Euro sceptics, beware euro scepticism

As scepticisms go, the euro type of scepticism has often been a problematic movement in many European countries and particularly those on the Mediterranean shores. Instead of injecting a healthy dose of self-criticism and reality-check against ethereal principles under which most of the European Union’s administrative structures have grown accustomed to little public accountability, many euro sceptics hide ideological identities that would be hard to maintain on the surface of a developed democracy without masquerading them.

1523 REPORT Greece May Hold National Referendum on ItsIf you read The Corner from outside the Old Continent, don’t take our word for what we just said: for instance, this 2002 briefing paper from the University of Sussex on comparative party politics of euro scepticism exposes its historical context in Greece and we think that, apart from explaining what is a common denominator of many of our neighbours’ euro sceptics, it may give as well a reason to pause before analysing the possibly upcoming referendum.

It’s not just economics, euro sceptics! A majority vote in Greece contrary to austerity measures would have to be dealt with very carefully, because the same open door could let very nasty politics get in, too.

Back to the paper [emphasis is ours]. Examining the Greek case over the four decades since the signature of the 1961 Association Agreement, Dr. Susannah Verney (University of Athens and Visiting Fellow, University of Bradford) suggested

“a three-phase periodisation. During the Association (1961-81), decades marked by democratic breakdown, dictatorship (1967-74) and democratization, Euroscepticism moved from a marginal position associated exclusively with the communist Left into the political mainstream. Hard Euroscepticism was adopted by the communists and, after 1974, the socialists; while the Eurocommunists (post-1974) were soft Eurosceptics. Accession in 1981, followed by the rise to power of the Eurosceptic socialists, inaugurated a Eurosceptical decline.

“The socialists’ initial tactical shift to national interest Euroscepticism gradually became a strategic change under the impact of governing responsibilities and the deepening of integration. The end of the Cold War, coinciding with the EMU programme, opened a third phase, completing the socialists’ move from Europhobe to Europhile. In a two-party system with two pro-European parties, an official Eurosceptic line is now confined to minor parties. The 11% vote share gained in 2000 by the three significant Eurosceptic parties (the hard Eurosceptic Communist Party, soft Eurosceptic Left Coalition and national interest Eurosceptic socialist breakaway DIKKI) under-estimates potential levels of societal Euroscepticism, recently reflected in the populist discourse of the Orthodox Church.

Indeed, euro scepticism in Greece was initially shaped by the Cold War and developed under the impact of dictatorship and democratisation forces, which reveals why achieving European Union membership and sharing its currency means much more than just a very (very) imperfect economic accord.

That is, too, why

“the Greek case apparently corroborates the thesis that a hard Eurosceptic stance in an EU member-state is incompatible with government participation and leads to marginalisation in the party system.”

As it should be.

To survive the current travails, whatever the Greeks’ final say is when and if they are given the chance, Europeans and non-Europeans must be able to distinguish between the European Union’s shortcomings, the wide variety of financial solutions available, and those whose plans are simply keen to return to anachronistic state-nationalism politics (you know who you are).

About the Author

Victor Jimenez
London contributor at, reporting about the City and the Eurozone economies. He regularly writes for Spanish newspaper group Prensa Ibérica--some of his features include shared work with journalists of The Daily Telegraph and the BBC.

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