Athens, 1 July 2015

Evangelos Venizelos
Article in capital.gr 

There is now a matter of democracy

We have unfortunately arrived to the situation we fought - with pains, suffering and mainly with sacrifices by the Greek people - to avoid the five previous years. When I said, before the January elections, that five years of sacrifices can be lost within five days, I hoped my warning would act as a deterrent.

I was really worried by the ease with which the SYRIZA/ANEL government squandered, for nearly four months, precious national time telling obvious lies in the same cyclical rate every week.

The last twenty days, however, and especially after the publication of the government proposals on the list of financial measures, the belief was embedded that we are heading towards an agreement, one that fits perfectly in the logic and the legal framework of the Memorandum 2 and constitutes the proem of the Memorandum 3, of course.

But all of this came up against the internal political associations of the SYRIZA/ANEL construct. Party expediency prevailed over the obligation to protect the national interest.

A fleeting moment of parliamentary euphoria with the SYRIZA and ANEL MPs clapping excitedly –accompanied by the smiling tolerance of the members of the Golden Dawn- for the energetic Prime Minister who suggested a referendum, asking the people to say a loud and proud “no”, has led Greek citizens almost immediately to humiliating situations.

Closed banks, restrictions on capital movements, inability to pay pensions normally, insecurity, undermining of the tourism industry, cessation of payments to and from the public sector, a market freeze.

 

The economic cost of the lost five months, before the latest events, exceeded four billion euros only by calculating the transition from the forecast for a growth rate of 2.5% for 2015 before the elections, to a recession of 0.7%. After the latest developments, the first estimates of the international rating agencies show a 3% recession in 2015.

Political adventurism does not only have ethical-political demerits, but also high economic costs.

The reaction by the society was instantaneous. Public opinion surveys started recording an impressive turnaround. The spurious question of the referendum was canceled. Civil society gave real meaning to the question and the two possible answers: “yes” and “no.”

I always say that our own argument that we fought to prevent a disorderly default, a complete degradation of the country, the destruction of the banking system, the repeat of scenes similar to Argentina, was not convincing. Not convincing because what citizens experienced was a reduction of wages and pensions and the imposition of additional taxes. We protected citizens from experiencing a disorderly default and paid the enormous cost of our responsibility. Most believed that the memorandum brought the crisis and not the crisis the memorandum, as the lesser evil.

Now, however, new experiences have come. Now every citizen can automatically compare the new experiences with the old experiences.

The government is backing off, telling reverse lies with the same ease. Within two days, what Mr. Tsipras expects is not a proud “no” in the referendum, but a direct deal!

At the same time he requests for the terms of the “Memorandum 2.5” to be rejected in the referendum, he submits a desperate request for a “Memorandum 3”, no longer through the EFSF, but through its successor organization, the ESM. But this requires the same terms to be used, if not harder ones. The funds made available to the country under the now expired program, must be sought once more from the start! About 15 billion euros were made available to the country by the European programme, and almost as many were made available by the IMF programme. Now, he seeks these and as much extra as is needed, due to an extended stay under the Memorandum regime for at least two more years! An astounding negotiation success by the government.

The government neither cared for, nor regretted anything. They have repeated, with arrogant smugness and radical short-sightedness the Cyprus experience of 2012, magnified.

They tried to trap the people in the fake question of a democratically unacceptable referendum and eventually fell into the trap they had set up.

The referendum will probably be withdrawn. This has to be done. But this is a complete and utter political defeat for the government. If the referendum is held, “yes” will prevail and the government will lose their legitimacy. If “no” prevails, the government will have to manage being trapped in a choice that leads to the economic ruin of the country and the disruption of the social fabric.

This matter has now become a matter of national existence and democracy.

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