Society is really sticking together. That has also to do with the Greek values. The families support their own. The villages embrace their most vulnerable members, the neighbourhood the same, the church plays an important role. On the other hand, the rules of the market are put by the biggest player. The biggest player used to be the state. That is not the case anymore. Economic problems can be resolved, but if the economic crisis turns to a social crisis it can throw us back 30 years.
How thin is the surface of civilization?
Constantakopoulos: I don’t know how thin it is, but it is definitely ice. We need structural reforms, but on the other hand we also need growth. Now it is the sixth year of recession - or should I say depression? too much. A recession is when your neighbour loses his house. A depression is where you lose your house.
Does Greece need less austerity?
Stergiou: What I am really personally worried about is the European pragmatism. That is if the people in Brussels could not foresee the problems of over-indebted countries? Had we caught the problem earlier, as in the case in preventive medicine, we would not be where we are today. If Brussels with all its controls and regulations was unable to do foresee what was going to happen, then I am deeply worried about what is going on in Brussels.
The second piece is: Just like if one has cancer, and I think right now Greece has been diagnosed with a cancer - so, what do you do? You turn to the best doctor. he gives the right treatment, and assures a good prognosis. Again, all that Brussels has not made sure of. What is going to happen with Italy? Greece right now has been sort of a trial and error approach of austerity. But speaking medically, the treatment plan had dire, severe side effects. So the stage was set for extremists. You have the right-wing party „golden sunrise“ with roots in the Greek junta and ideals from Germany’s dark age of fascist Nazism.
That is gaining momentum - not because Greeks are right-wing, but out of despair. This is something that frightens me a lot, because things can get out of hand very quickly. You can also have extreme left-wing-groups, also tingled with nationalism. It can very quickly turn into turmoil. Things will not improve if Brussels doesn’t get a wake-up call—unless we really find the right treatment plan. What Greece needs is sufficient time for adjustment and a realistic financial plan to overcome this cancer. Give US some more time to implement changes. We Greeks are a proud people and do not like the idea relying on bailouts and political decision-making while our economy is devastated. Support us with dignity.
Germany is not in the position to teach. Germany won’t evolve like Greece at all, but it will have the same symptoms. Our society doesn’t stick together—we don’t have these family ties or strong churches. Our whole identity comes from the wealth the nation had in the 1960s and 1970s.