November 03, 2011

I was as startled as anyone when Greek prime minister George Papandreou announced that he was going to take the latest bailout proposal to a referendum. My initial reaction was a near-certainty that of course people would vote the proposed measures down: and then what?

Since then, I have reconsidered.

Protests in the Greek capital are ongoing. So long as austerity measures continue, there is absolutely no reason why they would stop anytime in the near future. Previous austerity measures hit hard, and the new ones will hit harder. The decision to abide by the greater European ruling has thus far been taken unilaterally by the Greek government. Consequently, as things currently stand, the protesters naturally see the issue as being them versus the government.

A referendum question which leaves no doubt that further austerities are the price of staying in the Eurozone may be just what is required.

In entering the realm of referendum, Papandreou is taking the chance that the answer may not be what the rest of Europe wants to hear. It will, however, clarify just what the people of Greece value most at this point in time. It will be painful for everybody involved, but I do think it is necessary to learn the actual state of mind of the people of Greece -- and, for that matter, of the people of the entire Eurozone. (But that latter question will wait until local elections.)

Certainly this is playing politics: but for once, it is the kind of politics that acknowledges an unwelcome reality and not just the kind of politics that manoeuvres for greater personal power.

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