Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Greek vote Sunday and the future of Europe

It's unusual that an election in a small European country has high potential to provoke major reactions from governments and financial markets around the world and to set off a catastrophic financial, economic and political spiral in Europe.

But this Sunday's elections in Greece are in that situation. Aljazeera English reports on the election itself, Greeks face stark choice at ballot box 06/12/2012.

This story discusses some of the substantial human costs of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's austerity policies in Greece, Painful return to country roots Athens News 06/08/2012

At age 32, [Spiridoula] Lakka, an office clerk who also juggled odd jobs, joined a growing number of Greeks returning to the countryside in the hope of living off the land. It's a reversal of the journey their parents and grandparents made in the 1960s and '70s.

Data is scarce on how many people have made the trek, but as people angered by austerity head to the polls on June 17, anecdotal evidence and interviews with officials suggest the trend is gaining momentum. In a survey of nearly 1,300 Greeks by Kapa Research in March, over 68 percent said they had considered moving to the countryside, with most citing cheaper and higher quality life. Most expected to move permanently.

"A year ago, I couldn't imagine myself holding a garden hoe, or doing any farming," said Lakka, as she watered the herbs she grows in the village of Konitsa, which nestles among snow-capped peaks near the Albanian border.

"I've always wanted to leave the village. I never imagined I would actually spend my whole life here."
Her experience has been far from idyllic. The arrival of young, city-dwelling Greeks is being watched with a mix of pity and hope by those who never left.
Also from Aljazeera English, Richard Falk reminds us of the actual purpose and accomplishments of the European Union, now on the verge of being destroyed by Angie's disastrous austerity economics:

It is undoubtedly true that the greatest unacknowledged achievement of the European Union is to establish "a culture of peace" within its regional enclosure for the 68 years since 1944. This has meant not only the absence of war in Europe, but also the absence of "war talk", threats, crises, and sanctions - with the single important exception of the NATO Kosovo War of 1999 that was part of the fallout from the breakup of former Yugoslavia. This legally controversial intervention was undertaken by the US-led alliance to achieve several goals: to rescue Albanian Kosovars from a feared imminent humanitarian catastrophe at the hands of their oppressive Serb occupiers; to facilitate the de facto independence of Kosovo from Serbian rule; to demonstrate the post-Cold War viability of NATO; and to reinforce the victory claims of the 1991 Gulf War, thereby showing that the West could win wars with minimal casualties on its side due to a recently acquired technological ability to shift the human burdens of war almost entirely to the adversary.

The contrast with the first half of the 20th century is stark when Europe seemed definitely the global cockpit of the war system in the East-West struggle for global supremacy. Tens of millions of Western soldiers and civilians died in response to the two German attempts by force of arms to gain a bigger role within this European nexus of geopolitics, as organised in the West. Germany challenged the established order, not only by recourse to massive aggressive wars in the form of World Wars I and II, but also by establishing a political infrastructure that gave rise in the 1930s to the violently genocidal ideology of Nazism, the most diabolical rendering of fascism. [my emphasis]
I suppose it would be melodramatic to say that the dream, and the substantial reality, are being sacrificed on a cross of euros. But the phrase comes to mind.

Falk writes about the EU's legacy in terms that suggests he regards it as the past already: "The deep financial crises now afflicting the Mediterranean members of the EU dominates the public imagination as to the nature of the EU. What is absent from this image of the EU is a realisation that regional peace is likely to be remembered as the most notable and durable achievement of the organisation."

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