COMMENT

Serious dilemmas

By Alexis Papachelas

As the days go by, the dilemmas faced by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras are becoming clearer. Negotiations will come to an end, if not on Monday then a few days later. Tsipras will either reach a compromise with a modified program and a renamed troika or take the battle to the very end. What is the end? It means being prepared to receive a phone call from Mario Draghi, who represents the eurozone’s iron fist, warning that the European Central Bank will cut off emergency liquidity to Greece’s banks unless a deal is achieved.

This threat has already been used against Cyprus and in forcing Greece and Ireland to sign up to bailout programs. It’s one thing to read about it and quite another to experience it. Tsipras already got a taste of how blunt these discussions can be.

Greece does not have any powerful allies within Europe. This was evident in the last Eurogroup and the ensuing EU summit. A real, alternative funding solution or a permanent geopolitical alliance is nowhere to be seen. The Americans said what they had to say and left it at that. The Chinese made it clear that they wish for Greece to remain in the eurozone and for its own Greek deals to remain intact. The Moscow game went as planned but there were never any major expectations to begin with.

So, at some point, Tsipras will face the dilemma of getting down to a proper negotiation of the memorandum with the eurozone or run the risk of an exit. There is nothing easy about this dilemma. Similar tough decisions have only been taken by two or three premiers in the country’s recent history. Tsipras will have to decide whether he wants to be the leftist he presented himself as right after the elections or open his eyes to reality. He needs to decide whether he will abandon his status as a symbol of the global left or compromise with the role of slightly unconventional prime minister in a country in crisis.

Tsipras will also have to decide who he will take on the journey and who he will leave behind. In the case of a clash, his fellow travelers will come from his own party and perhaps from the rest of the anti-systemic parties. If he chooses realism he may need allies he had never considered before.

In any case, the time for a decision is nearing. Will it be a compromise with the eurozone or a complete rift and quite possibly a return to the drachma? In an interview with Nikos Hatzinikolaou shortly before the elections, the PM said he was clearly in favor of the euro but “without further sacrifices by the people.” This can be interpreted in several ways. For the sake of the country, though, let us hope that Tsipras chooses the path of responsibility rather than that of symbolism.

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