The expected has finally happened: Greece has been temporarily discharged from the intensive care unit, its financial needs are covered through October and the European Commission stressed that the Eurogroup’s decision on Greece foresees an additional memorandum of understanding.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, of course, is lauding Greece’s promising prospects following the agreement reached between eurozone’s finance ministers in Brussels. The rhetoric of power is always the same. Former prime ministers George Papandreou and Antonis Samaras spoke in a similar tone when they signed their respective bailout deals.
The Greek drama has become a tedious repetition of the same script. Yet there are some small differences today, foremost of which is that Tsipras has imbued this tough adjustment process with a class element. The aim of the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks coalition is a cleanup of the upper-middle and top of the Greek pyramid. The fact that the Eurogroup approved this experiment is significant.
The cast in former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s government were aware of her determination to crush the labor unions. But this was only one side of the coin; the other was to close to all problematic businesses. In the UK, the process was carried out by one party. In Greece, the intention to radically overhaul the entire system was of course evident from the first memorandum. However, political parties rely on certain social groups for their support and always try to limit their losses among their clients.
The first phase of the adjustment was lacking and unfair, and the second promises to be even more so because these changes are not just about numbers but mainly about people who are being crushed.
The six-year period since the start of the crisis has also exposed the weaknesses of the European system, however. The extreme nationalist right is growing in leaps and bounds on the demand for more national sovereignty. An American rating agency has downgraded Deutsche Bank bonds two points, just above “junk” and the distance between the International Monetary Fund and Germany in regard to the sustainability of debt – in the present instance Greece’s – remains enormous.
Eurozone “warden” Wolfgang Schaeuble confessed the problems of the entire system when he came out of the marathon talks in Brussels and cynically said in regard to talks on the Greek debt that in 2018, “we won’t be here.” This is the kind of attitude we are used to seeing in our politicians and we deplore them for it. But, it seems, they are not alone.