The new cleavages in Europe

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As an American politician once said “The most admiring thing in the press is poor memory”.  The discussion about the involvement of the IMF in the Greek problem confirms this aphorism. This involvement is not new. It was discussed and perhaps was also decided in the European capitals at least one year and half ago when the former Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis has warned about in December 2008.

“It is a common secret in the European Commission that Greece is not adapting to the requirements of the European Monetary Union… They think that Greece fooled them. Moreover, they believe that it would be good for Greece to be forced to go to the IMF so that the latter monitors Greek economy instead of the European Commission.”, Mr Simitis had said.

This decision implies important changes in the European Union in addition to the rescue mechanism of the European economies. For the first time, in the European council the prevalent cleavages were not national but political. With the exception of Sarkozy, the centre-right parties were all in favor of a solution including IMF. On the other hand, the centre-left supported a pure European solution.  The fact that the centre-right Prime Ministers of Netherlands and Sweden adopted a tougher attitude than that of Ms Merkel is distinctive.  Mr. Balkenede stated “It is mainly the responsibility of Greece. They caused all the problems and now they must alone solve them.” On the other hand social democrats along with the German Green party lashed out against their Prime Minister concerning the tough attitude she decided to adopt. Rebecca Harms clearly said “I am ashamed for my country”.

Although, it may sounds strange, the dispute about Greece’s recourse at the IMF is good news for the European Union. The fact that the coalitions were formed according to political and not national lines means that the integration continues. Differences seem to become more political exactly the way it is within the member states.

Published in "Kathimerini" newspaper 27.3.2010