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Thesis & Antithesis

A critical perspective on energy, international politics & current affairs

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Location: Washington, D.C.

greekdefaultwatch@gmail.com Natural gas consultant by day, blogger on the Greek economy by night. Trained as an economist and political scientist. I believe in common sense and in data, and my aim is to offer insight written in language that is clear and convincing.

12 October 2005

From Athens to Budapest

Hungary joins Greece as the latest member in the European Union’s creative accounting department. The news that Budapest fiddled with numbers to reduce its budget deficit (in an effort to comply with a 3% limit that so many countries have breached) says a lot about Europe.

It shows how Europe remains a place of sovereign states. Some states will cheat to avoid getting caught, while others will come out and flatly admit that they are not going to be within the 3% limit. So much for equality.

Playing with numbers also reinforces the idea that countries have yet to develop a serious allegiance to the idea of Europe. While unification is desirable, country comes first, as first comes the need not to be embarrassed internationally. From this need comes some incentive to cheat.

The story also reveals narrow-mindedness and a sense of zero-sum mentality—that compliance for the sake of compliance is less important. But a place where compliance is seen as a calculated political decision is a place that falls under the purview of international politics, not the domestic kind that Europe hopes to create.

Am I reading too much into this? Maybe I am. It was Disraeli who said, “there are three types of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.” He would probably add government and corporate accounts if he were around today.

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