OPINION

Fatal misunderstandings

We, ordinary citizens, are either experiencing a possibly fatal misunderstanding or we are lacking the full picture with regard to developments in the ongoing negotiations between Greece and the country’s partners and creditors.

One way or another, never before has public opinion or the media experienced such an information vacuum in the midst of such pivotal talks. It is a rather unprecedented experience, where one has to read between the lines of stories published in global media, official Greek government leaks, semi-official and conflicting leaks, as well as contradictory comments made by administration and party officials.

Let’s take a look at where things stand right now. The coalition government is creating the impression that the country’s sole problem has to do with the public sector’s liquidity and that it is very close to a political formula that will solve this.

Greece’s creditors have made it clear that liquidity is tied to tangible reforms and moves by the country’s government. And this is where things get complicated: “We agreed these will happen, so why don’t you give us the money?” Athens is asking. “If you approve them and carry them out, then we will give you the money,” the lenders reply. This is not only the position of the Germans and the International Monetary Fund. If you take a closer look you will observe that everyone – even the Chinese – is now adopting the same stance: “Show us, in practical terms, that the Piraeus port deal is closing and we will purchase your bonds in the market,” they say. Unfortunately, no one is willing to accept talk as action or the expression of intent as a deal anymore. This is a major misunderstanding.

Misunderstanding No 2: Cabinet ministers announce legislation which produces a strong reactions among everyone abroad. Is there a mastermind who approves them, considering perhaps that the various bills could be used as pawns in the negotiation? Or do these proposed bills just pop up without going through some kind of screening? Who knows? They do, nevertheless, widen the gap to a point after which it will be hard to close.

Here’s the final and most crucial misunderstanding: Watching the negotiations, you get the sense that Greek officials are fully convinced that, first of all, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will take care of it in the end through a fairly mild formula, and secondly, that at the end of the day German Chancellor Angela Merkel will back down and accept a compromise solution that will be politically acceptable to the Greek government majority.

If these assumptions stand, then the government may genuinely believe that there is still some way to go before the cliff’s edge. If not, this might be a case of the kind of misunderstandings that will provide fodder for PhDs in the future.