Greece’s government debt crisis has always been about two mutually exclusive propositions.
First is the Greek people’s attachment, much of it sentimental, to eurozone membership, regardless of its economic sense. This derives from a feeling that Greece is the ur-European nation, the “mother of all democracies”, as French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing memorably said in the late 1970s after the country unshackled itself from military rule and was preparing its way for entry into the European Economic Community.
Never mind that Greece’s populist political culture has more in common with Venezuela than Sweden: nothing can be truly European, this chauvinist thinking goes, if Greece isn’t in it. That is why, even at the direst points of the debt crisis, public opinion polls have consistently shown a majority of Greeks supporting continued use of the common currency.
The second proposition is reality – namely, the fiscal standards required for being in a currency union with countries like Germany and the Netherlands. This is something that Greeks have been loath to accept.