What does ultimatum for Greece mean?

We have now a kind of real deadline for Greece. So what’s your view, is issuing deadlines in line with, lets say, European spirit, or maybe not so much? Read few comments.

Isabel Camisão, Professor, Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Coimbra

I don’t think a short deadline (5 days is extremely short considering the high-stakes of the negotiations) is in line with the European spirit. But in fact in the last years we didn’t saw much of the European spirit, if we saw it at all! That’s not to say that negotiations shouldn’t have deadlines. Of course, deadlines are needed and of course both parts (Greece included!!) have to try to redefine the problem and generate credible and feasible alternative solutions.

However, this negotiation has in my view several flaws from the beginning. In reality, both sides have used hardball tactics that are far from being the adequate to this kind of situation. The problem with these strategies is that they might work when the relationship with the other part is not important which is not (or should not be) the case (at some points of the negotiation I was thinking to myself that I was seeing the Chicken Game in action! The problem with this game is that it turns negotiations into the highest-stakes gamble, being difficult to distinguish bluff from real threat, and most of all being extremely difficult to back down without losing face!). If we take for instance the Greek referendum (which is of course a democratic instrument to listen the Greek population), it was a risky move too. In so much it narrowed the zone of agreement it could in fact reinforced the Greek position at the negotiations table at the international level (the theory of two level game of Robert Putnam is a good reading). The problem is that it could have narrowed this zone of agreement too much, pushing it into a negative bargaining range that are likely to stalemate.

That being said, I believe the European problem lies in the fact that the institutions have not real supranational mechanisms to deal with this kind of situation. There were of course some reforms made and there are monitoring and corrective mechanisms in place. However, we still miss a truly European fund. The problem to me is that when financial help is requested by a Member State we still think in terms of what will be the German contribution, or the Portuguese contribution, etc., whereas the financial help should come from a truly European fund, should be a European contribution!

Furthermore, European leadership is still confounded with the leaders of large Member States, namely Germany. For me it makes no sense that the German Finance minister  (or other finance minister from any other country) is interviewed about the Greek question. We have institutions, so the institutions’ Presidents should be the only ones talking in the name of the EU  (the media here has a role to play). Finally, I believe we have too many “technicians” in charge of the negotiations. Of course, technical expertise is fundamental to present several different scenarios and to evaluate the costs/benefits of the actions. But ultimately the decision should be taken at the political level.

At this point, I’m not particularly confident. The Greece exit is being seriously considered by the institutions. The problem is not only the fact that a Member State leaves the Eurozone (not because he wants, but because it was forced). The problem is that it would bring to the daylight that the EMU lacks the political foundations that would ensure its proper functioning; it in sum would make even louder the EU’s inability to really deal with the crisis.

Simon UsherwoodAssociate Dean, Senior Lecturer, Department of Politics, University of Surrey

The issue with deadlines is not so much whether it’s ‘European’ or not, but that there have been deadlines before. Each time that a deadline is broken and there are no (immediate) consequences, it weakens the credibility of those imposing deadlines, which makes it less likely that others will believe them.

That’s a big problem for the EU, because Greece might feel (with reason) that even this deadline isn’t really that important, so might not come with an acceptable set of proposals. However, given how little trust no exists, it’s hard to see what else the EU could suggest as a way forward.

Vihar GeorgievAssociate Professor, European Studies Department, Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski

The whole negotiation process with Greece has been flawed. The variable geometry of players, including the IMF and ECB, has been used mainly to conceal the possible failure of those negotiations. Now, when we stand on the brink of the Grexit abyss, Merkel and Dijsselbloem desperately need some cover for their own part in this.

The notion of solidarity has long ago disappeared from the discourse regarding the Eurozone. In this sense, a final deadline for Greece is only a logical conclusion of this drama. However, Greece will not disappear – it remains a Member State of the European Union, and its further estrangement may backfire badly. In conclusion, whatever happens on Sunday, we need to stop this destructive rhetoric of contention, and act again as partners in our common integration project.

John O’ Brennan, Lecturer, European Politics and Society, Director, Centre for the Study of Wider Europe, National University of Ireland Maynooth NUIM

I don’t know how we have reached this point. But I do know that the whole tone in which the Eurogroup and European Council is conducting this drama is completely at odds with the spirit and history of the European integration process. We can perhaps trace this posture of aggression back to the days immediately following September 2008 when we saw the beginning of a process of re-centralization of authority at EU level. Principally this involved a move away from the tried and tested ‘community method’ to what Chancellor Merkel calls the ‘Union method’. In effect it meant ditching supranationalism for a kind of re-enforced intergovernmentalism. And we are now seeing the logical consequence of that move playing out in the Greek crisis. The fiscal rules of the Eurozone are literally being re-interpreted with each successive iteration of crisis, so that any pretence toward collectivism and solidarity has been entirely removed. Now the diplomats are even departing from the traditional language of diplomacy as they issue more and more grotesque demands to Athens. This is not the European Union of which I have been a defender for my entire adult life. The actors in the European Council have become Wolfgang Schauble’s shocktroops of ordo-liberaliam, despite all the evidence of the doctrine’s acute fallability. German conservatives are in the process of destroying the bedrock of European constitutionalism and rule-structure. Even a week ago I did not think this possible. The founding fathers of the EU – Monnet, Adenauer, de Gaspari – must be weeping in their graves.

Toms Rostoks, Researcher, Latvian Institute of International Affairs

Of course, Greece is not everybody’s lips in Latvia as well, and it has been an on-and-off issue for the past 5-6 years. Since Latvia has successfully gone through austerity measures in 2008-2011, we do not understand the position of Greece in this crisis. It is our interpretation that they have not been willing to implement the necessary reforms therefore the situation has deteriorated over time in Greece. Currently, it is evident that there is a real deadline for Greece, but it is largely because trust between Greece and the lenders has been broken. Thus, the deadline is something that Greeks are themselves response for. They are running out of money, and that is the real deadline for them. This deadline is not imposed upon Greece. The deadline is of their own making. Importantly, the intentions of the current Greek government are questioned. Have they negotiated in good faith? Or, perhaps, it has been the aim of their current government to pull Greece out of eurozone? Right now the Grexit has become a real possibility, and even EU leaders have begun to entertain this possibility publicly.

Gabriel Siles-BrüggeLecturer in Politics, University of Manchester

There’s of course a fair amount of brinkmanship to all of this – and many deadlines have been missed in the past – but of course the situation now is very different. Greek banks have been closed for over a week and quickly running out of cash, depending on the ECB for continued liquidity. In some ways the real deadline is the 20 July (rather than Sunday) when Greece owes a big tranch of debt to the ECB of 3.5 billion Euros: if it were to miss this that could well mean the end of ECB injections and thus force a Grexit. So, to return to your question, the Sunday deadline is somewhat artificial, but Greece is still running out of time.

Emmanuel SigalasSenior Research Fellow, Czech Institute of International Relations

We are at a very historical junction right now. Critical times for Greece, the EU, but also for the European integration project. Since the Maastricht Treaty European integration was proceeding very slowly, but proceeding nevertheless
now, for the first time ever we may witness a case of European disintegration. This is party of the reasons why the major European powers, especially Germany and France have been so patient with the Greek government. The Greek government of SYRIZA-ANEL started the negotiations with the troika in an amateurish way. Its first proposals were too sketchy, shallow and by no means of structural nature. As time was running out, the Greek government came to realise that it was impossible to deliver its electoral promises in full. In other words, a third bailout appeared in the horizon. It was clear to the PM (Tsipras) and his team, that he could not pass another round of tough austerity measures through the parliament. It was very likely that his own parliamentary group would fragment, leading to a government collapse.The referendum was called to exert pressure to everyone: the European partners and the troika, the Greek opposition, the dissenters within the government and the party (see also the attached document). No one will ever know what the Greek referendum was really about. Everyone is interpreting the question as they seem fit. Issuing deadlines is not what one might ideally expect, but we should remember that Europe is not a single nation or state (yet). Even if it were, it is impossible to let negotiations drag indefinitely. Action is needed, from both sides. I hope that the Greek government has learnt a lesson and that in the future it will show a more constructive attitude. This is not the 1960s, and this is not Latin America. Old-fashioned socialism can no longer flourish in Europe. A re-imagined socialism or social democracy, maybe. But that’s another story. I hope that the troika has learnt a lesson too. It is too naive to keep dictating tough austerity measures without considering the social and political implications in full. There is a measure for economists as well. Economics cannot function without taking into account politics. It was wrong to assume that neo-liberal ideas taken from an economics textbook apply that easily in real-life societies.


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