Annoyed Iberian Cohorts

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Unwise! It looks as if the new Greek premier Alexis Tsipras is alienating those within the EU who otherwise could be potential allies.

“Spain and Portugal exasperated by Tsipras’ remarks.”

Tsipras is already under fire to some degree in his home country due to the temporary settlement he reached with the Eurogroup earlier in February which gained for Greece needed additional financing for another four months, but at the cost of what seemed to be several retreats from the ambitious plan to reject outsider-imposed austerity that had led his Syriza party to electoral victory in January. On Saturday (28 February) the French newsmagazine Le Point reported him hitting out at what he perceived as the distinct lack of support he had received in those negotiations from countries you would think were in the same situation as Greece, namely Spain and Portugal, accusing them of wanting to lead Greece down the road to a “financial asphyxiation.”

Top politicians from those two countries were quick to react, including Spain Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who told a party gathering in Seville that “[w]e are not responsible for the frustration that the radical Greek Left created by making promises that it knew were unsustainable.” Meanwhile, the spokesman for the ruling PSD party in Portugal termed Tsipras’ accusations “very grave, lamentable and false.”

The thing is, that party gathering Rajoy addressed in Seville was of the Partido Popular, Spain’s right-wing, Christian democratic party, while although that “PSD” of the Portuguese ruling party’s name translates to “Social Democratic Party,” it is also of the center-right. Syriza, as everyone knows by now, is of the Left; indeed, that word is an acronym of the party’s longer, formal name which translates as “Coalition of the Radical Left.”

All this stands to reason when you see how the two Iberian countries are not hitting it off with the new Greek government if only because, clearly, in the context of the on-going EU sovereign debt crisis, “conservative” means plodding onward with the terms of the bail-out packages granted by the infamous “Troika” (made up of the EU – meaning mainly the Eurogroup, but also the Commission – the ECB and the IMF). “Radical,” on the other hand, certainly means trying to break out of that arrangement. Although not necessarily only “Radical Left”: indications are that the neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” party, and so of the Radical Right, should it come to power – Heaven forfend! I understand that much of its leadership is in jail, anyway – would be similarly dismissive towards the terms of Greece’s bail-out package, or worse.

On the other hand, if everyone would just stop and think a bit, it’s clear that all periphery Eurozone countries still laboring under bail-out packages should have many powerful interests in common. First and foremost, any softening of terms that an aggressive, daring national government might be able to grab/cajole from the “Troika” authorities (going all the way to outright debt cancellation) would naturally be something that fellow countries in the same situation should be able to claim for themselves as well. Such considerations clearly were at least in the back of the mind of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and other Eurogroup officials who took such a hard line against the new Syriza government’s proposals. For now, it seems this hard-line faction has managed to keep even other Eurozone countries still suffering under bail-out-mandated austerity firmly within the corral.

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