Just as we were looking forward to a bit of relief on the economic front and a gradual return to some kind of normalcy by the end of 2018 after a decade of tough sacrifices, the clouds have started to gather on the horizon again.
It’s not just the unpredictable US President Donald Trump starting a trade war with Europe by putting tariffs on steel and aluminum, a move that will prompt reactions from Europe and China, and cause significant turbulence in the global economy, affecting growth rates.
It is also the result of the elections in Italy – Europe’s third most powerful economy and one of the founding members of the economic union – a five-star shock where the populists, the far-right and the euroskeptics were put in the driver’s seat, realizing the worst-case scenario for the European Union. It is a development that is expected to rattle the European structure to its core, as it has also come at a time when Germany is still out of step politically and cannot play the role of leader with a weakened Angela Merkel at the helm.
As if this weren’t enough, Greece has suddenly found itself facing a crisis in the Aegean against a Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who keeps adding fuel to the fire on every front. Turkey has rammed a Greek patrol boat near the Imia islets and prevented drilling in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone, and now it is sending to trial two Greek soldiers in an unnecessary escalation of a commonplace incident on the Greek-Turkish border.
What would be expected of the Greek government during such a sensitive period is that it would try to impose some calm on the political front, build some consensus and unite the Greek people behind a common cause. Instead, it is doing the opposite. Unabashedly flinging dirt and scandal, it is trying to sully its political rivals by allowing shaky accusations of bribery to linger, using any excuse to promote the argument that austerity is the direct result of the old political establishment’s corrupt ways and dividing the public along “us or them” lines that are reminiscent of the civil war.
At the same time, it is passing laws and regulations that only benefit ruling SYRIZA’s supporters in the civil service, turning its back on the real victims: the workers in the private sector and hundreds of thousands of unemployed.
Let us hope that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras realizes in time that such difficult circumstances require true leadership.