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European Discourses on Managing the Greek Crisis: Denial, Distancing and Blaming

Sotirios Zartaloudis, Dimitris Papadimitriou, Adonis Pegasiou

This paper examines European discourses during the recent Euro crisis with regard to the Greek case employing the theoretical framework of discursive institutionalism. It argues that the Greek crisis triggered major changes in both coordinative and communicative Eurozone discourses. Regarding the former, the decision to involve the International Monetary Fund in the Greek bailout programme through the so-called 'Troika' introduced an unprecedented element of external interference in the Eurozone. Regarding the latter, three key shifts are identified: (i) an increasing doubt over the Euro as a strong currency underpinned by sound economic fundamentals; (ii) the growing suspicion over the rigour and impartiality of policing the 'rules of the game'; and (iii) an explicit acknowledgement of the possibility of a Euro-exit, despite unequivocal Treaty clauses to the opposite. These discursive shifts map onto different stages of the management of the Greek crisis. Hence, after an initial narrative of denial, European leaders acknowledged that the EU lacked the necessary tools to deal a wider Eurozone problem. The creation of the European Financial Stability Facility in May 2010, however, was very much portrayed as a means of dealing with a Greek 'exceptional' case. After November 2011 another discursive taboo was broken: the threat of a Greek exit from the Eurozone ('Grexit'). Although still not entirely dismissed, the 'Grexit' discourse only begun to subside after June 2012 as European leaders sought to support Greece's fragile pro-bailout coalition government.

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