The hardships imposed were and are real. The changes in Greeks’ standard of living, despite a series of international rescue deals, have been profound and chastening.
Those doubts may have been influenced by Greece’s inability — or reluctance — to deliver promised reforms or even establish a relatively robust tax collection system. Those doubts are informed too by the fact that Greeks took to the streets and violently opposed measures outside voices demanded if their economy was to secure ongoing support.
Nevertheless, the over-riding impression is that Greece — especially Greeks happy to work and contribute to their struggling society — have suffered unduly. Hopefully, that period may be at an end, and the deal struck with the EU and international lenders around economic reform this week will finally restore some stability and possibility to one of the EU’s struggling societies. The deal means that the country can continue to get money from the €86bn programme, but it must cut pensions and widen its tax base.
Despite everything, and despite looming elections in France and Germany, the EU needs a success story to show it is still be best, if not the only, option for Europe. A rejuvenated Greece would be a powerful argument in that cause.