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Greeks have last laugh; Papandreou “summoned”


Well, it seems that Merkozy’s house of cards approach to solving Europe’s problems may collapse due to a gust of wind called “popular democracy” – a term not frequently heard on the Old Continent. The last brush the proponents of “ever closer union” had with this unpleasant phenomenon of mass enfranchisement was when the Irish told them to stuff the revised Lisbon Treaty. They were peremptorily told to go back and hold another referendum and this time to vote “the right way”.

This was after the Dutch and French had rejected an earlier version of the treaty. In that case, the solution was to make some cosmetic changes and then submit the plan to the national legislatures, without reference to a popular vote. This prestidigitation might have succeeded conpletely if it were not for the fact that the Constitution of the Irish Republic requires a popular vote for any measure that affects national sovereignty.

Well, the Irish were “summoned”, crumbled, and the European project lurched forward again.

Now it appears that the Greeks are balking at the medecine about to be rammed down their throats. The Greek people have been bucking it for months, in the only manner open to them: civil disobedience on a vast scale. Now however, it is the Greek government which is squirming. At least its leader is, Georgios Papandreou, visibly losing what is left if his hair and possibly losing sleep too, from pangs of conscience no doubt. It should be remembered that his party inherited the Greek mess, they did not cause it.

Whether it was a from a conviction that the Greek people should have a share in the decision to accept a decade of austerity and pain as the price of keeping a hard currency and access to cheap German capital, or whether it was a bit of vengeance aimed at the authors of the diktats that have humiliated the Greeks for better than a year now; Papandreou has shaken the rest of Europe to the core – which is to say Germany, with France included by courtesy.

It is certain that Papandreou will be “summoned” to Munich; wherever the G20 are meeting, it will still be Munich to the Greeks. Unlike the Irish situation, which occurred in happier economic days, there is no sweetener to be offered. Papandreous will be browbeaten. He will be bullied and cajoled. And while there are no Panzertruppen waiting on the border, like 70 years ago, he will be faced with the financial equivalent: the IMF-waffe (today ministry of the French government) stands on alert.

One is left wondering what kind of Europe is being saved.

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