If Greece left the euro zone, it would have to leave the EU

"The treaties indeed confirm what we have been saying here: the treaty doesn’t foresee an exit from the euro zone without exiting the EU, so indeed that is the current situation."

-European Commission spokeswoman Karolina Kottova

Article 50 of the EU treaty: “Any member state may decide to withdraw from the union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.”

Translation: countries check into the EZ motel but they don’t check out!

Also see the FT where it explains:

The [EU] treaties do include a sort of emergency clause that allows the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to make proposals to deal with extraordinary events that are a threat to the single currency. So it could probably use this as a basis to draft a Greek exit, if necessary. As with all EU matters, the process would not be immediate. The other 26 member states would have to unanimously approve, as well as the European Parliament.

Thanks to a clause in the Lisbon treaty, which came into force in 2009, Greece could take a more radical approach and opt to leave the EU altogether. (This clause was added at the behest of the UK, to prove to its eurosceptic voters that the bloc was not a straitjacket that could never be removed). In this case, Greece would require only majority approval from other member states.

So, never say never. The European lawyers are resourceful. After all, some in the Bundesbank were saying way back in 2010 that the Troika bailouts were unconstitutional and they figured out a way to do them anyway. I am sure that they could figure out a way to get Greece out of the euro zone without it’s having to exit the EU. But, the official line has to be tough lest periphery governments start to get ideas.


Edward Harrison is the founder of Credit Writedowns and a former career diplomat, investment banker and technology executive with over twenty five years of business experience. He has also been a regular economic and financial commentator on BBC World News, CNBC Television, Business News Network, CBC, Fox Television and RT Television. He speaks six languages and reads another five, skills he uses to provide a more global perspective. Edward holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College.

1 Comment

  1. David Lazarus says:

    If the terms restrict exit from the EU as well as the EZ then the greeks will stay in the EZ but default. The debts are unsustainable and the terms are clearly odious. So the EZ will have lots of insolvent banks that need billions of euros in re-capitalisation. That will only exacerbate the crisis, as it will show that exit is too difficult. It will reinforce the concerns about Italy. Greece exiting the EU will mean that they will need a huge pay off to go away for the fact that they will require billions to rebuild the country after the damage imposed on it by the German banks.