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The Greek events reflecting the crisis of European integration

July 13th, 2015

In their weekend analyses, written before Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras submitted his new proposals to the European Union, commentators discussed the possible outcomes of the negotiations and whether Europe’s response should be to move towards a federal state or looser integration.

In Figyelő, Zoltán Gyévai suggests that after a Greek exit (Grexit), the European Union would never be the same again. Confidence in the Euro would be profoundly shaken. He thinks the best possible solution would be to offer a third aid package to Greece in exchange for a credible reform programme.< The business weekly hosts a guest commentary by economist Zoltán Pogátsa, a convinced supporter of the anti-austerity policies represented by the Greek government, who argues that Greece has been financially ruined by the European Union. In fact, he explains, the European Central Bank has refused to accept Greek government bonds as collateral from Greek banks, while similar operations helped prop up Spanish and Portuguese banks. The European Union thus plunged a member state into bankruptcy just because it elected an anti-austerity government, Pogácsa fumes. In his editorial in Demokrata, András Bencsik suggests that the controversy over Greece reflects the failure of the technocratic European project. The original idea was a community of equal and sovereign countries, but those lofty ideals have been reduced to narrow juridical and financial technicalities, which have made it impossible to reconcile the differences in national characters. It is not Greece that is in trouble, Bencsik says, but the idea of a European ‘mini America’, which set out to create a ’brainless mixed civilisation’.

In 168 óra, Zoltán Lakner fears that if the leading European statesmen intended to react to the Greek crisis by stepping up the process of European integration, they may end up by creating a more integrated but far narrower circle of a few advanced countries. The Greek problem reflects a deep lack of confidence among the partners, which is itself the consequence of utterly disparate social and economic realities. If closer unity doesn’t seem to be a viable option while no alternative solutions are on the table, Lakner fears that the common rules of the union will be less and less respected. He thinks such a scenario will favour what he calls Prime Minister Orbán’s “unlimited personal power ambitions.” It is in this sense that he complains that the Greek referendum “was won by Mr Orbán.”

In its regular weekly editorial, Magyar Narancs thinks the European Union should stop funding Greece rather than yield to blackmail. The liberal weekly believes that the Greek Prime Minister is acting in bad faith when he demands more solidarity towards his country. The proof is that he visited Russian President Vladimir Putin too often during his negotiations with Brussels. The European Union would lose its credibility by transferring further financial aid to Greece and the loss of credibility would be more dangerous for Europe than letting Greece leave the Eurozone, Magyar Narancs believes.

In Élet és Irodalom, political analyst Péter Krekó writes that right and left wing radical Eurosceptic forces are not the only ones who want to see a weakened European Union as a result of the crisis. President Putin of Russia entertains spectacularly good relations with the Greek Prime Minister and regularly expresses his readiness to assist Greece if needed. Although Russia can hardly afford to be overgenerous towards Greece, Putin might well invest a certain amount in order to divide the European Union. For the moment, the Greek government has always voted for the sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its military operations in Ukraine, but Krekó finds it telling that in the European Parliament Siriza’s MEPs systematically voted against resolutions which condemned Russia for using force in its international relations, including the annexation of the Crimea.

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