As Greece meets the second stage of its bailout conditions, achieving a winning debt or bond-swap that has scored it some Euro points, we ask the question whether, in spite of Greek's firm bid to remain entrenched in the Euro, it should consider a 'swap' of a fundamentally different kind.
While Euro-ministers are set to meet tomorrow, Monday 12th March, to officially sign off on Greece's second bailout, we entertain the idea that Greece not be more at home in the Arab lands, trading Europe for the Middle East?
Just on Friday, 9th March, France's Premier announced that Greece's crisis was over. The sense was that the 'problem like Greece' was now officially solved, or at least no longer the conundrum it had once posed. "Today the problem is solved," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said.
A Greek financial voice chimed with some self-congratulations: "I would like to say how happy I am that a solution to the Greek crisis, which has weighed on the economic and financial situation in Europe and the world for months, has been found."
Not without some reservations even today by Greece, with its Trade Unions out in protest, opposing the participation of pension funds in the debt-swap deal between the Greek state and private bond holders, Greece was mainly on board; relieved that its voyage to keeping its chains anchored down in Europe was secured again.
Still, until recently, Greece with its continental scale debt crisis was not feeling all that welcome in Europe. Its membership in the European Union had felt under-threat ever since the bailout operation began. Plus, slammed as the less than flattering epithet of 'the spoilt child of Europe', Greece could do well to shop around for other options. Other geographical affiliations or regions. Other 'Middle Eastern' states have had flexible regional affiliations when it comes to membership and definitions. Israel has for a long time held its place as a contender in the "Eurovision" Song Contest.
Looking at the alternatives to continental Europe, Greece might be in good company in the Middle East, where countries are not held to account for their individual short-comings. Or for their co-dependency issues. Syria has come to depend on intra-regional Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iran. Palestine has for a long time now turned to its Arab neighbors for support or received it unsolicited. Lebanon has been bailed out by neighbors in the past, particularly the Gulf states. Bahrain has been able to count on neighboring Saudi for relief in times of security threat. The Arabs do not pretend to share their wealth or bind their economic fates together, and the Arab League as of yet has no plans for a joint currency.
Greek Tragedy to become a Middle East Drama?
For socio-cultural and 'economical' reasons, it could be argued (if facetiously at least) that Greece might be more at home in the Middle East than Europe. Greece, after all, shares something of an affinity with at least some of the Mediterranean-facing Middle East (and North Africa) nations, where, controversially-stating, the only markers of qualifying are to be in a state of ongoing decline.
Criteria to belonging to the Middle East-- going by the existing members' qualifications
- International Debt
- Weak currencies (some currencies are pegged to the dollar)
- A whole plethora of diverse political parties. But only a few rise to power.
- Religion controlling political life
- Belonging to the Eastern Churches
-Religio-Fanaticism and / or sectarian identity with militias doing the bidding of the state
-Having a long-time sworn enemy -- (Israel)
-Restricting freedom of speech particularly on line
-Inadequate natural resources along much of the Levant, or the Arab Eastern Mediterranean
-Dependency on tourism
-Military state, or big spender on military expenditure
- Mediterranean Arab shared culture
- Diet is olive oil and humus-heavy, with flat-breads
- High unemployment - youth unemployment is at an all-time record
- Tendency to coups
- Unresolved, long-term crises
How would Greece qualify? A few striking examples
- Heavily in debt
- The Greek orthodox church is deeply involved in politics, and in turn is protected by the State.
- Long-time sworn enemy -- (Turkey)
- High unemployment along with Spain - 2nd highest rate in Europe. Youth unemployment 40%
- Dependent on tourism
- Greece spends a lot on its military - second highest in Europe
- A history of military coups
- Mediterranean hot blooded, expressive culture, with a 'flexible' attitude to life
-Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil and humus and pitta breads
- Disposition to lengthy lunches, breaks and siestas
- Living in a state of crisis
Arguments for or against Greece joining the Middle East?
Please comment on whether you think Greece should move out of Europe and into the Middle East.
Yes/ No. Maybe you have other regional alternatives to suggest?