Michael Portillo travels to Greece and Germany to assess the implications of Europe’s Euro meltdown. In Athens, birthplace of democracy, he encounters a grim vision of the future for many European countries. He meets people in a state of shock, adjusting to a new world where declining living standards are becoming the norm.
As unemployment rises by the day and longterm unemployment appears to be forever, Greeks are experiencing levels of poverty they thought they’d escaped decades ago. Impoverished Athenians are now receiving food parcels from a French charity which normally operates in sub-Saharan Africa, while hospitals are so short of money that they can’t afford to use their own operating equipment.
How could this be happening in Europe? Michael Portillo is an arch-sceptic of the Euro, which he believes is to blame for Greece’s plight. When Greece signed up to the Eurozone, German imports flooded in, financed by cheap loans. And as we see, Greece’s biggest deficit was in the automobile sector, and Greeks developed a mania for the Porsche Cayenne. In our story Porsche comes to stand for Germany’s rapid increase in exports to Europe and the rest of the world since the formation of the Euro. Michael visits the Cayenne production line at Porsche’s factory in Leipzig, where he learns that worldwide sales increased by 20% last year despite the global recession.
The Greek love affair with German luxury cars is now ending, but as we see, the story of the Cayenne is a microcosm of what’s gone wrong for Greece and what went right for Germany.
60 mins, BBC2 ‘This World’, 2012