How often have you read recent reports about the troubles assailing Greece and felt that it had it coming?
We all know that the country has a daft retirement age and, of course, no-one pays any tax. Well we’re wrong. The average retirement age is over 61 (higher than Germany’s) and tax take is 20 per cent of GDP (the UK is 28 per cent).
The fact is that Greece has hit a huge debt crisis for a multitude of reasons. Its membership of the Eurozone has set interest rates at a wholly inappropriate level and the mix of its economy (with less ability to export and trade out of a recession) has meant that a western-style state support system has become too expensive to afford.
This, coupled with the inability to devalue its currency, has left Greece in a debt spiral that threatens to bring it to its knees. And this really matters to us as Greece isn’t just a place where we go for a holiday. It’s Europe’s back door.
Just think for a moment about the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean: Cyprus, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Egypt, Libya. And that’s to completely ignore those lined up behind like Iraq.
If ever there were reasons for our ears to prick up and sense some danger from current developments, now is the time.
Cyprus is also in the grip of a debt crisis, where Russia has provided bailout funds to the principal bank.
Turkey clearly has regional ambitions and is absolutely on point when it comes to the impact of the Syrian conflict.
Lebanon is, thankfully, enjoying a period of stability. But all of us of a certain age will remember that this hasn’t always been the case.
Jordan is feeling the huge strain of the historic weight of refugees from Iraq and the Palestinian territories and now a new wave from Syria. Egypt is going through a period of extraordinary political instability.
And you hardly need me to point out that Libya, Israel and the Palestinian territories present their own challenges.
The point is that the connection between crisis in the Euro and the stability of the region to our east is not immediately obvious until one begins to think of the potential consequences of deep civil unrest and instability in Greece.