OPINION

Putting the cart before the horse

From recent statements and actions, it appears that enough important people have understood that Europe today is facing something far more serious than an economic crisis, it has to deal with a political crisis that is jeopardizing everything its peoples have achieved since World War II. The Norwegians who award the Nobel Peace Prize pointed out what is at stake when they announced the European Union?s award, noting that for over six decades it ?contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.?

Many Greeks noted bitterly that the award coincides with a merciless policy imposed by our EU partners and the International Monetary Fund, who, in exchange for lifesaving loans, demand austerity and reforms that are pushing Greek society to the limit. And while the discrediting of the political and economic establishment strengthened forces of extremism, while institutions bent under the strain, while citizens lived in fear, our creditors saw only the need to reduce debt (and repay it) and not the collapse of social cohesion. This weakness revealed that the EU had no serious rescue mechanism for a crisis that would come because of imbalances inherent in the single currency, and it also allowed a resurgence of forgotten tensions within societies and between countries. Today, an increasing number of voices note the dangers faced by societies of debtor countries and the union as a whole.

?I refuse any division,? French President Francois Hollande said in an interview with the Guardian. ?If Europe has been reunified, it?s not for it to then fall into egotism or ?each for one?s own.? Our duty is to set common rules around the principles of responsibility and solidarity.? Asked if Chancellor Angela Merkel shared these thoughts, Hollande replied: ?She knows it perfectly. That was the meaning of her trip to Athens.? European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, speaking before yesterday?s summit, said he was not happy with the progress made in dealing with the crisis. ?It is true that we have been making more efforts in terms of fiscal consolidation than on the measures for growth that were already agreed at the European Council level,? he said.

Our creditors? new understanding of the situation is encouraging for the future of Europe and Greece?s position in it. But it will not ease our pain. Because we made the mistake of putting the cart before the horse, of imposing revenue cuts before making the economy more productive and our public administration more efficient. The pain was inevitable. But it could have been less.