Eva Paunova: Is Greece Holding Europe Hostage?

Greece made its political choice on Sunday: a choice admittedly just as democratic as it had been a decade before, between 1999 and 2009, when it enjoyed the generous benefits of its EU membership. All that remains now is for Syriza and its leader Mr. Tsipras (the country’s new Prime Minister) to follow through on their pre-election promises.

Whatever happens, Syriza’s flagship claim – that Europe, with its social and economic order, is the main culprit for the country’s precarious situation – needs to be put to rest. No European citizen ought to let themselves be fooled – the EU has not in any way contributed to the collapse of Greece’s economy or negatively impacted the welfare of its people, let alone tried to limit their political choices. On the contrary – the Union and its institutions have, time and time again, done their utmost to bail the country out and cushion the blow on living standards. The reforms it insisted were carried out, misunderstood and much maligned, did yield results – the economy stabilised, GOVERNMENT BONDS returned to the markets, etc. And yet, most people’s perception of Europe is still clouded by a series of double standards.

A quick look back at the books shows that Greece has been the eager beneficiary of over €90 billion in European Funding for the period between 1999 and 2009. The aim of this financial package was to modernise the state and increase the competitiveness of its economy and industry. Instead, due to gross mismanagement and poor policy making, the country would slowly sink, increasing expenditure by 87% and its budget deficit by over 40%. Eventually, the 2009 financial crisis exposed a systematic misrepresentation of its economic data in order to remain a part of the Eurozone, unwittingly bankrolled by the rest of the Union.
Тhese double standards are far from being consigned to history: Mr Tsipras is resolutely and outspokenly against following a policy of fiscal responsibility, but does not seem to mind other members adhering to it.

Because the EU does not print Euros. The money the Greek state has received in the past, receives today and will need to continue receiving to keep afloat, have all been earned by the citizens of Europe, saved in European banks or set aside by European states from their own budgets to assist Greece and its people.
Today, talk of solidarity and repairing the social fabric is all the rage in Greece. In reality, European solidarity has never faced a graver threat. If Syriza succeeds in its demands to the Troika and the EU, this would send an unequivocal message to every European government facing challenges: there is no point being disciplined, no need to curb spending; if in trouble, simply re-negotiate the conditions of your membership. It would also, however, convince the German, Dutch and every other taxpayer who, in essence, finances the help afforded to Southern and Eastern Europe, that their efforts are in vain, their hard-earned money paying for crowd-pleasing gimmicks such as marginally higher pensions or cheaper electricity, without addressing the reasons for why help is needed to begin with.

Today is also a difficult day for moderate parties, who try to relate to their electorate responsibly and stand by that responsibility. They are, in effect, being punished for it, as a number of left-wing leaders have jumped at the opportunity to congratulate Syriza and declare their willingness to work with them. The EPP member parties will remain firm in our position because we believe that both Europe and our individual nations need an honest, sustainable and responsible policy.

The article with original title “Europe – a victim of Greece” was published in Club Z on January 26, 2015: http://clubz.bg/13731-evropa___jertva_na_gyrciq