July 22, 2015
In the very beginning Tsipras was perceived as an unknown new political force in Europe. In Greece he was considered to be a “leftist parenthesis”. The extreme behaviors noticed during the Greek crisis resulted in clashes between EU partners. At the same time, though, some events stigmatized the “New Europe”.
Many thought that Athens was humiliated during the last EU summit. Others talked about a heavy diplomatic blow for Angela Merkel as its government triggered strong reactions from other EU member states which formed a united front against Berlin.
If one approaches the issue calmly will understand that the mid-term consequences of the “Greek Spring”, as ironically said the Slovak finance minister, on an EU level are remarkable.
Tsipras was provocative
During the last 5 months specific statements injured European states’ relations.
Provocative statements in combination with unjustifiable “visits” were constantly deteriorating an already tense atmosphere. Many were surprised with the negative stance of Finland and Baltic countries toward Athens. Why? Has anyone considered if Tsipras made any mistake?
While the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine was escalating and the Baltic countries with Finland were increasingly feeling the Russian offensiveness, Mr Tsipras visited Moscow and held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It was also dangerously remarkable the fact that the press releases after the meetings were quite “general”, increasing the uncertainty over these weird visits.
Result? These countries are now called in Athens as German satellites.
On a communication level Tsipras managed to acquire enemies. Despite his pro-Russian rhetoric, he never blocked any decision regarding the EU sanctions against Moscow.
Turkish Stream pipeline was actually fireworks and the Greek stance in the Ukraine crisis did not differ from the European one.
Thus what was the reason to provoke these countries?
Tsipras’s decision to drive EU partners to the edge helped Athens to internationalize the public debt issue and force them to officially start talking about its restructuring.
When Tsipras announced the referendum, Greek media focused on the statement of State Minister Nikos Pappas, saying that “a nice day begins”. They didn’t take notice though of the last part of these statements, in which he said that the EU has the necessary institutional dynamic to find solution out of the crisis “without the IMF”.
Indeed, two days afterwards Syriza launched a fierce attack against the IMF and that week, the leftist party submitted a new proposal asking for financial aid exclusively from ESM.
It’s worth mentioning though that Syriza was not against IMF, but on the contrary each move was closely coordinated with it. Both urged EU partners for the necessity of debt restructuring and a grace period.
Two days before the referendum, IMF published a report over Greek debt’s viability despite the opposition of Germany and the European Commission, seeing that move as biased just before the referendum.
This report was the flagship of the Syriza-led government before the referendum. Since then, IMF has not stopped talking in favor of Greek debt’s restructuring.
This rhetoric was finally adopted by the EU leaders; even by those who strongly opposed it.
An official haircut might have been ruled out, but the restructuring has been put for good on the table.
Socialists woke up
The last years European Socialists tend to disappear from the European political map. Having fully aligned with conservatives’ austerity-driven norm Socialists lost their contact with the European societies. The Grand Coalition in the European Parliament was adding to this, as the characteristics of EPP-S&D could hardly be distinguished.
Tsipras’s adventurous strategy offered a chance and a wake-up call for European socialists on a government level. The only strong supporter of Tsipras during these months in the EP was Gianni Pittella, the head of S&D.
Everybody saw Pittella whispering in Tsipras’s ear during his hearing in the EP.
As the crisis between Athens and its creditors was escalating, the flirt between Tsipras and EP’s socialists was advancing. This progress, though, was not followed by the socialist EU governments.
This happened when Hollande, Renzi and Faiman kept their distance from the conservative circles in the EU in the last EU summit. “The masks were dropped” wrote the European press.
Hollande found his raison d’être and used his support toward Athens for internal consumption. Renzi supported Athens when he realized that the next victim is Rome and tried to put his own anti-austerity red lines. European Socialists feared that their ideological gap will be replaced by the new progressive leftist movement in Europe came closer to the European left.
And Tsipras started realizing that the far-left faction within Syriza is a huge obstacle for this rapprochement.
The stance of European federalists during the Greek negotiations was quite remarkable. They talked against Grexit as well as the secret plans of Mr Schauble.
Right after the EU summit, ALDE and S&D issued statements blaming for the deadlock the integovernmentalism method. They both talked in favor of the community method in order to abolish the ineffective unanimity.
EU officials stressed that intergovernmentalism enforced the hegemonic trends at the EU level.
“We want a European Germany, not a German Europe”, said Gabi Zimmer, head of GUE-NGL.
The Soviet flag
Since the very beginning Alexis Tsipras has always claimed that his objective was to keep Greece in the EU and Eurozone. But in a different Europe.
The different voices in his party, however, reduced his reliability both in the EU and his own country.
When I was reporting from Athens the “NO vote” demonstration I noticed that Tsipras help one of his most pro-EU speeches. But every time he was mentioning the word “Europe” or “Europe is the natural place for Greece” applauds could hardly be heard.
It was obvious that a significant part of “NO voters” did not want a different Europe but a clash with it.
“YES” to a different Europe is not actually compatible with the flag the Soviet Union a demonstrator was waving.
Juncker’s “elephant memory”
Tsipras was the first EU leader who talked in favour of the Lisbon Treaty rules on the election of the EC’s president. He was defeated by Juncker for the EC top post, but made immediately clear that the EU leader (hinting Angela Merkel) should respect the Lisbon Treaty relevant provisions.
“The next EC president should be elected by the EU citizens, as provides the Lisbon Treaty”, the Greek premier had said.
Juncker probably forgot this support just before the Greek national elections, when he said that he preferred “known faces” into power. (a clear position for Greek center-right New Democracy).
Greek crisis also contributed to the enforcement of the European public sphere.
Tsipras was one of the few EU leaders who spoke with MEPs about his national strategy for the negotiations.
It was impressive to see that many EU citizens were watching this hearing in the EP especially on Twitter. It was also surprising the fact that Juncker and Verhofstadt posted on Facebook in Greek.
Tsipras’s decision to show up in the EP also demonstrated another thing.
National lines for MEPs were crossed. All the EPP MEPs, Greeks included, supported Manfred Weber’s attack against Tsipras during the hearing. A proof of the increasing cohesion of EP’s parties.
This was also seen in the election of Eurogroup’s chief.
Greek finance minister Tsakalotos supported Dijsselbloem and not Spanish De Guidos, triggering the strong reactions of Madrid’s right wing party.
Spanish right-wing party blamed socialists for “synergies” with Athens against Rajoy’s favorite guy.
Tsipras woke up
Sources from the S&D group in the EP recently told me that after the EU summit and under the new political balances, “we are ready to embrace and welcome Tsipras in the socialist family”.
Their red line of course is the stance of the far-left faction of Syriza, the so-called Leftist Platform. European Socialists have always wanted the creation of a pro-EU center-left pole in Athens.
As mentioned above, the Syriza far-left MPs are an obstacle to this direction.
S&D’s wish was first expressed three years ago as EurActiv had reported. The then head of S&D, Hannes Swoboda, has stressed that Pasok (the official socialist partner in Athens) should cooperate with the healthy part of Syriza, meaning of course the pro-Tsipras moderate camp.
>>Read in Heard in Europea: S&D is flirting with Syriza
In case of a Syriza breakup, this chance might be possible. But the point is the future role of Potami (S&D affiliated but NOT member of it).
Potami is more centrist and is being intensely courted by ALDE group. It is not a coincidence that its leader, Guy Verhofstadt, very often “intervenes” in Greek politics and tries to create fans in the Greek electorate. But ALDE is not represented in the Greek parliament at all.
An ideal scenario would be Potami to be the liberal party in Greek politics.
A Syriza breakup would bring the moderate camp closer to a reformed and more society-friendly Pasok and thus, a pro-EU socialist pole could be created.
But GUE-NGL seems that it will not easily surrender. Zimmer recently backed Tsipras decision to make a deal with the EU partners, hinting that the far-left MPs should follow him.
Author : Sarantis Michalopoulos