I read that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker believes there’s no question of writing down Greek debt. The other Eurozone countries will not agree to that.He reasons that there can be no democratic choice against the European treaties. One cannot exit the euro without leaving the EU.
These brutal statements do at least have the virtue of honesty – assuming they stick to this no bail out position. I quite understand why they have to say there can be no bail out just because Greece has voted for less austerity. Had Mr Juncker said “Greek voters can change the Greek government and its policies, but they cannot make the rest of the EU send them more money” then I would have thought that a tough but understandable stance.
Mr Juncker goes wider, and simply asserts “there can be no democratic choice against the European treaties”. That does not just mean they cannot vote themselves another country’s money or change of policy, but they cannot vote for their own change of policy if the custodians of the treaties disagree with them. That is much more worrying and is why some of us do not like the current treaties and think they go too far in controlling countries and throttling democracy.
It is also interesting that the Commission now asserts that continued membership of the Euro is part of the deal, and any country leaving the Euro would also have to quit the EU itself. I am not sure where he can find that explicitly stated in the treaties, though again I see the logic of it. Clearly he thinks it is another threat to Greece that might worry them. We do know, however, that the EU does think it possible for a country to be in the EU but not in the Euro, as the UK and Denmark legally do and as the candidate members of the Euro do.
Mr Juncker’s harsh words imply a growing impatience with all who want special deals or who stand in the way of a uniform policy and discipline for the Euro area. Greek democracy is worryingly unruly and at variance with the Brussels view. The EU has now hit out and told the Greek voters they are wrong and have to think again.
As we watch the collapse of many of the traditional governing parties of the centre left and centre right in the Euro area we can expect more of these conflicts between countries struggling to be democratic again and a Commission telling them they can have any policy they like as long as it is the EU one. The irony is that in a way Mr Juncker is right. For the Euro to work they all have to accept its cruel discipline and live under its rules. That is why some of us said in the years before its launch they should first create a democratic government of Euroland so the public could have their say and have a choice. To have a single currency people and governments of the founder states have to accept financial and moral obligations to each other. Leaving democracy at the level of the Euro states, but taking much of the power to the centre denies effective democratic change, busts open the old party system, leaves many feeling very dissatisfied with politics, and may in the Greek case do considerable damage to the economy and banking system of the Euro area.
John Redwood MP