Studio 14: Greece: a (non-) European Country
by Yannis Almpanis

Salvatore Gozzo, Feres, Border zone of the river Evros/Meriç, Greece, November 27, 2014

During a recent Eurogroup meeting, some European finance ministers allegedly told Euclid Tsakalotos that, while he may be right in protesting against the terms imposed by the IMF, he will ultimately have to accept them. They argued that it is imperative for the IMF to continue to participate in the Greek program, because this is what the public in their countries is asking for—which is important in any case, but even more so in an election year. Tsakalotos’ reply is alleged to have been: “Do we not hold elections, do we not have a public, are we not a European country?” The finance minister of a European country, taking part in a meeting of a high-level European institution, posed the question of whether his country is indeed European…

We cannot be sure whether this exchange did in fact take place—it’s not really important. What is important is that the exchange, real or not, reflects the contradictory state of Greece today, a country inside/outside Europe.

Greece, a (non-) European country. A country in a state of constitutional exception, where “inside Europe” and “outside Europe” converge and diverge, interweave and conflict. An intermediate zone in which nothing European is in place, while at the same time everything is European.

Greece is a country that is a member of the European Union but in which all rules applicable to all other member states have, due to the Memorandum, been suspended. It is a country that has the euro, whose euros are not the same as those of the other Eurozone countries (due to capital controls). It is a country whose finance minister typically takes part in the Eurogroup on an equal basis, but who does not have the same rights as other ministers, belonging instead to an undefined “grey” zone. It is a country in which, according to president Juncker, the European acquis on labor rights is in force, but which, according to president Juncker again, it cannot be legally enshrined, because it is not possible to retract Memorandum legislation. It is a country which is the refugee gateway into Europe yet, at the same time, is the wall excluding them from Europe. In Greece, refugees are both in Europe and not in Europe at the same time. It is a country in which human rights and international law are enforced, but where there is a gap in the rights and laws applicable to refugees. It is a country whose political elite, when proclaiming their will to “remain in Europe no matter what,” uses the phrase “faith in the European orientation.” Yet orientation is a word which refers to something that is out there, and which one must move toward. The contradiction in terms is very revealing: In order for Greece to remain in Europe, it must move toward somewhere out there, where Europe is.

However, the “Greek case” is an indispensable part of the “European case,” an “exception” which plays a pivotal role in shaping the new “norm.” An “outside” perpetually on the “inside.”

Studio 14 is a research group that is part of documenta 14. Starting from the “Greek case,” it attempts to pose questions that concern contemporary Europe as a whole, the Europe of Memoranda and refugees, of markets and Brexit. By combining art, theory, and politics, Studio 14 attempts to investigate, reflect on, discuss, and, ultimately, produce knowledge. Knowledge on that which is imposed “from above,” and that which is emerging “from below”: new hybrid languages and identities, new communities of resistance and creativity. You will find us at the Conservatory.

Yannis Almpanis is a journalist and blogger. He studied French Literature in Athens and Political Philosophy in Paris and is active in radical politics.

Posted in Notes on 05.03.2017

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