Crunch time

Greeks will soon come to a crossroads where we have to decide whether we wish to remain in the eurozone under certain conditions or whether we would rather switch back to the drachma. In a way, that very dilemma has dogged Greece and our collective unconscious ever since the government signed the first bailout agreement.

The dust will at some point settle, and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will return with an agreement. This may not happen after this Eurogroup meeting or the one on Monday. It will most certainly follow a very tense session, with the minister coming back to Athens and more or less saying: “This is as far as we could go. We either take this deal and stay in the eurozone or we reject it and as of tomorrow our banks and the country will be left hanging.” By that time, we will have received any other answers we are waiting for. That is, we will know exactly how much Moscow, Beijing and Washington would be willing to provide in terms of money and support.

The question is what we will do then. Varoufakis stands on the right side of history. He wants a Greece that’s relieved of pressure and reformed, but inside the euro area. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras too, I like to think, also stands on the same side and is aware of the repercussions a Greek euro exit would entail.

At the same time, however, other people inside SYRIZA and the government do not hesitate to put forward very different views. Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis and MP Costas Lapavitsas represent a school of thought which believes that staying in the eurozone is detrimental to the national and social good. So what will happen when the tough negotiations come to a close? One obvious risk is a split within SYRIZA and the government.

Tsipras will have to summon the mental and political courage to forge alliances with other political parties which deem that staying in the eurozone is worth the price included in a Varoufakis deal. Will Tsipras act so, or will he side with the other camp? He now knows what he will have to face. Whoever makes the deal will be like a brave bull rider who knows that if he does not fall in the first round, he will fall in the second. This is the fate of leaders in crisis-hit states these days. They try to keep their countries on their feet, but in the end they fall. If he turns down the deal, he will bear responsibility for a historic decision. The moment of truth is near. The problem is that it is approaching amid a state of collective psychosis and total lack of consensus. This country has rarely made the right decisions under such conditions, less so without the presence of leaders such as Eleftherios Venizelos or Constantine Karamanlis.