THE SYRIZA GOVERNMENT AND EUROPE: FIRST STEPS
"Yanis Varoufakis also said Greece would not accept an extension of its EU bailout, which expires at the end of February, and without which Greek banks could be shut off from European Central Bank funding. “This position enabled us to win the trust of the Greek people,” Mr Varoufakis said during a joint news conference with Jeroen Dijsselbloem, chairman of the eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, who was visiting Athens for the first time since a leftwing government came to power this week. Mr Dijsselbloem countered by rejecting the government’s call for an international conference that would consider writing off part of Greece’s debt, which last year amounted to 175 per cent of national output. “As for the thought of a conference on debt restructuring, you must realise that this conference already exists and it’s called the eurogroup,” he said. The exchange, along with tough words from Berlin, captured an adversarial mood as the new government and its eurozone partners made their first formal contact and set the stage for tense negotiations that could decide Greece’s future in the eurozone. Speaking to the Financial Times in London, Pierre Moscovici, the EU economics commissioner, urged calm, saying: “We all need to be careful about the economic situation in Greece. Our common goal is to enhance growth. For that we need pragmatism and respect for commitments, from both sides.” But Greece’s new government has alarmed creditors and investors with pledges to freeze privatisations, rehire state workers and otherwise roll back reforms adopted by previous administrations as part of the bailout."Kerin Hope & Stefan Wagstyl, "Greece will no longer deal with ‘troika’, Yanis Varoufakis says". The Financial Times. 30 January 2015, in www.ft.com. Without in anyway defending the austerity obsession of Brussels and the government in Berlin, it has become already evident, notwithstanding the fact that it has not yet been in government for a week, that the Syrzia Government is a misfortune for both Greece, the poor, unfortunate Greek people and Europe as a whole. My own surmise that the Syrzia Government was made up of unreconstructed gauchiste and soixante-huitard elements has been born out by the first steps of the new government. From trying to defending the un-defendable (Russia's aggression in Ukraine) to trying to arrest the needed de-cronyism that was the only positive aspect of the EU imposed austerity programme, to unnecessarily frightening investors and indeed its partners in the Eurozone and the European Union as per Finance Minister Varoufakis statement yesterday as reported in the Financial Times 1. It could very well be the case of course that new Greek Premier Tsipras, is merely engaging in the very old trick of indulging in leftist rhetoric before marching off in a centrist and moderate direction. If so, then all will be well. Otherwise, I predict that given the limited amount of tolerance that both Berlin and some of the other European capitals have for Tsipras verbal pyrotechnics, especially if the very same is translated into policies, that there will indeed be a Greek exit from both the Eurozone and perhaps even in the European Union with NATO a possible third. 1. See the following: Sam Jones in London, Kerin Hope in Athens and Courtney Weaver, "Alarm bells ring over Syriza’s Russian links". The Financial Times. 28 January 2015, in www.ft.com; Leader, "The radicals of Syriza endure a rocky start". The Financial Times. 31 January 2015, in www.ft.com. For a hopelessly panglossian point of view, which indulges in erroneous gauchiste sentiments, see: Mark Mazower, "European Democracy in Dangerous Times". The Financial Times. 31 January 2015, in www.ft.com.