Beware of Greeks accepting gifts

Beware of Greeks accepting gifts

14th November 2011, Comments 4 comments

Brussels-based Scottish writer Paul Morris finds it "astonishing that it has taken European leaders so long to find out where the panic button is, far less press it."

The ancient Greek people were the true masters of the poisoned gift. In Virgil's iconic tale the Trojans ignore the suspicions of the wise priest Laocoön who warned them all: Timeo Danaos* et dona ferentis! (Beware of Greeks bearing gifts). But the Trojans, numbed by the prospect of their success in battle, ignored his advice and the rest is a tidy little nugget of history.

When the eurozone came into the lives of the Greeks in 2001, they, in turn, could not look a gift horse in the mouth. Immediately they went on a bit of a spending spree-salaries for some were even doubled on the spot. And who in their right mind would say ‘όχι' to that-though how many of the EU's great thinkers were in a similar state of mental preparedness is another question altogether. The BBC stated at the time: "Some investors have said they are worried the decision to allow Greece to join the euro will send out the wrong signal to financial markets - suggesting that in future other, weaker economies may be allowed in without complying fully with membership conditions." And so the good and the great welcomed in a country that was a late bloomer in the modern European political arena-emerging from years of civil war and military dictatorship. Rather than looking a little more closely into how the country operated the union became Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy rolled into one.

So, for decades, drachmas (the word means "a fistful") then, later, Euros have been sloshing around the Greek mainland and islands-this is a method that is surely recommended in the Little Book of Recipes For Economic Growth. Except that the one missing ingredient was a pinch of taxes (if you'll excuse the expression). I'm not one to overplay the classical themes here but what was supposed to be rendered unto Caesar was not being, well, rendered anywhere. For decades Greece has suffered from chronic tax evasion and general mismanagement. The Greeks are not alone in this but they have somehow let themselves become the bad boy of the class and are currently the holders of the big coned hat marked with a ‘D'.

At the heart of this lies a sense across Europe that there is a lack of transparency and little trust in the how, the why and the wherefore in EU affairs. As emergency summits breed faster than awful reality shows, there are promises of reengineering the euro, of closer monitoring of how member states control their national budgets and tests of how effective their economic policies are likely to be-which basically means that, if this to be feasible, further integration of the union is an absolute necessity. It is astonishing that it has taken European leaders so long to find out where the panic button is, far less press it.

Greek-debt wise, France is currently most out of pocket (EUR 41.1bn), with Germany a close second (EUR 24.5bn). No sign of China on the list, but envious European eyes are currently casting a glance eastwards as financial wizards attempt to conjure up a party trick similar to that of Chinese magician Liu Qian who can seemingly make coins pass through a glass table.

Let Greece be the starting point for a cleanup process, a return (or first time visit) to some sort of financial reality in Europe. Otherwise we are simply flogging a dead horse.

Paul Morris watch from around 3:00...

*The term for mainland Greeks.


Paul Morris is a Scottish writer, novelist and artist, based in Brussels.

4 Comments To This Article

  • Chris Hale posted:

    on 16th November 2011, 20:46:01 - Reply

    What a lot of tosh. First off it was the French Chirac who wanted Greece IN. He arranged a subterfuge of a few billion euro to be deposited with Greece. To disguise its French origin he routed the money through Goldman Sachs - then home to Papademos, Merkel's new Greek puppet.

    Yes, Greek politicians, the New Democrats did follow Chirac and cheated to get in. It was "open knowledge in Brussels."

    In exchange, the French Banks got precedence in "Greek Projects" - Piraeus Port, Thessaloniki, Athens Airport, Massive highways - What the EU Commission called, "Bringing Greece UP to EU standards." These thieves did the same in Spain, Portugal and Italy. It was rape not seen since the fall of the last Reich.

    The euro is doomed to failure. Now that France is broke and her profligate banks insolvent - Merkel has moved into the vacuum and wants her version of the 4th Reich.

    Belgium, as usual will follow who ever looks like winning. Belgium's politicians are the laughing stock of the World - if it were not for their deceit and corruption of office.

    Soon you will be happy the euro collapsed and the EU is gone to be replaced by the former Common Market - which worked.
  • Sandra posted:

    on 16th November 2011, 13:12:22 - Reply

    Well, I, for one, was shocked at the EU's inclusion of the donaos ferentes Greeks in the union, together with the Portuguese, Italians and even Spain, which despite a miraculous yet insecure leap into the 20th century after centuries of post Conquista inflationary penury and 4 decades of disastrous Franquismo, was still an economic question mark. Today's Greeks are not the even classic people but basically Balkans with all the question marks that implies. What was Europe thinking? and where does Europe go now? The best manoeuvre might be to let the 3rd world mentality Southern Europeans float free on some probationary basis til the crisis can be brought under control.
  • Alan posted:

    on 16th November 2011, 12:27:04 - Reply

    Well put Paul, I hope you sent a copy to Angela. I fear she hasn't consulted her Greek history book!
  • BlueSkyOfLove posted:

    on 14th November 2011, 11:45:37 - Reply

    Hi Paul
    Great post, I cannot agree more.
    And so similar to my tweet on the 1st of November:

    Greek PM calls for referendum, thus re-writing the old saying "Beware of Greeks bearing presents" to "Beware of Greeks asking for presents"!/BlueSkyOfLove/status/131430823923695616