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The unhappiness of being Greek

18 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 19 July 2011

This is a key week in the escalating European debt drama. On Thursday there will be another emergency summit at which European leaders will yet again attempt to finalise a new bailout for Greece.

Greece is reckoned to be the key to containing the crisis - stabilise the Greek economy and you dramatically reduce the risk of the crisis spreading to other European countries.

Justin Rowlatt explores how ordinary Greek people are becoming increasingly resistant to further bail-outs and how the Greek national character may play a role in this unfolding drama.

The protestors, the so-called "Indignati", aren't just left-wing agitators. There are lots of middle class Greeks among them.

A young doctor working in an Athens hospital asks why the Greeks should borrow more just so they can work for lower wages, pay higher taxes and enjoy worse public services.

The financial crisis has made many Greeks reflect upon their national character and to ask whether there is something uniquely Greek about the crisis the nation faces.

Nikos Dimu is a philosopher and the author of a book called On The Unhappiness of Being Greek. It is a very popular work - which may itself say something about the Greek character.

Justin Rowlatt met Nikos in his flat in the hills above Athens to discuss his very personal views about how the Greek national character has helped shape the crisis the country faces, and how it will help determine Greece's response.

Many people in indebted European nations argue that the simplest way to escape the crisis would be to devalue their currency - but that would mean leaving the Euro.

Iain Begg is a visiting Professor at the LSE European Institute. Justin Rowlatt asked him if that is a realistic option.

And finally, there may be lessons to be learnt from abroad. In Argentina they know a fair bit about dealing with debt crises and they'll no doubt be watching Europe with sympathy and even a touch of schadenfraude. That's because ten years ago Argentina failed to pay its creditors - the biggest sovereign default in history, so far at least.

The BBC's Daniel Schweimler in Buenos Aires looks at what Europe can learn from Argentina.

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