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A United Front

Tuesday, July 7, 2015  | 

In a development that was long overdue, Greek party leaders (with the exception of Golden Dawn) met under the auspices of President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.  After a long meeting, the leaders (with KKE holding out), the leaders issued the following statement:

The recent verdict of the Greek people is not a mandate for a rift but for the continuation and bolstering of the effort to achieve a socially just and economically sustainable agreement.

It is in this direction that the government assumes the responsibility for continuing negotiations. And every party leader will contribute within the context of their institutional and political role.

The joint aim is to reach a solution that will secure:

– adequate covering for the country’s funding requirements

– credible reforms based on the fair distribution of burdens and the promotion of growth with the least possible recessionary impact

– a strong, front-loaded growth program aimed at dealing with joblessness and boosting entrepreneurship

– a commitment to the start of an essential discussion as regards tackling the problem of the sustainability of Greek public debt

The immediate priority is to restore liquidity to the credit system, in coordination with the ECB.

This was an important statement, because this statement and the decisive referendum result effectively dispel any notion that European leaders/institutions could force this Greek government from power.  It also creates the space for a deal.  There is plenty of constructive ambiguity in terms like “credible reforms” and “growth program” and only asks for the “start of an essential discussion” on debt reduction/sustainability, not an immediate debt write-off.

This demonstration of unity can not be only for show, and should not be limited to government offices in Athens.  Given that polls suggest an overwhelming desire to remain on the euro and the confusing nature of the referendum question, European leaders will be tempted to doubt the extent of Prime Minister Tsipras’ mandate or the unity of Greece’s parties.  Tsipras should reinforce both the moderate policies in the joint party statement and his mandate by appointing representatives from New Democracy, To Potami and PASOK to his negotiating team.

Too much has been made of the defiance of the Greeks and the style of former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis; yet one cannot ignore that the present Greek government doesn’t really have any relationships with those with whom they are negotiating.  Counting Jamie Galbraith, Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman as friends is nice, but will not bridge any gaps between Greece and its creditors.  So, be bold Mr. Tsipras.  Ask the parties that have expressed unity to lend you someone with experience and relationships in Europe.  Consider sending a Dora Bakoyannis, a Yiannis Boutaris, an Alexandros Mallias to Brussels with your negotiators.  Don’t put a litmus test on who can help Greece right now — as your party did when choosing a presidential candidate for the Hellenic Republic.  Whether it be those three names or others, find someone who has ties with other ministers, with significant groupings in the European Parliament, who has a proven European orientation and track record of working with others.  The statement issued yesterday demonstrate that you are not pursuing a radical policy to exit the present crisis — emphasize that by working with people that no one could label radical.

In the great Battle of Salamis in 480 B.C., Themistocles devised a strategy that saved Greece from the Persians.  To successfully execute that strategy by getting all Greeks to adhere to it, Themistocles handed over official command of the fleet to the Spartan nobleman Eurybiades. Europe failed to dislodge SYRIZA Mr. Prime Minister; now it is time for you to play Themistocles and show the Europeans that you have a united Greece at your back.

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