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Europe

Opinion: No vote of confidence for the EU

Greece may have survived a confidence vote, but that doesn't answer the question of what comes next - for the country or the EU. DW's political correspondent Daphne Grathwohl argues for looking at the big picture.

An uncapped pen next to the word 'opinion'

Political unity, a stable euro, and shrinking mountains of debt - these were the signals that were supposed to come from the EU summit ten days ago on the eurozone crisis and rescuing Greece. The goal: calm the markets, strengthen Europe, and quiet the powder keg in Athens. Greece, however, only makes up a small - if explosive - part of the eurozone crisis. The embers have been glowing for quite some time in Italy.

After the EU summit, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou delivered the results to the Greek public quite succinctly: debt relief and more bailout money. He devoted much more time to talking about the suffering of the Greek public, which would be rewarded in the long term for their efforts.

Despite Papandreou's efforts to get his people on board, it didn't have the desired calming effect. While the results of the summit calmed markets and reassured, for the time being, other eurozone governments, protests in Greece escalated.

People there are against the budget cuts, and the economy is suffocating. The opposition is using the miserable situation to achieve political gain.

Whatever reasons Papandreou may have had for his surprising announcement of a referendum on the latest bailout package, one thing was clear: the political unrest in little Greece has rocked the colossal EU in recent weeks.

Daphne Grathwohl

Daphne Grathwohl

Anyone following the way parliaments, banks, markets, and the G20 held their breath on Thursday as the rumors streamed from Athens until the referendum was finally off the table came to a conclusion: The EU is not a giant of powerful political unity. How would unrest of that kind in larger Italy or Spain manifest itself in the European Union?

Late of Friday and into Saturday morning, Papandreou won his vote of confidence. Does that mean the ship will steady itself? Hardly. Now, from within his own party, comes more conflict. How should the "national unity government" he is calling for actually work? How will such a government restore confidence of Greek citizens and the country's European partners? Everything will stay the way it was: even when the leading figures change, their motives don't, unfortunately, and that's true beyond Greece.

That's because when there is something to be won in the EU and the eurozone, all the countries are ready to take part. The export nation of Germany profits from the euro, but countries like Greece also benefit from a stable currency and low interest rates. But when it comes to paying for a - possibly painful - price for the stability of Europe, everyone runs in the other direction: Germany says it doesn't want to give up any sovereignty and be asked to dig too deep into its coffers.

France, of course, wants to protect its own banks. And Greece is clinging to its old, corrupt style of government and refuses structural reforms that have been needed for decades. Italy is behaving similarly.

What's missing is a common political agenda that convinces politicians and citizens that a strong Europe is in each country's best interest and that national interests are best pursued via the greater community. With theatrics like those of the past week crop up, how is Europe supposed to act as a political and economic heavyweight competing with China and India?

Author: Daphne Grathwohl / mz
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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