We have reached a critical juncture. We have a new, inexperienced government trying to see if “the great negotiations” discussed by everyone, be they from the left or the right, on TV over the last five years will bear any fruit. There is momentum, some arrogance and a relative ignorance of risk. This is nothing new. Similar phenomena were observed when the country’s supposedly experienced politicians who handled the major crisis from 2009 onward came to power. The difference is that we are now getting involved in broader geopolitical issues of major importance. As Constantine Karamanlis used to say, a wrong move in local policy can be mended, but a wrong move in foreign policy takes decades to fix. For the time being we don’t know, and therefore cannot judge, what kind of dogma lies behind the negotiations.
The other major difference is that the European command center doesn’t mind taking matters to the very end. In light of the current environment, I suspect that a situation where we will shed “blood and tears,” as Yanis Varoufakis described it, is highly probable in the near future. Besides, it would have been impossible to conduct such negotiations without a sense of drama. A portion of the Greek public and certain local politicians enjoy watching someone throwing the dice in a theatrical and intense manner. What no one can see at the end of all this, however, is what a decent compromise – one that could be approved by SYRIZA as well as northern and southern European parliaments – would look like. Surely a final deal could look something like this: brave reforms, lower targets for primary surpluses and an extension of the time which Greece has to repay the debt. But I can’t see reforms being approved by SYRIZA officials who are in a hurry to demolish all those carried out so far.
However, great dangers loom. If things go wrong, Greece could find itself isolated from Europe’s core with a series of dangerous open fronts. If things go wrong, there are those who would be tempted to see civil strife, with one half of the country’s population accusing the other of being traitors and demanding their heads. If things go wrong, the country would go back one or two decades.
This can’t be the case; logic and the instinct of self-preservation will prevail, I keep telling myself. But what I see is particularly worrisome: on the one hand, the desire for a conflict with Europe, and, on the other, the paralysis of those representing the purely pro-European powers.
If the former don’t get real – and fast – and the latter more serious and robust, it won’t be long before we hit the wall. To avoid this, perhaps we need to go through a near-death experience without, however, bidding the eurozone and Europe farewell.