referendumChaos and confusion. That’s the situation today, as contradictory reports are coming out of Athens that, like Schrödinger’s cat, Prime Minister George Papandreou of Greece has simultaneously resigned and refused to resign. Perhaps all will be slightly clearer by the end of the day. What is clear, though, is that Europe’s leaders were kept in the dark until the last minute regarding Papandreou’s decision to hold a referendum in Greece.

Earlier, Debating Europe discussed the possibility of a referendum in the UK on EU membership. Leonardo wrote in the comments that he disagrees with the principle behind referenda, arguing that:

In most cases I see no reason for the elected not to do their work, and I more precisely cannot share this populist view that everyone can decide on everything (which is also impossible: this is Europe, not a few thousand people in a town in ancient Greece).

We may (or may not) now be seeing a referendum in Greece. Regardless, Debating Europe spoke yesterday with the Prime Minister of Malta, Lawrence Gonzi, and asked what he thought of a comment by Stanislav that “in the long term, the integration project can work only if it is built on popular, democratic grounds. Unfortunately, the EU has been a technocratic project from the start.” Is this an unsolvable contradiction? Are we now witnessing a “crisis of democracy” in Europe?

I would not describe this as a crisis of democracy. It’s an economic crisis, and not a democratic crisis. I would say the 27 [EU members], but also the 17 [Eurozone members], have gone to enormous lengths in order to address this problem. I was confident, and I remain confident, that the measures we have decided are the right way forward to a long-term solution.

Now, I am not informed as to the reasons why Prime Minister Papandreou decided to unanimously submit the bail-out decision to a referendum – I still need to understand the reasons – but the substance is that we have a concrete package prepared, and Greece needs these solutions urgently. Things may have to proceed at a faster pace, especially with regards to banks – the refinancing of the banks – and hopefully, we should get the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) [i.e. the new, permanent ‘bail-out’ mechanism] in working condition as quickly as possible. I think we’re targeting 2012. We should get the ESM as soon as possible.

But are these measures going to be enough? In the long term, will we need to consider some of the suggestions put forward about EU treaty change and deeper fiscal and political integration? We had a comment recently from Irish blogger Jason O’Mahoney who argued we need to see some quite drastic changes to the current institutional order – including eurobonds and a directly elected EU “President”.

Here’s Prime Minister Gonzi’s response:

Regarding treaty change, my attitude has been that if we are talking about treaty change to strengthen the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) [i.e. the current rules governing debts and deficits in the Eurozone], then I would be in favour of treaty change. If we are talking about other treaty changes, then I would have to see some of the proposals before I was able to comment. But my understanding is we’re talking about possible changes which might be limited to strengthening the SGP. I would be the first person to confirm that this is absolutely vital. This would avoid a repeat of the crisis we’re going through.

What about Jason’s suggestion that the new treaty should possibly be “outside of EU law”? Possibly applying just to Eurozone countries?

Any treaty change should involve those countries both within the Eurozone and outside the Eurozone. It’s ridiculous to divide the EU into two blocs. For heaven’s sake, we’re living in modern times! It’s no use to lock ourselves into a corner like this.

What do YOU think? Should Greece hold a referendum on membership of the euro? Or are we risking the collapse of the Single Currency? Are referenda the best way to resolve these issues? Or are we abandoning representative democracy when we need it the most? Let us know in the form below, and we’ll take your comments to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

Vote 2014

Voting is closed in our Debating Europe Vote 2014! The results are now in, so come and see what our readers thought!

33 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Mixalis Apostolakis

    We say yes to Euro, yes to European solidarity but a big NO to policies that lead to poverty and misery of a whole nation and the limitation of our sovereignty just to save european banks…PEOPLE FIRST!

  2. avatar
    Katerina Kyriazi

    We need more European intergration, as a Greek citizent Id be more than happy to welcome European experts and their technical help in organizing parts of the government.

  3. avatar
    Matea Dedić

    Oh yeah European experts,all over the world are experts and what there are do???? .. haha really funny :-)

  4. avatar
    Katerina Kyriazi

    @Matea obviously you have no arguments therefore you use sarcasm as a response. Grow up already…

  5. avatar
    Katerina Kyriazi

    @Matea no worries we are all here to express our personal opinions, there is no need to argue with each other :)

  6. avatar
    Mixalis Apostolakis

    @Katerina Kyriazi i think matea is right…All these experts, European Leaders,Troika, Imf etc. have lead us to the poverty, misery and immigration…Now they want the total limitation of our sovereignity…And the result will be the impoverishes of greek people and the wealth of greek and european banks…Watch the video about human rights and you will see that a lot of rights are being trespassing here…Unless you live in onother country and you see that all going well…

  7. avatar

    I oppose this referendum (and referenda in general) because they reduce complex debates to simplistic non-solutions. The complexity and scale of modern societies is why we opted for indirect democracy, so that people may vote for those who think alike, and vote them out of office if they are displeased. To change from indirect to direct democracy at a time like this is merely political strategy and not about “the people”, and his argument to that effect is not substantiated by fact. I am for democracy, but against these kinds of games. If the Greek prime minister was serious about people’s opinions on the bail-outs he could have held this referendum back in May. At this juncture, he knows he would be crushed and humilitated in a normal election, and simply sees himself as the main protagonist in a Greek drama, hoping to come out on top as some kind of hero. Such toying with the European economies, the eurozone, European integration, and in fact, world economies is misplaced to say the least.

  8. avatar
    Katerina Kyriazi

    @Mixalis the “loss” of the sovereign state begun when we joined the community, we actually were supposed to keep under specific fiscal targets but we failed to do so. I am a firm believer that the future of Greece is with Europe and that means we need to follow the rules. I am more than happy to welcome the European experts into heping us organize the country. Europe needs to intergrate more if we have any chances of competing with the rest of the globe.

  9. avatar
    Chris Bickerton

    The Greek referendum would have been a good occasion to debate openly the issues at stake in the resolution of the Eurozone debt crisis. It might also have helped the formation of a serious alternative to the Papandreou/EU solution to Greece’s economic woes, namely austerity combined with subjecting Greece to much closer and more stringent monitoring by European officials. That said, it looks like it won’t go ahead given Papandreou’s difficulty in winning support for it from his own party. What we can say about Papandreou’s own motives is that he was pretty cynical: in making his people vote on their own membership of the EU, he was hoping to use that as a basis to push through the austerity package and the public sector reforms. In other words, he was trying to tar the protests with the brush of both anti-Europeanism and being on the wrong site of democracy.

  10. avatar
    Alexandru Voicu

    I think it is utmost important for Greeks to decide their future as a nation and this referendum is an example for any democratic state. In a democracy, people have the power to decide their own future!

  11. avatar
    Alexandru Voicu

    As I have said earlier “In a democracy, people have the power to decide their own future!” and with this drop of referendum I claim that some democratic values were sweep aside.

  12. avatar
    Jammer Nadia

    I dont think its Europe what led us in debt crisis.We took loans that we couldnt pay back.And we knew it.The worst think is that young people are forced to immigrate for a better future and they are called to pay for mistakes they didnt make,money they didnt get.When you eat in a restaurant,you have to pay the bill.Isnt it true?So,why Greek people shouldnt be forced to pay for money they spent?Nobody keeps still faith on Greek politicians.Why shouldnt we let Europe take control,hoping for a better future since all Greek Politicians failed to do so?

  13. avatar
    Enrique Roberto Perezyera Benoit

    It’s a shame that y’all people are blaming your politicians when the real shitty system is within banks that do not create any additional value to an economy.

  14. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    I do not understand Mr Papandreou…Though I strongly oppose the bail out plan, as it does not really help Greece at all, why now and not in the beginning?

    I oppose the bail out because: Greece is forced to sell out its national assets to its lenders. That is what happened to Africa and we see now the results..They will never recover. It is an enslavement. The Greeks were so gracious to erase Germany’s debt to them after WW2, so why now the Germans do not return the favor? It is a classic case of European/American/Western Vulture Culture: bring a nation to its knees, then offer them “help” in the form of loans, make them bankrupt and then rush in for the kill to take everything of them! If Europe wanted to help Greece they should do it unconditionally. How many times didn’t they involve Greece in their wars with huge costs to this country? THEY owe Greece, not the other way around! What a nice example of solidarity from the Finns and the Germans demanding Greek islands and even the Parthenon as guarantees..Shame on you!

    Second, I do not trust Mr. Papandreou. What is his game? He lied to the Greek people many times. That we have money there will be no crisis or need for a bail out…Later happened exactly that..That there will be no tough austerity measures in order to secure the loans..Another lie..Now what? Is he trying to redeem himself? Has he realized that he will go down in history as the most hated Greek Prime minister ever?

    If I vote in the referendum, my answer will be..Guess…NO! We should not be forced to be in such harsh austerity measures for another decade at least. Would a German, A Finn, a French man or a Dutch and a Brit accept a 40% cut of their salaries? If yes then I might just change my mind!

    And another thing. Recently in Ireland they discovered a “mistake” that they have an extra 3.6 billion euro in their accounts. Yet no consideration to redesign the up coming new austerity plan for 2012..Since we have an extra 3.6 BILLION euro amount, why don’t we put it towards the debt and lift some weight of the backs of the people? Something smells fishy here.. Money appear and disappear by “mistake”, and Prime Ministers lie about if the country has money or not…What’s the name of your game?

  15. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    European leaders knew that Greece was in a bad shape! Why didn’t they do something about it ten years ago? Mr Juncker admitted it.. They all knew but they did nothing. Is it to hide their own problems back home, or was the real reason that they wanted Greece to fail and have an easy picking at its resources? Just a thought…!!

  16. avatar
    Peter Schellinck

    If there is to be a referendum it should be on the agreement to transfer the Greek sovereignty to the European Parliament. We are all part of the European project and have embarked on the economic unity. Now it’s time to endorse the political unity. The Greeks have their representatives, democratically elected by the public, in the EU parliament. So, why not empower them to take up responsibility and sort out the mess. It is our, all EU citizens!, that are paying the bill and giving the Greeks a loan and not a free ride any more. When one realizes that over 9000 people of over 100 years of age are collecting a pension for years and that the total pension bill for false pensions is more than 7 billion Euros, this is not a sign of bad governance, rather a crime and must be punished! So if we pay to bail out, we want the EU parliament to act. Hence, as a good EU father Greece ought to give up its sovereignty in return for our money and allow strict control from the EU parliament. The local parliament can act as a functional and operational body to implement the plan. The surplus on civil servants are to be sent home and the youth be given a job. SME’s are to be supported to help in this process.

  17. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Peter while mostly I agree with you, being a Greek living in another EU country and working with the public, I can assure you that crooks exist in all countries..In Ireland too, there are people who claim unemployment benefits while working and in Belgium there are doing the same(those two countries I mention because I know cases)…So what do you suggest? Perhaps we all should give our sovereignty to the EP then?

    As you say, if I am to give up my sovereignty to somebody I prefer to be the EP, not another EU nation, not another nation full-stop, not a multinational organization or anything else..So why does this not happening?

    As for the referendum, I would say bring it on..Though it would mean most likely the end of the euro, or Greece’s participation in it, since other countries are not willing to go all the way (remember they did not want even to take the first step and create the eurobonds- not that they are the solution, but for sure the beginning of a solution) then why must be the Greeks that should save it?

  18. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    It is the system that is wrong in Greece..And in Europe of course. It is the job of our elected politicians of course to fix it, but why didn’t that happen until now? And why didn’t EU act before hand? They want to fire thousands of civil servants…Now that there are no jobs..Why didn’t they faze them out gradually, over the past few decades, while creating new jobs and industries so that they could absorb those newly unemployed?

    Why didn’t all the previous Greek Governments proceeded with those reforms and now they are doing everything all at once, while there is a “crisis”..? What is the point in putting the public through so much stress and uncertainty, while the Greek former Governments should have worked on those issues at least a decade ago, and of course the EU and our European partners should have assisted or encouraged those reforms to take place? Is it perhaps that if the European powers wanted to be able to meddle with other countries’ affairs, they should allow others to do the same in theirs? What skeletons are they hiding in their closets? Just a thought…

  19. avatar
    peter schellinck

    Dear Christos,

    yes, I’ve voted for a local representative to the European Parliament and hence don’t need, nor want a national government anymore. What we need is a well functioning local, responsible authority for the region where one lives. So, giving up national sovereignty in return for rescheduling national debt is what I support and empowering my local MP in the EU parliament.

    As to corruption, I fully agree. When human beings are not controlled the creative temptation to test the limits is known. However, excesses like the situation with the Greek pensions is unacceptable, even for the local Greek sincere citizen (talking to local friends). How can one justify, let alone explain, 7000 over 100 years old people to be benefiting from your public funds?

    To me this situation is a golden opportunity for our current leaders to show real political courage to endorse the next step in the European project. We need to be “one” in order to be “someone” in the new world configuration emerging where 7, and soon 9 billion, people will be calling the shots. What would a divided Europe still mean?

  20. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    I agree with you Peter…But our leaders think otherwise…Have you seen them in the recent G20 Summit..?? All trying to be important and powerful…Still thinking about their own ambitions more, than the wishes of the people who give them this power…

  21. avatar
    Radu Filip

    I don’t recall a referendum in Greece for the spending beige on debt when they entered in Euro based on lies. Referendum or not, Greece is broke by its own choices (at the voting station). You can lie everybody for a while, you can life some forever, but you cannot lie everybody forever. Greek prosperity was a lie, funded by unsustainable debt. Now is pay back time!

  22. avatar
    Simos Tsitoglou

    Please allow me to defend my country and myself… EU economists knew very good what the Greek system is since 30 years ago. Most of them enjoy some thousand euros salary and their job is to keep an eye on country economics. So why these gendlemen in suits and ties didn’t ring a bell all these years and they start screaming to Greece ONLY when the dept reach non-payable limits? I know many people that don’t have enough money to eat and yet, no politician of the last 30 years went in a single court for financial crimes. Greek people couldn’t do nothing except protesting (that’s where police comes with chemicals and batons to smash our heads). And so the rich is getting richier and the poor is getting poorer… Fair in a way, don’t you agree?

  23. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    The thing that baffles me is that recently I was looking at a statistics board about how much European countries are indebted..Both EU and non-EU, eurozone and non eurozone..Well some countries seem to be more indebted but no one is attacking them as they do Greece…even countries with smaller population. On what criteria are those rating agencies rate countries? Why is it Greece only under so much pressure when most of its EU counterparts are not in much better shape? Trying to find an scapegoat are we?

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