The weapons that back­fired

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY PANTELIS BOUKALAS

The bit­ter history of Greece’s bailout agree­ments, which were in­tro­duced in a bid to reg­u­late – and even ma­nip­u­late – the coun­try’s pol­i­tics (and by ex­ten­sion its econ­omy) is in fact rem­i­nis­cent of sim­i­lar kinds of agree­ments im­posed in other states: Sooner or later, and re­gard­less of any re­sis­tance based on the pop­u­lar will, op­po­si­tion par­ties that come to power due to their anti-bailout rhetoric give in. That is not be­cause the op­po­si­tion is not in the right, nor be­cause its eco­nomic plans are less so­phis­ti­cated and pro­duc­tive than those laid out by cred­i­tors. Rather, it is be­cause the op­po­si­tion is weaker and is knock­ing on strangers’ doors out of need. Its eco­nomic needs makes the op­po­si­tion vul­ner­a­ble and pow­er­less in the face of the cred­i­tors’ ul­ti­ma­tums. Now it has seen its heavy weaponry slip­ping away and into the hands of lenders. It was widely held – among gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion of­fi­cials, as well as pun­dits – that the prospects of a Grexit served as a ma­jor weapon in the hands of Greece. All the afore­men­tioned be­lieved that the weapon’s mere ex­is­tence would be enough to curb the Euro­pean’s in­tran­si­gence. Per­haps that was true, if partly, in 2012 – but not in 2015. In the three years that passed, eu­ro­zone and Euro­pean Union states (and some non-EU coun­tries) pre­pared them­selves for the con­se­quences of a Grexit. At the same time, Greece was chew­ing on the lau­rels of a vic­tory that never came. And when the gun back­fired and af­ter we were in­formed (mainly thanks to a slate of con­tra­dic­tory state­ments by Greece’s for­mer Fi­nance Min­is­ter Yanis Varoufakis) of one, and then two, and then three dif­fer­ent con­tin­gency plans, then we switched back to im­ma­ture par­ti­san mode. And then, what would have been nec­es­sary (i.e. the prepa­ra­tion of sev­eral con­tin­gency plans so that the coun­try would be pro­tected in the even­tu­al­ity of a euro exit) was de­nounced as trea­son. A sec­ond weapon that back­fired was the gen­eral faith in the eth­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal weight of popu- lar man­date in terms of both in the Jan­uary 25 elec­tions and the bailout ref­er­en­dum. Greece’s Euro­pean part­ners re­sponded by say­ing that the will of the Greek peo­ple is more than off­set by the will of another 18 na­tions (which how­ever never held their own plebiscites on the Greek is­sue). Against this ar­gu­ment, the Greek gov­ern­ment – which was rich in vol­un­tarism yet poor in prepa­ra­tion – re­sponded with the usual claim about the need to re­spect democ­racy in the place where it was born. That mantra was in­dica­tive of its con­fu­sion. The gov­ern­ment made a big mis­take in tak­ing for granted that the EU op­er­ates along demo­cratic lines. Here’s a goal to as­pire to.

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