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Growing anti-German feeling on streets of Greece

Many Greeks are angry at Germany and the troika’s demands for public services cuts and hikes to taxes which they say are already too high

There is a growing animosity towards Germany on the streets of Athens. Angela Merkel bears most of the hostility with one of Greece’s newspapers last week mocking the chancellor up as a Nazi on its front page.

Fidaki, 40, says Greeks are angry at Germany and the troika’s demands for higher taxes and public services cuts. “People can’t afford to pay the tax. My pay has gone down, but my taxes have gone up. But, I’m a lucky one – half of my friends don’t have jobs. Greeks hate that they are asking us to pay all the time when we don’t have the money. Families have no work, they have kids to look after but no money to pay for anything.”

She says the Greeks, who enjoyed a national holiday on Monday, are also angry with the Germans for portraying them as work shy.

“They [the Germans] think we don’t work. They think we like to enjoy ourselves – we have the sun and the sea. They think this [drinking cappuccinos in bars] is all we do all the time. But we work, if we can get a job.”

She agrees that Greece has a “huge” tax evasion problem, but says the troika is missing the main tax evaders – the rich. “The people that have the money are the ones that don’t pay. The normal people pay their taxes. But the rich don’t pay – they have the money to avoid it. If I don’t pay my taxes I go to jail,” she said. “If I become rich I would find a way not to pay. At the moment it is the poorer that are paying for the rich, that’s the scandal.”

She admits that the problem has got worse because Greece does not have the resources or expertise to tackle tax evasion and concedes that maybe experts from Germany could provide vital advice.

Simeon LeFineviotis, a smartly dressed man sitting at the next table to Fidaki at a swanky coffee bar in downtown Athens, agrees that anti-German sentiment is on the rise. “There is bad feeling towards Germany. It is like someone coming into your house telling you how to live your life. No, don’t make your coffee like that – do it like this. Don’t sit on your chair that way – sit up straight.”

He says the tax evasion problem will never be solved because Germany and the troika “just can’t imagine how it works here”.

“Nobody pays their taxes – they’re just too high. I’m a pilot – even I can’t pay all my taxes,” he says.

He says he “prefers to buy a €9 drink than pay €5,000 to the government”.

LeFineviotis says there’s “no point” in paying taxes as “nothing will happen” to those that evade. “You’re not going to go to jail. There’s no problem. Give yourself six months then you can fix it. Until then drink cappuccinos.” © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds