Friday 24 February 2012

"Greece could have had a referendum"

The Danish Minister for Economy and Interior Margrethe Vestager said that Greece could have had a referendum:

""No one else but the elected members of national parliaments can take the decisions when it comes to reducing the deficit, collecting more taxes or being more efficient in doing so."


Meanwhile, on the state of Greek democracy, where the idea to call a referendum on the second bail-out last year caused panic among EU leaders and led to Prime Minister George Papandeou's resignation and appointment of a technocrat premier, Vestager said: "I think they could have done that if they really wanted to."

"Each politician has to make up his or her mind, because these are very challenging times. People can recognise from their own lives that when you bring yourself in a situation where you have to take a huge loan in order to get things working - the one who's going to give you the loan will have conditions. It is not different on a European level.""

Formally, I think she's right: when Papandreou proposed a referendum, it could have been done, even if it had been quick to have the result before the next tranche of bail-out money was needed (at the time I favoured a general election since it would have given the Greek people a chance to change their government, whereas a referendum on which default to take might just be designed to bounce them into accepting the status quo). However Papendreou sprung this on his cabinet, who said no, and the Greek parliament lost confidence in him, so a caretaker government was elected by the parliament before elections could take place (elections that will take place in April).

Which is a second point: the technocratic governments. I'm not a fan of these technocratic governments and if they're ever put in place they should be quickly followed by an election, but the Greek and Italian governments weren't "imposed by Brussels" - rather it was the economic pressure of the market/debt situation and the lack of political confidence in the Prime Minister and government that led their parliaments to remove them and replace them with technocratic caretakers. (Notably this also happened to the Czech government when they held the rotating presidency back in 2009). Rather the democratic disconnect is the lack of democratic political power at a level that could respond effectively to the economic pressure applied by markets - in other words at the EU level, which has so far only delivered ineffectual summits, bad bail-outs and a Fiscal Stability Treaty that solves nothing and repeats legislation already passed by the European Parliament.

1 comment:

  1. Who , exactly are the 'markets' ? They seem to have the power to ruin countries , who are they ? What are their names ? is it goldman sachs , or bhp billiton , or the rothschilds , or the russian oligarchs ? Who are they .Because everyone seems terrified of them , and their friends the ratings agencies .
    Instead of giving Greece massive amounts of money to give immediately back to foreign banks , why dont they give that money to the greek people , 130 billion will buy a lot of medicine and fuel , and food etc , and get all the experts from across europe to sort out the tax , planning , transport , housing , depts etc etc to get the country up to speed . Seems more humane and eminently more practical than forcing ever more cuts on the greek people who will never be able to pay off the debts anyway , as it has no growth , nor prospect of growth anytime in the distant future to pay any debts .