April 27, 2015
Last Friday’s Eurogroup in Riga, Latvia, was a complete disaster for all parts involved. For almost all Finance Ministers it was another “revelation” of their lack of ideas, flexibility, and rational argumentation over Greece. It was also a proof of lack of imagination for another Europe, distant from narrow-minded austerity. For Greece and its Finance Minister Varoufakis, apart from being himself (once again) the scapegoat of this gathering, it was another shock: Eurogroup clearly asked for more austerity cuts -other than wages and pensions- including additional and massive layoffs.
Eurozone clearly intervenes in domestic politics, asking for the resignation of a number of Ministers, from Panos Kammenos (i.e. President of Independent Greeks and Minister of Defence) to Yanis Varoufakis (i.e. Finance Minister). For the latter, imagine that sources from Berlin point out publicly that Greece and Eurozone cannot get an agreement because Vaourakis is blocking it (!).
Furthermore, specific media groups and newspapers, like for instance The Financial Times and Bloomberg, present monolithic and biased information, counting for the pressure and the fuzz surrounding Greece, thus increasing their appeal in the “gossip market”. Aside this, specific Greek opinion poll groups blur the political landscape in Greece and divert a considerable part of citizens that are either critically illiterate or lack access to other sources of information by choice or ignorance.
Many are the coincidences during these last weeks with regards to Greece. The most striking one was that the day Gazprom chief Alexei Miller visited Athens to discuss on the prospects of the Greek Stream and other relevant issues, the European Commission decided to bring forth charges against the Russian gas giant for monopolistic behavior in the European market. As funny and hilarious this “timing” might sound, the European Commission chose the same day to make this statement, not one day before an after; just to the point, in order to turn Miller’s arrival in Athens fruitless and filled with burdens.
Beyond that, the fact remains that Minister Lafazanis and Alexei Miller had prolific discussions that will take shape in the coming weeks and months with regards to developments in the energy field, the proposition for special reduced prices on gas supply, and the window that has been opened by the Greek side for Russian investments in infrastructural level. In this respect, Prime Minister Tsipras also insisted on the prospective deal between the Greek state and Gazprom, pointing out that such an agreement does not turn against the European law, but to the contrary would be a pressing factor against closed-door discussions between Brussels and Moscow over the sanctions policy. The fact is that Gazprom is already preparing the technical parts of the deal, after taking the green light from the Greek side that Athens will remain firm on its rapprochement with Moscow.
In this respect, there is growing mistrust over Finance Minister Varoufakis for two interconnected reasons: The first is that Eurozone leaders believe Varoufakis is the one that impedes the adoption of recessionist measures as many find that PM Tsipras is more flexible and willing to discuss such an issue. This belief/perception is totally wrong, as the government in its entity does not discuss any measures that will sink the economy even deeper.
The second reason is that Varoufakis is considered as an ally of the US side over Greece and its deep financial crisis. Circles from the US and major academia and opinion-makers openly criticize Eurozone’s approach over Greece and clearly state that austerity has completely failed in the country. Varoufakis’s point of view is similar to the US one already since 2010. The fact is that each time Varoufakis is insulted by its “partners” during, before or after Eurogroup summits, these insults are redirected automatically to Greece, its government and its people.
From a similar perspective, Eurozone leaders, the President of the European Parliament Schultz and ECB’s chief Draghi get directly involved in domestic politics by indicating to PM Tsipras who to resign and what to do. Every time such a direct involvement and intervention occurred in the past (and it was pretty frequent since 2010), Greek governments conceded to their demands. Since the rise of Syriza in power last January such “habits” have clearly faded. And this is a “big problem” for Eurozone.
Moreover, Eurozone leadership and especially Chancellor Merkel do not wish Syriza and Greece to gain points in the negotiation field and convince other member-states to start doubting over the efficiency of austerity politics. Previous conservative and anti-social governments in Greece were accepting every proposal (demand) stemming from Berlin and therefore there was no need to negotiate or collide with creditors.
The Greek government is doing every possible effort in the framework of an extremely negative environment. Syriza does not want more austerity measures; Eurozone wants the opposite. Syriza does not want new loans that will increase the already sky-rocketed debt and “keep warm” the vicious circle of huge loans; Eurozone wants the opposite. Syriza wants to combat tax evasion and extensive corruption, while inserting the role growth clause can play in debt repayments; Eurozone wants the opposite. Syriza wants more jobs and a investment-led program that will revive the economy and the market; Eurozone wants the opposite. Syriza develops a multilateral foreign policy in order to increase income and invigorate mutually beneficial synergies and partnerships with regional and global economic and political powers; Eurozone wants the opposite.
After all, who wants rupture? Eurozone or Greece?
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