As news of Greece’s three-week window to settle matters with her lenders breaks the news, we need to remind ourselves why we should still be outraged at the handling of this affair
For the past seven years, Greece has been stuck in an abusive marriage with its European partners. Of course, she has not been the perfect partner, but who has? No one deserves violence. No one deserves abuse. Everyone deserves hope, and not the delusional “you will be done by 2060, if you can maintain the hilariously unsustainable 3.5% primary budget surplus” kind of hope offered by Mr Schäuble. The hypocrisy and pseudo-morality of European lenders and the International Monetary Fund is painful.
Germany’s “no debt-reduction” stance is particularly exasperating, when that very same country has experienced both the economic, social and political disaster that vindictive, self-righteous hardheadedness can lead to after the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, as well as the miraculous quality of debt-reduction when its own debt was cut by half (!) at the London Debt Agreement of 1953. The more years pass, the closer Greece and the rest of Europe edge from a post-modern 1919 to a post-modern 1933. And now, with news of Greece’s three-week window to resolve its next installment before economically imploding – a piece of news which some media outlets appeared surprised about, bless them – many of us cannot help but wonder: when will we get serious about resolving this?
The obvious answer is: when there is political will for a resolution. The only place where this seems to be the case is the nation-patient itself. Two summers ago, under remarkable socio-economic pressure, amid capital-controls and an overwhelmingly pro-EU media landscape, 62% of Greeks came out and refused the terms of a third bailout. Anyone with half-an-understanding of economics and finance seems to agree that the current approach to Greek debt is unsustainable economically, socially and politically: all in all, a disaster. Even the master chef of the entire travesty, the IMF, has come out and admitted that neo-liberalism and austerity simply do not work.
So what are we waiting for? Why are millions of Europeans still suffering under utterly misguided political and economic dogmas?
Quite simply because to admit defeat at this point would mark the end of a number of powerful careers. Having poisoned European voters against the lazy PIIGS, it would be nothing short of political suicide to turn around and give in to Greek demands. When would be the next electoral victory in Europe for austerity’s architects if it was revealed that the years of financial and social suffering was a pointless self-inflicted wound with only negative economic results?
Greece on its own
So it is becoming increasingly obvious that Greece has to work its own way out of this mess. At this stage, that means an immediate halt of repayments to lenders; a stance that will either force its partners to a vital debt-reduction, or will lead the country to an exit from the Euro. With Germany (in clear breach of EU rules) stubbornly maintaining its 9% budget surplus and refusing to increase imports, Europe is at an impasse, and no one is hurt more by this than Greece. Although the former outcome would be preferred – avoiding to rock the European boat at a time of major global instability is an obvious plus – the latter is still preferable to the status quo.
It is an exceptionally painful conclusion for any Europhile to come to, but as long as Europe is not truly politically and economically united, as long as there is an unfair domination of one or a few nations’ interests over another’s, for as long as we have a European Union that does not adhere to the basic values of democracy and solidarity, then nations will forever be forced to pursue their own interests, because if they don’t do it for themselves, no one else will do it for them. Greece needs to continue where it left off with the OXI Referendum two summers ago, and make a stand.
This is why we need the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25): to stop the anachronistic policies of our governments, their short-sighted European Council dealings and Machiavellian Eurogroup policies. We need a Union that does not force countries to do what Greece must do now. We need an EU that answers directly to its citizens, bypassing their governments. In short, we need a European constitution that brings us all together unto the same boat; a boat that we can then start furnishing for the storms ahead.
With an ever more unstable planet, with challenges that cross-borders, and us, citizens, being ever more disillusioned with the incapability and lack of imagination of our representatives, it’s time for Democracy in Europe.
Most have argued that 2025 is too ambitious a target, but considering how fast the world seems to be turning lately, one cannot help but to wonder if it might actually be too late. All we can do is try.