Prices rise for Greek consumers
This Monday a rise in VAT will increase the price of many consumer goods in Greece. The step is part of the austerity package that the parliament last week agreed to implement in return for fresh financial aid. Some commentators criticise that politicians are openly distancing themselves from the reforms and further radicalising the population. Others find it ludicrous that Athens is supposed to pretend it is embarking on this course of its own free will.
Athens politicians stir up citizens' anger
Greece's politicians don't really support the reforms stipulated in the new bailout programme and will hardly be able to implement them, the conservative daily Naftemporiki concludes: "Although the prime minister sees the programme as the best option for the country right now, he says at the same time that he has signed a programme he doesn't believe in. So we can already foresee that hardly any of the terms of the third austerity memorandum will be implemented! The majority of political forces in Greece describe this phase of adjustment as something destructive that is being imposed on the country by external forces. This is creating a climate of persecution and defeatism in Greek society, instead of providing a real vision of adjustment to the world's most progressive countries. The citizens will become even more radicalised."
Europe becomes an economic boarding school
The agreement between Greece and its creditors concludes with the words: "The ownership by the Greek authorities is key." For the centre-left daily Tages-Anzeiger the fact that the term "ownership" is now being used by politicians speaks volumes: "[It] means that the Greek government must recognise the negotiated agreement as its own creation: an agreement that repeals laws that have already been passed, makes all new laws subject to EU, IMF and ECB approval, and prescribes extensive austerity measures and privatisation. … The new word fits in perfectly with the language of the austerity policy. The latter's goals are formulated in corporate jargon: structural reforms, consolidation, programmes, while the actions are school speak: homework, detention, discipline, rules and slimming programmes - right down to IMF chief Christine Lagarde's call for adults to be around the negotiating table. Europe was an idea. Now it's an economic boarding school."
German discipline kills romantic European ideal
While Greece is doing its homework Germany is seizing the opportunity to remodel Europe in its own likeness, the liberal daily Dennik N fears: "Everyone must believe that Angela Merkel, as the architect of a new order in Europe, knows what she's doing. She will no doubt do everything in her power to preserve the Eurozone. The first step is to push through budget rules and structural reforms, using brute force if necessary. The idea being that economic recovery will restore trust and pave the way to a mythical political union. … But is it possible to restore trust through enforced discipline? … Won't this course unite the Eurosceptics, nationalists and left-wing radicals in their revolutionary battle against the system? … In any case the future Europe will be a different Europe. The romantic dream of a never completed project is being replaced by a perfect set of rules."
Less finger-pointing and more self-criticism
The Swedes should stop pointing the finger at the "wasteful Greeks", warns the social democratic daily Aftonbladet, noting that self-criticism would be more appropriate: "For some reason we see the bailouts for the Greeks as far worse than the bailouts for the banks. Yet we forget that we ourselves are one of Europe's most indebted nations. Our public finances are stable, but Sweden's private households are nothing like thrifty 'Swabian housewives' [but have huge debts, particularly in mortgages]. … We are also overlooking the fact that those who lend money also bear responsibility. Was it really okay to bombard Greece with billions in cheap loans? Don't Europe's banks have any sense of responsibility? We cling to the view that the euro crisis is a crystal-clear affair. … No one wants to look the uncomfortable incomprehensibility of the global financial system in the eye."