Alexis Tsipras: I will keep Greece in the eurozone and restore growth

Really? President of Greece’s Syriza coalition Alexis Tsipras wrote this for The Financial Times.

Question:

1. It seems Tsipras’s strategy is also based on the fact that he thinks Europe will keep Greece in eurozone no matter what. Do you think it can work?

2. I know it is hard to speculate but what would be your prediction of the results?

Answers:

Anna Visvizi, Associate professor, DEREE – The American College of Greece

1. As you have probably understood, Mr. Tsipras is a demagogue. The rhetoric he employs is very attractive to young people, who have no clue of how the economy works, what does it mean that a state has commitments towards its foreign partners, and do not understand what European integration is about.

Tsipras employs different rhetoric and different arguments when speaking in the foreign media and when he speaks at home, in Greece. More specifically when Tsipras speaks to foreign media he pretends that he is pro-European and that he supports Greece’s European vocation. He does so only in order to maintain a good image abroad and thus possibly to gain support of other radical left parties across Europe.

On the other hand, when Mr. Tsipras speaks to the Greek audience, he says that he will cancel the MoU. That is he says that the first law that he will pass after the – as he is hopeful – successful elections of June 17, will be a law cancelling the MoU. By saying this, Mr. Tsipras indicates clearly that he intends to remove Greece from the Eurozone and from the EU.

As far as Mr. Tsipras’ belief that ‘Europe will keep Greece in eurozone no matter what’, I’ll make three comments:

First, Mr.Tsipras doesn’t care whether Greece will remain in the Eurozone or not. He only cares about him becoming the prime minister.

Second, Mr.Tsipras convinces his audience that the leaders of the Eurozone are bluffing when talking about a possible exit of Greece from the Eurozone.

Third, Mr.Tsipras has no prior knowledge about how the EU works. He also lacks the experience necessary for him to understand how Western leaders think and how they conceive of him.

Fourth, as regards Mr.Tsipras’ idea that ‘Europe will keep Greece in the Eurozone no matter what’, of course, it cannot work, for several reasons (see the previous three points). In addition, that it cannot work can be explained by the following: in a recent report by the Bundesbank its authors write that the risk and the cost of giving in to Mr.Tsipras’ demands is far bigger than the cost of letting Greece go.

2. The situation here in Greece is so uncertain these days that it is very difficult to make any accurate prediction about the outcome of the elections. Although several opinion polls have been conducted – clearly due to the constraints of the electoral law they have not been publicised – it is hardlypossible to say anything for certain. This is happening for two major reasons: First, there is a huge migration of the voters from one political party to another, and – as it seems – peoples’ preferences change from one day to another. Second, the number of undecided voters is still very high, ca. 30%. In this situation, anything can happen. I do hope that the centre-right Nea Democratia will win the Parliamentary majority because it is the only party that can ensure that Greece will enter the path of political stability, growth and development in the Eurozone.

Alexander KazamiasSenior Lecturer in Politics, Coventry University

Everything Tsipras says at the moment, especially outside Greece, must be read at two levels.  One is the reading which can answer your question, i.e. as statements indicating what he intends to do.  The second reading would require us to see Tsipras’s words as tactical manoeuvres aiming to place him in a strong negotiating position vis-à-vis Mrs Merkel.  I am not implying that Tsipras is sending conflicting messages, as some of his critics do.  Sometimes he does, but his central message is the same.  What I am suggesting is that we must read this message in two different ways.

First: Will Tsipras’s suggested solution work?  Up to a point, yes, it might.  I am confident that Tsipras will do his utmost to keep Greece in the Eurozone.  Even Mr Schoeble implicitly acknowledged this in his recent interview today in Deuche Welle.  Tsipras is certainly more serious about keeping Greece in the Eurozone than either his opponents in New Democracy (ND) and PASOK or even Mrs Merkel and the IMF, whose policies have already taken Greece to the doorstep of the Eurozone.  I am not sure, however, that Tsipras can restore growth to the Greek economy.  What he can do is to reduce the shocking levels of negative growth which Greece has been experiencing for three years.  This, of course, will largely depend on how skilfully he will handle his clash with the ‘Troika’ and Mrs Merkel.  However badly he does, I still believe he will come up with a better deal than the disastrous ‘Memorandum’ which Papandreou and Samaras recently accepted unconditionally.  It suffices to say that ND, whose victory is strongly supported across the EU, is now speaking about ‘renegotiating’ the ‘Memorandum’.  This is a major achievement of Syriza (even if it does not win on Sunday) because until the 6 May election ND and PASOK claimed that such promises were outlandish.  Well, now they have adopted them themselves and have been encouraged to do so by the EU in order to stop Syriza from winning on Sunday.

Second: Tsipras’s interview in the Financial Times is yet another step of a sophisticated game of political brinkmanship with Mrs Merkel.  The first was his visit to France and Germany after the May 6 elections.  What he intends to do is to come across as a firm defender of the Euro because, if he wins, his game will have to rely on portraying Merkel as a greater threat to the integrity of the Eurozone than his own government in Greece.  Of course, I firmly believe that Tsipras is indeed a supporter of Greece’s membership of the Eurozone, but his interview in the FT today is part of a communication strategy that seeks to also make him appear as one, because he is still not seen in these terms by mainstream opinion in Europe.  In this regard, the publication of his interview by the Financial Times is itself a minor but decisive victory for Tsipras.  Last month he tried to do the same when he sought a meeting with Francois Hollande, only to see his request declined.  This time, however, he clearly did better.

2. Opinion polls are still being conducted, but it is illegal in Greece to publicise their results in the last two weeks before election-day.  However, one reliable pollster yesterday stated on state TV that the latest polls show that the result will not be neck-and-neck as the last publicised polls on 1 June suggested.  One party, i.e. either ND or Syriza, is clearly ahead.  I have been in Greece for a few days and all the confidence and smell of victory in the air comes from the Syriza camp.  The New Democracy campaign is still stiff, one-dimensional and the journalists are not particularly interested in the party’s programme.  However, we have seen many surprise results in the past.  So, I think it’s best to wait until Sunday.

Pavlos Efthymiou, PhD Candidate in Politics and International Studies, St. Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge

1. Tsipras and SYRIZA are playing the populist card. They promise unrealistic things, hoping to maximize their electoral influence. This works, and will work on Sunday. The gamble of Tsipras that: I will do whatever I want and the Europeans will keep paying no matter what is wrong and he knows it; the people don’t. In other words, SYRIZA’s leaders are not tricked from their own rhetoric. There are some in SYRIZA that have been advocating a return to the drachma. These forces exist, but they have accepted to support Tsipras in promising to keep the Greeks in the euro. The important truth, that must be stressed to everyone is not that the Germans/Europeans cannot throw us out; it is that Tsipras can not get us out without a referendum. And on that referendum, 4/5 people will vote for the euro. In other words, there is nothing on which Tsipras can deliver. Not even in getting Greece out of the euro. The only thing I can suggest to everyone is: people in Greece, be patient, SYRIZA will deflate with the same rapidity it inflated. The same is true for our EU partners – be patient, soon politics in Greece will make sense again.

2. My view is this: People like lies and easy solutions. Tsipras promises both, he is a young, clean face compared to Venizelos and Samaras, and the most likely scenario for me is that he will be the first party on Monday. If not, he will be very close to ND, and things will be worse. If he does not win, Greece is in deeper trouble. He will take to the streets everyday, no reforms will materialise, and, the country will sink further. – I see Golden Dawn remaining in the parliament in spite of the violent TV incident against popular Communist MP.

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