THE BLOG
15/09/2015 07:37 BST | Updated 14/09/2016 06:12 BST

Time for the EU to Embrace Change

The last few decades have been defined by change. Social, economic and political reform has transformed the world. Communism has transitioned to delicate democracy, globalisation has become a powerful force and countries like China, Nigeria and India are emblematic of rapid 21st Century development. It often feels like EU attitudes have remained the same throughout. The most iconic figure of this staunch approach is Angela Merkel, indefatigable in her stony approach to politics and economics.

The EU's slow, bureaucratic reputation is not unfounded, and it has been exemplified by their stale attitude towards Greece. Every bailout has insisted upon bouts of painful austerity. The justifications for cutting public spending and squeezing Greek wages five years on appears to boil down to little more than dogmatic German economic ideology. Whilst debt relief may be a politically unprecedented move within the relatively wealthy EU, Greece is suffering. Over half of young people are officially unemployed and 800,000 Greeks are unable to access healthcare; not figures you would associate with the supposedly developed European countries. Debt relief it is a proven economic policy, and writing off some of Greece's crippling public debt could and should be highly beneficial.

Plenty of economists have come forwards to argue that debt relief is the way forwards. Even the IMF has joined the commentators, arguing that Greece's current rate of debt is unsustainable. At over 180% of GDP, it seems unlikely it'll ever be reduced enough with austerity alone. The political stability brought about by the EU is an impressive achievement, but should not come at the cost of economic prosperity. Germany's convictions may be the same, but the rest of the EU is changing, and will other countries accept the German way for much longer? Reports suggest that Merkel is on her way out; Germany and France may have enjoyed their time as kings of Europe, but a shake-up is well overdue.

It is not just Greece who would benefit from the the EU embracing reform. For the UK, a shift in attitude for EU policymakers would also mean a significant boost for our future in the EU. Some of our biggest grievances come from pointless EU laws and directives that hamper small businesses. The recent migrant crisis has once again raised the need for treaty reform. As countries are overwhelmed with a surge of asylum seekers and migrants, the leaders of the EU don't seem to have a clue about finding an effective strategy to manage it.

Whether the euro is a viable, long-term union still remains questionable. But if it is going to prosper, the EU needs to re-evaluate its approach. Its attitude to Greece has punished them for long enough; they may have been chronic tax evaders, but the blame does not lie with them alone. The EU accepted them in the name of political stability, and continual punishment puts that very stability at risk.

It is time for the EU to be brave. Greek tensions may be simmering under the surface for now, but the EU should pursue a policy of debt relief and take decisive action before the Greeks once again teeter too close to a Grexit. It's in everybody's best interests for the EU to be strong, and further prolonging Greek suffering is not conducive to a happy union.