So many things have happened in the past week or so. And so many more are to come until the month is over.
Today, late at night, Syriza will announce its nomination for the new President of the Democracy (PtD) in Greece. Name-dropping about who will be nominated for PtD has begun as early as before the January elections. Two names that figured prominently in the rumors and speculations circulating via the Greek press are Dimitris Avramopoulos, a career-diplomat and former Minister in various Greek cabinets, currently serving as the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenships, and Kostas Karamanlis, the former Prime Minister of Greece. Both of these people come from the New Democracy party (currently in opposition), and are considered emblematic figures of the center-right. Another name that circulated in the Greek press in the past few days is Marietta Giannakou, another (highly esteemed) member of the New Democracy party, who has served twice as Minister in a Greek cabinet, and was a MEP from 2009 to 2014. Out of the three, Giannakou is the less controversial choice, and the person with the biggest and most meaningful work legacy while in office. Nevertheless, given that she is facing some serious health problems at the moment, the chances are slim that she would be selected.
If you might wonder as to why the radical-left Syriza would nominate a center-right politician as the new PtD, no need to give it too much thought. It is standard practice for many years now in Greece for the party in power to nominate a seemingly un-harmful politician from the opposition as PtD, especially given the limited authority and leverage entailed with the ceremonial position. It is a clever tactic to show willingness to compromise in the spirit of democratic politics.
Tomorrow, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet with the Eurozone finance ministers to continue the negotiations that went south in last week’s Eurogroup. Tsipras remains confident that a viable solution will be found and that the negotiations will result in a “win-win” situation for all relevant parties. While the foreign press has largely drawn attention to the thin thread upon which Greece is currently walking on (as well as the devastating repercussions that will follow for the rest of the Eurozone if that thread won’t be able to hold Greece’s weight), Syriza’s official announcements, as well as the majority of the Greek press, have been intentionally painting a very rosy picture of the negotiations. For instance, while the Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was, by and large, isolated in last Thursday’s Eurogroup meeting in Brussels, Greek media (TV, newspapers and portals) turned him into a heroic figure that supposedly went into the meeting with confidence, held the country’s head high, and “stole the show.”
Unfortunately, the reality is that Thursday’s Eurogroup meeting did not go that well. In fact, it didn’t go well at all. Varoufakis gave his (typical by now) theoretical talk, using fancy words and grand ideas. There were no data, no charts, no numbers from the Greek side. This, of course, did not sit well with the rest of the Eurozone partners who want exact numbers, specific percentages, and clear-cut reform proposals. But more importantly, at the last minute, when everyone thought that there was an agreement on the common press statement typically released at the end of the meeting, Varoufakis broke the consensus and no statement was released. By that time, many Finance Ministers, such as Germany’s Wolfgang Schauble, had already left the building.
I hope that tomorrow’s meeting will be more fruitful. We have already started to see certain glimmers of realism from the Greek side, something that even the Germans seem to have noticed. Given the number of protests that are planned to happen around Europe today in support of Greece, there might be a good chance that Germany will be pressured to loosen its stance. But this is only going to happen if Greece arrives at the meeting with neither generalities nor Varoufakis’s game-theory gimmicks, but rather with serious proposals, concrete plans, and specific numbers.
Without further ado, here are the top reads on the Greek political economy for today:
- Eurozone must not allow Greece to become another Lehman Brothers, by the Business Leader | The Guardian, Feb 15 2015
- Greek prime minister ‘full of confidence’ ahead of Eurogroup meeting, by Caroline Copley | Reuters, Feb 15 2015
- Greeks brim with pride as country totters on the edge, by Karolina Tagaris and Deepa Babington | Reuters, Feb 15 2015
- Geopolitics versus politics in Greek debt drama, by Paul Taylor | Reuters, Feb 15 2015
- Greek exit from eurozone would be worst option, says bailout fund chief, by Andrea Thomas | The Wall Street Journal, Feb 15 2015
- Reforms, bloody reforms, by Frances Coppola | Coppola Comment, Feb 15 2015
- Eyes of the world on Greece, by Mike Peacock | Reuters, Feb 15 2015
- Greece’s Excess Burden, by Paul Krugman | The New York Times (Krugman’s Blog), Feb 15 2015
- SDOE to receive more power to go after tax evaders | Kathimerini, Feb 15 2015
- Greece and the euro: Hitting the ground running—backwards | The Economist, Feb 14 2015
- Greece faces the cold stare of its creditor countries, by Arthur Beesley | The Irish Times, Feb 14 2015
Image Source: Ilias Makris (Kathimerini)