Monday 26 September 2016

Greek drama could spell tragedy for EU

Published 04/07/2015 | 02:30

'It is no exaggeration to suggest that the already fractured pillars that support the EU have never looked shakier'
'It is no exaggeration to suggest that the already fractured pillars that support the EU have never looked shakier'

It took two world wars before a bridge could be built strong enough to hold a blood-drenched Europe together. But hold it did.

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The European Union has survived the collapse of communism and withstood the worst recession in economic history. But it is no exaggeration to suggest that the already fractured pillars that support it have never looked shakier.

Greece may be the issue that has exposed the cracks, and could yet be the one that brings the crumbling edifice crashing down. Yet it should not be the scapegoat for all the ills of the EU. The fact that we could have come to such a pass is a symptom of a complete lack of vision and leadership at the heart of Brussels.

What is a common currency without a common purpose?

In Athens, there are already reports of food emptying from the shelves, and pictures of pensioners weeping outside banks. Should the Greeks exit from the eurozone – a prospect that has never been more real – the situation will certainly get much worse.

This would not just be a catastrophe for Greece but for the eurozone creditors, and the entire European Union. In the vacuum of decision-taking, and responsibility-averse politicians, Chancellor Angela Merkel is the only one who can break the deadlock. But she is torn. Her country’s banks stand to lose €90bn owed to them by Athens. If she blinks she may be seen as weak, if she doesn’t, the banks lose. As we now know, the only things that cannot fail are the banks. If they should, the taxpayer must foot the bill. 

Incoherent economic policies and aspirational governance without frameworks and limits that can be realistically met needed to be policed. They were not.

The EU papered over the cracks. But beyond the banks and financial institutions there is a human story.

In Ireland we can console ourselves that a recovery is under way. Business activity here has surged at the fastest pace in nine years.

That is good news for us. But we would be deluded to think we are insulated by the economic calamity that could happen should the EU allow Greece go over a cliff.

The laws of unintended consequences are unforgiving.

Solidarity in the face of murderous terror

The paths of a quiet Irish couple and a band of what Canon Liam Devine described as crazy fanatics should never have crossed.

But, such is the global reach of international terror, they did.

And that is how it came to be that Larry and Martina Hayes were laid to rest yesterday having been so ruthlessly murdered on holiday in Tunisia.

The Athlone funeral was told that there were no proper words that anyone could offer. Perhaps not.

All the same, the sight of so many people coming together in a show of solidarity and support, at a time of such great tragedy, had its own dignified eloquence.

As Canon Devine so poignantly put it, the senseless slaughter “exposes us to the reality that we live in a very violent, broken world and it is getting smaller”.

Lorna Carty, from Robinstown in Navan, Co Meath, also died in the carnage at Sousse. She will be laid to rest today.

The world may be getting smaller, and the threat of terror closer, but that will only strengthen, not weaken, international resolve to confront and defeat those who see the massacre of civilians as heroic.

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