Shad­ow­box­ing with Olli Rehn

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY COSTAS IORDANIDIS

When the So­cial­ist gov­ern­ment of Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou signed the so-called mem­o­ran­dum about a year ago with­out first en­gag­ing in any se­ri­ous bar­gain­ing, Greece’s three in­ter­na­tional len­ders – the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund, col­lec­tively known as the troika – did not set the con­sen­sus of op­po­si­tion par­ties as a con­di­tion. And they were right not to, since in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions are meant to ne­go­ti­ate with gov­ern­ments, not with a coun­try’s en­tire po­lit­i­cal sys­tem. Mean­while, it soon be­came ev­i­dent that the mem­o­ran­dum was not work­ing – at least not ev­ery as- pect of it. How­ever, the peo­ple who drew up the mem­o­ran­dum – ba­si­cally a set of reme­dies for the Greek disease – are not pre­pared to ad­mit that they may have made some mis­takes. That would dam­age their cred­i­bil­ity and, to some ex­tent, their use­ful­ness. As a re­sult, they in­sist that Greece swal­lows ev­ery last bit of the medicine. It has also be­come ev­i­dent that Pa­pan­dreou’s ad­min­is­tra­tion is un­able, or sim­ply un­will­ing, to en­force what has been agreed upon and the laws it it­self has signed. This prompted Euro­pean Mon­e­tary Af­fairs Com­mis­sioner Olli Rehn to claim re­cently that it is cru­cial for Greece to have bi­par­ti­san sup- port for the aus­ter­ity mea­sures. In other words, Rehn was ex­press­ing the Com­mis­sion’s skep­ti­cism re­gard­ing the Greek gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to carry out the nec­es­sary re­forms. Rehn does not care whether Sa­ma­ras him­self pro­posed the sale of state as­sets months ago, only to backpedal later on. He does not care if the con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion would in fact like to see more pri­va­ti­za­tions than the rul­ing So­cial­ists. What Rehn sees is a po­lit­i­cal deficit – and he be­lieves that this can be over­come by con­sen­sus from New Democ­racy. He is wrong. Be­cause 62 per­cent of Greeks be­lieve that the mem­o­ran­dum has dam­aged the coun­try and the per­cent­age is set to in­crease when the new mea­sures are an­nounced. Greece, of course, will not chal­lenge the Euro­pean Union. The bloc is not try­ing to de­stroy Greece but is ac­tu­ally at­tempt­ing – in its own way – to pre­vent the coun­try from de­fault­ing, even if that is in or­der to serve its own in­ter­ests. The best Pa­pan­dreou can do is to ful­fill the du­ties he has un­der­signed and use all the help he can get from Sa­ma­ras on is­sues like pri­va­ti­za­tions. That should keep Rehn quiet. Per­haps it will also make him re­al­ize the short­com­ings of the pro­posed rem­edy.

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