The impromptu decision by the Greek prime minister to have a referendum two months hence on the EU Summit decisions last week on the European debt crisis is irresponsible. Leaders must lead and take public responsibility.

To ask the Greek public to vote for or against the EU plan is to push on to the public a decision that was taken seriously by leaders, including the Greek Prime Minister, to move forward toward the resolution of the crisis that is threatening Europe and the entire global economy.

President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel should force Prime Minister Papandreou to rescind his proposal for a referendum and get on with the business of seeing whether the European agreements have sufficient global support, rather than undermining them, by asking the Greek public to endorse these agreements which the Prime Minister has been a party to.

What is needed now is for the G20 Cannes Summit this week to endorse, support, and amplify the Brussels EU agreement of last week, rather than back-peddle and pretend that the world can wait for the Greek public to endorse a plan two months hence (which was the best that their prime minister could feasibly negotiate as the way forward for his people).

Leadership requires that leaders take responsibility for doing what is in the larger public interest; it is wrong to ask the Greek public to take the final decision on the European plan for a debt work-out for Greece when the Greek PM was the one who negotiated the best deal for Greece in the context of what was necessary for the survival of the Euro, the sustainability of the growth trajectory of Europe, and the best interests of the world economy.

To propose a referendum which allows the Greek public to second guess their prime minister without having the adequate information to do so, is a travesty of public responsibility.

 

Colin Bradford is a Senior Fellow at the CIGI and at The Brookings Institution in Washington.

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