Margaret Scott

Whose Sovereignty?

From crisis-stricken Greece to bloodstained Syria, the old issue of national sovereignty has resurfaced with a vengeance. To adhere to a narrow concept of sovereignty in this world is an unwise anachronism at best, and a dangerous gamble at worst.

MADRID – Despite the huge sums expended to write down Greece’s foreign debt, there has been an outcry ofcensure against “interference” with the country’s national sovereignty. True, in exchange for considerable European aid, Greece’s ability to maneuver independently will be limited. But are complaints that Greek sovereignty has been severely impaired justified?

The idea of a nation-state’s sovereignty is rooted in the seventeenth-century Treaty of Westphalia, which embraced non-interference by external agents in states’ domestic affairs as the guiding principle of international relations. But, taken to its logical extreme, national sovereignty would require the complete physical and social isolation of states from one another. Indeed, an excessive emphasis on national sovereignty leads to serious problems: after all, any international agreement, whether political or economic, entails a certain transfer of sovereignty.

Europe’s aid to Greece is an example of a cooperative agreement whereby the various parties negotiate with the others’ interests in mind. Greece asked its fellow European Union members for help, and they have obliged with an enormous amount of aid. In addition to €130 billion in loans (more than 40% of Greek GDP, on top of the €110 billion loaned to Greece in 2010), a 50% “haircut” has been imposed on Greece’s private creditors, and the European Central Bank has waived expected returns on its holdings of Greek bonds.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/NHMSUNz;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.