OPINION

Commentary

The death certificate of the drachma on December 31 is being greeted with relief by a political leadership which for years has demonstrated its inability to manage the country’s finances. Those in power have failed to notice that the drachma is in no way responsible for the deficits, corruption and tangled interests which are inherent in the Greek administration and economy. This does not mean the euro will not bring some significant benefits, but these will demand better behavior both from the state and from Greek entrepreneurs, who frequently have shown themselves to be as tragically inept as the State. The country’s political class clearly sees its role enhanced by the euro’s introduction, and naturally enough it will seek to overcome any feelings of inferiority in joining the most developed club in Europe, from which some other countries are absent without losing prestige; highly developed countries such as Sweden and Denmark, and the special case of Britain. Nobody questions the usefulness of a small country like Greece with special geopolitical and other problems joining the eurozone, just as it would have been absurd in the past to question the country’s accession to NATO or the EU. Still, participating in international organizations inevitably leads to concessions of sovereign powers in the service of common interests. The introduction of the euro and abolition of the national currency terminate the government’s ability to intervene in economic policy so as to enhance certain aspects of the national economy, or to take certain measures to relieve social tensions with economic origins. This means that the euro will have a positive effect on the Greek economy, but it will also leave the government without control of fiscal mechanisms to deal with crises. The government will obviously need greater ability to deal with problems now with the euro than it did with the drachma. Something similar occurred with Greece’s accession to NATO, which saved the country from the expansionist policies of the communist bloc and stabilized it within the Western framework, but did not protect it from Turkey, as Andreas Papandreou attempted to do in 1981. But those who criticized NATO for its inability to intervene in Turkey did not consider that if the two countries did not belong to the same powerful alliance, then war between them would have been unavoidable. Some believe the introduction of the euro will act as a catalyst, speeding up political union in Europe; but it is too early for such assertions. In an EU that is not politically united, the common currency will be judged in the global marketplace, where the dollar dominates oil and equipment transactions and the US has clear primacy in new technologies.