History will not forgive us

It’s madness. The euro is falling, oil prices have come down, the ECB has embarked on a quantitative easing program aimed at revitalizing the eurozone economy and countering deflation, and yields on European bonds are coming down. In other words, the conditions for a Greek economic recovery are here. Tourism could grow further, Greek exports could also improve, and our access to international markets could start to bear fruit. However, we chose to take the path of political uncertainty. It is a costly path and the destination is uncertain. The economy was projected to post a 3 percent rise and had already started to grow at the close of 2014. Sure, all that was not some fantastic success story, but the Greek cart had finally come unstuck from the mud – even if that was not yet felt by the big majority of the population.

Instead, we are now caught up between the prejudices of our own government officials and the obsessions of foreign lenders. Our leaders managed to climb to power on the back of political slogans and myths. Voters were led to believe that there could be an alternative to the memorandums and the troika, and that the debt was the biggest national issue. Most parties played into this narrative one way or another. Meanwhile, foreign officials never quite realized that their desire to punish or even humiliate the Greeks would fuel the rise of anti-systemic parties to power.

Things are critical, even if a big part of the public do not seem to grasp this. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has difficulty doing what needs to be done to avoid bankruptcy. Idiosyncratic personalities and incompetent portfolio managers have found an original way of cooperating and are pushing things to a head. It’s hard to back-pedal on the excessive promises made before the elections, but Tsipras does have the political capital to do so, if he wishes.

The patience of our foreign peers, who have also made mistakes, is wearing thin. The argument is gaining ground that the Greeks “don’t have what it takes to keep the euro.” Prominent members of the Greek diaspora, people who love this country, are sending out messages of desperation and concern. Our best card is geopolitics, but we are far from deft in playing it. True to form, the Greek establishment has not lived up to the circumstances. It cozied up to the newcomers, before regressing to panic.

Is there a way to pull ourselves out of this hole? A country with center-left reflexes such as Greece could return to growth if some leftist leader was willing to break taboos. To do so, they will have to avoid clashes between symbols and egos. For the time being, the outburst of nationalistic populism does not leave enough room for clear thinking and sober decisions. Our room for maneuver is running out and history will not forgive us if the so-called Metapolitefsi comes to a close with a Greek exit from the core of Europe.

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