Dispelling some myths

By Alexis Papachelas

Political stability in Greece will remain elusive as long as ordinary people are unable to distinguish the truth from the myths. The various conspiracy theories spread by the homegrown sirens of populism and pseudo-nationalism have done this country a great deal of damage.

The first myth is that Greece is the sole victim of the debt crisis. A look around us shows that no one has managed to escape unscathed – not even France.

A second myth is that the crisis was in fact staged, so that some people could make huge profits by speculating on the CDS market or so that they could get their hands on Greek oil reserves. Why is it that the other crisis-hit countries in Europe have been spared such theories?

A third myth is that Greece could have solved its problem by striking a bilateral agreement with a bigger country. However, a look at Cyprus should be enough to convince everyone that even when less money is at stake, no big country will take the risk of lending money to help out an ally outside the contours of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Of course the skeptics will never be convinced. This country has a soft spot for conspiracy theories and blaming invisible enemies for its woes. Nevertheless, it’s hard to predict what would have happened in Brussels if Greece were represented by a SYRIZA government minister – or a minister from any other opposition party for that matter.

Some people claim that the Germans and their northern allies would be intimidated into writing off the Greek debt while increasing funding. Others predict that they would kick Greece out of the euro area the moment they heard the Greek government threaten to tear up the memorandum and stop its debt repayments.

More middle-of-the-road observers say that the eurozone and the IMF would simply turn the tap off and let Greece suffer. It’s hard to say what prediction is more accurate. It’s like answering the question of whether there’s life after death while still alive.

What we do know is that things have gotten really tough because foreign lenders do not intend to give Greece any more money and the government cannot afford to impose any more austerity at home.

Samaras and his finance minister, Yannis Stournaras, did their best to promote the national interest. And at least now we know some basic truths: that we are not the sole victims of the debt crisis; we are not the victims of some anti-Greek conspiracy; and that at the end of the day, even a suicide bomber would have a hard time forcing a good deal in Brussels.