OPINION

The new division

Greece is deeply divided between the champions of the country’s bailout agreement with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, and those who oppose it. The division could have very dire consequences.

The truth is that instead of carrying out a serious political debate on this very crucial issue, the two camps have mainly sought to demonize one another. In a way, it was to be expected. This is Greece after all; the distance between reason and knee-jerk, emotional reactions can be uncomfortably small.

Virtually all opinion polls conducted before or after the crackdown on Golden Dawn – and regardless of the rating scored by each individual party – gives the ND/PASOK coalition around 30 percent. In contrast, Greece’s anti-bailout parties (these do not include Democratic Left) score a devastating majority.

The existing balance of power could be upset only if the momentum were different, but this is hardly the case. In a report published yesterday, the IMF said that closing Greece’s fiscal gap will require 6.7 billion euros by 2016, of which 2.9 billion euros will have to be collected by 2014. This, of course, would mean a new memorandum, fresh cuts and possibly government instability – that is unless Berlin is prepared for a drastic policy change.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is making a mammoth effort to convince our peers that a restructuring of the Greek debt is necessary and that a new bailout agreement would be disastrous. The two governing coalition parties have placed SYRIZA outside the arc of Greece’s pro-European parties as it were, and ruling officials are most probably busy raising the catastrophic implications of a SYRIZA government. It’s hard to know if the argument will do the trick.

More than 20 years ago, when former Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis visited Washington following the signing of the Maastricht treaty, Samaras (who was at the time foreign minister) and another two Greek diplomats met with US Secretary of State James Baker.

Their aim was to convince Washington to step in and prevent a deal between Moscow and Ankara that excluded an area of Turkey across Cyprus from an arms reduction foreseen in the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE). Greek officials voiced their demand and at the same time emphasized that Greece now had a pro-American administration.

Baker, a classic example of a Republican politician, interrupted the Greeks to ask: “Who is against us, even North Korea is with us.” It’s hard to feel expendable. Let’s hope things are different this time.