Thursday 23 May 2019

Compromise is not a defeat for Greeks

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras

Greek myths are coloured by mortal heroes taking on impossible odds, shrugging off chaos and oblivion.

The last two weeks had taken on something of an epic quality. Syriza rode into Brussels in a chariot borne by defiance, staring the Chancellor in the eye with a 'this town isn't big enough for the both of us' menace.

But as has been already noted, in any battle pitting Greece against the rest, the rest was always going to triumph.

Tough political realities shred even the most romantic dreams, and so Alexis Tsipras, who had an overwhelming mandate from the Greek people in a referendum to brazenly reject bailout terms, now finds himself signing up to another hated bailout. And it is in everyone's interest that it is third-time lucky for Athens.

This is not a humiliation. Greece showed a spirit of independence and waved a flag for democracy. Instead of caving in to the demands of the big guns ranged against them in Brussels and Berlin, its people said No.

Alexis Tsipras would not agree to more hardship without consulting with those he represents. It was a consideration not shown by our own leaders when we too were on the precipice. The European Council has called on both sides to make major concessions, insisting that the creditor powers must do their part, and cut Syriza some slack. "The realistic proposal from Greece will have to be matched by an equally realistic proposal on debt sustainability from the creditors," said Donald Tusk, the European Council president.

Germany is also believed to have bowed to the pressure from a chorus of countries and key institutions to accommodate some form of relief. One way or another, all should be thankful that a potentially ruinous rupture of the monetary union can still be avoided.

Yet there are still difficulties. The Greek people are being asked to take more pain: including pension reforms and tax rises. Much of this has already been rejected, however there is a dawning realisation that the only choices left are punishing.

There is still cause for worry. Unless a method is found to open the banks in days, what is left of the shattered economy will disintegrate.

Irish Independent

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