By Evangelos Venizelos, former socialist PASOK leader
After five months, the moment of truth is approaching for everyone.
The situation is of considerable interest to analysts, to the international media and especially to the institutional actors of the EU, the IMF and the global economy, as the strength of the eurozone and the relations of the markets with the states and the monetary areas are being put to the test. First and foremost, though, the historical course of our country is being decided.
After all, it is not at all common for a developed country, a member of EU and the eurozone, to be placed voluntarily under conditions of total uncertainty for its institutional and monetary identity.
Only we do not belong to either the spectators or the analysts. We are the topic itself; we, as a people and as a nation. Not Mr. Tsipras and his government, which has limited incumbency and limited mandate, as with all the elected governments in all democracies.
Therefore, I refuse to speculate on what will happen. I refuse to try to get into the mind of Mr. Tsipras. But I wish and hope that he has all the implications in mind. I wish and hope that he is aware of the size of his responsibility.
If so, then on Monday night the European Council will come to a unanimous decision, i.e. an agreement accepted by the Greek prime minister, who will guarantee to his counterparts its approval by the Greek parliament and its implementation.
This is what Mr. Tsipras has to do, because this is the smallest possible deviation from his election promises and the mandate given to him by the relative majority in the 25th January elections. He cannot implement the demagogic stillborn “Thessaloniki agenda”, he cannot reach a better agreement than the one negotiated by the previous government, he cannot conceal the great harm caused by the lost five months. It may though prevent the destruction of the national acquis and the degradation of the living standards of all Greeks, especially the weaker ones, especially those that will be the real victims of the lobby of the drachma. He can and has to prevent the risk he created, and which he toyed with in cold blood and which he unfortunately still toys with, thinking that he bluffs against his European counterparts.
A basic myth of the government narrative is that the key problem of the country is the excessive amount of debt. To build this myth, the great intervention to the debt in 2012, with the haircut (PSI) and the radical restructuring, had to be slandered and discredited. But thanks to this intervention, it is now easy to make additional parametric changes and arrangements that can give an answer to the problem of the forthcoming payments of the country to the IMF and the ECB. Thanks to this intervention of 2012, a new financial package, which the country has unfortunately ended up needing again, can now be set up.
Thus, what the government presents as something supposedly difficult is the easy part of the package. The government fights -supposedly- to breach doors that have been open since 2012.
A prerequisite for this, though, is an agreement on the issues: a) of the primary deficit/surplus for the years to come and b) of the upgrading of the overall competitiveness of the Greek real economy.
Based on these criteria, a list of measures is established; measures that are directly budgetary, and structural and administrative measures that have an indirect budgetary effect. We have traversed -at an enormous cost- 90% of a painful journey that was not our choice, but the only realistic solution to avoid total disaster. The current government is called upon to traverse the 10% that remained on the eve of the elections and was sadly largely increased due to the accumulated mistakes of the lost five-month period. Still, a relatively small last part of the journey remains. When such difficulty exists in the year 2015, everyone can understand the amount of difficulty in 2010, 2011, 2012, but also the size of the lies and hallucinations of the “anti-memorandum” promise.
It is a positive fact that the reduction of the primary surplus target has been accepted. But this makes sense only when it is integrated in a comprehensive macroeconomic framework leading away from the memorandum, even with a delay of approximately three years compared to the target that existed before the elections, for a transition to the precautionary credit line at 28.2.2015.
The list of measures agreed should be the mildest possible, but it only has a value if it is traced back to this macroeconomic framework.
My estimate is that a “Nasreddin Hodja” logic will prevail in the formation of the list of measures. The communication overload with painful measures facilitates relief, because e.g. the abolition of the EKAS benefit will be repealed and the imposition of 23% VAT in the DEI (PPC S.A.) bills will be averted. In any way, “Hardouvelis’ mail” will be but a sweet memory.
How the government SYRIZA/ANEL will explain the prolonged stay of the country within the “Memorandum 2.5” (extension and expansion of the current Memorandum), in view of entering into “Memorandum 3”, is its own intraparty issue, not a national issue.
How it can be explained that the government claims parametric changes that improve the net present value of the debt and is looking for ways to meet the obligations towards the IMF and the ECB, at the same time that the Speaker of the Parliament has already declared the entire debt to the IMF and the ECB as odious, illegal and subject to a write-off, is a serious issue because it concerns the institutional seriousness of the Parliament, but is not comparable to the disorderly bankruptcy and the overturn of the European course of the country.
The national benefit is the fact that the return process of all to their actual sizes will begin.
Thus, this is the nationally necessary and politically feasible result of Monday.
If there is an agreement that can be integrated into an overall plan for the return of Greece to the normality of a member state of the eurozone, if this is displayed before the Parliament by a government that has the declared majority and if forgiveness is requested from the Greek people for the lost time and the lies that altered their consciousness and obfuscated their minds, the conditions of convergence on the path of the only viable national strategy are formed. Everyone will explain their inconsistencies and lies.
If this framework is ruptured, if the government and Mr. Tsipras himself fails to rise to the occasion and is led to the so-called rift, trapped in his intraparty correlations of power and the illusion of a pan-European conflict, the terms of which he unfortunately does not understand, then a major issue of democratic legitimacy will urgently emerge.
An order for a rift has not been given by the Greek people and nobody can force the will of the people.
The infamous rift is, after all, the prelude to an agreement that will only come late and in a humiliating way, in terms similar to those of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, not those of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne; with Greece as a black hole in the margins of the European affairs, because some have seen themselves as Bolívar’s reincarnation, who was “handsome as a Greek” but not a Greek, as the people of this country are.