The bitter history of Greece’s bailout agreements, which were introduced in a bid to regulate – and even manipulate – the country’s politics (and by extension its economy) is in fact reminiscent of similar kinds of agreements imposed in other states: Sooner or later, and regardless of any resistance based on the popular will, opposition parties that come to power due to their anti-bailout rhetoric give in.
That is not because the opposition is not in the right, nor because its economic plans are less sophisticated and productive than those laid out by creditors. Rather, it is because the opposition is weaker and is knocking on strangers’ doors out of need. Its economic needs makes the opposition vulnerable and powerless in the face of the creditors’ ultimatums.
Now it has seen its heavy weaponry slipping away and into the hands of lenders. It was widely held – among government and opposition officials, as well as pundits – that the prospects of a Grexit served as a major weapon in the hands of Greece. All the aforementioned believed that the weapon’s mere existence would be enough to curb the European’s intransigence. Perhaps that was true, if partly, in 2012 – but not in 2015. In the three years that passed, eurozone and European Union states (and some non-EU countries) prepared themselves for the consequences of a Grexit.
At the same time, Greece was chewing on the laurels of a victory that never came. And when the gun backfired and after we were informed (mainly thanks to a slate of contradictory statements by Greece’s former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis) of one, and then two, and then three different contingency plans, then we switched back to immature partisan mode. And then, what would have been necessary (i.e. the preparation of several contingency plans so that the country would be protected in the eventuality of a euro exit) was denounced as treason.
A second weapon that backfired was the general faith in the ethical and political weight of popular mandate in terms of both in the January 25 elections and the bailout referendum. Greece’s European partners responded by saying that the will of the Greek people is more than offset by the will of another 18 nations (which however never held their own plebiscites on the Greek issue). Against this argument, the Greek government – which was rich in voluntarism yet poor in preparation – responded with the usual claim about the need to respect democracy in the place where it was born. That mantra was indicative of its confusion.
The government made a big mistake in taking for granted that the EU operates along democratic lines. Here’s a goal to aspire to.
Pantelis Boukalas is a journalist and author
First published in Greek on the newspaper "Kathimerini" (18.8.2015). Published in English on the English edition of "Kathimerini" (18.8.2015)