Greece. The great refugee crisis in Europe was on its way at the beginning of the year; almost half a million people, according to the EU, moved to Greece from Turkey in the last quarter of 2015. Almost everyone wanted to continue north, but when other countries began to close their borders, many remained. In March, an agreement was signed that allowed the EU to send migrants back to Turkey, for compensation. The EU also decided that Greece would receive millions of euros in aid to cope with the situation. But the agreement worked poorly and in the autumn there were still close to 60,000 refugees in temporary camps or reception facilities in Greece, often in very difficult conditions.
According to countryaah, the current population of Greece is 10,423,065. The crisis put a strain on the already strained Greek economy. The eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed in principle in May that Greece would receive some form of debt relief, although no details were nailed. But in order to continue to pay out the emergency loans that were put in view, the government had to continue to enforce painful austerity measures. Strikes and demonstrations took place against plans for reduced pensions and increased taxes, although protests gradually subsided.
Towards the end of the year, it was reported that the economy grew during the second and third quarters of the year and that the country thus left the recession. During the year as a whole, growth was still expected to be negative, but the outlook looked better for 2017. The Greek economy has steadily shrunk since the crisis was triggered in 2008, with the exception of a short break in 2014. Nearly half a million Greeks were estimated to have emigrated, not least because of unemployment, which at the end of the year was still the highest in the EU and was above 23%. Government debt was still above 180% of GDP. In December, the euro zone approved some debt relief for Greece, although it was at a significantly lower level than the IMF requested.
Despite the difficult situation, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was re-elected leader of the Syriza Left Party at a party congress in October with close to 94% of the vote. A few weeks later he reshaped the government, apparently in an attempt to show continued determination with the reform work in order to keep the lenders in a good mood.
Against all expectations, 61.3% of Greeks on 5 July voted no to the EU dictate. A few days ago, the country went into suspension on its repayments to the IMF, which, however, commented on the situation by stating that Greece will not have an economic future unless its debt is written down. Something the EU and the ECB has flatly rejected. The day after the vote, the Prime Minister will fire his Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, whom the EU has previously declared not to negotiate with. He is replaced at the post by Euclid Tsakalotos.
The referendum gave the Syriza government a strong mandate for the EU, but the government stood with its back to the wall, without having prepared any plan B to deal with the EU’s steep position, for example. to withdraw from the euro and reintroduce its own currency – or possibly completely leaving the EU. The latter had no immediate popular mandate, but the first was an opportunity. Without alternatives (which it may wish to use), the government ends up completely capitulating to the EU and the ECB, proposing an economic dictate that implies that it is the EU and the ECB that must have control over the Greek finances, and not the elected government. The surrender is causing open rebellion in Syriza, and on July 15, the government will accept Parliament’s acceptance of the EU’s dictatorship by 3 Syrian ministers. So do 39 members of the party’s parliamentary group. Including the powerful parliamentarian, Zoe Konstantopoulou. The EU dictate is only passed in parliament because the bourgeois opposition votes. The Prime Minister will strike again quickly. On July 17, he transforms his government and sends his opponents out into the cold. Three days later, the country’s banks can reopen. The IMF continues to oppose the EU’s tough course towards Greece. On 30 July, the Fund declares that it will not participate in any EU-Greece agreement as long as the EU refuses to write down its debt. The IMF openly declares that the EU dictate will make the economic situation in Greece even worse.
On August 19, the German parliament for the EU’s dictatorship votes for Greece. According to thereligionfaqs, the next day, the ECB sends money back to Greece – which is immediately used to repay overdue loans to the ECB. The day after, Tsipra’s election prints. Syriza is blown up. In any case, the left has been protesting that the party has turned in the same course as Pasok 35 years earlier. Back then, Pasok was the left wing before embarking on the trend toward becoming a neoliberal party. The September parliamentary elections only saw a slight decline for Syriza, who gained 145 seats against 149 in January. The Syriza-ANEL government could therefore continue. Although many Greeks were against the country’s knees to the EU, they saw no alternative to Syriza. The left wing that broke out of Syriza had formed the Popular Unity party in August. It then had 25 mandates, but did not even reach the 3% barricade limit at the September elections. The victor of the election was the Liberal Center Union, which advanced 9 seats. The fascist Golden Dawn advanced 1 mandate and received 6.99% of the vote. It thus became Parliament’s 3rd largest party.
In November, the country’s unions conducted a 24-hour general strike against the severe cuts. Surprisingly, Syriza joined the strike, arguing that the party was opposed to cuts and pension reform – even though it was the party itself that helped vote the European dictatorship through in parliament.
In parallel with the country’s deep economic and political crisis, a refugee crisis exploded in the Mediterranean, with hundreds of thousands of refugees arriving in the Greek islands on the run from the wars in Syria and Afghanistan. Despite agreements in the EU that the Union should assist the recipient country (Greece) in accepting the huge number of refugees, no help came from it. While the rich central and northern European countries closed in on themselves in anxiety and xenophobia, UNHCR, MSF, volunteers from around the world and Greek authorities with scarce resources had to deal with the refugee situation. In April 2016, they unexpectedly received help from the Catholic pope who visited Lesbos, the main refugee route for boat refugees. The pope criticized EU policy and granted 12 (Muslim) refugees asylum in the Vatican.
In February 2016, the UN Independent Experts on Impact of Foreign Debt concluded that the long-term cuts and crisis policies in the country since 2010 had seriously deprived the population of their social and economic rights and contributed to widespread severe poverty. The government continued through 2016 the neoliberal cutbacks policy: pensions were reduced, taxes raised and government funds transferred to a privatization fund.