The year is coming to a close with the end of the dreadful performance which was the rift between the Greek government and the country’s lenders, led by the champion of austerity, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.
Trying to placate voters before his administration cut supplementary pensions for low-income retirees, leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced a special Christmas bonus that he hoped would win him some favor.
On the other side, Schaeuble, who has undertaken his party’s mission to stem the outflow of conservative voters from the Christian Democratic Union, responded to Athens’s decision swiftly and in no uncertain terms. He questioned whether it was compatible with Greece’s bailout commitments and acceptable to the institutions, as Tsipras had not sought their consent.
Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem executed Schaeuble’s “orders” by demanding explanations from Athens and punishing its actions – though also without informing his counterparts. Schaeuble, however, did not get the support he usually enjoys: Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici was particularly critical of the move, as the French official is wary of the upcoming elections in France amid concerns that the National Front may prevail.
The propagation of the rift did nothing to help anyone. Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos penned a letter of apology acknowledging Athens’s mistake and reiterating its commitment to the terms of the bailout. However, Tsipras never actually challenged the deal or flouted Greece’s obligations – his was but a tactical maneuver to seduce a part of the electorate, but with Schaeuble’s reaction the whole thing was blown out of all proportion.
The letter was accepted by the creditors just before Christmas. Dijsselbloem said he was glad, possibly as it meant he wouldn’t have to answer to the European Parliament for acting without consultation.
In short, the whole thing was nothing but another show to restore the balance, whereby both Tsipras and Schaeuble acted like party leaders.