Thursday, September 13, 2012

Should Greece look for alternative (and perhaps better) friends?

I had an interesting exchange with one of my readers. The discussion was about the question to what extent Greece was really up to EU-standards in terms of public administration, etc. My point was that Greece had a lot of catching-up to do as regards EU-standards and that it should receive special help and aid (i. e. "special favors") from the EU to accomplish that.

In taking a different view, my reader pointed out some alternatives which would be available to Greece if it were not a member of the EU. I must say that that was interesting reading. Obviously, a parting of ways between Greece and the EU would have a tremendous impact on both sides. However, perhaps there are indeed alternative affiliations open to Greece which would be better to the country than the present affiliation with the EU. Below is the reader's comment.

Greece has the same privileges as any other EU member, so it should have the same obligations as any other EU member. If it can't live up to those expectations then it should exit the EU.

If it did then it would enjoy the benefits of being an un(der)-developed country. It could call on agencies like the UNDP and World Bank for advice & loans. It could get third-world development aid from the EU. It could join NAM, Jim O'Neill could put in one of his acronyms.

But most of all it could get aid from EU member states, most (all ?) of which channel the bulk of their foreign aid via their own or UN institutions rather than the EU. The EU as an institution has no record of being a major development agency. It's barely been able administer Kosovo, so why should we expect it to solve the problems of Greece.

The history of Estonia is not so different from Greece, in terms of foreign masters etc - although it never had an Empire, so it never ruled any foreign countries like Greece has. Estonia became free of its most recent occupier about 20 years ago, whereas Greece got rid of its Ottoman masters almost 200 years ago. If Estonians can pick themselves up by their bootstraps, why can't the Greeks - maybe history has something to do with it.

I do believe the Greeks had quite a bit to do with the Byzantine Empire, the fact the the Patriarch of Constantinople is the nearest thing the Greek Orthodox Church has to a Pope is a testament to that. And the Roman Empire (as opposed to the Roman Republic) was in the eastern region at least as much a Greek affair as it was Roman. No other colony ever had such a major influence on its colonisers as the Greeks did on the Romans. After 620AD Greek was the official language of the Byzantine Empire.

Gibbon on the Byzantine Empire - "the Byzantine Empire was vitiated by a bureaucratic over-elaboration bordering on lunacy: quadruple banked agencies, dozens or even scores of superfluous levels and officials with high flown titles unrelated to their actual function, if any. Access to the Emperor and his council was controlled by powerful and inscrutable eunuchs and by rival sports factions."

What we see in modern day Greece is more of the same.

Whilst ever the Greek Elites and Hellenophiles see the EU as part of the solution and not as part of the problem, then I believe Greece is doomed to becoming the first failed state from the first world.

If Greece was relegated to the European Customs Union, it would enjoy the benefits of being a most favoured country with respect to trade, but it would not be constricted by EU Treaties and rules - nor would the EU or its member states be restricted in terms of giving it aid and assistance - they could even forgive Greece some of its OSI debt. They could help it set up SEZ's - but it would not have access to the ECB alphabet soup bowl.

Any more thoughts on that?


  1. You can live inside or outside the EU, but ultimately the issue is that as long as in the EU each state has sovereignty, "what is the plan"? If the plan is "continue to function in a byzantine way", then inside or outside makes little difference; if anything maybe the EU institutions could have a say in correcting some of the lunacies(though this has not worked for 30 years, and certainly is not working with the troika, why would it work from now on? This is like accepting that one is mentally challenged and unable to function, in which case you cannot demand freedom and a standard of living). If the plan is "become an efficient, well-run state", then again this can be done either inside or outside the EU. There are (insane) things that the EU forces its member states which are a hindrance to being well-run and efficient(namely various "do as we say, but you are responsible for the outcome", e.g. in terms of defence, immigration etc), but also opportunities because you have a larger market.
    In my view the only issue is finding the people to run it and getting them to power. Yes, there are things a well-run state would want to do and for which the EU is a hindrance, but by for the vast majority of the issues, the EU does not interfere, i.e. you can create an efficient state in 99% of the cases and probably find a way around the remaining 1%, perhaps not fully compliant with EU rules, but at that point you decide. So in my view this is not a major issue:
    If I have fixed the 99% that I can fix within the EU and the remaining 1% is important and I cannot do it within the EU, I exit. But before fixing the 99%, it makes no sense to ask this question.


  2. The answer is given to offer, what asked.

    Impeccable, incredible, unmistakable perfect citizens of a perfect society, which are who Klaus?
    You are Austrian, I am Greek.
    From which country come from evaluate and showing off real zest and caring but only mention as the center of all the problems --- Greece?
    A fake self-exceptionalism defines all these but assesses reality with a selective perception.
    It’s very kind hearted to be given a role and rank in Greece and  attaching alternatives.
    You do accept those alternatives Klaus as rational. Right?
    When people approach the idea of a common Europe deal with a number of problems not related only with economy. The progress made in each and every country depended also from geography, good representations, efforts, analytical appreciation and planing for a better and more productive future.
    This course was not linear, there were obstacles internal and external in each case.
    Describing a model -as a possible alternative-which main idea is a kind of seclusion, commission or relegation, is a viable policy, to retain a sum of different countries united, under a common currency, if still a target?
    Its not only Greece, its Italy, Spain, Portugal and tomorrow maybe France, even if Greece is special case. All these countries do have a different level of understanding obligations and many reforms implemented from years before compared to Greece, but they do have the same kind of problems.
    People in Greece although in difficult position vote in favor of Europe's way of acting and the continuation of effort already made, even if protesting. But it is quite clear for many what to change specifically.
    Greece may I add was liberated and because many foreigners fight against Ottomans (Navarino etc ). They do it intentionally; it is great to have friends who help you offering everything.
    Byzantines were diplomats .

    PS 1 : It's totally different to say that many need to change from zero and quite different to categorize. Even Germany need time in 2000 to force lighter reforms near to those made for several years.
    Almost all my posts in this blog written to criticize -heavily I think- the mistakes, wrong mentality and people responsibilities-obligations never taken into consideration in Greece. But I think I do it objectively without in most cases insulting people, different countries, and mainly without an empathy addressed to one and common burden- Greece.
    Public administration is a real problem to Greece like many other. Probably when all we do understand that changes will benefit us, with or without TQM in public management, as part of a maturing process of reforms, then reality would be better. But grudge does not exist to a large extend.
    PS 2: Truly Klaus I was surprised. These scattered notes, are incoherent, full of biased beliefs and comparisons only to challenge about some irrelevant facts.
    I do believed in your rational arguments and good disposition. However, maybe I was mistaken about disposition.