EU in the “Exit” Era: the Greek Case Renewed

The truth for Greece is simply that the status quo – globalization – has failed many and they do not want to be a part of a broken system anymore. They have come to believe that Grexit might be the best hope for their future.

By Georgiana Constantin l March 21, 2017

the Greek Case Renewed

Recently, besides the constant terrorist attacks, refugee crises, and, Brexit efforts, there has been talk of other news. Greece might be in trouble yet again. Despite having been bailed out of its debt only in 2015 it still seems to be having financial issues. In fact, a Guardian article noted in January 2017 that the “International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that Greece’s debt load could become ‘explosive’ by 2030.” It must be that the assistance given to Greece in recent years has reached the end of its shelf-life. For it was known that such a solution would only be a temporary one, and it was left up to Greece to keep its promise of taking the right measures to ensure its economic future.

Unfortunately, Greece is still in bad economic condition. Thanks to the common monetary policy and the Eurozone’s intertwined finances, Greece has been able to borrow from Eurozone countries in a way similar to Germany. Unfortunately, it does not have the same capacity as Germany to pay back the loans.

Many argued that the Greek bailout was not only temporary but also futile, as it was simply meant to postpone the inevitable, since, without an efficient common fiscal policy, the Eurozone was heading for disaster anyway. However, to create a common fiscal policy and have it enforced in the Eurozone would mean, in essence, the creation of the United States of Europe. Such an entity, which, even though it might have been the ultimate purpose for the creation of the EU, has proven to be quite the controversial endeavor. Europe is a diverse continent with numerous languages and cultures, many of which are not so willing to relinquish their sovereignty to Brussels, let alone allow for the dissolution of national identity through the abstract and aggressive process of Europeanization, the old continent’s local branch of globalization.

The Guardian points to the sad situation in which the Greeks find themselves today and the effect this is having on their mindsets: “Bereft of growth and battered by cuts and tax increases, Greeks have become poorer and ever more cognizant of their own insolvency in a state where sovereignty exists in little more than name. One in three now live below the poverty line and unemployment hovers around 23%. The latest impasse has not only seen emigration levels rise and non-repayment of household and business loans soar but also nostalgia for the drachma grow.” As a result of such ongoing hard times “what was once a minority view is changing fast, with the majority of Greeks in a recent Alco survey saying it was wrong to have joined the euro.”

Whether or not joining the euro was indeed a mistake and whether the drachma would have fared better than the common EU currency, the Greek people are becoming exasperated with the ongoing austerity measures and lack of freedom to decide their own future. At the same time, many rich countries are tired of having to pay so much for countries which do not seem willing to honor their obligations. Unfortunately, whether one blames the Greeks for their lack of seriousness or the EU for its lack of foresight in terms of allowing Greece to adopt the euro when it did, this will not solve the current issues. As the lack of financial stability has made many Greeks think about leaving the Eurozone, and, as the Brexit effect rages on, prompting more countries to consider leaving the EU altogether, uncertain times lie ahead. It looks as if in order for the EU’s financial future to exist, there must be radical reform. Whether this can or will take the form of a ‘Remain’ or ‘Exit’ and rethinking of the Eurozone and the EU itself, only time will tell.

At present, however, there is a rising tide of political and social turbulence in the EU which mostly stems from escalating social disunion and cultural heterogeneity. There are signs of change all around the continent, and, in the wake of the Brexit vote, that is, the British vote in favor of exiting the EU, many of the changes are not expected to be very much in favor of an unaltered or unreformed EU future. The year 2017 will be one of elections in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and, the tensions surrounding the events are as high as the stakes they carry.

In 2011 everyone’s eyes were on Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and, Spain, also referred to by economists and political analysts pejoratively as the PIIGS. Their economies were in poor shape and they risked defaulting on their debts. In the meantime, some of these countries have started faring better, and, even thought they might not be altogether out of difficult times, they are no longer the principal threat to the Eurozone. Still, no one saw the possibility of leaving the EU as a serious option.

In 2017 the options abound. Now some would focus on France, Italy, and, Greece (or the so-called FIG group of countries) and the threat they pose not only to the Eurozone but to the EU itself. With financial and political struggles mounting, these countries could lead to a breakup of the Eurozone. However, the observation can be made that the problems facing the future of the European project in all its forms are no longer only present in a few trouble areas on the continent. France, Poland, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Hungary, the Czech Republic and other countries are seeing a growth in Euroscepticism, and, indeed, in some cases, Eurorejectionism. An upset in the status quo as a result of elections this year might have a damning effect on the EU.

In looking for an alternative to the current political establishment, the people of Europe seem to have started debating certain topics and voting in certain ways, which a few years before may have been considered exaggerations. It might, for example, have been quite a stretch for many a few years ago to envision a scenario in which Great Britain would choose to leave behind the European construction because they believed it to be undemocratic, self-serving, and, even totalitarian in its overtones.

The truth for Greece is simply that the status quo – globalization – has failed many and they do not want to be a part of a broken system anymore. They have come to believe that Grexit might be the best hope for their future. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, sometimes, in order to progress one must stop going forward, for, if one has taken a wrong turn, going forward will only get them lost. Sometimes, progress means going back to the last place where one knew where they were, in order that they may find themselves on the right path again

Georgiana Constantin is a law graduate who has studied International, European and Romanian law at the Romanian-American University in Bucharest and is presently a political science doctoral candidate at the University of Bucharest. Ms. Constantin, who is based in Romania, is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the online-conservative-journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.