PM struggling to strike balance in foreign policy, post-bailout commitments

PM struggling to strike balance in foreign policy, post-bailout commitments

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is facing an uphill battle in the coming period as he seeks to limit damage wrought to his government’s foreign policy by his outspoken Defense Minister Panos Kammenos and deal with renewed pressure from Greece’s partners for strict supervision of the country in the post-bailout era.

Relations between Tsipras and Kammenos, who is the the leader of junior coalition partner the Independent Greeks (ANEL) are reportedly on the brink over the latter’s stance on Turkey and on name talks with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). The decision by Kammenos to stray from the leftist-led government’s narrative on foreign policy is widely thought to be part of an effort by ANEL – which is lagging in polls – to brandish its nationalist credentials as the only way to avert a debacle in the next general elections.

Analysts say that Kammenos, who has repeatedly said his party will never back a deal on the name dispute that will allow FYROM to use the term “Macedonia,” is banking on the collapse of talks between Athens and Skopje.

With regard to relations with Turkey, government officials have reportedly expressed concern in private that Kammenos’s approach is having a negative impact – especially since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seen as becoming increasingly unpredictable.

Moreover, with the defense minister coming under regular fire from opposition parties, senior officials also fear a possible backlash against the ruling SYRIZA party as well.

Apart from Kammenos, Tsipras also has to contend with yet another puncture to his narrative of a clean exit from the bailout in August, as creditors have made it clear that the country’s post-memorandum period will be under strict supervision. Greece’s partners will no longer be able to dictate specific legislation to Athens, however they will strictly scrutinize the government’s policies and issue reports with recommendations every three months.

Within this framework, any deal for debt relief measures for Greece will hinge on the implementation of these recommendations. Given that the government must also make commitments for, among others, public sector reforms and privatizations over the next few years, the clean exit narrative is increasingly exposed.

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