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What Is Europe Without Greece?

13/07/2015 16:18 BST | Updated 12/07/2016 10:59 BST

Any structure contains within itself the very elements of its opposition. The Eurozone has encountered in Greece a concretion of this opposition, a moment when either Greece transcends and breaks through the politics of austerity or else Europe calcifies around this transgression and austere economics become even more firmly rooted. Either Syriza augments the EU's fiscal-pact or it falls. No matter what happens the structure and its opposition will remain.

The spectacle of the Euro Summit will act as a warning to other nations. Spain's Podemos may well change its behaviour to become more amenable to Europe's financial institutions after witnessing such brutal treatment of the Greek government. The only possible saviour would have been a halfway house of measures; light austerity coupled with a complete debt-restructure could have swept this Greek crisis -- which of course is a European crisis -- away, and consign it to the back of our minds. The Greek nation may well have quietly improved on the borders of Europe's empire and the gulfs could have sparkled once more for the eyes of Northern European tourists.

The failure of the Eurozone to realise its own frailty may well be the biggest challenge that it will soon have to face. Greece, by virtue of an exit from the Eurozone, would not become that distant other that is soon forgotten about. A Greek exit, a savaged nation on the periphery of a rich kingdom, given over to the prospect of poverty and fascism, is a stark reminder of an uncompromising and frigid european directive. The opposition, instead of being cast out alongside the Greek state, would bloom.

Consensus states that nobody expected the Eurozone to offer such uncompromising demands of the Greek government. The desire to take control of €50bn of Greek assets in order to effectively blackmail Greece was an imposition on state sovereignty like none other. The last time such measures were effectively introduced in Europe was after the Treaty of Versailles granted the Allied powers occupation of the Rhineland.

To bring this to the conscience of European citizens at this moment is to polarise and frame the entire European debate in such stark and unbending terms. The castigation of Greece, far from asserting popular support for the breaking of a nation will readily indicate the very weaknesses of the European Union as a whole. These weaknesses have lain dormant for many years but the multi-faceted failure of the EU allows the Greek crisis to be hammered into any shape to serve the agenda of any eurosceptic.

Eurosceptic politics has usually been associated with the right who react to the EU as a infringement on sovereignty and respective democratic parliaments. The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, in the New Statesman, writes how the left is now reacting to Europe's uncompromising neoliberalism:

In his Notes Towards a Definition of Culture, the great conservative T S Eliot remarked that there are moments when the only choice is the one between heresy and non-belief, ie, when the only way to keep a religion alive is to perform a sectarian split from its main corpse. This is our position today with regard to Europe: only a new "heresy" (represented at this moment by Syriza) can save what is worth saving in European legacy: democracy, trust in people, egalitarian solidarity.

It could be that the difference between heresy and orthodoxy is maintained and the prospect of achieving any substantial reform is consistently delayed by infinitesimal concessions. If this is the case then we can count upon a surge of euroscepticism across the board. The eurozone needs to recognise that only one side of the debate is in favour of political union.

Despite the painted picture of a patriarch disciplining a child, a teacher expelling a pupil from a classroom, no expulsion could rid European citizens of their empathy. Whether a member today or a former member tomorrow, the Greek crisis is now more salient than ever before. Greece's place in the discussion about the future of the European Union is cemented regardless of secession or compromise. To put it plainly, there is no Europe without Greece.

One thing is clear, that Alexis Tspiras must stand firm in sweeping waters and against the rising tide. Historians will often say that European man is Greek in provenance. As citizens of Europe we know that Syriza is making decisions in constrained space and time, and that they should be proud -- whatever the outcome -- that they have sought to represent a demographic that extends beyond Greece and touches the heart of Europe.