Until Monday, every monthly Eurogroup since last autumn was branded as “crucial” by the Greek government. Other than crucial, every meeting of the euro zone finance ministers was considered the meeting where creditors would concede to the “hard negotiating strategy” of Athens. In every Eurogroup, lenders would offer more debt relief measures.
Yet, after every euro zone meeting, the government spokesperson would make a statement like “it’s better that we didn’t get a deal now because we will have more time to negotiate and get a better deal in the next meeting.”
And this is exactly what was announced after the disastrous May 22 Eurogroup. As if Greeks live a Groundhog Day every month, ad infinitum. This is exactly what the Maximos Mansion spokesman said. With a straight face again.
The words “we negotiated hard” were repeated again. By negotiating, the spokesman meant the strategy the government is using since the Yanis Varoufakis days. The strategy is: Refuse any proposal lenders make, theorize using outdated Marxist terms, then call creditors’ demands “illogical,” “inhuman,” “neoliberal” and keep procrastinating while the Greek economy is sinking deeper into recession.
Late on Thursday night, after all SYRIZA-ANEL lawmakers voted in favor of the harsh measures they were denouncing only weeks ago, there was an air of euphoria among the government and the leftist party. As if the additional 4.6 billion euros of painful measures they placed on the shoulders of Greek people are a cause to celebrate.
After the vote and the certainty that creditors will open the EU wallet and give the next loan tranche of 7 billion euros, Alexis Tsipras stated smiling that the measures and countermeasures the creditors agreed to are “too good to be true.” He said it in English. Probably to show his tutor that he is making progress. He even joked that since we are getting out of the memoranda, he may have to wear a tie after all, as he had promised when he first came to power.
But behind the goofy smiles and the silly jokes lies a very grim reality: One in three Greeks faces poverty and isolation, about one million pensioners live on less than 500 euros a month, one in four Greek children live in poverty, half of young Greeks are unemployed and so on. Mr. Tsipras and his cabinet are oblivious of that. They speak of higher than expected primary surpluses and promise more welfare benefits to the have-nots, while announcing that they would raid the undeclared “hidden wealth” of the haves.
The “success story” they keep repeating is that creditors will give more debt relief. These two words have become a meaningless mantra on the lips of all SYRIZA lawmakers. As if slightly lower interest rates or an extension of repayment by a few years would compensate the desperate unemployed, the broken pensioners or the suffering middle class.
On Monday night the “better deal” and “debt relief” fairytales Tsipras and his crew tell Greek people for the past two years proved to be just that. The myth crumbled one more time. They failed to close the second review, they failed to get the next bailout program tranche and they failed to get a promise of debt easing. The quantitative easing (QE) program of the European Central Bank for cheap loans expires in September and the prolonged “negotiations” will end up leaving Greece out. In addition, time is running out for loan maturities worth 7 billion euros due in July. In Europe they speak of a repeat of the summer of 2015, when the country came on the verge of bankruptcy and “Grexit” was a word appearing daily in news reports throughout the world.