Leaving the past in the past

The anniversary of the 1967 colonels’ coup clearly inspired Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis to draw present-day parallels with that tragic event.

“The government today faces a new kind of coup, one that is not carried out with tanks but through banks,” he said on Tuesday.

Of course the finance minister has every right to use any means at his disposal to make himself liked and, if possible, to muster some support for the government’s ongoing negotiation efforts. Whether this will have the desired result is a different matter.

It was obviously not accidental or due to ignorance that Varoufakis likened the tanks of 1967 with the “banks,” even though Greece is actually locked in negotiations with its international creditors – the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank – which, in turn, are acting on the orders of the eurozone member-states.

We should at least acknowledge the Greek minister’s tact in choosing to point his barbs at the general idea of “banks” rather than at the three institutions.

It seems that speaking out of turn, beyond the bounds of his institutional role, is something that the German finance minister can be accused of instead. He recently angered Paris when he said that “France would be glad if someone would force [reforms through] the Parliament, but this is tough, so democracy is.” Wolfgang Schaeuble lost his sense of moderation quite a while ago.

We should not be surprised by the behavior of Greece’s international lenders. It has always been like this.

In the mid-1800s, in fact, British Minister at Athens Edmund Lyons, who was responsible for managing financial aid from Great Britain to Greece, had advised the young King Otto to settle the country’s arrears with the British Crown or suffer the consequences of a delay.

Sure, a lot has changed since then, but a lot has also remained the same. Ever since its independence from Ottoman rule, the Greek state has had limited sovereignty. After joining the European common market and particularly the euro, its dependence on others has become total, just as it has for all the members of the common currency area.

But the euro is real and it is here, something that the new Greek government has also acknowledged.

The tanks belong in the past, just like the lost luxury of borrowed money.

The Greek government is trying to take advantage of whatever edge it still has left and will be judged by its results – and very soon too.

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