In light of the Greek elections and a possible Syrizian win, Europe, and Europe’s North in particular, has a lot to fear. Let’s not kid ourselves, Tspiras is actually a man who promises his people a living wage and pensioners the possibility to retrieve their meals from a place other than trashcans. Quelle horreur!
What has changed since we last debated a Greek exit, a total of three years ago? Three years is a long time. Long enough to ignore an insolvency and its causes and drive an economy into the ground completely. It is also long enough for banks and states to remove all funds from and investments in a country and to cut it off from the markets for good. Having stabilized neighbouring periphery states, this means that Greece can now default on its own, with less “external effects” or massive economic repercussions for anyone other than itself.
The most lucid dreams of Jean-Claude Juncker
Now that Greece is less “contagious”, it is easier than ever to turn it into a scapegoat, feeding only off its own insufficiencies. It is easy to assume that somehow the Hellenic state and its people are intrinsically incapable of being suitable and rational members of this economic union. There is no longer cause to concern ourselves with the underlying systemic causes of this crisis: the massive economic imbalances, a complete unwillingness to invest in common future and the huge incentives to speculate against a weaker member state that can and will bring it to its knees.
What has not changed is that when it comes to money, real Euro bills, there is no “Europe”, but rather each state fending for its own interest and ideology. In light of said elections, member states that – by virtue or force – turned austerity into dogma have a lot to fear. With no funds left to cut and no room to breathe, Tspiras is a man with nothing to loose. Unlike Hollande, Tspiras may not be making empty promises. He may actually present a chance for real change. Radical change.
Not radical in the sense of severely deranged, but rather in the sense of persisting on fundamental changes first to the effective bargaining power of the southern periphery and then to the economic policy of the EU. Tspiras would like to “tear up” the promises Greece made with the Troika and – like many others – put an end to austerity and a turn to investment-led crisis policies that couldn’t even feature in the most lucid dreams of Jean-Claude Juncker.
A tragedy we helped create
Should this will to power occur, they say the threats that Greece would be forced to leave Eurozone are not unsubstantiated. They also say – as they did three years ago – that this could even be good for Greece. That a worthless currency and a lot of sovereignty can go a long way… that’s what people say. It is however near certain that a Grexit without massive debt restructuring or a haircut could entirely demolish the Greek economy and any faith vested in it by the markets for further generations. The fact that it is has far less to loose than three years ago, does not entirely change this logic. And let us not forget that wrong crisis measures drove Greece this far into the ground. The continuous demise of the Greek economy is not a “game changer” but a tragedy we helped create.
For those of us who refuse to focus on pernicious and uncertain silver linings, let’s be sentimental for a moment. A Europe without the Hellenic State? Its birthplace outside its borders? The ultimate annihilation of any sense of solidarity in the European Union? I don’t mean to be overly conservative. But like in any good family, it’s still better, for everyone, if we get through this together.
Read Newest From Column Juliane Mendelsohn: Three creditors and a joker