Tsipras takes fresh gamble

Tsipras takes fresh gamble

It seems the pressure has pushed Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to a new gamble. He is opting, once again, for pure political negotiation, a strategy involving traveling abroad and all the accompanying drama. The threat of Greece unilaterally passing legislation in Parliament is back on the table.

The confrontation with the International Monetary Fund was set up a long time ago. A journey to Paris and the European Parliament is surely part of the scenario. The Gordian knot of debt relief and the ongoing tug of war between Europe and the IMF are still very much part of the picture.
The question is whether or not the PM’s gamble will secure some results, or whether the country will experience the events of last summer again. Greece does not pose a systemic danger to the eurozone or the world economy. This notorious theory was put to the test last year, when it became clear that the Greek threat had been discounted. 

Nevertheless the Greek government is betting on the geopolitical danger. Given the possibility of a Brexit, on the one hand, and Spain, Portugal and Italy in the danger zone on the other, Europe, in theory at least, does not desire another crisis on its radar. What stands above everything else is the refugee issue. The disastrous scenario of summer 2015 foresaw a broken Greek state unable to attend to even a minimum of its obligations, let alone handle such a large crisis.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is counting heavily on the EU-Turkey deal, an agreement which requires Greece’s tolerance and basic collaboration. Everyone realizes that a failed state with refugees and migrants going in and out and thousands of angry people stranded at Greece’s borders is of no service to European interests. 

Tsipras has not proved very good at reading developments. Perhaps he relies on assurances from officials in Brussels and Paris about how far he can go with this.

Things would be very different if Tsipras had decided to have the bailout review wrapped up right after the Greek election. The voters, his party and rival political parties were back then prepared to support a so-called honorable compromise. It’s hard to say who talked Tsipras out of it. Instead, he allowed things to stagnate. Some government officials appear animated by a rather bizarre dogma: “I negotiate, therefore I rule.”

Perhaps Tsipras has an ace up his sleeve. The problem with gambling, however, is that there’s usually no plan behind it.  Hopefully, no mistakes – neither by Greek nor foreign officials – will lead to a repeat of last summer. It would be disastrous to trigger a crisis that could push a big chunk of the Greek population into an anti-European frenzy.

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