Greece Has Spoken. It's Now In Europe's Own Interest To Listen

The people of Greece have spoken and now Europe must listen.

What the overwhelming victory by the “No” camp tells us is not that Greeks are just against against fiscal austerity, privatisations and increasing erosion of workers’ rights, but that they are prepared to suffer the consequences of living without the support of their European partners.

What the vote on Sunday tells us is that the Greek people are prepared to live with a potential economic implosion rather than suffer the slow death imposed on it by its creditors.

Great uncertainty lies ahead for this country. It’s not clear what currency they will be using a year from now, how much of their banking system will survive and how much further their economy will contract before the citizens of Greece begin to return to normality. It’s not even clear that their political system itself can withstand another 12 months of chaos.

Berlin needs to find a way of softening its stance. Tsipras must soften his rhetoricBut if the stakes are high for Greece, they are almost as high for the rest of Europe. Members of the European Union have come together on the understanding that solidarity makes the loss of sovereignty that comes by clubbing together worthwhile. But unless Berlin softens its stance towards Greece, the European project will be no more than a club of fair-weather friends that is prepared to cast off one of its own in its hour of need.

There is great uncertainty over what financial markets will do. While European leaders may be right to expect little direct contagion they cannot know how investors will react. Even when there is seemingly little apparent risk, markets can be driven by fear when there is too much uncertainty. Reports that foreign exchange traders were at their desks on Sunday ahead of the result suggests markets may still need to adjust to the full realities of a “No” vote.

Can Europe and NATO really live with Greece building closer links with Russia? And if Greece turns to Russia, who is to say it won’t turn to China for credit? Can Europe really live with such a geopolitical upheaval in the Eastern Mediterranean?

Berlin needs to find a way of softening its stance towards Greece while Alexis Tsipras must soften his rhetoric if not his demands to make that rapprochement possible. The government in France has already made some encouraging signs that it Greece won’t be cast adrift.

European leaders must now look at any new proposals from Athens and find a way of easing the debt burden on Greece.
It is worth remembering that when a debt goes bad, the fault lies as much withwith the fool who lent the money as it does with the borrower. It’s time for Europe to cut its losses, listen to the people of Greece and make sure that this crisis doesn’t turn into catastrophe.

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Disclaimer is a group of writers, journalists, and artists who have been brought together by their desire to tackle serious issues with a light and humorous touch. A mixture of idealists and pragmatists, Disclaimer is socially very liberal, economically less so. The editorial stance is formed collectively, based on the shared values of the magazine. Gonzalo Viña founded Disclaimer with the help of Phil Thornton who oversees the economics coverage. Graham Kirby is the editor.

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