Greece's political life is tightly correlated with the road that Europe is on, as is the collective identity of Greeks, which was formed in reference to the assertions of Europeans in regards to the protection of personal and political freedom. The interpretation of institutional standards, ideologies and practices that evolved in Europe was never simple imitation nor was it always seen in a positive light. From the founding of the Greek state, the lack of financial resources made borrowing money from abroad a necessity and led to the political dependence of the newly formed republic from the "protective forces" that intervened in political affairs and defined the characteristics of the institutions. The potential that European nations and, after World War II, the U.S., had to blur the popular will and define what happened often caused reactions to and, at times, a great distance from "the West."
However, the development of Greek political parties and the design of the political system steadily followed the European developments because that is where the forces and the procedures able to frame democracy and guarantee the respect to a just state lay. In other words, it was where to find the basic parameters to implement a national vision for Greece. If, during the first decades of independence, European nations were a good role model for Greece, because they appeared to apply the principles and ideas that were established during the idealized Greek antiquity, today their influence seems to be a contemporaneous one.
While in Greece, the losers of the civil war lacked even the most fundamental liberties and the breaking of parliamentary rules led to the establishment of authoritarian and finally totalitarian regimes, European states provided convincing examples of constitutional democracy, a vision that the large majority of Greek people look towards. As Aristovoulos Manesis pointed out, the political institutionalization of the European peoples is the mirror towards which Greece should look.
Therefore, the integration of Greece in the European community and its participation in the European Union were thought of by citizens as an extra guarantee in the framework of a vast system that seeks to impose democracy through law. The European course of the Greek Republic was a promise not only for the peaceful and equal coexistence with other European nations, but for the meaningful protection of rights and for the deepening of democracy. It would not be an exaggeration to say that belonging to Europe is one of the most basic properties of the Greek Republic, which in turn has been a fundamental pillar of the E.U.
The E.U.'s management of the financial crisis refuted this promise. The Union faced the Greek problem by implementing measures and decision that overstep the primary federal law and take from Greeks fundamental liberties and rights. The interventions were manifested by actions that needlessly pushed aside the European institutions and allowed for the establishment of a "managerial team" of the German Chancellor and the French President who work closely with the ECB and define the fates of Europe. The legitimacy of the E.U. fell before the neoliberal orthodoxy, as international institutions took the place of federal ones (for example, the European Financial Stability Facility -- EFSF and the European Stability Mechanism -- ESM) and the fundamental principles of the Treaties, such as human dignity, liberty and equality, were pushed aside to make room for strict conditions of the memorandums.
On a national level, the implementation of all the aforementioned measures led to a degradation of representative democracy. Parliament has been marginalized both in the legislative process, and in relation to the control of the government. The case of the formation of the Papademos government is telling, as he was sworn in as Prime Minister without a parliamentary group of the governing party, as the Constitution mandates. This all but ensured that the opinion of the then-governing party would not be taken into account, showing that participation in the E.U. was no longer a guarantee for democratic stability.
The Union is not just a unified market that serves its purpose by adopting established, faceless and objective laws. It is becoming a mechanism that, in order to enforce obedience to the rules of neoliberal globalization, rejects the properties of a just society. The mirror of Europe is broken and the Greek people are called to look at their reflection in one of the pieces. The participation in the referendum is complicated but maybe it will let us know which fragment can become the basis for the new reflection of the country.
This post originally appeared on HuffPost Greece and was translated into English.