The significance of Monday’s government reshuffle lies almost exclusively with the appointment of Gikas Hardouvelis at the helm of the Greek Finance Ministry. However genuine, efforts to pick a political official as successor to Yannis Stournaras failed to yield fruit for more than 10 days.
Since November 2011, when George Papandreou stepped down as Greek prime minister, the finance portfolio had essentially been out of reach of politicians per se. In truth, PASOK’s Evangelos Venizelos only served as the Finance Ministry’s figurehead when he was there. He tried to introduce a political dimension into negotiations with his fellow EU finance ministers. It was interim Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, a former banker, who negotiated the PSI and every other crucial step. After Antonis Samaras climbed to power, the government’s key representative in troika talks was Stournaras. And, now, Hardouvelis is taking over.
All three are members of an elite created by former PASOK Prime Minister Costas Simitis and they represent Greece’s connection to the European system. So there is no reason to be concerned. A new Greek elite has emerged – but its makeup and orientation are both international.
Beneath this outstanding government post parade the native cabinet members. These individuals are here to clash with big and small interests on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes they will succeed, sometimes they will fail. With the exception of the Defense Ministry and, to a lesser extent, the Foreign Ministry, these ministers do not have the power to shape policy.
Meanwhile in the enemy camp, main leftist opposition SYRIZA aspires to one day topple the Greek establishment, as it were. SYRIZA folk pledge to take radical action once they come to power, but their revolution will most likely last no more than a few days. Revolutions are normally suppressed by their leaders when, after a struggle for survival, the most powerful leader gets the upper hand.
Some of those in SYRIZA’s top echelons, particularly the less mainstream factions of the party, dream of resistance to German domination, perhaps a renewal of the National Liberation Front (EAM). Sure, the Greeks back then detested the Third Reich and loved their freedom. However, we should not ignore the fact that the resistance movement was to a significant degree created as a result of British policy. The question is who will SYRIZA depend on in the present conditions?
For the time being, Alexis Tsipras is enjoying the luxury of anticipation while the government is deluding itself that the sweeping reshuffle has blown a fresh puff of wind into its sails. It would be unkind to deprive them of the right to dream.