National Security & Defense

Beware of Greeks Casting Blame

Celebrating the “No” vote outside the Greek parliament in Athens. (Loiisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty)

‘Today’s referendum doesn’t have winners and losers,” claimed Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipris. That’s absurd. I can name one clear loser.

It should now be obvious to the Eurocrats in Brussels that their grand project of an increasingly centralized and integrated European super-state will be rejected every time that ordinary people are somehow given a chance to vote on it. If they represented a normal national government, the Eurocrats would resign in shame and embarrassment.

The Dutch, French, and Irish all voted against European super-state treaties, although the Irish were bribed into voting a second time and eking out a yes. The Danes, Swiss, and Norwegians all voted to not join the European Union. Now the Greek people, although many of them profess that they still want to be part of the EU, have effectively blown up any chance they can continue using the euro, the linchpin of the EU’s monetary policy.

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I fear that this track record will not sway European Union die-hards. Belgium’s Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of liberal forces in the European parliament, has already called for giving Greeks “a second chance” to stay with the euro.

Forgiving Greek debts would be patently unfair to the Italians, Spanish, and Portuguese who have suffered under austerity measures over the last five years to pay off their debts.

There will be other calls to forgive Greece its debt in order to keep the troubled country within the euro zone. Doing so would set a terrible precedent for other countries and be patently unfair to the Italians, Spanish, and Portuguese who have suffered under austerity measures over the last five years to pay off their debts.

The rhetoric of Greek’s far-left leaders has been so outrageous and over-the-top in recent months as to invent a new chapter in “non-diplomacy.” Tsipris has already warned Brussels in the aftermath of Sunday’s vote that Greece is going through a “humanitarian crisis,” the clear implication being that if euro-zone ministers don’t acquiesce to his demands for debt forgiveness and more loans, any human suffering will be on their conscience.

His colleagues have been worse. Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis — who has called European finance ministers terrorists and admitted to having secretly taped official deliberations with them – is now promising Greeks that the country’s banks will reopen by this Tuesday and claiming that a new agreement will be reached within 48 hours of Sunday night. When Sky News asked Varoufakis Sunday why people should believe him, since the banks are running out of money, he snapped, “You’re spoiling a celebration of democracy with impertinent questions.”

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Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias warned in March that if Greece was denied the nostrings-attached loans it is seeking, his country would retaliate by sending Third World migrants and jihadists to Germany. Meanwhile, Greek justice minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos said that if Germany didn’t pay World War II reparations to Greece, his ministry would confiscate German properties in Greece.

It would be completely irresponsible for European leaders to reward such men by meeting their demands for loan extensions — especially given that Greece would probably fail to meet any new rules Europeans might propose in exchange for loan extensions.

So what should Brussels do? “For years Europe has been placing sticking plaster over the euro’s open wound,” Seyed Kamall, the British leader of the euroskeptic wing of the European Parliament, said today. “The Greeks have just torn it off.” It might be time, he suggested, for the Greeks to “take advantage of devaluation and become a more attractive destination for investment and tourism.”

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Peter Kazimir, the finance minister of Slovakia, tweeted after the referendum results came in that “the nightmare of the euro-architects that a country could leave the club seems like a realistic scenario after Greece voted no today.”

Humility has never come easy to the Eurocrats in Brussels. After all, no matter how many mistakes they’ve made, they seem to stay in office and simply pay for their errors with the money of Europe’s taxpayers. But in the middle of the Greek crisis, they should realize that this is no time to continue headlong over a cliff. Most analysts agree that Greece’s exiting from the euro today wouldn’t be the danger to the rest of Europe it might have been five years ago.

And Europe would definitely be better off without Greece as a constant thorn in its side. As for Greece, without Europe to blame for its problems, perhaps it will finally kick out its populist and incompetent government and do the right thing: adopt a new currency, create a simplified tax system that people don’t feel obliged to evade, and abandon the crony capitalism that is strangling its economy and people.

— John Fund is national-affairs correspondent for National Review Online.

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