The Great Debate UK

Capitalism and democracy under threat from euro zone crisis

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By Laurence Copeland. The author is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.

It takes quite a lot to make me feel sorry for politicians, especially the European variety, but I must say that Nicholas Sarkozy and particularly Angela Merkel have a right to be livid at the news that the Greek government now proposes to hold a referendum on whether they will agree to be given another gigantic dollop of aid. Having only reached agreement (of a very vague kind) at last week’s summit in the early hours of the morning, you can imagine how the French and German leaders must have felt when they discovered that their marathon negotiating sessions may all have been in vain. It seems the Greeks are now too wary of foreigners bearing gifts to accept their largesse without weeks or months of prior deliberation and debate.

The acceptance of the referendum proposal is apparently not a foregone conclusion, which is just as well, since it is plainly insane.

First, consider the wording of the referendum question. Opinion polls appear to show that Greeks remain keen on staying in the EU (and maybe even in the euro zone), so as things stand at the moment the outcome could be a majority in favour of rejecting the deal, but staying in the EU.  But is this option still open to Greece? If not, the Greek government could end up with a mandate to follow a road that is already clearly blocked.

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