Hotel Europa: You Can Check Out, But You Can Never Leave

2 mins. to read

By Zak Mir

Mixing pop music with politics is not necessarily a good thing to do, with just about the best example in the genre being Tony Blair’s “Thing can only get better” campaign song for New Labour in 1997. However, in the wake of the Syriza “victory” in Greece over the weekend one is forced to think of analogies which may be appropriate to the plight of Greece and the EU at the moment.

Perhaps the best is the most famous song of The Eagles, Hotel California which included the famous line,

“You can check out, but you can never leave.”

While this phrase can be applied to many aspects of modern life, from marriage to paying HMRC, as far as the latest events in southern Europe are concerned this could be the most appropriate.

From a detached view, i.e. not of the left or with any axe to grind regarding the Eurozone, it would appear that the political revolution in Greece is merely a triumph of charisma over reality. In fact, it may be an echo of the aforementioned Tony Blair sleeping to power on an anti Tory ticket and then proving to be a better one than all of them except Mrs Thatcher.

Mr Tsipras may be a supercharged disruptive politician in the mould of an Alex Salmond or even a Nigel Farage, and we can add a Clooneyesque appeal in the mix as well. But despite all the David and Goliath rhetoric against the EU and austerity, he still has a €319 billion debt to pay. The Greeks happily helped themselves to the cash, and it was not a gift.

Apart from the legal issues of defaulting on this rather hefty mortgage, there is also the problem that, even if Greece were to successfully untangle itself from its obligations – breaking every law in town in the process, it would still require wads of cash to reboot itself outside the Eurozone. I suspect that there will not be too many takers on the lending front – especially given the way that the only institutions that one come to mind RBS (RBS), HBOS, Northern Rock are no longer the forces they were before the financial crisis in terms of lending anything to anyone. Therefore only the Bank of Toyland would be in the frame.

So we return to The Eagles scenario.

At some point soon Tsipras’s honeymoon will end and it will be one of the more painful political U turns in recent history. At this point he will require all of the charms he used to go from his party being a marginal political peashooter, to the colossus we are looking at currently.

Saying all that, there is perhaps just one get out of jail card available to Syriza. It can do what no one has done before, or to borrow the Star Trek line “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” This would be to rid Greece of corruption, the “black money” economy, the backhanders, restrictive practices, and the plain old inefficiencies.

The irony of course on this front is that if the country did not have such problems, it would not be in the position it is now. Tsipras may manage to touch the tip of the iceberg on this front given free rein over a couple of terms, but it is a long haul for a country now peppered with food banks to get back to a fully fledged first world financial system.

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