Four Greeks talking about the financial crisis: an interesting conversation. EM spoke with John Sachanidis (25), Christina Kostaki (24), Valia Velli (23) and Katerina Skripotsenko (24), all Master students at EUR.
The future of the Greeks remains uncertain, as the EU still hasn’t agreed on a plan to help them with financial aid. In a lively group conversation, we asked four Greek students about their views and opinions on the crisis. Although quite a serious subject, they were very open and even joked about the situation every now and then. Valia smiles: ‘Greek people are talkative. And we don’t feel like we interrupt each other.’
Euro or no?
Starting off with the Euro, the Greeks were asked whether they thought the introduction of the Euro had been a good or a bad thing.
Valia explains why in this case, the Euro was not beneficial for most Greeks: ‘Everyone was saying they were losing money. Producers also complained that they had to pay higher prices for the products of other producers. I think that under different circumstances, the Euro would have been a good thing.’
John thinks that at this point, they are lucky to be in the Euro zone: ‘I believe the Euro will save us now.’
EM: What do you think about the initial decision of the Slovak government, in which they refused to provide Greece with more financial aid?
Christina: ‘I think they do have a point. Especially when they hear Germany talking about us. Still, I don’t think it’s clear to them where all the money goes.’
Valia agrees: ‘Basically, all of the money goes to paying back loans and paying very high interest rates. Salaries are cut, and this money also goes to paying back other countries. Actually, we are giving many countries a pretty high income from all the interest.’
Christina: ‘The view people have of Greeks is so stereotypical. People in the public sector work 8 hours a day, people in the private sector even more, maybe 10 or 12. It’s not in our mentality to work like a robot, hours at a time. But we do work 8 hours a day, just like other Europeans.’
Valia: ‘We might work even harder. When I visited Sweden I wanted to enter a store 5 minutes before closing time, and they just sent me away. No way that this would happen in Greece. A Greek will stay half an hour after closing time if he can sell something.’
All four have no faith in the political system of their country, as the public sector is malfunctioning and there is a lot of corruption going on.
Valia: ‘Government officials who stole public money and never paid back, are not punished for it. They try to put them to trial, but in the end everybody turns out to be innocent.’
When asked whether the problem can be fixed with the current government, the common answer is: ‘No way!’
Christina: ‘We’re supposed to be the founders of democracy, but at the moment there is no democracy in Greece at all.’
John says that as well as the rest of the Greek population, he has no faith in politics anymore.
Valia: ‘That’s the thing: people have lost faith. I don’t think there are Greek people who trust any party in Greece right now.’
Christina: ‘If they would organize elections tomorrow, nobody will vote.’
Protesting for jobs
As we move on to the subject of the riots, there seem to be some conflicting views between them.
Valia: ‘The rioting people are the ones who still believe something can change.’
Katarina disagrees: ‘No, the people who protest are the ones who are losing the big salaries they don’t deserve. They don’t care about their country.’
Christina: ‘That’s not true. I was at some of the protests, and it really wasn’t like that. There were many younger people who were there to protest because they couldn’t find a job.’
EM: How do your relatives, who still live in the country, cope with the situation?
To this, John says that most people got a serious ‘haircut’, by which he means their income has dropped dramatically. Valia, John and Christina all have parents who work in the public sector, and they say that the salaries there have been cut in half.
Christina: ‘After getting my bachelor degree, I couldn’t find a job in Greece. They didn’t want to hire me because I was overqualified. That’s why I am here now.’
All agree that there is lots of potential among the Greek youth, it’s just not used to improve the country’s financial situation.
Katerina: ‘Highly qualified people leave because they have no faith in the country.’
Valia, John, Christina and Katerina use their personal savings to study in the Netherlands, and are all searching for a job here.
Valia: ‘It’s going to be hard to combine a Master and a job, but we just have to.’
Christina: ‘See? That actually shows that we are willing to work!’ IS