The EU elephant in the Greek room: What would EU citizens have voted for in the referendum?

von Alberto Alemanno

July 5, 2015 will go down in history as a game changer for Europe, regardless of what you think, or would have voted for, in the Greek referendum.

The future of the Eurozone is no longer a private affaire by EU leaders and creditors but – amid an ill-designed and largely unanticipated referendum – suddenly became the object of a transnational and pan-European political conversation about our collective future.

For the first time, no single EU citizen – regardless of her passport – could credibly claim not to care about what was going on in another Member State. The rejection of the Constitutional Treaty in France and the Netherlands resonated like a first world problem when compared to the concern and urgency prompted by this vote.

The stakes of the Greek referendum were just too high to be left to the Greek citizens alone. Abruptly, we – EU citizens – were forced to take a stance on the current integration impasse. Although we could not actually cast a ballot, we all strived to inform ourselves, formed cognizant opinions and engaged in public debate. We did so despite the information asymmetry characterizing this referendum as well as our limited literacy about Greek domestic politics.

Amid the impending Greek referendum, we (‘experts’) were offered the chance to discuss Europe with them (‘citizens’) – the baker, the coffeeshop customers, and our own families – who all became suddenly and genuinely interested and invested in Europe. For the first time, our EU upbringing and nerdiness (a common disease among the readers of this blog) were reconciled with our layman status.

The gap between our technocratic instinct and political wisdom was exceptionally closed.

Were it not for the huge human and social costs currently experienced by millions of Greek citizens, the referendum’s unintended consequences could be seen as a novel and a largely positive development for Europe ...

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