While I was sitting in the chamber of the European Parliament in Strasbourg in July for the speech by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a thought suddenly crossed my mind. For once, the place had come alive. Tsipras entered to an extraordinary reception. The man who had dared to stand up to the Brussels machine on behalf of his country was predictably vilified by the Eurofederalists across the middle of the chamber.
The Germans, particularly, behaved disgracefully towards Mr Tsipiras, refusing to engage, hurling insults and acting like spoilt children. Merkel’s EPP, and the Conservatives’ former allies, portrayed themselves as the bully boys, a country that couldn’t get its own way and was determined to make Tsipiras feel uncomfortable. Germany rules the roost and pulls the law-making strings in Brussels. Whether it is the socialist president Shultz or Merkel’s men and women, they run things.
In the Europe of Nations and Freedom group, we gave Tsipras the welcome he deserved. So, I will add, did my former colleagues in UKIP. What really struck me at the time, however, was the fact that the European Parliament only ever starts to seem like a proper political institution at a moment of crisis and the entire project is creaking at the seams.
So I don’t believe much of the current media chatter about a third bailout deal for Greece sailing through more or less, as seems to be the complacent drift of the coverage. Interestingly, most of that is buried away far from the front pages where this very issue was dominating the agenda only weeks ago. That itself reflects the smug complacency of the European establishment and, sad to say, a lot of the British press too. Many imagine that the EU bullying Greece back to the negotiating table last month is basically the end of the matter.
Far from it. Dig a little deeper and look at the economic analysis published by the more serious outfits and the reality of the single currency in Greece is stark and simple – the real Greek economy has simply stopped functioning in even a basically adequate manner. The idea that Greece can be kept in the Euro and at the same time undergo a domestic economic revival is the stuff of fantasy politics.
One might have hoped that August, with its greater space for in depth debate, might have been used by responsible voices to start facing up to the truth of how seriously the EU has failed in Greece. Not a lot of sign of such realism thus far, needless to say. A flattened country, consigned to the back pages of the newspapers, and those responsible are back to pretending nothing much has happened.