Diplomats, analysts and officials from international institutions visiting Greece have a hard time understanding and assessing what in their eyes appears to be a bizarre political reality. Almost all of them mention their bewilderment at the fact that pro-European forces from across the ideological spectrum – social democrats, liberals and conservatives – often adopt a contradictory stance toward decisions taken by the government that have the approval if not ardent support of the Europeans. On the other hand, now that it is in power, the Left, which until recently was anti-systemic and anti-West, is carrying out pro-European policies that please Greece’s partners.
A recent example of this paradox is the reactions to comments made by European Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici during a recent visit to Athens, where – as was expected, given his position – he expressed support for Greece’s exit from the bailout program and its return to normalcy. The opposition could very well have countered that the country has by no means become normal yet, with its sky-high taxes and social security contributions, instead of resorting to almost personal attacks against one of the Commission’s top officials.
There is an equal amount of confusion on the diplomatic front. Greece’s allies are thrilled by the agreement reached with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) – as is evident at the ongoing NATO summit – which they see as a stabilizing factor in the Balkans and a move that will bolster Greece’s role as well.
On this issue, too, New Democracy could have adopted a less aggressive tone and at the same time justified its stance by making the very legitimate argument that it is better to keep the “patriotic” populist right under the control of the moderate liberal Kyriakos Mitsotakis than to push its proponents into the arms of far-right forces, many of which are receiving encouragement and even funding from abroad.
In this respect, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s recent decision to expel Russian diplomats needs to be very carefully handled by the main opposition party, as it may very well find itself in government within a short period of time.
Greece’s allies and partners are not interested in the domestic political bickering. They are not interested in whether Tsipras’s decisions represent promises broken or a sign of pragmatism. The only thing they care about is that the democratically elected government of Greece is doing the right thing. It is easy to accuse Tsipras of “doing their bidding” in order to enjoy their support. Unfortunately, this is exactly the same argument that ruling SYRIZA used during its damaging time in the opposition, when it accused New Democracy and PASOK of “selling out” the country for the Europeans’ support.