22:01 GMT +321 October 2019
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    Greek and EU flags in the city of Vathy on the island of Samos, June 2019

    Why Greeks Continue to Distrust the EU?

    © AFP 2019 / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI
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    The Greeks are pessimistic, and they don’t trust the European Union. A Eurobarometer study showed that in all EU member states, the majority of respondents "are optimistic about the future of the EU," apart from Greece.

    In Greece, 51% of respondents are pessimistic about the EU’s future, 66% don’t trust European institutions, while only 33% of respondents are "satisfied" with the European Union’s actions. Memoranda, albeit formally, are in the past, the country’s economy has shown slight growth, and the unemployment rate has decreased slightly. However, the Greeks still do not sympathize with the EU.

    Several experts and residents of Athens have reflected on what could be the reasons for this Euro-pessimism.

    According to Christos Nikas, Professor of International and European Studies at the University of Macedonia, the Greek Euroscepticism is due to the country’s recent economic "adventures":

    "Those who represented European institutions during the Greek crisis don’t just remain in their positions; their promotion is being discussed. Today these people say: "Sorry, we’ve destroyed the Greek economy." They already admit this; they realize they’ve made a mistake. They didn’t expect that the measures they introduced would have such a negative impact on the Greek economy. Their policy has failed; it led to disaster." The Greek expert believes this is one of the explanations for the results of the Eurobarometer survey.

    There can be no question of trusting the EU when the people who played a key role in the Greek crisis remain in their positions or, in the worst case, they are replaced by people with similar judgments and thinking, Mr Nikas noted. "Either they themselves or those who share their views remain in these posts."

    According to Christos Nikas, given how much the Greeks suffered during the dire financial crisis, the level of distrust in the European Union should have been even higher.

    "The British leave, despite the fact they suffered less."

    In this context, Mr Nikas made a direct comparison with the UK, which is expected to leave the European Union on 31 October 2019.

    "England, which hasn’t experienced even half of what Greece had to go through, just takes off the hat and leaves," he noted, referring to Brexit.

    The expert also emphasized the price of what is called the "salvation" of the Greek economy, which resulted in the country being forced to take rigorous measures:

    "The country has suffered such enormous damage that therapy would last at least until 2030," he said, warning of at least 20 "lost" years.

    Despite the fact that technically the country has withdrawn from the memoranda, the Greek government needs the approval of European institutions in order for "the economy and taxpayers to take a breath":

    "The Damocles sword of "approval" that we must get from European institutions still weighs above us.

    The fact that we’ve withdrawn from the memorandum is conditional since [our] independence in pursuing economic policy hasn’t been restored," the expert explained.

    "European politicians have a huge responsibility, but they don’t understand this. They have compromised the dignity of the Greeks. We have all been accused of laziness, parasitism, as well as of the fact that we live on the money of Europeans. It goes beyond reality," Christos Nikas concluded.

    "The EU is under the economic leadership of Germany."

    For his part, Christodoulos Giallouridis, Professor of International Relations at Pantheon University, offered another explanation for Greece’s distrust of the European Union:

    "When it was first founded, the European Union had a different mission – uniting Europeans in the "United States of Europe," the professor recalled.

    "Today there is no such state system. There are European states and European bureaucracy, which is imposed by the strong," he added.

    The expert stressed that Europe is dominated by forces that "try to impose their interests on the weaker, as well as those states that are unable to follow the fast pace of development of others."

    This results in specific problems because, according to Giallouridis, "various economic recovery programmes are created based on the German understanding of the economy, but they don’t fit into the Greek mentality."

    Thus, as Mr Giallouridis noted, "problems of distrust in Europe’s future and the EU’s ability to "support" the weakened South arise."

    In general terms, the professor believes that the reason for the Greek pessimism is in the structure of modern Europe, which is far from the expected structure of the "United States of Europe":

    "At the moment, the primacy of some states over the rest has been established, and the European Union is under the economic leadership of Germany and a little bit [under that of ] France," Christodoulos Giallouridis concluded.

    The poll

    25-year-old Yanis is one of those who are pessimistic about the European Union’s future. He believes that EU membership "didn’t benefit Greece."

    "They [the EU] have the means and opportunities to help Greece, but they don’t do that," he said, noting that the EU’s position will not change, because "in recent years it has been following a certain direction."

    Thassos, 80, accuses the European Union of many of Greece’s problems. He believes the European Union is responsible for "reduced pensions, increased prices, reduced health services and insecurity. They [the EU] could definitely do something better," he says.

    As for the future, he thinks things will get "worse." "We have a bunch of loans, where will we get the money to pay them?" he wondered. "We’re not producing anything," he added.

    When asked what the European Union can do, he said: "Put up barriers at the border and take away illegal immigrants."

    "Greece shouldn’t have joined the EU," Pandelis, a Canadian-born Greek, said.  In his opinion, the EU’s interest lies in the country’s strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea, and tourists who "come there on vacation because it’s cheap." "What else do they help us with?" he wondered.

    "Our generation is not so negative about the European Union because many of my peers work for companies outside Greece and companies with foreign interests in Greece," Myrtoleni, 32, noted. However, the woman added that "it’s better to be part of the union and help each other."

    Only a few said that they were generally satisfied with the European Union, but even they doubt the EU’s role in several issues, such as migration or the economy.

    Yanis, 44, said he had a positive attitude towards the European Union; but he pointed out that "they’ve made mistakes on some issues," as in how they "coped with the financial crisis." "There was very strong pressure on us," he noted, adding that the EU "could have done more to help us."

    "Everyone is driven by commercialism," Spyros, 40, said. He believes it’s good that Greece is an EU member, but, "they don’t help solve some problems, such as migration and defence issues. They haven’t shown they are on our side. We are on our own," the man said.

    *Views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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