Britain can help to find a way forward
Following Greece’s vote to reject the EU’s bailout plans, Greek Prime Minister Tsipras will need to come up with new solutions to resolve the country’s debt crisis. If Tsipras’s proposals are sustainable and show a long-term commitment to really reforming the Greek economy, eurozone leaders should be willing to give Greece another chance.
These discussions must be had out in the open, and must give Greece a positive outlook which does not just lead to people’s living standards slipping even farther but tackles the underlying problems of corruption and failure to collect tax fairly.
Some eurosceptics will no doubt be willing these negotiations to fail. They want to see a disastrous Grexit followed by a disastrous Brexit, leading to the eventual collapse of the EU. Yet what they refuse to acknowledge is the catastrophic impact such a collapse would have on the British economy.
If anything, the situation in Greece shows that we are inextricably linked to our European neighbours and that is why we should continue to play a leading role in the EU. The UK should support a resolution to the immediate crisis and long-term structural changes to the eurozone to prevent this from happening again. The future of the European continent, including Britain’s, depends on rescuing Greece from the abyss.
Catherine Bearder MEP
Lib Dem, South-East England
Whatever the reason and whoever the culprit, the Greek people are suffering economically. Jeremy Bentham must be unhappy. Institutional deadlock seems to prevent change. Neither recent Greek governments nor eurozone institutions have been able to turn things solidly for the better in Greece.
If I were Greek, I would consider calling Britannia for constitutional advice. Britain is a European country known for pragmatism, common sense and economic perspective. More than that, Britain has a long and broad experience with different societies and has built institutions in very different cultural contexts across the globe. This includes Cyprus. It also includes my home country, Germany, after Europe’s deepest crisis in the 20th century.
Should the Greek people seek a new European partner to break the deadlock, it might want to consider the United Kingdom as a broker or even as an institution builder. As a country that is both performing well and decidedly not part of the eurozone, Britain might broker a deal leading Greece to a new start that may include leaving the eurozone with dignity.
If Britain were to demonstrate its ability to deal more flexibly with a crisis than current European Union institutions, it could be a big moment for both Britain and Europe.
Dr Patrick A Puhani
Professor of Economics, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany
Continent run by headless chickens
Now that the Greek people, who are not the most bureaucratically advanced in Europe, have managed to organise a referendum in a week, other governments have no excuse for not holding referendums as often as their people want them. Maybe the Greeks are inventing democracy all over again.
The Americans have a healthier attitude to financial failure than northern Europeans because, there, they quickly clear up peoples’ financial messes to allow them to rebuild their businesses, before they get too old to benefit from the mistakes they may have made.
That is probably why Europe’s larger economy is only half as dynamic as the USA’s. Indeed, the whole eurozone seems to be managed by a flock of headless chickens, by comparison, so my money is on the more positive Greeks to get what they want.
It is interesting how strict the Germans are being in all this, because, in 1945, the whole world forgave Germany all its financial, criminal and humanitarian debts, which gave it the springboard for post-war recovery, quite out of proportion to the unwritten-off indebtedness that befell so-called victors, such as the UK, which only recently finished paying interest on what we borrowed 75 years ago, to forestall Nazi world domination.
Greeks stand up to EU bullying
Political idealism added Greece to the EU in the first place. It does not take an economist to realise the merging of Mediterranean and northern European nations was always a doomed project.
Put into a position where their addiction to cheap euro credit would inevitably come back to bite them, the Greek people have been pushed hard by an arrogant EU, which expects endless sacrifice for its expanding superstate. However, such a premise is not inevitable, and this decisive rejection of EU bullying shows what is possible. We can all say “Oxi” to the Troika.
Chris K Muspratt
Get Britain Out
The Greeks have done the right thing in rejecting the demands placed upon them by Europe. The only way Greece can repay its debts is by rejuvenating its industry, especially tourism. It should be obvious that ever increasing austerity has led to complete stagnation.
Greece should say goodbye to the euro and bring back the drachma; devaluing the currency and achieving growth is the only way out.
I voted to stay in Europe in the 1970s and ever since have believed we should remain a member. However, following Europe’s disgraceful treatment or Greece I will be voting to get out when at long last we have another referendum.
Will the EU now decide to listen to democracy from the people who invented democracy? Thank you Greece, you have led the way. The unelected Commission, ECB and IMF are brought down to earth.
Europe needs to become the United States of Europe where it is one for all and all for one, with a fiscal union as well as a trading union.
Bankruptcy, the missing safety valve
If you or I, or a business, got into a mess like Greece, there would be a simple solution – bankruptcy. This would cancel the debt, pay the creditors pennies on the pound, and allow us to start again. Bankruptcy is the pressure release valve for the capitalist system, which the designers of the euro forgot to put in.
What is happening is an exercise in puritanical morality, punishing the Greeks for a moral failure. The Greek people are being punished, not those who committed the sin. It is also financially useless, as the creditors will get nothing back, rather than a fraction.
The creditors obviously failed to do “due diligence”, and losing their money is the punishment that capitalism exacts for getting it wrong. They should take their “haircut” so that we can all move forward, rather than insisting on their pound of flesh.
A vision based on dud cheques
When the single currency was launched, the first thought that crossed my mind was that Milton Friedman’s monetary narrative of American history was being taken to the extreme by European superpower visionaries.
Friedman argued that monetary union of the American states laid the foundation of the US as a superpower. But the American monetary union combined the immense, raw potentials of undeveloped but very similar economies which were ready to burst into action once given access to a large monetised market.
As for the eurozone, it soldered together established states of diverse social and economic structures and historical and cultural backgrounds to forge a currency union with an identical monetary policy, and expected them to behave in an identical way. They did not.
Outside the eurozone, the Greek government’s borrowing spree would have resulted in a devalued currency and raised the alarm long before things got out of hand.
Within the union, a government with a world view perhaps different from Germany’s and France’s had the opportunity to swap dud cheques for a valuable currency and expected to borrow for ever to keep the electorate happy.
Now what about a vote on TTIP?
The Greek government is to be congratulated for allowing the people to have their say over austerity.
Would our UK government allow us a referendum over important issues such as TTIP, which will have a serious impact on our lives, including the safety of the food we eat, the environment and the privatisation of the NHS, as well as posing a threat to democracy itself?
Good money after bad
In the interest of the “democracy”, which Messrs Tsipras and Varoufakis claim to prize so highly, maybe the other citizens of Euroland should be asked whether they want to continue pouring their hard-earned money down the Greek drain.
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