Wednesday, June 13, 2012


We overstate historical parallels and certainly lapse into inappropriate analogies far too often (no, Merkel is not Hitler). History is not a mechanical process. Even when governments take similar courses of action they do so in different contexts, whilst people have learnt from experience and behave differently. However, sometimes the parallels can be unnerving.

In this piece Mark Mazower pursues two of the main themes of his historical writing, modern Greece and the fragility of European democracy. 
It is one of the achievements of the European Union's insistence on austerity at any cost that Greece's democratic stabilisation now seems jeopardised. Once democracy's guarantor, Europe itself has now become the chief source of pressure upon it ... Yet Greeks have not turned against Europe: on the contrary, public opinion remains deeply committed to membership of the union... Nor do the Greeks fail to recognise the need for a sweeping reform of the public finances. The reason for the implosion of the two-party system is simply because in the absence of any plausible scenario or package for growth to accompany Europe's endless cost-cutting demands, the country's suffering and social disintegration seem futile.
The refrain is familiar,  but Mazower's voice is a warning against complacency. And his conclusion is tentative.
It now falls to the Greeks in the most testing of circumstances to demonstrate the tenacity of their commitment to Europe. And it falls to the Germans to uphold Europe's commitment to democracy itself.

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