As the UK prepares to enter the later preparation stages of what would arguably be the most important referendum of its modern history, it seems that the EU is doing its best to turn most of the European population against it.
Let me make myself clear; this is not an article against UK's continuation of EU membership. On the contrary, my beliefs retain that the UK should remain an active member. But while at the westernmost part of this so called "Union" people are trying to decide whether to stay in it or not, at the easternmost part of it, some other country is experiencing the effects of a totalistic failure of the very idea of Unity. Welcome to Greece!
When I first moved to the UK in 2000 I answered proudly to the question "where do you come from"? Greece used to represent holidays, beautiful scenery, beaches and weather, ancient civilization, democracy, friendly people, good food and so much more. Good times! Sixteen years later, things have unfortunately changed. During the last 6 years Greece has made world headlines for all the wrong reasons. At first it represented the epicentre of the world economic crisis, then came the global acknowledgement of the lazy Greek that does nothing but drink ouzo, smash plates and evade taxes. This was followed by the talks of a Grexit that was apparently going to bring down the foundations of Europe's (hell, why not the whole universe's) economy. The latest episode to this Greek tragedy (how cliché) is the endless flow of hundreds of thousands refugees who -through Greece- are populating the whole continent. A continent who is responding to this crisis by doing... well... nothing! This is what I want to write about today.
In January 2015 the people of Greece ended a 40 year reign of alternate government of two political parties, electing a leftist party with young people at its helm, expecting fresh ideas and alternative approaches to the country's problems. To put it into UK terms, it is the equivalent of the Lib-Dems winning the next election! Instead they got served the same dish once again, albeit on a differently coloured plate; austerity, larger taxes, smaller wages, non-existent pensions and a collapsing benefits system. All this, underlined by a continued monitoring -to put it lightly- from the larger EU counterparts, mainly Germany. Today, unemployment is close to 30% while unemployment for under 25's is almost 50% !!! I wonder if you who reads this can grasp these numbers. One out of two young people in Greece don't have ANY income, AT ALL! Oh, and those who do have an income it is mostly in the region of 300 - 500 euros a month, that's a staggering 250-380 pounds a month. And as if all these problems where not hard enough to tackle, the past few years another huge one was added; the uncontrollable flow of hundreds of thousands of refugees.
But what is really this "refugee crisis"? I will try to explain this from the Greek perspective as simply as I can. I have read many articles in the European press blaming Greece for the latest refugee wave in Europe for not controlling its borders. The fact that our borders are made of water is irrelevant, we apparently should be guarding all of our coastline, a mere 15,000 km ( c. 9,300 miles). That would of course cost tons of money that Greece simply doesn't have, but that is a detail that the so called journalists have failed to consider. The uncontrollable waters are producing more and more refuges to the Greek islands every day. The island of Lesbos (yes that actually is its real name) has more than 15.000 refugees at any given day since the summer of 2015 while its population is only 90000. In total it has seen almost half a million refugees at its coasts since last summer!!! And that's only one island! Of course Greece is not their final destination. It is simply a passage to Europe's developed countries like Germany and France. But to go there, they have to pass through the Slavic countries of former Yugoslavia, Hungary and Austria. The EU had tried at first to tackle the problem by agreeing to an equal relocation of refugees to all its member countries. But since the number of people grows larger every day, a lot of countries have decided to close their borders. The far right governed Hungary built a wall along its borders, FYR Macedonia, Slovenia, Croatia, Albania and the forward thinkers the Austrians closed their borders deciding that they can't receive any more refugees. Little does it matter that hordes of people keep entering Greece but they can't anymore exit it. And now we have this crisis in Idomeni where refugees are piling up along the Greek side of the borders, without water, food or toilet facilities, simply living in tents waiting for the white-skinned-saviours to deliver salvation.
A chunk of the blame goes without saying to the Greek government. In an attempt to look as "left" as possible, they have openly invited all refugees to come to Greece, saying that there are no borders in this world and everyone is welcome! That is a very romantic -almost hippy- approach, only they seem to have forgotten that Greece has no money to feed the Greeks themselves, never mind another few hundred thousand people, of which a considerable amount are not war refugees but simply illegal immigrants who saw an open door and entered! Simple as that! No control of who comes in, where they go, who stays, who leaves, absolutely nothing! The Greek government of Syriza party has failed in its 14 months of government to gain any respect from their European counterparts, and that is exactly how they EU treats Greece today; with absolutely no respect at all.
A larger piece of the "blame-pie" goes to the so called Union of Europe, who have isolated Greece and seem to be happy just by keeping the problem as far away as possible from their own front doors. They keep ignoring the fact that the Greek borders are also the EU's borders. During the recent "Refugee Crisis Conference" between the EU members and Turkey, the EU took the monumental decision to fund Turkey with an extra 3 billion Euros (6 billion in total) to tackle the refugee crisis. Turkey, who is openly supporting ISIS by buying their low priced petrol. Turkey who turns a blind eye to the modern day human trafficking that takes place along its coast, doing nothing about the traffickers who illegally transport the refugees from Turkey to Greece. Good job! There's 6 billion for your efforts...
The bigger chunk of the blame goes in my opinion to western civilization in general. To the USA and the UK who openly supported Al Qaida and ISIS during their first steps, by selling them arms and vehicles in order to oppose Sadam and Ashad, turning a small group of fanatics to a terrorist superpower. To all the countries who are bombing innocent civilians who get in the way of strategic targets, to all the people of the west who find it acceptable that in 2016 we still kill each other over money and beliefs.
In the midst of all this, the real war stricken refugees who are waiting for a solution, a second chance to start a life for their families. But also the people of Greece, who have seen themselves once more divided into two camps: those who offer solidarity and those who want the refugees/ immigrants out. People who have rescued drowning children in Lesbos only to see their property destroyed during immigrant riots. People who gathered food and clothes from the communities near the camps only to see themselves get lynched by a hungry mob when they went to distribute them. People who have endured immense financial and social pressure the past few years, only to see more and more darkness at a tunnel with no end.
But you will never hear this in the news. You will not read it in any website. Instead you will hear about those lazy annoying Greeks who drink ouzo, smash plates and evade taxes. And lately, are turning a bit racist too.