This article was originally published on John Redwood’s Diary.
It is one of those ironies of history that democracy should be under such pressure in the European country commonly claimed to be its birthplace.
The most recent Greek election and the battles over Greek policy within the Euro have been about whether national democracy is compatible with the single currency. It appears it is not.
The Greek people made their views known all too clearly in January. They said No to more austerity, No to the Euro area requirements to cut their debts and deficits, No to various reforms of their economy that the rest of Europe wishes to visit upon them. Their newly elected government took that message volubly to Brussels.
The Greek government soon had to back down. It backed down over its refusal to deal with the troika. It backed down over the need to extend the old loan agreement. It backed down over the principle of having to negotiate its budget and future economic policies with the rest of the Euro area. It was left with a fig leaf of choice, as the Euro area said there might be some flexibility on how Greece achieved the austerity targets which had to remain in place.
The Greek government has been using rhetoric about national self determination and democratic government. It has discovered that if it wishes to stay in the Eurozone it has to play by the general rules of that zone. It is also the case it has learned an older and more basic truth. If you want to borrow more money from certain institutions, you may need to honour the terms of the loans you already have from them.
I find it fascinating that Syriza saw the confrontation as one of national democracy against the Eurozone, not just as a debtor having to deal with its creditors. As a result of hyping the rhetoric in that way the Greek government has made its possible defeat into a defeat for democracy in Greece.
In that sense Syriza has done us all a service. They have highlighted how in the Euro a country cannot have an independent economic policy. As economic policy is one of the main things electorates wish to influence and change, the loss of those freedoms is a major blow to a national democracy. Many of us in the UK find there are too many constraints on our national democracy from membership of the EU outside the Euro. It is many times worse for those in the single currency.