A Greek tragedy

A Greek tragedy

By standing up to the powers that rule the EU, little Greece has provided us with a David and Goliath story. But the setting is hardly a Biblical one. It is more a Greek tragedy where no one is likely to win in the end.

The 60 percent that voted “no” in the referendum on Sunday, June 5, may be celebrating their victory, but the real losers will be ordinary Greeks who would have faced years of economic austerity no matter what the outcome of the referendum was.

Neither is it merely a matter of economics. The political domain can also be expected to heat up in the coming days and weeks in a divided country as the people understand better what they will now be facing.

Just about every analyst on Sunday pointed out that the result of the referendum does not mean that conditions laid in front of Greeks to pay the country’s 320 billion euro debt will get any easier. The new deal to be negotiated is expected to have even tougher conditions, given the tangible anger against Greeks in a key country like Germany, which is owed the most money by Greece.

Greeks, however, are not the only losers here. The EU is also a loser, not only because of the economic crisis it faces over Greece, but because of the loss of political credibility as a union that was supposed to enrich, not impoverish, the citizens of its member states. 

Many Europeans are asking themselves now how the EU, with its supposed rules and regulations, could have allowed things to get out of hand in this way. They are also wondering why the EU does not have the means to resolve this crisis in line with its grand pretension of being a union based on solidarity and mutual assistance.

There is a lot of defiant left-wing chest beating in Greece today but the main beneficiaries of the Greek situation will be the ultra-right across Europe whose deep antipathy towards the EU will have gained an added boost. The outcome of the Greek referendum is also due to the “no” vote of the ultra-right.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is trying to ignite a social revolution in the EU which puts the interests of people, not creditors, up front.  He is relying on countries like Spain and Portugal to follow the Greek model and reject austerity measures imposed by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Given the volume of collective debt, however, this is a longshot which Germany and France, the locomotives of the EU, are bound to reject. The social debate Greece wants in Europe may begin but is unlikely to produce results in the short-term that will benefit Greeks.

The bottom line is the money owed by Greece is borrowed money and has to be repaid. Greeks are going to have to work overtime for years for this to happen. Polls indicate that 75 percent of them do not want to leave the euro, but they will have to understand that it is not possible to have it both ways.

When it comes to Turks, the majority of them sympathize with the Greeks and are happy over the way they resisted the EU’s powers-that-be on Sunday. Turkey had to go down the path that Greeks are being pushed into more than once in the recent past and hated it.

But what relative economic stability Turkey has today is due to the bitter pills it had to swallow and the reforms it had to enact, especially after the economic meltdown of 2001. There seems no viable way out of this. 

But what the Greek crisis has really done for most Turks is shake the little faith they have left in the prospect for EU membership, regardless of how remote this looks from today’s perspective. The Greek crisis has also stirred an element of “schadenfreude” among Turks resentful of the EU for a host of reasons.  

But there is an increasing number of people across Europe who are also, rightly or wrongly, wondering what the EU is good for if it fails at such moments, and becomes not the source of public welfare, but the instrument of impoverishment and division.