Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Farewell to Greece

by Barnaby Phillips

Al Jazeera

November 29, 2010

The IMF and European Central Bank were giving their verdict on the Greek economy, and the press conference was packed.

A colleague from the local media put up her hand, and started to ask her question, in Greek.

The IMF official looked at her blankly; "please, speak in English," he interrupted.

My colleague replied, in Greek: "We are in Greece, so I will speak Greek".

"I'm sorry, we can't understand you," said the IMF official, and asked for another question.

She protested, and a murmur of discontent rumbled round the room, but the press conference went on.

It was a telling moment. Yes, it was insensitive of the IMF and the ECB not to have provided any translation for an important press conference, largely attended by Greek journalists. But there's also a subtext.

By taking the IMF and European money, Greece has lost part of its sovereignty. Unwittingly, the officials at the press conference had reinforced that point.

It was as if they had said "you messed up your economy, and now you need our money, so we make the rules, and we don't need to speak your language".

A painful moment, but there have been many in these, my final days in Greece.


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