The Blog

The Eurogroup's Treatment of Greece Vindicates the Eurosceptic Right

With the passage of the first round of reforms by the Greek Parliament, it would appear from the outset that the Eurogroup's proposals for Greece will become a reality in return for the next round of bailouts...

With the passage of the first round of reforms by the Greek Parliament, it would appear from the outset that the Eurogroup's proposals for Greece will become a reality in return for the next round of bailouts. The proposals themselves, and the actions of Tsipras, seem to have finally awoken the Left in Europe to the threat to democracy that is the EU today. Such a threat is, however, nothing new to Eurosceptics, who appear finally to have been proven right as to the EU's attitude to democracy.

The new threat to democracy comes in the first instance from the shadowy Eurogroup, which has dictated terms to Greece that are far harsher than the terms which were decisively rejected by the Greek people in the referendum. Moreover, they represent the destruction of the very idea of democracy. The requirement by SYRIZA to repeal much of their previous reforms, arguably representing an attempt to de facto reverse the democratic choice of the Greek people to reject the status quo which had been represented by New Democracy is in fact the least of our worries. What is far more worrisome is the ability of international creditors to author and veto legislation, which surely represents nothing less than the destruction of the possibility of real democracy - with legislation written and passed by those elected to do so - in the future.

This contempt for democracy is, however, absolutely nothing new to those that have been sceptical of the EU from the outset. The agenda of "ever closer union" has systematically been imposed on the electorates of Europe with as little direct input from the electorate themselves as possible, and when such input has been sought, and produced the 'wrong' result, it has been ignored. However, even when we consider the sidestepping of the 2005 referenda in France and Denmark on the European Constitution by making the minimum required changes - such as the death of the Supremacy clause - in creating the Lisbon Treaty, to the more naked anti-democracy of the forcing of a second referendum in Ireland on the Lisbon Treaty until the 'right' result is achieved, the destruction of the very possibility of input from the electorate - even via the ballot box - represents a new low for the EU's anti-democracy, though we must ask ourselves whether we should really be surprised given the gradual descent into anti-democratic nakedness represented by the former two examples.

Furthermore, the very existence of the Eurogroup only shows the anti-democratic future of the Eurozone. This has perhaps been best expressed by Yanis Varoufakis himself, when he observed that decisions of life and death in the Eurozone are made by a group which does not exist in law, with no minutes, transparency or accountability. Anyone who believes in democracy should be concerned by this, and elaboration on why an unaccountable body with no legitimacy whatsoever should not have the power to dictate terms to an elected government in the first instance - even ignoring that said terms involve a massive transfer of power away from Parliamentary democracy - should not be necessary.

However, Alexis Tsipras himself is far from beyond reproach. Having cast the referendum result, which decisively rejected the original bailout terms which were far less harsh, as a mandate to seek a better outcome, it should be undeniable that he has failed completely in this regard by surrendering Greece's very sovereignty to unelected creditors, and implementing an even harsher package of measures in the first instance. It is true in a literal sense, of course, that he did come back with new terms and has perhaps prevented the transfer of Greek property abroad as the statement from his Office asserts (only time will tell), but quite how the price paid for doing so can be ignored in an attempt to put a positive spin on the terms is an enigma. Indeed, Tsipras's return with harsher terms when presented with a mandate for the opposite seems as dishonest as the betrayal by the tyrant Temures of the surrendering garrison of Sebastia: upon promising that no blood would be shed, he proceeded to bury them alive.

Perhaps the one positive to come out of this blatant display of anti-democracy, ably assisted by Tsipras's attitude of staying in the Euro at any price, is the awakening of the Left to the problems of democracy in the EU which they seemed content to ignore until now. From protests outside the Greek Parliament, to demonstrations in Germany against the perceived neo-imperialism of the affair, it appears to finally be dawning on the European Left that Tony Benn had a point when he repeatedly accused the EU of being fundamentally anti-democratic. Pity, then, that the trigger appears to have been the further realisation that the agenda being set over the heads of national electorates is one which leaves them with no future, a self-interest which surely justifies some level of suspicion by the Eurosceptic Right of the newfound converts of the Left.

As a Right Eurosceptic myself, such a realisation from sections of the Left is not necessarily a cause for celebration; in the first instance I must ask (as Brendan O'Neill has done) where the supposedly democratic Left was when the EU displayed its contempt for national democracy in the past. The answer appears to be as O'Neill himself asserts: on the side of the Eurocracy that portrayed Euroscepticism as irrational and even racist, all the while appearing to hope that the grand designs of Euro-federalists like Van Rompuy of creating (or manufacturing and then imposing, in practice) a new 'European identity' would come to fruition.

Much like those who carried the Oxford Union's infamous motion against fighting for King and Country more than 75 years ago, many of whom ended up doing exactly that, such new Left Eurosceptics have realised too late what the Eurosceptic Right have known for over a decade: that utopian dreams of a Europe (or world) without borders are just that - dreams - and the practical result will instead be the death of democracy as we know it.