Teaching with the News
Greece and the EU: Navigating Debt and Austerity
- Collaborate with classmates to develop a group presentation.
- Identify the lasting effects of the 2008 financial crisis on Greece.
- Learn about the European Union and the eurozone.
- Brainstorm solutions for Greece and the EU.
Students should read Greece in Financial Crisis and answer the accompanying questions on the handout, Greece: Background Information as homework before doing the activity in class. Alternatively, students could read the article in small groups and answer questions with their classmates at the beginning of the class period. You may also wish to show Professor Mark Blyth’s video Why should high school students care about the global economy? or What caused the global financial crisis of 2008? before or as a part of the homework assignment.
In the Classroom
Show all or parts of the video The European Union Explained* and invite students to share how this information about the EU relates to their reading. What benefits has Greece received by being a member of the EU? What kind of tensions can be caused by this close interdependence of European countries? Why might unemployment in Greece affect other European countries? Draw a euro sign (€) on the board and urge students to consider the unique financial situation in Europe, noting their ideas on the board. Invite them to consider how Greece’s debt may pose problems for EU countries and for the eurozone in particular, prompting students to recognize that financial instability in one eurozone country may reduce the value of the currency for all.
Divide the class into seven groups. Tell students that they will be taking part in a simulation where each group will take on the role of a European leader in a summit to address the issue of Greece’s debts. Distribute EU Summit: Preparations to each group. Distribute or direct the groups to the following BBC Country Profiles:
- Greece (Leader: Alexis Tsipras)
- Germany (Leader: Angela Merkel)
- United Kingdom (Leader: David Cameron)
- Ireland (Leader: Enda Kenny)
- France (Leader: Francois Hollande)
- Croatia (Leader: Zoran Milanovic)
- Spain (Leader: Mariano Rajoy)
Note: If you wish to create more groups, a list of European country profiles is available at the bottom of the BBC’s Europe page. It is important to note that on each profile there are multiple tabs. Students should focus on the contents of the Overview, Facts, and Leaders tabs.
After the groups read the profiles of their leaders, they should answer the questions in EU Summit: Preparations, discussing and deciding on what their assigned leader’s position on the situation would be. You may also wish to invite your students to conduct additional research on the history and politics of the country their leader represents. Students should be prepared to briefly describe their assigned country, to lay out their suggested solution, and to argue why they think their leader would have the opinion they are presenting. You may wish to suggest some options, such as (1) Greece leaving the EU so that it does not need to agree to austerity measures or (2) EU members agreeing to offer Greece more funding if they agree to specific austerity programs in spite of public opinion.
Role-Playing the EU Summit
Once the groups have completed their preparations, call on group spokespersons to deliver their presentations. Encourage students to ask questions about the position that the spokesperson has presented, thinking about what their leader’s response may be. For example, a student who says Greece should leave the eurozone could be asked how Greece would pay its debts or how their position could negatively affect other EU members.
Explain that on February 20, the eurozone countries agreed to extend Greece’s bailout for another four months if the Tsipras administration agreed to present a realistic list of ways it will reduce government spending and pay its debts. What does each group think their leader would think of this? What positive effects could it have on the country they represent? What negative effects? How could it improve or damage the European Union as a whole? Distribute the article Key points: Greece economic pledges to Europe, telling the class that the Greek government delivered its list of reforms on February 23. Read the list together. Do these reforms seem fair? Do students think they will be enough, given that Greece’s debt is over €300 billion (US$340 billion) in total? Who do they think would support or oppose these reforms?
Photo Credit: Images Money via flickr (CC BY 2.0)