By Andrew Brons
Greece, its people and its Government are a conundrum indeed. When the Syriza Government was elected, it was on a platform of fighting the austerity measures that were being imposed on the Greek people by the Euro-crats as a condition for further 'support' – if 'support' is not a misleading term in the circumstances. We might ask: support for whom or for what?
I would not want to demonise the Eurocrats to a greater degree than they deserve but their first priority was not and is not the welfare of the Greek people; it is the survival of the Euro-zone – intact. They know that if Greece were to withdraw or be expelled, in an orderly way, and it was seen to be for the benefit of the Greek people, other ailing countries would want to follow suit. Once withdrawal starts to take place, it becomes an option for all Euro-zone members and 'ever-closer union' becomes a failed objective.
Whilst the first priority of the Eurocrats is to avoid Greece withdrawing, their second priority is that if withdrawal or expulsion should become inevitable, it must be as disorderly as possible! When the Eurcrats predicted riots on the streets of Athens as the inevitable consequence of Greece leaving the Euro-zone, they really meants that those riots would be the desirable consequence. That is not the same thing at all!
To be fair to Syriza, it was not elected on a platform of leaving the Euro-zone. It was elected on a platform of opposing austerity. Indeed, there is opinion poll evidence for a majority of the Greek electorate wishing to remain in the Euro-zone and not simply remain as members of the EU. What proportion of people make a distinction between Euro-zone membership and EU membership is a matter for conjecture.
However, leading members of Syriza must have realised the possibility of Euro-zone withdrawal being a consequence of their actions – unless of course they were assured on the quiet that it would not!
If Syriza members did realise that withdrawal was a likely consequence, why do they appear not to have been planning for it? Indeed, the only (former) member of the Syriza Government to have contemplated a partial withdrawal has been Yanis Varoufakis, the (former) Finance Minister. He mentioned the possibility of 'parallel liquidity' and California-style IOUs. When his comments were publicised following the referendum, he was transformed from Finance Minister to former Finance Minister. He has been replaced by Mr. Euclid Tsakalotos – no less left-wing but a vociferous opponent of Greek exit from the Euro-zone.
So, what are to make of all this? Are we simply seeing demonstrations of brinksmanship by both the Eurocrats and Syriza, united by wishing for Greece to remain where it is but differing about who will pay how much of the bill for it to remain?
If the Eurocrats really did care about the welfare of the Greek people, they would have been co-operating with Syriza on a Plan B for orderly withdrawal. It is clear that orderly withdrawal is not part of the Eurocrats' agenda.
It is possible, of course, that Syriza has been assured privately that withdrawal or expulsion will not be allowed but that the Euro-crats have already decided to make withdrawal inevitable. That would take Syriza by surprise and force it to arrange a parallel currency in a hurry. What should have been planned for carefully will be done hurriedly and inexpertly. There will then be riots on the streets and the 'prediction' of President Schulz will become a reality. Then his 'prediction' of the replacement of Syriza by a government of technocrats will also become a reality.
This is not as fanciful as it might appear. We saw the EU fund disorder in Kiev that led to the unconstitutional removal of President Yanukovic of Ukraine in 2013 (?). Would the EU refrain simply because Greece is a member state?
Andrew Brons – 9 July 2015