Costly time

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Friday said that Germany is trying to adapt to a changing world, not create a “German Europe.” Greek finance chief Yanis Varoufakis asked for more time for the country’s fiscal adjustment. In a letter on Friday, 300 intellectuals from around the world noted that it was essential for the fiscal rules to be loosened to allow Greece more time to rebound and start to show results.

One thing is abundantly clear from all these voices: that more time is needed. For SYRIZA to start having more realistic expectations of its international creditors, for Germany to realize that austerity cannot just mean belt-tightening and for the policy of mutual concessions – small moves on the global geopolitical chessboard – to begin sinking in.

Greece is in a state of flux and adopting a hardline position can only lead to an impasse. The benevolent curiosity with which European governments are approaching Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Varoufakis is not a negotiating card for Greece – at least not on its own. Meanwhile, any indication that the government is adopting a more placatory stance will inevitably be met with strong resistance from within the ruling party. Pre-election promises of handouts and benefits come at a cost. On the other hand, Greece is already in a state of deprivation for which the political system as a whole is largely to blame.

So a serious clash is on the cards; it is almost palpable. But to be able to survive discord and resistance of the scale that seems to loom before us so that the necessary reforms are passed and implemented, the country needs a national consensus and time. We have already paid dearly and inevitably for foot-dragging, backpedaling, clientelist concessions, populism and demagoguery.

Right now time does not mean an opportunity to hoodwink our foreign partners and creditors or to pretend to negotiate with people whose only interest is maintaining their party connections and their professional perks. Time – the kind of time the country needs right now – is in short supply, the developments are many and it all comes at a price.