Bailout in Greece

This week there has been a renewed interest in the possibility of a Grexit. Dimitris Papadimoulis, on Social Europe, discusses the issue by defending the Syriza government. From his point of view, it is undeniable that Tsipras is working hard to keep the economy of his country alive, by implementing a full-scale reform package in many social sectors and fighting corruption. However, it seems that, despite such efforts, Greece will not be able to meet the terms of the bailout agreement of July 2015. The problem in overcoming this impasse is, as Gustav Horn writes on Social Europe, mainly represented by the position of the IMF. And it is not easy to understand how Germany will act and deal with such an institution in the next months with respect to Greece, Costas Lapavitsas and Daniel Munevar add. In the end, the problem is multileveled: as Photis Lysandrou argues on OpenDemocracy, a Grexit would mean less policy autonomy for Greece; it would weaken international solidarity among progressive political forces; and would make it difficult for Greek economy to regain competitiveness.

The status of the EU institutions

The EU crisis has strongly aggravated the already existing tensions between the nation-based welfare state and the process of European integration. Moreover, as Jan Willem Goudriann worries on EurActiv, thanks to the austerity policies pursued in the past years, the public health sector has been pushed to the brink. The EU needs to act to secure sustainable conditions of work and service across its member states. Moreover, crucial for the future of the EU is an institution apt to pursue full employment. As Ernest Maragall writes on Euractiv, if employment becomes a goal, then austerity measures would have to be compensated by expansive measure to rebalance demands. Indeed, such a rebalance is necessary to prevent recession, high unemployment and deflation. Despite such specific institutional reforms, we should recognize that the EU suffers from an “executive deficit”, as Sergio Fabbrini puts it on OpenDemocracy. According to him, EU executive power is uncertain, dispersed, and opaque. To handle the crises Europe is facing, a government of the Union, with its own democratic legitimacy, is necessary.

The road to Brexit

Voters in the UK will soon go to the polls to decide whether their country should leave the European Union, but a wide range of issues are still hotly under dispute. First, there are political problems. As Jackie Ashley writes on the Guardian, although in the incoming weeks a lot can happen, for now it should be recognized that the Remain campaign is failing. This is so not only because the Leave campaign seems to have been more persuasive with undecided voters, as Adrian Pabst notes on EurActiv, but also because pro-EU campaigners seem to have nothing positive to say about both Britain and the EU, as Daniel Hannan argues on the Guardian. Moreover, Matther Goodwin, on Chathamhouse, adds that for the Remain camp to win, it needs to provide serious counterarguments to the Leave anti-immigration populism, and convince the younger voters to actually participate in the referendum next June. It is important to understand that the Brexit referendum is particularly interesting also because it crosscuts the traditional Left/Right divide. As Toby Moses argues on the Guardian, there are good, principled reasons from the left wing perspective to question the British membership of the EU, which nowadays does not look at all like Jacques Delors’s idea of “social Europe”, but more like a neoliberal club.

Moreover, an even stronger case for leaving can be made from the radical left, if one takes the point of view of a trade unionist, as Enrico Tortolano sees it on OpenDemocracy. He writes that the EU is making virulent attacks on workers, given its anti-democratic apparatus set up by business cabals. So, the referendum is an opportunity to manifest opposition to the austerity measures and the exploitations of workers. Meanwhile, in the right wing camp, there is a paradox, as Denis McShane argues on Social Europe: Cameron’s political foes want him to win and many of his comrades want him to lose in order to give power to an isolationist Prime Minister. And Liam Fox, on Conservativehome, manifests his worries about the way in which members of the Conservative Party are acting in the face of the referendum. The point is that the referendum should not be taken as part of a political strategy. Rather, it should be at the heart of a real, substantive discussion about sovereignty, supra-nationalism, and free-movement. In the end, as Micheal Lloyd writes on EUROPP, the left and the right are divided by a different conception of nationalism: the former defends the idea that Europe is incompatible with the struggle against neoliberalism and capitalism; the latter is based on a nostalgic view of the Commonwealth. This last point is investigated also by Robert Colvile, who argues on that the nostalgic view of the Commonwealth presented by Euroskeptics is misleading and faulty.

The issue is not only political; another problem about the referendum concerns the consequences that may fall from it. Nasrul Ismail, on OxPol, attempts to understand the potential impact of a Brexit on public health, focusing on EU policies on air quality; the crucial role played by the EU on the safety seal that protects consumers from negative externalities emanating from farming industry; the potential loss of subsidies to the UK farming industry; and the missed opportunities coming from deciding not to abide by the European health agenda. A broader consequence of a Brexit may be, as Dambisa Moyo argues on Social Europe, that of reducing UK’s influence over geopolitics and global economy, which is surely in the country’s interest.

This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli

Photo Credits CC: GUE/NGL

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