A shady deal
They’re in. In June 2000, the European Union's heads of state and government wave through Greece’s entry into the euro. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder congratulates Prime Minister Costas Simitis -- and the misfortune begins. Experts warn that Greece’s balance sheets are off, but nobody listens to them.
The country celebrates a drastic fall in interest rates following its entry into the euro. The cheap money allows the economy to flourish. Unemployment goes down, wages go up. In 2004, the country hosts the Olympic Summer Games. Greece is suddenly seen as a model country.
The great unbosoming
There’s drama in Athens as it becomes clear just how much money was wasted. Corruption and mismanagement are rampant. In 2009, George Papandreou, the new head of government, admits to Brussels and the financial world that the state deficit is twice as high as originally claimed.
Other people’s money
Greece has squandered all trust and its reputation is destroyed. Bankruptcy looms as investors withdraw their money. But Europe continues to show solidarity. In May 2010, the leaders of the German governing coalition, including Volker Kauder, Guido Westerwelle and Wolfgang Schäuble, approve a bailout package.
Rebellion in the streets
Riots paralyze the country. Many Greeks are desperate. Jobs are disappearing and wages and pensions are being slashed. The economy suffers massively under the austerity and bailout program and in 2011 the country still needs more money. A second rescue package with even more constraints is passed.
A selfish gift
By this point it’s clear that Greece’s debt burden is impossibly high. The Greeks spend months negotiating with banker Josef Ackermann, the chief representative of the country’s private creditors. In March 2012, half of the country’s debts are forgiven in the hope that the remaining ones will still be paid.
The chancellor’s visit
Is she the Queen of Europe? Angela Merkel travels to Athens in the spring of 2014, where Antonis Samaras has since become premier. She wants to gain her own impression of the situation. The economy is performing better, but the gains haven't yet trickled down to the people. Unemployment still hovers at over 25 percent – and the number of disenchanted Greeks is growing.
A leftist hero
Revolution at the ballot box: Alexis Tsipras is elected prime minister in January 2015. He promises to end the austerity policies and to reform the country. The Greek people are euphoric. For the first time in years there is hope of a new beginning without the old elites that ran the country into the ground.
The battle with the troika
Rather than combat corruption and tax evasion, Alexis Tsipras and his finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, get caught up in a battle with lenders to eliminate the debt. The effort fails and no side emerges unscathed. The crisis escalates, pushing the country ever closer to a Grexit as the banks close.
The European throne
The Europeans have put some dramatic weeks behind them. The Greek government leaves the negotiating table with the euro-zone member states. The Greeks then vote in a referendum against what they perceive as an edict. They vilify Angela Merkel as the stone-hearted ruler of Europe. But Greece wants to remain a member of the currency union. After renewed, nights-long negotiations, the Greek government still comes to an agreement with its creditors. Afterwards, talks begin for a new bailout program and a national bankruptcy is averted – at least for now. But what does this mean for Europe? No one wanted to accept responsibility for everything – and no one mounted the throne, not even the chancellor. No European politician is able to find conciliatory words for what Europe was, is and will become.
Text: Mark Schieritz
Illustration: Miriam Migliazzi & Mart Klein
Editors: Silke Janovsky, Götz Hamann
Translation: Daryl Lindsey