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The International Writers Magazine: European Politics

Europe and Greece
• Tom Kilcourse
Democracy under threat in humiliated Greece?


European heads of state were alleged to be shocked recently when a Greek delegation met them without a newly written plan, other than a few notes scribbled on a sheet of hotel notepaper. If they genuinely expected the Greeks to attend that meeting with a new plan, which my sceptical mind doubts, their ‘shock’ reveals only the depths of their stupidity.

The Greek’s new finance minister had been appointed only 24 hours earlier, following the enforced resignation of the country’s best economist and negotiator. Yanis Varoufakis was apparently too smart for his German counterpart, so he had to go. His departure was seen as a victory by the European cabal, the same lot who expected his replacement to turn up with a new, carefully formulated plan. They then gave the Greeks five days in which to come up with new proposals.

If the European heads, particularly the Germans, feel in any way triumphant, I suggest that they reflect and begin to formulate a plan of their own. Not a plan for the Greek economy, but for an EU strategy to handle a failed state within its borders. It is certainly conceivable that the Greek state will implode as its people vent their fury on the government, and on Europe generally. Also, in this age of social media, the emotions stirred by the sight of European children going hungry as their parents queue at soup kitchens, by the sight of destitute people begging in the street as crime increases and people dying for lack of medical treatment are unlikely to be confined to Greece.

Given the European Union’s record to date in dealing with major issues such as the distribution of immigrants, there is not much cause for optimism should the Greek state fail. Without wishing to be alarmist, I would remind our leaders in Brussels of Greece’s geographical position, its islands within sight of the Turkish coast from where migrants are already sailing to what they see as a European paradise. Given that Turkey, a largely Islamic nation, borders war-torn Syria, it is probable that some of those migrants are covert jihadists.

Imagine how tempting a failed state of Greece would become to ISIS strategists. The thought of a Greek collapse must be causing great cheer in the ‘caliphate’. The EU has failed miserably to deal with the flow of migrants through Italy. How would Brussels react then, to an impoverished, anarchic Greece providing an open door to thousands of unchecked Syrians and others from Africa and the Middle East?

Such a scenario is a realistic possibility if the leaders of the Eurozone continue to squeeze Greece till the pips squeak. It is a risk, and for what? I suggest that those demanding their money back reflect on their own culpability for the situation and adopt a more positive approach to the crisis. It is generally acknowledged that Greece is incapable of repaying its debt, particularly now it has accepted the need for further austerity. So what is to be gained? Even the International Monetary Fund, an organisation with a lengthy track record in austerity programmes, is not behind the approach being taken by the Eurozone leadership. Indeed, the ‘agreement’ imposed on Greece conflicted with IMF analysis and was pursued despite the Fund’s advice.

If Greece does sink into anarchy, Islamists are not the only threat to democracy. The Greek military would possibly be seen by many as the only realistic alternative to continuing chaos. What irony if the country once again became a military dictatorship as a result of pressure from fellow members of the ‘democratic’ European Union.

Eurozone creditors have failed to find an acceptable formula to allow Greece to grow its economy out of trouble. The risk to European stability far outweighs any possible benefit that can arise from the imposition of greater austerity on a country already on its knees. The political and economic repercussions of failure may be felt well beyond Greece, though some hope can be found in the fact that the Eurozone’s tactics do not have universal approval. The humiliating conditions imposed upon Greece have caused outrage in several countries, and have raised concerns even within Germany. This is another Treaty of Versailles, and we all know what followed from that. One wonders what Keynes, who warned against vindictive treatment of a defeated Germany, would have said about the present fiasco.
American economist Paul Krugman has already made his views known, saying “This goes beyond harsh into pure vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief. It is, presumably, meant to be an offer Greece can’t accept; but even so, it’s a grotesque betrayal of everything the European project was supposed to stand for.” French economist Thomas Piketty has also been critical.

The International Monetary Fund, an organisation with form in the imposition of austerity, has refused to be involved in the arrangements unless there is some restructuring of the debt, and there is even disagreement within the camp. French political support for the road being taken is less than enthusiastic. In my view, the deal offered Greece raises a real danger of creating a failed state in which citizens lose faith in democracy and reject all efforts to form a stable government. In their determination to bring down a government of the ‘extreme’ left, the Eurozone leadership may have helped to make Greece ungovernable. In a Prospect Magazine article economist George Magnus says “The challenge for the EU in the wake of the Greek crisis is to prevent disintegration”.

Disintegration may not be confined to Greece, but could equally well apply to the EU as a whole. The treatment of Greece could cause countries not yet in the Eurozone to reconsider their application to join, and even to see their membership of the EU in a more negative light.

© Tom Kilcourse July 16th 2015

Tom Kilcourse

Britain requires a strategy that encourages greater investment in productivity, but the omens do not appear favourable.

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