ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Jean Ziegler: "L’UE joue le jeu du FMI et des multinationales"
by Ramine Abadie
Translated Saturday 8 May 2010, by
Sociologist and UNO official Jean Ziegler, who has signed l’Humanité’s petition, has just published an updated version of la Haine de l’Occident (The Hatred of the West). He is interviewed by l’Humanité’s correspondent in Geneva
HUMA: How do you interpret the Greek crisis and its developments?
ZIEGLER: Caramanlis’ right-wing government, which preceded the current Pasok(socialist) government, was a machine for systematically pillaging the country’s resources. As in a banana republic, Greece’s resources were privatized on a large scale even while tax evasion became massive. A reliable estimate by Swiss banks puts Greek tax-evading capitals in Swiss banks alone at 36 billion euro. In addition to this, some of the largest Greek ship-owners transferred their headquarters abroad: first among them, the biggest, namely Latsis, moved its own to Versoix near Geneva.
The scandalous end-result of all this is that the onus of paying heavily for the State’s quasi-bankruptcy now falls on the Greek people, on Greek workers, while the ruling classes themselves have taken the precaution of transferring almost all their fortune abroad. The Greek public debt stands at 112% of the country’s GDP.
HUMA: What do you think of the EU’s part in this crisis?
ZIEGLER: That is another real scandal. With the European tax-payers’ money (in the euro-area’s fifteen countries and in Switzerland), draconian conditions are imposed on the Greek people. Under the guise of rescuing the country, the resources of whose State were pillaged by the previous, right-wing government, the rescuers make them suffer a considerable social backlash (a wage freeze, cuts in social benefits, in the number of public workers) and more privatizations – which has the advantage of bailing out the big European banks that were massively involved. This actually gives Europe and its financial institutions an opportunity to dismantle the Greek social welfare even though Pasok has been voted into office on a social justice platform.
HUMA: Was there a fairer way out of the crisis?
ZIEGLER: The Europeans and the ECB could have lent funds to Greece at an exceptionally low rate to enable the country to meet its obligations in a short time. Instead, Greece was forced to choose between either borrowing at very high rates or accepting the EU and IMF’s plan and the economic strings attached to it. Greece was reluctant to submit to the unacceptable conditions imposed by the EU and the IMF and had been hoping to get loans by itself on the international market. All it took to prevent this was for Standard and Poors, one of the private rating agencies, to lower its rating of the Greek State’s solvency. And immediately Greece was barred access to the free capital market, or only at prohibitive rates of interest (almost 20%). Greece was left with no other choice but to submit to the conditions laid down in the EU and IMF’s plan.
HUMA: So Europe has played the part normally played by the IMF and its pro-market economists…
ZIEGLER: Completely. In its treatment of the Greek crisis, UE has been following the IMF’s formula for the structural-adjustment programs it imposed on poor countries like Burkina-Faso or Bangladesh! In short, the aim is simply to dismantle the social system to make the country “attractive to foreign investments”. In so doing, the EU and the ECB are zealously playing along with the IMF and the multinationals. Once more, the EU has proved to be no more than an entity in the service of the global financial capital’s oligarchies.