Both Greece and its fellow euro-zone member countries must decide whether to bet on a future of shared sacrifice and common rules. Europe's post-War dream of a union to avoid the continent's history of warfare is facing its gravest risk
Nations are forged in times of misfortune. The European Union will take the great leap into federalism or will shrink until it collapses because for fear of falling into the abyss.
Everyone is aware that the attitude toward the Greek crisis (barely 3% of the euro zone GDP) is not an economic test but a historic one. What's at stake is the state of mind that will lead the continuation of the European construction: the one of solidarity among nations, or mistrust among peoples.
This mistrust stands to reason. How can we be surprised that countries that face challenges hesitate to stand up for one another? How can we not ask ourselves if Greece deserves Europe's help, or if it deserves exactly what's happening right now?
The incomprehension that persists between the north and south of Europe isn't just about prejudice. This misunderstanding goes back a long way, between countries that have trust in their State, and even make sacrifices to maintain it, and a country like Greece, where the people have mistrusted taxes or any administrative supervision since the days of the Ottoman colonization.
On that point at least, the Greeks have to choose. Greece will stay in a European system if it truly decides to turn its back on this traditional mistrust of the state, and decides instead to accept the principle that paying taxes is a citizen's duty rather than an act of submission.
Still, it remains to be seen that the recovery policy the Greek government offers doesn't come off as more ideological than pragmatic.
How do you convince citizens to make this effort if they feel the most underprivileged people and the public services are the ones paying for the crisis? Why did the government wait so long before trying to tackle the no-tax policy for ship-owners or the huge defense budget? The tax will be valued, as a citizen's duty, only if it implies that the civil servants pay as well as the ships and canon merchants. And if the tax system is well-proportioned. It's only when this "pact" is forged that the Greeks will start to truly recover from the worst.
Time is short
It's a long process. Deciding whether or not to continue helping Greece can't wait much longer. But it is a bet that must be done with no certainty about the outcome, and the chance that some debts may not be repaid.
The question is not whether the Greeks deserve this help or not. It is all about knowing if we want to stand firm against the speculative attacks on the euro zone; and about knowing if it's in our best interest to all move forward towards a more federal and united Europe, or if it's better to turn back to the past.
Moving forward, toward a more federal economic policy, implies that we limit the States' sovereignty. If this is not immediately compensated for with a treaty that gives back some power to the people and to their representatives, meaning the European Parliament, the bet on "solidarity" will feed a cycle of mistrust between European citizens and the Union.
We might as well say that this will show that those who bet on a Europe going backwards are right: it will be "every man for himself". This time, Europe would certainly be heading for the worst, and not only from an economic point of view. Indeed, after Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal will come…they all have their faults…as we all do.
What will Europe look like if all it does is stay busy assigning responsibility to others for what is happening? Well, it will look like a continent that forgot that it used to actively dream about a "Union" that could erase the hatred of history, and prevent future wars. To chase that dream means driving onward, but not without a foot near the brake and two hands on the steering wheel.
Read the original story in French
Photo - YoungJ523