Blog Solving two crises in Europe

Solving two crises in Europe
Greece plays a central role in two key issues testing the EU’s resolve

A little over a year ago, as Antonis Samaras acknowledged defeat in general elections that ended his tenure as Greek prime minister, he pleaded with his successor not to jeopardize Greece’s European Union membership.

"I hand over a country that is part of the EU and the euro. For the good of this country, I hope the next government will maintain what has been achieved," Samaras said in his concession speech.

Samaras’s term as prime minister was cut short by Greek voters worn out by years of economic slowdown and belt-tightening. Rejecting pleas for additional austerity to appease international creditors, the Greek people chose left winger Alexis Tsirpas and ultimately voted down a bailout referendum 61 percent to 39 percent.

At the same time, Greece has been hit as hard as any EU nation by the wave of migrants fleeing Middle East conflicts. Still teetering near bankruptcy, Greece has scant resources to support tens of thousands of refugees camped at its northern border since other EU nations began shutting their doors to further migration.

Now some analysts see a chance for Greece to negotiate better deals on both crises—reducing its debt, for example, in exchange for continuing to handle a heavy share of immigration.

In an ironic twist, Greece and Germany—the southern European nation’s main financial protagonist—share some common ground regarding the migrants. Greece has proven to be a primary entry point to Europe from the south, while Germany is the most popular destination for refugees once they enter the EU. Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Tsirpas are under increasing pressure to find new solutions.

Could Greece drive a better bargain by combining these two issues?

Samaras could provide some answers in his keynote presentation: What role will Greece play in defining the future of Europe? at the Asian Investment Conference, on April 7.