Grexit and the European sleepwalkers

di mercoledì, Giugno 24, 2015 0 , , , Permalink

Il Sole 24 ore, June 21, 2015 (Versione italiana)

“We can restore the dialogue only with adults in the room”, Christine Lagarde has affirmed, warning Greece on behalf of the Monetary Fund. Ironically, she is right: there are too many careless persons and too many economic experts lacking historical memory and geopolitical awareness in the rooms where, for months, the faith of Europe as a whole, not only of Greece, has been decided upon. When we discuss about the euro and its rules or when we invoke stronger European institutions without questioning the standards that should support the single currency, Europe as such is at stake and not just a single State in trouble.

The IFM has proven not to be fully adult itself in defending, over and over again, structural reforms that the IFM itself has questioned since 2013 for being harmful and counter-productive, hence wrong. Those who raised the spectre of Grexit selling it as an easy solution, spread panic among Greek savers, and gave misleading information about the chaos that would affect the Greek Central Bank, cannot be considered adults either. The Union Treaties and the Statute of the ECB do not provide for unilateral mechanisms designed to leave the eurozone unless the State at risk of bankruptcy preliminarily decides to leave the European Union. The Greek government is not opting for this solution. It is definitely not possible to expel Greece.

During a speech delivered at the European Parliament on June 15, Mario Draghi implicitly revealed the truth when he suggested that the “political decision will have to be taken by elected policymakers, not by central bankers”. He did not propose any real alternative, and reaffirmed that “the ball lies squarely in the camp of the Greek government to take the necessary steps” – thus appearing more political than he wanted to be – but he admitted that an additional failure in the negotiations will push us into “uncharted waters”.

The pressure put on Athens to further reduce public expenditure and pensions – even if these have been already reduced to a minimum level – confirms that the Union is led by powers lacking any sense of responsibility. If those powers were adults, they would invite to the room of negotiations persons with historical sense and, above all, historical memory. These would be persons provided with a central vision and strong inspiring principles, aware of the fact that history is tragic, mindful of the past catastrophes and conscious of the imminent risks, namely the risk for the Union to collapse and lose its attractive force towards its citizens. Sitting at the negotiating table there would be geostrategic experts and all those economists – such as the two Noble Prices Winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman – who have been regularly despised in all these years even though they never proved wrong. We do not see predictive economists among those who are pushing the Tsipras Government to carry out already accomplished structural reforms, but simple politicians who, in order to hold their power, lazily and indifferently keep on following hegemonic austerity philosophies that have already proved their obsolescence. The real gross domestic product of Greece already fell by 27% due to austerity measures, the public debt rose to 180% of GDP, unemployment has reached 27%.

Experts in geopolitics would help us understand the centrality of Greece within a Europe struggling with chaos at its Eastern and Southern borders. A Europe which is unable to face this chaos autonomously – and does not want to tackle it by itself, while, at the same time, keeping the distances from an American strategy that consciously revives the Cold War with Russia and has contributed to create, beyond the Mediterranean Sea, an area of instability from Sub-Saharan Africa to Afghanistan. Greece is at the border of this world, at the crossroads of the Balkans, the Middle East, and Syria. Its bonds with Russia are strong and deep-rooted. The aversion of the Tsipras government to the war on terrorism, and more recently to the project of intervening in Libya to fight against human traffickers, is well-known in Berlin and Paris. Its hostility against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is equally known. Perhaps, someone in Europe would like to “lose” Athens precisely for such reasons, but this loss would be a political suicide.

Europe cannot give up Greece if it wishes to stop being a puppet of the US administration, to avoid a new cold war and to properly analyse the Ukrainian situation – while recognising that Ukraine moved from a pro-Russian oligarchy to another kind of oligarchy linked to russophobic right-wing extremists. Europe cannot manage without Greece on immigration issues either. The newly elected Greek government is facing an influx of migrants and asylum seekers much heavier and sudden than the Italian one and it is dealing with it without evoking xenophobic instincts. The hypothesis of a Grexit is not only outrageous but even dull if compared to the silence that, at the same time, surrounds the Hungarian plan – announced on June 17 – to erect a 175 km long wall along the border with Serbia in order to stop the flow of refugees and migrants into the country.

Finally, negotiations lack of persons with a basic level of general knowledge. In an article published on June 16 by Die Welt, the commentator Jacques Schuster warned the Germans that Tsipras is proving to be one of the most skilful and astute European politicians: he is capable of exploring the deepest recesses of the German soul and of using guile and cunning in order to take advantage of the “weak nerves” of Germany. It cannot be otherwise: “the Greeks are a nation of sailors”, and the sailors “are used to fluctuate in the waters and swing on the edge”.

Such worrying articles are reminiscent of pre-First World War language, charged with psycho-ethnic allusions to the “nerves” of single personified populations. The distinction between Land and Sea – theorized by Carl Schmitt in the Thirties and Forties – comes back: on one side, lawless people that are used to fluctuate in the oceans and, on the other side, cultures rooted in the mainland and thus able to create the nòmos, namely the law and all the needed rules.

The European Head of States appear to come from those ages. They seem monarchs who, as drunkards, let themselves be tempted by such bellicose lexicon without realising it. The future of Europe is too important to be entrusted to sleepwalkers who only base their expertise on defunct economic theories. Being an adult in Europe means having the ability to recognize not only uncharted waters, but even the muddy ones into which we risk to blunder.

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