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Papandreou to the EU: let my people vote

By Jonathan J. Ariel - posted Friday, 4 November 2011

What a difference a week makes.

Last week, the European Union's leaders at long last exhaled after finalising a comprehensive deal to save Greece's bacon. And, to boot, saving France's major financial institutions (Société Générale and Crédit Agricole), which sadly have more direct exposure to the Hellenic Republic than other institutions, given their controlling interests in two of Greece's biggest banks.

Fast forward one week and who'd have thought?


If you believe the spin doctors at the G20 meeting in Cannes, the Greek Prime Minister Yorgos (call me George) Papandreou, pulled a swiftie and advised his host, French President Nicolas Sarkozy that the Greek people must approve the EU/IMF bailout package by way of a 4 December referendum. Sarkozy was speechless.

Perish the thought that the leader of the descendants of those fine folk who gave the world democracy actually wants to give his people the right to vote.

Going to the people is a no brainer.

Most Greeks are very unhappy with the strings attached to the largesse offered by their northern euro partners. Capitalising on this, Papandreou's Socialist POSOK party's chief rival, the New Democracy Party is steadfastly against being force fed any harsh medicine prescribed by the EU.

Papandreou seems to be piloting a sinking ship. One of his own party's MPs has already resigned, cutting the Parliamentary majority to just two. Then on Thursday two more, Eva Kaili and Elena Panariti announced will not vote with Papandreou, leaving Papandreou with no majority. A maximum of 150 votes in the 300-seat house. Six others from his own party are baying for his resignation. And on the same day, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos condemned the referendum proposal.

On the other side of Parliament, the New Democrats, who make up the conservative opposition, have demanded an early general election.


Its leader, Antonis Samaras, rejects any part of the stiff demands sought of Greece as a condition of accepting the bail out but – and, get this - insists on staying part of the eurozone. Go figure.

The panic that followed Papandreou's so-called impertinent appeal to the democratic will of his own people was deeply unsettling to both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. They thought they had a done deal. While an plea to his electorate must be seen in the context of other leaders in other times running roughshod over their voters, the response from Bruxelles was nothing short of a blatant denial of democracy.

The EU demands of trampling over the rights of Greeks to determine their own fate reminds me of Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres who in 1993 under the aegis of the Norwegians, connived with Palestinian representative Mahmoud Abbas on an agreement to solve the ongoing Middle East headache. This was called the Oslo Accords.

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About the Author

Jonathan J. Ariel is an economist and financial analyst. He holds a MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management. He can be contacted at

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