I came across an interesting argument when running a learning meeting about the EU and this week’s elections. It was the thought that one would want to leave the EU because of a disagreement to what they did to Greece.
To summarise Greece went bust in 2008 like some other countries but to keep within the monetary union guidelines, the government of Greece for many years simply misreported economic statistics. [wikipedia]. The European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) on 25 June 2015 offered a bailout with conditions on the Greek national budget. That was rejected in a quickly held referendum on 5 July 2015. The Greek government then made a “drastic turnaround” regarding “pension cuts, tax increases and other austerity measures.” The total amount of loans requested in the Greek proposal is €53.5 billion. The Greek parliament approved the Prime Minister’s request on Friday, 10 July, and the completed package was forwarded to the eurogroup in advance of Sunday’s meeting. On Monday, 13 July, the Syriza-led government of Greece accepted a bailout package that contains larger pension cuts and tax increases than the one rejected by Greek voters in the referendum.
So Greece needed bailing out, the EU and IMF did that in return for reduced government spending. How much the government spending should be reduced is a political choice made as a decision by politicians with input from economists. There’s arguments to say Greek spending should be reduced a lot so they can pay back some amount of the bailout and arguments to say this will reduce the economy and stop any chance of recovery. Because the largest group in the EU Parliament is EPP (right wing economic tory parties) and EU Council (Theresa May and other heads of state) are mostly right wing tories that means the the government of the EU, the Commission, has a had a president elected who is also a tory, Jean-Claude Juncker from the EPP group. So of course they will go with an economic right wing solution of reduced Greek spending.
If you think not requiring such reduced government spending from Greece is a better solution to the problem, the answer seems to me to be to promote and vote for parties which are economically more left wing such as Labour (Socialist group) or SNP/Greens (Greens/EFA group) or even Lib Dem (Alliance of Liberals group) and not right ring parties such as Conservatives (European Conservatives and Reformists), Change UK (EPP) or obviously the populist ones. Leaving the EU would be a terrible solution as it just means other people will have a vote to take the decision and you do not.
But it’s worth understanding where the thought comes from. It comes from never ever having any media coverage to explain the political make up of the EU trialogue of democratic institutions (Commission, Parliament and Council). Or even having any explanation of those democratic institutions at all. People just see the EU as a black box and if decisions come out of it which they disagree with the only solution they can see is to leave it. Our democracy is broken. Please vote on Thursday and vote for a remain party and then watch and understand the results. I recommend the Scottish Green party.