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A different euro Union is possible: why I choose NO

The paradox of this referendum is that it is not clear on what we are really voting. It remains, in the form – and form is substance, as Aristotle said, even more so in a continent where many challenges were judged often on the basis of questionable legal arguments – a referendum on austerity, without any implication for the abandonment of the euro area. It is an important point because it implies an idea in which the Tsipras government has always believed in (and myself too). The idea that we as Europeans can live well, together, within a common currency area like the euro, provided that there are non-austere fiscal policies during difficult times. Add to that the non-minor addendum that it is impossible to stay in the euro with austerity when an economy is affected by major cyclical difficulties, unless an external diktat emerges and one is willing to tolerate its most harmful consequences: high unemployment and the collapse of production.
In substance, however, the Greek referendum will appear, to posterity for those who will study it in a few decades, more than a democratic move, a referendum on democracy itself in Greece. A YES vote for the European package of austerity measures – obtained under the conditioning of fear and external threats exerted more or less covertly by non-Greek politicians and bankers – will have just one obvious meaning, that the policy in Greece is determined outside its own borders, adopting choices that are distant from what is desired by Greek citizens. An outcome that will have an evident contagion effect: it will exacerbate the growth of national populism in all Member States, by exacerbating the anti-European sentiments that are rising everywhere in Europe where the economy is suffering, in the name of a national sovereignty that is not fair to crush from the top. An outcome to which, as a European citizen, I would never subscribe. This is why I would never vote for a YES.
And if the NO prevails? When the referendum result will be studied by historians, what kind of referendum will it prove to have been in the end? It will depend heavily on the dynamics that will be unleashed by the choice of the other European leaders after the outcome of the vote. If “German Europe” (and the ECB that is bound to follow its choice) decided to finally accept the Greek demands, abandoning austerity, we will know that it had been a referendum on the nature of Europe, finally no longer austere but just and equitable, as its founding fathers had imagined. In this unlikely case Europe would owe again to Greece a good part of its reason to exist, finding renewed energy and social cohesion that are the key elements of any successful project of a joint union. This is the only reason, though admittedly based on a faint hope, that pushes me to take sides with the army of NO in the referendum: in this case it would be as if we had voted a strong YES to yet another Europe, launching the contagion of solidarity.
Obviously there is another possible future that awaits us, one in which Germany and the ECB maintain their intransigent position. At that point actually the Greek referendum will prove to have been a referendum on the euro, with the exit of Athens from the common currency. The scars will remain forever on a fragile Europe. This event will be sanctioned by the end of monetary union; and the birth of an agreement of fixed exchange rates between European countries (the dream come true of any perverse speculator, as we know very well from past exchange rate crises in Europe) will turn out to be its most likely consequence. Even in this scenario, just as with the YES vote for austerity, we will see growing populism and demands for greater national sovereignty everywhere that will be hard to resist.
In this case the question of the referendum could also be read, always with the hindsight of history, in another, more subtle, way, such as: “you Greek citizen, do you agree to exit the European Union?” Of course, formally what I say is incorrect: Greece, even out of the euro, would remain in the European Union, like the United Kingdom (for how long?) or many other Eastern European and Scandinavian countries. But it would remain in a very different position from the latter: as a country expelled from the euro union, not as a country that initially exercised its democratic will not to join it. A difference that will make Greek citizens humiliated and unwanted, and thus cause them to look around, not only in terms of new and different economic policies but also of foreign policy and strategic alliances. It is not science fiction: the democratic and secular Turkey to which only 10 years ago entry into the European Union was refused, humiliated, decided to look elsewhere and has rapidly become a less secular society, much closer to Islam and distant from the West.
Losing Greece in the euro, then, means to risk losing Greece in the Europe, bringing it closer to other geopolitical areas as the Russian one with which it shares, among other things, a greater closeness of religious belief.
One last thing. When we will look, I hope not, to this disastrous outcome, to a European failure of voting for another Europe of the euro, please do not blame the euro. The single currency will have been just that: a symbol, a mere symbol, of a willingness to stay together for a long-term project. Just like a ring in a wedding. If the marriage does not stand up, do not blame the ring, but the lack of a project based on mutual solidarity and sustainable development. And if the ring slips off, please do not expect  the two divorcees to go back living together.


  1. thanks for sharing that — I agree with the positive vision, my concern is that we kind have run ourselves down with resources, and that our room of maneouvre is not that great. There is the idea that Germany has huge reserves to cope with all of that, and that is not the sense that most Germans have themselves (whatever else you think of it).

    To cite one example (though surveys are more reliable) I know a fully qualified German dentist who after subtraction of costs, makes €3 per hour (yes, three Euro). So where outsiders see Germany thriving, on the inside, things to many people look much more precarious — which is why a JOINT solution would have mattered, and why, from a pro-reform German point of view, Syriza’s rhetoric was less constructive than it could have been.


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