Q&A: Thomas Piketty responds to surprise Greek election result

Thomas_Piketty_2015In the wake of a surprise re-election of Alexis Tsipras and Syriza, Thomas Piketty, Professor at Paris School of Economics and at EHESS, discusses the need for a more active approach from European leaders when it comes to the Greek question – and for a eurozone parliament to be established.
+++Thomas Piketty will speak at the UCL European Institute on 14 December 2015+++

The Tsipras victory has come as a surprise to some. What has changed for Greece?

Normally, we would expect some stability in the coming years. But above all, Greece and Europe need to make up for lost time. Until now, Europe has obstinately refused to talk seriously about restructuring Greece’s debt. That was what caused the downfall of the last government. Continue reading

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.

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Greece: a crisis of trust?

Geoffrey Hosking, Emeritus Professor of Russian History at UCL’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies, gives his view of what went wrong before and during the Greek crisis, and of the challenges that now lie ahead. To him the problem is centrally one of a lack of trust.

The Greek crisis goes back a long way, and at several stages demonstrated the dangers of a loss of trust.

The epic began with the creation of the euro, which was set up without several of the trust-generating stabilisers of national currencies: a common fiscal policy, a central ministry of finance and a central bank empowered to act as a lender of last resort.  Without these essentials, the euro lacked the full and credible commitment of all its members, an essential prerequisite of mutual trust. A member nation could no longer cope with serious crises by devaluing its currency, yet no provision was made for a solidarity fund (the euro equivalent of the IMF) to deal with crises collectively.

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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

Say ‘yes’ to Europe: A response to Joseph Stiglitz’s ‘How I would vote in the Greek referendum’

Joseph Stiglitz’s influential call on the Greeks to vote ‘no’ in Sunday’s referendum has received attention from all corners of the globe. In this response, Kira Gartzou-Katsouyanni and Philip Schnattinger, critically analyse Stiglitz’s arguments and put forward an argument for a ‘yes’ vote.

Joseph Stiglitz’s call on the Greeks to vote ‘no’ in Sunday’s referendum has received broad international publicity and has given an enormous boost to the ‘no’ campaign in Greece. Yet many of his arguments about both economics and politics are at best one-sided.

Stiglitz talks a lot about the Eurozone’s democratic flaws. Indeed, many of us have participated in discussions about the European Union’s democratic deficit in the past, and there is no doubt that there are ways in which the Eurozone’s democratic credentials can be improved.

But the Eurogroup’s decision not to extend the economic adjustment programme beyond its expiry date was not an example of anti-democratic behaviour by European technocrats. On 20 February, the Greek government agreed to the extension of the programme which was due to expire on 30 June. It has been publically known for five months that without another agreement by the end of June, Europe’s money to Greece would run out. We all knew that this would include the end of the ECB’s emergency liquidity programme, which had already been increased in size several times to keep the Greek banking sector afloat.

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