Foreign diplomats in important embassies in Athens who viewed the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras “very positively” are now faced with a new reality. When, on a number of occasions, this writer pointed out that the support for the government seemed excessive, the response by most diplomats could broadly be summed up by: “We don’t have preferences but our cooperation is excellent and we say it.” Some diplomats noted that, in the last few years, their countries have developed the closest relations they’ve ever had with Greece.
Their arguments do not lack merit. Indeed, the cooperation has been very good. And when you have in government a party that rose to power by criticizing – if not insulting – their countries, even their leaders personally, it is understandable that those diplomats would be pleased with the about-face of its leader and most of its top officials toward realism, along with the completely different rhetoric and the active cooperation on a range of issues.
I am not adopting the oversimplified explanation that “Tsipras did what they wanted.” In general terms, in his relations with partners and allies, the SYRIZA leader simply joined the mainstream. After the delusions and the efforts to mislead, he understood the state of affairs and changed policies, even behavior.
It is only natural that they would have preferred the former anti-systemic, radical politician in the Maximos Mansion and not protesting in the streets. At any rate, the close cooperation with the SYRIZA government, which produced some positive results, is – up to a point – understandable.
However, the behavior of some diplomats was excessive. They almost completely identified with Tsipras, sometimes making it almost a personal thing. Not only was this a mistake, it was also unfair toward other political forces such as New Democracy, Movement for Change and To Potami, which had not tried to deceive voters and did not ignore reality. These parties had always been openly pro-Western and did not change when they took power, as Tsipras did.
In fact, they paid a price for their alignment with “imperialist America” and “the Europe of memoranda.” Some were even attacked – such as former PASOK minister Theodoros Pangalos, who had yogurt thrown at him, and ND deputies Costis Hatzidakis, and Giorgos Koumoutsakos, who were physically assaulted.
It is obvious that diplomats can express agreement with specific actions of a government – the deepening of bilateral cooperation, good relations with the country’s creditors, the signing of a pact, or the promotion of trilateral cooperation, such as that with Israel, Cyprus and Egypt – but not in a way that seems almost insulting to the parties in the opposition, which, with a few exceptions (such as the Prespes deal), had the same strategic approach.
There might have been ideological preferences toward one side, or bad personal chemistry with the other, but the mission of the diplomat is to ensure the best possible relations with the country in which he is serving, not with a specific government or leader. And as we all know, in democracies governments change.