4+1 Comments on the Greek referendum

On 27 June 2015, I was interviewed by Reuters (courtesy of @dajieblack). Here is a summary of the 4+1 questions and answers.

1. What does the referendum mean for Greece and the EU?

It is still early hours since Tsipras announced the referendum so it is really difficult to second-guess the consequences both for Greece and the EU. Having said that, I believe there are two certainties. First, (stating the obvious) Greece and the EU are currently in a collision course. Second, the day after -whatever the outcome of the referendum will be- there will be huge uncertainty. If No prevails, we would be sailing into the uncharted waters of a possible bankruptcy, or even a parallel currency. But even if yes prevails, we cannot be sure what Greece would be committing herself into as the creditors have said that they might withdraw their proposal.

2. Do you think that the Greek referendum will trigger more referendums in Europe?

First, let us remind ourselves that referendums are way more common than conventional wisdom might suggest. For instance, there have been referendums in a number of candidate/acceding states (UK, Norway, Croatia to name but a few) there have been referendums for the ratification of EU Treaties (common practice in Ireland), referendums for the ratification of the EU constitution, referendums for joining the Eurozone (Sweden for example). This referendum, however, might mark the beginning of a series of referendums that would trigger the changing of the existing conditions of membership for a number of EU Member States. This period might start with the Greek referendum and will continue with the Brexit referendum in 2016. Whenever this period ends the EU will be definitely a very different place.

3. What do you think of Tsipras' move?

There are those who suggest that there is a certain 'method in the madness' and that Tsipras has orchestrated the sleepwalking of Greece out of Eurozone and possibly out of the EU. I do not agree with this view. I believe that Tsipras hopes that a resounding No will convince the creditors to offer a better deal to Greece, in the same way that the Irish No to the Treaty of Nice had triggered a better deal for them. This could have been the case if the referendum was called 2 or 3 years ago. At the moment it seems a very risky move that underestimates the frustration of the creditors who seem willing to 'call the bluff' (yet again).

4. In light of the referendum, how does the EU motto 'ever closer union' sound?

In light of the current state of affairs, the motto sounds like a joke. But if we distance ourselves from the buzz of the day, we would realise that the history of the European integration has been a history of crises. From the 'empty chair crisis' to the rejection of the EU constitution to the current debacle, the EU has moved from crisis to crisis. Still, it has managed to safeguard the trajectory of an 'ever closer union'. And I think that this will remain the case even after this crisis - Europe will continue its path towards an 'ever closer union'. I am not quite sure, however, which States will participate to that.

+1. According to one of the most famous mantra-like sayings of the Greek political jargon 'there are no deadlocks in democracy' [στη δημοκρατία δεν υπάρχουν αδιέξοδα]. And this is true if one takes into account that any democratic political system provides for mechanisms for the lifting of deadlocks. And such mechanisms include elections and referendums. To this extent, the current referendum could be seen as a way to lift such deadlock. However, one has also to underline that although there might be no deadlocks in a democracy, every political decision has consequences. And the problem in this referendum is that there does not seem to exist an option where the consequences are not heavy/difficult/risky. During this week, the Greek political community will find itself between a rock and a hard place, between Scylla and Charybdis.