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  1. Wealth
May 14, 2012

Axel Weber Accuses the Greeks of Hubris

By Spear's

The argument of one of Europe’s most senior bankers seems to be that Greece wants to make its neighbours jealous, destructive penury be damned!

Last week, I attended the Economist’s Bellwether Europe Conference – big brains discussing big issues. The first debate (to continue the alliteration) was called ‘Basel or Bust: How do we achieve financial stability and economic prosperity?’.

While Bill Winters, Adair Turner and Mario Nava were interesting participants – Lord Turner spoke approvingly of the powers at the Bank of England he might soon be assuming – I found their conversation overshadowed by an earlier remark made by the keynote speaker, Axel Weber, former head of the Bundesbank and chairman of UBS.

He was talking about why Greece won’t leave the eurozone: ‘Romania and Albania would do anything to get into the same club as Greece. Do you think Greece would give up that distinctive feature in the region?’ The Greek government would not decide to leave the eurozone ‘if they were rational’.

The argument of one of Europe’s most senior bankers seems to be that Greece wants to make its neighbours jealous, destructive penury be damned! This is quite one of the oddest opinions I’ve heard offered on the eurocrisis.

Now, most nations have a certain pride, but does Weber seriously believe Greek hubris (and detestation of its neighbours) is so great that it can endure its current nightmare for as long as it takes?

Perhaps he does, but he is wrong: the Greek people, with their strong anti-bailout votes last week, are not so proud. They see that their only chance of salvation comes through abandoning austerity and leaving the euro. An exit will no doubt be catastrophic in the short term, causing a drastic devaluation of the neo-drachma, but it will be a rational move, and not one obstructed by the weird kind of chauvinism Weber suggests Greece suffers from.

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