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Europe

Opinion: Last chance for Greece?

After failed negotiations on the Greek debt crisis, hopes are that an emergency EU summit might be the breakthrough. It's about more than the question of a "Grexit" from the eurozone, says DW's Alexander Kudascheff.

The European crisis just won't end. Once again, the EU is having an emergency summit. Once again, there's only one topic, namely the Greek drama. Once again, no one knows whether it will put an end to a crisis that has gone on for five years or whether the final game will continue, and go into extra time, like it has so many times before. Will Greece have to exit the eurozone? Will there be a much-conjured "Grexit" or will Greece be given a last, a very last period of grace - and keep the common European currency?

One thing is clear even before the summit gets started: everyone is on edge. Patience has worn very thin, among Greeks as well as the other 18 Euro nations. Almost everywhere, including in Germany, people are openly asking whether the Greeks may have pushed their luck and whether the time may have come to end the tragedy. Greece can't be helped, many skeptics say: it can only pull itself out of the quagmire by declaring insolvency - and without holding on to the euro. Even if a humanitarian disaster threatens, in which case the EU would help the Greeks.

Towering debt

Of course, the Tsipras government takes a different point of view. It demands solidarity, feels that talks are permanently on the brink of a breakthrough and believes that Greece can be saved by the leftist government's course: debt relief and only those reforms the government deems effective. The creditors, however, refuse to agree to that course, they want comprehensive reforms before handing over money.

Alexander Kudascheff

DW's editor-in-chief Alexander Kudascheff

The real problem lies elsewhere. European bailout policies in the global financial crisis, shaped to a great degree by Germany, helped Portugal, Spain, Cyprus, Lithuania and Ireland back to their feet. Italy is working on reforms, so is France, although more hesitantly. It's only Greece that the economic measures aren't helping. Austerity measures are the wrong measures, Athens says. That is true for Greece, where credit has mounted up to a huge, towering debt that can presumably never be repaid. The creditors are prisoners of this debt as much as the Greeks themselves.

Syriza's failure

For the past five turbulent, depressing, downbeat years, Greece has suffered the consequences of an eternal state crisis. The state doesn't work. It caters to the ruling party, and has no functioning administration. Greece is in no position to take in more money than it spends, which is the key for the country to get back on its feet economically to a certain degree. And in the five months since taking office, even the left-wing Syriza coalition party hasn't managed to stop rich Greeks from evading taxes, nor has it managed to track down and collect on billions of euros in illegal earnings stashed in foreign bank accounts. A confession of failure for a socialists' leftist party.

Instead, Athens ranted at home against the IMF, the EU and Germany, flirted a few times with Moscow, and fought one inconclusive round of negotiations after another. As a result, everyone is annoyed, even the Europeans who sympathize with Syriza, like EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker or European Parliament President Martin Schulz. That's something we could live with.

The bogeyman is back

What's worse is that the euro - meant to be a symbol of European unity - is driving apart the EU, and that old animosities are on the rise.

And that in many EU member states, far-right and far-left parties are gaining strength, while an increasing number of EU citizens wonders whether the price for these failing Greek policies is too high. Should we really put up with a breaking of all the rules, a disregard of all accords - just to keep Greece in the eurozone?

Perhaps, the summit on Monday is the ultimate chance to save Greece and the euro. But the wounds received over the past few years and months are deep, deeper than a temporary settlement. After all, the EU's fundamental value over the past almost 60 years has always been compromise. Now, again, we have the victors, the conquered and the victims - which is, also mentally, a devastating development.

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