June 27th is a historic day for Greece. It will most probably also prove to be an ominous day, but this does not make it less historic. After five months of visits across Europe’s various capital cities (what Greece’s coalition partners, but only them, like to call “negotiations”), Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras decided to shy away from his historical responsibilities and shift the burden of failure on the shoulders of the Greek people.
The leftist premier decided to call a referendum, a first since 1974, with an extremely tight time-frame (only a week), during which the banks will most likely be closed, foreign lenders fuming, and the funds empty.
Nevertheless, June 27th is a historic day – one sealed with a televised address. One would have at least expected that the burden of the decision would have made this address more profound and cautious. One would hope that a decision, which seriously risks throwing the country against the rocks, would be sufficiently substantiated, and that the address would somehow justify the decision. That the address would bequeath something for future generations to remember – regardless if it turned out to be a folly.
But, alas, we heard nothing of that kind. What we got was gibberish, topped off with nationalist populism, typical of the speeches heard in university amphitheaters.
“Greeks, in response to the blackmail to accept an austere and humiliating austerity program which has no end and no prospect of getting back on our feet, I call upon you to decide patriotically and proudly as dictated by the proud history of Greeks,” Tsipras said in his address.
The hastiness with which the address was prepared was made evident where the 40-year-old prime minister pledged to “respect the outcome of your democratic choice, whatever that [decision] is.” What did Tsipras mean by that? Did he mean that he was calling a popular vote just to get some advice from the people? Did he imply that there was any chance he would not respect the outcome of the referendum “whatever that is.” Or did he mean that the decision is up to him, but he is just doing the Greek people a favor?
None of the above, it seems. The shock decision was announced without any previous preparation. Not even the address had been prepared. The country is heading toward disaster because of haphazard decisions, in the way that all previous supposed negotiations took place without any meaningful preparation.
The Greek people are expected to make a decision about the future generations in the space of one week. They will hardly have any time to read the question, let alone discuss.