Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his government have delivered a shock to the European system. Of course we cannot judge the outcome of the four-month-long negotiations with Greece’s creditors before a deal is reached and its content made public, if indeed it is actually reached within the next “few days or hours,” as French President Francois Hollande predicted during his recent meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
What is certain is that any agreement reached now will not mark the end of a process that came to a halt in August when the funding tap was shut off to Greece because it failed to complete the agreed program.
Five years have passed and the latest in a succession of governments which have tried to assure the Greek people that the end of the crisis is near is continuing to do so. In the early years, the people shared the optimism, at least until PASOK collapsed almost entirely and New Democracy suffered a shattering defeat in the last elections.
The next few months will show whether there is any substance to the hopes being cultivated by Tsipras and his government, if and when a deal is achieved. In any case, the prevailing uncertainty will continue to grow and Greece’s political order will remain unstable. This is the inevitable result of poor management since Greece entered the European Economic Community and the eurozone, and the violent fiscal adjustment of the past five years. In short, a succession of leaders had no real intention of Greece of fulfilling the commitments that they had agreed to. So, if Greece has actually been suffering from an honesty crisis, then we have been playing a game of lies the entire time.
Ultimately, the Greeks will welcome a deal, even if they disagree with some of its parts, because they have suffered over the past few years and their continued tribulations are making them increasingly disdainful of the political system. But deep down inside, we are not a revolutionary people, as some like to imagine. Rather, we are nation that adapts in the long term, with a few outbursts of disobedience along the way.
There has been criticism that the talks are dragging on too long. What they fail to take into account is that negotiations are not defined in technical terms but by the “political time” that the various leaders involved believe is necessary. In other words, they are determined by Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has already proved a deft manager of political time even though she has been often accused of dragging her feet over decisions pertaining to Greece.