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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 25 July 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 25 JULY 2015 27 GREECE A carnival figure depicting German Chancellor Angela Merkel administering a cash injection to a Greek patient in Ulm, Germany this week. PHOTO: EPA/STEFAN PUCHNER. A rerun of the Treaty of Versailles or Brest-Litovsk? It’s too soon to see the Greek ‘surrender’ as a historical turning point, writes Paul Gillespie Does the Greek crisis represent a decisive moment in European integration, turning away from a Europe of equals and resurrecting 19th century relations of power in a modern guise? Many critics have concluded that this is so, following [the] imposition of such severe conditions on Greece in return for an €86 billion bailout loan. The ruthless manner of the negotiations and the imperative tone of the document bear out that judgment. So does Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras' comment that he had to choose between a bad deal and an even worse catastrophe of exiting the euro, which few Greeks want. His surrender to that choice evokes win-lose scenarios redolent of 19th century conflicts, not the win-win ones which European integration's consensual approach suppos- edly substitutes for that imperial past. The Treaty of Versailles, which imposed punitive terms on a defeated Germany in 1919, is evoked. Another treaty, that of Brest-Litovsk in 1918 by which the Bolsheviks renounced Ukraine, the Baltic states, Finland and Poland in return for a humiliating peace with Germany, is also relevant; this was a strategic retreat to consolidate their power, not a defeat. For the European left, of which Tsipras and his SYRIZA party want so much to remain a part, this may be a more appropriate comparison than the Versailles defeat. He won last week's parliamentary debate on the agreement by roughly the same two-thirds plus margin which, according to polls, the Greek people accept it by. Coming at the cost of 38 SYRIZA votes, the vote heralds a possible split in its ranks, a government reshuffle and a possible election. Greece could then end up with a reconstituted social democratic party led by Tsipras and a radical left opposition opposed to euro membership and demanding a sovereigntist development program outside it. DEBT RELIEF All this fills out a hard-nosed political reading of the deal. SYRIZA's appeal for a different kind of non-austerity Europe predicated on stimulating similar movements in Spain, Portugal and Ireland has been met by a steely determination of centre-right and social democratic governments not to concede to the demands for debt relief in fear of being outflanked. That is a sharp politicisation of European issues in their domestic arenas - readily seen in the injection of Greek issues into Irish debates. Whether the Greek outcome disadvantages Sinn Féin [the second-largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly] and the hard left [in Ireland] and Podemos in Spain re- mains to be seen. Thus a full evaluation of these dramatic events awaits the further working out of the new entangled domestic and Europeanised politics in Greece and elsewhere. To understand what is happening, two dimensions of the processes involved can be distinguished: system and social integration. System integration concerns the core institutional order of a society and its legal space, whereas social integration deals with the social actors involved. SOCIAL DISINTEGRATION For a social system to have stability, legitimacy, trust, solidarity or political identity, the two dimensions need to fit together. If they are in tension or in contradiction, social disintegration and change follow, unless compensatory action is taken. Power and force come into play here during periods of decision-making crisis, creating winners and losers. Applying this approach to the EU, it can be seen that the Greek crisis vividly exposes the shortcomings of the eurozone's design as a monetary system without a fiscal or political union. That the impressive efforts to develop a banking union and more strictly co-ordinated domestic budgetary rules since 2010 do not add up to that complete design is a criticism frequently made by economists. The Greek crisis vividly exposes the shortcomings of the eurozone’s design as a monetary system without a fiscal or political union. Germany resolutely refuses to accept debt write-offs or fiscal transfers as part of the system, insisting instead on these rules. Whether the eurozone can survive as an inclusive core including north and south in such a minimal way without further treaty change is put at issue by this crisis in the EU's institutional system and legal space. The EU's social integration is also problematic. Surveys show most EU and eurozone citizens want to see greater social and political links but also reveal deficits of trust, accountability and democratic legitimacy between them and the EU's institutional order. The Greek crisis plainly expresses the discordance. Resolving these contradictions involves tackling both the systemic and social deficits and bringing both more into line with one another. Neither task is resolved and both problems are reinforced by the Greek crisis. They will be worked out in economic difficulties and political and social struggles still to come. Hence it is premature to say this moment is the definitive one in that drama. Dr Paul Gillespie is a former foreign policy editor with The Irish Times and currently writes a column for the newspaper entitled 'World View'. This article was originally published in The Irish Times on July 18.
18 July 2015
1 August 2015