July 13, 2015
Weddings in Greece are big. I was born in Bulgaria, not far from the Greek border, and I know something about it. We make it big. But regarding divorce, as the Greeks, we don’t talk about it.
Last night’s EU extraordinary EU summit was called with the purpose to avoid Greece’s divorce from the euro, and possibly from the EU. It achieved its goal, after 16-17 hours marathon talks, which led me to personal physical exhaustion.
So I thought that instead of writing the usual post-mortem summit article, factual, but impersonal, this time I should share my thoughts. This summit was not like the others.
I’ve attended almost all EU summits in the last 20 years. I’ve seen the EU proud of its ambitions, and I see it now. It’s different. The EU is a big machine indeed, but I’ve seen other big machines choke and stop working forever. The EU sometimes looks to me like the collapsing Soviet system, mostly because it has run out of steam compared to other world powers.
Of course, a big difference is that the EU system is democratic and that we can criticize it if we don’t like it.
We may take our Union for granted, we may criticize it. We may even want our country out of the Union. But we should think about the fact that many people in Kyiv or Athens go to demonstrate with the EU flag.
Recent summits have highlighted that the Union is returning to the inter-governmental bickering, to the detriment of the community approach which helped create the borderless Schengen space or the common euro currency. For me, it is common sense that these projects should be improved, not abandoned or badmouthed. Others see it differently.
You can divorce your partner, but the EU cannot divorce with Greece. The summit that ended this morning was not only about keeping Greece in the Eurozone, it was about the capacity of the Union to protect its achievements, and its territory.
On the one hand, kicking out Greece outside the Eurozone would change the geopolitical balance. Greece and several of its neighbours would be exposed to foreign pressures they could not withstand.
On the other hand, the unraveling of the Eurozone could probably not be stopped. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently pronounced the emblematic phrase: if Greece leaves, the Anglo-Saxon world will destroy the Eurozone.
Greece’s problems are huge, but isn’t it a wiser decision is to try to solve them, instead of eliminating the problem by getting rid of the country?
Last night the EU countries were been divided about what to do regarding Greece. Germany was internally divided. In contrast, France had no hesitations. The compromise however is a text which can be seen by critics in Athens as state treason. Conversely, many in the Netherlands or Finland may say – Greeks cannot be trusted by definition, why should we make agreements with them in the first place? I find this approach xenophobic.
It is easy to say that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has capitulated, and that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has won. The conditions imposed on his country are very harsh. But if the banks do not reopen, the situation in Greece will become explosive.
It’s a paradox, but leftist Tsipras has accepted conditions which probably any centrist politician would have rejected. He is strong with a popular mandate no centrist Greek politician has ever had. And surprisingly he has bigger support now from centrist politicians that he could have anticipated.
So Tsipras has the chance to spearhead the reform no other modern Greek politician was able to contemplate. It’s about leading a Byzantine country into normalcy. The Eastern European countries made this reform 20 years ago. Not everyone is happy because reform is always painful, but the overall result is positive.
I heard comparisons between the Greek referendum and the fall of the Berlin wall. I know they implied something else. But in a way, I agree with them.