A pivotal but tough year looms


Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faces a pivotal, but difficult, new year as, although Greece is set to emerge from its third international bailout in August, a host of issues – ranging from economic and diplomatic problems to the refugee crisis – are likely to test the cohesion of his coalition.

Concluding the economic reforms demanded by the country’s creditors by August is expected to be doable but upheaval within the ranks of leftist SYRIZA over some of the more socially painful measures, such as the relaunch of foreclosures of homes of overindebted Greeks, remains a lingering concern.

Other changes, such as restrictions on the powers of trade unions and contentious plans to sell off state power plants across the country have also prompted objections from leftist cadres.

Two major issues that could shake the government are a newly burgeoning refugee crisis and political discord ahead of a fresh United Nations-mediated effort to solve a decades-old dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over the Balkan state’s official name.

The latter issue has already become a concern for Tsipras as his coalition partner Panos Kammenos, leader of the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL), has stated outright that he will not accept a name for FYROM that includes the word “Macedonia,” reflecting long-standing Greek objections to such a move as it could imply territorial aspirations to Greece’s northern region of Macedonia.

It is considered likely that Tsipras will reach out to Greek party leaders seeking consensus on the matter; if that fails to yield a compromise then the premier is expected to hold a vote in Parliament, with the aim of securing a simple majority.

As for the refugee crisis, although government officials say they are preparing to host larger numbers of migrants, following a recent uptick in arrivals, there are still concerns as an agreement between Ankara and the European Union that had foreseen the return of migrants to Turkey is not being effectively enforced and an EU refugee relocation program continues to move very slowly largely due to the reluctance of many countries to comply with mandatory European quotas for the distribution of refugees across the bloc.