The euro crisis has taken a most sinister turn and is not being reported properly.
Since the Papandreou governnment was elected in the autumn of 2009 it has enacted a succession of ever more draconian austerity plans decided for it by the German and French governments and by the European Central Bank and the European Commission. The Greek people have never been consulted about these plans, which have caused the economy to collapse and living standards to decline. The government of Greece has never been involved in deciding these plans, which have been agreed in negotiations between the French and German governments and the central European institutions in which the Greek government has been barely involved. The Greek government’s only role has been to put these plans into effect after being told what they are, which is what up to now it has loyally attempted to do.
Not surprisingly the authority of the Greek government as a result has collapsed. Papandreou has come to be seen by many people in Greece not as the democratically elected Prime Minister of Greece but as the errand boy of Germany and France and of the European Union. That perception is actually correct because up to a few days ago that is precisely what he was. A Greek MP complained bitterly but quite accurately to the BBC’s Newsnight programme that the true Prime Minister of Greece is not George Papandreou but Angela Merkel.
Faced with this crisis of legitimacy and authority Papandreou as Prime Minister took the entirely appropriate step in a democracy of announcing a referendum on the latest bailout and austerity plan. This would for the first time have given the Greek people a say in the decisions that are being made about them. In what is supposed to be a democracy that is no more than their right.
The Greek people are being denied this right. From the moment the referendum plan was announced the French and German governments and the central European institutions working together with senior politicians in Greece have acted to reduce it to nought. Not only has the referendum been called off but there is also pressure to prevent elections from being held until after the austerity and bailout plan is approved. Instead the French and German governments and the central European institutions have been leaning hard on Greek opposition parties to agree with what is left of the government a new government “of national unity”. Its sole purpose, whether it is headed by Papandreou or not, will be to force upon Greece the latest bailout and austerity plan without the Greek people being consulted about it and before any new elections can take place.
If the European Union collapses as a result of this crisis this will be the moment when that collapse begins. The European Union is supposed to be a union of democracies yet faced by the greatest crisis in its history its response is to impose its decisions by arranging the removal of the government that is supposed to be accountable to the people affected by those decisions whilst denying those same people a say. Moreover it seems that Greece is only the start. Steps are apparently already underway to engineer through the Italian Presidency the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Italy so that it can be replaced with a new government that is more amenable to the wishes of the French and German governments and to those of the central European institutions.
Acting in a democracy to deny the people the right to a say in the way they are governed amounts to a coup d’etat. This is so regardless of whether this coup is carried out legally or not. The political crisis in Germany in the early 1930s was precipitated by the perfectly legal and constitutional step of forming technocratic governments that had not been elected and which were not accountable to the German parliament the Reichstag, which sought to use Presidential powers to impose by decree austerity measures the German people had not voted for. The result was a crisis of legitimacy that ended in dictatorship.
I do not think that this time things will go this far but no one should be under any illusions about the momentous nature of the events that are now starting to unfold. Europe is on the brink and its crisis has just stopped being only economic.