The Failed State of Greek Media

The media landscape in Greece has been described as suffering from a lack of pluralism, whereby a handful of media moguls set the predominant discourses through their newspapers, TV stations, and online outlets. In 2016, Greece finished 89th in the World Press Freedom Index, making it the second-lowest country ranking in the European Union with 80% of the population showing distrust in the country’s TV channels.

Before the leftist ruling party SYRIZA came into power, it pledged to regulate the lawlessness of the media scene and dismantle the old establishments of interest-driven reporting. A series of recent consecutive incidents like the on-air intervention of a media owner in a morning show on his TV channel, or the resistance to a new law introducing a bidding process for private broadcast licenses, highlight that the regime of media “oligarchs” is still firmly rooted.

The boss on line one

On June 6, Dimitris Kontominas, the Alpha media group owner, a leading TV, radio and production group, intervened in a morning talk show on Alpha TV channel to express his dissatisfaction about what he described as shameful comments over private initiatives. Mr. Kontominas called on live television to state "I am ashamed as I have never been in my life with what I heard today from Greek citizens who work in a TV channel that does everything to help the people”!

He continued by demanding that the journalists apologize, while angrily adding that “it is a shame, when we have such a big investment, to talk nonsense. It is an area full of refugees, crooks, prostitutes and the like and you talk against this investment. Instead of feeling ashamed for all those things that are not being done, we feel ashamed about the things that are being done.”

The incident was sparked when one of the panellists criticized the deal for the sale and long-term lease of the old Athens airport of Elliniko, a prerequisite demanded by international lenders in order to unlock loans needed to pay off debt to the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. The Lamda-led consortium, a Greek developer that will own part of the property and get a 99-year lease, is planning to turn the 444-acre site into a tourist, business and commercial hub.

Since the beginning of the debt crisis, state assets have always been on the table for privatization as an integral feature of paying off international bailouts. While supporters of such investments claim that they generate jobs and ultimately boost the economy, critics see them as “selling off” public property. “These investors pay out of their pockets, instead of robbing the state with oil, cigarettes, cocaine. It is a shame to say all those things. You should apologize. This is not an opinion,” Mr Kontominas yelled when the TV show host tried to calm her boss down.

The intervention was an extreme incident in the history of Greek media but not a surprising one. In a blatant, upsetting manner, the media mogul crossed the line between covered manipulation to absolute muzzling, only to set an unprecedented level of censorship. The incident symbolizes the intertwined connection between private media, state and business that has historically dominated the Greek media scene.

Manor House

Although there are no recent official data on the total media numbers, the deregulation of the state monopoly of broadcasting frequencies in the late 1980s has led to an overwhelming amount of private TV channels and radio stations, on national and local level. According to the report "Media Policy and Independent Journalism in Greece" by Open Society Foundations, “from a broadcasting field of two public television channels and four radio stations in the late 1980s, it has become an overcrowded environment comprising 160 private television channels and 1,200 private radio stations, none of them equipped with an official license to broadcast, but only temporary licenses renewed by successive governments”.

Despite the high volume, pluralism has not benefited. Media legislation does not contain specific thresholds or limits to prevent high levels of horizontal concentration of ownership as noted by the 2014 Media Pluralism Monitor. This legal and regulatory framework has urged the concentration of private press, television, and radio outlets into large organizations since its early days. To this day a handful of media groups own the biggest nationally circulated newspapers, magazines, broadcast media, as well as press distribution agencies.

Traditionally, the owners of the biggest media conglomerates, the “oligarchs”, as they are commonly referred to in Greece, are also active in other sectors of the economy, such as construction, shipping, health services, new technologies, and banking business, and often end up with favourable government deals. The support is granted through advertising of banks and state owned enterprises, approving loans to private broadcasters that are currently in debt due to the sharp decline of income from advertisements; assignments of public works (roads and government buildings construction etc.) or public property management to media owners with investments in other business sectors.

In this way, media are used as spaces for indirect profit through the strengthening of relations with politicians and the acquisition of state contracts. “Greek media industry controlled by business tycoons whose other successful businesses enable them to subsidize their loss-making media operations. These media operations in turn enable them to exercise political and economic influence. The result is that the media often provides an image of national and international events that is almost uniform but for its division along party lines” as a US Embassy cable by Wikileaks reveals.

Taking MEGA Channel, one of the most well known private channels, as an example, its three main shareholders are some of the richest and most influential families in the country. George Bobolas, the main shareholder, is also the owner of Ellaktor SA construction company which has participated in multi-billion euro contracts with the state, such as the Athens Ring Road, the Rio-Antirio Bridge, the Acropolis Museum and the Athens Olympic Sports Complex. Vardis Vardinogiannis is engaged in the oil and shipping industry, while Stavros Psycharis controls the DOL media company.

The triangle of power between media, state and business is well intertwined resulting in a state whereby journalists are too careful to avoid criticism to the government of the day, while media owners exploit their outlets for purposes beyond communication. The relationship is a dialectical one and a vicious circle is fuelled by governments offering financial support to the media that in exchange offer favourable reporting to the ruling party’s actions. Over the last year, many cases have highlighted how the two sides interfere in each other’s work.

In February 2016,  the publisher of a low circulation newspaper was arrested with two other journalists on charges of extorting huge sums in advertising from officials at public organizations, banks and businesses. The publisher Panagiotis Mavrikos, who was charged with felony and misdemeanor, including blackmail and being part of a criminal gang, had appeared in the payroll of New Democracy receiving the amount of €18,450 per month, according to the newspaper Parapolitika.

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Prior to SYRIZA’s electoral victory in January 2015 the party had committed to tackle the long-standing relationships of clientelism in Greece and declare a war to the media “oligarchs”. A year later a parliamentary examination committee started an investigation of the legality of advertising expenditure of Greek banks to media and political parties over a period of the last 10 years. The Committee was established following the proposal of the ruling SYRIZA-ANEL coalition last March.

In another attempt in February 2016, parliament passed a law, backed by the ruling coalition and strongly criticized by the opposition and the Association of Private TV Stations of National Range. The new law, which is part of the country’s commitment under the latest bailout, aims to regulate the media market and, allegedly, bring to a halt the link between state and private interests.

The aim is to eventually launch a channel license competition for broadcasting tenders where four out of eight national TV stations would obtain a licence. The biggest media channels dissatisfied with the decision appealed to the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court. The application of MEGA Channel, which is threatened with bankruptcy due to a huge amount of overdue debts, was rejected on June 30.

A few days after the bill was amended by parliament, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was accused of an alleged bribe attempt to media owner Stavros Psycharis. The newspaper “To Vima” – that belongs to Mr. Psycharis’ media group - published an article revealing secret meetings between the two men prior to SYRIZA’s electoral victory in January 2015. According to the article Mr. Tsipras allegedly asked for the support of the influential man, promising that loans taken by his media conglomerate will be erased, and offering political mediation for the acquisition of the total ownership of MEGA TV channel.

After the publication, both sides engaged in a war of words where each one accused the other for falsification of the facts. Whether the allegations are true or not the by now unimpeachable Tsipras began to test the water. The question is whether he and his party will manage to escape immune or will go missing in the media abyss.

Greece, Europe's austerity laboratory

Noëlle Burgi is a political scientist and sociologist, a researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), currently working at the Centre Européen de Sociologie et de sSience Politique (CESSP) of the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. Her research focuses on the transformation of the state in Europe, neoliberal governmentability, the reconfiguration of the welfare state and its political and social consequences. Among other academic works and articles she has published in the Monde Diplomatique, Noëlle Burgi also edited the collective work:  “La Grande Régression. La Grèce Et L’avenir De L’Europe” (“The Great Regression. Greece and the future of Europe”). Noëlle Burgi talked to GrèceHebdo and Magdalini Varoucha (The English version of the interview published on Greek News Agenda).
Interview of Noëlle Burgi to Magdalini Varoucha

Since 2011 you have been striving for a collaboration between Greek professors, researchers and intellectuals, in order to form an international network researching the generalization of austerity policies in Europe, especially their political and social consequences. Where are we today with the implementation of austerity policies in Europe?

Austerity policies can be defined as a coherent set of measures leading to the decline of social rights that were conquered more than a century ago, when the welfare state was built. They seek to change the balance between capital and labor by deconstructing  the social systems legal frameworks that ensure social solidarity, substituting the founding principles of democratic coexistence with the mechanisms of competition. The consequences of austerity are always selective, affecting mainly public goods and services upon which vulnerable social groups and the middle class depend.

The 2008 financial crisis has undoubtedly been seized as an opportunity and a pretext by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the most powerful countries in the euro area, starting with Germany, to push further, more quickly and irreversibly the hitherto gradual decline of social rights. Just as for the first time in Western Europe, elites and dominant institutions applied to Greece and to other debtor countries IMF’s widely discredited method of structural adjustment, the European Union was preparing, with the 2012 Fiscal Stability, Coordination and Governance Treaty (TSCG), the enhancement of the powers of the ECB and the Commission. These two institutions are now monitoring national budgets ex-ante as well as ex-post and can almost automatically punish any member-state that disobeys austerity requirements.

It is not by chance that the ECB President, Mario Draghi, said in 2012 precisely, that the welfare state was "over". Submission to the regulations bolstered by the Treaty was also intended to produce a deterrent effect by stigmatizing Greece.  Since 2012, there have been numerous and intrusive interventions of the Commission in the national budget programs. As a result, the states adopt "reforms" that speed up the disintegration of unconditional social rights, the deterioration of solidarity institutions (from collective bargaining and public hospital to national education) and the privatization of common goods, such as water, electricity and transport.

The collective work "The Great Regression" (which you edited) calls Greece the "laboratory" for the reconfiguration of European economic and social policies. Do you also see the rise of Syriza in power as another case of political experimentation? What do you see as being the main impact of the policies of Syriza for the Left in general, and for the anti-austerity movement in Europe specifically?

Syriza raised great hopes among the European Left because it embodied a consistent political and intellectual response to the prevailing EU norms;  the possibility to give people back their dignity and control over their fate, to refocus European choices towards a balanced and just economic and social development, to prove that another politics is possible and to change the balance of power with the emergence elsewhere in Europe, particularly in Spain, of similar social and political movements.

A coalition of powerful countries and dominant interests turned Greece into a laboratory, subjected to the imperatives of "internal devaluation", in total denial of the incontestable theoretical and empirical evidence attesting to the failure of the stated objectives of austerity (return to sustainable growth) and in blind disregard for the consequences of their policies, including the humanitarian crisis in Greece, the rise of social violence, strengthening the extreme right and xenophobia. This coalition decided, you know, to crush the movement supported Syriza in 2015.

In doing so, they also decided to administer a political lesson to the rest of Europe, especially to the protest movements of the Left with the wind in their sails. Greece was made an example of for the entire continent, intended to demonstrate that the hegemonic logic would in no way be questioned. The German-European ultimatum that "crucified" Alexis Tsipras on the night of July 12 to 13 in 2015, also served as a warning for France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, so that they would not deviate from the rigors of budgetary discipline. Simultaneously, it actualized the will of the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, to reduce Greece to a debt colony, but also, as pointed out by Joschka Fischer, to transform a European Germany to a German Europe, reviving the Machtpolitik (Power politics). All this has profoundly shocked the world, and of course the divided movements of the European Left as a whole. The whole struggle for recognition of the right to have democratic and social rights has to resume. In Greece and elsewhere.

What is future for the European project given the handling of the economic crisis, the retreat of the welfare state and the management of refugee crisis by European leaders? Is another Europe possible or are we moving towards a Europe of borders and identity politics?

Europe is threatened with collapse. The catastrophic management of the so-called sovereign debt crisis and the deep fractures revealed and /or caused by the flow of refugees from the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, clearly show that Europe will be forced to choose between, on the one hand, the possibility of a breakdown due to the reintroduction of border controls and the resurgence of nationalism and, on the other, a decisive shift to federalism aligned with democratic objectives. The first seems most likely because the far-right xenophobic forces are on the rise, due to the persistence of the dominant economic, social and political logic.

The European dream is dying, if it is not already dead: the dream of creating a social and democratic space based on a cosmopolitan conception of identity and citizenship. In its place, Europe seeks to protect itself behind walls, barbed wire, military and police, trying to pass over to Greece and Turkey the management of migration flows and the responsibility for internal divisions of EU’s own making. This is not a new problem and it is becoming even the more serious. As Seyla Benhabib said in 2005, "negotiating the status of insiders and outsiders has become tense, almost warlike."

Translated by Ioulia Livaditi.

First published in French on GrèceHebdo (11.2.2016) and in English on Greek News Agenda (16.2.2015)


Greece: refugee crisis on a knife’s edge

Dimitris Christopoulos
The following text is written before both the Malta Summit and the Paris terror attacks of November 13th. It is more than certain that particularly the Paris events will seal the European management of the refugee crisis, driving EU member-States to enforce  restrictive policies. Still, this won't bring about any "solutions". It might, on the contrary, lead to opposite results. 
1,000% increase in refugee flows!

By the end of winter last year, it became clear that there would be a dramatic escalation in the flow of refugees; people had lost any hope of returning to their homeland –mainly Syria– from the bordering countries, and they decided to take the long road to Europe. However, even the most educated of the projections back then failed to conceive the severity of the refugee crisis that followed: in 2014 Greece received 77,000 people and there was an expectation of three times this figure in 2015.  Things, however, turned out slightly differently:  up to mid-October the total number of migrants and refugees was well over half a million.  And a few days later we are witnessing the Aegean becoming a watery grave for hundreds of people, as the weather is getting worse and people are trying to make their passage before winter makes sea crossing impossible. Chances are that, if there is no change, this tragedy will continue well into November.  Autumn is a perfect time for both hopes and fatalities.  One thing is for sure:  the overall 2015 figure will be around 700,000 people, an astonishing 1,000% increase compared to 2014.
Greece is indeed in a very difficult position:  as if it hadn’t got enough on its plate, it now has to handle flows of refugees under unbearable conditions.  What has the Greek state done up to now?  What are the positive and negative aspects of its handling of the refugee crisis?
Major victory: shifting the agenda
The government’s most significant accomplishment is the shifting of the agenda: judging from their performance in the past, we are, unfortunately, almost certain that previous governments would have sustained the narrative we had known for years – i.e. “make their life a living hell so that they don’t come at all or they leave as soon as possible”.  Rhetoric shifted from talking about “reclaiming our city centres” to praising “support for war victims”.  We shifted from pro-active and violent push-backs in the Aegean to search and rescue operations.  I would have liked to be able to argue that we have also shifted from detention centres to somewhere else but I hesitate because there is nothing in place; the country is missing any kind of serious infrastructure alternative to detention.
This is serious stuff:  in the midst of their own desperation and social anguish, Greek people still haven’t turned refugees into scapegoats, blaming them for all their trouble.  Staying calm, showing understanding that in many cases turned into solidarity in the face of the tragedy refugees were going through, Greek people have demonstrated a remarkable human maturity.  Either due to the tone of the Government’s rhetoric, or due to the deep emotion that the pictures of dead children has evoked, or just because they realised that other, more drastic solutions would effectively mean murdering refugees, Greeks have perceived the refugee tragedy in a humanitarian and realistic way.   Even the Golden Dawn fascists failed to raise the issue during their pre-election campaign; they understood there was not the scope they had expected there to be.  On its part, New Democracy made a futile, and failed, attempt to highlight it.  All political parties of the so-called “constitutional axis”, including the Right, are now very cautious when referring to the refugee issue.  The notion of “Greeks’ humanity” is widely acknowledged, even if it is just a pretence.  And I will explain why.
The major drawback:  little more than words
The major positive narrative about the refugee crisis that the Government has put forward, has been crucial in making sure that the Greek public reacts in a calm way; this should not be underestimated.  Had there been another government in power, Europe would have run the risk of having yet another Hungary on Aegean shores. European Union would then be shedding crocodile tears, publicly deploring the situation, and rubbing their hands in glee behind closed doors as it would have found a government to do the dirty work exactly where it should be done.  Back in 2012, when Greece was putting up the Evros fence, the EU did not see our country as a miasma. Today I don’t believe that the EU considers the possibility of demolishing the fence or even allowing people to pass freely through. Quite the opposite, Hungary is building walls, acting to the detriment of all the rest of the EU, in the sense that these walls would just “protect” Hungary; they would only change the direction of the refugee flows. But if Greece were to carry out forced returns in the Aegean, if it were to send troops to its borders, this would not be seen as Greece looking after its own little national self; it would be Greece defending the common European “interest”.  However, fortunately, things didn’t turn out quite that way.
But beyond that, what has the Greek state actually done?  Humanitarianism is much more than playing the generous traffic policeman on refugee crossroads, showing people the road to the North and nothing else.  Of course, Greece is not refugees’ final destination, everybody knows that.  But the fact that we are a transit country shouldn’t be an excuse for Greece to shirk its responsibilities towards these people.  Greek facilities today can accommodate 400 unaccompanied minors, 600 asylum seekers and 700 people at the Elaionas transit centre in Athens, i.e. 1,700 places in total.  This is not what a European state should look like in 2015; it is a disgrace.
At the mini Summit in Brussels on 25 October, Greece agreed to provide accommodation for 20,000 people through subsidised rented flats, plus temporary accommodation facilities for 30,000 more people.  So Greece has to do what it hasn’t done over the past decade; and to deliver it in 10 weeks - not an easy task.  I am trying to get my head around it but I cannot see how the government is going to pull this one off.  Greek public administration, from ministers to clerks, have a very powerful mindset:  the country’s single obligation towards these people is to make sure that no one is drowned and to let them cross the country quietly; and that’s that.  Come 2016, the EU will once again have to face the fact that Greece most probably will not have delivered on its promises. And then, the “relocation” agreement will be up in the air. An agreement that, in any case, excludes the Afghanis, the second largest refugee group who are less welcome to Europe.  So Greece - and Serbia – the generous traffic policemen of the region, will become Europe’s warehouse wardens.
For Greece the refugee issue is on a knife edge; the sooner we are clear about this, the better.  At the end of the day, humanitarianism means more when it takes the form of action rather than words. Even now, at the end of 2015, in the game’s extra time, Greece needs to take some action; it needs to show, for the first time, that it is able to assume part of the common European responsibility.  Otherwise, the way things are going, we will end up taking the blame for much more than our fair share.

Dimitris Christopoulos is the Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights, an Associate Professor of Political Science, Panteion University, Athens.
Translated by Mary Zambetaki
First published in Greek on RedNotebook, 2.11.2015

Give Greek history (and legend) a chance: don’t use it

Vangelis Kechriotis: In memoriam

We republish (from the online magazine "Chronos") one of the most recent article of Vangelis Kechriotis, who died only 46 years old, on Thursday, 27th of August. He was a brilliant historian and a really beatifull person. Have a good journey, our friend!

After the impasse in negotiations at the Eurogroup meeting for a resolution regarding the Greek loan program, the renowned economist Paul Krugman published an article titled “Athena delenda est.” This was an obvious reference to the Roman senator Cato the Elder (234-149 BCE), who repeated in every public speech that Carthage had to be destroyed since, although it had been defeated twice by the Romans, it continued challenging their authority. This is not the first time that a historical metaphor has been used to support an argument about politics in Greece recently.

The most frequent was the legend of Iphigenia, used by the former prime minister, Antonis Samaras. During his electoral campaign, Samaras claimed several times that there were many in Europe who wanted to see in Greece a modern Iphigenia. He assumed that his audience knew that, as Homer narrates in the Iliad, when the Achaeans gathered their troops at Aulis to sail to Troy, several weeks of dead calm kept them moored there. Then an oracle advised them to appease the goddess Artemis, who was infuriated that Agamemnon, king of the Achaeans, had hunted and killed one of her sacred deer. The only way that the goddess would allow the wind to blow was for the king to sacrifice his own daughter, Iphigenia. Having no alternative, Agamemnon called upon his daughter, deceptively telling her that he was going to marry her to Achilles. Instead, she was sacrificed and the Achaeans managed to leave the port, sail to Troy and capture Helen, but only 10 years later.

This is the part of the legend highlighted by Samaras. The story, however, does not end there. As we know from Aeschylus’ trilogy Oresteia, when the king of the Achaeans returned to his capital, Mycenae, he was assassinated by his wife, Clytemnestra, and her love, Aegisthus. The desperate mother, who never forgave her husband for having sacrificed their daughter, was also put to death by their son Orestes, who took revenge for his father. In other words, Iphigenia’s sacrifice was a disaster for the entire dynasty. This is an aspect of the legend that Samaras failed to address.

Historical metaphors or comparisons can give dramatic dimensions to a statement. They are also intended to convey a message to an audience more understandably. However, those who use them often miscalculate two aspects: One is the twists of public memory that might lead to the opposite result from the one sought. The other is the heterogeneity of any audience. During the election campaign, again, there were some who compared these elections with those of November 1, 1920. These elections were won by the Royalist opposition, led by Dimitrios Gounaris (1866-1922), who managed to defeat the Liberal Party of Eleftherios Venizelos (1864-1936), with the promise of putting an end to the military campaign in Asia Minor. After coming to power, the new government forgot its pledges and continued the campaign, which led to the Asia Minor Catastrophe. Similarly, while Greece was now triumphant, the elections would turn the triumph into a disaster. The miscalculation in this comparison was that the performance of the previous government was compared to Venizelos’ achievements, which had led temporarily to the fulfillment of the vision of the Great Idea, but had also prepared the ground for the disaster that followed. The resurfacing of this memory did not help support the intended argument. 

Another such case is a cartoon published few days ago in the daily Avgi, the official organ of the SYRIZA party now in power. It depicted Wolfgang Schäuble as a Wehrmacht soldier who made insulting comments against Greeks that referred back to the Holocaust. The German finance minister has been very much despised among the Greek people for the last few years due to his insistence on austerity measures and the hegemonic role of Germany in the European Union. Hence, this is not the first time that this hegemony has been compared to the Nazis and the third Reich. This last instance, however, went over the top. Moreover, it coincided with a very crucial moment in the negotiations that would determine the fate of the Greek economy. Thus, it touched a sensitive chord all over Europe, where any reference to the Holocaust can seriously misfire. The Jewish Community in Greece protested against the newspaper, while the current prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, officially denounced the image, although simultaneously defending the freedom of press.  

Going back to Krugman’s title, it is not necessary to point out that Carthage was indeed destroyed only three years after Cato’s death in 146 BCE as a result of the third Punic War. One cannot but be reminded, though, that this was also the year of the battle of Corinth. After the Romans defeated the Carthaginians, they turned against the Achaean Confederation, a last attempt among Greek city states to unite their forces and resist the hegemony of Rome. In all periodizations, this year marks the end of the ancient Greek world and the beginning of the Roman Empire. Following the Greek Revolution of 1821, Greeks and foreign scholars alike used to claim that the Greek nation would fight for its independence after 2,000 years of slavery that started precisely with its defeat by the Romans, although some would consider even the Macedonians of Alexander the Great as having enslaved the Greeks. Yet, according to the renowned 19th century Greek historian Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos (1815-1891), even if they were politically dominated, the Greeks managed to survive culturally and, eventually, Hellenize the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as Byzantium. Whether the European Union can be compared to the Roman Empire or not, it would be interesting to view the destruction of Athens, predicted by Krugman, as a step in a process that can take two entirely opposite directions. In other words, one could ask whether Europeans plan to destroy Athens in order to wipe it out from the face of the earth, as happened with Carthage, or in order to fully integrate it, as happened with ancient Athens. 

You might think that this is an intellectual deliberation. Yet politicians, economists and cartoonists should use their metaphors more carefully. Yesterday, Panos Kammenos, leader of the Independent Greeks party, the partner in the coalition government, stated, “If the Europeans do not accept our terms, we will turn the [EU] into a ‘Kougi.’” This was a direct reference to the decision of the monk Samouil, trapped in the fortress of Kougi in the mountainous settlement of Souli in today’s Greek Epirus. In 1803, after the Souliotes negotiated their departure following the third siege by troops loyal to the Ottoman Albanian ruler of the region, Tepelenli Ali Pasha, the monk decided to blow himself up together with a few wounded comrades, destroying the entire arsenal and killing many enemies who had already intruded. European politicians and diplomats will have to look the story up on Wikipedia to find out what the current defense minister means. Yet, most probably half of the Greek population below 35 will have to do the same. This is one of the rare moments that historians might be happy that younger people “don’t know much about history.”

 Vangelis Kechriotis has earned his Ph.D. in 2005 from the Program of Turkish Studies, University of Leiden, the Netherlands. He is an Assistant Professor, Department of History, Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, Turkey, where he is also sponsored by the Onassis Foundation. His research interests focus on late Ottoman imperial ideology; political and cultural history, Christians and Jewish communities, and nationalism in the Balkans. He has published many articles related to these topics. Together with Ahmet Ersoy and Maciej Gorny, he is the co-editor of the volume Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1770-1945): Texts and Commentaries. Vol. 3: Modernism, Part I. The creation of the nation state; Part II. Representations of national culture (Budapest: CEU Press, 2010); together with Lorans Tanatar-Baruch, the co-editor of the volume Economy and Society on both shores of the Aegean (Athens, 2010), ALPHA Bank Economic History series; and together with Malte Fuhrmann, the co-editor of the special issue "The Late Ottoman Port Cities and Their Inhabitants: Subjectivity, Urbanity, and Conflicting Orders’, Mediterranean Historical Review,vol. 24/ 2, December 2009.
  • Published in CULTURE

More than 100 Irish academics: Αusterity has ravaged both Ireland and Greece


The Irish government routinely claims Greece should follow the Irish example: take its 'austerity' medicine and then experience 'recovery'. As academics in Ireland, we know this is a deeply flawed claim.

First, Ireland is a much more open economy than Greece – the recent increases in Irish GDP are largely based on exports of products such as pharmaceuticals, for which international demand remains buoyant.  The more closed structure of the Greek economy makes replicating this impossible.

Second, and more importantly, the benefits of this growth have not trickled down to the vast majority of Ireland’s people. Yes, unemployment has fallen, but net emigration has exceeded that drop. Furthermore, a growing proportion of work is part-time, insecure and even unpaid. Average wages continue to fall: it is estimated that one in four of the workforce earns less than a living wage. The percentage of children in deep, consistent poverty doubled between 2008 and 2013, to 12 per cent.

Workers and non-workers alike have suffered from rising taxes (including new property and water charges) and cuts to social services: the latest cut is a reduction in an allowance for many lone parents, a group already suffering extreme deprivation.

Third, the argument that this 'progress' has been helped by a negotiated restructuring of Irish debt is hollow: the 2013 deal on Ireland's 'promissory note' debt transformed soft (and cancellable) debt into sovereign debt – to be paid in full until 2053.

In summary, the Irish 'recovery' has been partial, unequal and, in many respects, illusory. It in no way constitutes a model for Greece or anywhere else to follow. Instead, we stand in solidarity with the Greek people as they struggle for genuine economic recovery for all, based on the write-down of illegitimate debt.


More than 100 present and retired academics in Ireland, including

Andy Storey, John Geary, Bryan Fanning, Mary Gallagher, Margaret Kelleher, Gerardine Meaney, Dara Downey, Alice Feldman, Jane Grogan, Anne Mulhall, John Baker, Theresa Urbainczyk, Kieran Allen, Ailbhe Smyth, Julien Mercille, Marie Moran, Kathleen Lynch, Mariya Ivancheva, Theresa O’Keeffe, Judy Walsh, Mary Purcell, Maggie Feeley, Mary McAuliffe, Roland Erne, Katherine O'Donnell, Sean L'Estrange, Mary Alacoque Ryan, Mark Price, Kathryn Keating, Tom Murray, Amanda Slevin, Sharae Deckard, Michael O’Flynn, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE DUBLIN; Ciaran Cosgrove, Barbara Bradby, Norah Campbell, Sinead Pembroke, Jude Lal Fernando, TRINITY COLLEGE DUBLIN; Helena Sheehan, Eugenia Siapera, Jenny Williams, Paola Rivetti, Maeve O’Brien, Marnie Holborow, Karen Devine, Eileen Connolly, Antonio Toral, Kenneth McDonagh, Ellen Reynor, Mark O’Brien, Alexander Baturo, DUBLIN CITY UNIVERSITY; Luke Gibbons, Joe Cleary, Peadar Kirby, Ann Hegarty, Rory Hearne, Mary Gilmartin, Bernie Grummell, Colin Coulter, Laurence Cox, Sinead Kennedy, Robert Aiden Lloyd, John Reynolds, Pauline Cullen, Catherine Friedrich, Chandana Mathur, Michael Byrne, Steve Coleman, Jamie Saris, Sinead Kelly, MAYNOOTH UNIVERSITY; Rosie Meade, Piaras Mac Einri, Clare O’Halloran, John Maguire, Colin Sage, Lydia Sapouna, Féilim Ó hAdhmaill, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE CORK; Conleth D. Hussey, Eoin Devereaux, John Lannon, Lee Monaghan, Mikael Fernström, UNIVERSITY OF LIMERICK; Eithne Murphy, Lionel Pilkington, Paul Michael Garrett, Brian O’Boyle, NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF IRELAND, GALWAY; Michael Pierse, QUEENS UNIVERSITY BELFAST; Goretti Horgan, ULSTER UNIVERSITY; Brian Hanley, independent scholar; Harry Browne, Alan Grossman, Michael Carr, Pat Hannon, James Rock, Michael Foley, Fabian McGrath, Jim Roche, Martin Hanrahan, Richard Fitzsimons, Edward Brennan, DUBLIN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY; Tom O’Connor, Brian McMahon, Cork IT; Kevin Farrell, IT Blanchardstown; Niamh McCrea, IT Carlow; Martin Marjoram, IT Tallaght; Tom Boland, IT Waterford; Justin Carville, Cormac Deane, Mark Curran, Paula Gilligan, INSTITUTE OF ART, DESIGN and TECHNOLOGY; Maurice Coakley, Barry Finnegan, GRIFFITH COLLEGE DUBLIN; David Hughes, ROYAL COLLEGE OF SURGEONS IRELAND
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