Sunday 21 July 2019

Pick of the week: Inside Europe: Ten years of turmoil

Monday, BBC2, 9pm, Greek tragedy

Hard times: Greece's George Papandreou (right) during his country's financial crisis
Hard times: Greece's George Papandreou (right) during his country's financial crisis
The Irish Revolution
Sonya Lennon. Photo: Frank McGrath
Dancing with the Stars 2019. Darren Kennedy
Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

Most of you will remember the pompous Euro lectures to which we were subjected during the financial meltdown of 2008, some of which came from Italy and France, economically moribund countries that have been propped up for decades by German industriousness. But if things were bad for us, spare a thought for the poor Greeks, who were in for a full decade of austerity, revolt, failed governments and a bitter battle with Brussels.

Last week, this well researched series examined the chain of events that led to David Cameron's inspired decision to call a referendum on Britain's EU membership. This time, we focus on the government debt crisis that overwhelmed Greece in 2009. The country had been ushered with unseemly haste into the Euro currency zone in 2001 on the back of economic statistics that turned out to be unreliable. When George Papandreou came to power in October, 2009, he quickly discovered the parlous state of Greece's finances, which now posed an existential threat.

Bad news for Brussels, because now the fate of the EU's most ambitious project, the Euro currency, was in serious jeopardy. As we hear, mayhem ensued, including a furious row between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Jean-Claude Trichet, the head of the European Central Bank, over who should pay the bill. Billions of euro were pumped into the Greek economy, but that wasn't the end of it.

Unpopular austerity measures led to a brain drain, riots, government collapses and - in 2015 - the appointment of a Marxist economics professor as Finance Minister. Yanis Varoufakis would become a thorn in Brussels' side.

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