OPINION

The day after

Let?s imagine that it is March 25 and Greece has scored three out of three — securing an extended payback period for the bailout loan from its international lenders, along with a reduction in the interest rate on the loan and the possibility of buying back Greek debt.

The prime minister will be showered with glory upon his return to Greece while the entire opposition will try to claim a piece of this Greek ?victory.? And then what? It is almost certain that when and if Athens achieves these terms the deal will also include a whole new slew of reform measures that will be completely non-negotiable. It will be interesting to see what kind of consensus we will have then.

George Papandreou has prepared neither the public nor his own people for the tough days that lie ahead. The idea of even deeper cuts to pensions and salaries or mass firings from the broader public sector are still viewed by a large part of the ruling PASOK party as a science-fiction scenario. And yet this is the dilemma the Socialists will face this coming summer.

So even if Papandreou comes back from the European Union summit in Brussels with everything he?s asked for, the reality awaiting him back home will be harsh and very demanding.

The government and the state mechanism ceased to function some time ago. The donkey has dug in its heels, in the words of one foreign expert who believes that Papandreou?s most recent major mistake was allowing the Greek people to relax since December and to believe that the country has scraped out of the crisis and that things will start getting back to ?normal.?

This lackadaisical attitude annoyed many of our partners abroad who saw us taking our time over the reforms demanded in the memorandum.

One can only hope that Papandreou has pondered, planned and decided upon a next-day scenario for the aftermath of the EU summit. Because even if German Chancellor Angela Merkel decides to commit political suicide and agree to all of Athens?s requests, the reality of a malfunctioning government, a wasteful state, state-owned companies that refuse to comply with pay cuts and so on will not lead the country anywhere good.

Merkel and others will be biding their time until May to tell Greece that it has flunked the test, because we are looking to the troika rather than to our leaders to tell us which of the most obvious requirements for a European Union member we have failed to achieve. And that is the biggest shame of all.