Catch-22: Give democracy a chance and keep Greece in the Euro

Ulrike Liebert, Professor in European Studies, looks at the tensions that are arising between the need for effective economic governance in the Eurozone and the need for democratic accountability, both of member states and the EU as a whole, particularly in the context of the outcome of the Greek referendum.

Eurozone leaders sometimes seem to forget that that they are governing an economic and monetary union that is part of the European Union of states and citizens, founded on common values such as ‘respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities’ (Art. 2 TEU).

The Greek population of 11 million represents a minority within the nineteen Eurozone states of some 300 million citizens, a minority which is deeply divided over the burdens which Eurozone rules require them to bear for the sake of the euro’s stability. The referendum of 5 July was an unprecedented instance of a plebiscite on Eurozone bailout conditions, and Eurozone leaders had no choice but to acknowledge it as a legitimate means of democracy. Greek voters turned out in unexpectedly high numbers and forcefully spoke their will.

Continue reading

Greece, the EU, and the Democratic Conundrum

In this post, Nicola Countouris, Reader at the UCL Faculty of Laws, analyses the reasons why the Greeks may have rejected the creditor institutions’ economic and reform proposals. Arguing that frustration is not the only explanation for Tsipras’  win at the ballot box, and recognising the daunting challenge that lie ahead of the 19 Eurozone democracies, he argues that Europe’s constitutional envelope can be spacious enough to accommodate different versions of democratic economic and human aspirations.

For the second time in six months the Greeks have voted for a political project (which many have and will continue to describe as a ‘political adventure’) that runs against the grain of the unanimous expectations and imperatives of the EU institutions, the IMF, and the bulk of both centre-right and centre-left European governments. Against the odds, against the economic and reform instructions imparted by the lending institutions, and – many will say – against their best interest, the Greeks have refused to conform, and have flatly rejected on two occasions now, the politics of austerity.

Continue reading

YES, for our Dignity

In this post, Kalypso Nicolaïdis, Professor of International Relations at Oxford, and Othon Anastasakis, Director of the European Studies Centre, St Antony’s College Oxford, explain how a ‘yes’ vote in tomorrow’s Greek referendum is a choice for dignity rather than fear, as canvassed by the No campaign.

The SYRIZA government claims that a No vote in the referendum is about dignity. A Greece that can say no, no matter the consequences. A Greece that can at last resist creditors’ demands, just as its national heroes of yesterdays resisted the Italian and Nazi invasions.  For many Greeks, – supporters of SYRIZA-ANEL-Golden Dawn – today’s no echoes the OXI in 1940 spelled out with trees on the hillside of Epirus for the advancing enemies to behold. Seventy five years later, they think that will show the world that they can still take the heroic stance.   Against such a no, according to them, the YESes are the cowards, those who accept to be bullied and blackmailed, the German collaborators. In this simple world view, YES means fear. No means pride.

What is wrong with this picture? What is wrong with the “dignified” No? Continue reading

Why we don’t need to panic about Greece

Media coverage of the talks between Greece and its Eurozone partners sounds increasingly alarming, but there is no need to run for cover. Filipa Figueira explains why we don’t need to panic about Greece.

The past few months have seen a series of make-or-break meetings between Greece and the other Eurozone countries – culminating on 24 April with a tempestuous Eurogroup meeting in Latvia. There, finance ministers allegedly accused Greek Finance Minister Yannis Varoufakis of being ‘a gambler, a time-waster and an amateur’, and blocked their ears while he was speaking to show their despair. This led Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to reshuffle the negotiating team – Mr Varoufakis has not been fired, but was sidelined, as Deputy Foreign Minister Euclid Tsakalotos will now be heading the negotiations with the Eurogroup.

So are we approaching ‘Grexit’? Most probably not.

Continue reading