In recent times, Europe has been in the grip of so many woes its citizens and leaders seem to have almost forgotten about the country which once demanded so much attention. In the past months, homegrown extremist attacks have claimed hundreds of lives in Paris, Brussels and Nice. In the same period, the largest migration of people since the second World War has caused countries like Austria, Hungary and others to close their borders. An act which calls into question the most fundamental principle of the EU—the freedom of movement.
And now, with the uncertainty following the UK’s vote for Brexit, Europe has a lot more to be concerned about than the little nation to the south whose debt seemed to threaten the very existence of the EU. So was that it? Is Greece doomed to fall? The answer to that question is still a definite maybe. And here’s why;
Late last Summer, events took a surprising turn when German Chancellor, Angela Merkel stepped up to the plate to reveal herself as Greece’s new and best hope for the future. The reason? Due to the burgeoning immigrant crisis currently sweeping across Europe, Germany and Greece suddenly find themselves with common interests.
In an interview with the German public broadcasting company ARD, Merkel drew attention to the fact that both countries had taken largely pro-refugee positions and asked, ““Do you seriously believe that all the Euro states that last year fought all the way to keep Greece in the Eurozone—and we were the strictest—can one year later allow Greece to, in a way, plunge into chaos?” And the Chancellor added a warning that Athens risked being overrun by the huge numbers of new arrivals.
Many Greeks took Merkel’s comments as a fragile encouragement and hoped her sympathy would stretch to increased debt-relief. But when Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsiparis raised the issue in a recent meeting with both Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, Merkel refused to be bound by her earlier remarks. Instead, the Lady from Berlin gave the impression she opposed discussions concerning Greek debt-relief and promptly referred Tsiparis to the Eurogroup (the IMF and other institutions). Merkel also pointed out her dissatisfaction at Greek delays regarding the migrant and refugee crisis.
Hollande it seems, is prepared to offer more support towards the Greek position and sources inside Government claimed he expressed a desire put an end to uncertainty and find a solution to the debt crisis. Both men also agreed to reach some kind of consensus regarding the handling of the debt issue and find a solution that would in any event, ensure a sustainable outcome. This would, emphasized Hollande, prove once and for all that Europe is capable of keeping its own house in order. Tsipras and Hollande also agreed that the quantitative easing program is crucial to Greek’s recovery.
Yet amidst all the political humdrum surrounding the Greek financial crisis, there can be no denying that since Brexit, the goalposts have moved. Many political analysts now see the main questions as not, “When will Greece fall?” but “Can the EU afford to let Greece to fall?” Because clearly, there is much more at stake here than just Greece.
Italy and Spain are both struggling to keep up with their EU commitments. In France itself, right wing populists have a real chance of causing a major upset in the next general election. The same could also be said of Germany. The governments of the Nordic states are all coming under more and more pressure to ease the immense social pressure caused by the influx of refugees.
The fall of Greece could be just the beginning of a ‘domino affect’ that could see the European Union fall apart like a badly put together jigsaw puzzle. The phrase, ‘Too big to fail’ has until now only been used to describe global financial players such as banks and other monetary institutes. Can the same be said about the EU? Merkel will certainly hope so. But there’s no guarantee.
In our current climate of political turmoil, most political commentators would agree the best course of action for the European Union would be to gather its sheep into the fold and batten down the hatches. A mix of metaphors perhaps, but probably the best advice doing the rounds right now. So if you want my advice – get some good advice before you make any trades. Check out some of the reviews here and decide for yourself. It’s never too late to learn!