By Nordstjernan columnist Ulf Nilson, May 2010

The reason for the present crisis is spelled G-r-e-e-c-e, which is a beautiful country in the northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea. It is also spelled PIIGS, meaning Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain. If you think the names of the countries in question were placed in the order that would make them pigs, also known as swine, you're absolutely correct.
It is, as usual, about money.
Most of the EU members are also members of the EMU, the European Monetary Union. They use the same money, the euro, which makes business and traveling easier, creates better competition and so on. Some countries, like England and Sweden begged off the cooperation, but most accepted. Today many regret it.
The reason is simple. The EU sets certain rules of conduct for the EMU members. Most important of these rules is the stipulation that a country can not have a budget deficit larger than three percent. Also, needless to say, an individual country can not devalue itself out of trouble, since it does not control the common money.
If everybody had abided by the rules, all would have been just fine. But many countries (see above), most particularly Greece, did not. Greece, where corruption is a way of life and workers get two extra monthly salaries at Christmas and Easter and mysterious workers—who simply don't exist—draw good money from bureaucratic agencies, well the country could not possibly keep the deficit down. Indeed, today it is not three, but 15 percent. The government quite long ago tried to hide this by, let's say, creative bookkeeping. Or, to be more honest, by lying boldly and brazenly.
Of course, it didn't work. The country's loans were downgraded and downgraded. Today they are called junk and looked upon as leprosy. Almost, if not quite, the same situation has hit Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain. And behaved like swine, they have, which you could also say about no less a state than Great Britain (which is not, as I mentioned, a member of the EMU but has its own money, the pound).
To avoid bankruptcy, which has, in a fashion already occurred, Greece must borrow. And borrow. And borrow. The sums mentioned are astronomical and can only come from various states and organizations such as the IMF. Negotiations are under way. They will most likely succeed—otherwise the EU will collapse—but at a very high price.


1. Taxpayers in all EU countries will have to pony up millions and millions, not for their own needs and needy but for people in Greece. It amounts to—there is no other word—stealth.

2. The Greeks will indeed suffer, too. In the administration, there will be no salary hikes (not even for phantom workers!) for several years.

3. Greeks are today given pension at the age of 53 (yes, 53). It will be increased by 14 years to age 67, and most likely the hardest hit ever.

4. Besides, the Greek government will be forever suspect and under scrutiny, a very uncomfortable position.

Bad enough, but wait, it gets worse. The pig countries and Great Britain are in almost as bad a position as Greece. What happens if a major country like Italy or Spain goes belly up or nearly so? Or Great Britain?
Can the union, which is not a union and is governed—very poorly indeed—by a bunch of bureaucrats in Brussels, really last? My hunch is that the powers that be will come up with a long list of “reforms” that will mean very little, but calm the atmosphere for a while.
Until the next crisis comes along.…