The Empire of the Cheaters

For my third interview with Greek people I found a couple, which is living "outside the establishment" as much as possible. They have got two children. On the contrary to the image of "outsiders", this family lives in a beautiful house with huge garden. Ioakim Sotiriadis tells me he is not carrying money within his pockets. 300-400 per month euros is perfectly fine to make the ends meet. With this amount they can pay rent, electricity and all the things they can't produce themselves, such as diapers.

He accepts any job as long as the salary is fair. He tells me of his youth life when he was working as a bartender pocketing 25-50 thousand drachmas. He says it was money. Now for the same bartending gigs he may get 40 euros for 10-hour shift. That's nothing, he says.


Wall of Bureaucracy

Thanks to the massive garden the family is mostly self-sufficient of food. Mr. Sotiriadis grows also herbs, but he says that he can't produce them for sale. The price is too low and the bureaucracy.

He tells me that the economic meltdown hasn't moved him a much, because he is not in debt.

If he wanted to become a farmer officially he needed to register as being one. This is when he hits the wall of bureaucracy. He would need licenses, approved and expensive seeds and to follow approved methods of raising crops.

The big corporations from farming industry, named Monsanto as one, comes to tell which plants are good for health (i.e. theirs) and which are not (i.e. others'). Mr. Sotiriadis can't believe this hystery of bad plants. He has happily accepted these products he grows to his own plate. He asks rhetorically if he was going to poison his whole family.

His wife Maria Maliouri joins the conversation. She producers sweet candies with other ladies of the village. Author can only keep praising the magnificent candy made from mushrooms mrs. Maliouri offered. The candy seems to be dipped in syrup.

Her candies are not reasonable to harness with bureaucracy, either. The licenses to produce and sell these amazing sweets cost a lot more than the going sell price currently is.

The same pattern gets familiar. For example, olive oil is usually too expensive to produce in Greece. It's easier and more profitable to sell olives to Italy and let Italy produce the oil and sell and market it worldwide as "a product of Italy".


Bait for debt – Long Contracts

When I have travelled across the area I couldn't help noticing blocks of solar panels on the fields. The first impression was naturally positive. This is the new technology that produces renewable energy that especially the Green party welcomes. However, the truth is cold, harsh and unpleasant. We're in the middle of the empire of the cheaters.

The readers of this article should first think how the panels have appeared on the fields in the first place. Where did the money come from?

Mr. Sotiriadis tells me that a German company wanted to sell their storage of older solar panels, which didn't make sales in Germany anymore. So the company struck a deal with Greek electricity company to pave the way for the panels to the Greek fields.

A farmer required to put up solar panels worth € 300,000 (approximately 6 to 7 thousand euros a piece) in order to get approved for a contract with electricity company. In a contract the farmer would sell for the next 25 years energy to company for 55 cents per hour of kilowatt. However, no farmer had that much money in cash, so they went to the bank applying for a loan.

The electricity company sells the energy at the rate of 35 cents per hour of kilowatt. Although the difference of buying and selling price should raise all the alarm available, the campaign was a huge success for the solar panel company. Within three years they sold all their solar panels.

Now the second phase of the plan kicked in. The electricity company announced that based on the profiting reasons they can pay for the energy that farmers were producing no more than 25 cents per hour of kilowatt. The contract couldn't be declared void on farmers' behalf, so they couldn't sell the energy to any other company while this 25-year contract was valid. They could switch the solar panels off, but they were carrying a huge bank loan, which enforced them to accept the lower price.


EU's Fantastic Aid Campaign

The European Union also "helps" Greek farmers. Mr. Sotiriadis says that if he was registered farmer he could apply for EU-aid. Of € 10,000 such aid approved, only € 2,000 reaches the farmer. He laughs while telling me that he couldn't even build a fence around his land with that money.

So, where did the € 8,000 go? To the pockets of specific – "selectively chosen" – professionals. A farmer who is approved in aid-campaign must have certified plan, approved by an army of lawyers, certified fertilisers and other chemicals – and of course: the approved seeds. It all costs dearly.

Naturally, these deals are struck for a long period, for ten years.

It shouldn't be shocking news that the farmes approved by aid produce less crops for sale, while the others who produce more can't sell their crops due to "health issues".

It seems like everybody loses. It makes me think if it's the purpose of the EU in the first place.


Against the Political Establishment

Mr. Sotiriadis puts his thoughts on a nutshell.

– I am against the whole political establishment. I don't like it, he says.

However, he is going to vote for a small revolutionary party on the next general elections.

He thinks that Europe needs a change of a course. But he also asks how on Earth such change could be possible on a big scale, on European level? He thinks that the only way to make the necessary change comes through small communities.

Meanwhile, mrs. Maliouri makes toys for her children from balloons. She points out that every Greek child is born with a huge load of public debt.

Her pessimism and optimism entwine in an interesting way. She believes firmly that the things are much better after 15 years, but in order to reach that level, the whole current system will hit rock bottom first.

Speaking of the Greek public debt I ask her if she believes Greece is able to pay it back.

– No. Never, she replies.

Perussuomalaiset Turku

Olen niukasti alta viisikymppinen toimittaja, Kreikan mantereella elellyt paluumuuttaja, makrotalouden ja frappen suurkuluttaja. Turun PS:n sihteeri (5/2013-12/2013), Turun PS:n edustaja 2014. Keskuspankkiaktivisti. Piensijoittaja.

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