The EU’s (financial) warfare

Sunday’s referendum is taking place against the background of a kind of financial warfare. If the idea is to terrorise the population, it has only half worked.

When Times correspondent George Steer entered the city of Guernica in April 1937, what struck him were the incongruities. He noted precisely the bombing tactics “which may be of interest to students of the new military science”. But his report begins with a long paragraph describing the city’s ceremonial oak tree and its role in the Spanish feudal system.

Sitting in Athens this week, I began to understand how Steer felt. Sunday’s referendum took place under a kind of financial warfare not seen in the history of modern states. The Greek government was forced to close its banks after the European Central Bank, whose job is technically to keep them open, refused to do so. The never-taxed and never-registered broadcasters of Greece did the rest, spreading panic, and intensifying it where it had already taken hold.

When the prime minister made an urgent statement live on the state broadcaster, some rival, private news channels refused to cut to the live feed. Greek credit cards ceased to work abroad. Some airlines cancelled all ticketing arrangements with the country. Some employers laid off their staff. One told them they would be paid only if they turned up at an anti-government demonstration. Martin Schulz, the socialist president of the European parliament, called for the far-left government to be replaced by technocrats. And the Council of Europe declared the referendum undemocratic.

With ATM cash limited to €60 a day, one shopkeeper described the effect on her customers: on day one, panic buying; day two, less buying; day three, terror; day four, frozen. The words you find yourself using in reports, after looking into the eyes of pensioners and young mothers, make the parallel with conflict entirely justified: terror, fear, flight, panic, uncertainty, sleeplessness, anxiety, disorientation.

If the effect was to terrorise the population, it has only half worked. The pollsters are simply finding what Greek political scientists already know: society is divided, deeply and psychologically, between left and right.

Lees dit artikel van Paul Mason verder op The Guardian >>>