17/02/2012 Newsnight


Paul Mason reports from Greece as the country's economy fragments, and the political extremes vie for power. With Stephanie Flanders presenting.

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They said the single currency would bring Europe together. Instead for


the past two years it has threatened to tear it aparts. And


nowhere does the dream of Europe look more thread bear this week


than in Greece. Paul Mason watches up -- as they clean up after the


last riots and brace themselves for the next one. What is it like to


live inside of a failed experiment no-one knows how to fix. Greece


maybe faces a decade of austerity. Few believe the plan will work. If


the centre can't hold, what or who will take its place? I don't think


it will be non-violent government from the left. It's going to be a


civil war. Two writers and two economists talk about the way


Greece is now. How it has been changed by the crisis and what the


Greek tragedy is doing to hopes of ever closer integration in Europe.


Also tonight, the Home Secretary is so keen to deport Abu Qatada she's


to fly to Jordan personally to negotiate. Is there any point?


Good evening. World stock markets rose to their highest level since


the summer today on the hopes a much anticipated Greek debt deal


may get off the ground. The arrangement was investors who


brought -- bought debt after the crisis would get a third of their


money back, rather than none. In Greece another human whraigs --


humiliation as thieves got through the gates of the Olympia museum to


escape with acparticular quits. Paul Mason got inside, closer, to


see what the Greek tragedy feels like from the inside. We have to


deal with the latest. What about this deal. A single moment when


they managed to steal the acparticularies, it feels less safe


than Cairo. In the last five days there has been a major wobble by


the European Union, and the Germans and the Dutch. The question of


issue does the European Union give Greece �130 billion new money and


write off the debts. It's being presented we need more conditions


to make sure they do it. They listed the conditions, whatever


happens in the elections they will implement the plan. They have to


come up with 325 million, further cuts in the minimum wage, and they


have done it. While they were doing t the tone has changed above all


from Germany and the Netherlands. Mr Shueblshueblshuebl -- Wolfgang


Schaeuble saying even if they do it, they better default. There's only


two weeks to do it. March 20th is the cut-off date Greece goes bust


unless it can borrow a new 14 billion loan. That tone change, the


manifesto, the people in Athens can feel it. They have been reacting to


it. It nearly did fall apart yesterday. It has come back on


track. The markets have risen. feels like there's a lot to do in a


short time. Let's assume the many pieces come together, when it comes


to the narrow question in the next few weeks. What is the plan after


that, do you get the sense the Greeks or anybody else has a plan


for what happens next? What it would need any economics textbook


of the right and centre or left would say you have to codge bien


the austerity with structural reconstruction. You need


politicians to do it. If Brussels is going to design it, they are say


"yes" to that "no" to that, if Brussels is going to decide it and


foist it on you, you need a decisive leadership. They haven't


got one now. They have a coalition government that has fallen apart.


Mr Wolfgang Schaeuble said they will not get a government. It will


be better if they have no politicians running Greece. There's


a third force, the Greek people. They increasingly want a say in it


all. There's going to be a civil war.


There is a revolution against the government.


People say if they continue of this, we have to guy Kalashnikov. The EU


demanded austerity. The Greek Parliament voted for. It The


streets erupted. In the aftermath Greeks were stunned. It's not the


scale of the violence and destruction but the scale of the


unsefrt. Nobody knows how the economy can be rebuilt and the


politics are fragmenting. In a normal crisis a decisive vote in


Parliament, a massive riot and the torching of 17 buildings might


bring catharsis. This is no normal crisis. Greece faces maybe a decade


of austerity. Few among the political political class believe


the plan will work. It seems to many Greeks the more austerity and


chaos they inflict on themselves, the more the big powers of Europe


ask for. In the gritty streets this port


district they know what it means when you make one in five people


unemployed and cut health spending and slash the minimum wage.


This clinic run by volunteer doctors and nurses was originally


set up to treat migrants. Now one in three patients are Greeks. Like


this woman, a cleaner who has lost her job. TRANSLATION: I'm here to


get food and vaccinations for my children. Why can't you access the


Greek main health service? We're not insured. My husband doesn't


work and I don't work. -- work. In the latest round of austerity the


government has locked -- knocked another billion off the medicine


budget. Incomes are collapsing. If you are poor you have the same


problems regardless if you come from Africa or Asia or a Greek


citizen. For our organisation it's a whole new phenomenon to have


Greeks. If the past these people could struggle for their daily life.


If they had problems, but they could manage it. Now the burden has


become more. It's more difficult for them. If in the past it was


difficult for them to find a job now it's impossible. I'm afraid


that with the crisis, the phenomenon will become worse.


the crisis deepens, the weakest and the poorest suffer. Nowhere more so


than those not supposed to be in Greece at all. This the ferry port


that links Greece to Western Europe. On the seafront hundreds of illegal


migrants live in this shattered factory. I'm taken in by an


activity by a local NGO. The migrants got here because the


government cut backs have made the Greek border forous. How is it to


get interest Greece? Too easy. The border is not closed. It's open.


They survive on charity. They receive no assistance at all from


the Greek state. As the economy has collapsed so too is sympathy for


the migrants. This is not Europe. I used to live London. This no look


like Europe. The police can hit you. The people can swear you for no


reason. The people hit us like animal. This man a graduate from da


four is headed for London. He can't wait to see the back of Greece. How


long have you been in this factory? I have six months and three months


in the train. Because the police forced us to the leave the train.


We came to the abandoned factory. I have six months here. Do you think


the economic crisis has made the situation for migrants worse?


we're going to the markets... give you food and some money.


There's less now? Now the situation is changing because of the economic


crisis. They drink from a pipe in the ground. Some have died from


fires lit to keep one. It's shocking to see it in a continent


that once prided into on a social model. The crisis has turned so


much of Greece upside down. For Greek youth, the situation too


looks dire. 50% of those under 24 are unemployed. Among them the


extremes of politics are growing. In a bar run by one of the far left


groups I meet the people who have got together to feed and clothe the


migrants. None is a member of a left party. All intend to vote for


one. All have been participants in disorderly protest. There's no


future for us. Generally there's no future. We can't dream or live.


This is a disaster. I've been hearing young Greek people say that


to me for three years. What do you do about it? We're fighting and


trying to convince people to make them understand that the crisis is


a result of the capitalist system. Do you seriously think there could


be a left wing government in Greece? I don't think it will a


non-violent government from the left. It will be a civil war.


carpenter, the teacher, the engineer, the social worker...


These are professional people. The ideas they are expousing have


become commonplace. What about work? If there's no work there's a


revolution against the government. The Greek left, the communists, and


the Ecologists have a combined poll rating of 43.5%. This country


always had a strong left wing. Now it's strong enough to have their


own TV studios and if there's an election a previously unthinkable


prospect. We're talking about a new bloc of forces which have their


internal differences but on the other hand agree on the rejection


of the memory dumb and the suffering policy of austerity.


you think this forces could propose a government? They must put asides


their differences and after the next election yes form a new block


of power. In truth the left is probably too splintered to attempt


to form a government. But the despair call for some to call for


elections to postponed. If we have elections so sure, we will have it


in a few months and we can kiss the country and possibly the euro


goodbye. The backbone of the Greek capital is the small form. On here,


the business plan is just to survive. Now they face new taxes,


endemic corruption, rising crime and the owner detects a nostalgia


among these peers for the days of military rule. Old people will be


thinking about the military government. For us it's finished.


But they have one right, one right, they did stole even one penny.


didn't steal a penny? Even one of those which is still alive he lives


in one room. Places like this should be the bedrock of support


for the centre right. They're not. I'm talking always to my children.


I say to my children, do not nothing but you don't go just for


vote or go for vote, just say you're are bastards. Just in 10,000


we come out of Europe, that the Greek people... Spoil your vote.


You don't trust any of them? No-one. Do you think democracy will


survive? We like to believe it will survive. We like to believe 6789 --


believe. F but the people say if they continue of this we have to


buy Kalashnikov. There are still days when the sun shines and the


old lifestyle rekindles and people forget their worries. For the


political class that has tried to guide Greece through the mess


there's deep concern. If we're not seriously looking at the


repercussions we may end up Russia of the early 90. The very, very


high poverty line. Russia in the mid90's had a poverty line higher


than in the communist period. it had crooks running the country.


It had crooks running the country. Whatever happens next week, those


remain the stakes. And they are high. I'm joined now by Lord Lamont


former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Will Hutton and Maria Margaronis


who was in Athens last week and the author Louis De Bernieres who has


described his relationship with the country as one of love and


difficulty exach ration and pleasure. You were in Greece


recently. Watching the film does it chime with the feeling you had


there? Completely. What you can't get from the film is how pervasive


the feeling is. If you walk through the formerly wealthy areas are


closed or having sales of 50%. You see elderly Greeks looking for


something to eat in the streets. There are junkies shooting up.


There are the migrants with their scrap metal to sell. The thing that


wasn't in the film the migrants can't leave Greece. The borders to


exit are closed for them. They have to asking for - ask for asylum. It


has caused incredible social tepblgss, and you don't feel how it


gets under your skin. How keen even more middle class people though


they may have taken a 30% salary cut in the public sector or may


feel in danger of losing their jobs in the private sector, 60,000


businesses have closed since the summer, live all the time with the


uncertainty, are we going to default or not. People -- many have


stopped watching the news, thing was the loss of the centre


ground in politics, and what I was saying telling his children not to


vote for anybody, to spoil their ballots. What does it mean for


Greece. For decades Greece was polarised politically between left


and right. In the last ten years it seemed a centre was developing. It


looks to me the terrible economic conditions is probably going to


force the people from the centre to the left. I think People


unestimated at the beginning of the crisis that it's a fragile


democracy. There are deep splits in Greek society. The splits of the


civil war have never healed. There were 30 years when the left were


essentially outlawed. Plane returned in the form of the


Socialist Party. Both the main political parties keep their people


happy through the client system. Distributed money for votes. Now


people are moving to the left. I thought the gentlemen was


optimistic making a left block. The Communist Party will never work


with anybody else. There's a movement of the far right, a street


fighting fascist party is on the verge of getting representation in


Parliament. There was a historical parallel mentioned in the film of


Russia in the 90's, and the mayhem you had there and what happened


politically when the old system had fallen apart. You were Chancellor


of of the Exchequer in some of that time. Do you think it's a relevant


parallel what happened in the former Soviet Union? Not really,


the transition from communist to a free market economy was something


totally different. This is a tragic situation. The root cause is Greece


should never have been allowed in the euro in the first place. There


are no easy choices. No soft option. If one is taking a medium term view


my hunch is Greece would be better off recognising the reality and


getting out of the euro. That will pose all sorts of problems. It will


be the better option for this reason: Even if by some miracle and


it would be a miracle Greece achieved everything asked of it it


will still only get down to a level of debt higher than that of Italy


in the year 2020 and they would be asked in 2020 for a continuation of


this. Frankly I think that's utterly impractical. Can they say


in? It's a 64,000 euro question. They have forked out a lot more


than that. If they leave it will be a cataclysmic event. The minute


Greece would leave it will be a run on Greek banks. That's obvious. Any


Portuguese citizen, and Irish citizen, and maybe Spanish citizens


would take the same view. There will be bank deposits across the


softer parts of the eurozone. There will be a flight to the triple A


countries. Germany in particular. It would be beyond the capacity of


the European Central Bank to finance. You will get massive


write-downs. And a domino effects. And one of the countries would


severely affected would be us. You're talking about the effect


outside, or Greeks is it worse than what they are going flu now?


Greece it would be hyperinflation. And the great hyperinflations, in


Germany in the 1920's, in China in 1940's are always followed by cats


milk -- cats clis milk political events. Bloody awful in and out.


Isn't it starting to look worse? It's impossible for them to keep


going on this austerity for something like 12 years. Unr


utterly unthinkable. What skp will says it will have repercussions in


other parts of the eurozone. It's notable the German government is


changing its attitude. Mr Schaeuble seems to be more of the view it


will be better if Greece gets out. Preparations are being made. Fire


walls are put around Portugal and Spain. The ECB can do a lot. When


it comes to the people of Greece, leaving the euro would be difficult


for them. The parallel is what happened to Argentina when it broke


its link with the clar. -- dollar. You had a very, very uncomfortable


ferred -- period they were better and they are benefitting today.


is it the same thing than a currency peg or did it mean


something more than that for the Greeks? Joining the European Union


for the Greeks was a right of package. It's saying we're grown up


and one of the big boys and equals to the European nations -- rite of


passage. They haven't got the European Union they wanted. It's


been an enormous disappointment. Far more fraught and -- than they


expected. If the Greeks left the euro they could charge their own


interest rates to suit their own economy. And they could devalue the


drachma when they have to. When I was there in the last year or, so


people wanted to stay. People want two things. People don't want to


leave... Although the last poll said 48% want to leave the euro.


Fundamentally Greeks want to say in Europe but don't want the austerity


measures. We're talking as they they have the only opbgss. The way


things play out it seems to be. But we have to think of the Europe we


want. Someone who believes firmly in the European project, are you


not worried all the associations with European integration, we need


more European integration, if we will make the eurozone work, all of


this has gone against this. People associate it with university. Don't


you worry about what it does? Angela Merkel will cough up the


money on Monday. I think that's what the markets are saying. It


will come in trafrpblgz. The left in Greece haven't got an


alternative programme. For the next month or so it will hold. Who can


tell. Once you have got some kind of settlement with Greece, you have


the Europeans have got to start talking about growth and employment.


What is happening in France with Allond ahead in the French polls,


and determined not to have this kind of austerity and trying to


define a fresh economic policy for Europe is going to be the big story.


In 20 years' time what is Greece going to look like, and the


European Union? There's no way to know. I talk to friends in Greece


and what -- say what is going to happen next. They have no idea. I


think your point of -- of Europe is a good one. And not have


unemployment now. The problem is larger than Greece. The mistake in


debate is equating the euro with Europe. I think Europe is something


separate from the euro. You can easily redefine the contures of the


eurozone and maintain Europe. When Mrs Merkel says the euro is Europe,


I think that's not the reality. For Germans it's tied up with their


history and identity. It would be possible to have the eurozone with


a narrower group of countries and operating better. I think it will


be better for everyone in Europe. Do you think it was doomed. Do you


think they overreached themselves and they have to step back. I agree


they weren't eligible to come into the euro in the first place. Their


political culture was too corrupt. And what Maria... Was rife. I don't


think you can put together incompatible countrys and economies


and run them if they are the same. It's not a question of political


culture but economic development. Greece emerged from a dictatorship


in 19... They had ra lot to fix. When Greece started to


industrialise, it hit globalisation and the oil crisis. The textile


factories moved to Bulgaria and elsewhere. There are a lot of other


reasons why Greece is in trouble. The political system bears blame


too. In a minute we will be looking at what is going to happen to Abu


Qatada. First to Martha in Glasgow. We are ranging far and wide tonight.


New York -- Extremely loud and incredibly close, and Lucien frued


and the many worlds of Martin Skrbgs corsese. Theresa May says


she will travel to Jordan to try to strike a deal over Abu Qatada. Mrs


May said she would continue where James Brokenshire left off in his


talks this week. James Brokenshire is coming back. Why is she heading


off there? What will she achieve. To continue the work she has done.


The stumbling block, the reason the Strasbourg court won't allow his


deportation is they don't believe evidence obtained by torture won't


be used. Brokenshire tried to get an undertaking that would be the


case. He has Gott a sufficient undertaking. Theresa May has gone


there to get a further undertaking. It is difficult. It is in the words


of some Jordanians to debase themselves in the face of the court


of Strasbourg, where they say they don't use these strategies.


there any chance at all we're going to see Abu Qatada headed on a


plane? That would be the dream scenario in terms of the Home


Office. There's another scenario. Even if they get the undertakings


that would staff the judges in Strasbourg it will take a year to


get rid of him. They are focused on making sure they can get him back


into prison if there's a realistic chance of him being deported. They


can then go back to the judge and there's a realistic chance please


put him back in prison. One paper, more about mrbd -- Murdoch. That's


Paul Mason is back from Greece with an extended report and discussion on the way the old social and political norms are disintegrating in the face of austerity.