Some­how, there is a Greek side to Euro­peans

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

On July 10, the Frank­furter All­ge­meine Zeitung car­ried one of the best ar­ti­cles on the cri­sis in Greece I have read, a piece by Richard Fraun­berger ti­tled “At a Cross­roads.” It ar­tic­u­lates cer­tain ideas that are as provoca­tive as they are worth pon­der­ing:

“With­out a cul­tural and men­tal shift, Greece will never ad­vance to the level of a mod­ern Euro­pean state, no mat­ter what sort of re­form the EU pushes for. But this is not the sort of shift that can be de­creed. A shift re­quires aware­ness and plenty of time.”

“Greeks hope with­out think­ing, says the Greek philoso­pher Ste­lios Ram­fos. They take leave of their com­mon sense. For them, pol­i­tics is like witch­craft. No one is giv­ing se­ri­ous thought to the ques­tion of how the un­em­ploy­ment could be rolled back. The gov­ern­ment will take care of it, even if it means cre­at­ing gov­ern­ment jobs. Gov­ern­ment and pen­sions, these are the sa­cred cow.”

How­ever, I should like to add: some­how, there is a Greek side to most Euro­peans. That is why the Greek exit from the eu­ro­zone is such a tough ques­tion for them to an­swer. The no­tion that “the gov­ern­ment will take care of it” is rather wide­spread in Europe, not just in Greece and not just among the po­lit­i­cal left. Sure, the opin­ion is more wide­spread among the French than it is among the Bri­tish, but gen­er­ally speak­ing, Euro­peans are in­clined to have faith in gov­ern­ment rather than in the forces of the mar­ket. The dif­fer­ence be­ing that the no­tion is par­tic­u­larly preva­lent in Greece. The ar­ti­cle goes on to say:

“Greeks also have a dif­fer­ent way of han­dling rules. While Europe is gov­erned by the pri­macy of rules, the pri­macy of break­ing rules gov­erns Greece.”

Is it still safe to say that, though? Yes, it is, be­cause the term “rules” is largely alien to the Greek. For them, play­ing by the rules is at most one of sev­eral op­tions for ac­tion, noth­ing more. But has not the Eu­ro­zone cri­sis turned most Euro­peans into Greeks? Has not ev­ery rule in the book been sus­pended? Can you think of a sin­gle rule spelled out in the Maas­tricht Treaty that has not been breached yet? And do not the rules of the ECB and of the var­i­ous bailout plans come up for dis­cus­sion on a daily ba­sis to twist them in a “shrink to fit” ap­proach? Are the rules that were agreed just years ago and signed into law not bro­ken day in, day out?

There is no way for Greece to be saved, be­cause it lacks ev­ery kind of re­quire­ment. The most im­por­tant pre­req­ui­site would be to un­der­stand the truth about one’s own sit­u­a­tion. Such un­der­stand­ing is al­ways the first step en-route to re­cov­ery. But there is no sign of it at all. What good does it do when the Greeks prom­ise to get re­forms un­der way that they them­selves re­ject out of hand? Just in re­cent days, Alexis Tsipras stated time and again that he con­sid­ers the re­forms a mis­guided ap­proach, even if he just con­sented to them.

If the eu­ro­zone mem­ber states can­not even cope with the com­par­a­tively mi­nor is­sue of Greece (2% share in the crossEuro­pean GDP), it is per­fectly ob­vi­ous that the sup­pos­edly ever-so-ef­fec­tive pro­tec­tive mech­a­nisms, bailout plans and all the rest of it have ceased to work. How will an um­brella that can­not pro­tect you from a slight driz­zle be­cause it is full of holes and tears pro­tect you from a shower of rain, to say noth­ing of a down­pour? What if not Greece, but Italy or France, for ex­am­ple, had to be “bailed out”? The an­swer is in the ques­tion.

The Greeks are merely hold­ing up a mir­ror to our faces. The malaise of the Euro­pean wel­fare state presents it­self here in its most ex­treme symp­toms – the dis­trust vis-à-vis the mar­ket, the ero­sion of the prin­ci­ples of the rule of law, and a naive faith in the abil­ity of Big Gov­ern­ment to straighten things out in some way.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.