Photo: © Petros Diveris, Eleusis, Greece, Autumn 2014
Recently there was an opinion piece in the Guardian by Joris Luyendijk titled "It’s time for Europe to turn the tables on bullying Britain". In this particular piece Luyendijk calls for a reversal of the European policy of appeasement of Britain, and its ridiculous demands for "reforms", which really mean the abandonment of some of the core tenets of the union, such as human rights, and tackling what the neo-liberals call "red tape" (such as health and safety regulations governing the workplace). The writer opens the article with the observation that at a time when the European Union "faces the worst and most dangerous crisis since its creation" not only "is Britain refusing to help, it is actually using this historic moment of weakness to extract “concessions” from its fellow members."
I don't know much about Joris Luyendijk, apart from the fact that he has written a book called "Swimming with Sharks: My Journey Into the World of the Bankers", and that he used to write for the Guardian's "Banking Blog". It certainly appears that he represents all the things that are supposedly good about Europe: people, society, and even manufacturing above banks and the world of transactions; tolerance, inclusion and social justice. Of course that's as far from the reality of today's Europe as it could be. If Britain is like a pit bull then the EU is simply a bull, for is it not true that as Greece faces its worst and most dangerous crisis since 1974, the EU is not only bullying the newly impoverished state, is not only seeking to extract “concessions”, but it is also presiding over the looting of the country, which is now no more than a protectorate (take as an example the German acquisition of the Greek airports, virtually at gunpoint).
The mighty EU took the Greeks to the negotiation chamber and humiliated them. They made good use of new and old members of the union as henchmen, most notably Slovakia, Poland and Estonia. The argument was that if they are poorer or as poor, then who are you to complain? Then the refugee crisis became the issue of the day and Germany, the de facto leader of the "union", expressed its open arms policy towards the refugees.
Germany opened up its borders, only to swiftly close them within a week. It took just the attacks in Paris and the curious NYE incident in Cologne for the German and European public opinion to revert back to normal, the European normal being naturally "it's not my problem", sprinkled with bigotry and a determination to ignore the root cause of any problem. Let's not forget that France has made an absolute mint out of the crisis by closely following the UK in its sales of weapons to the Saudi kingdom. But, even if there weren't any attacks, the trusted henchmen had already made it clear that they would not take any refugees, or they would only take so many; in Slovakia's case they'd have to be Christians as well. That's the kind of solidarity you get when you use one member state as a bully against another .
The kind of Europe Mr. Luyendijk is attempting to defend from the "bullying" Brits is simply one of the same. It's the kind of Europe which presided over the fire sale of the Greek banks to US and Canadian vulture funds. Essentially the European taxpayers have committed their billions to benefit invisible investors who prey on distressed debt. Bad Greek loans were sold to specialised debt recovery companies, the same kind of companies that have made thousands of Spaniards homeless, even though no one wants to buy the repossessed properties. This transaction was not just blessed by the EU, it was brutally enforced on Greece by its European "partners". The interventions of the gang of three - the ECB, the IMF and the Eurogroup - are countless. The three vultures are having a party over the bloodied body of a fellow country for no reason other than blood itself. There is nothing left to salvage in Greece now: all the measures demanded are killing the country by design. I suspect that the term Troika was concocted by Wolfgang Schäuble, perhaps as some sort of recognition of his earlier savagery in DDR with Treuhand: the calling card of a serial brute. Then as now it is the victims of Schäuble's policies that have to fund their own destruction, a scheme first devised not by Schäuble but the Nazis.
Greece is already finished in people's minds and in the corridors of power in the EU. The nation has now been reduced to a vassal state, only useful for enforcing those kinds of policies which allow the foreign lords to extract more profit. The Greek parliament has to have its decisions validated by the Troika or they are void. Surely that's illegal? But we are now well into an era of market extremism and authoritarianism in which such trivialities can be cast aside. As Greece finds itself condemned, Turkey gets awarded over € 3 billion, apparently to put a final stop to its bad habit of producing and smuggling refugees. But everybody knows that Turkey is partially responsible for the millions of refugees due to their support of "moderate" jihadists(!), and their ultimate goal of resurrecting the Ottoman empire (primarily to rob some of Syria's and Iraq's oil). Of course nobody expected that Turkey would do anything at all in return for this unexpected present, and why should they? Instead, Germany, Austria, Denmark and others are pointing the finger at Greece. Specifically they claim that the battered country is not doing enough to stem the flow of refugees.
Mr. Luyendijk seems to be defending an institution that's indefensible, for we all know that you cannot stop 60 people in a dinghy with water up to their knees mid-sea, and perhaps try to send them back, not without injuring or killing them. Send them back where anyway? Should the Greek navy engage in hostilities with the Turkish one over the bodies of the refugees? The Austrian interior minister who had the audacity to claim that the Greeks have a formidable navy and so they have no excuse is not talking out of ignorance. The minister represents the new normal in Europe, the nasty kind of politician who attacks an entire nation for not being capable of doing something they themselves cannot do: shoot the refugees. Johanna Mikl-Leitner isn't the only dehumanised European around. Just read the readers' comments under any article about Greece: slashing and burning a country seems to be the new normal response to fiscal worries for an ever-increasing number of indignant sofa moralists. These comments alone would put any decent person off defending the EU.
As of last month, and at the insistence of the EU, Greece has had to accept foreign troops in the country, in the form of Frontex. Frontex's presence in Greece is of course the coup de grâce for what was once known as the Hellenic Republic, but what's most troubling is that Frontex is focusing more on disrupting the volunteers' support networks than rescue missions. Combined with calls to expel Greece from Schengen, a disturbing pattern is emerging here. After Greece was forcibly turned into a periphery, and its people to 2nd-class European citizens, now the entire country is destined to serve as a gigantic camp for refugees. This kind of development goes far beyond economic "orthodoxies" and Europe's "it's not my problem" attitude: it's actually hostile and vindictive and flies in the face of what the EU supposedly stands for. What kind of Europe is one which will turn all the Greeks have left, their beautiful country, into a camp? Is Mr. Luyendijk sure that the Brits should have any reason to stay in this brutal schoolyard with its bullies? I suppose that what the writer really meant, and in a truly European way couldn't quite say, is that Europe needs saving. We don't need a hardened EU with an attitude, what we really need is to salvage this benevolent monster before a certain Dr. Schäuble finishes it off. If we don't change tack then we may well see blood in Europe's streets.