Thursday, May 24, 2012

Greece's hand of poker

Alexis Tsipras started it all!

He started arguing that, regardless what happened, Greece could never get kicked out of the Eurozone and --- he is absolutely right! He then argued that Greece should declare the Memorandum null and void, and with that he got himself into trouble.

Mr. Tsipras needs good advisors! Advisors who explain to him what clever statements and what dumb statements are, and what the difference is between the two. When he announced that salary and pension cuts should be reversed and a minimum wage of 1.300 EUR should be implemented, even Daniel Cohn-Bendit, someone who - one might surmise - might have sympathies for Mr. Tsipras, told him publicly that he was nuts.

One simply does not declare an inter-governmental agreement which is only months old null and void. While to do this is not against international law, it is poor form and doesn't generate sympathies outside Greece. Greece is in no position today to risk international sympathies through poor form! (I am sorry having to say that Mr. Tsipras is not the only one proposing poor form here. He is joined by some very serious Greek opinion leaders).

Greece's only trump card is to be able to say: "We may go down but we will make sure that you go down with us!" While it was fine for Prince Kamal Khan to shout that at James Bond as he steered his plane to the ground, it is no way to run a country!

I read a cute line in a letter to the Ekahimerini recently. A reader, Agatha Venetis, after pointing out some of the the things which she thought were wrong in Greece, wrote: "You don't need to be an economics or finance expert to see why no one will invest in Greece unless everything changes except the currency".

Greece's public and private sectors must be reformed from A-Z. Whoever doesn't list this point as his greatest priority has no business in running for high office. This is not a matter of ideology! It is a matter of fairness, justice and solidarity in a society. A society which is based on preferential treatment and cronyism is neither fair nor just, and it will lack solidarity.

Reforms are part of the Memorandum and whoever rejects the Memorandum outright also rejects reforms. If this is meant seriously, the bluff should be called (regardless of the cost).

If one agrees on the principle of reforms but still sees certain parts of the Memorandum which no longer fit the times, then no one will object to having a reasonable negotiation about that. As Mr. Venizelos said so correctly recently: "The EU is a field of continuous negotiations. Those who don't know this talk about re-negotiation".

And now I offer a little advice to Mr. Tsipras how a dumb statement can be transformed into a smart one.

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