Do the Europeans want to squeeze out Tsipras?
For Greece, last week was a bad week. First, the government could not secure an agreement on a relief of its huge debt in a meeting with finance ministers of the Eurozone and the IMF on May 22. And second, just three days later, Lukas Papademos, the European Bank vice president who had once been appointed to lead a six-month-long provisional government at the beginning of the Greek crisis in 2011-2012, escaped a terrorist attack by a letter bomb in the middle of Athens. A Twitter post by a veteran journalist who claimed that he “would not have minded if the recipient of the letter bomb was Yannis Stournaras [the present Governor of the Bank of Greece]” led to his arrest by police for hate speech. Since last week, there have been intense rumors that the attempt against a technocrat, who epitomized the policy of Brussels’ tough austerity measures on Greece, may be followed by further attacks. In spite of successful campaigns by Greek police authorities to catch members of several terrorist groups operating since the 1980s, there are still enough active anarchic, anti-establishment organizations and sects who could hit a selected target to create havoc.
Experts say the amount of explosives that was placed in the letter bomb sent to the former prime minister was not enough to kill him. But it was enough to injure him, albeit not seriously. Though, it did create a huge havoc in the Greek government and the police as the news travelled fast around the world, and Papademos, besides being an eminent Greek economist and a former head of government, was also a central figure of the European Union’s policies and practices as a member of the management of the European Bank.
And the way that Brussels has been treating Greece has been the source of a lot of heartache for the leftist Syriza-led government. Especially after last week’s failure of Greece’s partners to reach a compromise on the issue of Greek debt-relief as Alexis Tsipras’s government had hoped and also counted upon to keep his party intact. The harshness of Brussels and the chess-playing tactics were revealed to the public - and to the frustrated leftist deputies of Syriza -in a striking scoop by a Greek financial newspaper which leaked the memo of last week’s ministerial meeting where the Greek Finance Minister Eukleid Tsakalotos tried with no success to include a commitment by IMF and the Eurogroup on debt relief. Eventually, the IMF refused to participate in the Greek bail-out program, hence blocking the release of the next tranche of cash to Greece. The German Finance Minister, who never really wanted a debt relief for Greece before the German elections in September on grounds that it would refuel the argument at home that “German citizens again are helping out the lazy and corrupt Greeks,” commented that the last Eurogoup was a total failure. Some Greeks believe the failure was orchestrated by Wolfgang Schauble in coordination with the IMF.
The problem is that only a while ago, the “false” understanding that last week’s Eurogroup would endorse an agreement on Greece’s debt relief because the government had just managed to pass through the toughest austerity package to date has assured its uneasy deputies of an imminent agreement.
Surprisingly, there is still hope for an agreement, during the next Eurogroup meeting on June 15. At least this is what Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem claimed. But things are getting more difficult for Tsipras as his continuous ideological backtracking has now seriously eroded his popularity, but also among his own party. Will he be able to be the leader under whom “Greece will start a new page?” as he promised? The Europeans and the IMF must be well aware of his political vulnerability, and his survival depends now on them.