Seven reasons why Northern and Eastern Europe are not supporting the Greek cause.
Forgetting the Germans (not that this is ever possible of course) and the more prissy lipped representatives of European institutions, why might we reasonably ask ourselves are there so many angry accusations coming in from Eastern and Northern Europe? It’s a bit complicated, so let us consider this in several stages.
First and most reassuring to those of us who care about the economy and democracy, these are not universally shared positions in those countries. And this is what you are not hearing from the media, as much as anything else because the real message is so complicated: namely that there are substantial portions of the populations and political alliances in each of these countries who are in fact NOT AT ALL IN AGREEMENT with the orchestrated media pronouncements of certain government representatives, including national delegations to the various European institutions. For those of us who are concerned not only with matters of the well working of the economy but also that of democracy, this multiplicity of views is reassuring news.
Second, and entirely understandable, is the widely shared fear that the present events are going to lead to instability of the euro and eventually various forms of breakdown of the European Union on which so many of their highest hopes have been placed.
Third, there is a combination of anger and self-righteousness, the result of what I at least believe to be a gross misreading of their own bitter experience of the last seven years of crisis, where the representatives of this intellectual camp say, basically: “why have we made sacrifices to restart out economies, at high cost to us, while the Greeks dawdled, borrowed and refused to face up to reality”? The assumption here is that all those unbridled austerity measures that cost so dearly were in fact the right way to handle the crisis. Could be, but there are also arguments to the contrary. And if we do not have carefully thought-out views on that we are not fully prepared to make judgments on the best future for restarting the Greek economy.
Fourth, there is, I would hazard to guess, a certain amount of hopeful belief that “Europe” is a wise, fair and fully prepared school master, and that what we are hearing from such august “proven” institutions such as the European Commission and the European Central Bank, never mind the august International Monetary Fund, have to be right in this case. This particular position can be resumed in two ways: “Europe is right”, or alternatively “Europe Is Right”. For this line of political thinking, both of the above will do.
Fifth, and the other side of the same coin, is the characterization of the view of those who believe that economy and democracy in Europe in general and in Greece in particular, require a deep rethinking and reconstruction of the European edifice, are irresponsible leftists, and right behind that of course the threat of the communist bogeyman which has long hung heavily over their countries. The mainline media picks up on this by and large, and when we read their reports on the positions and performance of the government which the Greek people freely chose to lead their country at this difficult time as: leftist, left-leaning, hard-left, ragbag of leftists (both of the last two thanks to an article in today’s The Economist), socialist, communist, Greek Marxists and the long list goes on. That makes perfect sense of course because who would even want to open talks and negotiations with a “ragbag of leftists”.
Sixth, and here I can already hear the screams, I think it is fair to say that these harsh positions also relate to a certain amount of incipient racism, not an entirely unknown phenomenon in those parts of Europe. The Greeks are seen by those who choose to think this way as slothful southerners, self-indulgent Mediterraneans, agreeable enough as hosts for ouzo-cheap, sun-filled vacations, but when it comes right down to it as basically lazy, corrupt and by the proof of things altogether incompetent at self-government (known to some as democracy). Obviously it is time for teacher to step in and show them the way.
Seventh and certainly not last, all of this chaotic jumble of the challenges of daily life in 21st century Europe is further troubled by the fact that virtually all of these countries, never mind the rest of Europe, are grievously challenged by massive immigrations of people who do not share the basic culture and values so long established in their country. One of the results of this of course has been the emergence of an increasingly powerful anti-immigrant movement which in turn is being led by extreme rightist and often extremely effective political movements.
And all of these things touch and reinforce each other.
The bottom line of these angry Euro-citizens: It is time for the Greeks to suffer and pay the price for their fatuous profligacy.
Not a very pretty picture for either economy or democracy. We all can do better.
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For more from us on the Greek Crisis:
* From: Thinking about Economy and Democracy – here.
* From: World Streets on the Greek Crisis – here.
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Bio: Britton is an American political scientist and sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets, his latest book, "BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transport to Your City" focuses on the subject of environment, equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions. A pre-publication edition of Better Choices is currently undergoing an international peer review during Sept.- Oct. 2017, with the goal of publication in English and Chinese editions by end-year. If you wish to participate drop a line to BetterChoices@ecoplan.org .