The Greek issue has again dramatically become a litmus test of the bearing of governments and political forces in Europe. Tsipras’ request for a Eurogroup summit on the new Greek financial showdown was tabled, receiving a resounding no by Wolfgang Schauble, the surly German finance Minister.
The E.U. hawks are falling back on old habits, forcing Greek people to the brink of the abyss — in their already tragic situation — to force the Greek government to implement severe new restrictive measures.
Alexis Tsipras responded forcefully, demonstrating that the decisions taken by his government, certainly not made with a light heart, are in the furrow of what had been decided until now, that were imposed instead of negotiated. The situation has changed since the International Monetary Fund got in the middle.
The belief — hiding behind a deceptive demand for a nominal cut of the total debt — is that the new proposed measures (that is, €3 billion between taxation and the already hard-hit pensions) are not enough to meet the milestones of the plan. So it wants the Greek Parliament, with the consent of Brussels, to decide right now on an almost automatic implementation of additional actions worth at least 2 percent of GDP, or more or less €3 billion, in the event that planned objectives are not attained.
But a similar measure — as rightly pointed out by Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos — cannot be accepted, let alone implemented, not only because it would be a noose around the neck, but it would also be unconstitutional. As always against Greece the strong powers of the E.U., together with the IMF, are using the weapon of blackmail, counting on the fact that time plays in their favor. The closer the Greeks come to a default, the more they hope to get what they want. The intercepts made public by Wikileaks have shown it unequivocally: “It is necessary to bring Greece to the brink of the abyss by extending negotiations until July, because only when they are with their backs to the wall, they make concessions,” said Poul Thomsen, European representative at the IMF, without hesitation.
But this time, the united front of E.U. hawks seems less united. Even in the Italian government there are some dissonant voices, although the Greeks rightly consider it still too weak. It is easy to see why. Padoan hit the button of the flexibility request for the Italian accounts and taking into account that the President of the Bundesbank Jens Weidmann has again lashed out at the excessive amount of public debt of our country. It makes sense that this time Matteo Renzi has agreed to play a more tolerant role in regards to the Greek government. Likewise, Gianni Pittella, leader of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, explicitly denounced blackmail against Greece and asked to convene an extraordinary Eurosummit next week.
Syriza says words are not enough, and much more concrete commitments are needed because the clock is ticking. And, anyway, in terms of words, those agreed some time ago between the Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa and Tsipras are much more decisive and incisive, clearly against the austerity policies.
We will see in the next few hours if these steps away from the most aggressive position will really stand up or not. Meanwhile, the Greek government does well to take advantage of every space and every contradiction that can be opened in the front of those who would like the bankruptcy of Greece and its expulsion from the Eurozone, and therefore from the E.U.
Of course it is more obvious than ever the diversity of treatment suffered by the Hellenic country in comparison to the U.K. The fear of a Brexit made the upper echelons of the E.U. find an accommodating agreement with Prime Minister David Cameron, on the backs of migrants’ rights, which may herald a regressive revision of the treaties themselves, to prevent an anti-European outcome on the June referendum in Great Britain. On which even Barack Obama devoted himself. Double standard.
Social inequality is based on the choices and behavior of politicians and vice versa. But that European unity can only implode. And the return to a continent of small countries — just look at the outcome of the presidential first round in Austria — would be a nightmare.