Whilst many in the mainstream media are already penning the Euro’s obituary an alternative view suggest that this is the week the Euro came of age and is ready to enter a new period of credibility and strength.
For most Europeans Greece is a great place to holiday. Many have good friends in Greece and wish them well not economic hardship – but let’s face it Tsipras has managed to turn events in the past six months, less into a classical Greek drama (as he would like to have us believe) but more into a cheap soap opera with him playing the staring role as the loveable, likeable cheat.
European creditors, according to the mainstream media, are the anti-heroes about to fall on their swords resulting in disaster and calamity. Stock markets are crashing around the world. The European economy is about to implode. The Euro is dead in the dust. Financial annihilation awaits us all. Even those who do not use the Euro are at “very great risk” should the Greeks vote oxi on Sunday. The sturdy pillars that uphold the EU edifice are tumbling into the Ionian sea reducing the big dream into nothing more than broken rocks and rubble. Many in the British media are relishing the idea that they will finally be proven right and that the Euro is ten, nine, eight, seven … seconds away from self-destruction. There is, of course, an alternative view. Not one that is getting much traction this week but one which exists nevertheless.
Far from heading for the abyss Europe has, in fact managed to avert a train crash and the Euro will live to fight another day. Creditors have not flinched. Merkel has stood her ground. Legarde has stuck to her guns. Eurozone ministers have not caved into insults, bullying and endless hours of rehashing the same old, same old points on pensions, VAT and tax evasion.
One can argue endlessly – and many will – about the finer details concerning the Greek bail-out debacle. Whole papers are going to be written on austerity. Future economic students are going to have to read endless tomes on debt-relief, hair-cuts and stability funds. Who knows – ten years from now Varoufakis may even win a Nobel prize for figuring out what no economist to date has managed to namely how to spend and still stay afloat. But at the end of the day this soap opera is not so much about the detail but about the principle: structural reform v profligacy.
Give an inch to Tsipras and before you know it you’ll be giving a yard to all those who assume that “Mutti” and her like-minded siblings are ready to bail-out the teen-age kids when ever they notch up a hefty bill. This is not to trivialise the fall-out of Greece defaulting on its loans and leaving the Euro. Nor, is it to trivialise the suffering of the Greek voters who placed so much hope in Tsipras’ promises. You’d have to be a fool to think Grexit is going to be an easy ride for anyone. But better the lesser pain now than the slow, drawn-out agony of the Euro’s certain demise if it were to follow the alternative path.
All those who believe that the Euro is a viable, successful currency should be quietly hopeful that the decisions made this week are going to strengthen not weaken the Euro leaving it potentially in an even stronger position than before Tsipras decided to label all those who disagree with him “criminals”. The only criticism one could make is that the creditors are prolonging the agony. As all good surgeons know the key to a successful post-op recovery is a quick, clean cut. If Tsipras is determined to take Greece to the brink – it will be better for him and for the rest of Europe that it is done swiftly rather than remaining ever hopeful either side is going to capitulate.
Like all soap operas the plot begins with plenty of drama and thrilling sub-plots. As the episodes drag on and every line has been rehashed over and over again the twists and turns become ever more complicated, ever more unrealistic and ever more wearisome. It’s not as if there aren’t enough dramas playing out elsewhere across Europe that require our leaders’ urgent attention. Time for the Directors of this Soap to call it a day and pull the plug on the Tsipras-Varoufakis show.