Between the euro crisis, the immigration crisis, “contagion”, and the austerity wars, you may have found it a bit hard to keep track of all the crises affecting the EU. But good news! Soon they might all just merge into one—in Greece. The Wall Street Journal reports:
The International Monetary Fund says it can’t lend to Greece without radical spending cuts by Athens or costly debt forgiveness by Berlin. Greece’s key European interlocutor, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is under such political pressure at home over barely controlled migration inflows that she’s less able than before to take an unpopular stand over Greece’s debt woes.
The IMF’s tough demands for far-reaching fiscal retrenchment go well beyond what Syriza has signaled it is prepared to swallow, making Mr. Tsipras’s goal of a deal to unlock bailout money by late March improbable, European officials say. Some analysts believe Mr. Tsipras might opt for early elections if he can’t break the impasse with creditors.
Meanwhile growing tensions and finger-pointing between Greece and other European Union countries, including Austria and Slovakia, over migration is deepening many Greeks’ perception that their country is being made a scapegoat. A backdrop of popular hostility toward the EU—which a record 81% of Greeks now mistrust, according to a European Commission survey released on Monday—makes it harder for Mr. Tsipras to sell fiscal austerity measures demanded by European creditors and the IMF.
The Austrian-Balkan pact to shut the immigration pathway through south-eastern Europe and isolate the problem in Greece, which we have covered throughout this week, may have marked a serious escalation in the immigration crisis. It signaled that several EU countries no longer had faith in the bloc’s formal structures to deal with the problem, and as such severely restricted the room for maneuver in Brussels and Berlin going forward.
But it also, as this story indicates, piled more pressure on Greece at the worst possible time. The “Vienna Declaration” countries may think Greece is beyond help and/or unwilling to help itself, but there’s a reason European leaders have worried about contagion and precedent throughout both the financial and immigration crisis. Once a euro country defaults—once an EU nation is kicked out of Schengen—once a country that has cooperated (however grudgingly, at times) with Berlin’s & Brussels’ austerity programs over the years gets the shaft—then where do such things end? And what lessons will other EU countries draw from it?