Did the word ‘referendum’ cross anyone’s mind, let alone anyone’s lips, at the eurozone crisis summit last week?
It certainly didn’t appear in any of the coverage I read. Could it be, once more, that the desire to get the big picture back in focus – not an ignoble objective – led to eyes being diverted from detail which required attention?
The summit appeared to do the trick with the much-vaunted, over-mighty markets, which settled down a little, and the political leaders seemed to be breathing a little more easily. But now Greek PM George Papandreou has got markets across the world and politicians across Europe all atwitter again by announcing that the Greek people will have the final say on the latest bail-out package. What did I say the day after the summit – that delivering the words of the agreement was the easy bit, but that making it happen did not automatically follow. This is a very good example of what I had in mind.
Mr Papandreou barely has control of his own Parliament, let alone a public opinion fed up with the austerity and the incompetence that led to it. So the beaming confidence he displayed in announcing a move that appears to have taken his fellow EU leaders by surprise may well be misplaced. One assumes that if he loses the referendum, exit from the euro must then seriously be on the agenda, which is what his colleagues were desperate to avoid.
Which brings me back to my original question, and why nobody appears to have asked it. Amid the post-summit smiles, had nobody seriously thought to ask Mr Papandreou whether he would be able to get the deal through, and how? And did nobody think to ask whether the R-word might come into play?
It all seems very odd indeed, and feels alarmingly like nobody really had a grip of events at the summit, just an overwhelming desire to agree a plan that would get them through the current turbulence. Mr Papandreou has ensured the turbulence will endure.