Cut off and ex­posed

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Europe will ei­ther have to grow up abruptly or slide fur­ther into de­cline. The choice will be­come ev­i­dent in 2017. And it will have a de­ci­sive im­pact on Greece’s in­ter­ests and its fu­ture. Europe is faced with a twin chal­lenge: se­cu­rity and the nec­es­sary re­forms to break the in­er­tia and com­pete with the key emerg­ing economies. In terms of se­cu­rity, the Euro­peans have been rather spoiled. Af­ter the end of World War II, it was the US that took care of Europe’s se­cu­rity um­brella. The Euro­peans spent lit­tle on de­fense and never paid too much at­ten­tion to mil­i­tary se­cu­rity, in­tel­li­gence or ter­ror­ism. Now the threats have mul­ti­plied. The elec­tion of Don­ald Trump has been a rude awak­en­ing for the Old Con­ti­nent. It will soon have to face the tough dilemma: “You ei­ther pay your share or we pull out and you go it alone.” When it comes to se­cu­rity, Europe is still in hy­brid mode. No one takes Europe se­ri­ously on ques­tions of diplo­macy and se­cu­rity. Its only ad­van­tages are so-called soft power, hu­man­i­tar­ian aid and its hu­man rights pol­icy. But when it comes to hard power is­sues, EU of­fi­cials are treated with an ironic smile, whether it’s in Bei­jing or Moscow. As for the econ­omy, a lot will be de­cided in Italy. Dur­ing a speech in Mi­lan in 2013, Ger­man econ­o­mist and politi­cian Jorg As­mussen said: “The fu­ture of the euro area will not be de­cided in Paris or Berlin, or in Frank­furt or Brus­sels. It will be de­cided in Rome,” he said. “The euro area can­not pros­per if its third-largest econ­omy has a po­ten­tial growth rate of zero. Italy has to grow, and this will not hap­pen by wait­ing for the cy­cle to turn.” Ital­ians will vote on Prime Min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi’s con­sti­tu­tional re­form ref­er­en­dum next Sun­day, even though ev­ery­one knows this is just a fairy tale as no ma­jor po­lit­i­cal party re­ally sup­ports what is nec­es­sary for Italy. Many an­a­lysts pre­dict that an Ital­ian No vote could have a domino ef­fect on the EU. The case of Fran­cois Fil­lon, who is run­ning in France’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, is the only pos­i­tive sign in a na­tion which has great lever­age but re­fuses to re­form. In any case, it is too early to make any safe pre­dic­tions. Above all, there there is Europe’s lack of lead­er­ship. Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel seems to be the only ex­cep­tion to the rule. Greece, mean­while, is like a wooden dinghy in a big storm. The walls are al­ready up. In eco­nomic terms, Greece no longer poses a sys­temic risk to the eu­ro­zone. Our north­ern bor­ders are sealed and, in the worst-case sce­nario, hun­dreds of thou­sands of refugees will re­main stranded here. Greece re­sem­bles a cut-off and ex­posed chunk of a fall­ing em­pire. As is so usu­ally the case, we hardly pay any at­ten­tion to what goes on out­side the walls.

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