Greece and the EU – Common fate and common responsibilities

No more political games! Political unity and solidarity urgently needed!


Where are the close relations of the past between the EU and its Member State Greece? Where is the awareness for our common destiny in Europe? Where is the awareness that the Euro and the EU as a whole is for our benefit and that now we need solidarity instead of blaming each other?

Greece and the other EU Member States must understand that their destinies are linked. No single Member State, neither Germany nor Greece or any of our European partners has bright political and economic perspectives in the global order if it acts alone. We have to be aware that we need to help Greece and protect the Euro in order to guarantee the cohesion and the very existence of the European Union. The Euro is more than a currency! It is the result of a 60-year success story of European integration! It is the „guarantee for our peace and freedom in Europe“ as Chancellor Merkel said. How we react now, how we tackle this crisis is of crucial importance for the next generations and will determine whether we will continue to live in a Europe of Peace, security and welfare or whether we will return to an age of competing nations without any influence in the world.

To solve the current crisis the EU and its Member States including Greece have to assume their responsibilities! All involved have to make extra efforts; everyone needs to understand that Greece and its partners share common goals.

The EU should have more confidence in this great country which shaped our European Culture. We should not leave Greece alone.. Instead of accusing Greece we should help it and give our advice. We should avoid domino effects and use our bundled political power to help Greece find the right path out of the current crisis and achieve sustainable governance. However, our monetary contribution is not enough. Greece also needs our political support and know-how. In this context, the proposal of Prime Minister Juncker to call upon private lender participation in Greece’s restructuring program is a good approach. An investment programme would ease the economic hardship during the fiscal consolidation phase while laying the foundations for an export and growth-oriented economic model.

Greece on its side must show respect to the trust and the collective effort undertaken to support it. While in democracy criticism is an integral part of the political system, our support for the EU/IMF memorandum should be based on the attainment of a minimum political consensus in Greece. . Political elites have to understand that they must cooperate in order for the country to be credit-worthy. They have to understand that Greece’s European partners need to explain at home, to their constituencies, why they invest the money of their tax payers in Greece and why it is worth doing so!

Therefore we need to see a united political community in Greece. How can we ensure our citizens in Germany, France and in other Member states that Greece’s commitment to repay the debt is not supported by the main political forces and that could be implemented without a credible reform program? How can we explain at home that it is worth to give our money to Greece? Europe is ready to help its Greek partner; for this reason we have made a giant step; we have set up the European Stability Mechanism with effective lending capacity of € 500 million ; we could even think about releasing more easily money from the EU Structural funds, but only if we know for sure that our money does not drain away because of petty battles between the political forces. Now, beyond their differences, political parties in Greece must understand that they have to work responsibly together for the future of their country.

Aristoteles said: „Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.“ All political parties in Greece should prove their courage and tell the people not what they want to hear but the truth. They should support the strict austerity package even if it is extremely painful for the moment – in the long-term it is for the best of the people and the country. By voting the new mid-term programme and obtaining the new tranche Greece gains the time to implement the necessary reforms, enhances its chances of repaying the debt while preparing the ground for investment and growth. As such it is of the utmost importance to forge a minimum political consensus on the main goals regarding the mid-term program. The obvious current lack of consensus is very worrisome to all of us. Realistically, which are Greece’s options? If in the next few days the Greek Parliament does not vote in favour of the mid-term programme the country will not receive the expected instalment and Greece will face bankruptcy. Why on earth would any reasonable Greek politician opt for bankruptcy? We do not have the luxury of playing political games when so much is at stake !

Thus, no political party should block the austerity package and the necessary and long overdue reforms only to score in the public opinion of the electors. At the end of the day this will not decide the elections. On the contrary! In Portugal the conservatives won the elections due to their constructive cooperation during the crisis. In Ireland parties which were long-standing opponents reached out their hands to each other. Now the Greeks also have to do this. Portugal and Ireland are an example that it is possible to find a way out of the crisis.

The next few days until the EU Summit are crucial. If Greece does not succeed in finding an approach supported by all political parties, it risks that everything will explode. This would amount to a national catastrophe for Greece and a major blow for European integration.

As Victor Hugo once said: „The future has several names. For the weak, it is impossible; for the fainthearted, it is unknown; but for the valiant, it is ideal.“ We have now the chance to design our common European future. We should not fail because of petty political games.

*Elmar Brok is a Member of the European Parliament, Speaker on Foreign Affairs of the European Peoples Party group (EPP), Rapporteur for the Committee on Constitutional Affairs of the European Parliament on the draft European Council decision amending Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union with regard to a stability mechanism for Member States whose currency is the Euro

Newspaper Article – PDF