Editorial: Chilling echoes of history in Greece

 

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Recent months have seen a marked calming of the crisis that, as recently as last summer, threatened to pitch Greece out of the eurozone and its remaining members – if not the entire world – into chaos.

While austerity is still biting hard across much of southern Europe, confidence is nonetheless rising and there is some stability, at last, in the financial markets. It is of no mean significance that Greek bond yields this week fell below 10 per cent for the first time since October 2010.

The eurozone's problems are far from over, however. Indeed, the danger now is that the breathing space bought by the European Central Bank's unlimited bond-buying scheme, unveiled in September, will be used by policymakers to duck both the unpopular structural reforms and the moves towards closer fiscal union needed to put an end to the crisis.

Nor has the spectre of political breakdown receded. Far from it. In a chilling echo of history, extremist political parties across the Continent are feeding on the instability and hardship caused by the euro crisis. And nowhere is the phenomenon starker than in Greece.

There can be no doubt of the Golden Dawn party's toxicity. Its symbol is uncannily close to the swastika; its members use the Nazi salute, and there are reports of black-shirted vigilantes attacking immigrants and those from ethnic minorities. Worse still, as Greece grinds through its fourth year of recession, Golden Dawn is going from strength to strength. And, as we report today, the party is drawing ever larger numbers to its poisonous agenda, using social networking technology specifically to target young people.

Alarmingly, the strategy is working. Three years ago, Golden Dawn was a political non-entity. In last summer's general election, it won nearly 7 per cent of the vote and secured 18 seats. Now, some polls rank it in third place.

For all the apparent calm, then, the eurozone still faces colossal risks. A slide back to business as usual by the political classes will not only drag the bloc back to the brink of market meltdown, but it will also be grist to the mill of the far right. The stakes could hardly be higher.

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