Posted tagged ‘Greece’

Euroangst

May 8, 2011

As the article in yesterday’s Irish Times by Professor Morgan Kelly of University College Dublin demonstrates, there is now growing scepticism as to whether the EU/IMF ‘bailout’ of Ireland is sustainable, and whether the debt levels taken on by the Irish taxpayer can possibly ever be discharged. Just as we are facing up to this, we learn that the Greek bailout has run into trouble, and that talks are under way on the possible restructuring of Greece’s debts. In this setting it may or may not be the case  - depending on whether you believe the claims and/or the denials – that Greece is contemplating leaving the Euro. A further ingredient in this unstable cocktail is the impact of all of this on the Euro’s exchange rate, which right now is at wholly unrealistic levels.

If public confidence in Ireland and elsewhere in the European response to the debt crises is to be maintained or restored, the terms of the bailouts need to be re-assessed. This is all the more important because the curtain on the really big shows has not yet been raised; I am not just referring to Spain, but also to Italy, where there are major (and so far largely undiscussed) financial issues. The suggestion that the Greeks, the Irish and the Portuguese are being sacrificed in order to save the larger Mediterranean countries could yet produce explosive results.

For the moment all the talk is about banks, debts, currency and budgets. Bubbling under, but not yet explicit, there could be a much trickier discussion about the nature, purpose and ethos of the European Union. The financial issues need to be addressed and the impact on the countries affected so far needs to be re-assessed in order to avoid much more fundamental problems for the whole European project. That project must be shown to be about something more than just protecting the balance sheets of German banks. There is much at stake.

Greek tragedy? No, it’s not inevitable

September 26, 2010

This post is coming to you from a hotel lobby in Athens. I have spend the last two days in Greece to take part in a meeting on higher education reform hosted by the Greek Prime Minister, and this has also given me an opportunity to see how the country is coping with its particular crisis. And the answer is, really rather well. The phase of public anger and unrest appears to be over, and people are, at least as I found them, fairly determined to get on with it and find a way out of the recession.

As we all know, what the Greeks have had to deal with is much worse than what we have faced in Ireland, and yet they are far less focused on the blame game and far more single minded about how they can secure a recovery. In short, there is far less complaining and whining than there is in Ireland. To be honest, this has been something of a welcome relief from the ever-present negativity that is so dragging us down in Ireland right now. I am not saying we have nothing to complain about, but nursing all these grievances is doing absolutely nothing for us, apart perhaps from raising the cost of the national debt.

Every time I say something like this I get hostile emails and letters, but I genuinely think it is time to let go of all the anger and get on with working for something better. What Ireland needs more than anything else is confidence. Let’s go for that!


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