July 16, 2015
In the aftermath of the bailout terms, one hysteria left and another came. People hailed the termed bailout as the beginning of the end for the European project, just as they hailed the avoided Grexit as another end of the European project. Suddenly, it’s December of 2012 and everyone is talking about the immanent dissolution of Europe.
One of my acquaintances boldly declared “In my heart and in the hearts of many others, Europe is now dead!” This wasn’t a Greek or someone sitting on the periphery or European politics; he was a die-hard European: a product of the Erasmus programme.
I’m not sure what outcome he wanted. It surely wasn’t the Grexit. Whatever side he championed, he saw this outcome as a blow to the face and his response was to disengage. This is wrong for him and it’s wrong for Europeans.
If you get knocked down, you get back up. If you view this as a setback for Europe, you plan for tomorrow and the day after and as many days after as you need before you end up with the Europe you want.
I’m not saying what we ended with was an ideal solution. I’ve heard conversation suggesting that, even from a pro-European perspective, it wasn’t even a good solution; they argue that this outcome will lead to greater irresponsibility amongst Balkan member-states, who will see this as indication that they may misbehave. However, I refuse to view the entire Balkan region as a gaggle of children who must be watched vigilantly lest by father and mother they descend into impish mischief. If we expect the worst from a people then that’s all they will deliver.
It is not an ideal, but it is a way forward. The sun will continue to dawn. The Greek government by passing these aggressive terms has extended it’s hand to Europe in good faith. Despite the outcome looking bleak right now, the tides of opinion seem to be turning in favour of Greece. If they can continue with these reforms undisturbed, likely we can see more “moderate” elements within the European level of government gain popular support for a “peace with honour”, to quote Benjamin Disraeli and countless others.
I hate to be a reluctant mouthpiece for Verhofstadt. It undermines my independence and originality to align with any particular dogma, but I think he’s right. This situation has to be used to fix the problems inherent in the system or all of the suffering of the past seven years means nothing. I was afraid to say this before as an outsider, but unanimity doesn’t work in a increasingly democratised system of government. I danced around the point in my piece, Canadian Lessons for a Federal Europe, but I was reticent, believing it was simple a reality of European political culture.
Despite the national humiliation, I think the Greek “loss of sovereignty” could be a positive step in this direction for the long term. The idea that a single nation could derail the supranational process because it held a referendum was farcical. Greece was holding no cards in the negotiations and thought they could bluff themselves into a win. That they were, more or less, given an ultimatum to toe the line shows Europe is maturing as a political Union; as it puts the interest of the Union ahead of the interest of its units.
So must it put the interests of the Union ahead of it’s most powerful units too. If Canadian culture has instilled in me one thing it’s a sense of political compromise. Greece cannot hope to pay off it’s debts. This is clear to any observer. Carving up the Greek state benefits neither Europe nor its friends and only serves to weaken European unity by fostering resentment and animosity between the peoples of member states. Greece needs to shown magnanimity in it’s defeat and then systems must be created to prevent the abuses that lead to the crisis in the future.
Right now, everyone is a bit shell-shocked. Europe needs leadership that can assess the situation and plan for a better tomorrow. The show must go on.C. Shannon