Stop interfering in Greece – it’s their vote

5 July 2015

Stop interfering in Greece – it’s their vote

Just as was the case in the Netherlands in 2005, there has been far too much interference from outside the country in a question which, in a democratic fashion, has been put before the electorate of a European Union member state.

SP Senator and Chair of the United Left in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Tiny Kox gives his view.

The president of the European Parliament is calling for fresh elections in Greece and an interim government of technocrats, all because of the referendum in the country next Sunday. Calling for regime change in response to a democratic decision by a member state of the European Union and the eurozone? Can things get any more bizarre than that?

They created the word ‘democracy’

The Greeks were the creators of the word ‘democracy’. It’s present-day meaning is, however, being bestowed upon it by others. European Parliament president Martin Schulz is one of the self-appointed interpreters of the word, Eurozone chair Jeroen Dijsselbloem another. Dijsselbloem warns that a Greek no-vote could drive the country out of the euro. Is it fitting for the chair of the Eurozone to make such radical statements, especially now, when they are clearly intended to influence the outcome of the referendum? That does not seem to me to be the case at all. Greece remains as I write a full member of the eurozone, and there is no provision for expulsion of a member state. Nobody knows that better than does Dijsselbloem. The Dutch government says that it is giving no advice to Greeks as to how to vote, but Dijsselbloem, who in addition to chairing the Eurozone is the Netherlands’ Finance Minister, leaves no room for doubt over where on the ballot paper he wants them to put their crosses. In Germany’s Bundestag, Dijsselbloem’s fellow Finance Minister preaches Hell and Damnation to the Greeks, should they have the nerve to say no to the proposal constructed under his leadership and presented to the Greek government as the way out of the crisis. A number of other member state government leaders and ministers also seem to believe that they have a right to vote on Sunday and are doing their best to hold a knife to the throats of the Greeks.

I deplore the fact that in addition to all of this meddling from the European Union, the Council of Europe, the organisation on which I am one of the representatives of the Parliament of the Netherlands, is also responsible for statements regarding the referendum in Greece, which is one of the body’s forty-seven member states. Reports indicate that Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland has said that the referendum has been called too rapidly and that it is unclear. In my view the referendum, having been approved by a clear majority by the Greek Parliament, is in line with the country’s constitution. We will know that for sure before the vote is held, as a Greek judge will issue a binding verdict on the matter. I have reminded the Secretary-General that there is a firm rule that the Council of Europe must always exhibit neutrality during elections. Questioning the complexity of the way in which the referendum question is posed also seems to me inappropriate. In 2005 the Dutch people were asked to state whether they were for or against the approval of a treaty on a European Constitution. This was also far from simple, but the electorate of my country coped well. Similarly, most Greeks seem to be in no doubt as to what they’re being asked, even if they have rather more about how to answer, oxi of nai. That’s the real issue. .

Just as in the Netherlands in 2005 there has been far too much interference from outside the country in a question which has been put before the electorate of a European Union member state in a democratic fashion. Such meddling is unnecessary, negligent and undemocratic. The party of Alexis Tsipras, Syriza, belongs in the Council of Europe to the group which I chair. I do not, however, feel myself called upon to say how the Greeks should vote. My advice: let the Greeks determine their own path. It’s their referendum, and their vote. We should for once be listening, instead of drowning out their voices with all of our opinions.

This article first appeared, in the original Dutch, on the website Joop.nl.

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