What does PM Tsipras want?

Read few comments.

Questions:

1. When Tsipras says he does not want to leave EU he wants to change EU, does he really mean it, and, in fact, what does this CHANGE mean in your opinion?

2. How much do you see the EU divided along Germany-Greece lines?

Answers:

Ioannis Zisis, Doctoral Researcher, University of Hull

1. Tsipras certainly doesn’t want to exit the EU. It is out of the question an EU exit…..there would be a revolution in Greece and he would have to search for escape routes. The EU integration is very well routed in the consciousness of the Greeks as a strategic nonnegotiable option of national and security importance (against the Turkish aggression). The Euro is another case though…..he wouldn’t mind leaving the euro under certain circumstances.

You have to keep in mind where Tsipras comes from….he was raised as a pure communist (KKE party) and then a reformist communist (Synaspismos party) who engaged in demonstrations against capitalism and liberalism. This is routed inside him but he has to fight it and look like a collective rather than a marginalized leader. The EU irreconcilable stance has helped Tsipras insist in his ‘democratisation’ theory. Indeed many agree that EU and the Eurozone decisions should not be entrenched within a suffocating infliction of austerity, neo-liberalism and elite oriented interests. Tsipras represents these voices and hopes to be able to awaken more formal representations in Europe but so far only Podemos in Spain and SinFein in Ireland keep a close link. Be aware though….he is not doing it with a vision of altering the future of Europe…rather he is securing his own political future.

The Syriza party power of 36% is not related to a radical left-isation of the Greek people. Tsipras and his likes represent a solid 5% of former reformist communists and the even more radical part of Syriza (Lafazanis) another 2%. Let’s just say that pure Syriza is 8-10% of the people. The other 26% are disappointed former PASOK and austerity inflicted voters and some civil society frictions and protest groups who see Tsipras as an ideal leader to surface from ignorance. The ideals of this hard-core 10% are against the current neo-liberal market-oriented European leadership as applied by the center-right majority of governments.

IF Tsipras could declare a Grexit from the Euro he would do it ! He cannot because 75% of the people in Greece want to stay in euro. So he can only curve a path towards an infliction of Grexit (‘it was not our fault…we negotiated hard but the bad Europeans kicked us out or made us exit through market failures’). If this is the case then Tsipras had a plan all-along and he mastered it successfully so far. In the worst case scenario (for Tsipras) with a Grexit he would have achieved an historic for the left political history struggle. He will be the hero of the Left right next to Velouhiotis, the left general  of the Greek civil war. He will achieve a solid leftish base of at least 10% forever and ever in the political scene and be a modulator for many years to come.

The other more pragmatist way to see this is that Tsipras really wants to keep governing Greece far more than being a strong leftish leader. In this case the referendum has given him immense arguments while he got rid of old-school enemies like Samaras and Venizelos in a Greek political scene with no great personalities to follow (there really aren’t any appealing leaders left). In this scenario Tsipras pursues a quick agreement with EU similar with the proposal he suggested or at least the Juncker proposal. Varoufakis is already gone as a first sign of convergence. He then has a strong mandate of 61% which will further enhance Syriza power, he brings back an agreement to an ecstatic 61% becoming hero of the day who negotiated with pride unlike his predecessors, he buys 3 more years before people realise that austerity has never left the room, he sets an example for other left-centre powers in Europe to push for less neo-liberal approaches. In the end he is again the winner of the political game.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that he is doing the best for his country. Without a debt restructuring any measures might not succeed in the long-run. The reason is simply that Greece is not producing! We are a country of services, apart from tourism and maritime operations we have no industry at all…in fact we never had an industrial revolution of some sort. That is why drachma and devolution cannot make us competitive simply because we only got tourism….not much to export…perhaps olive oil and fruit!

So CHANGE for Tsipras is a form of vision, an attractive vision of populist appeal …… and a Papandreou slogan that is still working after all these decades ! Besides in Greece Tsipras is considered a new Papandreou….only the later had massive EU funds to share.

2. There is no such thing so far. Apart from a friendly socialist French and Italian stance the rest of Europe is under the influence of Germany. If Sarkozy for example returns then you can forget France also and Renzi is not going to jeopardize Italy’s balance over his ‘friend’ Alexis. Cyprus has already distanced itself in an impressive for the Greeks way although it was expected due to the fragility of its status. The markets were not seriously inflicted by Greferendum and seem stable enough. If that was not the case I would expect more support from some countries. Spain, Ireland and Portugal will never adhere to a retreat  that would expose their choice of austerity as a tool to achieve growth. In my opinion Tsipras is alone when it comes to hard-core EU decisions and that is why he will actively pursue an alternative stance, more acceptable. But before doing that he succeeded to get the people behind him (referendum), get rid of his opponents (no efficient opposition in GR parliament), drug the opposing parties behind him as a leader of national unity willing to compromise.

At the end of the day if nothing works and EU doesn’t want to speak to him anymore he returns back home as a fighter who lost an uneven battle but did his best to succeed and remains king of the political game in Greece even through an inflicted Grexit that he (supposedly)  tried to avoid.

Alexander KazamiasSenior Lecturer in Politics, Coventry University

1. Besides being Prime Minister of Greece, Tsipras has been the European Left’s candidate for the Presidency of the Commission last year.  In addition, Greece’s ecological movement is represented in his cabinet and this makes it the strongest political force combining the fourth and fifth largest groups in the European Parliament (the Greens and the Left) at national level.  Italy’s second largest party in the polls, Five Stars, backs Syriza and its leader, Beppe Grillo was in Athens yesterday to support Tsipras in the referendum.  The Spanish Podemos, the Irish Sinn Fein and the German Die Linke have also rallied very strongly behind Syriza.

The ‘change’ promised by Tsipras is a long term process aiming to bring the humanist and democratic traditions of Europe at the forefront of the Continent’s politics.  In the short term, his vision focuses on two interrelated objectives: a) to end corporate and financial supremacy in Europe which is represented in the tough austerity policies dominating the Eurozone; and b) to reduce the growing socio-economic divide between the ‘Northern core’ and ‘Southern periphery’ in Europe.  The immediate alternative offered by Tsipras is a new European compromise on the basis of a more flexible and socially more equitable neo-Keynesian agenda.  This is seen as the first step in a process aiming to restore unity between ‘North’ and ‘South’ and to reduce unemployment, poverty and social dislocation across its crisis-trounced countries.

2. There is a key distinction between the German and Greek people, who share many things, including a common European destiny and currency, and the political differences between their governments.  There is no point denying that these political differences could undermine the common elements shared by the two peoples.  This is precisely why a compromise between the austerity policies of the ‘North’ and the anti-austerity agenda of the South is urgently needed.  So far, this compromise has failed because Germany is by far the most powerful side.  But, to paraphrase Mrs Merkel, greater power comes with increased responsibility.  Unfortunately, though, hard line German politicians like Mr Schäuble refuse to assume this responsibility and claim that ‘the choice belongs to the Greeks’ (i.e. to stay or leave the Euro).  Mr Schäuble prefers conflict because he believes that his country, as the powerful side, will score further gains from such a policy.

However, this approach contradicts the very principles of European unity and plays to the domestic audience in Germany.  Schäuble’s popularity stands at 70%, confirming that his dangerous power game with Greece is largely driven by populist motives.  By contrast, Tsipras and Varoufakis (whose limited interest in political power was shown today by his surprise resignation) have always spoken of an ‘honourable compromise’.  Many would argue that Greece takes this approach because it is the weak side.  This may be true.  But if we want a united Europe, the standpoint of the weak side must always be accorded equal attention to that of the powerful states, otherwise we will go back to the pre-war era of realpolitik Europe.  Surely, we can’t expect a twenty-first century EU to model itself on Metternich’s power-politics and the colonialist policies of Joseph Chamberlain and Jules Ferry.

Roman GerodimosSenior Lecturer in Global Current Affairs, The Media School, Bournemouth University

1. Tsipras has been very insistent on calling for radical changes to the European Union’s overall direction and approach to the crisis, but he has not given a lot of details about what that might entail beyond Greece. He has called for an end to austerity policies and for debt restructuring, as well as for a stronger role for democratically elected institutions, which would presumably include the European Parliament. He has also called for more solidarity between the EU’s North and South. In practice this could also mean issuing Eurobonds – so the mutualisation of individual sovereign debts so as to share the burden of the crisis.

2. While Germany, and Mrs Merkel personally, has driven the austerity agenda, I do not think that this is really about a Germany v. Greece divide. In fact, the approach of Mr Tsipras along with unfortunate statements and actions by the outgoing Finance Minister Mr Varoufakis, managed to unite everyone else against them. Even countries of the European south which have been facing similar problems and were considered to be Greece’s natural “allies” – such as Italy and Spain – have come out against Mr Tsipras and his demands.

Vassiliki Georgiadou, Associate Professor of Political Science, Panteion University

First of all, this is an unrealistic announcement. Greece is in an extremely weak position and it would be politically naive to think that it would be possible to change Europe. Mr Tsipras knows that Greece is not able to change Europe. This is only a rhetorical statement behind of which we can find his ambivalence vis-a-vis the agreement Greece has to close with its European partners and the creditors.

2. I am afraid that we are almost alone within the EU. Greece had much more support after the January, 25, but it loses many of its friends and allies during the period of negotiation and after the PM left the table of negotiation 10 days before. He has to try hard in order to win back government’s credibility and the country’s cred within the EU.

Alexander Apostolides, Lecturer of Economics and Economic History, European University of Cyprus

1. It is as much a guess. Certainly the sacking (because he was asked to leave) of Varoufakis today suggests that A. Tsipras do not want to leave the Eurozone. He certainly does not want to leave Europe, and this was not a referendum for exit from Europe.

2. It is not as simple as that. Germany stance is not the hardest in the Eurozone/ ECB stance is also important if Greek banks are to ever open. IMF also pushing for debt reduction but also more austerity! What is important is responsible leadership from all. Admission of mistakes is very important.

Costas MilasProfessor of Finance, University of Liverpool

2. Tsipras is good with words but always very vague. He does not really want to change the Eurozone because he knows he cannot change it. What he really wants, and rightly so, is less austerity for Greece. Greece has had enough austerity for 5 years resulting in a total loss of some 25% of its GDP. However, less austerity and more debt relief has to be combined with structural reforms which, although Tsipras is promising to pursue, he has done (so far) nothing about it. This is because Tsipras believes in a bigger government sector which will be harmed by structural reforms!

2. I do no think the Eurozone will be divided on Greece.This is because, so far, Greece is talking about reforms but has done nothing about it. I think Greece would have been in a stronger position to “divide” the Eurozone had it delivered on reforms. Let’s wait and see!

Dimitris TsarouhasAssistant Professor, Department of International Relations, Bilkent University

I reckon that the stakes are now heavily tilting against Tsipras, despite his recent moves of a) firing Varoufakis and b( calling for unity on the domestic front. The best scenario for Greece now is a sort of bridge programme and a harsh third rescue package. The worst is Grexit, and chances are now divided as to which one will materialize. It will all depend on the extent to which the 18 are ready to give in to some of Tsipras’s demands – and this is very uncertain. No division along Germany-Greece lines in my view.

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