What the Greek diktat says about the future of Europe.

Away from the political turmoil, the bewildering complexity and the human misery at the root of it all, a couple of interesting overviews.  First, the shock of final disillusionment from Fintan O’Toole.   already scarred by the experience of the Irish bailout.

What’s the difference between the Mafia and the current European leadership? The Mafia makes you an offer you can’t refuse. The leaders of the European Union offer you a deal you can neither refuse nor accept without destroying yourself.

The European Union as we have known it ended over the weekend. That EU project was all about the gradual convergence of equal nations into an “ever closer union”. That’s finished now.

A new idea has been shoved into the foundations of the EU – the idea that a member state can and will be brought to heel. And brought to heel, not quietly or subtly, but openly and ritually in a Theatre of Cruelty designed for that sole purpose.

The whole idea of making flagrantly provocative demands – the initial insistence that €50 billion of Greek public assets be placed in a fund in Luxembourg being the most spectacular – was to demonstrate, not just to Greece but to all member states, that the EU is now a coercive institution.

A less apocalyptical and broader view from the historian of modern Greece, Mark  Mazower.

Whoever was to blame, it is clear that the consequences for continental solidarity have been toxic. The longer the crisis dragged on, the more it has corroded the continent’s political culture and revealed the depths of our ignorance of one another’s countries and traditions. Journalists reached for easy stereotypes – where would the papers have been without the Nazis or the Kaiser, or for ancient Greek wisdoms or Zorba? As Greek laziness met Prussian rigidity and self-righteousness, ethics became a tool of parochialism.

Faced with these rising national passions, the challenge to the euro will continue to exist, whether an agreement is patched up with the Greeks or not, since even if the euro survives it will do so in a continent of different political traditions and economic performance, and that means that a system of redistribution from surplus to deficit countries needs to become part of the culture. ..

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  • chrisjones2

    Dear Fintan

    Lesson 1 When you borrow you eventually have to pay it back. If you don’t they can take the house

  • Nevin

    Chris, there’s a place for responsible lending and for responsible borrowing and a need to regulate both; there’s also a role for compassion.

  • Nevin

    “A new idea has been shoved into the foundations of the EU – the idea that a member state can and will be brought to heel.”

    Has Fintan forgotten the machinations over the Lisbon treaty?

  • leoinlisbon

    One of the few bright points in Greece’s economic difficulties has been watching the likes of Fintan O’Toole realize what the rest of us noticed a couple of decades back – that the EU’s response to those who get in the way is to use a steamroller.

  • notimetoshine

    The future of Europe or more correctly the eurozone is simply, federalism and shared sovereignty. The euro project was always ridiculous without fiscal and political union and the Greek crisis has shown this.

    The economies of the eurozone are far too diverse to be grouped under one currency without central political and economic direction.

    Of course there is no political appetite for this especially in the northern European countries where Euroscepticism is on the rise, but if they want the euro project to continue practicalities and pragmatism will have to be the order of the day. Look at how hard, how long and how inappropriately the Greek crisis has been dealt with. Greece is a relatively small part of the European economy and the sums involved are relatively minor. If another serious financial or economic crisis occurs in one of the larger members (Spain or Italy my bet), as it stand now there would not be the will nor the appetite for a comprehensive rescue plan.

    If you want the euro to succeed long term federalism and compromise on sovereignty is the way to go.

  • Mister_Joe

    Really? If I tell my bank that I will no longer pay my mortgage but I’m keeping the house, they will obviously show me compassion. Right!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    No, but if a bank gets into similar difficulties on a massive scale, we are all required by our governments to commit future generations to bail them out. A little humanity in a situation where real people at the hard end of the social scale in Greece are actually dying of starvation would perhaps be in order, or is it one rule for the international Banking concerns and another for “real” people?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Nevin, the response of others in the face of real suffering, destitution and even death in Greece astonishes me. Greece need responsible government yes, but it also needs responsible actions from those outside the country who have financial power over her elected government, whose irresponsible lending policies have themselves contributed to the disaster. I Keep thinking of the seriously bad calls the new Liberal administration took in revising Peel’s famine relief measures in Ireland during the Great Famine. “In the interests of the free market….”

  • Mister_Joe

    If people are actually dying of starvation, I think we have a humanitarian responsibility to help them. But are Greeks dying in extra-significant amounts? If so, it’s news to me.

  • terence patrick hewett

    I am sure the EU and eurozone aspires to fiscal union and federalism but will it be achieved? My bet is that the horse will refuse the jump leaving the jock sailing through the ether to break his neck on contact with reality.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Dramatic rise in suicides, and people actually starving, but please remember that the press and the media are only relatively free, and do not report every issue everywhere. This has come up in local UK news, especially on the World Service, but I also have friends who live in Greece and confirm that the suicides and issues of a dramatic increase in poverty and urban starvation are serious news there.

  • ronanpeter

    Hasn’t that exact thing been happening in Ireland during the last few years with respect to underwater mortgages?

  • notimetoshine

    I doubt it will be achieved, Euroscepticism is fast becoming one of the predominant forces in European politics at the moment. The idea of ‘carrying’ feckless southern Europeans will only inflame them further. Then of course we are starting to see opposition to Europe on the left, where it had been largely muted in recent times.

    Realistically federalism is the only option. A crisis in Spain or Italy will sink Europe without it.

    They won’t do it of course but on their heads be it.