On 5 July 2015, Greece held its first referendum since 1974. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras asked citizens whether or not they would accept the bailout conditions proposed by the ‘Troika’ (a name we’re not supposed to use anymore), a group of creditors consisting of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Central Bank (ECB). The “No” vote was the overwhelming victor, with 61% supporting a rejection of the bailout terms.
Eight days later, however, Greece adopted a bailout package containing even bigger cuts and tax hikes than the one rejected in the referendum. The country’s creditors had withdrawn their initial offer and refused to provide Greece with much-needed liquidity unless the government agreed to the humiliating turnaround.
Prime Minister Tsipras later reaffirmed his position by calling an early election and securing another mandate from the Greek people. But what was the point of the referendum? We had a comment from Martti arguing that the Greek referendum served no real purpose, and was merely an example of Tsipras irresponsibly “playing with the lives” of ordinary Greeks.
On 22 October 2015, our partner think-tank Friends of Europe held their annual ‘State of Europe‘ high-level roundtable, bringing together senior policymakers, civil society representatives, and business leaders to discuss the future direction of the continent. To get a response to Martti, we attended the State of Europe event and spoke to Zoe Konstantopoulou, a Greek Member of Parliament for the ruling SYRIZA party and former Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament.
Konstantopoulou argued that the referendum at least put the Greek people’s rejection of further cuts on the record, even if this rejection was not necessarily achieved in reality:
For another perspective, we also spoke to Maria Stratigaki, Athens Vice Mayor for Social Solidarity. She argued that not only did Prime Minister Tsipras not achieve anything positive with the referendum, it increased the costs for Greece substantially:
Finally, we also spoke to László Andor, former European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. He also believed the referendum was counter-productive, and plunged Greece into a worse situation than it had been previously:
What did Greece actually achieve by holding a referendum? Was it worth holding the vote when the government would later accept an even worse bailout deal barely a week later? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!