Meanwhile, what are we doing? (in Greece & Europe)

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Alexis Papachelas is a guest editorial writer to The Business Thinker. He is currently the Executive Editor of the long standing and highly respected daily Greek newspaper “Kathimerini”.

Is there a real risk of Greece exiting the eurozone? The answer is yes, though the odds are slim and depend a great deal on how we act as a state and as a society over the next few months.

A part of the European establishment harbors the impression that Greece is a country apart, that it is not completely in synch with the European system. Myriad small and major events have contributed to this stereotype over the years: from the fact that we are in danger of being excluded from the Schengen Agreement because of our amateurism and the fact that we haven’t been able to solve our waste disposal issues for decades, to the fact that the state apparatus is a shambles etc.

At the same time, it is becoming obvious that our political leadership is inadequate; it has no know-how or sense of responsibility. Even a comparison with Portugal, which couldn’t be described as a paradigm of political maturity by any stretch of the imagination, casts Greece in an unfavorable light.

Nevertheless, the Europeans want to help. This is obviously due to a great extent to fears that if Greece declares bankruptcy, it may take other countries along with it, together with a sizable chunk of the European banking system. However, the Germans and others are making painstaking and systematic preparations to protect themselves in the case that a Greek default becomes inevitable. No one can tell us with any precision when this point will be reached, when Greece will no longer be a systemic danger to Europe. Experts, however, predict that the latest this moment will arrive is the spring of 2012.

The question, meanwhile, is what are we doing about it all? I have the impression that the leadership of both ruling PASOK and opposition New Democracy are living under and acting on the delusion that Germany and others live in fear of a Greek default, therefore giving us time and room to maneuver. They are not taking German voters into account, who one day will simply refuse to shell out money to Greeks who retired at the age of 48 and will insist that the money be given instead to their banks so they can even out their losses from a haircut on Greek bonds.

A country can’t just sit by doing nothing except reaching out to Europe every year or so for help, using its own bankruptcy as a lever.

On the other hand, we could always listen to those insane, dangerous and already bankrupt businesses that want Greece to return to the “good old drachma,” in which case we will become the first country in the world to opt for a spectacular suicide when everyone else was trying to save it.

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