13 July 2015

The Greek farce has fatally damaged the EU and its leaders


The hollow sound you can hear behind the triumphalist bluster of European leaders proclaiming salvation for Greece yet again is the can being kicked a few more yards down the road. Whether its halting progress can continue beyond a Greek parliamentary vote on Wednesday or, even more problematically, the detailed negotiations still to come remains to be seen.

For example, where will Greece find the €50bn in assets it is required to proffer as collateral for a putative third bailout? But so many aspects of this absurd cosmetic exercise are beyond outrageous, none of the European leaders – or the doomed project they espouse – retains a shred of credibility. The mentality behind this squalid stitch-up was revealed by Francois Hollande, who said: “If Greece had left the Eurozone, it would have been said that France and Germany were not capable.”

Capable of what? That remark makes the rash assumption that both of the supposed leading powers in Europe look capable today, in the eyes of the world. The effort and expense that have been expended on the task of keeping bankrupt Greece within a discredited currency union betray a mind-boggling fatuity. Hollande expressed his aversion to Grexit in fulsome terms: “We would have deprived ourselves of a country that is at the heart of our civilisation, part of our culture, part of our way of living.”

“We” in that context does not refer to the cultural community of European nations but to the deluded gatekeepers of the Eurozone. One of the most important contributions Greece made to civilisation was the concept of democracy and it is in Greece that the electorally expressed public will is being trashed. In the words of Alex White, Europe director at the Economist Intelligence Unit: “If the Greek parliament does approve a deal, it will be implementing a package that 62 per cent of the population explicitly rejected a week ago.”

Nigel Farage put it more trenchantly: “This conditional deal shows that national democracy and membership of the eurozone are incompatible.” How will those Europhile commentators who customarily dismiss Farage and UKIP with patronising contempt contrive to contradict a statement so self-evidently true? Have mainstream politicians considered the eventual consequences of blatantly conniving at the suppression of the will of an entire electorate while mouthing dishonest platitudes that the public no longer believes? Do they not understand that this creates the potential for a seismic transfer of power away from the current elites in the coming years?

Clearly they do not. The assumption in Brussels and around the table at the serial “summits” convened for can-kicking purposes is that a docile European public will forever submit to Eurodiktat. Such is the totalitarian mindset of Eurozone leaders that the fact the proposed deal directly contradicts a large majority in a national referendum is not something that makes it less eligible, but renders it more appealing. A settlement on these terms would have the added merit of smacking down a feral electorate and reasserting imperial authority. An increasing proportion of the public is beginning to realise that the European Union uncompromisingly rejects democracy.

From its birth – or, rather, confection – the Euro was a totem of EU pseudo-sovereignty, a virility symbol for aspiring Eurocrats. It did not seem to concern its enthusiasts that forcing an economy such as Germany into a contrived currency union with southern European economies such as Greece, Spain and Portugal was an incompatibility too far. The implosion of that fatuous one-size-fits-all fallacy is the cause of the current crisis. The real culprits are not hedonist Greeks living beyond their means – though their behaviour was and remains irresponsible – but the fantasists whose obsession with political integration inspired them to push water uphill. If the Greeks were subsidy junkies, the Brussels hoods were the pushers.

It is a measure of the degree of narcissism afflicting the Euro project, its supporters and the complicit European media that a fixation on the mini-economy of Greece has largely blotted out from public consciousness the potentially infinitely more dire consequences of economic meltdown in China. That vast, incoherent, emerging giant belongs to the oxymoronic category once highly commended by commentators who should have known better: a “mixed economy”. The irreconcilable tensions implicit in that attempted fusion of oil and water may well provoke disastrous dissolution in the long term, if not in the short.

Meanwhile, the shambolic attempt to put Humpty Dumpty together again, despite his great fall from the fantasy of EU exceptionalism onto the hard ground of fiscal reality, blunders on. Whether or not a further bailout can be negotiated makes no difference to the unpalatable reality: the Euro will not fly. It is a busted flush. This parrot is deceased. The genie is out of the bottle. The Eurozone and, by extension, the EU are on the defensive, facing the prospect of contraction rather than expansion. If mutinous electorates have delivered the first blows against the imposture that is the euro currency, the next hostile intervention could come from the markets.

Who now places the slightest reliance on the posturing mandarins of the Eurocracy, whose bumbling impotence has been made ever more evident each day? Angela Merkel’s inflated reputation was never based on anything more solid than the fact that she represented the most powerful economy in the Eurozone. But the whale who brings the largest number of chips to the gaming table is not necessarily the most skilled player – or the eventual winner. Not that she is outclassed by the other players around the table: Juncker, wallowing in self-pity, Schulz the loud-mouth, Hollande playing “nice cop” opportunist friend to Greece and seeking to counter German hegemony…

European “statesmanship” now harbours no higher ambition than to prevent Grexit and keep the Greek abscess within the debilitated Eurozone. For Greece, the obvious solution is to grasp the nettle of Eurozone exit and brave the ordeal of returning to the drachma.

The game has changed irreversibly. What is crucial is that the once imposing EU leaders now stand exposed as naked emperors. Their loss of authority and the European project’s complementary loss of credibility are the enduring consequences of the Greek tragedy we are witnessing. Finesse this car crash any way you like, one certainty obtrudes from the chaos: the European Union is irretrievably discredited and diminished.

Gerald Warner is a political commentator and writer.