Ruling officials must stop using the threat of a Greek collapse as a bargaining chip.
To be sure, the fear of Greece degenerating into “failed state” has influenced developments in the past few months. It was, after all, the main reason why US President Barack Obama appeared to put some pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel after the SYRIZA-led government called the bailout referendum. Even the Germans who tend to view things in technocratic, rather than geopolitical, terms seemed to be aware of the risk.
The scenario of a Greek state in no position to pay its police and military officers or buy fuel, as thousands of refugees land on the Aegean islands was enough to prompt a rethink among foreign officials. However, when the leader or the representatives of a country employ this line of thinking again and again, then the argument begins to look more like a liability.
First of all Greece starts to come across as a down-on-its-luck country that is going around the world begging. It is not an image that Greece should project to its neighbors or its rivals. It’s not to say that other countries are not aware of our problems but sitting down to talk wearing the “wrecked state” badge does not really help your cause.
It would be better if Greece managed to put itself across as a country with a clear sense of direction, a country with a plan to dig itself out of the crisis and rebuild itself, a country with a minimum degree of political and national consensus. Sadly, Greece can’t check any of those boxes. There is no plan, no vision, there is no strong leadership, and there is certainly no consensus.
It may be that our international peers will avoid putting extra pressure on Greece to prevent it from coming apart. But they will never take us seriously. They may help us stand on our feet, but they will never let us leave quarantine.
However, we must be on the alert for another reason. While Greece is locked in that sorry state, the self-confidence of our Balkan neighbors appears to be growing. After years in the back seat, these states are projecting the precise momentum that Greece is lacking.
Also on the other side of the Aegean, Turkey’s election results have confirmed the status of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as top dog. The Turkish president commands the respect of international leaders and he certainly doesn’t come across as the head of a broken-down country, despite all of Turkey’s troubles.