This satire was originally intended to be an April Fool’s story for the EUobserver, but due to some editorial hiccups, it was never published. I’d planned on putting it up here straight away, but the best laid plans of mice and men, etc., etc. Anyway, it seems it might still be worth a laugh given what’s happening at the moment, despite some of the poll numbers being out of date.
The EU is exploring a possible restoration of the Greek monarchy, should an unclear general-election outcome produced a period of extended political instability, EUobserver has learnt.
A three-man working group in Brussels has been quietly tasked with taking soundings of Crown Prince Pavlos, the heir apparent of Constantine II, the last king of Greece, as to whether the 45-year-old yachtsman and investment banker would be willing to assume power under such circumstances.
According to sources close to the working group – comprising two individuals taken from the office of the European Council president and a third from the German finance ministry – the crown prince has been approached on three occasions, but has yet to make a firm commitment.
“A hung parliament after 6 May [the presumed date of the upcoming general election] appears increasingly likely,” reads a terse, one-page document outlining the options seen by EUobserver.
Some 14 different parties have enough support to place in opinion polls, according to one survey by VPRC for Epikaira magazine conducted between 15 March and 19 March, with eight of them expected to enter the parliament. The transformed chamber will likely welcome four far-left parties that have a combined 37.5 percent, as well as two far-right groups, the extreme-nationalist Laos and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn.
“An anti-bailout majority in the parliament is a real possibility, although it is not expected that the wide variety of mutually antagonistic parties representing this perspective will be able to form a coalition,” the paper continues.
“If the election does not produce a government with a clear majority, there could even be a second election before the end of the month, which would also be unlikely to produce a decisive result.”
“A still greater fear is a Belgium-style situation, where government-formation negotiations drag on for months while economic reforms stall,” the paper concludes.
“Unorthodox alternatives to such a grave situation require dispassionate consideration.”
The EU and IMF have warned Greeks that whoever wins the election, there must not be any detour from the austerity and structural adjustment agreed with international lenders, if the country is to continue receiving bail-out cash.
“Without a regime change in policy implementation and a much broader political consensus in favor of painful but necessary reforms, there is a high risk that the programme derails,” ECB executive board member Joerg Asmussen told MEPs in Brussels on Tuesday (27 March).
Some European capitals would prefer that the elections were delayed. On 11 March, German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble saluted Italy’s commitment to stick with an unelected technocrat prime minister, former EU commissioner Mario Monti, until 2013.
Greeks want a ‘strongman’
The working group is aware that the installation of an EU-appointed monarch with powers of rule by decree, as a contact close to the working group confirmed is being considered, would be controversial domestically.
“But we also need to be ready with a Plan B if the political situation deteriorates, in order to maintain a stable execution of the agreed economic programme and to safeguard the European economy,” the contact told this website.
Brussels and Berlin have also taken heart from a survey last year by Greece’s Kappa Institute that reported that less than a quarter of the country’s citizens believed that a democratically-elected government will be able to overcome the ordeal they are going through and that 22.7 percent want “a strongman” to resolve the ongoing crisis.
“The problem with parachuting in a ‘fiscal warden’ from outside, such as a budget super-commissioner, is that he would be rejected by Greeks, who are very nationalistic, as we’ve seen with the reaction to the troika,” the contact added, referring to the EU-IMF-ECB inspectorate who are often the target of violent protest in Athens.
“But Pavlos is Greek, so this would perform a sort of political jiu-jitsu – flipping Greek nationalism into serving the European interest instead of undermining it.”
The crown prince was approached instead of King Constantine, who was deposed in 1974 but is still alive, due to the former ruler’s association with the military junta that ruled the country in the late sixties and early seventies.
“Pavlos isn’t tainted by any perceived connection with the colonels the way that his father is. Plus he’s young, handsome, a record-breaking champion sailor, and has founded four different hedge funds and private asset management groups.”
“He is absolutely the face of the new Greece.”
A Frankfurt-based spokeswoman for the crown prince would not confirm whether he had been approached by EU representatives about the matter.
Portuguese ‘Keynesian King’ unwanted
The working group has also explored similar options for fellow EU-IMF bail-out countries Portugal and Ireland, republics both, although with a more qualified degree of success in finding appropriate candidates for the job.
“Portugal has been a republic for a more than a century, which makes things trickier than Greece, but a bigger issue is who the pretender to the throne is,” the contact explained.
Dom Duarte Pio, the 67-year-old 24th Duke of Braganza and sixth Prince Royal of Portugal, is the cousin, six times removed, of the last Portuguese monarch, overthrown in the 1910 revolution. Brussels and Berlin are not quite as enthusiastic about him as they are the Greek royal: “We just don’t know whether he could be trusted to push through the tough reforms that are needed.”
“On the plus side, Duarte has publicly agitated for a re-establishment of the ‘Kingdom of Portugal and the Algarves’, and his Causa Real monarchist organisation, which is headed by a former central bank chief, has 10,000 members. So there is at least a solid base of support for the idea, should we need to take action.”
“But he’s less a Richard Branson-like character, like Pavlos, than a tweedy professor. He’s a trained agronomist. He works as agricultural development consultant.” the contact said.
“He also has a record of speaking out about the environment, and in the 1990s actively campaigned for the independence of former Portuguese colony East Timor from Indonesia.”
“And then there are the suspicions that his economic views might be a tad on the Keynesian side.”
Tsarevich George of Dublin
While Portugal remains a question mark, the investiture of an EU monarch in the Republic of Ireland could, counterintuitively, turn out to be the easiest such process in the three member states.
“With Ireland, the group has had to do an awful lot of historical research on Wikipedia, and at first it was very discouraging,” the contact said, laying out the analysis that the working group had produced.
Ireland has not had a domestic ‘high king’ since before the Norman Invasion of 1171. And, obscuring the line of royal succession still further, the native monarchy never transformed itself into a system of nation-state primogeniture – the custom of the firstborn inheriting the realm. Instead, by the eleventh century, the country had descended into civil war between competing families.
As a result, there are more than a million people in Ireland and beyond who all have an equally legitimate claim to the ‘High Kingship of Tara’, including the UK’s Prince Charles.
However, it is a little known fact that ahead of Ireland’s 1916 Easter Uprising, some Irish rebels had considered offering the ancient Irish throne to Prince Joachim of Prussia, the son of Kaiser Wilhelm II – the last German emperor.
The rising was crushed and the royalists were a minority amongst the mainly republican rebels, but in theory, the EU working group maintains, had the rising succeeded and the other rebels changed their mind on the question of head of state, Joachim’s grandson, the 31-year-old Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia, would today be King of Ireland.
“Now, Grand Duke George, or Tsarevich as he wants to be called, is also a claimant to the disputed headship of the Imperial Family of Russia, which admittedly is a bit awkward,” the contact said.
But his other attributes more than make up for this blemish, the working group believes. He is half German, speaks fluent English, French, and Spanish and, while young, has shown considerable commercial prowess by rapidly rising to become aide to the head of Moscow-based mining multinational Norilsk Nickel, the world’s largest nickel producer.
“And, best of all, he once worked in Brussels as an assistant to Loyola de Palacio [the former EU commissioner for transport and energy],” the contact enthused, “then later was employed at the commission’s Directorate-General for Atomic Energy and Security in Luxembourg.”
“He’s like a blue-blooded Nick Clegg.”