The lesser of two evils for the Greek people

Nothing Greece does to solve its own problems can solve the bigger problem of the democratic deficit facing Europe.

Anti-EU - Greece
Demonstrators destroy a European flag during a rally by supporters of the 'no' vote in the Greek referendum [AP]

The crisis in Greece is only the symptom of a larger problem in Europe. The incessant and uncompromising ambition by Euro-Federalists to attain “ever closer union” will continue to erode democracy across the continent.

Until systemic changes are made to the European Union as a whole, nothing that Greece will do to solve its own economic problems can solve the bigger problem of the democratic deficit facing Europe. 

The current crisis in Greece started in 2001 when the country got rid of the drachma and adopted the euro as its currency. Greece was not ready to join the eurozone. Many economists knew this. Many Greeks knew this. And many in Brussels knew this.

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The hubris of those wanting to establish a European super-state triumphed over reality. Diehard European integrationists went full steam ahead and invited Athens to join the euro anyway. 

‘Fault in execution’

Former EU Commission president, and architect of the single currency, Jacques Delors said in a 2011 interview that the current eurozone crisis stems from “a fault in execution” by the political leaders who oversaw the introduction of the euro in its early days.

He suggested that European leaders at the time chose to turn a blind eye to the fundamental weaknesses and imbalances of member states’ economies and that “the finance ministers did not want to see anything disagreeable which they would be forced to deal with”.

Europe’s overall economic freedom is seriously undermined by the excessive government spending required to support an elaborate welfare state.

Europe’s overall economic freedom is seriously undermined by the excessive government spending required to support an elaborate welfare state.


Economic policies being pursued by many eurozone countries, especially in southern Europe, are hindering productivity, growth, and job creation, causing economic stagnation, and rapidly increasing levels of public debt.

In addition to economic reforms, the EU desperately needs political reform. An organisation that started narrowly focused on the coal and steel industry in the 1950s has now morphed into a supranational organisation touching almost every aspect of life in every EU member country. 

Over the years, economic and political power in Europe has been incrementally shifted to Brussels – away from the national capitals. The key decision-making bodies in the EU are largely unelected, and largely unaccountable to the national governments.

Political instability

For many, deeper European economic and political integration has become a secular religion that serves only the interest of a small group of political elites at the expense of others. Bureaucrats in Brussels have had a taste of power and now do not want to relinquish it.

Repeated referendums on EU treaties are ignored. The jurisdiction of national courts is often overruled. The sovereignty of national parliaments has eroded. Consequently, the EU has transformed into an organisation that regards basic Western values of liberty, economic freedom, and self-determination as roadblocks to an eventual United States of Europe.

In responding to the eurozone crisis, the actions taken by the EU have led to political and economic instability in a way that has not been seen for decades across Europe. Secessionist movements are increasing across the continent. Extreme fascist and communist political parties are doing well in elections -i n some cases even governing. 

Considering the current decrepit economic state of southern Europe and the resulting political fallout, it is laughable now to think that the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 for “the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.

Far from creating tranquillity, peace, and prosperity, the EU has created instability, disenchantment, and contempt across much of Europe. Just look at Greece.

Return to the drachma  

At a time in our history when the forces of globalisation, social media, and the internet are empowering the individual, the institutions of the EU are trying to centralise more power than ever before. This goes against the natural state of affairs of modern and liberal democracies in the 21st century. Power must be able to flow back to member states and to the people of Europe – not be centralised in Brussels

Alexis Tsipras urged Greeks to reject an international bailout deal [Reuters]
Alexis Tsipras urged Greeks to reject an international bailout deal [Reuters]

Will there be an end to the misery or will it be misery without end? Europe needs to return to the fundamental basics of democracy. Power needs to be brought back to the member states and to the people. Economic policies of growth need to be pursued.

The intrusive and excessive EU regulations need to be curtailed. The wasteful spending in Brussels needs to end. The excessive borrowing and entitlement programmes need to stop. Until this happens, the people of Europe will pay dearly for the incompetence of Brussels.

There is no easy choice for the Greek people. However, regaining monetary sovereignty must be considered the lesser of two evils. Maybe a return to the drachma will not solve all of Greece’s problems overnight but it couldn’t make the situation much worse.

Outside the eurozone, at least Greece will have a chance to recover by devaluing its currency and pricing its way into the global market. One thing is certain: As long as Greece holds on to the euro, its economic crisis will continue.

Luke Coffey is a research fellow specialising in transatlantic and Eurasian security at a Washington DC based think-tank. He previously served as a special adviser to the British defence secretary and was a commissioned officer in the United States army.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.