A catalyst for change

In politics you have the partisans and players with “special” weight and power. The coalition government formed by SYRIZA and Independent Greeks belongs in the former category. In the last four months the administration has been trying to reach an initial agreement with the institutions and the Eurogroup – in other words, with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble – before Greece expires in intensive care due to a lack of liquidity.

As far as the government’s strategy of guerrilla warfare is concerned, a story on Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis in the New York Times, where is reported to have taped the Eurogroup meeting in Riga – perhaps not the only one – should not have come as a surprise to all those involved. While we await possible reactions, surely Varoufakis is fully prepared to respond to critics with creative ambiguity.

Undoubtedly Britain is one of the “special weight and power” countries. The country is not part of the eurozone and was self-exempt from a series of Maastricht Treaty measures. From this perspective, Schaeuble’s comments in the Wall Street Journal regarding the kind of changes to the existing European framework that re-elected British Prime Minister David Cameron is promoting in order to defend Britain’s European Union membership in a referendum – which could be brought forward to 2016 – are particularly interesting.

Essentially Cameron wants is for EU countries, and Britain in particular, to reclaim the sovereign rights that were signed over to Brussels, such as migration control through changes to the welfare benefits system and the right of EU parliaments to veto European Commission legislative proposals, as well as lifting Britain’s pledge to follow a path toward greater European unification.

Relaxing EU rules is not something Schaeuble is particularly concerned about because it could serve as a means of achieving tighter central control of the eurozone. “Maybe there is a chance to combine both goals,” the German minister told the US daily.

Naturally, there are institutional hurdles as negotiations for rewriting the treaties underpinning the EU might not be concluded by 2017, though, according to Schaeuble, “there is a big margin of maneuver,” possibly “through agreements that would later be incorporated into Treaty changes.” While agreements and rules exist to be broken, the question is who would stand to benefit from this. This, however, is something that political partisans should always keep in mind.

As far as Schaeuble is concerned, the German minister deplores the fact the France’s parliamentary system prevents the country from moving on with reforms but clearly he has not forgotten that twice during the course of the 20th century Britain smashed Germany’s illusions of supremacy. Europe will change but the catalyst is bound to be Britain.

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