Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Debt talks and the cost of delays

COMMENT

TAGS: Politics, EU

Our partners and creditors owe us a clear description of what they want the restructuring of Greece’s debt to look like. They don’t owe it to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, but to the Greek people, ever since the time when a primary surplus was achieved – at great pains.

It is easy to come up with reasons for delaying a decision, but such delays can be destructive as the bailout review has shown us. Everyone had warned Athens that the Dutch and the German elections would complicate matters. It was also a mistake to unilaterally announce benefits at the end of 2016, as it was to say more recently that the measures have just passed in Parliament would be revoked if debt relief is not granted.

If you add the fact that government appears to care more about appointments than it does for reforms, one understands how easy it will be for German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble to continue putting off any debt relief for Greece until it can be linked to a new, “light,” memorandum.

I have the sense sometimes that Greece is the subject of an experiment. They believe, and not wrongly so, that nothing happens in Greece without unbearable pressure. They are not, however, entitled to determine political developments. That is our job. The government must be defeated by the will of the Greek people, not by artificial obstacles. Otherwise, new extreme political forces will be strengthened and we will find ourselves in a period of prolonged chaos.

Repeated delays over a decision on debt relief are also deadly for the real economy. This is the biggest crime. Greeks are paying the price, but the uncertainty is costing the country dearly.

Tsipras, for his part, is seeking consensus over the debt talks, but this is not a one-way street. It comes with a requirement of responsibility and restraint. We can forgive, without forgetting, the war Tsipras himself waged in Parliament and on the street against all the memorandum and pre-memorandum governments. We cannot, however, ignore the current divisive and incendiary sermons from his ranks that cast a shadow over every call for consensus. The need to rally the party’s hard-liners is understandable. But there are limits that only the prime minister himself can put on his people and his officials.

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