ATHENS – Embattled, and belittled by critics, fallen in polls and fighting off dissidents in his own Radical Left SYRIZA, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faces a number of difficult fronts as three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($403.2 billion) are due to expire in August.
With his coalition government in tough talks with European creditors and hoping for a return to the markets and debt relief, Tsipras is also trying to deal with a combative Turkey, which is detaining two Greek soldiers facing trial after accidentally crossing the border, rising numbers of refugees and migrants landing on Greek islands, and the fraying name talks with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to end a 26-year feud.
All that while not being able to contain his provocative and outspoken Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, head of the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are junior partners in the coalition and who has rejected giveaway of the name Macedonia in a new composite and been taunting Turkey.
With his support at around 1 percent, Kammenos is looking at a wipeout in the next elections now scheduled for 2019 and won’t return to power unless he can bounce back and analysts told Kathimerini he’s counting on a tough stance on FYROM to do it.
But he also said he wouldn’t walk away over the name talks which would bring him and the government down now and is trying to walk a line between talking tough in public and bowing to Tsipras’ demands when the pressure is off.
The paper said that Kammenos has become a lightning rod of criticism that could further push down SYRIZA and further damaging Tsipras, who is now being buried by criticism from foreign media who said his administration has essentially been clueless how to deal with the overwhelming issues.
“The worst problem for Tsipras, for the government, but also for Greece is the evolving ‘rogueness’ of Turkey,” Aristides Hatzis, a professor of law and economics at the University of Athens told Bloomberg news agency.
“Diminishing American influence on the region is a destabilizing factor and the stakes are very high,” Hatzis said, adding that Greece is not a primary concern for Turkey, but a part of an overall plan by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to establish hegemony in the region.
While “the possibility of deliberate escalation is relatively low,” there is increased concern of an accidental trigger event between the two countries, Thanos Dokos, Director-General of the Athens-based Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy told the agency.
Tsipras was slammed in a piece in the noted Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung entitled The Misery of the Greeks. Germany is the biggest contributor to the bailouts and insisted on brutal austerity measures in return which he continued after vowing to stop them.
“Nothing is good in Greece. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras brags about his reforms. But in reality he is governing a system of corruption and bad financial management,” the piece written by Richard Fraunberg said.
The Greek Foreign Ministry responded that, “The closer Greece gets to economic recovery and exit from the memorandum, the more certain circles and news media endeavor to create negative and erroneous impressions, in order to keep Greece from emerging from the crisis and escaping their control,” rejecting the criticism.