If not now, when? If not us, who? :The new Greek government and its negotiation strategy

If not now, when? If not us, who? :The new Greek government and its negotiation strategy
On January 26th Alexis Tsipras head of SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) Party assumed office as the first Left-wing prime minister in the History of the Greek Nation-State. Tsipras, whose party won a landslide victory in the elections of January 25th, formed a coalition government with the anti-memorandum right wing party of Independent Greeks and sworn to office by taking a civil and not a religious oath something which also happened for the first time in the history of the country.





After the ritual his first act was to pay respect to the War Memorial of Kaisariani an Athenian suburb, where during WWII, Nazi occupiers executed communists that participated in the national resistance. This highly symbolic gesture of the Greek prime minister was of historical significance but also signaled the beginning of SYRIZA’s negotiation tactic with EU, ECB and IMF, which amongst others concerns the claim of the German reparations which refer to the forced occupation loan imposed to Greece by Germany during Nazi occupation. The amount is estimated to be between 200 to 600 billion Euros.


It has to be noted here, that head of the campaign of the German reparations is a historical figure of the Greek Left, 93 year old Manolis Glezos who is currently serving as a European Parliament MEP. On May 30 1941 Glezos along with Apostolos Santas climbed on the Acropolis and tore down the Nazi swastika flag which was hanging there since the Nazis forces had entered Athens. This act along with the fact that Glezos participated in the Greek resistance resulted in his sentencing to death multiple times. However, the execution of the sentence never proceeded due to international outcry.

 One of the basic terms of the London agreement mentioned that repayments were due as long as Germany had a trade surplus and that they were limited to a certain percentage of export earnings.


German reparations is along with the claim about the country’s debt reduction one of the government’s ultimate goals which seems to have taken a backstage especially after Friday's Eurogroup agreement. It has to be noted however, that German reparations was one of the issues that the President of the Greek Parliament Zoe Konstantopoulou has singled out, on February 18th during her official announcement of the result of the presidential elections to the newly elected President of the Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos who is also an advocate of the claim. In addition, Konstantopoulou in her inaugural speech upon assuming office has stated that the during her presidency she intends to push forward the issue of the reduction of the Greek debt and at the same time that the Greek government was negotiating the new deal with its counterparts in Eurogroup, she was having a meeting with Eric Toussaint, President of the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt and supporter of the initiative for the creation of an Audit Committee for the Greek debt, after which she has stated that there will be initiatives to this direction.


Even after Friday's night Eurogroup, the official statement of which had no mention whatsoever, regarding this matter, in his press conference, Yanis Varoufakis the Finance Minister, claimed that the debt is unsustainable and that the government has not forfeited the goal of its reduction. The pre-election, demand of SYRIZA was that there had to be a haircut which must be decided at a European Conference like the one that was held in London in 1953 which resulted in the London Debt Agreement for debt relief between the Federal Republic of Germany and creditor nations, one of which was Greece. One of the basic terms of the London agreement mentioned that repayments were due as long as Germany had a trade surplus and that they were limited to a certain percentage of export earnings. Some debt including the Greek occupation loan was decided to be paid after the reunification of Germany. The agreement relieved Germany and contributed immensely to its post-war growth.


According to statistical data the country’s GDP has decreased 25%, which is one of the biggest GDP decreases that has ever occurred during peace time and that such an economic destruction can only be compared to war circumstances. Greek people have suffered immensely as unemployment rate is almost 30% a number that rises above 50% when it comes to youth unemployment. As a result 200,000 young people have migrated abroad contributing to a brain-drain of the most productive part of Greek society. 2,000,000 people live under poverty line as even those who do have a job are severely underpaid. Welfare system has deteriorated as hundreds of thousands of people are not entitled to benefits and health insurance. As a result deaths and diseases increased also. All these set the stage of a humanitarian crisis which needs to be faced immediately. SYRIZA claims that Europe has to be aware of that and has the moral obligation to give Greece the chance that Germany had after WWII to develop and pay its debt after that crisis is dealt with.


The immediate program of the new government which is known by the name “The Thessaloniki Program”, since it was firstly announced in Thessaloniki last September, is a program oriented to face this crisis, by increasing minimum wage in order to boost the economy and increase public budget through tax return, provide electricity to 300,000 household that live without power due to unpaid bills a result of the increased taxes on electricity, settle the unpaid loans of citizens that lost their jobs in a sustainable manner, ban house foreclosures that the previous government liberated so that families don’t lose their primary residence, increase public spending through public investments and through the banning of privatizations of strategic sectors such as water, electricity and waste-management.


By implementing these measures the SYRIZA government aims at firstly putting an end to the humanitarian crisis, restart economic growth and then start repaying back the debt which in the meantime should be decreased through a haircut discussed in the European Conference that SYRIZA asks for.


One thing is for sure the first radical left government of Greece is here and it has a tough job ahead but as one of the SYRIZA slogans’ puts it: If not now, when? If not us, who?


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