Pacta sunt servanda

Pacta sunt servanda (agreements must be kept). Every Greek prime minister who attempted to introduce a discussion regarding a Greek sovereign debt haircut or a renegotiation of agreements already signed with the troika would have heard this principle of international law in talks with European officials in Berlin and Brussels. It would be greatly surprising if the country’s next premier, whoever he may be, ends up hearing something different next time.

Opposition SYRIZA is certain that it will be treated differently by the country’s partners and creditors. It is hard to tell where all this optimism and belief that a political negotiation will have a happy ending comes from. Could it be that we have been reading the European and international signs all wrong? Possibly, but that would be a case of a large-scale international conspiracy very few people are aware of.

The order of things to come will not change. The next Greek administration will be asked to complete the fifth and final evaluation with the troika. If this is carried out successfully, Greece will get the cash it should have received months ago, will start negotiations regarding the debt and a new, more relaxed supervision regime.

Meanwhile, it is a fact that many official, commentators and academics believe that a debt haircut is absolutely vital. But there is a major difference in this case. They do not own any of the debt, while most of them come from countries which have never lent money to Greece. In simple terms, in the kind of political negotiations that certain people are dreaming of, all of these allies would end up taking on the same role as that played by the UN General Assembly in the case of Cyprus prior to 1974: Their point of view would be helpful, but at the end of the day wouldn’t mean much besides moral reward and support.

The tough stuff will start as soon as the monotonous chorus starts chanting again: “Conclude the evaluation and we’ll see about the rest.” Could a government with a SYRIZA backbone pass through Parliament whatever is required for the evaluation’s finalization while at the same time violating its own promises regarding the abolition of fundamental pledges and laws included in the memorandum? Could Alexis Tsipras become someone like US President Richard Nixon, who traveled to China? Those following developments within leftist SYRIZA don’t believe this scenario could materialize, no matter how optimistic their assumptions may be.

The country’s partners/creditors could indeed hand Tsipras, if he is elected, a package meant for the current government: a plan for debt relief, more relaxed supervision and lower targets for achieving primary surpluses. However, this will never happen if there is no “blood” on his side. In other words, as soon as the discussion regarding “political negotiation” begins, the customary phrase, “Pacta sunt servanda” will be once again heard and then we’ll see.