I was recently in Greece, in some part because, having visited Egypt about a decade ago, I now find myself tremendously glad I took the opportunity when I did, and as a westerner hearing rumblings of a nation in decline, I decided I should also "see Greece before it is too late".
I'm glad I did, because Greece is a fabulous place to visit, but having been there, I have a much different perspective on the relationship between Greece and the EU.
Greece is a young democracy. In some ways, it is still dealing with those growing pains that any government less than the age of many of it's citizens gets to experience. Culturally, however, Greece has a fully realized identity. The people of Greece like their government, but they will still be Greece regardless of the near-term actions of the Eu.
And that brings me to the thrust of what I have to say. In the west, we have been sold a narrative of an EU getting strung along by a country unwilling to cooperate and, like an unruly child and a stern parent, getting it's comeuppance.
I now believe this couldn't be further from the truth. Greece certainly is motivated to be part of the EU: there are some nice benefits and leaving now would be a hassle. But "hassle" is all it would be for Greece. It would not be a disaster - Greece would be fine, they would change their currency and their airport checks (basically just removing the "Europeans get to cut" lines) and look to wiser investors willing to cut a long term deal on a country that really is a good bet all things considered.
By contrast, the EU absolutely needs to cut a deal with Greece. In the brilliant phrasing of a colleague who discussed this with me during lunch, the EU now has the chance to show the world whether they are a union, "or just a club". If the EU kicks Greece out, it shows that they are a fair weather friend, not willing to help with real stability, or even take responsibility for it's own messes (Barclays is not, I would note, a Grecian bank). They show that their only political power is to storm off when things get bad, and they show that countries with uncertain economic futures might be better off not changing anything major in favor of overall stability when the EU might come back and pull the rug out when things get a little bad.
And if the EU does pull the rug out, wise investors will stick with Greece, where there is hope and political will to make things better, but they will pull out of the EU, an institution so eager to use its bully pulpit that if forgot the central mission of improved stability and access for all. In fact, it's sort of shameful that the EU has had such a nonchalant approach to the east Mediterranean so far.
It seems to me that the EU needs Greece as much as Greece needs the EU (maybe more). Let's hope that the EU can acknowledge this and cut a deal that is truly productive for all parties involved.