When bargaining, it sometimes helps to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Greeks currently appear barricaded behind the no-more-measures mantra. Let’s imagine for a moment that our Northern European partners suddenly decided to rally behind a no-more-money-for-Greece stance. This would inevitably lead to Greece adopting no further austerity measures, and to our foreign partners refusing to lend us one more cent.
I know Greeks are mostly alien to such a rigid-minded, cold way of thinking – but we need to start looking at things this way. In the north, when you make a promise, you have to keep your promise – even more so when it part of a contract. If someone suddenly turns up and says: “Oops, I’m sorry, I promised more than I could actually do. Please give me some extra time and some extra money and I promise to meet my commitments sometime in the future,” you will most probably have your funding stopped.
To be sure, this is one side of the coin. The northerners, as it were, also have to put themselves in our shoes. If they are thinking as lenders, then their first aim is to get their money – the money of their taxpayers – back. The only way to achieve that is by helping Greece to stay on its feet, to get back on the path to growth, so that it can eventually start repaying its debts. They are well aware that if they push more than Greek society, or the government for that matter, can take, they risk losing their money. No one can guarantee what will happen if Greece were to slide into a long period of political instability and social turmoil.
The country is at a crucial turning point. Saying no to more measures does not mean that the government will not live up to the commitments it has already undertaken. It will take conviction and determination. The political class will need to communicate its priorities to the people. There is no other way. The threat of “No more money” is also out of the question, for no one wants to risk hundreds of billions of euros on a whim or for the sake of a few more billion.
Of course, there is also the holy grail, the ultimate prize, the settlement of debt. This is where things get really complicated. The Greek government wants a deal yesterday while the Germans and the rest are wary of raising the ire of euroskeptics at home by suggesting one ahead of the European elections.
I do not know – no one does really – how we can dig our way out of this so we can move forward. One thing is certain however: Panic, hysteria and self-defeating statements are always a bad counselor.