Philip Inman – The Guardian
The rightwing orthodoxy that dominates thinking in Brussels has asserted itself over the hapless Greeks. A deal that allows the eurozone policymakers, the International Monetary Fund and the government of Athens to keep talking next week is the first stage in a clampdown on anti-austerity sentiment.
Eurozone chiefs strike deal to extend Greek bailout for four months
That much was clear from the statements coming out of Brussels, not least those from Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s veteran finance minister, who indulged himself with some patronising comments to show where the power lies. “Being in government is a date with reality, and reality is often not as nice as a dream,” was the quip he delivered with a smile, one that is usually omitted from diplomacy school.
Greece has many enemies inside the eurozone. The countries that have suffered Brussels-inspired austerity – Portugal and Ireland – and those that have played a role in enforcing it – the Germans, Dutch and Finns – all want the radical leftwing Syriza-led government in Athens to stick with the programme. France and Italy might have been courted by the Greeks and proved reliable allies, but they stand meekly on the sidelines offering warm words and little else.
For the right-of-centre parties that control Portugal, Ireland and probably more importantly Spain, which is also under serious threat from an anti-austerity party, the need to keep Greece in check is driven by domestic politics. Any sense that austerity was ever wrong or that it delayed the recovery, as Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis argues, would undermine their authority and hand the intellectual higher ground to rival parties.
So Varoufakis’s first demand for a debt writedown was dismissed. Then his attempt to win a bridging loan, separate from the existing bailout deal, was trashed. Decisions to suspend privatisations were frowned on. Now he must use what money is available to shore up Greek banks.
Where have we heard before that the banks must come first? Varoufakis wants to boost demand by handing some cash to workers and pensioners in the form of a higher minimum wage and modestly larger pensions. It makes perfect sense to some economists, but they are not running the show.