The truth revealed: There can be no freedom in the eurozone
As the dust settles this morning on the Greek bailout crisis, it is increasingly clear we are witnessing one of the most daring raids on national democracy in post-war political history. If this new plan passes the Greek parliament, Greece can no longer be said to be a genuinely sovereign state. Brussels and Berlin are taking over Athens. Even one of Alexis Tsipras' minor victories – that a £50 billion privatisation fund would be based in Athens, not Luxembourg – was entirely superficial. As Angela Merkel insisted this morning, it would not be under Greek control.
Defenders of the eurozone have an answer for this. If bailout conditions went to the polls across its member states the result would probably be even tougher than this morning's deal, they say. This is not, under this reading, a crisis of democracy. It is an unfortunate compromise based on wildly divergent economic interests among one of its members and all the others.
This all rests on some quite muddled lines of democratic legitimacy. There have been no referendums outside of Greece to match the expression of democratic will we saw just over a week ago – nor, for that matter, which elected a tiny far-left party like Syriza out of nowhere in the first place. Elections of centre-right governments across Europe cannot, in good conscience, be interpreted as a mandate for tyrannical austerity against the people of another state.
But even if one puts all that to one side and accepts the idea that Greek democratic will has rubbed against that of other eurozone members, the deal is indefensible. It suggests there can be no sovereignty for debt-ridden countries within the eurozone. It's not just that countries are prevented from pursuing an independent economic strategy which might help them recover, such as devaluing their currency. Members always knew that was a precondition of entry. It's that the entire political decision-making process will be presided over by bureaucrats from outside the country in which the decisions take place.
A foreign-managed financial institution will sell off Greece's assets and control how that money is then spent. It seems inevitable European officials will have the chance to veto Greek economic legislation. After all, how else could this process exist? Greek sovereignty is incompatible with the terms of the deal.
Even the process is undemocratic, in any realistic assessment of that word. These measures were arrived at over a marathon 17-hour all-night negotiation – hardly the set-up one might suggest for a sensible outcome. They are demanding the measures are passed within a couple of days by the Greek parliament. A false sense of emergency is being created to scare Greece into signing away its sovereignty. A package formulated by tired, angry people will now be ratified according to a time scale which does not allow for genuine debate.
Quite apart from the individual measures on the deal, the sense of spite motivating it is extraordinary. "These are the most brutal negotiations I have ever seen," one experienced EU diplomat said. "There is an element of humiliation that will poison the atmosphere for years to come." Another said the atmosphere was "extremely hard, even extremely violent". When the deal had been reached, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker all-but admitted the new, much tougher, terms were a punishment for the referendum result.
This is the punishment of debt-ridden countries in a monetary union. An assault on your national sovereignty. Sabotage of your banking sector. An unprecedented and explicit rejection of democratic politics. And for what? To continue an economic policy which has already destroyed the Greek economy, driven up unemployment, massively increased poverty and made external debt even worse.
This is often spoken of as some sort of abstract notion of national sovereignty, but in reality it is highly practical. Child poverty is now at 40% in Greece. These are not abstract children. Their suffering is real, if little-spoken of by the news channels which prefer to spend their time worrying about how the market has reacted to each development. The policies required to change this will no longer be in the hands of the leaders elected by the Greek people. Greeks cannot vote to change the situation – they cannot pick the eurozone ministers around the table, or the leadership of the IMF, or a new president of the European Commission. They are powerless as their country is driven into poverty.
Now the poverty will be worse, as punishment for daring to vote against austerity. This act of rebellion will be treated as an opportunity to shows others in Europe what happens when you stand up the bureaucrats who rule it: savage economic attack, followed by slavery. How much poverty, with no power to change it, will the Greek people endure before they flirt with the sort of politics the European Union was once established to prevent?
Every single one of the eurosceptic warnings about the eurozone has proved to be true, not just in its specifics but also in its general political theory: centralisation of power and disregard for national sovereignty has its own momentum. It is not just that these approaches strip countries of power. It's that they create a political class which is disconnected from the effects of its decisions. This is what happens when leaders are not accountable to those over whom they govern.
The eurozone is no longer a threat to European democracy. It is now actively dismantling it.