Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Two false paths for Europe — and a new third way
February 10, 2015
Europe as an entity and as an ideal is more needed than ever. The individual countries of Europe need the collective power of Europe to assert their interests, influence and values. Yet, as the impasse over Greece confirms, the continent is in crisis.
Many assume that some form of compromise is in the offing. Debt can somehow be kicked down the road. The Greek government will bend; the troika of creditors — the EU, ECB and International Monetary Fund — will bend and somewhere in the middle the two will come together.
I do not see it. Greece is part of a much wider problem. Athens is right to say that the situation is unsustainable; but the solution it proposes is wrong. The rest of Europe has imposed a burden on Greece that could never be borne for any length of time. I do not know what would happen in the UK if our economy contracted by 25 per cent; but I suspect it would be revolutionary.
The dilemma confronting Greece mirrors the dilemma confronting Europe. The country knows that departing the euro would — in the short term at least — be catastrophic; but the pain of keeping to the constraints is unbearable. However the structural reforms desired by the rest of Europe are indeed necessary. That is why the problem with the Greek government is not simply debt repayment; it is opposition to reform.