Greece; the founders of western democracy, crafters of the Olympic games, and one of the cultural highlights of the globe. However, Greece is now in crisis, a crisis that is not new to the West. The Bank of Greece (aptly abbreviated to BoG) said Greece’s economy is in a “vicious circle” economic output in 2010 will fall by 2%, worse than the government’s prediction of between 1.2% and 1.7%, and will only get worse if the government goes ahead with the controversial cuts. The report comes ahead of a European Union summit, which may discuss Greece’s economic crisis. The quote in full reads “The Greek economy has fallen into a vicious circle with only one-way out: the drastic reduction of the deficit and debt,” the Bank’s annual monetary policy report says.
Germany has irritated some members of the EU with its opposition to any financial aid to help Greece, believing that Athens can solve the problem. This is in contradiction to remarks made by Hungarian President László Sólyom, who claimed the EU should bail out countries such as his own and indeed Greece. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Sunday 21st March that the European Union was ready to “do what is necessary to preserve the stability of the eurozone”. Yet, in a radio interview, she said she opposed any move by EU leaders to take a firm decision on the Greek question at Thursday’s summit, as Greece does not need money at the moment. Nevertheless, it is not just Greece that is facing economic problems. Spain, Portugal, Hungary and Ireland are all facing economic hardship, and the euro seems to be the point of blame.
Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the euro currency, and in the European Parliament, debate was sparked by ex-UKIP leader and now leader of the EU Independence and Democracy (Ind/Dem) Group Nigel Farrage, who stated “I very much doubt you’ll be celebrating the twentieth”. This has carried through to today’s European Commission. Farrage especially has constantly attacked the commission for ignoring the results of the French, Dutch and Irish ‘No’ votes on Lisbon, and in effect agrees with the German Chancellor, believing that the EU should not bail out Greece, the argument being, that it is not for a taxpayer in other European countries to bail out a country that has fallen victim of the “failed” euro project. The euro has come under a lot of pressure, especially in the last year, and now it seems the Ind/Dem Group has a support base, as one of the six founding countries of the EU shares one its views.
Of course it is not just the currency that is being disputed. After ignoring three ‘No’ votes on the Lisbon treaty, electing an EU President who is virtually unknown to the wider population of Europe, and having a totally unelected executive – the entirety of the EU has come into discussion. Opinion Polls in Britain show that if there was a referendum on the EU membership, an overwhelming majority would vote against it (something Farrage is quick to mention in Parliament). Not just in Britain, but also in many member states, especially those in economic hardship, there is a certain nostalgia and unwillingness to belong to the EU. Whilst Turkey may be desperate to join it, one would not be wrong in saying that many are desperate to get out. Perhaps Farrage is right – perhaps there will be no 20th anniversary of the euro, and perhaps the days of the EU itself are numbered?