Audit declares Greek debt 'illegal, illegitimate and odious'

June 21, 2015
Zoe Konstantopoulou.

The debt imposed on Greece and its people by creditors directly infringes the human rights of Greeks and is “illegal, illegitimate and odious”, a preliminary report issued by the Audit Committee on Public Debt declared on June 17.

The finding came as talks between Greece and its creditors finished without a deal on June 18. The International Monetary Fund is threatening the near-bankrupt country with default unless it pays the US$1.7 billion it owes by the June 30 deadline.

The government of SYRIZA Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, however, is refusing demands of creditors for more cuts to wages and pensions in return for funds needed to pay its debt. The ongoing stand-off is driving Greece further into crisis, with billions of dollars of money being withdrawn from the country's banking system.

But the debt audit found that the debt at the centre of the crisis was not legitimate – and forcing Greece to pay it is immoral.

The committee, convened by parliament president and SYRIZA member Zoe Konstantopoulou, was established in April. Belgian activist from the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt, Eric Toussaint, was asked to help oversee the audit. said that day that the Greek parliament earlier released a six-page summary of the committee’s preliminary findings during hearings conducted since April.

The article said: “The summary stressed that the entire adjustment program imposed on Greece 'was and remains a politically orientated program,' while challenging arguments that the policies imposed on Greece aimed to improve its capacity to pay back the debt.

“It concluded that Greece was the victim of a 'premeditated and organised' attack and of a 'violent, illegal, and immoral mission' to shift private debt onto the public sector.”

The report said the unsustainability of Greece’s debt was evident to all involved from the outset. Yet Greek authorities and other European governments, backed by the media, had “conspired against the restructuring of public debt in 2010 in order to protect financial institutions”.

The reports' summary stated: “In June 2015, Greece stands at a crossroad of choosing between furthering the failed macroeconomic adjustment programmes imposed by the creditors or making a real change to break the chains of debt.

“Five years since the economic adjustment programmes began, the country remains deeply cemented in an economic, social, democratic and ecological crisis. The black box of debt has remained closed, and until now no authority, Greek or international, has sought to bring to light the truth about how and why Greece was subjected to the Troika regime [of the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund].

“The debt, in whose name nothing has been spared, remains the rule through which neoliberal adjustment is imposed, and the deepest and longest recession experienced in Europe during peacetime.

“There is an immediate need and social responsibility to address a range of legal, social and economic issues that demand proper consideration.”

The report said: “The research of the Committee presented in this preliminary report sheds light on the fact that the entire adjustment programme, to which Greece has been subjugated, was and remains a politically orientated program.

“The technical exercise surrounding macroeconomic variables and debt projections, figures directly relating to people’s lives and livelihoods, has enabled discussions around the debt to remain at a technical level mainly revolving around the argument that the policies imposed on Greece will improve its capacity to pay the debt back.

“The facts presented in this report challenge this argument. All the evidence we present in this report shows that Greece not only does not have the ability to pay this debt, but also should not pay this debt.

“First and foremost because the debt emerging from the Troika’s arrangements is a direct infringement on the fundamental human rights of the residents of Greece. Hence, we came to the conclusion that Greece should not pay this debt because it is illegal, illegitimate, and odious.

“It has also come to the understanding of the Committee that the unsustainability of the Greek public debt was evident from the outset to the international creditors, the Greek authorities, and the corporate media. Yet, the Greek authorities, together with some other governments in the EU, conspired against the restructuring of public debt in 2010 in order to protect financial institutions.

“The corporate media hid the truth from the public by depicting a situation in which the bailout was argued to benefit Greece, whilst spinning a narrative intended to portray the population as deservers of their own wrongdoings.

“Bailout funds provided in both programmes of 2010 and 2012 have been externally managed through complicated schemes, preventing any fiscal autonomy. The use of the bailout money is strictly dictated by the creditors, and so, it is revealing that less than 10% of these funds have been destined to the government’s current expenditure.

“This preliminary report presents a primary mapping out of the key problems and issues associated with the public debt, and notes key legal violations associated with the contracting of the debt; it also traces out the legal foundations, on which unilateral suspension of the debt payments can be based.”

The summary concluded: “The Committee considers that Greece has been and still is the victim of an attack premeditated and organised by the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission.

“This violent, illegal, and immoral mission aimed exclusively at shifting private debt onto the public sector ...

“The Committee hopes that the report will be a useful tool for those who want to exit the destructive logic of austerity and stand up for what is endangered today: human rights, democracy, peoples’ dignity, and the future of generations to come.

“In response to those who impose unjust measures, the Greek people might invoke what Thucydides mentioned about the constitution of the Athenian people: 'As for the name, it is called a democracy, for the administration is run with a view to the interests of the many, not of the few.”

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