I don’t want to spoil the party mood after Monday’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers, but I firmly believe that if Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had just deigned to wear a tie and negotiated normally, without being led by delusions and opportunism and in a less amateur manner, he would have secured a much better deal from creditors in January 2015.
The conditions at the time were ripe for it. The country’s creditors were favorably inclined to reach an agreement with the new government. The ordeals Greece has been put through since – the imposition of capital controls, the destruction of the banks after their first recapitalization and all the rest of it – were quite unnecessary.
I understand that this would have been difficult because Tsipras would not have had the support of his SYRIZA party or public opinion. We needed to go through the “Varoufakis episode,” to experience the dream that turned into a nightmare, before we could accept reality. It is not surprising that we are increasingly hearing voices from abroad saying that “if the Greeks want to do things their own way, then it’s their problem.” The country is no longer a threat to the system; the threat of a SYRIZA revolution belongs to the past.
As far as the debt is concerned, Greece was offered a deal that is nowhere near the maximalist scenario the people expected – not by a long shot. It is a small step and comes with strings related to the progress of implementation of the bailout deal.
The debt issue has for some time been the holy grail of Greek political life and here it is worth stressing that debt relief is something that the country’s creditors and partners owed the Greek people. Today they admit that it was a mistake not to grant debt relief to the conservative government of Antonis Samaras when it achieved a primary surplus. The irony is that they learned their mistake the hard way, which is why they decided to help the present government. They finally acknowledged that constantly raising the bar of expectations is like tripping up a country and a political system that is trying to run a marathon without a single drink of water along the way.
I read that the prime minister intends to wear a tie as soon as the debt issue is settled. It’s a great PR angle, I’ll admit. More pressing though is that he starts governing properly and takes advantage of the return to some semblance of normality.
The Greek people have already paid too high a price for the country to mature collectively.