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September 13, 2011
Euroskeptics on Greece: 'We told you so!'
Will Greece default? The question is roiling financial markets in Europe -- and spreading financial jitters around the world. It's also energizing Britain's Euroskeptics and renewing pointed questions about the wisdom of European unification, and specifically about the "eurozone" -- the 17 states of the 27-member European Union that share a common currency -- the euro.
Keeping Greece on the euro means imposing more harsh austerity measures on that country, which got it's first bail-out package in May last year. But tougher austerity measures for Greece are probably untenable because of the tremendous hardship they'll impose upon ordinary Greeks. Even more problematic: Keeping Greece on the euro means eliminating -- virtually overnight -- Greece's endemic corruption that should have disqualified it from joining the EU's eurozone in the first place. (Greece may be the cradle of democracy and inspiration for Western civilization, but in many ways it has more in common with the Balkans than Western and Northern Europe.)
Unfortunately, the EU apparently has no contingency plan for how Greece would return to its own currency, the drachma; this would give it the flexibility to deal with its financial mess (by setting its interest rates or through currency devaluations) -- all with the least amount of pain and social disorder. But that doesn't mean a return to the drachma can't be done -- and it would be the best thing for Greece, say some analysts.
The problems in creating a United States of Europe -- to counterbalance American power in the minds of some European elites, especially the French -- were criticized early on by British Euroskeptics, who feared the anti-Democratic values of an EU Parliament; an avalanche of regulations; and a common currency that would be untenable.
Britain's Euroskeptics have much in common with America's "Tea Party" movement. And their most famous member is undoubtedly British politician Nigel Farage -- leader of the UK Independence Party; Member of the European Parliament for South East England; and co-chair of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group. Known for his wit and colorful oratory, Farage addressed the EU's European Parliament more than a year ago on the economic turmoil and folly of what was happening then, and what would happen in the future. His prophetic remarks about the EU's financial troubles could have been delivered yesterday.
In criticizing a European common currency, Farage has said that countries with structurally different economics -- Germany and Greece, for example -- can't handle a "one-size-fits-all interest rate."
"You can ignore the markets if you want to but in time the markets will not ignore you," he has said. Early on, he predicted the need for bail-outs of troubled eurzone countries.
Referring to financially troubled eurozone countries Greece, Portugal, and Spain, Farage -- more than a year ago -- told the European Parliament: "Just how much do these countries have to suffer in the pursuit of this European dream?" He added: "I wonder how much longer will the Germans go on paying the enormous bill."
Farage's prophetic comments may be see on this YouTube clip, during which he also demolished the idea of a "European identity." Or as Henry Kissinger asked in a similar vein: "Who do I call if I want to call Europe?"
And for some more entertainment, enjoy some of Farage's colorful performances in the European Parliament, more than a year ago, as shown on two YouTube clips:
*Click here for Farage attacking the anti-democratic proclivities of EU members and particularly of EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy: Farage derided the unelected Rompuy for getting paid more than President Obama and of having the "appearance of a low-grade bank clerk." Farage was fined 3,000 euros for the insult. He later apologized -- to bank clerks!
*And click here to see Farage suggesting that Van Rompuy, a Belgian politician, ought to be the "pinup boy for the Euroskeptic movement" because of how the EU's best intentions have produced results that undermined Europe's economy.
He added: "It's even more serious than economics because if you rob people of their identity, if you rob them of their democracy, then all they are left with is nationalism and violence. I can only hope and pray that the Euro project is destroyed by the markets before that."
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