COMMENT

At a crossroads

By Alexis Papachelas

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will soon find himself having to choose between the euro and the drachma. He can’t take the euro road with Panayiotis Lafazanis and certain other SYRIZA officials on his team. Privatizations, looser labor laws, pension cuts and other measures required for a eurozone deal will not be approved by MPs who are of a completely different mindset.

Nevertheless, the eurozone “bosses” have decided that rules are rules and that if the preliminary agreement with Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is not implemented swiftly the country’s liquidity will remain at zero. Meanwhile, the prime minister believes our partners are trying to bring back the troika and the memorandums through the back door. Well, they never hid their intentions. While they may have dubbed the troika “institutions” and the memorandum “funding program,” they have never suggested that there would be no evaluation or a new program. Meetings with the troika may be taking place in Brussels and certain Greek government initiatives may be accepted but at the end of the day it comes down to strict supervision and the program. Some think that it is only Berlin insisting on terms. They are mistaken; everyone is behind it, from the governments of southern Europe, to the ECB and the IMF. People who care about our country, such as Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, have spent plenty of political capital by supporting Greece but will eventually give up. Besides, we have eroded their trust through leaks, irresponsible comments and an unbelievable lack of professionalism. We are losing friends on a daily basis and won’t admit it.

Clearly Tsipras has been persuaded that the eurozone and the ECB will not allow Greece to go bankrupt and that things will change politically in Europe come autumn. The problem is that autumn is too far away and a Greek default is no longer such a big threat. The IMF thinks it’s manageable, in contrast to 2012 when Christine Lagarde persuaded Angela Merkel of the opposite. Markets also believe it manageable and this is bad in terms of our own negotiating capital. Certain cabinet officials still suggest that a solution could come from China or Russia. Whatever assistance these countries could offer, it would not solve Greece’s funding problem or entail a rift with Europe.

Tsipras must keep his party and ministers under control in order to move on with the negotiation. He will also need to offer a couple of major trade-offs in order to persuade the “bosses” not to cut off the country’s cash flow. I don’t know what these could be but I can safely predict that they will not be an easy sell to his party.

Tsipras cannot take the euro road as his party stands today. The danger is if he starts leaning toward a euro exit without actually having decided to do so, simply because time and political capital are running out.

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