt the effects.
Despite scenes of turmoil and discontent on the streets of Athens, birthplace of democracy, the voice of the people has been seen as a mere irritation for European and Private sector financiers. According to Marina Economou, writer for the Journal of Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, depression and suicide rates have increased sharply throughout the course of 2009 and 2010.
Similarly, the livelihoods of many have seen profound degradation; from the case of a 47 year old deputy company director whose redundancy in late 2010 led to her spending nights on the streets of Athens, to that of a 26 year old student, whose fruitless search for employment has ingrained sentiments of insecurity, fear and stress over the future.
Economou explains that, as well as the loss of one’s salary or failure to gain employment, it is an entire social structure that is collapsing, thus symbolising the abrupt destruction of personal identities and livelihoods– a process that is repeated and experienced by millions of Greeks.
With such anxiety and discontent persisting over ever increasing unemployment rates, the lowering of salaries and the continuing repossessing of livelihoods – it seems notable that the world of the protagonist markets, decision makers and the mass media, all remain fixated by the terms and conditions of Europe’s rescue package.