Europe’s politicians have cleared the last hurdle in accepting Greece’s third financial bailout but the voting was uncomfortable for everyone. The left-wing populist government in Greece relied on representatives from the more traditional centre-left and centre-right to cover for defections from the ruling coalition; the German government used Social Democrats within the ruling coalition to cover for defections from the Chancellors own Christian Democrats; and the Liberal (VVD)/Party of Labour (PvdA) government the Netherlands got extra support from the left-liberal D66 party to add to its slender one-seat majority.
As a result of these different movements toward the political centre – and similar developments in other countries – the Greek government will get the money it needs to keep up with its debt payments and shore up its banks. That is a good thing for anyone who wants to see Greece have a reasonable chance at recovering from this ongoing crisis. Unfortunately, that centre cannot hold. A populist party like Syriza cannot govern easily with the old pillars of the Greek political establishment; Germany’s grand coalition is an historical anomaly; and the result of eight years of close cooperation between VVD, PvdA and D66 was bad for all. So the question is whether Europe’s political centre will splinter before the Greek situation becomes sustainable.