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Media boycott reformist forces in Greece

28 March 2013 / 01:03:38  GRReporter
5447 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

Three years after the signing of the first Memorandum of economic aid, few things have changed in Greece. There is much talk about reforms and no actions, political extremes are becoming more severe, and violence against immigrants, whom Golden Dawn has almost identified as the cause of the crisis, has been constantly growing.

GRReporter is talking with professor of economics at the Panteion University and Vice-President of the Liberal Party Drassi, Antigone Lyberaki about the crisis, Europe’s response, the political scene in Greece and the place of reformist forces in it.

Mrs. Lyberaki, do you think that the government’s policy for immigrants is moving in the right direction? The truth is that we are not seeing as many of them in the streets as before. Has this issue been resolved to a certain extent?

The issue of immigration can never be resolved completely. But it may be relieved, the conditions for immigrants can be improved and the country, to which they emigrate, can benefit from their presence. All this may be possible if there is a realistic and long-term position as regards the mutual benefits from immigration.

I think that the reduced number of immigrants in the streets is due to their fear. The manifestations of hostility against them are much more frequent than in the past. In various areas of Athens and in certain places across the country, Golden Dawn has almost managed to convince the people that they are to blame for the crisis - the weakest part of society that is unable to respond to the attacks and defend itself.

The number of immigrants who come to the country has surely decreased. They do not "blindly" decide to leave; they go to countries where there is work. At the same time, those who have already settled in Greece are not leaving it, at least not so many of them, although some politicians expected that the crisis would force all immigrants to leave. They are not leaving because of the fear that they will not be able to return, just because they know the hardships of this road. The second reason is that their children are students and they do not want to spoil the plans of the family. The third is that despite the crisis, their prospects in Greece are better than in their homeland. And the fourth reason is the optimism of hard working people that the storm will be over at some point and there will eventually be a need for labour force. I think that they are right. The more rigorous the policy for immigrants, the less they leave when they lose their jobs because of the fear that they will not be able to come back. This, in fact, causes the opposite effect compared to the striving of politicians, who think that if they apply a stricter policy they will force the immigrants to leave. In fact, they confine them to the country, although they would probably like to leave it if they had the prospects of returning.

At present, the political system is struggling to cope with the crisis and actually, there is no strategic thinking on immigration. Embarrassing actions like the police "purges" in the centre of Athens are being taken to calm the public anger, without any assurances that they will yield any results. They are being used more as communication machinations.

A step backwards has been made in relation to granting Greek citizenship to immigrants’ children. This is much more serious than it looks, because there are many cases of potential success in every second generation. Therefore, this policy is making our own country deficient in people who could give many things to both themselves and the country, in which they will live in the future.

There is a discussion on "importing" only people with occupations that we need. This is stupid. Suppose we now know that, we need 5 engineers. What we do not know now is what will happen to their children, who will be born here or whom they will bring here with them. This is the real wealth and the greatest gift of immigration that the Greek political system short-sightedly refuses to understand.

Has there been a proper policy for immigrants from third countries at European level?

Almost all problems related to this political shortsightedness of the Greek political system are present at European level as well. Any relief in the reception conditions for migrants is extremely unpopular.

However, some countries that are more "serious" in terms of identifying their future needs such as Germany are planning to receive a large number of immigrants in the coming years. They are doing so for the sake of their economies. However, while they are keeping quiet during the general discussions on immigration policy, they are announcing in their countries programmes for very large displacements of population. In some cases, we are talking about millions of people over the next five years. It is just because they need this workforce.

The number of people who are aware of the benefits from immigration is usually small. The majority indirectly benefits from it but it is not aware of that fact. When I was conducting research on immigration some years ago and was talking with the people, they shared their fears of immigration. But then, they said, “But the Albanian woman, who takes care of my elderly mother, is a wonderful person, she is a member of the family and we have even placed the ground floor at her disposal to live there with her family.”

Tags: PoliticsReformist forcesEuropean UnionImmigrationAntigone LyberakiCrisis
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