In just twelve days’ time the people of Greece will vote again to elect a new Parliament after failing last month to form a coalition government. The election comes at a pivotal time for Greece and watching on, a nervous Europe. The option of Greece reneging on its debt and pulling out of the Euro is making markets around the world jittery and currencies fluctuate wildly. Last month’s inconclusive election saw an immediate sharp fall in the Australian dollar, a sign of just how interconnected we now all are. The orthodoxies of politics here have collapsed. Almost out of nowhere, hard right parties and the radical left have emerged to engulf the main stream parties. First up tonight, we take a look at the new players whom are changing the landscape of Greek politics.
REPORTER: Mark Davis
As Alexis Tsipras enters a suburban hall in Athens, it is not just Greek voters who are keen to hear him talk. World leaders, bankers and investors are just as keen to hear and dissect his every word - probably more so. Tsipras and his coalition of the radical left, Syriza, is leading the first significant left wing challenge to the international monetary system in a generation and he is now in striking distance to form a government.
ALEXIS TSIPRAS, SYRIZA LEADER (Translation): Certain people should know that in Greece democracy still exists.
He is populist, expansive message is electrifying an electorate, exhausted with economic decline and sending chills through the rest of Europe.
ALEXIS TSIPRAS (Translation): The people elect their representatives and those representatives have the sovereign right to decide which laws to pass in parliament.
The laws he is referring to are to renege on Greece's debt of more than $200 billion, to tear up the memorandum of agreement with the EU.
ALEXIS TSIPRAS (Translation): we would replace the memorandum with a national program of recovery.
It is feared that if he succeeds and other stressed European nations follow his lead, the Euro will collapse and possibly the European Union itself. There is a lot riding on this Greek election.
NICK MALKOUTZIS, JOURNALIST: It is very difficult to describe to people outside of Greece just how hard the situation is getting.
Nick Malkoutzis is a journalist and editor with one of Greece's major daylies. It is midday as we walk the empty streets of what was once a bustling shopping centre.
REPORTER: They are all closing down, down here.
NICK MALKOUTZIS: There are a lot of shops, you go anywhere in the shopping streets and you see shops closing one after the other.
The hard times have suited anti-austerity parties like Syriza.
NICK MALKOUTZIS: Well, if you look at the May 6 elections, Syriza the leftist coalition is clearly the big winner, although it came second, more than tripled its share of votes since the 2009 elections. A few years ago it was a party that would get 5, 6% and was a minor player in Greek politics and now to be in a position where in the heart of this crisis they might have a chance to form a government is quite an incredible change.
Even if the loans were totally wiped out, Greece still has a $4 billion annual deficit. It is still unclear exactly how Tsipras intends to fund the promised increases in pensions and the public service.
ALEXIS TSIPRAS (Translation): Every Greek citizen’s assets will be listed, either here or abroad, in all their forms, liquid and real estate. Also the establishment of strict penalties, that is, the confiscation of a portion of the wealth of those found to have falsely declared their assets.
Tsipras is good at making speeches.
REPORTER: Could you answer a few questions for Australian TV?
ALEXIS TSIPRAS: It’s impossible.
REPORTER: Why not, sir?
But not so good giving answers, proving remarkably reluctant to talk to either international or local media, his task of explaining his coalition's emerging policies increasingly falling on others.
REPORTER: You have certainly ruffled a lot of feathers.
EUCLID TSAKALOTOS, SYRIZA ECONOMIST: Yeah.
REPORTER: Everyone is watching you.
EUCLID TSAKALOTOS: Well, we hope so because we think the feathers have to be ruffled.
Euclid Tsakalotos is an economics professor at Athens University and is the finance spokesperson for Syriza, presumably the future Minister of Finance if the party wins government.
REPORTER: You are winning a lot of votes here but you are not winning many friends internationally, does that worry you?
EUCLID TSAKALOTOS: Well, it is not quite the case that we are not winning friends internationally, there is a lot of interest in what we are doing.
REPORTER: A lot of interest but a lot of suspicion.
EUCLID TSAKALOTOS: Yes, there is a lot of suspicion because we have had a Europe that has been going in one direction for 20 years and the first person who break that is obviously going to ruffle some feathers and people are going to be afraid and anxious, and not clear what is going on, but we are trying to explain what we are trying to do, that what we are trying to do is change things in a more progressive and more social and a just manner and a democratic manner and I think some people are beginning to understand that.
But others, neighbours who are picking up the bill, aren't quite so understanding.
REPORTER: It’s become a common insult that you have heard many times by now that why should German taxpayers have to work even harder to support Greek workers who probably don't pay enough tax as it is.
EUCLID TSAKALOTOS: It depends whether you want to be a monetary union or not and if you want to be a monetary union, you share in the gains and you share in the costs.
REPORTER: If you want to be in a monetary union you need to abide by fundamental undertakings that you make. If you borrow money you pay it back, as the premise, as the basis.
EUCLID TSAKALOTOS: If you can pay it back. If you can't pay it back - and I don't think that any of the southern European economies…
REPORTER: Do you feel any shame if you can't pay it back, does it concern you?
EUCLID TSAKALOTOS: No, because - shame. The key issue when banks lend too much - half of the fault is theirs and half of the fault is the borrowers and you are not going to sort that out unless you get together…
REPORTER: You are taking half the fault. Why don't you say you will pay half back?
EUCLID TSAKALOTOS: What we are saying is under current conditions we won't pay it back. Greece will go bankrupt because of these policies, so we have to find another way.
It is not just the left who have marched forward over the ashes of the previous government.
PROTESTER (Translation): Foreigners out of Greece!
The hard right party, Golden Dawn, under its veteran leader Nikos Michaloliakos has also come to prominence winning 21 seats in the Parliament.
CROWD (Translation): Axe and fire to the Turkish dogs!
NICK MALKOUTZIS: If you look at it, I mean it is a phenomenal rise. In 2009, late 2009 when we had our last election they got 0.29% - less than half a per cent and at these elections they got 7%..
REPORTER: Tenfold, more.
NICK MALKOUTZIS: Proportionally I don't know if there has been such a rise in a short space of time, certainly I don't think in Greek politics so it is a huge shock to the political system.
But not a shock for party deputy Elias Panagiotaros.
REPORTER: Were you happy with the election results?
ELIAS PANAGIOTAROS, GOLDEN DAWN DEPUTY LEADER: Yes, and I’m going to be more happy, I’m going to be happier on the 17 June.
REPORTER: Why do you think you have increased popularity?
ELIAS PANAGIOTAROS: Because we are saying the right things. We are the only ones that are talking about patriotism, nationalism, about our religion about our nation about everything without being afraid.
NICK MALKOUTZIS: They reject any association with fascism or the Nazi party. They say we are just nationalists. I think that the facts challenge that.
NIKOS MICHALOLIAKOS, GOLDEN DAWN LEADER (Translation): Today, in the Greekilistan of 2012, they have surrendered the city and let the enemies in.
As much as they would each hate the comparison, the left and the right share some strikingly common views. They are both virulently opposed to international bank, large corporations and the economic tentacles of the EU. And both have harvested votes out of the dreaded debt memorandum.
NIKOS MICHALOLIAKOS (Translation): By surrendering through the shameful, annihilating and treacherous memorandum our national sovereignty. We believe in the Greek empire. We will keep the torch burning until the final victory. Long live victory! Long live victory!
REPORTER: What we are seeing here is this emergence of more hard left wing parties of which you are and you are getting very, very hard right wing parties like Golden Dawn. Does that concern you?
EUCLID TSAKALOTOS: It concerns me desperately but I have to look at the reasons why right wing populism and fascistic parties are rising and they always rise when large sections of the working class or the middle class do not have any prospects, when they lose their savings or when they lose their jobs. When they are working poor because we have this phenomenon now which used to not be the case of people who are working and they are poor. So if these people have not got any prospects, and they have no political parties that are representing them in the political process, they are politically homeless and some of them will go to very right wing and dangerous parties.
REPORTER: But maybe you have elements, you are pretty hard Marxist in your party too.
EUCLID TSAKALOTOS: But what we are trying to do is actually represent these people on a social agenda. So the question really is not why the hard left, which is your term not mine but let's go with it, is gaining, it is why socialist democratic parties are not addressing their social base. The answer to the problem is if they don't address the social base somebody else will.
Tonight Golden Dawn marched towards Parliament.
CROWD (Translation): You’ll never become a Greek, Albanian, Albanian.
No longer the eternal outsiders of Greek politics, undoubtedly after June 17th a good number of them will be marching straight through the front door to take up their seats.
With the previous government's austerity program cutting into the public service, demonstrations - this one by firemen claiming they haven't been paid - are a daily occurrence.
FIREMAN: I am angry. I want to kill him.
REPORTER: You want to kill who?
FIREMAN: Yes, everything, everyone. The politicals. OK, the government. I don't know.
It is into this volatile mix that Alexis Tsipras has arrived with an apparently magical formula - increase pensions, bigger public service and no debt. All the things that Greeks have been told for years that they can't have now they can, according to the Syriza Finance Chief.
REPORTER: Hasn't Greece been in something of a time warp when the rest of the world 30 years ago, realised that you should keep your public debt down, you should encourage private enterprise and you have been entrenching the same notion that the government will come in and help.
EUCLID TSAKALOTOS: I think there is a sea change after 2008 that the state is necessary. I remind you that the world crisis didn't begin either in status Greece or status France it began in the neo-liberal Britain and the neo-liberal America, in the more liberal economies. The problem in the last 20 years is that the social democratic parties, the centre left parties, have stopped representing their social base. There has been no program of the centre left on pensions and wages, on social welfare, and that has meant that large sections of society are politically homeless. It is absolutely vital, not just for the economy but for the democracy, for those people to be re-represented, to feel they have a stake in society.
ALEXIS TSIPRAS (Translation): We, dear friends, we are different from the established powers that for 37 years alternated in government.
One of the great ironies of this election is that the two mainstream parties - the conservative new democracy and the centre left PASOK party - old enemies - may be forced to form an alliance to save off Tsipras forming a government.
NICK MALKOUTZIS: These are two parties that for 38 years were at each other's throats and they took it in turns ruling Greece and had a very polarised political dialogue. But now reality is staring them in the face.
REPORTER: Of the other enemy at the gates.
NICK MALKOUTZIS: Exactly. And politicians are very good at knowing how to survive and this is about survival.
Two polls in recent days have placed Tsipras’s coalition in the lead. Win or lose his coalition of the radical left has normalised the notion that Greece can walk away from its debt and from the euro and EU if it has to and from the neoliberal conventions that have so firmly gripped the West in recent decades.
EUCLID TSAKALOTOS: You have to provide working people and middle-class people with some agenda of jobs and pensions and growth - even if not now at least the prospect in one year, two year, make some sacrifices but there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you don't do that the Euro will break up any way and we will get back to the kind of 1930s politics that we really want to avoid.
Euclid Tsakalotos outlining his vision for Greece and for Europe.
Original Music Composed by VICKI HANSEN
MARK DAVIS: Joining me now is Dora
Bakoyannis from the New Democracy Party, she is a key player for the
centre right, at the moment. She is a former foreign minister and a
former mayor of Athens.
Thanks for joining us Dora.
DORA BAKOYANNIS, MP, NEW DEMOCRACY: Thank you.
MARK DAVIS: From that story it looks like socialism is back with a bang in Greece. Where does that leave the conservative parties?
DORA BAKOYANNIS: Well, let's see because this is a very special Greek kind of socialist, all the social democratic parties in Europe are against this idea and I think that the dividing line today in the Greek political system is not the centre right or socialist, the real dividing line is between those parties and those political forces who really believe that Greece should stay in the Eurozone and make the efforts and change, and make the reforms and change the old and Mr Tsipras who is really resisting any kind of change in Greece.
MARK DAVIS: Has that surprised you, the level of support that he has received for the potential to abandon the Euro of course, abandon the EU?
DORA BAKOYANNIS: The interesting thing is that the 82% of the Greeks do not want to abandon the Euro. They really believe that there might be some kind of magical way where we could stay in the Eurozone but do not do our homework. This is not possible. So what we are trying to do is explain, you know, we in Greece invented democracy but we also invented at the same time populism.
MARK DAVIS: You are seeing both at play here and the populist vote has demolished your party to a degree, absolutely demolished the others.
DORA BAKOYANNIS: Absolutely.
MARK DAVIS: Did you see it coming?
DORA BAKOYANNIS: Well it’s easy to see it coming and it is normal. People are really in despair today in Greece. They are afraid of tomorrow. They suffer. We have 1.2 million people without jobs. So you understand that this crisis cannot leave the political system untouched. Of course we have to change but we have to change in the right way.
MARK DAVIS: How can you cope with that sort of anger that is out there politically and the popularity that the Greek electorate have received this idea of walking away from the debt?
DORA BAKOYANNIS: Well, we have to, we have to because they are the most critical elections for Greece.
MARK DAVIS: I just want to clarify your position on walking away from the debt.
DORA BAKOYANNIS: You cannot walk away. The truth is that there is no magic way that you can say to your partners, "You are going to continue paying us the money and we will not keep our part of the deal." This is not possible around the world. It is good to hear it. There is no magic. Harry Potter was probably the last one. There are no Harry Potters in politics. There are people who should be hard working, admit their mistakes - and we made a lot of mistakes - make an honest self-critic but change what we did wrong. What did we do wrong? We built a state which is big, which is corrupted, which is a state which should radically change. What is Mr Tsipras saying - keep it as it is, so everything that is old belongs to him.
MARK DAVIS: Not only is he saying keep it as it is he is saying expand it.
DORA BAKOYANNIS: Yes, expand it, of course, of course.
MARK DAVIS: It is a Harry Potter moment. You are neck and neck at the moment. What is your prediction?
DORA BAKOYANNIS: I think at the moment we are neck and neck but there will be a very - it will be a very tough campaign in the last ten days. We must be very open and sincere with the Greek people. They should know what they could really expect. I think all of these old political logic is dead. We have to be honest, open and determined to get the Greeks out of this crisis.
MARK DAVIS: Thanks for joining us Dora.
DORA BAKOYANNIS: Thank you.
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ON THE BREADLINE:
There no doubt that Greeks are doing it tough but it takes a while
here exploring the different strands of Greek life to get a real sense
of the social impact of the crisis. With youth unemployment at 50%,
young people have been hit particularly hard. While older Greeks are
losing their assets and investment, the younger generation is feeling
cheated of a future.
REPORTER: Mark Davis
You don't need to wonder far on the streets of Athens to see the pain and distress that is unfolding here.
SINGER: The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind.
Growing numbers are homeless and hungry.
WOMAN (Translation): Careful, we are not pigs.
MAN (Translation): I know you’re not.
This food distribution centre in Athens is run by the church. Three years ago it supported about 300 people. Now it hands out 1,100 meals a day. So many people now they need to be corralled for their own safety.
MAN 2 (Translation): In the past we’d let them all in together, men, women and children and we had broken legs, arms, children would be trampled underfoot. The majority are the elderly who have been evicted because they can’t pay the rent.
OLD MAN (Translation): Move on. All the rulers are dirty. Let them come and arrest me. What else are those thieves going to take? They have stolen everything. What do they want?
Shipping has been part of the economic life blood of Greece and a lifeline for Athenian workers. Thousands of ships have been built and repaired here at the Perama shipyard. Now every day men turn up for work but there is little to go around.
REPORTER: When was the last time you worked? How much work are you getting?
WORKER (Translation): I have had two months’ work a month ago. That is all the work I have done this year.
REPORTER: How many ships would have been here a few years ago?
SOTIRIS POULIKOGIANIS, UNION LEADER: Every day, maybe 100, 150. Every day you can see here 100, 150 ships. Today it is only one or two today.
REPORTER: One or two.
SOTIRIS POULIKOGIANIS: One or two.
The union leader, Sotiris Poulikogianis is struggling to stem the tide.
SOTIRIS POULIKOGIANIS: In 2008 here works about 6,000 people. Now only 500.
REPORTER: 500 from 6,000?.
SOTIRIS POULIKOGIANIS: 500 today. So the problem is very big and it is not only for one day. It is every day - every day.
Those lucky enough to have jobs are having their pay reduced and conditions squeezed. Today they are voting to take strike action.
WORKER (Translation): They are unscrupulous, they have no shame. All they want is to put more euros in their pocket.
Nearly all of them with families to feed, it is a bold move.
REPORTER: How hard is it for people here, how hard is it for you?
WORKER 2 (Translation): I am finding it very difficult to cope, but it is not only me, the majority…for all of us who live in this district. We have children fainting from hunger in schools. There are families with no bread or milk, things are very serious and we are talking about 21st century Greece. They want to turn us into 21st century slaves.
It is the first week of summer and the ferries at the port of Piraeus are gearing up for the coming season. This is the main departure point for holiday-makers to the Greek isles. Friends Matoula and Nikos are joining a handful of tourists on the journey for the nearby island of Aegina, not for the sunshine, Matoula is looking for work.
MATOULA: So I am going to find a job to do with a travel agency. Since I had one - a travel agency - but I had to close it for economic reasons.
When she ran her own agency, Matoula used to earn up to 3,000 Euros a month. Now she says she would be happy with a salary the tenth of that doing any job in the industry.
MATOULA: I am now 30 years old. It is a very good age. It is the age of creation and everything is a mess now.
Just 45 minutes away from Athens, Aegina is a favourite get away for locals. Or it used to be - until the crisis struck.
MATOULA (Translation): How do you rate the tourist situation? Is there any future?
WOMAN (Translation): It’s uncertain, we don’t know.
Business and employment here so dependent on local tourism has dried up. Back in Athens, Greek Australian Nick Geronomis has built himself a mini business empire with two hotels, a fish and chip shop and a cafe bar. He is highly exposed but is more upbeat than most.
NICK GERONOMIS, BUSINESSMAN: You have to look at the upside as well as the downside. The downside is business is down a bit, big deal. It will go up again next year. We take a long-term view of everything.
For Nick the risk in doing business in Greece isn't the current economic decline - it is the potential consequences if Greece defaults on its loan.
REPORTER: The popular sentiment now seems to walk away from it.
NICK GERONOMIS: That might be the popular sentiment but the reality is that once you have signed a contract - I mean you come in here and have a cup of coffee I don't want you walking away without paying and it is exactly the same thing.
REPORTER: It sounds simple enough but is it not what most politicians are saying.
NICK GERONOMIS: Well, no, what they are saying is they are trying to renegotiate it. After you have drunk the coffee you can say, "Listen, that was a bad coffee...".
Matula and Nikos have returned from Aegina and have joined a few friends in town. All of them have been employed as professionals in the private sector. Half of them are now unemployed. Like many of their generation, most of this group are hoping that Syriza can provide enough of a jolt to get life in Greece back on track.
REPORTER: Do you see a way out in your own lives?
YOUNG WOMAN: We don't know what to expect the miracles or someone to make changes. You know, hope dies last. We will see.
REPORTER: Hope dies last, that’s nice. Well, you are all in the prime of your lives though. How long can you wait and keep your optimism?
NIKOS: I don't want to leave, but I think that finally I will have to do, leave. I have a different philosophy. I think that hope dies first.
Is it not exactly scientific polling but fascinating talking to this random group of friend, hardly radicals, one a lawyer, one works in a bank but all of them furious about the debt burden and seething with an anti-European move.
YOUNG MAN: They prefer to let people to eat from the garbage but not to give their money to people.
REPORTER: But if those loans didn't come you would be eating from the garbage.
MATOULA: Really I think this - we don't owe money to nobody.
MATOULA: I think it is a game, it started from Germany. This is my opinion. Germany still owes us many money from the Second World War so where is that money?
REPORTER: Does it worry you if you left the EU? You would feel great?
MATOULA: Great. We are not for Euro, we are never for euro.
REPORTER: How would you feel, if you left the EU, would it upset you in any way if you leave the Euro?
MAN 3: I want to stay in the union, but in a different union, not the one that we have now, a union of people and state, not a union of corporations and banks and money transfers that we have right now.
REPORTER: If Greece walks away from these loans, who will lend to Greece?
YOUNG MAN: I make another question - if Greece goes away who is going to lose more money? We are going to have - it is our problem or them.
REPORTER: Their problem.
YOUNG MAN: I think a European Central Bank has said that. That if Greece leaves the Euro, they lose one trillion. Two times our debt.
MATOULA: If we be destroyed, we take all Europe.
REPORTER: Take it down with you. And you will take down Australia and take down America with you.
MATOULA: We are Greeks right, we can do everything, I think.
And that kind of anti-European sentiment is everywhere in Greece at the moment.
Original Music Composed by VICKI HANSEN
INTERVIEW WITH EVA KAILI:
MARK DAVIS: Joining me now is Eva
Kaili, an MP from the centre left PASOK Party, formerly the giant of
Greek politics until last month's election at least.
Thanks for joining us Eva.
EVA KAILI, MP, PASOK PARTY: Thank you for having me.
MARK DAVIS: It seems like your vote has been demolished. Did you see it coming?
EVA KAILI: Well, it wasn't easy, it was a tough campaign and the economy was terrible. If you were the government you would get the people being angry and trying to find hope to believe something new again. So we didn't have time to do that. It was just two years, the most difficult situation in Greece.
MARK DAVIS: Incredibly difficult.
EVA KAILI: Incredibly, you are right.
MARK DAVIS: Trying to defend the repayment of the debt must have been difficult for essentially a leftist party like yours.
EVA KAILI: It is problems that we faced for 30 years and we had to solve them in a couple of years only and the solution really pushed us and the economy couldn't handle it. We had the greatest depression. It wasn't easy and I think we expected the results. But the other thing is we have to try to create the plan B and get us out of this crisis as soon as possible.
MARK DAVIS: Well, the party that has succeeded most upon the anger and the pain unfolding here is Syriza. They are much more left than you, they are portraying you as almost the neo-iberals of Greek politics which I am sure you find ironic.
EVA KAILI: I find it ironic and unfortunately because people are very vulnerable to populism now these days because they are desperate, we had really difficult times and we had difficult decisions to make. It is natural and it is logical to have people trying to not to vote for Syriza but to vote against the big parties that were in the Government for the last decade. So it is something that you can explain that way.
MARK DAVIS: Syriza's most popular policy which seems to have been universally applauded is that Greece should walk away from this debt to the EU. What is your party's position and what is your personal position?
EVA KAILI: My personal position is we have to look beyond the parties now and find a realistic solution to get us out of this crisis which would be to create growth and this isn't something that is going to happen by populism and by…
MARK DAVIS: At the moment the international money markets if no-one else are looking at Greece wanting to know what you will do. What will you do if you form part of a coalition?
EVA KAILI: Having taxed the economy so hard, it has created a big depression. So we have to create a tax system that could really help growth and investment that is the first thing. The second is…
MARK DAVIS: Do you pay back the debt?
EVA KAILI: Yes.
MARK DAVIS: Should Greece pay back the debt?
EVA KAILI: Yes, they should pay back the debt. We had a big, how do you say, rates to pay and Germany lent us a very high - how do you say.
MARK DAVIS: High income country. They should be more sympathetic but you should pay it back.
EVA KAILI: You know, they should also extend the time that we have to pay it back, so this would help Greece to breathe and try to create the growth that we all talk about.
MARK DAVIS: In these polls, Syriza and New Democracy are very close, you could be the kingmaker, which way will your vote go? If they are close, who does PASOK go with?
EVA KAILI: I think it will depend on what we agree, so this is something we will talk the next day because we have to find a solution to get us out of the crisis. This means we have to have a solution there and we have to agree to that and so the solution could be inside the Eurozone only. Only inside the Eurozone.
MARK DAVIS: But in terms of forming government, your party could still be the kingmakers, it’s who you decide to go with.
EVA KAILI: I believe the ones who stand up for what we say, which is stay inside the Eurozone, try to fix some things in the memorandum and try to help Greece get out of this mess without leaving the Eurozone, without leaving Europe.
MARK DAVIS: Thank you, we have to leave it there.
EVA KAILI: Thank you very much.
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The Euro might be in crisis but some enterprising Greeks are finding
ways around it. In the village of Volos they have come up with a
community currency - not the Euro, not the drachma, but the TEM. Here is
Amos Roberts to show us how it works.
REPORTER: Amos Roberts
According to legend, Mount Pelion was once home to the centaurs. Now it's a picturesque tourist spot.
WOMAN (Translation): Have a long happy life! Girls, may your turn come soon!
And the perfect place to get married. For the happy couple and guests, this wedding is a time for celebration. For the hard-working restaurateur providing lunch - it's a lifeline.
NIKOLAS THEIAKOS, RESTAURATEUR: The effect of crisis is we have increased taxes, people don't go out that much and we just survive here.
REPORTER: So you are pretty lucky with the wedding?
NIKOLAS THEIAKOS: Yes.
Nikolas Theiakos has been working here since he was 15 - the third generation in his family to run the Ortansies Taverna. Once, it was always crowded - but since Greece fell on hard times, he's been living off Sunday lunches.
REPORTER: Is it possible that the restaurant might not survive?
NIKOLAS THEIAKOS: Yes, there is always a possibility. This business has been open for 70 years or more, from my great grandfather. If I close it, to me it means I did something wrong in all of these years I am here.
Nikolas knows that in these uncertain times, he needs to prepare for the worst.
COOKING TEACHER (Translation): Slowly add the spaghetti and the carrot.
In the city of Volos, not far from his village, Nikolas has enrolled in a vocational college.
COOKING TEACHER (Translation): Nikolas, come this way, you take this. Do the second one.
NIKOLAS THEIAKOS: Better have a diploma so I might leave Greece and get some work.
REPORTER: Just in case?
NIKOLAS THEIAKOS: Just in case. Just to make sure that I have a future.
REPORTER: Does the crisis also make it difficult to pay to study in a place like this?
NIKOLAS THEIAKOS: Well, the crisis made it hard to pay. Sometimes because our customers keep reducing there are months that we struggle even to pay our fees here in the school.
Luckily for Nikolas, he doesn't have to pay all his fees in euros. That's because in Volos, there's more than one kind of money.
NIKOLAS THEIAKOS (Translation): Good morning.
MAN (Translation): How can I help you?
NIKOLAS THEIAKOS (Translation): I’d like to sign up for the…
MAN (Translation): The network?
NIKOLAS THEIAKOS (Translation): The network. Yes.
Nikolas can pay 30% of his tuition fees using TEM - a currency found only here in Volos. The Local Network for Exchange and Solidarity, which runs this new financial system, is based in the shop of seamstress Angeliki Ioanniti.
MAN (Translation): On this form, you fill in what goods you will be offering and what sort of items you need.
Having an alternative currency isn't unique - there are similar networks in other parts of the world and more than a dozen here in Greece. But with 900 members and more joining every day, this is the largest in a country unsure of what money it will be using in a few months' time. Katia Larisaou's cafe provides a good example of how the system works.
MAN 2 (Translation): Hello, Katia.
KATIA LARISAOU (Translation): Hello.
MAN 2 (Translation): can you make me a green tea with spearmint?
As a TEM member, Katia allows other members to pay part of their bills using TEM - which have the same value as euros. In an indirect form of barter, her customers earn TEM by also providing goods or services to the network. With customers who are short of euros and a cafe where business has plunged 40% in the last year, there's a clear benefit to all.
KATIA LARISAOU (Translation): So, 3.80 for the tea. 2.30 in euro… and 1.50 in TEM.
TEM doesn't exist as notes or coins - Katia just records the transaction, and the virtual money will be transferred online. She needs at least a portion of the cost in euros in order to pay her expenses.
ANGELIKI IONNITI (Translation): In the old days we used to have exchange in villages. One person would give walnuts, another would give potatoes. So we have had this system from way back, but in a different form.
MAN (Translation): The more services provided, the better. That way we involve the whole community.
NIKOLAS THEIAKOS (Translation): I understand. Thank you very much.
MAN (Translation): Good on you. Goodbye.
NIKOLAS THEIAKOS (Translation): Goodbye and welcome, welcome to the network.
MAN (Translation): Goodbye.
CUSTOMER (Translation): Hello.
ANGELIKI IONNITI (Translation): Welcome, sweetie.
CUSTOMER (Translation): Angeliki, will you mend this?
ANGELIKI IONNITI (Translation): What is it?
Angeliki's sewing business is down 60% since the crisis hit.
ANGELIKI IONNITI (Translation): Normally, it’s ten, but because you bought the zip, it is eight. So you give me four in euro and four in TEM.
YIANNIS GRIGORIOU, TEM FOUNDER: I got a tyre puncture yesterday so I need to fix my tyre today. I am going through the system.
Members of the network advertise their products and services online.
YIANNIS GRIGORIOU: So I am looking for tyre repair services, okay, here I am.
Yiannis Grigoriou was one of the founders of TEM. He manages social programs for the Volos city council.
YIANNIS GRIGORIOU: It is a social laboratory I always like to call it because that change is happening all the time and obviously as the crisis is deepening here in our country now we have more chances and maybe more opportunities to explore this ground because everything is new.
YIANNIS GRIGORIOU (Translation): Will we fix the tyre today?
Unemployment in Volos is now running at 20%. Those lucky enough to have a job have seen their salaries slashed - Yiannis has taken a 25% pay cut, which means servicing his car is not a priority.
YIANNIS GRIGORIOU (Translation): It shows on the dashboard that I need more oil. I haven’t changed it for six months.
SERVICE MAN (Translation): For sure, it might not even have any oil. You haven’t changed anything, it’s a miracle it’s working.
YIANNIS GRIGORIOU (Translation): Is it a miracle it’s working?
It's a miracle it still works, he said!!
People often join TEM to make money - they soon discover that solidarity, not profit, is the invisible hand in this market.
SERVICE MAN: At first, it is only for advertising.
REPORTER: A way of letting people know?
SERVICE MAN: Yes. After a few months I want to have people.
REPORTER: Because you get more customers?
SERVICE MAN (Translation): No, because I see that... there are people who are hungry. There are people… they end up losing their jobs, so their car is a necessity. They need it to go looking for work, they have no money, so there is TEM>.
YIANNIS GRIGORIOU (Translation): I’ll pay you with a cheque, it’s the same thing.
There are safeguards to prevent the profit motive from taking hold and to keep the money in circulation. No-one is allowed to accumulate more than 1,200 TEM for example.
YIANNIS GRIGORIOU (Translation): Here you are, thank you.
SERVICE MAN (Translation): No. thank you. Perfect.
REPORTER: It is as good at money.
SERVICE MAN: Because with this TEM, I am going to buy marmalade for my kids, honey, or olive oil. I can fix something electric in my store. It is like Euro.
The TEM economy - unlike the national one - is always growing. The Volos city council has recently agreed to accept a portion of some fees in TEM. And the network has started a weekly market for members.
YIANNIS GRIGORIOU (Translation): So we are in competition.
REPORTER: It is good?
WOMAN: Very good.
REPORTER: What is it?
WOMAN: Chocolate cake and it is 8 TEM only.
For every purchase, the buyer and seller's details are written on a slip of paper and the TEM transferred online.
REPORTER: It is better for you to spend TEM or Euros?
WOMAN: TEM of course.
WOMAN: I don't have Euro. With my Euro I pay my bills. And with TEM I pay my food.
ANGELIKI IONNITI (Translation): Here we have very nice jewellery, they are all handmade. These are goods from the shop, he brings them here to exchange - they are all new. And this lady, being a housewife, and also clever, she made these goods which are also offered in TEM. It’s an extra help.
The stall is filled with stock from a business that went bust a year ago.
MAN (Translation): We live on whatever we get from here. For example, what did I get from here today? I got eggs, I got lettuce, I got a tin of oil, things that we eat at home. Things that I can’t buy anymore, I give and an exchange takes place.
KATIA LARISAOU (Translation): Sour orange and orange…That’s what I want. You make the pastry?
It is kind of strange to see all of this stuff on sale and really you don't actually need any - Money.
KATIA LARISAOU: It is good, isn't it?
WOMAN (Translation): It’s as if a world of abundance has opened up, outside there is a crisis..
KATIA LARISAOU (Translation): Yes, yes.
WOMAN (Translation): I buy marmalade, strawberry marmalade, yes. Today I am rich, I have TEM. I don't have Euro, I have TEM. I am rich!
REPORTER: How do you start a currency from scratch? How do you create money from nothing?
YIANNIS GRIGORIOU: Because we believe that the creation of value, which means currency in your question, is the right of any individual and the right of the community.
This is still capitalism but with a kinder face.
MAN (Translation): Well, hello chief!
MAN 3 (Translation): One thing I will say is that one day’s work in here is one week’s work outside. If that say’s something… here people buy much more easily and they help and support each other without any feeling of negativity. You buy something and appreciate the purchase you have made.
WOMAN (Translation): Outside they pressure you as if it doesn’t have any value, as if the euro has value but not the product. But in here the flour, the eggs, everything has value.
YIANNIS GRIGORIOU: The mainstream economy thinks that these people have no value at all, they are not useful. We think the opposite. Everybody has something to offer.
WOMAN (Translation): You want to pay - you want to feel human again.
MAN (Translation): And you can pay with anything, either with TEM, with oil, with potatoes… as long as you have got something to exchange.
YIANNIS GRIGORIOU: It is a very liberating feeling to have to see ourselves able to do this. This is something once we realised the potential of this, maybe the whole world will change
WOMAN (Translation): Tell him that we will always be smiling.
MARK DAVIS: Amos Roberts with a different take on how to survive without the banks. There's more about that currency and how it works on our website, plus an interactive guide to all the main political parties here and their views on solving the financial crisis. That's at sbs.com.au/dateline.
Original Music Composed by VICKI HANSEN
5th June 2012