February 09, 2015

Open Letter to Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Greece

Dear Mr. Dijsselbloem,

The “real” Greek problem is by no means one of finding a solution to servicing the country’s sovereign debt. Undoubtedly, a number of solutions could be considered by the Eurogroup. The real problem is whether a radical left government could be entrusted to implement all those critical economic reforms necessary to transform the economy into a modern European one, able to grow and thus able to service its debt. And by reforms, as we all understand them in Europe, I refer to privatizations; smaller public sector; free markets and open professions.

The new Greek government bases its negotiating strategy onto two axes: a) that the Greek problem is not really a Greek problem but a European one; b) that time is needed to overcome the humanitarian crisis that plagues Greece now for five years.

As regards the first axis, the argument holds little water for it to be taken into further consideration: Europe will address its challenges at the right time and place, and not because a political change, in just one of its smaller member states, has taken place.

The issue of a Greek humanitarian crisis instead, for whatever reason this has ensued, is a fact, and indeed a serious problem which threatens the social cohesion of this proud nation; a nation that has given us the foundation of western culture, and a nation that rightfully belongs to our European family. For most, Europe without Greece would be unimaginable. Europe, in the spirit of its famous ‘solidarity’, needs to earnestly address this issue, and it has both the means and the knowhow to do so.

Mingling things together has rarely led to solutions. I therefore propose a clear separation of issues, such that further progress could be made in an emerging deadlock: Europe should immediately agree on a generous humanitarian assistance plan, totally independently of the discussions on servicing the Greek debt, as long as the Greek government commits to undertake all necessary “economic” reforms, as detailed above, that would enable the transformation of its economy into a modern and internationally competitive one, able to survive and grow under our common currency.

Professor HE Haralambides
Erasmus University Rotterdam 
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