John Markakis


6 December 2012

Greek Democracy

On the drizzly evening of 7 November, I joined a demonstration in front of the Parliament in Athens. Like the estimated 100,000 other people in the vast square and surrounding streets to protest against the imposition of yet another – the fifth – round of austerity measures being debated inside the building, I wasn’t in a good mood. My pension had already been cut by 40 per cent, the tax rate on the remainder nearly doubled, and a further cut was planned. We were kept away from the building by multiple rows of police, a terrifying sight with their bulky black uniforms, white helmets and visors, assorted weapons and communications gear, tear-gas canisters and water cannons. The scene that wet evening made for a peculiar image of democracy in practice; the people’s elected representatives cowering inside the temple of democracy, protected from the people’s wrath by a praetorian guard. That was bad enough. Inside the building, parliamentary democracy was getting short shrift.


21 June 2012

'You can be reimbursed if and when the crisis ends, and you're still alive'

Like most Greeks, I have had my medical needs covered by a comprehensive state health insurance programme to which I’ve contributed all my working life. It is supposed to mean that I don’t pay for services and only a token amount for medicines. But at the doctor’s last month, the examination over and the prescription written, I was handed a receipt for €50. ‘What’s this?’ I asked. ‘My fee.’ ‘I’m insured, as you know.’ ‘I know. That’s why I’ve given you a receipt.’ ‘To do what with it?’ ‘So you can be reimbursed.’ ‘When?’ ‘If and when the crisis ends, and you’re still alive.’