President Papoulias and the Greek boycott of Holland

We should pay our respect to president Karolos Papoulias of Greece. He is from 1929, fought the Nazi’s, opposed the Greek dictatorship and has worked towards peace in various parts of the world. We should also pay guarded respect to Wolfgang Schäuble, minister of Finance of Germany. He is from 1942, has been an important figure in German politics, survived an assassination attempt, and would have been more prominent in Europe if not for a problematic election contributions scandal that apparently was never totally resolved.

Schäuble suggested that Greece might be a bottomless pit and better surrender some national sovereignty, and Papoulias defended the national honour again, see also the Guardian or eKathimerini: “Who is Mr Schäuble to insult Greece? Who are the Dutch? Who are the Finnish? We always had the pride to defend not only our own freedom, not only our own country, but the freedom of Europe.”

Indeed, Holland and Finland did not so well during World War II. That war is only 65 years in the past. The USA civil war is 150 years in the past but we still see its traces. But Germany has recovered from its dismal past and the idea is that we now live together in peace.

The Greek consumer organisation INKA now calls for a boycott (“mpoukotaz“) of products from Germany and Holland. Apparently INKA called for a boycott earlier and a wise German living in Athens already explained that it would be counterproductive. Apparently, the bodies of lawyers and doctors recently join in nevertheless. We can only hope that the Greek people don’t get so confused that they start boycotting tourists as well (since this would be a money inflow and not an outflow). Dutch readers might check this report in a Dutch newspaper about the call for a boycott from Greece – with the image of a policeman trying to contain a woman who is distressed about a colleague who threatens to jump from a balcony because of the cutbacks.

The clash between Schäuble and Papoulias is political. It are politicians at the European level who fail to address the crisis that started in August 2007. As a voter in Holland I am abhorred about the maltreatment of common civilians in Europe, the unemployment, destroyed businesses, the suicides, the lack of international outcry even amongst so-called pan-European political movements.

This weblog however presents my comments as an econometric scientist. The relevant comment here is that there is an alternative economic plan for Europe.

To minister Schäuble I would like to say that Kanzler Merkel follows a dangerous course, see my interview by Protesilaos Stavrou.

To president Papoulias I would like to say that he has been a witness of Greek politics for all his life and that he might understand some of the Northern European distress about all the money that has gone into Greece. Admittedly, creditors were unwise by lending too much but there is also some responsibility on the part of the debtors. The new talk about a “Marshall plan” (for Southern Europe) is somewhat curious given the EU structural funds and the bonanza of cheap rates of interest in the early euro years. Also the economic plan that I am proposing and that invests EUR 400 billion in the banks, EUR 300 billion in Italy and 100 billion in Greece also contains the suggestion that the banks, Italy and Greece provide some collateral, the banks via shares and the countries e.g. via higher taxes on the wealthy or via the creation of international investment zones.

There is, however, one good reason why Greece could boycott Holland, namely to defend the freedom of science. If president Papoulias would want to engage a new fight for freedom and peace, then he could explain that to his nation, to Germany, to the world.

PM. Athens News reports: “Earlier, the president said he had given up his salary in a symbolic gesture of support for recession-hit citizens. Papoulias receives an annual income of €283,694 for the job. (…) The president announced his decision (…) three days after parliament slashed Greece’s minimum wage as part of a drastic new austerity package.”

The payment of politicians is always an issue. Greek parliament has about the same salary costs (excluding perks) as Dutch parliament though Greece has a population of 65%. Cutting Greek parliament to the same “voters per member” as in Holland would save € 10 million per year. In that light president Papoulias’s € 0.3 million is symbolic.

  Holland Greece Greece alt. UK
Inhabitants (million) 17 11 11 62
Ministers 11 20 p.m. 23
House of Commons 150 300 146 650
Senate 75 0 0 788
Salary member H. of C. (excl. of perks) € 95,000 € 65,000 € 65,000 £ 65,738 ≈
€ 79,000
Website link link   link
Parliamentarians (2 chambers) 225 300 146 1438
Voters per member 75556 36667 75556 43115
Salary cost of parliament (euro million) 21.4 19.5 9.5 p.m.

Note: For the UK we might have to include the Scottish parliament. For all countries there are regions and municipalities, with executives and councils. Greece with mountains and islands might require more parliamentarians to serve different districts. Holland seems geographically homogeneous yet has a long history with all kinds of (regional) subcultures (as well).

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