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Monday, 27 February 2012

You can buy a Kalashnikov for a hundred euros on the back streets of Athens


"You can buy a Kalashnikov for a hundred euros on the back streets of Athens and people are doing so to guard their property," Mr Chrysanthopoulos told me from his home outside the capital yesterday. Thanks to the disastrous euro, his country is sliding remorselessly towards bankruptcy and disintegration. Modern Greece is an economic corpse, kept on life support by Germany and France, who fear the euro will be destroyed if they admit the truth. Last week's £110BILLION bailout was not aimed at rescuing the Greek people. It was to save the euro from total collapse. Yet the country seems doomed to another historic crisis as disastrous as the German occupation, a bloody civil war and years of military rule. "What we risk today is anarchy, the collapse of society and a breakdown in law and order," says Mr Chrysanthopoulos, 66. "We have more than 20,000 homeless families in Athens alone. "There are food lines for the hungry, which have not been seen since the Second World War. "Penniless pensioners are begging in the streets. People are bartering for essentials, living hand to mouth." Sooner or later they will be thrown out of the euro — the greatest peacetime catastrophe in the history of Europe. Hatred seethes against Germany, which in 1942 reduced Greece to starvation and slavery during its brutal Nazi occupation. A Greek radio station has just been fined for describing German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a "dirty Berlin slut". Nazi resistance fighter Manolis Glezos, now 89, says Germany plundered Greece for the equivalent of £138billion in the 1940s. "They grab us by the throat for the debt — let's do the same to them for the reparations," he says. Germans hit back, branding the Greeks "idle swindlers". They claim nobody pays tax because bandit politicians steal their money. The insults are fuelling precisely the nationalistic antagonism that sowed the seeds for two world wars — and which the EU was created to eliminate forever. Germany and France, who must accept the blame for allowing Greece into the euro at all, are terrified of contagion. So they are forcing this humiliated nation to slash pay and pensions to starvation levels. Last week's costly bailout has bought time — and the fantasy of an orderly default. Mr Chrysanthopoulos feels betrayed by the euro currency con. But he is not alone. Charles Kennedy, the Lib Dems' fervently pro-euro ex-leader, last week admitted: "I was wrong." His successor, the made-in-Brussels Nick Clegg, admits he would no longer join the euro. Two former editors of the fanatically pro-Brussels Financial Times confess they backed the wrong horse. Ex-EU Commissioner Frits Bolkestein admits: "The euro has failed." We will never hear honesty like that from Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine, who lost the Tories three elections by stoking the row over Europe. But unlike Mr Chrysanthopoulos, they will probably die comfortably in their beds without witnessing the hideous consequences. Greek instability risks spilling over to fragile ex-fascist regimes Spain and Portugal. If it does, we can only hope it doesn't bring chaos to Italy — then to France. People will take only so much belt-tightening austerity. More revolutions have been triggered by oppressive taxes than anything else. The drive for ever closer political and economic union and the end of national rivalry was aimed at ending war in Europe. We must pray the arrogant fools who launched this undemocratic juggernaut do not achieve precisely the opposite.

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