The EU is besieged on all fronts

By openly ignoring the demands of a member state the EU has presented a gift to its sceptics

greek bank


Throughout its history the European Union has experienced an uneasy relationship with British politics. It has in the past divided the Labour and Conservative parties in equal measure.

Over the last few decades, alienation with the EU has been solidly founded upon principles such as the reclamation of sovereignty, suspicions about fiscal servitude and in some cases skepticism about our neighbours.

The EU is now besieged on all fronts over its handling of the Greek crisis. It has managed — with significant damage to itself — to begin to thread together two opposing factions.

We may say that respect for the sovereignty of nations and the democratic will of the people are bastions of Western democracy. It is clear to many of us that certain powers ceded to the EU are for the common good.

Signing up to the European Convention on Human Rights for instance is the centralisation of an agreement necessary for equality across the union. Yet now euro-sceptics will no longer have to stumble in darkness trying to find a scenario in which the EU openly and to the detriment of a nation has ignored the sovereign demands of a member-state.

The Greek predicament is burning bright across the continent and illuminating the EU’s integral role in this developing crisis.

Yanis Varoufakis the former Greek finance minister once wrote that he was seeking to save the eurozone, not for any love of its financial bondages but because it had, by and large, succeeded in achieving peace across Europe.

Many eurozone countries and institutions have been financially shielding themselves from a possible Grexit. Even the Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias recently said he stood with Syriza but was categorical in his defence of Spain, stating that their financial worries were nowhere near that of Greece’s.

Yet Varoufakis was right in his diagnosis: this is no longer about financial security but the future of the European Union.

It may well be the case that such a collapse would not cause further economic strife and that only faint ripples would be felt across the member states. A contained economic firestorm would no doubt cripple the Greek economy that would then be reliant on institutions providing aid and debt relief.

The financial implications are terrible for the Greek people but the survival of the EU is not alleviated by this secession.

Emboldened by the failings of the EU to protect a member state from wreck and ruin, the right-wing euro-sceptics would charge forward buoyed by the unfolding crisis.

David Cameron has often erroneously referred to the Greek situation as a possible scenario for the UK had it rejected austerity; he may well find such allusions vociferously cited in the referendum campaign by his opponents.

An argument that would demand further space be placed between the UK and the EU could easily catch fire. The public already rejects by an overwhelming margin further integration with the eurozone for fear of collective economic suffering.

On the other side of the debate, those who were committed to reform of the EU from within and largely assent to Varoufakis’ view would be morally broken by such brazen disregard for the Greek people.

The question that has been dormant for many years is whether the EU can successfully be reformed or whether the entire edifice must first fall. To ignore the demands for a debt-restructuring deal would be met with condemnation from Washington, the IMF and many leading economists.

Much more, it would be an indicator that the EU’s institutions are beyond both reproach and reform.

The spool is reeling between these two factions, it only requires inaction from the eurozone’s leaders to tie them together. To fight on one front is one thing, to be besieged from all sides is of significant detriment to the EU’s credibility.

Spanish elections are due to take place in December with the prediction of success for Podemos. Their victory could easily create further divisions between Europe’s leaders.

Self-preservation becomes second nature to anything that has had to fight for its right to exist. One would hope that this instinct kicks in sooner rather than later.

It is of interest that in rejecting the bailout deal in their historic referendum the Greek people did not reject either the Euro or the European Union.

Despite the economic unrest that Greece has experienced over the last few years, OXI was, in its purest form, an affirmation — the Greek people still hope the EU will listen to them.

Stephen Hall is a freelance writer

12 Responses to “The EU is besieged on all fronts”

  1. DRbilderburg

    No it’s been found out for what it is, such is the state of it even the UK’S plastic socialists have nowhere to hide. Unconstitutional. Undemocratic. And corrupt to the core
    Mirroring the left wing Oligarchy Soros and co

  2. SimonB

    For a lot of us lefties the handling of the Greek crisis and TTIP may be a turning point. Talking about reform will become untenable if the EU presses on with TTIP and forces capitulation and austerity upon Greece.


    Greece forced austerity on themselves by borrowing and spending like there was no tomorrow. They still cannot get their act together by raising tax more so from their rich and fat cats. They were using other peoples money to fund early retirement so those retiring were not paying tax. It is a deeply corrupt country. They should get out of the EU as we should.

  4. steroflex

    Stephen, on 1st June this year, a Constitutional convention was set up to integrate the States (what hitherto have been called countries) into one big Federal Union with an elected Parliament with votes taken on party, not State lines and with one flag. It is due to produce a Constitution by 2017 and to be up and running by 2025.
    Once that is done, money can be moved freely round the Federal Democratic Union freely and there should be no more crises.
    This is not in any way a Tory or for that matter a Labour matter. It is quite out of British hands. We are down as an Associate Member with the EFTA bloc.

  5. stevep

    It has become painfully obvious that the EU has grown too large, too quickly.
    It was and is, a noble idea to establish trade and cultural links between different nations to prevent war occurring again in Europe. We have possibly the most diverse community in the world, culturally and economically, with poorer nations sharing the platform with some of the wealthiest in the world.
    It has led, at least in the short-term, to a mismatch. The free movement of labour especially, from less well off member states to better off states has caused problems that have benefited grateful employers and infuriated many.
    Countries with a more social democratic outlook have found it a struggle to adjust to a Capitalist economy which is the current EU doctrine.
    The EU will survive, even if countries leave to go it alone or form their own trading and cultural alliances. Maybe
    that`s the answer. Countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy may find life together outside the EU more agreeable.
    Capitalism has done the EU no favours, it has only created divisions. But that`s the very ethos of it.

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  7. Verity

    The EU is often given credit for preserving the peace in Europe as if Germany and Britain. Italy and Denmark would go to war without it. The EU and it various early forms is a political project and this mantra which has its justification after the second world war is now so ridiculous that it is time its apologists dropped it. Indeed I would suggest that the opposite may be more accurate. The West’s drive in the form of NATO and its economic counterpart into the tiny Baltic states can have no peaceful purpose. The countries also offer no real economic advantage. Although there may be some gains in appearance of a liberal freeing-up of the system the hubris of influence to the Ukraine and before that, the forgotten attempts to get Turkey into associate EU status gives little, but is nearer to a threat for peace than the EU saving us from it.

  8. Keith M

    You have hit the nail on the head Steve. Where are the left in fighting this capitalist cabal?

  9. woolfiesmiff

    There have been more than 30 uprisings, revolutions, coups, terrorist separatist and full scale wars in Europe since the formation of the EU , And the EU is partially responsible for the Ukraine/ Crimea situation so that peace preservative schtick was always a load of b*ll*cks

  10. Patrick Nelson

    I don’t necessary agree with the bulk of of your comment but the last sentence was spot on. The EU is a bosses tea party and a putative superstate with Germany as its heart and brain, better out than in. Centralization = dehumanization, superstates are the right way to go only if we want to end up in Orwellian times, the right way for democracy is localism.

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