On 15 Febuary, I was listening to Nigel Farage’s intervention in the European Parliament about the Greek crisis (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8Ayb8P1LbU).
For those not familiar with the name, MEP Farage is leader of the UK Independence Party and President of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Party in the EP. Have long considered myself an enthusiastic supporter of European integration, Mr Farage is usually not the type of politician I would find a lot to agree with. Yet, I was shocked to see how much his words resonated with me.
The truth is that Greece is no longer governed by an elected government which serves the interests of its people. It is run by the troika which flies in every three months and dictates unpopular demands raised by our creditors, intended to enable the country to pay back its debts and stand back on its feet. The results have been exactly the opposite. Not only has the debt kept on increasing, moreover, the Greek economy has entered a downward death spiral and its people suffering a brutal economic adjustment that is destroying any remaining traces of social cohesion.
I don’t intend here to start a blame game. For me, clearly everyone is at fault: on the one had, all Greek governments to date for economically mismanaging the country until 2009 and subsequently proving completely incapable for managing the crisis; and on the other, our European creditors for implementing a catastrophic economic policy that has been mainly driven by domestic political considerations and the perceived need to make an example out of Greece, as a deterrent to others.
It is often argued that there is no alternative. Of course there is, it is simply that our creditors do not wish to consider them due to a lack of vision and leadership. We should not forget that the European Union was created out of the biggest destruction mankind has ever experienced. Visionary leaders on both sides of the continent resisted at the time the urge for revenge and performed what could only be described as a quantum leap in statesmanship that enabled (Western) Europe to stand back on its feet and reach where it is know. Had the leaders at the time acted like Europe’s governments now, we would have most likely remained a bitter and divided continent, often at war or with the threat looming constantly over our heads.
To argue that the European project is in grave danger of unraveling would be an exaggeration. Yet, what cannot be denied is that the Greek debt crisis is opening old wounds and reviving national animosities, exactly what the EU was intended to resolve.
As a Greek, I have naturally been significantly affected by the plight and desperation experienced by many back home. Moreover, living in Brussels, I have had in the past year numerous opportunities to discuss with Portuguese, Italians and Spaniards about on-going crisis. While we may not have agreed on everything, there was clearly a common frustration and resentment about how Germany and its allies are managing this crisis.
Germany is clearly a country that ought to be seen an example in many ways. I personally would have no objection to Greece becoming like Germany. It would imply a far better functioning state which could provide a real service to its citizens and not waste tax payers money (for the part of the Greek population which actually pays them). Yet, this will not happen overnight and, judging from outcome of the ‘rescue package’, the means can no longer justify the ends from a moral standpoint.
A continuation of the current policy not only seems unlikely to change things around. Far more worrying, it risks planting the seeds of hatred which have overshadowed this continent one too many times.
Author : Konstandinos Diamandouros