When you think of Greece, you see the beautiful sea, the blue sky and the great history. Maybe you’ve visited one of its many islands, ate some moussaka and drank ouzo. You visited Athens, the capital of Greece and admired the Parthenon or danced zebekiko.
In the last few years, Greece has been in a very bad position, struggling to survive during of the biggest economic crisis it has ever faced. It’s been already 6 years since we entered what is called memorandum, practically a business agreement, just to stay in the European Union. Greeks are working very hard, get paid very low and barely make ends meet. Why did that happened? Corrupted politicians? ‘Greeks are just lazy’? We could argue all day, but the truth is that between 2001 and 2009 we’ve spent 827 billion euros and collected just 695 billion.
In January 2015, it seemed that something was about to change. Alexis Tsipras, leader of a left-winged political party, won the election and gave many promises about a bright future and an era of economic prosperity. Unfortunately, on June 28th 2015, capital controls were enforced. Fast forward 7 months, after re-election and a referendum, and after the prime minister Tsipras literally lied to the whole nation about not enforcing any more economic reformations that would cripple the poor and unprivileged, he announced changes regarding pensions and taxes, targeting the farmers.
Why This is Bad
Farmers are the people that actually bring food to the table. They engage in the primary production of agricultural products, feeding an entire nation. They are the keystone to bring the people of Greece back on their feet. Despite this, political leaders proposed a raise in tax rates and social security contributions.
To put it simply, up until now, farmers could pay as low as 7% of their gross profit at the end of the year. By January of 2019, they will pay up to 20% of their net profit. This could mean disaster. This can be translated to people on the street, whole families out of their home and the provinces getting deserted.
So what happens when you go against a proud nation and try to take away everything they worked for? You get thousands of people united, on the streets, protesting, blocking major highways and demanding changes. Farmers won’t cry nor beg for money. If you visit at night one of the blocs, you will hear songs being played, you will see people dancing and giving their products away to people who need them. You will see the fire in their eyes, ready to take action in order to protect their friends and family. Many of my friends and family have been protesting. People are flying from all over the country to be side by side with everyone and send a clear message. It has been 39 days and many others from lawyers to taxi drivers joined their fight. From Athens to Thessaloniki everyone is on their side. The leadership has tried many times to stop and break them, sometimes with violence. Downtown Athens looked like a battlefield, while police forces were basically having a civil war with the farmers. But nothing can hold them back except…
Politics and Individual Interests
Seeing the heart and courage of farmers, many tried to hijack their struggle. Both left and right winged political parties acted like they endorsed them and fought with them, while they just wanted to use them. They have managed to divide and steer them away from the real problem. Political leaders took credit and acted like they actually cared, just to take attention and gain political pressure.
As I write this, a big majority of the farmers are leaving the streets. Alexis Tsipras has agreed to make some changes, but they are not enough. There isn’t solidarity anymore. Did the system won this battle? Farmers are saying they are ready to return, if the leadership doesn’t keep its promises. I think that while not everything is lost, we are facing defeat. In the following days, the bill will pass. But we are not alone. People from other countries follow our lead and take matters into their own hands. What Tsipras and his team promised about changing the EU, everyday people are doing so with greater success. Only the future will tell, how much we can take without retaliating.
So if you want to visit Greece this year, know that you will still be able to eat, drink, dance, sing, join a beach party or wander around the streets of beautiful Athens. You will be able to do one more thing. You will witness real history unfolding itself in front of you, as the children of Greece, are trying to save their country one more time. All of this is happening under the veil of the immigration crisis. Will Greece and Europe be intact after all of this or is it possible to fall?