Anna Diamantopoulou Blog

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friends europeAnna Diamantopoulou's article for the Friends of Europe's tenth annual high-level roundtable The State of Europe: Tough choices for a troubled Europe

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A famous quote is attributed to Antonio Gramsci, ancient leader of the Italian Communist Party: “The Old is dead. The new cannot be born. This is the age of monsters”.

For many, Greece’s “age of monsters” began with the result of its recent elections on the 6th of May which saw the electoral collapse of the two main Greek parties – the Socialists and the Conservatives, the entry of the “Golden Dawn” Neo-Nazi party in Parliament and the significant rise of the Radical Left SYRIZA party to the second spot. The inability of the parties to form a viable coalition, especially due to the unwillingness of the radical left, led to new elections that are planned take place on the 17th of June.

However, it is important to properly understand what led to this electoral balkanization.

A short answer is that, in effect, Germany chose to forsake its own past. The Treaty of Versailles, ratified after the end of World War I in 1919 created a dynamic that produced recession, hyperinflation and political instability for the main losing party, Germany. The treaty carried within it the seeds of its own undoing and effectively led to the rise of National Socialism in 1933. After the end of World War II the lesson from the Versailles Treaty was very clear for the Allies. The Marshall Plan, conceived by the American government, led to the reconstruction of Europe and in a matter of decades, Germany was, once more, the locomotive of European growth.

The financial crisis hit the European shores with clear adverse effects on production, GDP, employment and growth. The eruption of the Greek crisis threatened to hit the EU right at its foundation. It tested the endurance of its institutions and the limits of its political will.

It raised questions of trust and betrayal, effectiveness and free-riding, and even on the strength of the Eurozone. But, I believe that the Greek crisis, and European response to it, highlighted all kinds of shortcomings but also brought to the fore many of Europe’s strengths.

The Greek financial crisis exposed the Greek governments’ chronic deficiency in exercising an efficient economic policy. It exposed its shortcomings both in dealing with important obligations that stem from the country’s participation in the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union, and in exploiting related opportunities for economic growth and restructuring. We were faced with chronic problems of mismanagement, lack of transparency and decreasing competitiveness.

Anna Diamantopoulou, 2012. Content is distributed with a CC A-NC-ND-Gr-3.0 licence

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