Early signs of civility and consensus
Despite some natural degree of skirmishing and isolated criticism, rays of civility, consensus and cooperation are breaking out across the Greek political landscape.
Among the positive highlights was the civilized tone of the meeting between Alexis Tsipras and Kyriakos Mitsotakis the day after the elections, when the outgoing prime minister received his successor at the Maximos Mansion, as well as the cordial atmosphere during the ministry handover ceremonies. Some of the newcomers went as far as to acknowledge the work of their predecessors who, in turn, extended sincere wishes to the incoming ministers of the New Democracy administration.
The new prime minister reportedly briefed his predecessor about his decision to nominate the European Commission’s chief spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, as the country’s representative in the European Commission, and Tsipras reportedly voiced his consent.
After that came the positive remarks by new Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos about the Prespes accord. Panagiotopoulos said that he does not question “anyone’s intention that this agreement was achieved with a good reason in mind, to consolidate stability in the region and to consolidate the geopolitical constants in the region.”
During the three-day parliamentary debate on the new conservative government’s policy platform, Mitsotakis emphasized a self-evident fact: “We are political opponents. We are not enemies,” he said, adding: “We do not seek each other’s political extermination. Let [this session] mark that the era of anger, indignation and violence is over.”
Tsipras responded in the same spirit. “I am not going to ask our [European] partners to be stricter and tougher on you than they were on us. I want to assure you that any serious effort you make to pursue claims that will benefit the Greek people will have our support at home,” he declared.
Comments by former deputy prime minister Yiannis Dragasakis were in similar vein. He said “there is room for consensus” and urged Mitsotakis that he table in Parliament some of the bills prepared by the SYRIZA administration so both parties can vote them into law.
Earlier, Tsipras had assured European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Managing Director Klaus Regling that as leader of the opposition he will back any serious effort to lower primary budget surplus targets. Finally, the election of Kostas Tasoulas as House speaker with a record 283 votes also carries strong symbolism as it signifies a move in the direction of moderate discourse and a consensual tone, and away from vulgar attacks and loud altercations.
These are all welcome signs of a return to normality that can only benefit Greece. It would be premature to draw any conclusions, but the early signs are positive.