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

Greece: Don’t take it at face value

On 30 June, Greece defaulted on its loan repayments to the IMF. Providing a counterpoint to anti-austerity commentaries, Richard Corbett, Member of the European Parliament from 1996-2009 and since 2014, argues that the bailout loans and the debt restructuring that Greece received were a show of European solidarity, rather than imposing austerity. Had they not attenuated the pain, he explains, the plight of Greece would have been worse. He also criticises the Greek government’s decision to hold a referendum. This post was first published on Richard Corbett’s website.

It seems that there are just hours left to avoid a drastic situation in Greece.

At first sight, the natural sympathies of many people, especially on the left, will be with Greece. Is this not a plucky little country, standing up to the IMF and the richer eurozone countries to oppose austerity politics? And there can be nothing but sympathy for the plight of ordinary Greek citizens after a big drop in their standard of living, high unemployment and cuts to even basic public services.

But anyone who has actually looked into the figures and the details of this ongoing saga will know that it ain’t so simple.

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Greece: Voting for or against Europe

In this post, Pavlos Eleftheriadis, Associate Professor of Law and a Fellow of Mansfield College at the University of Oxford and a spokesman on EU affairs for the Greek political party ‘To Potami’, argues that a vote in the Greek referendum on Sunday will be a choice for or against Europe.

The Greek referendum is a choice for or against Europe, for the drachma or the Euro, a choice between isolation or engagement with Europe. It is also a vote of confidence, or not, for the new government.

A ‘no’ vote, which the government of Syriza and the Independent Greeks propose, will begin a process of gradual disengagement from the Eurozone and possibly from the EU. A ‘yes’ vote, on the other hand, will be a spectacular defeat for the government, which only a few weeks ago had an approval rating of 60 or 70 per cent. It will also be a powerful statement of intent of the Greek people for staying the course of painful reform, which began in 2010 and has seen the largest fiscal consolidation in history and a drop of 25 per cent in GDP.

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