A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Sunday, 3 July 2011

Thick as Thieves

Greece and the EU: thick as thieves

EU conspiracy theories follow a certain trend. There is always a reference to international markets. There is often collusion between financiers, governments, and newspapers, or some combination thereof. And, funnily enough, the conspirators are always 'Anglo-Saxon,' whether that is British or American, or both. So many of the people that govern Europe automatically put their failings - or those of their policies - down to the intervention of foreigners. They always speak of suited financiers in the skyscrapers, as if British and Americans were collectively plotting against them from their glass towers. Yet there is a real conspiracy, and it is right in front of their eyes: it is not made up of high-powered money-men in their big American muscle cars, but panicked and tired-looking Greek ministers in the parliamentary building in Athens, whose cars are currently being set on fire by hordes of angry Greek protestors waving Communist flags.

'...Greek authorities also revised the planned deficit ratio for 2009 from 3.7% of GDP (the figure reported in spring) to 12.5% of GDP...Revisions of this magnitude in the estimated past government deficit ratios have been extremely rare in other EU member States, but have taken place for Greece on several occasions' - European Commission report, ‘Greek Government deficit and debt statistics’

'The exceptional combination in Greece of lax fiscal policy, inadequate reaction to mounting imbalances, structural weaknesses and statistical misreporting led to an unprecedented sovereign debt crisis' - European Commission communication

These two quotes come from the same source - the European Commission, the EU's executive body - and were written in January and May 2010, respectively. It is hard to see how the European Union could have been so blind. Greece was blatantly cooking the books in order to gain access to the eurozone: Greek officials have since admitted it, so we know this to be true.

'The Commission has been provided with incorrect figures for six years. Indeed, part of the responsibility was on Greece, but the Eurozone also lacked the tools to notice that' - George Papandreou, Greek Prime Minister

So there you have it: there is the conspiracy. In Greece. It's tempting to say that it is all the fault of the Greeks, as it was the Greeks who choose to lie and cheat their way into the eurozone in the first place. But it is not all their fault. As the Greek Prime Minister said, the European Commission - which vets any potential eurozone members - said, the European Commission should have noticed. It did notice.

'We knew that Greece was cheating, it was clear as soon as they joined that there was something wrong' - Karel De Gucht, European Commissioner for Trade

The Greek Prime Minister has now admitted that his country's statistics that allowed it entry were false, and the Commission at the time highlighted many of these outrageous claims and yet did nothing about them - at the very least they were suspicious, and it's entirely possible that they knew. And at least one 'knew' that the figures were false, and implied that there were others - perhaps everyone else, perhaps only a few, but there were others.

Over five hundred billion pounds - half a trillion - has been allocated in order to attempt to solve this crisis, an attempt that is currently failing. And even that may not be enough. Greece is on the edge of political chaos; yet more countries may fall. You have paid hundreds of pounds in tax money over the years to sponsor this, and, as countries restructure their debts or default, you will never see that money again. We are all paying the price for the EU's colossal errors in judgement, and - most importantly - we cannot vote out the people responsible.

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