You are sending a link to...
Beware of the siesta states
Whatever Germany does, writes Jeff Randall in The Telegraph, the Euro as we know it is dead:
The euro has many flaws, but its weakest link is Greece, whose fundamental problem is that for years it spent too much, earned too little and plugged the gap by borrowing in order to enjoy a rich man's lifestyle. It flouted EU rules on the limits to budget deficits; its national accounts were a moussaka of minced statistics, topped with a cheesy sauce of jiggery-pokery.
The game is up for a monetary union that was meant to bolt together work-and-save citizens in northern Europe with the party animals of Club Med.
This blunt, though accurate, analysis, echoes Rod Liddle in a Sunday Times piece on 2 May that I never got around to posting:
Those recent furious protests on the streets of Athens had a rather wonderful whiff of the 1970s about them, both in the angry placards and indeed the beards and moustaches, especially the women.
It made me nostalgic for a time when we thought of the Greeks, with their colonels and their poverty, and the Spanish and the Portuguese with their puffed-up Roman Catholic fascists and their poverty, as being a semi-exotic, halfway house between the safety and stuffiness of proper Europe and the hysterical mystery and perpetual mayhem of the Third World. Strange, hot-tempered places which had absolutely nothing to do with us and were run by thoroughly nasty bastards with a liking for uniforms: Salazar, Franco, Papadopolous.
We know these countries a little better now — and lower-class people enjoy spending holidays in them, on account of the cheap flights and cheap alcohol, searing climates and recent availability of deep-fried chipped potatoes. But, if we’re honest, nothing much else has changed, has it?
The Greeks are not merely broke but reduced, officially, to junk status; the Spanish and the Portuguese are not far behind. And the Italians are waiting in the wings with their debts, their bad credit ratings, their mopeds, their ice creams and their chaos. Not so much the north of Italy, it ought to be said, but the scary south.
You wonder if southern Europe should have joined a different economic cartel, rather than being corralled into the relentlessly expansionist European Union, or EEC as it was back in 1981 when Greece joined, having offered vague promises of economic prudence with its fingers firmly crossed behind its back and a come-hither look in its eyes, like a waiter in some Faliraki restaurant approaching a 45-year-old German divorcee. A trading bloc called something like the SESSZ (Southern European Siesta and Subsidy Zone), for countries which go to sleep at 11 in the morning and unhappily rouse themselves five hours later having demanded a few billion quid just before supper for not having produced tobacco or cotton — you suspect that they might be more comfortable there, more culturally attuned.
There has been no concerted attempt by Greece to wean itself off the most enormous subsidies paid for by the grim and grey-faced denizens of the north in recent years. It was fingered by the EU back in 2004 as being guilty of sloppy and imprudent economic management — an understatement if ever there was one — but nothing was actually done about it, of course.
Quite clearly, to judge from the public mood in Greece — and later, just watch, in Spain and Portugal — nothing should be done about it now either. Its feckless and uneconomic farmers should continue to soak up the hard-earned wealth of the north, while it lives the life of Riley, or at least the life of a Swede, with a welfare state which its economy cannot even dream of supporting.
From where do the Greek people think the money should come, if not from their own pockets? And why do they think that they have a right to it? Because they live somewhere prettier than the rest of us, and it’s hotter?
There is not much of a cultural meeting of minds between the south and north of Europe and it does make you wonder why geographical proximity is assumed to be the most effective means of allocating membership of trading blocs. We are happier bedfellows, by far, with the new Europe from the jettisoned satellites of the former Soviet Union — the likes of Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Poland — than we are with our neighbours to the south. Much as we may enjoy visiting them from time to time.
And if it is wrong for us to subsidise the idleness, profligacy and corruption of Greeks or Spaniards, why on earth should we subsidise that of "Palestinians" or Pakistanis, who don't even produce decent music.
By the way, if the Greeks are reverting to type, England should certainly hang onto the Elgin marbles.