A little less conversation

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras addressed the public twice this week after a lengthy absence: once when an agreement was reached with the troika and then from The Economist Conference in Athens.

His assurances that Greece has again been saved from a messy default were reassuring. The country dodged that bullet once under ex-Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou and again under his predecessor, Lucas Papademos. The third time was in December, when the last memorandum was signed. Clearly the salvation of Greece is an ongoing process.

Negotiations this time nearly broke down over the removal of some 15,000 civil sector workers by the end of 2014. There was no real reason for the deadlock as the coalition government had already agreed on this issue in December. The problem arose because of the proclivity of the left for discussing all issues ad nauseum, as though the solution depended on fancy rhetorical footwork rather than on actions.

The main opposition SYRIZA party, which is aiming at a majority in the next parliamentary elections, is continuing its exercises in polyphony. SYRIZA chief Alexis Tsipras is trying to make some rather unconvincing adjustments to his previous stance, which are failing mainly because of the speed at which he jumps from one position to another. Tsipras is addressing the profound unhappiness of the people by trying to impress them, but he is not increasing the flow of voters to his peculiar party. Samaras, on the other hand, is addressing citizens’ hopes, but having to do it for so for so long has put him in danger of appearing to be able to have little impact.

The political system in general seems to have forgotten that it is all about action, not words. The International Monetary Fund’s envoy Poul Thomsen again had to raise the issue of clamping down on tax evasion, as the three-party coalition continues to ponder what measures it will eventually take. In contrast to Athens, the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia recently conducted raids on the homes of 200 people whose names appeared on an illegally acquired list of German depositors in a Swiss bank just days later.

Of course we do not expect such methods to be adopted in Greece. But the way that the parliamentary committee is investigating a similar list of Greek depositors in Switzerland is bordering on the ridiculous. It would be a pleasant surprise if the prime minister were to make some kind of announcement that action will be taken on the issue soon, given how long it has dragged on already.

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