Since the SYRIZA government has come to power, the unfolding of the Greek saga, an unprecedented mix of blame game, finger pointing and name calling, has left Europe speechless and Greece in tatters. Once the markets could sense the greed and fear in the air, they overtook the politicians and beat them to the ground.
Tsipras, whose hitherto main achievement had been the climbing up of the slippery hierarchy of the Leftist Greek party, was elected Prime Minister precisely when the economic became unavoidably political. He seemed to provide a last hope vis-a-vis the corruption and inefficiency of previous governments, which had allowed the country to disintegrate into a resigned society where imposed taxes were high and unemployment even higher, where suicide rates and brain drain picked up worrying momentum as months went by.
However, surrounding himself with hardline ideologues was his first mistake, allowing those hardliners to call the shots could probably be his last. Oscillating between tragedy and farce, his government is haunted by both lack of preparation and inexperience, exacerbated by the audacity and the religious fervor with which his captains pursue an agenda which seems rather unclear to the rest of us. Tsipras has often seemed like a playmaker without a team, the initial projections of his own personal dedication, vision and focus spoiled by the frivolity of the people around him. Varoufakis’ enchanting brilliance has become as irritating as only idiotic narcissism can be; Zoe Konstantopoulou’s pronounced toughness has revealed itself to be nothing but plainly rude bad manners; to add insult to injury, Kotzias’ mindful soberness, often highlighted though by the most undiplomatic of statements, seems to verge more on mediocrity rather than moderation.
Looking like a kid on his first trip to the candy store, Tsipras has fallen right into the trap set up by his hard-seasoned opponents by allowing his ambivalence and badly-timed polemic rhetoric to destroy his credibility and spoil his own argument. Quite puzzling that his game-theorist sidekick forgot to disclose the basic rule of game theory: learn the rules fast enough and then, set out to play the game better than everyone else, by outsmarting and outguessing your opponents. Instead of beating them at their own game, by proving that a Leftist government can differ in its ideological predisposition but can still be someone they can do business with, he proceeded in outspoken Marxist revolutionary spirit to try and scrap the rules of the game he found unfair altogether. One can only imagine Machiavelli in the sidelines dying to remind the young prince that it is not necessary to proclaim your intentions right from the start- make sure you charm your opponents into putting their arms down onto the ground in the first place and only then, you can use them against them. Instead, Tsipras chose a policy of pronounced collision, whereby his choice of means has failed to justify his end.
It is indeed heart-wrenching that Tsipras has been banging his head against a brick wall for some time now, as the facts seem to prove his argument right all along. Firstly, there is almost no doubt that austerity bites- fact. Since at least 2012, renowned American analysts have been exclaiming their disapproval of the oxymoron of using strict fiscal policy in Europe at a time of a recession which could then easily turn into depression, as seems to be now the case in Greece. Secondly, Greek debt needs restructuring or partial scrapping off, as verified by the latest disclosure of the corresponding IMF report, otherwise the Greek economy can never repay it- fact. Thirdly, the Euro was a monetary tool hurriedly and thus, badly designed to pursue a political cause, namely the integration of a newly re-unified Germany into Europe once Communism collapsed in the 1990s- fact. It is no coincidence that the Bundesbank and many leading economists at the time were totally against embarking on this precarious venture in the absence of the necessary fiscal harmonization of all markets involved, something which has still remained impossible to achieve and which Germans et al only know too well.
Unfortunately, it is both sides that have failed to see that two wrongs do not make a right. In the absence of any specific European vision and inspired leadership, Merkel has failed to fill Kohl’s shoes and Juncker has behaved more or less like the parochial bureaucrat that he is. Across the board, European leaders have used the ineffectiveness of the Tsipras team to justify their own short-sighted political stance, refusing to lose face, the position on which they stand dictated more by the seat on which they sit, their own instinct of political self-survival overtaking any other considerations. Christopher Clark’s description of European leaders ‘sleepwalking’ their way into a disaster, similar to the one experienced during the catastrophe that WWI was, seems too pertinent to ignore.
No matter what the outcome of the Greek referendum will be today, the case of Greece has opened a can of worms from which European leaders cannot easily escape. Deal or no deal, the Greek economy has anyway bled itself into a slow death, from which it will take years, perhaps decades to recover. The point remains though that the Concert of Europe has perhaps gone back to its 19th century shape and form: ‘Every nation for itself and God for us all’. * And above all, the process could prove irreversible.
(*as pronounced by British Foreign Secretary George Canning in 1823, when the Congress System, a European collective decision-making mechanism set up to deal with European affairs after the Napoleonic Wars, collapsed )