July 10, 2015

Who are the Greeks fighting?

Sometimes social and other media depicts the situation of Greece as David’s battle with Goliath; where the European Union plays the role of Goliath by strangling the brave Greece using its regulations and cuts in spending. The EU appears like an almighty monster who suffocates the Greek people. The result of the referendum held on 5 July, or, in other words, the “No” to the proposals of the European Commission, has been portrayed as a huge victory.

Let us still ask a few questions. If the European Union is so almighty, then how was it possible for Greece to submit false budgets and keep living happily in the red? If the EU is considered almighty, then it follows that the strangling should have started a lot earlier. However, the Greek could afford building multi-lane roads and have more than 12 monthly wages a year.

The next question addresses the distinctive features of Greece. If the austerity programme suggested by the EU is so horrible, then why aren’t the other Eurozone countries strangled by Brussels? Ireland and Portugal managed to get out of debt. Not to mention Estonia and Latvia, who underwent serious austerity programmes. According to the Greek reasoning, this should all be dependent on Brussels’ discretion, while it is clear that all the countries affected by the crisis made unpopular decisions by themselves. By today, these solutions have provided positive results.

Mihhail Lotman has already asked the third question in his blog. And the question is: what did the Greek win with the referendum? Did it make them richer? You can always claim that the expression of public opinion is a victory in itself, but this does not dissolve the question of where will the Greek public sector find financing for wages in the near future.

When we view the problem of Greece from a purely technocrat position, then it would not be much of a problem if Greece would leave the Eurozone. Not fulfilling the criteria results in leaving them out. Clear and simple. In his interview with the Estonian daily Postimees, the Governor of Eesti Pank Ardo Hansson did not exclude the possibility that Greece may leave the Eurozone. Pacta sunt servanda or agreements must be kept, like the ancient Romans said.

However, the question of Greece is more complicated from the human and strategic perspective. Most of the Greeks are not responsible for the irresponsible politics of their governments and when they are faced with outright poverty, something must be done. The talks about giving humanitarian aid to Greece are nor far-fetched.

From the strategic perspective, Greece leaving the Eurozone would mean that the essential logic of the European Union would change. The EU has always meant that all the countries who have joined will integrate even further and there are no leavers. In addition to Greece, this logic is contested by the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership in the European Union. If Greece would leave the Eurozone, this would give the signal that the common currency project initiated by Germany has gone wrong at some point, because it does not suit all member states.

Therefore, Greece seems to be between Scylla and Charybdis, two monsters known from the works of Homer. It should be kept in mind that in the end, Odysseus chose Scylla as the lesser evil and could move on. Apparently, the EU must also make an inevitable choice but who is to say which is the lesser of the two evils—Greece leaving or staying in the Eurozone?
The text was aired on the European news of Retro FM on 10 July 2015.

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