OPINION

Toward a superstate

Greece’s failure to cope with issues that had so far been the exclusive prerogative of modern states has made our country a testing ground for the creation of a new superstate, one that will supercede the nation states that developed over the past two centuries. For years now, political scientists predicted that states would develop into larger entities in which member-states would join forces and the resulting union would undertake many obligations of single states. Greece’s sudden economic collapse, though, forced its European Union partners to put the theory aside and face the very real dilemma of whether they would allow Greece to sink (with all that this would entail for other economies and the EU’s common currency, the euro) or whether they would rescue Greece and the common political and economic project of a united Europe. Choosing the second path, they began to change Europe and themselves. Several countries did not want to get involved in Greece’s rescue until they were persuaded that it would be more dangerous to do nothing. Along with the joint rescue fund put together by the EU and the International Monetary Fund, however, come unprecedented, strict oversight measures that will intrude on every national economy. On Wednesday, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, Olli Rehn, will present proposals that will include stiff fines for eurozone members that do not keep their debts under control. These are the most invasive measures proposed since the common currency was adopted. The stricter monetary rules benefit some countries – like Germany – and drag down others. In this way, some member states acquire greater power than others and Europe resembles an empire which has still not fully assimilated all the different ethnic groups within its borders. Greece is perhaps the weakest of all EU member states. It not only faces the economic problems which brought on the unprecedented intervention of its EU partners and the IMF; for years it has proved incapable of abiding by EU regulations that concern the quality of life of its own citizens. Greece is permanently behind its partners in the adoption of EU directives and is regularly sent to the European Court of Justice for its terrible handling of garbage and other environmental and social issues. Today, Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom is due in Athens to discuss our treatment of immigrants and to press for reforms to a woefully inadequate political asylum policy. We are not alone, however: The Commission is also preparing legal action against France for Paris’s policy of repatriating Roma to other EU states. As long as such social problems continue to worsen (provoking, as they do, the rise of xenophobic political forces), the EU will be obliged to intervene more and more in issues that, until now, were the responsibility of national governments. In Greece, the state’s chronic incompetence brought about economic collapse and many other problems. The bureaucracy is incapable of governing, tax collectors cannot collect taxes, laws are not kept and the people pay exorbitant prices for pathetic public services. Most citizens are furious and frightened, because they feel that the state does not protect them. The chief reason for this is that the political parties act not as if they are the temporary caretakers of state power granted by the electorate but rather as if they are little emperors who dole out favors and offices as they like; their officers and employees, whom they appoint, owe their power and their allegiance to the party/emperor, not to the unnamed and powerless people. And so, the country sinks into navel-gazing, into consuming without producing – into squandering whatever it has. This primitive form of a state cannot cope with the demands of our age. Instead of changing ourselves, though, we managed to start changing the world around us.