Greece, France, and the Perils of State Sovereignty

President-elect Francois Hollande will become France’s first Socialist president in nearly two decades.

Sunday’s elections in Greece and France have sent shockwaves through Europe. The election of candidates who reject austerity (tax increases and painful spending cuts) as the path out of Europe’s financial crisis will affect Greece’s ability to make good on the conditions of its bailout and herald a clash between German leader and austerity champion Angela Merkel and the newly elected French president, Francois Hollande.

There is even talk of Greece leaving the eurozone. As reported in the LA Times today, Alexis Tsipras of the Radical Left Coalition, or Syriza, “called on other political forces in the country to ‘end the agreements of subservience’ threatening more job cuts in the coming weeks. ‘The bailout parties no longer have a majority in Parliament to vote for measures that plunder the country,’ Tsipras told reporters in Athens after laying out a five-point plan for a new government he hopes to form with other leftist forces. It includes ‘immediate cancellation’ of further public spending cuts and a moratorium on debt servicing…Those cancellations would include the 150,000 state job cuts and $14 billion in new austerity measures expected next month in order for Greece to get the latest tranche of a bailout deal reached last year.”

The reason why the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and other International Governmental Organizations (IGOs) cannot just impose their will on member states and force them to abide by their commitments is the continued dominance of state sovereignty in world politics. Sovereignty has been a bedrock principle of the international system since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, and it allows states’ governments to rule as the ultimate authority within their borders. While sovereignty protects states’ independence and helps to minimize external interference, it plays havoc with attempts to create authoritative supranational rules and bodies to deal with issues including human rights, trade, and arms control.

What do you think? Does the public rejection of austerity measures in Greece, France, and elsewhere make the end of the 17-member eurozone inevitable? Take the poll below and let us know your thoughts.


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