Little over a month ago, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was still claiming that his party’s electoral victory last January had put an end to bailout programmes. A few days ago, he told the Greek people that a ‘No’ vote in the Greek referendum would lead to a deal with Greece’s creditors within 48 hours. More than 48 hours after the ‘No’ vote, there is no deal and his government has formally requested a third bailout programme.
This request coupled with Mr. Tsipras’ decision to replace controversial Finance Minister Yannis Varoufakis might produce the impression that the Greek government’s position has shifted closer to that of its creditors and that an agreement has become more likely. Sadly, this is not the case. Since the Greek government decided to abandon negotiations with its creditors to hold a referendum, the distance between the Greek government’s position and that of its creditors has grown greater.
The Greek people rejected the last offer that Greece was made before their government abandoned negotiations with its creditors. Additionally, the Greek government’s request for a third bailout programme has raised the issue of debt relief yet again. Greece’s creditors, however, have indicated that a third bailout programme will require Greece to accept stricter conditions than those included in the offer that the Greek people rejected. As far as debt relief is concerned, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was perfectly clear: ‘There can be no question of a haircut’.
Given that the distance between the Greek government and its creditors has increased, an agreement seems unlikely. Even if the Greek government agrees to stricter conditions than those that the Greek people have rejected, ratification of such an agreement by the Greek parliament cannot be guaranteed. In fact, the large margin by which the Greek people rejected the last offer of Greece’s creditors and the fact that their offer was rejected in every single constituency suggest that the seats of those MPs who might vote against stricter conditions are safe.
An agreement without stricter conditions might be possible, if Greece’s EU partners decided that ensuring the irreversibility of Eurozone integration is more important than enforcing compliance with Eurozone rules. Ratification of such an agreement by national parliaments cannot be guaranteed either. Opposition to additional financial assistance to Greece runs at about 70% amongst the German public. The seats of those MPs who might approve such financial assistance would not be safe.
Several months ago, then SYRIZA MEP Manolis Glezos had the integrity to apologise to the Greek people for his role in creating the ‘illusion’ that SYRIZA’s electoral victory would put an end to bailout programmes. Mr. Tsipras should follow his example. Not only has his government requested yet another bailout programme for Greece, but it also seems to have placed itself in a position, from which an agreement on a third programme seems unlikely.
Kyriakos Moumoutzis is a Lecturer in European and International Politics at King’s College London.