Life

TV Review: Greece needs to accept that it caused its own problems

Simon Reeve at Vikos Gorge in Greece
Billy Foley

Greece with Simon Reeve, BBC 2, Sunday at 9pm

Simon Reeve seems to have fallen for the ‘poor us' theory of Greece's problems - it was all the Germans' fault.

The greedy Germans, Reeve claimed, duped the optimistic Greeks into borrowing and spending at a herculean speed and when finally the party was over those dastardly north Europeans asked for their money back.

Germany was a “major source of their problems,” Reece declared and repeated a theory of corruption by major German companies.

He was not completely oblivious to Greek responsibility, but it amounted to admitting with a smile that the Greek culture was to live for the moment. Oh, and one sentence to say that the people weren't too big on paying their taxes.

And … well, they had one of the biggest armies in the world with billions spent on defence. Reeve reckoned that Greece had more tanks than Britain and France combined.

And the publicly run trains were so inefficient and the staff paid so well that they also cost billions. Apparently the minister for transport said it would be cheaper to send people around the country by taxi.

Other than those few bits, it was all the fault of those bloody Germans.

“... a major source of Greece's financial problems is Germany … Greece spent nearly £2 billion on German tanks, it spent £3 billion on German submarines,” said Reeve while watching a military parade.

“Before the financial crisis German banks and officials were among those encouraging Greece to take out vast loans. It's alleged that several German corporations then paid out huge bribes to corrupt Greek officials to persuade them to spend money the country couldn't afford.

“Greece has made terrible mistakes. Money has been wasted and taxes haven't been paid, but bankers and giant European corporation helped to get Greece into the mess it's in.”

To be fair to Reeve, there was some interesting stuff in here. Did you know for instance that the Orthodox Church is so central to Greek life that its priests' salaries are paid by the government?

And that the Church's most sacred island, which houses a thousand-year-old monastery, bars women?

His visit to the country's largest coal mine was also fascinating. A mining engineer took him to a high point for a mind-blowing view of the 30-square-mile strip-mine. It produces 65,000 tonnes of coal a day and was responsible for the fuel which produced half of Greece's electricity needs.

A vignette of Greek life was provided by Reeve when he showed us a simple device on sale in most petrol stations. A fake seat belt buckle means you can stop the annoying beeping in your car by tricking it into thinking you have put your seatbelt on.

Those bloody Germans and their car safety devices. It's their fault Greece has one of the worst road safety records in Europe.

***

Leaders' Debate, RTE 1, Monday at 9.35pm

There's a danger in being too cynical about our political leaders (we get what we vote for after all), but the ability on display on Monday night was not encouraging.

Social Democrat co-leader Stephen Donnelly impressed, Lucinda Creighton is certainly capable and you could see Micheál Martin as Taoiseach.

The other four, despite two of them already leading a government, were not the people you would want representing you in the world.

Still it's easy to be critical from the safety of the media boxes.

The two-hour broadcast attracted almost 500,000 viewers and 48 per cent of the audience. Somewhere in excess of 60 per cent of the electorate will turn up to vote and even if it takes two goes, the Republic will have a new government.

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