“Anything in return for pensions” could have been the title of the longstanding policy of Greek Prime Minister Tsipras via-a-vis the European Union in Brussels. And, finally, his policy has paid off: Brussels has rewarded him with the gift of not cutting pensions, at least for now – never mind that Mr. Tsipras himself had voted in favor of cutting them.
With Greece essentially in pre-election mode, Tsipras and his staff are basing all their hopes on the Greek people re-entrusting them with their vote through wholesale giving. It is “Tsovolas, give it all” redux (a phrase Andreas Papandreou said to Finance Minister Dimitrios Tsovolas in the 1989 election). Give whatever there is. Appoint thousands. Stain your political opponents’ honor. There is no tomorrow, only today.
And while that election strategy is damaging to the interests of Greece and its people, the question that must be addressed is: why has Europe become complicit with Tsipras violating its policy thus far?
We all remember the fury with which Germany insisted on reforms, and the faithful implementation of the ones agreed upon, which nearly derailed Greece off the European Union track.
“The Greek crisis broke out a long time before,” writes Adam Tooze in his book Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World. “The most affluent parts of West Germany had made clear their refusal to take responsibility for the debts of other Germans or other countries... After 2010 this was true in Europe’s case. That was what the voters called for. And what they were asking was simple: Discipline everywhere.” That line has been the mantra of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and ex-Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble over the years, regarding the crisis in Greece and elsewhere.
We repeat, then: the question everyone has to worry about is why are they now indifferent to the implementation of the agreements?
Is it because Greece emerged from the risky zone of bankruptcy? Maybe because it achieved growth rates above 5 percent, which it needs? Because unemployment dropped below 10 percent? Because foreign companies are waiting in line to invest in Greece? Or is it because Greek companies, and young Greeks, have halted their exodus from the country?
The problem is, none of these things have happened.
What Brussels apparently used for cover is the artificial primary surplus, the product of the state's stop of infrastructure investments and payment stoppage.
What Tsipras has proved to them is that he does not have difficulty exchanging national interests for party interests. Consider his position on FYROM as examples.
If the non-cutting of pensions were a positive development for the Greek economy and for the pensioners, and if it would prevent a reduction in pensions in the future, we would certainly celebrate it. However, it is certain that this decision will worsen the economy, possibly resulting in a larger cut in pensions in the future than there would be now.
This, unfortunately, is the reality of the implementation of the old recipe of citizens' votes ransomed with loans.
Don’t voters ever learn?