Pantelis Boukalas PANTELIS BOUKALAS

All take and no give

COMMENT

TAGS: Politics, EU

To be fair, the current government has so far refrained from telling the people that we are “close to the end of the tunnel,” a cliche that was oft-repeated by former prime ministers George Papandreou and Antonis Samaras and has now lost its allure. The people grew weary of the phrase, responding to such talk of tunnels with ridicule, which gradually turned into votes for SYRIZA.

While SYRIZA may avoid using the tunnel cliche, the government assures us with growing frequency, intensity and authority that once the bailout review is completed by the country’s international creditors and talks about reducing Greece’s debts get under way, the country will enter an era of growth and prosperity, a period of rebound, rejuvenation and overall refreshment. This kind of political talk is purely hypothetical and intended to offer self-assurance. And while in literature two denials can make an affirmation, in politics and real life two what-ifs (the wrap-up of the review and debt restructuring) certainly do not comprise a certainty.

The real issue at hand, after all, is not whether our creditors grade the commitments legislated by the government with an A or a B at Tuesday’s Eurogroup meeting (this will happen, one way or another) nor if the rumors – meant only to ring pleasantly in the public’s ear – about a possible debt restructuring stop being rumors (though this is unlikely to happen as the European Union continues to regard the election in Germany in 2017 as the most important issue at hand).

The question is whether all of these commitments, political and financial, whether all these measures – which have pushed SYRIZA’s deputies to the point of having to go back on what they stand for – will prove enough to equally parcel out the huge burden of the new memorandum, to regain some of the country’s ceded sovereignty and to get the economy – under supervision, of course – to the point where it is at least crawling if not striding.

The issue is whether the sacrifices of the past few years will bring some returns or whether the rebound narrative that the government hastened to introduce via the prime minister himself will prove to be just another delusion, like the extremely poor so-called parallel program heralded to help the victims of the crisis, for example.

Just the other day, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, as he has said before, that a lot has been demanded from the Greeks and very little given back. “We must at least give them back their dignity,” he said with an honesty that was sincere yet cynical at the same time. What has been taken with broken promises, threats and blackmail is far too much to be mitigated by the completion of the review. And what is certain is that if we are banking on the generosity of our creditors to regain some our dignity, the new era is still a very long way off.

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