Dutch Report Says Austerity Wrongly Deprived Greeks of Food


(Photo by Eurokinissi/Lydia Siori)

More than 8 ½ years of imposed austerity during a crushing economic crisis violated people's right to food and hiked rural poverty in Greece, the Transnational Institute (TNI), an advocacy outfit in Amsterdam said.

“In August 2018, the European Council celebrated the end of the third Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), praising the Greeks' efforts and European solidarity. Yet, as this report shows, there is little to celebrate,” said the authors of “Democracy Not for Sale: The Struggle for Food Sovereignty in the Age of austerity in Greece,” Kathimerini reported.

“Not only did austerity measures increase poverty and food insecurity, it further consolidated an agri-food business regime that will perpetuate inequalities in access to and control over food,” with few sales in supermarkets during the crisis that saw prices remain high for basic foods.

In the report, TNI found that an estimated 38.9 percent of rural citizens in Greece in 2017 were at risk of poverty, rural unemployment soared from 7 percent in 2008 to 25 percent in 2013 while rural income per capita dropped by 23.5 percent during the crisis years (2008-2013).

“Food insecurity across Greece has also increased – with food prices increasing at faster rates than prices in the eurozone during the crisis, despite the sharp fall in domestic incomes and labor costs. This led to a drop in food expenditure in total terms but an increase in food expenditure as a share of total monthly expenditure from 16.4 percent in 2008 to 20.7 percent in 2016,” it said.

Te report also found that the proportion of households that could not afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day doubled from around 7 percent in 2008 to more than 14 percent in 2016.

The share of households with children unable to afford a protein-based meal on a daily basis also doubled from 4.7 percent in 2009 to 8.9 percent in 2014, the report says. The researchers also point to structural reforms that “significantly tipped the balance in favor of larger food retailers and private traders to the detriment of small-scale producers.”

Olivier de Schutter, former special rapporteur on the Right to Food (2008-2014) at the United Nations and a member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said that the European Union could be held liable for violating Greeks' right to food.

“The level of the damage could raise the EU liability but the problem is identifying those who have been affected directly by the austerity measures and who could take the case to the court,” he said

“I know some people are thinking about this and I’ve been asked to provide advice on this possibility,” he said.