See you at The Agora
It was October 2011 and Greece had just gone through the most explosive summer in its recent history. Early in the summer, protests that had started reluctantly and peacefully at Syntagma Square turned into something more pronounced with masses of Greeks surrounding Parliament. They were met with outright violence by the Greek police. After a brief respite in August, social tension rose again during September and at the start of October.
Greece was right in the thick of its crisis. It was consistently ridiculed in the northern European media, especially Germany. Greeks were berated as a people, the medicine prescribed by the troika was not working for reasons that have now been admitted by the administering doctors and the austerity policies were having a progressively stronger hold on the economy and society.
It was in the environment created by these unprecedented developments that this blog come into existence. What started on occasion as a diary, on others as a punchbag for venting emotions, evolved and grew beyond any expectations.
Just a few days after the inaugural post, Greece secured its second bailout, which included debt reduction via the PSI. After tension during the parades on October 28th, George Papandreou decided to call a referendum. This led to his political demise, the fall of his government and the formation of a technocratic administration with ex-central banker Lucas Papdemos as prime minister. New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras was forced to go back on two years of anti-memorandum rhetoric to join the broad coalition and vote for a second bailout that was even tougher than the first. The demonstrations during the parliamentary vote on the second memorandum in February 2012 left Athens bruised after buildings were set on fire.
Samaras could sense that power was approaching and insisted on calling elections for May 2012. The elections were inconclusive but changed Greece’s political map when leftist SYRIZA took second spot. The parties failed to form a coalition and repeat elections were called. This is when Greece experienced the most intrusive intervention by officials across Europe, openly threatening exit from the euro if the vote went in the wrong direction. Samaras won the repeat elections and formed a coalition with arch rival PASOK and Democratic Left. Despite all three parties preaching memorandum renegotiation as their main message in their election campaigns, reality settled in quickly.
The troika review that started in July did not conclude before November and it took the eurozone four Eurogroup meetings to decide the new terms that would make Greece’s debt sustainable – until the next time that it would be unsustainable.
As things settled down in Greece and the idea of a success story started surfacing, for a number of reasons the eurozone decided to blow up Cyprus at the end of March this year. Greece’s success story started fading away and switched back to crisis mode when Samaras decided to shut down the public broadcaster ERT on one June evening. Just days later the IMF issued the evaluation of its involvement in Greece’s first program – something I consider to be one of the pivotal and revealing moments of the crisis.
This chronology of these events is captured here in 54 posts. These posts have attracted the attention and time of an overwhelming number of visitors, a number that in the blog’s infancy was beyond my imagination or even intention.
I made a conscious effort to be objective in my contributions to the debate although I am sure that on occasion the situation got the better of me. It is hard to be absolutely impartial when your own country is falling apart.
However, the debate is far from over. For me it will carry on from a different venue. I now contribute to the blog of a new initiative that intends to have a constructive input in the euro crisis debate. It also aims to help people understand Greece better through unbiased analysis of the country’s political, economic and social challenges. You can find MacroPolis here and The Agora is its debate zone. I have already made my first contribution; you can also follow the blog just as you have done here.
This is just au revoir. See you at The Agora.