Greece does not deserve to suffer for the lofty ambitions of the European Union

How has Greece reached this crisis?
How has Greece reached this crisis?

Five years ago, almost to the day, I was having the time of my life on a beach in Greece.

The temperatures were in the high 30s and a gentle breeze edged the water lacey white as it flowed around my feet. I was trying to take a picture of my newly-wed son and his Greek wife whose marriage brought a lot of happiness that day on the gorgeous island of Crete.

Sandra Chapman

Sandra Chapman

We celebrated in a beach taverna which we took over for the day and later when the champagne was all finished and we’d decided more drink was not a good idea some of us staggered down to the lower end of the beach where, in 1964, Anthony Quinn danced the Sirtaki for the iconic film Zorba the Greek. Clearly, none of us was fit to repeat Quinn’s efforts on that occasion.

The newly-weds lived and worked in Crete at the time and we returned often to Stavros, the little village north of Chania, which had given us that memorable day. We got to know the Greeks well, loved their way of life, even toyed with the idea of buying a house there should we win the Lottery. But life moved on, my son and his wife moved to another part of Europe and now we have two delightful half-Greek grandchildren.

It’s not hard to understand then why my heart is sore over what is happening in that amazing country which gave the entire world so much in the form of language and culture. It would have been nice for our grandchildren to be able to grow up knowing the country which is part of them had prospered. Instead, what is happening there, will set the country back maybe decades. Their other grandparents are still there, living on mainland Greece, truly lovely people who have no idea how their country will survive and if they’ll receive their pensions next week.

I have followed every news bulletin and media article on the crisis and still cannot make up my mind how it has come to this. Respected business expert Jeremy Warner, writing in the Daily Telegraph is quite clear that ‘‘IMF heads must roll over shameful Greek failings’.

He’s certain that ``...if this were any normal organisation, the IMF’s managing director Christine Lagarde, would be forced to resign and someone with less of a vested interest in propping up the folie de grandeur of European Monetary Union installed in her place’’.

I suspect that’s about it in a nutshell. Lagarde, with the immaculate business suits, quiet voice and permanent smile, beguiled the journalists when she took over. She seemed utterly professional but Warner writes that the IMF has always been impervious to criticism and ‘‘repeatedly fails to learn from its mistakes’’.

Lagarde is not interested in alternatives to suit the member states which are not part of the rich G7 group.

Other writers see the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras as the villain of the piece. Ireland, which famously took a bailout they said two days before they didn’t need, weighed in with its two-pence worth advising Greece to pay up like they did.

To many of us, Ireland was shamed by the antics of the Eurozone dictators. Austerity in Ireland was never so bad as the austerity the Greeks faced for years on end. They were not comparing like with like and should have said nothing. Greece was not the ideal country to include in the Eurozone anyway but they were told they would be better off in it.

The country is now impoverished all in the name of creating a bigger and better, grandiose EU. This is the EU’s first big hurdle and they’re making an unholy mess. Alexis Tsipras is not a stupid man. Many see him as a gambler, something the hierarchy of the EU do not understand.

For those Greeks I now consider my extended family I hope life can get better and they can celebrate with a Sirtaki once again. Hopefully I will be able to join them too when that day comes.