These troubled days justify Prime Minister George Papandreou?s statement on Monday that ?this is the most crucial week for Europe and Greece, and the decisions that will be taken will decide the fate of the eurozone.? In Greece we are dealing with the peak of all the dysfunction of the past decades, trapped between garbage and disorder, hoping that something will change for the better but fearing the worst. And yet, on Monday the spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that next Sunday?s EU summit will not provide a complete fix to Europe?s debt crisis.
In Europe, governments are looking for ways to shore up their banks and to protect the euro, while facing intense pressure from opposition parties and their citizens? anger. Therefore, the European lenders are so hesitant in their decision-making that events overtake them. On July 21 they declared they would do all that was necessary to support Greece and the euro, and that they would forge a closer economic union, but the markets weren?t convinced. And so, after Greece, Ireland and Portugal, Italy and Spain came under attack by the ratings agencies and the markets. In three months, the dangers faced by Europe have become much greater and the fear of recession is hovering over the whole world. And again the Europeans are dithering.
Nearly one month ago, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made the dramatic declaration that ?cascading default, bank runs and catastrophic risk? lie ahead for the world economy unless Europe resolves its debt crisis. Things have grown worse since then. Even though everyone realizes that Europe?s problem is bigger than Greece, the public debate continues to focus on Greece and on how slow reforms are here. With this logic, the garbage in the streets of Athens, and the vote of every PASOK deputy, holds not only Greece but Europe and the world hostage as well.
If the Europeans decide at a political level what they want, they will be able to make clear once and for all that Europe is not there for the taking. In this way, the EU would be able to set a precise framework for Greece?s rescue, with the demands for reforms (which we know) and the final vision of a new Greece in a new Europe (which we don?t know).
These days, Greece?s traumatized society is living the ritualized end of an era. If our European partners do not see this as something natural and temporary, if they continue to hide behind the Greek uncertainty, they will be placing their own fears for the future ahead of Europe?s future.