News & Politics

'Shame on You!' Greek Pensioners Take to Streets to Protest EU-Forced Budget Cuts

Greek pensioner during protest against austerity measures and layoffs. (Photo by: Robert Geiss/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

If you thought that the Greek crisis was over and done with, think again. “Hundreds of Greek pensioners have taken to the streets of Athens shouting ‘shame on you’ as they protested the deep cutbacks to pension payments ordered by the crisis-hit country’s creditors,” the UK Express reports. “Dozens of pension cuts have been put in place since the Greek financial crisis of 2010. More will be implemented in 2019, as the latest reforms are passed.”

German and Dutch taxpayers have been fed up with Greece for years. That’s not so strange considering the fact that they have kept the Greek economy alive when it was on its knees — which it still is. From the Dutch and German perspectives, the Greek people and government are responsible for their own woes. They have been spending like drunken sailors for decades. They were told time and time again that it was impossible for them to keep that up, but they refused to take heed. The result, of course, is that they’re reduced to begging for European handouts.

That being said, although successive Greek governments have certainly been irresponsible, Greek voters feel they’ve been duped too: first by their own leaders — who told them that all would be well and who continued to buy their votes even though there was no more money in the bank —  and now by the European Union. After all, the EU desperately wanted Greece to become a full-fledged member and use the euro rather than the Greek drachma. This change in currency made it impossible for Greece to compete with other, more modern and prosperous European countries because Greek products became much more expensive. Additionally, they lost the power to devalue their currency, which is a tool often used by struggling economies to boost their exports. In other words, Greek products and services became much more expensive and there was no way for the Greek government (or people) to do anything about it.

That’s bad enough, but what makes this all even worse in the eyes of Greek voters is that this same European Union now forces their government to cut spending in such a way and to such a degree that they are simply no longer able to get by. Retirees have especially been hit hard by these cuts. As octogenarian Athanasios Christou tells British newspaper The Express: “I have cut back on everything, coffee at my local, newspapers. I go to the doctor only for something serious and even then it’s on borrowed money.”

Thanassis Lechos, a 69-year-old pensioner, adds that he doesn’t believe European and Greek leaders who promise that Greece will emerge stronger after it receives its third bailout in August of next year. “I have had enough of their lies,” he said. “I have children and grandchildren, who are waiting for their granddad to support them.”

He also said that his pension has already decreased by 30 percent.

In order to understand the scale of this problem, you have to understand that in Greece pensioners are often the key earners in a household. That’s because wages are ridiculously low right now and because the official unemployment rate is 21 percent. Note: if you include people under 25 years old, this figure doubles.

Clearly, there’s only one actual solution for Greece’s many economic problems: The country needs to leave the euro behind and reintroduce the drachma. When that’s done, they need to devalue their currency immediately. Do that and there’s actually hope for Greece’s future. If they don’t — if they remain part of the Eurozone — they’re simply committing suicide.