- From the Editor
Picking up from the previous issue of the Mediterranean Quarterly, the Greek financial crisis appears to be coming to a head. Having been elected in January 2015 to bring about change—any change—to a Greece that has been under severe austerity for more than five years now, the new government under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, along with Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, has been on a public relations offensive to try to build pressure on Greece’s debt holders—primarily the German government—to renegotiate more favorable terms. Indeed, speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington on 16 April 2015, Varoufakis observed the dire situation in his country with tongue-in-cheek:
The Greek public and private sectors are, and have been for a long time, replete with malignancies which require urgent and extensive and intensive treatment. There is no doubt about it. Indeed, the Greeks themselves were so incensed by the lack of reform that they even went as far as to elect us, the party of the radical left, to lead the country.1
Be that as it may, these “malignancies,” as the colorful finance minister called them, are at the heart of this very complicated and very Greek tragedy. Can Greece reform itself to become a country with greater transparency, a country that can develop a business climate that attracts foreign investors for its highly educated population? Or will Greece remain trapped by its past, with an overregulated and underdeveloped economy that props up a bloated [End Page 1] public sector while young entrepreneurial Greeks leave their homeland for a more certain future overseas? In a society that has come to rely on a system of political patronage in exchange for public sector jobs and generous government benefits over the past several decades, change no doubt will be hard and slow. But change Greece must.
Most experts watching this situation unfold sympathize with the plight of the Greek people, knowing full well that the onerous conditions that austerity has brought Greece due to its relatively high debt is unsustainable. At the same time, these experts understand well the cascading effect that would occur if Greece were able to renegotiate its debt. Indeed, other Southern European countries in similar situations but on a much larger scale, such as Spain or Italy, would undoubtedly also seek more lenient terms for their debts, and in turn threaten the entire European Monetary Union experiment.
The first two essays in this issue of the Mediterranean Quarterly address the ongoing Greek financial crisis and demonstrate that this very complex issue is indeed a moving target. “Conflict in the Eurozone: A View from Athens,” by Elias Kulukundis, the author and businessman who founded Kulukundis Shipping Investments, is a follow up to his earlier piece in the Mediterranean Quarterly from the summer 2014.2 As Kulukundis eloquently shows here, the Greek financial crisis may likely be the harbinger of a Europe increasingly divided both politically and economically and perhaps even a catalyst for a new world order. As a companion piece that dovetails with Kulukundis’s essay, Richard L. Jackson, who served at the US Embassy in Greece and was the president of Anatolia College, provides “The Unraveling of a Greek Tragedy.” It examines some of the key issues driving political wedges between Greece and its western partners, opening Greece up to Russian and Chinese machinations. Both essays amply demonstrate the deleterious effects to Europe and the West if a satisfactory resolution to the Greek debt crisis is not found quickly. Because events are moving so quickly on this matter, it would not be too far of a stretch to think that Greece may have defaulted on its debt, or even begun the process of exiting the single European currency, by the time this issue reaches publication in the summer of 2015. [End Page 2]
While Greece continues to struggle with its financial crisis, Philip Giurlando, assistant professor of international relations at Trent University, turns attention to its neighbor, Italy. In “Italy and the Euro: Expectations versus Results,” he argues that the Italian adoption of the single European currency—assiduously sold by the Italian political elite—amounted to little...