The rejection that comes with the Greek referendum encompasses several problems including loss of confidence in European values, disdain of the Greek political class along with the clientele system and eventually, horror caused by youth unemployment
It was obvious in the early hours after the closure of the ballots. Despite all the pollsters' opinions and forecasts, foreseeing a very close result, there was no contest between the "Oxi" and the "Nai" votes. Greeks massively and clearly voted no and rejected probably five years of disappointments, suffering and austerity. Obviously, again, this rejection loosely encompassed a number of different problems including, to name a few, loss of belief in European values, disdain of the Greek political class and the clientele system in Greece and horror caused by youth unemployment. Every analyst has a different interpretation of the result. Most Syriza sympathizers try to underline the fact that the message conveyed by the no vote in fact is a yes to Europe but no to austerity and humiliation. This is fair enough, it is not very difficult to see that the Greek population has had enough of five years of austerity, which effectively severed low-wage earners' purchasing power, which considerably diminished the living standards of the retired and did not do much to the relatively rich portion of society.
Left-wing politicians in the EU, meaning those really on the left, are jubilant because of this slam to the face of neo-liberal politicians, to start with, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Social democrats and those on the center left are more cautious so far as they do not see much to celebrate from an ill-prepared and dangerous referendum. Carl Bildt, a prominent Swedish politician, long-time minister of foreign affairs, said: "Well, a clear majority in Greece doesn't want the help that other euro countries have offered. Their choice. But tragic." There goes the slam to the face of European leaders the referendum results are supposed to be. On the other hand, just after the referendum results came in, the Eurogroup - the countries of the eurozone - made it clear that they do not want to see Greek Minister of Finance Yanis Varoufakis at the negotiations table anymore. So gone was Varoufakis, the very atypical genial minister of finance who gave a very hard time to negotiators by saying the truth. The "Oxi" victory could not even be enjoyed 12 hours, the first reaction came and the Greek government had to swallow it. There is a deep mistrust between the Greeks and a majority of the political class in other EU countries save Greek Cyprus. This dates back to the times when Greece was made a member back in 1981 to consolidate its democracy when it was totally unprepared for this kind of integration.
The Greek political class, which, by the way, had the chance of being led by an outstanding politician, Konstantinos Karamanlis, firmly believed since that the European Union owed Greece favors because Greece was the cradle of European civilizations. It is true by the way that modern European civilization owes much to ancient Greek philosophy and humanities, brilliantly conveyed by the immense Roman Empire. That was a very long time ago. But there was a firm belief in Greece that the EU was almost a natural nest for the country in the direct line of the ancient, glorious Greek city states. What happened in between during 2,200 years was almost a parenthesis. The romantic period of the early 19th century helped a lot of Greeks to think they are also the inspirers of the great French revolution. Just a glimpse of Victor Hugo's "Les Orientales" would give a very clear idea of this mythology: A beautiful, great civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean molested and dominated by barbarians - Ottomans in this case - recovering and rediscovering its identity.
Such was the genesis myth for modern Greece. It still is vivid in the popular imagination. Along with this renaissance of sorts and the great uprising of 1826, came the hatred of the Turk. The modern Greek nation-state was designed to be anti-Ottoman. On the other hand, the modern Turkish nation-state was also designed after a War of Independence was waged and won against the Greek army and supported by the Greek populations of the Aegean. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which framed the existence of the nascent Turkish Republic, in fact created an institutional rivalry between Turkey and Greece. Both countries had a genesis mythology where the enemy is the other, both countries recovered their "independence" by fighting against the other and both counties aimed at creating a homogenous nation-state where, respectively, the "Greek" or the "Turk" had no place.
Despite the Truman Doctrine of 1947, which placed both Greece and Turkey under the U.S. military umbrella, and in concomitant membership in NATO, the relationship between the two countries of the Aegean remained moribund at best and at worst, very conflicting. Both countries have undertaken a huge amount of military expenditures for a conflict over the Aegean that will and could never happen. Both countries have the same fixed idea of the "eternal enemy" who will eventually attack. Not only has this senseless rivalry cost both countries immense opportunities, but it has also severed the dynamics that could stem from collaboration over the Aegean. The real coexistence between the Muslim and Christian worlds has been cut into two belligerent camps. The conflicting issues have attained their climax on Cyprus, where a proxy war has seen Turkey alone sending its army overseas for the first time since the foundation of the Republic, creating a de facto partitioning of the island. Ever since, the relations have been at best at the level of pacified coexistence, established between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in order to avoid nuclear war.
Greece went bankrupt for the third time since the foundation of the independent Kingdom of Greece back in the 19th century. It cannot withhold the system of institutional rivalry between its army and Turkey. Despite bad governance that lasted decades, Turkey has succeeded in establishing a rather sophisticated production apparatus, has become part of the EU's immense single market through a customs agreement and exports worth of almost $200 billion worth goods yearly. Its internal market is 75 million people strong with a young population with an ever increasing purchasing power. Last but not least, Turkey's industry has reached a point where acceptable standards have been attained for the military-industrial complex, corvettes, frigates, tanks, armored vehicles and artillery among others.
This institutional rivalry system has come to an end whether the Greek economy performs well or not - it is bankrupt, by the way. Such tension has ceased to be sustainable and the two NATO countries would do well to start a workable solution for Cyprus and incremental demilitarization steps in the Aegean. But the real achievement must be establishing real economic synergy in the Aegean, establishing a workable net of energy transportation and enhancing tourism and other exchanges. A peaceful, collaborating "Aegean Union" would create dynamics far beyond today's expectations and would give both Turkey and Greece breathing room. By the way, under the Ottoman Empire, Turks and Greeks collaborated so closely and trusted each other so deeply that Dimitri Kitsikis talks of the "Turkish-Greek Empire" instead of the Ottoman Empire. Ancient Byzantine imperial dynasties were nominated as vassal kings by the Sublime Porte in remote countries like Walachia or Moravia, which explains how the Kantakuzenos family had prime ministers in Romania until the 1930s. What went wrong in Greece, and incidentally in Turkey, cannot be repaired swiftly, but a good idea would be to start from the very bottom and to imagine a new system of relations between the two countries.
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