Should they stay or should they go? Last weekend, Greeks voted in a hastily-organized referendum that gave the proverbial finger to the country's creditors. With insurmountable debts, Greece's populist government is threatening to leave the Euro, something for which there is no precedent and no mechanism. On the European side, creditors insist on painful economic cuts. No one is quite sure what will happen next, and the only thing everyone agrees on is that a Greek departure from the Euro would be ugly and painful.
What are Greece's options? There do not seem to be many. With policymakers at an impasse, its time to think outside the box. Here's a radical idea for Greece: join Turkey.
The two countries have more than a little history together, of course. Let's not forget that the Iliad and Odyssey take place in Troy, located in "Asia Minor". Istanbul itself was a Greek colony in ancient times. More recently, Greece obtained its independence from the Ottoman Empire only in 1821, and the two countries have fought at least four wars since then. While it is safe to say the two peoples don't care much for each other, perhaps being forced to live in the same country would help them let bygones be bygones.
The idea is less fantastic than one might think. Greece could leave the Euro and start to use the Turkish Lira, which has been a relatively stable currency that has adjusted with changing economic conditions. Politically, the two countries could start with a loose federation, in which monetary and fiscal policy was made in Ankara but local decisions on social policy continue to be made from Athens.
The Turkish economy has been one of the world's darlings in the past few years. At roughly 40% of GDP, Turkish debt is quite manageable. Even if it were to absorb the entire debt of Greece in one fell swoop, it would still have a debt ratio below that of the United Kingdom and France. Furthermore, Turkey's economy is already deeply linked with the EU. Turkey is already a part of the EU customs union, the European Convention of Human Rights, and many other regional agreements. Regulatory and human rights standards would remain more or less the same, and Greeks could continue to live their lives as before.
Turkey's population of 75 million could absorb the 11 million Greeks fairly easily (so long as they don't move across the Aegean.) And while the absorption of Greece might fuel the empire-building fantasies of Tayyip Erdogan in the short term, he would soon find that the addition of 11 million angry Christians changed the calculus. Turkey absorbing Greece might actually change Turkish electoral politics for the better, if Erdogan's domestic opponents make common cause with the new voters.
A union of Greece and Turkey would bring some additional bonuses. The long-standing territorial dispute in Cyprus, which has proved singularly unamenable to international solutions, might fade away. And the move could end the long-standing disputes over which country invented baklava and dolma.
Have no fear, Greece! The glorious past offers a way out of the current impasse.