Europe reacts to Papandreou bombshell

Yesterday world markets went haywire over Greek Prime Minister papandreou's unilateral decision to hold a referendum on the term of the Greek bail-out deal. The more measure reaction of European opinion formers today is less panicked.


Spencer Platt

The morning after the day before saw Europe's editorialists and commentators peeking out of the rubble created by the IED detonated by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

Around the continent there was a mixture of fear and a surprising unanimity of admiration for the the Greek PM's decision to offer his people a chance to vote on the euro zone bail-out package agreed last week in Brussels. Indeed, if French and German political leaders could agree as easily as French and German commentators, the euro zone would never have had a crisis.

The general attitude was summed up in French newspaper Liberation, "In the worst manner, in the worst context, with the worst possible consequences for all of us, Papandreou has raised the only true question." The question is: "What do the people think of the brutal cure of austerity pouring down on them?"

Der Spiegel in Germany echoed the sentiment. "It must be said right at the beginning: The Greeks will, for a change, decide for themselves how they and their country will move forward. They have had no real opportunity to do so for quite some time. For about a year and a half, this once proud country has been under foreign administration; it is de facto no longer a sovereign state."

In Britain, where euro-scepticism is a core belief of the ruling Conservative party and the overwhelmingly Tory press, right-wing papers found ample reason to praise the pro-European socialist Papandreou.

Daniel Hannan in The Daily Telegraph wrote, "I wish I could convey the sheer horror that his proposal provoked in Brussels. The first rule of the Eurocracy is “no referendums." Brussels functionaries believe that their work is too important to be subject to the prejudices of hoi polloi ... "

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, the Guardian's excellent economics editor Larry Elliott lays out the situation this way: "Polls in Greece have shown that 60 percent of the population are against the terms of the bailout but 70 percent are against leaving monetary union. If the vote is framed as "do you want to stay in the single currency or not" (which it will be if Papandreou has any sense) there is every chance the Greeks may agree to swallow another dose of austerity."

Elliott  adds that working in Papandreou's favor is the fact that if "Europe is a problem for Greece, Greece is a bigger problem for Europe." He concludes, "Papandreou is in a stronger position than people think."

Well, maybe, maybe not.  The Greek Prime Minister still needs to win a vote of confidence in parliament scheduled for Friday.

In PoliticsLifestyle & BeliefEuropa.

Tagged: EuropeFranceGermanyUnited Kingdom.