The continuing Greek debacle

The continuing Greek debacle
Suddenly, the ‘Mother of Europe’ seems like Lady Macbeth. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, for whom the maternal sobriquet was coined, is appearing as what Der Spiegel depicted her on its cover this Monday, as sitting atop the ruin of Europe. The prestigious magazine commented, “The failure of the euro means the failure of Merkel’s [10-year] chancellorship.”

Like the character in the dark Shakespearian tragedy, suddenly for Merkel, the Greek referendum’s ‘Nai’ vote has put the responsibility of saving the Eurozone on her table. All this while, in the past fortnight, the neo-Left rainbow combine called Syriza and it’s leader Alexis Tsipras was being painted into an isolation chamber as almost like a concentration camp inmate. The Greek prime minister was being held hostage to the Troika, the European Central Bank, European Commission and the IMF.

The world was being told that Tsipras is the party pooper. The country that acquainted the world with ‘democracy’ – centuries before George W Bush appropriated it as a slogan to reorder West Asia (including Saudi Arabia!) – but had killed off its WW II ‘resistance communists,’ was being feared for a ‘contagion’ effect for selecting the neo-Left.

Thus, the last battle for neo-liberalism had to be fought by Merkel and her unlikely ally, Francois Hollande in the continent that gave birth to that ‘scourge’ – according to <g data-gr-id="51">Clemenceu</g>, Hitler, Churchill, Stalin – of communism gave birth.

In the last five years, Greece was being ruled by a centre-Left party, Pasok, who had earlier borrowed money without a thought, had imposed an austerity that the Greek GDP contracted by almost 20 per cent; overall unemployment of the level of 25 per cent, while amongst the youth even higher.

Greece of the shipping tycoons, tourism barons and big banks of the Balkans did not like paying taxes. So, while with <g data-gr-id="76">austerity</g> imposed by the Troika was impoverishing the middle class and lower classes, the borrowings ballooned to 175 per cent of the GDP.

Syriza, the new Left party, saw a meteoric political rise under the <g data-gr-id="53">circumstsances</g>. They came on a populist agenda of ending ‘austerity.’ The likes of Merkel and Hollande knew it was impossible to achieve that, and also thought Tsipras <g data-gr-id="54">aned</g> Co did not have a roadmap that could bring Greece out of the woods. So, they played hard-ball with the new Greek leadership.

But in the last fortnight, 40-year old Tsipras showed that what he had in mind was certainly providing 
the Greeks an umbrella to save themselves from the gale force winds; but in the bargain he also wanted the Greeks to agree to tighten their belts even as the engines of the economy could <g data-gr-id="66">restarted</g>. So, he wrote a letter to the Troika, VAT reform; fiscal structural measures of increasing advanced business income tax to 100 per cent with phasing out preferential tax treatment for farmers including subsidies (an anathema for the EU members otherwise) along with pension reforms and labour markets.

That Tsipras knew how to play hard politics was evident just in that letter that must have been jointly drafted with his erstwhile finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who he immediately dumped Sunday night soon after the ‘Nai’ was in. Varoufakis had told the media the day this letter was given to the lenders, they were very happy. But overnight something happened. For, the next morning the lenders including the IMF were back at their throat. So who played  Rasputin, the eminence grise; the shadowy hand that was afraid of the contagion, the dominoes tumbling?

The last losing battle of neo-liberalism is not fully over yet. Tsipras may have dismissed the professorial ideologue, Varoufakis; Christine Lagard, the IMF chief may have gone behind the <g data-gr-id="61">veil; but</g> Portuguese, <g data-gr-id="60">Spaniards</g> and Italians are watching. The Greek PM has said immediately after <g data-gr-id="59">victory</g> that ‘debt relief’ will firmly be on the table this time round. Obviously, Tsipras listened to their whine.

Now, they will have to listen to him – not just Tsipras but the millions who voted Sunday night. If they don’t, they will get caught between the devil of will-full <g data-gr-id="56">default,</g> and the deep sea of kissing neo-liberal economic agenda good bye. 

For Europe changed Sunday night. 
Pinaki Bhattacharya

Pinaki Bhattacharya

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