Inequality and Human Rights Seminar invites scholars to discuss Greek financial crisis

Kahlil Said

James Galbraith, Philomila Tsoukala and Alvaro Santos visited law school to discuss the inequality, human rights and governmental issues in Greece at the Colloquium on Inequality & Human Rights on Monday.

In the two-hour colloquium, the three panelists were each given 30 minutes to share their knowledge and experiences regarding the financial crisis in Greece. The panel brought economists and lawyers together to discuss the issues eye-to-eye.

Galbraith, a Lloyd M. Bensten Jr. chair in government and business relations and professor of government, began the conference by speaking about how the imbalance in financial power is a dominant factor in causing economic inequality.

“There is a perceptible pattern in the movement of economic inequality around the world,” Galbraith said. “It is directly and heavily linked to the dominant force that is the imbalance of financial power.” 

Galbraith said economic inequality in Greece began to develop in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when European countries assembled and created a monetary union around the Euro. A consequence of the formation of the monetary union was an imbalance in financial power in favor of creditors such as Germany.

“European countries, driven by political motives and corporate pressures, got together and amassed themselves into a monetary union,” Galbraith said.

Tsoukala, professor of law at Georgetown Law, said part of the reason Greece struggled with integration into the European markets was because Greece is comprised primarily of micro-businesses, or small, family-owned businesses. 

“Greece started integrating into European markets in 1981,” Tsoukala said. “Greece was a country with a developing economy when they began integrating into European markets.”

Tsoukala said because the Greek government used strategies that were not suitable for the integration of their economy, the integration into European markets was inefficient.

“If you look at Greek economy, 95 percent of it is micro-business [such as] family businesses,” Tsoukala said. “Most of these businesses aren’t operating under any formal type of legal framework.”

Mohammed Nabulsi, second-year UT law student, said the panel aimed to explain how issues in Greece’s austerity measures affect human rights through funding cuts to social services.

“Policies of austerity were imposed on Greece in order for them to pay back debts owed to creditors,” Nabulsi said. “The problem is policies of austerity clearly violated the basic human rights of the Greek people.”