economy, europe, World Politics

Greece will recover if the EU is realistic and pragmatic

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Violent protests are choking up streets, almost a quarter of the nation is unemployed, and taxes are at unprecedentedly high rates. A country which has faced economic despair for over eight years, Greece is still in need of a realistic, long-term, and sustainable plan in order to rejuvenate its ailing economy. It is time that the European Union accepted that it should not bring Greece to adhere to unrealistic conditions. Instead, it is in the Union’s interests to – albeit begrudgingly – hand the Greek people the support they need.

Greece’s economy has barely improved even with international ‘aid.’ There must be something going wrong with the present strategy. Greece’s level of debt is eating away at the livelihoods of ordinary people, sitting at around 180% of output. It is estimated that as much as 75% citizens’ earnings is being taken in tax revenues, alongside other harsh, EU-imposed austerity measures. Greece’s unemployment is now more than double that of the EU average. Austerity is not working, and the lives of citizens are not improving. It may, in the long-run, make a stronger economy, looking at only the macroeconomic situation. But for the average Greek, their personal income and quality of life will not markedly improve. Surely this should be the primary goal of the EU.

The national economy can only recover through investment and employment, in the same way that many of the world’s greatest economies started. The Greek parliament last week was backed into approving €5.4bn of controversial budget cuts. For a nation that voted “oxi” – or “no” – to extensive budget rescaling last year, this is surprising. But is it that surprising, really? The international press and our leaders will keep telling us that Greece has no other option. But really, this is just highlighting the crippling monopoly of the European Union.

The time for a review of the supposed Greek recovery has come, but quarrels between the European Central Bank, Eurozone, and International Monetary Fund are continuing to stall any workable progress. The EU has the chance to serve one of it’s most important functions – to uphold its true values of solidarity, and support its member states in calamities. With particular reluctance on the part of the German government, it seems that Greece and its people will not come back to life unless a form of compromise is made. A harsh economic dictatorship, being orchestrated by Merkel, is neither an intelligent nor viable strategy for a Greek recovery. Amidst worrying social unrest, the Greek government simply has no choice but to succumb to the rigid conditions of troika.

This week, Christine Lagarde of the IMF has reported a significant contraction in the Greek economy, and that the aspirations of the EU for Greece are largely unrealistic. In order to progress to the next stage of bailout, the Greek government must repay €3.5bn by July. But achieving any form of budget surplus means harsh austerity measures, passed as parliament grit their teeth. The only option which could lead to true stability and progress is if member states contribute to a stronger Greek economy, by aiding with debt relief, and if the EU’s expectations are reduced.

Selfishness from the European Union will only lead to increased calamity, and not only financially. Supporting Greece is in member states’ interests. Economic solidarity is necessary in multiple respects, and is what the European Union ought to stand for. Without true moderation and aid, Greece will decline in many ways. Less investment and support will mean more unrest. Greece’s streets have already become increasingly violent, and there is no sign of the chorus of opposition waning. Does Merkel really want to lug around a socially unstable state? Furthermore, chances of tyranny and political instability would only grow.

Unless the EU comes truly to the rescue, the current left-wing government will grow more unpopular, and the anti-establishment, austerity-defending hard right will succeed. Without a good cash flow from Brussels, economic growth will never be high again for at least the next decade. The lives of Greek citizens will become arduous and their prospects weak. There is no denying that it will be a long, hard slog. Choosing to ignore Greece to the furthest extent possible is not a realistic or pragmatic option. Money must be used as an incentive for growth and rejuvenation, not just something to tick a box. The focus must turn to getting people back into work, and reducing austerity to a more acceptable level. Only with a long-term plan which combines components of balance and sustainability will Greece be able to emerge re-energised.

No decision will be favourable, and no form of austerity desirable. But at the moment, the EU is in its own bubble. Christine Lagarde and the IMF have the power to pop it. The creation of a realistic plan should be fast sought. There is no quick fix, but if the government can present a collective strategy with visible, incremental improvements, Greece will be slowly reincarnated. The European Union needs a reality check. It is undermining its own principles of solidarity, support and prosperity. When realistic and pragmatic strategy emerges, with a plan spanning the next decade, the Greek people may finally be a little more content. By ignoring the seriousness of the Greek crisis, the EU is only creating more problems for itself. Unrest will plague communities, government popularity will further decline, the hard-right may well conquer another European region, and individuals will become tired. Surely the nurturing of economic demise is not something the EU wants to credit itself with.

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American Politics, World Politics

The White House should be sweating over the FBI’s liberty abuse

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Over recent months, a worrying increase in organised crimes and devastating shootouts all over the United States has shocked citizens worldwide. As politicians and security officials have become hard pressed for security legislation, a balance of civil liberties and state protection has proven seemingly hard to weigh out.

The past few weeks’ events involving the formidable FBI and tech giant Apple have accentuated this conundrum all the more. No one advocates for such catastrophic terrorist attacks, but ensuring privacy when monitoring criminal suspects is vital. There is no denying that this form of criminal investigation can be valuable when enforcing the law. Serious organised crimes and terrorist atrocities are more frequent than ever, and monitoring the movements of suspect individuals is paramount for the protection of a nation’s citizens.

But there is something gravely worrying about such robust precautions. The guaranteed right to privacy of many civilians is at threat. Apple’s resilience towards the FBI’s coercive demands, however, is reassuring news for many liberals. The company’s decision not to aid US agencies in the recovery of personal data on a suspect’s phone has highlighted the need for clamping down on the state’s data monopoly.

Last week, however, with third-party support, the FBI succeeded in breaking through what used to be Apple’s impenetrable wall of security. The highest criminal investigations agency in the world had defied the passcode of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook’s iPhone. George Orwell must be turning in his grave. The FBI’s hacking has proven that the US government – and, evidently, many other global governments – can summon the personal details of any citizen, exposing vast details of their private life. Needless to say, technology use is widespread today. The possibility of those either wrongly or correctly accused of criminal activities having their right to privacy taken away from them is worrying likely. Apple dominates a large section of the worldwide technology market, meaning that the number of individuals who could be at threat from such stringent surveillance measures is considerably large. In the wrong hands, these capabilities could prove to be detrimental. Within myriad governments, the unwarranted tracking of citizens may now become more normal.

The United States isn’t the only nation that must be brought into focus when it comes to the liberties versus security debate. Rigorous monitoring has caused discontent across the world. The information provided by whistle-blowers like Edwards Snowden is pivotal, and shows the large extent to which the US government already spies on its citizens. Other national governments the world over have succeeded in using data monitoring as a source of crime deterrence. China’s strict internet monitoring, the United Kingdom’s ‘snoopers charter’ and the arrest of a Facebook executive in Brazil highlight the rigid surveillance measures which have emerged internationally. Individual liberties are fast becoming unduly curbed. Just because many other states’ governments have succeeded in such wide-scaled monitoring does not mean that the United States can operate a similar system which is free of controversial agenda.

Surely it is time that the White House took definitive action, standing up for its traditionally libertarian principles. There is a large potential for such invasive powers to be used wrongly, and for innocent citizens’ privacy to be crushed. In Obama’s last-minute legislative rush, he and his left-wing democrats should spend the last few months of administration over the protection individual freedoms. Attitudes towards civil liberty and national security could, of course, rapidly change under Presidents Clinton, Trump or Cruz. News that President Obama has failed to either condemn or support the probing actions of the FBI shows up his indecisiveness in relation to the matter. In order to protect his nation’s people, the US President must lucidly proclaim his stance, taking radical action.

Ron Wyden, Senator for Oregon, is just one of the high-profile politicians whom have condemned the controversial actions of the FBI. It seems that, despite the fact that there are plausible arguments for such monitoring in our growingly insecure society, the livelihoods and safety of citizens are at risk. The right to privacy is one which is becoming eroded, and one that is in danger of being forgotten. Unless global governments strike the correct balance, citizens may soon have their individuality and privileges taken from them.

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