The problem in Greece is not that history repeats itself, but that it always repeats itself as a tragedy rather than a farce. There is nothing different about the present repetition, 10 years after Greece’s fate was sealed.
The events are well-known. It was December 2008 when former prime minister Costas Simitis warned in Parliament: “It is a common secret in the circles of the European Commission that Greece is not adhering to the directives of the EMU [European Monetary Union]; in addition, oversight and supervision are proving insufficient. They believe that the country’s current leadership, which relied on EU support for all its major objectives – the census, the revision of GDP, a swift exit from supervision – took advantage of this support in order to renege on its commitments. It simply deceived them. It would be good for Greece – they believe – to be forced to the International Monetary Fund for further recourse, so that the monitoring of the Greek economy will fall under its responsibility and oversight, and not that of the European Commission.”
The finance minister at the time, Giorgos Alogoskoufis, dismissed Simitis’s warnings as scaremongering. His deputy, Yiannis Papathanasiou, responded in the same vein, saying that “the last thing we need is a climate of disaster and panic, a climate of hyperbole, which magnifies the true proportions of the crisis and multiplies its effects.”
Responding to the latest warning made by Simitis in an interview at the end of December with the newspaper To Vima – in which the former premier said that the European Union considers it a certainty that Greece will have to borrow from the European Stability Mechanism very soon and will be subjected to new terms as a result – SYRIZA representative Rania Svigou sounded a lot like Alogoskoufis did back then: “No matter how much doom and gloom Mr Simitis wants to spread or his annoyance, the exit from the memorandums is a fact. Our country will not enter a new program, nor will it resort to borrowing from the ESM again,” she wrote on Facebook last week. And Sokratis Famellos, an MP for the ruling leftist party, popped up like a present-day Papathanasiou on Praktoreio radio, accusing Simitis of undermining Greece’s chances of success with his comments, especially with regards to international investors who read such statements before they evaluate any potential moves.
When Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was asked to comment on Simitis’s predictions, all he said was: “Happy new year.” He didn’t clarify, though, whether he meant 2019 or a redux of 2009.
Published in eKathimerini.com 14.1.2019