Is it going to be a short-lived honeymoon with Syriza?
“These guys are amateurs; they do not know what they are doing. We thought they had all their moves prepared, that they had a plan, that they would apply it when they came to power. And on top, one says something and the other something else!”
My childhood friend was furious. A socialist PASOK voter for years, disillusioned by them after they went into coalition with the conservative New Democracy, he had voted for the communists in the general elections of 2012 but decided – like some 2 million plus Greeks – to cast his vote for the leftists of Syriza in the Jan. 25 elections this year. He has been working all his life in a Greek shipping firm with a good salary that has been frozen for years by his employer because “of the crisis.” Always paying his taxes throughout his working life, he became increasingly furious with the ineffectiveness of politicians to deal with the huge economic and social crisis in his country and had lost all his confidence that any mainstream party would genuinely wish to eradicate corruption and nepotism. The new party of Alexis Tsipras “spoke to his heart” and he voted for him. However, his honeymoon with Syriza lasted just over a month. Disillusioned once again he is now praying that his tax-evading mega-shipping boss continues to keep him in his job.
My friend’s outburst came to my mind when I read the leaked official letter attributed to Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis sent to his Eurogroup partners ahead of their meeting in Brussels, today.
Varoufakis needs to convince his European colleagues that the Greek government is serious about reforms and has a credible alternative plan to restructure the economy. Only then can Greece get extended financial help until June. Otherwise, the country is seriously running out of cash as there is no alternative source in sight outside its institutional lenders, the ECB, the EU and the IMF.
By now, we all see that there is no love lost between the new Greek government and its European partners/creditors. Their animosity may have to do with their fears that after Greece, other rebellious elements either from the left (Spain’s Podemos) or from the right (Marie Le Pen) may seriously shake up the structure of the euro.
But considering the seriousness of today’s meeting did the official Greek letter help in convincing them of the seriousness of the Greek policies? I would be surprised if it did. For example, how seriously would you expect them to take you when you introduce as an innovative idea the establishment of a corps of non-professional tax inspectors hired on a strictly “short basis” to catch tax evaders posing as customers, instead of official tax authorities? According to the proposal, the members would come from all walks of life (students, housekeepers, even tourists) and who would be paid hourly and equipped with sound and video recorders.
In the meantime, in spite of my friend’s second thoughts, a sizeable part of society is still supporting the government. Six out of 10 Greeks approve of the government moves to renegotiate with its partners for a better deal on its bailout program. However, the high percentage of approval does not imply high spirits.
“We are all in a bad mood, again,” my aunt told me over the phone. She is one of several relatives who are organized members of Syriza. For them, there is not even a shred of doubt over the aptitude of the government. The fault is with the paymaster Germany and “the rest of the Europeans who do whatever Germany tells them.” Alexis Tsipras is the best leader but “they put the knife to his neck.”
“And what about Varoufakis?” I asked. “What can he do? He is trying to help, the poor man,” my aunt told me with a sigh.
Varoufakis, for his part, said before going to Brussels: “The option of a referendum or election is open if our partners reject our offer.”
We will soon find out whether or not he is successful.