Tag Archive: Greece

Audit Nation

Greece is making large cuts to its budget in order to appease its fellow EU member nations in an effort to be loaned rescue money from these members.  Substantial cuts have been made, roughly $10 billion worth, but the EU troika are unwavering in their demand for more. “The draft budget is expected to be revised significantly because it must be approved by the country’s troika of foreign lenders — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — before it can be submitted for a parliamentary vote.”

Article 312 of the Treaty of Lisbon grants the EU more control over the economy of the member nations by establishing expenditure ceilings to compel budgetary control.  It officially recognized the Eurogroup and the Stability and Growth Pact.

Amendment of Article 136 of the TFEU is expected to amend the Treaty of Lisbon by 2013 to allow Euro area Member States to create the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).  The ESM is an international organization that will provide financial assistance to member nations of the EU if in need of financial saving.

Through the Treaty of Lisbon and its soon to be Amendments the EU is asserting its control over the finances of the member nations.  Its control is growing through new regulation laws and bailouts compelled by prerequisites, as with Greece.

The main goal of these cuts is to create a national surplus, which has been absent for a decade.  Without the $40 billion worth of aid, there would be no surplus and Greece would default on its loans. These cuts have continued the discontent of the citizens of Greece causing more protests, some of which are becoming violent.  Greece has to a large extent lost its control over its own wallet.

Greek Financial Crisis and a Possible Exit

When discussing the European Union, it would be hard to escape discussing Greece and its financial situation. Greece has been in dire straits financially and has been at the epicenter of Europe’s financial crisis. With much debate and doubt surrounding Greece’s future with the EU, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has stated that “exiting the euro would be a ‘catastrophe’ for his country.”

Austerity, a word so popular in Europe that it became Merriam-Webster’s 2010 word of the year is once again at the center of the Greek Question.  Greece needs to cut 11.5 billion euros in spending to qualify for the next 33.5 billion euro installment of their 130 billion euro bailout package. Greece says it needs more time to make the cut–4 years instead of the original 2 years.

These financial troubles bring to light the legal issues concerning Greece’s relationship to the EU as a member state. Member states to of the EU enjoy a strong economic union but also sovereignty. Europe is now facing financial collapse and has forced Greece to go along with its austerity plans, which have been referred to by John Lauhgland as brinkmanship which is essentially a political game of chicken where one party forces an opposing party to make concessions by allowing volatile economic or political issues to reach a critical.  John Lauhgland writes that “the European political class, by issuing this warning, is trying to make it clear to the Greek voters that they have to choose the euro and they have to choose the austerity program.”  The European political class, continues to try and control the Greek electorate. The near future holds what a Greek expulsion from the Eurozone means for the stability of the European Union.

Greece’s future in Europe continues to look bleak. A prominent German politician, Rainer Bruederle,  has even stated that when this bailout has been paid in full, another one would not follow. This shows that Greece’s problem is a long term one, and there is no quick fix through a bailout; this isn’t General Motors, it is an entire country. Mr. Bruederle states that “We Germans are Helpful, but we’re not stupid.” In the words of George R.R. Martin, Winter is Coming for Greece, and we shall see if she can survive the long winter.

EU or National Government Solution To Illegal Immigration?

The economic hardship and uncertainty facing European Union countries such as Greece and  Spain have led to controversial measures to stop the cost and flow of illegal immigration into EU countries. Greece’s crackdown on illegal immigration, with police setting up detention centers to house undocumented immigrants prior to their deportation,  has  human rights groups such as  Amnesty International calling Greece’s policies a violation of  international human rights and “should stop immediately”.  The Spanish Government passed a measure that would deny illegal immigrants access to free health care. Critics of this Spanish measure have taken to the streets, saying that the measure  “will strip the more than 150,000 illegal immigrants in Spain of their national health cards” and that “No human being is illegal”.  Charges of human rights violations have also surfaced, as many protestors have deemed this Spanish measure as “health apartheid”.

Anxiety over uncurbed illegal immigration is understandably higher in Greece compared to many other EU countries.  Around two- thirds of all illegal immigration into the EU enter through Greece . And given Greece’s ruthless recession and economic turmoil,  it becomes  more clear why anxiety over illegal immigration might lead the Greek Government to be more proactive in halting the tide of undocumented immigrants.

It is not a coincidence that both Spain and Greece, two member nations of the EU who are facing possible Eurozone ejectment due to their precarious economic conditions and massive debt, are implementing strict immigration measures to save perceived costs due to illegal immigration.  With opposition from Germany to bond buying debt of Eurozone countries with high borrowing costs, it puts incredible pressure on Spain and Greece (who are among the high borrowing EU nations) to find alternative measures to reduce their costs and debt.  Such measures has come in the form of stricter immigration policies to save costs, whether it be deportation of illegal immigrants (Greece) or preventing illegal immigrants from access to free health care (Spain).  Neither of these two countries wants to be seen as an economic burden to creditor nations of the EU- thus the need to resolve their own economic issues.

It would be interesting to see how the European Union responds to the measures taken by Greek and Spain. Would the EU move towards instituting national borders between European nations to help stop the flow of illegal immigration or simply let the national governments deal with the issue? In 2011, the EU confronted this dilemma where it contemplated establishing national borders between member states.  Most Europeans, according to a poll in Transatlantic Trend, “showed that majorities across the European Union want their national governments, not the broader European Union, to control who enters their country and at what rate”.  Whether Spain and Greek’s new policies will further this trend remains to be seen, as the debate between EU vs. national control over immigration issue will continue to occur.


Recent Finnish Resistance to European Union Actions

A recent Forbes article addresses Finnish resistance to actions taken by the European Union. Specifically, the Finnish government has opposed expansion of the Schengen Area (an agreement that provides for borderless movement between certain Member States) and has been highly conservative in the approach towards the Greek debt crisis.

Finnish European Union representatives opposed the inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen Area, because of their belief that there is too much organized crime and corruption within Romania and Bulgaria. These criticisms are more than merely political as the attacks rely on core European Union values as promulgated in the Copenhagen Criteria.

Perhaps most important is Finnish resistance to a plan aimed at rescuing the Greek government from overwhelming debt. The Finnish government is adamant that it receive collateral from the Greek government before it agrees to to any bailout. While Finland reached such an agreement with Greece, other Member States which have adopted the Euro are equally as adamant that any concerns about collateral be decided together.

A recent poll evidences a euroskeptic sentiment as only thirty-seven percent of Finnish nationals expressed satisfaction with the European Union. At the very least, these recent divisions between Finland and other Member States threaten the unity of the European Union–a unity which is critical to its strength and longevity.

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