The Americans were definitely hoping against the dramatic developments of the past weeks, but they must also feel somewhat vindicated. Their main argument last summer for Greece to stay in the eurozone focused on the geostrategic dangers if our country exited the euro. When U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew could no longer substantiate the arguments involving economic instability, he focused on geopolitical instability. In particular, he focused on the instability that the Greek exit from the euro, or Grexit, would cause for the country itself, which is a gateway to Europe for immigrants, refugees and possibly aspiring terrorists.
Already last summer, in tandem with the Greek crisis, the refugee question had begun drawing the attention of the international community. Today, the terrorist attacks against Paris — a landmark city for the identity of Europe — and the ongoing threat in Brussels have changed the priorities of the Europeans to focus instead on public safety. Apart from being the capital of Belgium, Brussels is also the headquarters of the European Union. The risk of terrorism and the political handling of the refugee issue are expected to test the cohesion of the EU even further.
For a while now, the U.S. has been warning about the danger of foreign fighters entering Europe among the refugees. Additionally, in an internal report by the Department of Homeland Security in May, it was estimated that the Islamic State now has the capability of conducting more complex attacks similar to those in Paris. Reflecting the global nature of the threat, the U.S. Department of State issued an international travel alert on Monday, sounding the alarm bell for new terrorist attacks and asking Americans to be extra vigilant when using public transportation or when they are in public spaces.
In this context, Greece is of concern to the international community, as it is a gateway for refugees and any potential terrorists that might be among them. In May’s report, there was special mention of the fact that the mastermind of the Paris attacks coordinated a terrorist attack that was foiled by Belgian authorities from Athens at the beginning of the year. Border control, the effectiveness of the Greek authorities and the exchange of information are of critical importance for the prevention of new terrorist attacks in Europe. Characteristic of that is the fact that yesterday President Obama mentioned the need for direct exchange of information between the European and American authorities for those entering Europe, including any biometric data. Domestically we may be drowning in economic problems and the political turbulence caused by adopting the measures of the third memorandum,* but on our partners’ radar, the issue of terrorism is now what’s prevalent. The fact that the recapitalization of the banks was completed successfully is a positive one, since it stabilizes the foundations of the Greek economy and delays the difficult decisions. In these dangerous times, a collapse of the negotiations and the return of the risk of a Grexit for Greece would amplify the country’s political instability, with unforeseen consequences to international security. Thus, the Europeans now understand how to put the Americans’ theoretical argument of last summer into practice. For that reason and that reason alone, the Europeans may lower their requirements. And if it becomes obvious that the government cannot live up to the agreement, it is likely that international pressure of broader consent in applying the memorandum will return and perhaps be even more broadly spread in the context of an all-party coalition.
So, this is contrary to the recent concerns held by the global intelligence company Stratfor, which predicts that the fortification of the anti-immigration sentiment will lead to the rise of the Golden Dawn** and that will bring Greece much closer to a Grexit. However, the refugee issue is an opportunity for the country to remove that risk. That, of course, will happen under certain conditions: the smooth continuation of the Greek program, but also the cooperation inside the European and international framework for the purpose of combating security threats.
*Editor’s note: The third memorandum refers to Greece’s Third Memorandum of Understanding struck this year between Greece and its creditors in an effort to restore fiscal stability to the country.
**Editor’s note: The Golden Dawn is a far-right Greek political party.
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