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Greeurope, a new approach is needed now

I can’t hide my double feeling of strong opportunity and deep concern about Greece and the whole European project writes Nuño Mayer.

The latter has never been so much at risk to fail as it is now, and at the same time it has never been at a more incredible moment to be reshaped and include a more humane and societal dimension.

Last Sonday’s referendum in Greece – regardless the result – was the last (but not least) act in a tragic negotiation. Most politicians and media all over Europe presented it as a win-lose game. Many sad moments were offered on both sides during the last months. Even the lack of basic respect among the negotiating parties was part of the scenery. Maybe the call to a referendum was a bad idea, but defining it as a yes or no vote to Europe was certainly not smart. Everybody is now exhausted and find a solution.

This situation originated a long time ago: a Greek state that has been dragging for with enormous deficiencies at governance level – a failed system -; a European currency that contains important deficiencies in its design; a decision to accept Greece as a member of the Eurozone despite being aware that they were not fit to take that step; a financial crisis seven years ago that led to a number of decisions – keyword austerity – that have not solved the targeted problems but have created huge new problems.

Caritas Europa has produced in the last years three reports about the human cost of austerity in Greece and other European countries: cutbacks in health, education, social protection and services. This has resulted in more poverty, especially family and child poverty, more inequality (i.e. the rich are richer, the middle and working classes are poorer), more unemployment, especially youth unemployment, more acute health problems, more suicides, lack of hope and the impression of a stolen future.

What happens with Greece will have a major impact in terms of trust in the European project. Well reflected reactions are now requested. The negotiators must be aware of the different impact of leaving behind or smartly integrating Greece and its impoverished people in a European project with an exhilarating future

. I am now starting to hear non-Greek politicians acknowledging the suffering of the Greek people in the last years and the need to consider their experience and thoughts in the negotiations. The tone was different than recent discourses, and in the midst of this pile of broken fragments, it gave me hope.

It is high time, for the sake of our common home Europe, that the negotiators from all Member States and the European institutions rethink their approach to this situation. It is high time to recognise mistakes made by all involved parties and work together towards socially acceptable solutions. We need a new paradigm where people and their needs are put at the centre.

What do we want for Greece? Let the public administration ministers discuss how to create a healthy state. Let the ministers of labour, education, health and social affairs participate in the discussions, so that a real integral human development can bring Greece and Europe towards new hope and a better future. Let us reinvent the concept of solidarity beyond money transfers. Such a project will take time, decades most likely, but it will probably be the best way.

Caritas, as a member of the European Civil Society, will clearly contribute to such a challenging and valuable project.

Comments are welcome on this article

Nuño Mayer is the Secretary General of Caritas Europa, which is the network of 49 national Caritas organisations across Europe. 

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