Recently, European creditors proposed in exchange for the loans Greece needs as part of a rescue plan for the country and in response, 61 percent of Greek voters rejected the economic measures. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had urged Greeks to vote “no” against austerity measures and reports indicated that the pressure has intensified to restart bailout talks, as Tsipras heads to Brussels to obtain a rescue deal with European leaders. Mai’a K. Davis Cross, an assistant professor of Political Science and International Affairs at Northeastern University and an expert in European politics, examined the significance of the vote and what’s next for Greece and Europe as a whole.
The outcome of the referendum seems to show that the Greek people are tired of dealing with austerity. At the same time, referenda—especially hastily scheduled ones—are notoriously weak at gauging public sentiment and can sometimes even be anti-democratic when citizens do not fully understand what exactly is at stake. The result often hinges on the side which campaigns better or gets its message across more convincingly. Sometimes people cast a protest vote, rather than making a choice that actually hinges upon the options in the referendum. In this case, Greek citizens were asked to vote on a bailout package that had already expired, some of the details of which were not even available to the public.
If Greece charts a path toward recovery and growth, and agrees to a viable deal with its creditors, this crisis will probably make the EU stronger and more resilient over the long term. Just as with the more general Eurozone crisis itself, dealing with unprecedented obstacles and challenges to EU integration enables European leaders to put into place better mechanisms for coping with similar challenges in the future. As evidence of this, the contagion effect from Greece has been nowhere close to as serious for the EU this time around as compared to 2010.