The Greek tragedy: was it really worth it?

In recent weeks we all have witnessed and more than once held our breath trying to envisage what the end of the current Greek tragedy would be ….which Greece’s destiny will be. Well, it’s not yet over and whoever thinks we have seen the end of it, unfortunately, is wrong.

Was it really worth it? to rebel against the EU, ECB and IFM …. to try to send a message that now proves to have been empty, with no substance at all? Greek people voted “NO” to austerity measures, “NO” to losing their dignity by kneeling before the economic and financial power of their creditors and now, after those terrible institutions have agreed to bail them out “once” more Greece still believes the EU (be it Berlin, Brussels, IFM or whoever wants their money back) has once more failed them.

The truth is these 18 Member States believed not once, but twice, that it was their duty to help Greece as it is a member of the club – Eurogroup – and solidarity (one of the main values on which the EU was built) was at the core of the enterprise as was saving the single currency that they created a little over a decade ago. Let’s not pretend there were not selfish interests in doing so but in the end Greece was given a lifeline ….. and it did not respond, it failed to live up to the commitments it acquired.

Who is to blame? well, all involved to a certain degree. The current as well as previous Greek governments were not as naive not to know that they would not be able to deliver, they did know that but banked on the EU being there for Greece no matter what as Tsipras said over and over they [EU] cannot kick us out of the Euro, the NO will give us leverage before the EU and so on.

The pantomime of the 5 July referendum and its revolutionary “NO” now seem futile and its only result was to destroy the little faith that many had in Greece’s ability to get back on its feet and walk again. What was the point of it all? to anger those who decided to help you when no one else would and destroy the confidence the “creditors” had put in Greece.

Let’s be clear I do not condone Germany’s reaction and bullying attitude towards a nation in need, in fact, I am glad that all other Member States stopped Berlin from imposing its own will….. hopefully the message will get there…. this is a Union of States that entered it on an equal footing not a group of voiceless and blind sheep that will always do what the “leader” (in this metaphor Germany) says.

Having said that I sympathize with some points made by the German delegation during the whole process but still believe there is no need for that much humiliation. It’s already enough that now Greek people will suffer – a lot and way more that they would have should they have not rejected the June bailout – and to a point it is fair. It’s the price they need to pay for their actions. And Tsipras will have to live with the hard and cold truth that he not only could not deliver what he promised but worse, he has betrayed his own fellow countrymen by driving them to a gloomier future when there was no real need for that.

Assuming Tsipras manages to get the necessary legislation passed by 15 July, the story is not yet over …. there are other not minor issues to tackle and there can still be a fallout between Athens and Brussels.

However, one point I’d like to make is that Greece was (and is) not alone in this painful situation unlike Argentina was in December 2001. Greece has an entire machinery ready to help – not at all costs but available – should they decide to pay the price required. The Argentine did not have anyone to turn to, the people suffered like Europeans will never think possible and yet Greeks are still unhappy when it seems they have avoided that fate. I remember seeing on TV from the comfort of my Madrid flat how my own people – argentines – went back overnight to medieval times exchanging goods in the improvised markets in public squares across the country, inflation and unemployment soaring to unseen levels but I also remember they did not surrender to adversity even when the immediate future was pitch black. The effects of those dark times are still visible in my home country and are even clearer for people like me who come back every now and then. Greece has apparently being saved from that denigration, they need to understand that. And like Argentina is – slowly – trying to get back on its feet Greece should do too. What lies ahead is going to be painful and despair will sometimes creep into their hearts but – even when always they must look into the future – they should also take a look back to remember what they left behind.

The draft agreement reached today is not perfect, far from it, and it will certainly be drafted and enforced as if it were the harshest punishment a disobedient child must endure for his transgression but let’s not lose sight of the alternative….. Greece could have been left to its own fate, one that I can guarantee would not have been pretty. They are being saved, once more, and hopefully one day not too far in the future Greek people would understand it. They just need to make the sacrifices required now in order to save future generations. And as a Greek pharmacist said when interviewed by Sky News today “it will be ok, if we work hard we’ll be fine again”.

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