Greece is at the final crossroads and it is only a matter of days before its future in the eurozone is determined. If the prime minister is sincere that he wants us to remain in the common currency area then he must achieve two nearly impossible goals.
First of all, he needs to convince European leaders that the “no” vote in yesterday’s referendum was, in fact, a “yes,” that despite the shouts and slogans, the heavy language, he is determined to reach a deal and implement it. He has received an incredible boost domestically but has almost entirely lost the trust of his European peers. He is the only one who knows what kind of deal he would be willing to sign now.
The climate in the rest of Europe, meanwhile, is extremely hostile and Finance Minister Yianis Vaorufakis did his best once more to burn whatever bridges may remain. Europe is, as Premier Alexis Tsipras rightly says, a club of compromise. I hope he’s right for the sake of the country.
But even if Tsipras does achieve the deal he wants, the question remains over whether he’ll be able to sell it to his own people, and particularly the far-left radicals who have taken such a lead in the party since the referendum was announced. Calls for a rift with Europe will not be easily quashed nor is it certain that Tsipras will be able to stem the tide, however strong he has emerged from the vote.
I am afraid, and I hope I’m wrong, that the final proposal that will be made by the European summit will not be spectacularly different to the ones Athens has previously received. Maybe it will contain a firmer commitment for a debt writedown but this would certainly be preceded by terms and a very strict implementation schedule.
What is the biggest danger? That time will continue ticking away without any breakthroughs and Greece will slip out of the eurozone. The closure of the banks was the start of this slippery slope. If a deal is not achieved within the next few days, the situation in the economy will deteriorate very rapidly and angry citizens will start to become more comfortable with the idea of a return to the drachma. The bill will keep growing, both for Greece and its partners, and the latter will have to lend us another 50 billion euros to keep us afloat – something they seem quite unwilling to do – and we will have to deal with the harsh terms and measures that will accompany this.
The Europeans need to decide whether they honestly want Greece to be a part of the heart of Europe. Even if they do, Tsipras will also have to step up and take tough decisions of his own. He has the power right now not only to do what is needed to keep Greece in the euro but also to take us to the drachma and blame it on others. We will know what he decides in a few days. Let us hope that the damage that has been done in the meantime can be fixed.