If I were a German citizen or a Frenchman, I would ask myself how much longer I have to carry the Greek burden. As member states lose their faith in the European Union, Britain prepares to leave and Europeans focus on their national interests as opposed to common goals, that question would be even more significant. Indeed, Greece comes with a hefty price tag for the EU – a price that Europeans pay with their taxes.
Although Greece creates zero value-added products for the EU, it creates two distinct costs. The country’s economic cost dates back to its most recent financial collapse. Between 2010 and 2018, the Union lent 274 billion euros ($307 billion) to stimulate the Greek economy. Consequently, Greece’s debt-to-income ratio soared to 180%. After eight years of borrowing from the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has Athens become financially stable?
The Fund believes that Greece needs more money just to keep its economy running. To be clear, that assessment predated the COVID-19 pandemic, which will severely impact Greece due to restrictions on tourism, where the service sector accounts for 80% of the economy. According to the European Commission, the country’s unemployment rate will climb from 17% to 20% in 2020, debt-to-income ratio to 196% and the Greek economy will shrink by approximately 10%. In plain English, the average EU citizen will have to pay more to bail out Greece, which seems incapable of managing its economy.
Yet Greece creates more than just economic problems for the EU. The country’s problems with its neighbors make life more difficult for the bloc. Here’s a summary of Greece’s disagreement with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Cyprus question has been a permanent sticking point in Turkish-Greek relations for nearly four decades. Back in 2004, then United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan successfully facilitated diplomatic talks, which resulted in a reunification referendum.
Although the Turkish side supported the plan, Greek Cypriots vetoed the deal to keep the crisis going. Following that referendum, the EU admitted the Greek Cypriots into membership as the island’s sole representative – a huge mistake. The Union thus became a party to the Cyprus dispute and was forced to shoulder its political burden. Part of that burden was the resulting pressure on Turkey-EU relations. Both Greece and the Greek Cypriots have since been trying to resolve their problems with Turkey through the EU. That policy deepens the various problems between Turkey and the EU.
Most recently, there have been disagreements over the exploration and exploitation of energy reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece and the Greek Cypriots attempt to arbitrarily divide the Eastern Med into two pieces, carve out exclusive economic zones for themselves and reduce Turkey’s maritime jurisdiction to a small area. Turkey responded to those attempts by signing a similar agreement with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and drilling off Cyprus. It was followed by an agreement with Libya on the delimitation of maritime jurisdictions to claim an exclusive economic zone in compliance with international law. In other words, Greece and the Greek Cypriots escalated a situation, which could have been addressed peacefully through negotiations with Turkey, into a problem for the EU.
Turkey’s moves had several consequences for the organization. First, Greece and the Greek Cypriots' hostile policy destabilized the Eastern Mediterranean. Secondly, the EastMed pipeline was supposed to carry natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe. Greece’s attempts to contain Turkey, however, resulted in the Turkish response and undermined the East Med pipeline.
Today, in light of the Turkish-Libyan treaty, Turkey’s approval is needed to complete that project – which Ankara is unlikely to give due to Greek and Greek Cypriot aggression.
Last but not the least, Greece supports Russia and Egypt in the Libyan theater due to its incessant problems with Turkey. In other words, Athens has been working to strengthen Moscow’s influence in a region that happens to be crucial for European security. To add insult to injury, the Greeks undermine the Berlin peace process by promoting Russian interests in Libya.
Shouldn’t Europeans start asking why they condone such behavior?
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