Neither Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras nor the leader of the conservative opposition Kyriakos Mitsotakis is toying with the idea of a referendum. Admittedly, there are a few vehemently anti-European parties both inside and outside of parliament which, partly on the extreme left and partly on the extreme right of the political spectrum, together have the support of around 30 percent of the electorate; moreover, there is an anti-European wing within Mr. Tsipras’ leftist alliance Syriza. But it is doubtful that these forces could gain the upper hand and compel a referendum. And even if they did: A majority of Greeks would certainly vote to remain.
Of course, the reputation of the E.U. has been tarnished during these years of crisis.
Whereas before the crisis a majority of Greeks were enthusiastic Europeans who often trusted European institutions more than their own, now only 27 percent express a positive opinion about the E.U. A whopping 92 percent believe that the E.U. has failed in its economic and financial policies; 94 percent disapprove of its handling of the refugee problem. But these figures primarily mirror the crisis in Greece: Many Greeks view the E.U. – and particularly Germany – as neo-colonial powers that decree one austerity program after another and have plunged their country into a never-ending downward spiral.
Then there is the euro, the common currency – most Greeks want to keep it. Surveys regularly find that between 60 and 75 percent of Greeks would prefer to stay in the monetary union in spite of the E.U.’s “austerity dictatorship” and crisis. So, because of the euro, most Greeks also want to remain in the E.U. That means any Grexit scenario would differ from the Brexit: For the British, currency was not an issue.
Last year, Greece was visited by more tourists from Great Britain than from any other country.
But Greece will feel the consequences of the Brexit. If as many are predicting, the Brexit plunges the United Kingdom and the European Union into an economic crisis, Greece will be hit particularly hard as one of the economically weakest, if not the weakest E.U. country. Last year, Greece was visited by more tourists from Great Britain than from any other country; it’s likely the British will no longer come in such large numbers if their country slides into recession. Great Britain also plays an important role for Greece as an export market; it is the sixth-largest importer of Greek products.
Politically as well, the winds could change: For months, possibly for years, the E.U. will be occupied with phasing out British membership and limiting the political fallout. The government in Athens must reckon with less willingness in Brussels and other European capitals to also focus intensively on the chronic Greek crisis. This could mean: less lenience with Greece, less patience, perhaps even less solidarity. Ultimately, that could mean that after the Brexit, a Grexit does in fact return to the political agenda.
Gerd Höhler is Handelsblatt’s correspondent in Athens. To contact him: email@example.com