Alexis Tsipras has won his wager and has the support of his country which, with its economy, has witnessed the collapse of a discredited political class. The referendum victory has been welcomed on the continent by the far right as well as the far left.
This rise in radicalism is a challenge to Europe. One of them now sits within its fold at the European Council. Others may follow. As Europeans work to remain in the world race populism is impeding its efforts. Contrary to all reason the argument to “cancel the debt”, finding a miracle solution in pooling it, which would be “illegitimate”, is gaining ground over that of “austerity”.
Spoilt since the 2nd World War, which might have wiped them from the history books, Europeans have benefited from European integration to a degree of which they are not even aware. What would Greece be today without European solidarity? An under developed country? Many citizens in most Member States could say the same. This historic event confirms the population’s fatigue, a desire to retain their advantages of the past to the detriment of the future. Hence the danger of starting along a path of relinquishment is imminent.
Of course the resilience of the European Union will take Greece back to the negotiating table. Europe is prepared to discuss rather than confront, in a bid to settle problems amicably rather than sink into chaos.
There is little chance that Europe’s leaders will accept any nonsense, and especially not debt relief without a programme to rebuild a State than can function independently and not fall into debt again.
The Greeks have voted and that vote has to be respected. But they also have to assume the consequences of this. Either its government will come to an agreement with its partners which will have to be respected this time, or the more dramatic outcome will lead it out of the euro zone – which no one wants since the consequences will be so dramatic for the Greeks.
We too often forget what the failure of a State means: indescribable chaos leading to violence and sometimes even the end of democracy. By playing with fire the Greek government is now dancing on a volcano. Let’s hope that this time round they do not forget it.