The recent visits to Berlin by Greek President Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, which will be followed by the trips of opposition leader Alexis Tsipras to the German capital and to Washington, each contribute in their own way to the restoration of the country’s frail credibility abroad.
The process promises to be a lengthy one as the damage done is extensive, but at least efforts have begun in this direction.
Over the past three years Greece – with great bitterness – has seen the evaporation of its diplomatic capital, a loss that arose from the tragically flawed handling of the crisis and the decisions made to tackle it, as well as from the infuriating defamation of the people and the country by the political leadership at the time.
The distrust and at times outright hostility with which our foreign creditors viewed the country stemmed partly from the stance of the Greek political leaders during their bilateral talks: Our leaders lied and hid fiscal data, they had no counterproposals to make and no plan, they showed complete ignorance of the risks involved, they made promises they could not possibly live up to, and last but not least, they ultimately bowed their heads in submission without putting up a fight.
Who can respect a political leader who calls his own people corrupt, as George Papandreou did?
Samaras faced the wrath of his colleagues at the European People’s Party when he refused to accept the sweeping austerity measures of the first memorandum. Then leader of the opposition, Samaras knew that this policy recipe could not resurrect the country on its own, something that was also acknowledged by our creditors, even if they didn’t admit it so publicly. Now, the diplomatic contacts he is pursuing should be about insisting on a new mix of European policy that will rein in the recession and put both Greece and the continent back on the path to growth.
Similar benefits are expected to arise from the diplomatic talks being pursued by SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras. The mighty German finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, will be able to meet the leftist leader in person, an acquaintance that can only bring good things to the country.
Likewise, Tsipras’s trip to the United States may mark the beginning of a new era in Greek-American relations, defined by mutual understanding and the establishment of common geopolitical interests.