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‘Greeks know 80% of bailout money goes to German & French banks’

Published time: February 13, 2014 14:40
A protester shouts slogans as striking state hospital doctors, health workers and employees of EOPYY, Greece's main healthcare provider, gather outside the Greek Parliament building in Athens to protest government plans to overhaul the primary healthcare sector on February 6, 2014.(AFP Photo / Louisa Gouliamaki)

Greeks are furious that European banks are pocketing the bailout money, while some feel their government should have left the euro rather than enduring all this austerity, and devalue the currency, journalist and author Robert Harneis told RT.

RT: Why would a group target a Germany embassy and business interests?

Robert Harneis: Well, there is a lot of ill feeling [among] Greeks against Germany, because of the austerity measures which have been forced on the Greek people. And it is thought in Greece that it is by the Germans and therefore there is resentment. In the background, you must not forget that Greece was occupied by Germany during WWII in the most brutal way, and there are a lot of Greeks still alive today who can remember that and it obviously colors the way they feel about things.

RT: Is there any risk of this slipping into protests and violence in Greece?

RH: Well, it’s always a risk when you have unemployment of up to 27 percent, I think, and youth unemployment of 40 percent. Many people have been ruined by what has happened. The Greeks aren’t stupid, they are a very sophisticated modern developed society. They know that a lot of the money is given to the Greek government so as to “help” the Greeks, and 80 percent of this money goes straight back to the German and French banks that very largely unwisely lent money to the Greek government. So they don’t like that at all. Some of them feel that their government should have left the euro rather than enduring all this austerity and simply devalued the currency.

A teacher's union member shouts slogans as police prevent demonstrators to block a road in front of the ministry of administrative reform, during a protest against the civil servant's mobility scheme and layoffs in Athens on January 31, 2014.(AFP Photo / Louisa Gouliamaki )

RT: On February 12, extremists calling themselves a 'group of popular fighters' declared that they are at war with 'the German capitalist machine' and made a rocket attack against the headquarters of Mercedes Benz. Is this just another example of a political drift toward extremes?

RH: Well, obviously firing a rocket at the Germany factory is an example of an extreme, but it seems to be a failure amateurish attempt. Nevertheless, this is a country as I said that was occupied by Germany in WWII, which should never be forgotten, in a most savage way. It was followed by the bitterest civil war for a number of years between left and right – communists and non-communists – and then later on they had dictatorship of the colonels which incidentally was much encouraged by the US and NATO. So you have a very difficult record politically. And many others feel that what is being done to them is unfair. Of course, the reality is that the Greek economic policy at the governmental level has been a bit irresponsible, but that’s not the whole story.

RT: The IMF thinks the Greek economy is going to grow this year. Even if this is true, can Greeks expect their lives to change for the better in the near future?

RH: I think this is a problem and this is in a way answer to your earlier question about extremes. They can’t see things getting better very quickly. Things have got to get hugely better, which is very unlikely in the present circumstances, because their debt level is still incredibly high. How can things get better in this depressed economic atmosphere? I don’t see how that can happen until expansionist measures are introduced. You must remember that this whole crisis started with the Greek prime minister saying: “Well, we are going to have a referendum to decide whether or not we accept these austerity measures.” And he lasted about 48 hours after that, before the new prime minister came in and guess where he worked before he became the Greek prime minister? He worked for Goldman Sachs, the very bank that caused a lot of this trouble by allowing or persuading the Greek government to adopt all sort of dodgy maneuvers so that they can disguise their true figures of their national accounts. And the Greeks know all of this is, they are clever, qualified, intelligent, educated people, they know what’s going on and they are pretty unhappy about it.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.