Greek politics: checking the facts

What Greece has actually done to tackle the crisis

Author: Axel Troost

With support from Marica Frangakis of the EuroMemo Group

ONLINE-Publication 11/2017 published by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung

Download the document here.

Preliminary remarks by the author:

Public opinion in Germany about 'the Greeks' - hunches, myths and half-truths

Following the parliamentary elections of October 2009, the newly elected Greek government under Prime Minister George Papandreou put the budget deficit for 2009, in other words the new debt incurred in that year, at more than 12% of the country’s GDP. This ‘political capitulation’ is regarded - at least in foreign eyes - as the start of the Greek economic and financial crisis.

Whereas up to that point Greece had been regarded by the German public as an idyllic holiday destination, overnight it became a crisis-ridden country full of artful dodgers and creative accountants that attracted torrents of derision, polemics and rancour from German politicians and media. The following article highlights some of these alleged truths about ‘the Greeks’ that have been loudly proclaimed and are still persistently being peddled today. It then examines them objectively in order to establish how true they actually are.

As vice-chair of the Left and finance spokesman of its parliamentary group in the Bundestag, I established close contacts with Greece following the emergence of SYRIZA - the Coalition of the Radical Left - and particularly with the Greek government under Alexis Tsipras. In this context, I have repeatedly informed our Greek comrades of the widespread views in Germany about ‘the Greeks’, and I have closely examined any critique of ‘conditions in Greece’ that did not seem altogether implausible or that appeared to match my own experience. Needless to say, this scrutiny revealed that there is both light and shade in Greece. In so doing, however, I became keenly aware of the missionary zeal with which certain interested circles in German politics, in business and in the media, keep circulating tendentious portrayals, distorting facts and even slanderous statements.

The intention of this paper is to counteract these fake news, without putting a gloss on anything, and to gather facts which must be presented all the more systematically in today’s allegedly post-truth era. For much of the information, I have relied on sources close to the Greek government and the Greek authorities. My thanks go to Giorgos Voudouris, Nikos Erinakis, Ilias Kostarakos, Evgenia Beniatoglou, Panagiota Boura, Nikos Briskolas and Marika Fragkaki.

I am glad to say that this paper is not the first attempt to counteract depreciative clichés and preconceptions about Greece. At the end you will find a list of sources and portrayals of ‘conditions in Greece’ that are certainly worth reading.

Axel Troost, April 2017


Assertions and facts regarding the economic and financial situation in Greece

ASSERTION 1: ‘Greece is unreformable. All attempts to reform the country have come to naught.’

ASSERTION 2: ‘The Greeks have not yet made sufficient expenditure cuts.’

ASSERTION 3: ‘Tsipras keeps trying to short-change international donors at the bargaining table. Greece is delaying the promised reforms with every means at its disposal.’

ASSERTION 4: ‘The wealthy in Greece never seriously paid taxes in the past. This has not changed significantly; not even under the government of Alexis Tsipras.’

ASSERTION 5: ‘The self-employed are virtually being crushed by the Tsipras government’s new taxes and driven into undeclared work.’

ASSERTION 6: ‘Pensions in Greece are still too high and totally out of proportion.’

Closing remarks: the need for a pro-European development strategy

Additional sources of critique on issues concerning Greece


EuroMemorandum 2018

Can the EU still be saved? The implications of a multi-speed Europe


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