It’s good to listen

In an editorial last week, Kathimerini urged Greece’s political parties to pay close attention to what’s being said about the country in the international media and by foreign officials. Interpreting the mood abroad and reaching the right conclusions is crucial for any party seeking to govern Greece or even to hold a place in Parliament, because, whether we like it or not, international reactions to the electoral outcome will play a pivotal role in the country’s fate on the day after.

Parties also need to be wary of overzealous populism in their campaigns to attract votes, at least insofar as their real interest lies in protecting the country from the dangers that may lie ahead. Irresponsible rhetoric and chest-thumping aimed at bolstering the party cannot change reality, especially when this is to a large extent determined by others and considering the problems of the Greek economy. For example, increased demand for Greek products and investments and a more equitable distribution of wealth that all parties like to tout would first require an increase in production and in productivity, something that no party has yet addressed sufficiently.

Greece’s production problems will not be improved by opposition leader Alexis Tsipras ignoring them completely, just as the stance of the eurozone will not change simply because he wants it to.

What is at issue here is to ensure that Greece remains in the eurozone by making its economy more productive. A softening on economic policy that will be of greater benefit to Greece can only come after that. If the country does not adopt the reforms it needs it will not be in a position to benefit from any change of stance by its international lenders. If the leader of the opposition does not understand this simple fact, then maybe he needs to ask his economic advisers how things work in the real world.

He needs to take the statements recently seen in publications such as Der Spiegel by top European officials including Wolfgang Schaeuble, Francois Hollande and even Olli Rehn more seriously. Tsipras is obviously missing something when his party deems as “good” statements to the effect that an easier debt repayment schedule will be considered without making any mention of a write-off.

If Tsipras is elected prime minister on January 25 it is with these officials that he will need to sit down and talk. And even though they may give him some time to come up to speed, they will not be changing their tune in any significant way.