British exit - European transformation. Conjuncture, History, Democracy

Athens, June 27, 2016

 Article by Evangelos Venizelos on his personal website

British exit - European transformation

Conjuncture, History, Democracy 

The British referendum forces us to turn our attention once more to the fundamental issues: the relation of conjuncture, history and democracy. The relation between the European integration and the sovereignty of member states. The relation between European and national consciousness. It forces us to turn to matters that, while seemingly abstract and theoretical, have a very strict, specific and practical content.

The British referendum was called to serve internal political ends, to facilitate the victory of the Tories in 2015, in order to ensure the coherence of the now ruling party and incorporate conservative eurosceptics into Mr. Cameron’s election majority. Within the one year that has since passed, the conjuncture has become strongly anti-European, primarily due to the refugee crisis. No austerity measure came to pass in the United Kingdom. No memoranda have been implemented.

The British election conjuncture in May 2015 was transformed into a British referendum conjuncture in 2016. All these happened in the name of democracy and the appeal to the sovereign will of the British people. History just waited to record the situation and submit to it. Even temporarily.

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Statehood and sovereignty: the difficult equilibrium between European Union and Member States in crisis management- Refugee crisis and Brexit

May 2016

Evangelos Venizelos* 

Statehood and sovereignty: the difficult equilibrium between European Union and Member States in crisis management- Refugee crisis and Brexit

During this period (first semester of 2016), the EU has to deal mainly with two issues: first, the management of the huge refugee and migration flows that enter the Union from Turkey through the gateway of the Greek maritime borders in the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean and, second the referendum about Britain’s future in the EU.

The common denominator of these two issues is the resurgence of the conflict between European integration and the sovereignty of Member States either for conjunctural reasons (arrival of a large number of refugees and irregular migrants) or because this results from the rise of Eurosceptic or openly anti-European views in some Member State in a degree that calls into question the participation in the EU itself (as in the case of the UK). A deeper common denominator is the contestation of the sufficiency, effectiveness and more generally the added value of EU membership and the European integration.

1. Our definition of crisis

For the needs of this analysis, as crisis can be defined each situation that deviates from the “usual”, from what would not have called into question the existing arrangements and equilibria within the institutional edifice of the EU. In other words, crisis conditions emerge when the circumstances and a fortiori the new conditions that are prolonged challenge the sufficiency of the existing mechanisms.

The economic and, to be more specific, financial crisis that erupted in 2008 and had a strong impact on many Eurozone countries appertains certainly to this broader sense of the crisis [1]. Moreover, the same notion includes the huge increase in refugee and migration flows from Syria and other countries of the Middle East as well as North Africa or Asia to the EU[2] from 2015 on.

This broader sense of the crisis nowadays includes the promised by the British government proclamation of a referendum as to whether the UK should remain in or leave the EU as well. In this case the crisis is caused by a political initiative of a Member State government and not by economic or international reasons; it is, though, still a crisis, since existent arrangements and equilibria in the institutional edifice of Europe are challenged. After all, the deeper question that the British government had to answer was whether it would deal with the reactions of a large part of British society against European integration as a British problem or it would render it a problem of the Union, asking the latter to manage the pressure by agreeing new specific arrangements for the UK. The internal political crisis in one or more Member States is thus turned into an institutional and political crisis of Europe as an entity with community and intergovernmental characteristics and it is asked to successfully confront it through the intergovernmental method.

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The actual agreement of March 18th, 2016 on the refugee issue

Athens March 20, 2016

Article by Evangelos Venizelos on his personal website evenizelos.gr

The actual agreement of March 18th, 2016 on the refugee issue 

At this point, the EU - Turkey agreement and the decisions of the European Council of March 18, 2016 on the refugee and migration flow are quite important; they do not though allow for illusions.

The view expressed by Austria and the Visegrád Group has become dominant within the European balance of powers. After all, the initial German policy of welcoming Syrian and Iraqi refugees tested the country’s limits and ultimately crashed against strong reactions from a big part of German society.

Germany, and with it the whole EU, says -put very simply: “That’s it. We will not accept any more than we already have so far”. A few positions are still to be filled in an organized way under the Euro-Turkish Agreement, but the already existing large volume of Syrian refugees must remain in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, which are de facto characterized as “safe countries”. As far as Turkey is concerned, this characterisation must also be legally provided. In the same spirit, refugees to Europe from other countries, such as Iraq, are barred from entering and this applies a fortiori to irregular migrants moving through Turkey. However, they can also, in accordance with international law, submit an asylum application which should be judged on the individual characteristics of the applicant. The conclusions of the European Council and the EU-Turkey Agreement of 18/03/2016 invoke the existing international and European law on the protection of refugees and should be interpreted in accordance with this, but the political and thus practical aim is clear, hence the essentially worried statement of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

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Huffington Post | Greece's Current High-Wire Act

Athens 31 July 2015

Evaggelos Venizelos
Article in Huffington Post

Greece's Current High-Wire Act

Six months after the January 2015 elections and after Greek society lived through the novel experience of a referendum that posed misleading questions and gave self-defeating answers, the country is in much worse shape than the that which it found itself before the notice of elections at the end of December 2014.

The cost of the last six months is enormous, no matter how one calculates it: as a return to the recession, as a negative consequence to the dynamics of public debt, as a need for new loans from the EU and the IMF, as a leak of deposits, as an explosion of non-performing loans, as the obligation of a new recapitalization of banks with a greater public debt burden to avoid cutting deposits, as an undermining of healthy entrepreneurship, etc.

The situation in Greece now, however, is not only burdened economically and socially but also politically and institutionally. After five years of sacrifices, we slipped as a society into a spiral of questions concerning the European identity of the country, a crisis of self-consciousness that went beyond the question of "euro or drachma" and took us to the defining question: East or West.

This spiral has already caused a deep crisis of democratic legitimacy with which we are attempting to deal by stubborn insistence on the possession of power around which the forces of SYRIZA unite, though they are fundamentally divided when it comes to the substance of the governing policy in place. They deeply disagree as to the party line, but passionately agree as to the need to maintain the government. As if they received a carte blanche mandate to exercise power independently of the program's content.

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A public debt of truth

Athens, 19 July 2015

Evangelos Venizelos 

A public debt of truth*

A most brutal “anti-memorandum” mythology has been built, systematically and methodically, during the last five and especially during the last three years on the issue of public debt. In order to achieve this, three stereotypes have been formed:

The first stereotype is that the people are subjected to harsh sacrifices due to the large and unsustainable debt. Unfortunately, few have a clear understanding that the aim of the tough fiscal measures (which are now unfortunately extended until 2018) was to cover the huge primary deficit, which had reached 13,8% of the current GDP in 2009, i.e. 24,7 billion euros. A primary deficit, which since 2013, thanks to the sacrifices of the people, turned into a -however small- primary surplus and has sadly relapsed to a primary deficit, due to the five lost months of 2015, with the last nail being the referendum, the closure of banks, the capital controls. Unfortunately, only a few know that our country paid approximately 14 billion euro in interest (debt servicing costs) in 2010, while in 2015 -due to the 2012 restructuring- it pays only 5,5 billions, i.e. almost a third of that amount. Unfortunately, only a few know that the total financial needs for interest and repayments were -again due to the 2012 restructuring- at the internationally safe 10% of the GDP and have now -due to the referendum and the closure of banks- skyrocketed between 13,5% and 15%, depending on whether we use the analyses of the European Commission or the ones by the IMF; the latest ones, though, the ones that refer to the harmful effects of the last three weeks on the dynamics of the debt.

The second stereotype is that the 2012 intervention to the debt was supposedly catastrophic to Greek pension funds, which lost 25 billions from their reserves, and was overall considered from being non-consequential up to harmful to the country!

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The People as a tool

Athens, 6 July 2015

Evangelos Venizelos

The People as a tool

The meeting of the leaders of the parliamentary parties, under the President of the Republic was a positive move. Each move involving dialogue is welcome. Any search for consensus is much more welcome. Of course, the meeting could have been made months or weeks earlier, and certainly before choosing to resort to a referendum that was by definition dilemmatic and therefore divisive.

* Does, therefore, a democratic pro-European arc exist? *

The issuing of a joint announcement by the leaders of the democratic parties arc that declare their European orientation, is positive. It is important, first of all, that the existence is accepted of a similar, democratic and pro-European, spectrum, with the participation of the two government partners and three opposition parties. This occurred a day after the referendum, in which we saw Golden Dawn allying with the “No” front, along with SYRIZA and ANEL, while ND, To Potami and PASOK partook in the “Yes” front.

However, the pursuit of the consensus at the highest and narrowest level of representation, that of single-member representation by each party leader, came paradoxically a day after the triumph of direct democracy with a referendum that was not seeking consensus, but clarification in favour of the greatest possible majority that would politically neutralize the weak minority. The clash after all took on an “ethical-patriotic” character with personal attacks against the “voluntary slaves” of “Yes”.

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Ethnos| On Sunday, has to win the Greece of a “Yes” that unites

 Athens, 4 July 2015

Evangelos Venizelos

Article in “Ethnos” newspaper 

On Sunday, has to win the Greece of a “Yes” that unites

Greece can make up for the lost time. It can regain its aim as a nation. It can plan again its exit from the Memorandum, the transition to the phase of the precautionary credit line and a return to markets, a non-dependence on loans from the European partners and the IMF. 

Greece can improve its national competitiveness, be organized again as a cohesive society around a production model that facilitates the internal resources of the country: the land and people. “Land” means culture, history, primary production, landscape, environment, monuments, tourism, geography, networks, energy, transports. “People” means knowledge, work, entrepreneurship, family cohesion, memories, feelings, dreams and ideas, values, solidarity, sustainable welfare state.

For all these to be achieved, though, the European identity of the country has to be affirmed, as well as its irrevocable participation in the European family and the eurozone. The banks have to reopen, the free movement of capital has to be restored, along with imports and exports. Bank deposits must be protected by the only institution that has the ability to offer this guarantee, the ECB.

A main prerequisite for all these is the will of the Greek people. The will to say “Yes”, even in a referendum that is dumb-cunning, blackmailing and spurious.

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Can the meteorologist/Prime Minister distinguish spitting from rain?

Athens, 3 July 2015

Evangelos Venizelos

Can the meteorologist/Prime Minister distinguish spitting from rain?

He has led the country into an institutionally extortionate process, to an unprecedented “fast-track” referendum on an issue that is primarily fiscal, i.e. an issue which a referendum is constitutionally forbidden to be called for.

He has divided the Greek society when national unity and consensus is needed.

He tries to appear as a representative of “No”, when he could be the representative of the whole nation in the negotiations with the creditors and partners.

He has violated accepted the procedural guarantees of a genuine referendum that are accepted by the Council of Europe. He toys when he should not with the Armed Forces in tandem with his nationalist-populist associate.

He has mobilized the state mechanisms in favour of the government's point of view.

He has presented the “No” vote as a “No” to the attack of the other EU member states and the European institutions on the Democracy in Greece and in the European Union in general.

He has presented the matter as a question of national sovereignty and dignity, as if the other EU member states demonstrate a void of democracy, sovereignty and dignity that they have to fill.

He has lost every potential ally at the level of the European Council and the Eurogroup.

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