The broad public support that SYRIZA enjoys, based on the new government’s promises that the suffering caused by the crisis is ending, could lead toward a more effective policy. Our partners, too, have realized the extent of the damage caused to Greek society over the past few years and would like to find a way to support Greece without straying too far from the framework of their policy – which comprises economic support in exchange for reforms. The agreement forged at the February 20 Eurogroup expressed the need of both sides to find a solution. So how come, one month later, Greece is suffocating, close to bankruptcy, while our partners express bewilderment and anger at the lack of progress from Athens, as if not a day has passed since the January 25 election?
Both sides are trapped in their policies and mentalities, and by their suspicion as to the other side’s actions and motives. Our partners want to keep Greece in the eurozone but they don’t know how to force us to implement reforms without causing a rupture which would worsen the situation. The February 20 agreement is in effect a game with time: Our creditors gave Greece a chance to show that it was implementing reforms, while Athens agreed to extend a bailout agreement that it had declared “dead.” Time, however, was linked to money – the money that would not be given to Athens until the moment it convinced its creditors that it would abide by its commitments.
With such strong support in Greece, and facing such a great liquidity crisis, the government would have been justified in coming to a compromise with creditors that would allow the influx of some of the cheap European Central Bank money enjoyed by our partners. It chose to stick to its pre0election promises, declaring that it is the European Union which has to back down. The government does not take into account how isolated Greece is, nor that it is our country that is in urgent need of funds, as revenues crash and the economy is paralyzed.
Politicians who place their country’s fate above their own pride would not fear the political cost of a compromise with our creditors. The government has proven that it disregards our creditors’ policy but, because of its uncompromising rejection of it, it denies them a chance to offer a compromise. SYRIZA’s leadership, with the enthusiastic backing of Independent Greeks, has adopted a siege mentality, where every expression of concern or disagreement is taken by the government as proof of its righteousness and the sanctity of its choices. The collaboration between the radical left and the nationalistic right has not encouraged a compromise with reality but instead serves as a hall of mirrors, where each sees the other and a false reality, indifferent as to what is going on in the real world, indifferent to the consequences. And as long as SYRIZA believes that it is leading a Europe-wide popular movement (as suggested by its representation in the Blockupy protest in Frankfurt on Wednesday), it cannot begin to understand the damage it is doing to Greece.