By Spyros Katsoulas, Research Associate at the Institute of International Relations of Panteion University, Athens
After a long night of negotiations, Europe’s leaders came out Monday morning with a painful Greekment instead of a disastrous Grexit. The majority of the Greek political parties received the agreement with huge relief. The interim leader of the main opposition New Democracy Vangelis Meimarakis stated:
“Unfortunately, at the eleventh hour, the choice was between a bad agreement or no agreement that would have led to total disaster. With the agreement Greece was allowed to breathe and find again its place in Europe.”
Gerasimos Giakoummatos, New Democracy MP and former Minister of Development, said in a Monday morning interview at Mega Channel:
“I feel relieved. Congratulations to Mr. Tsipras. We should not look back. We should look only forward. My party has made mistakes too. Me personally and the party of New Democracy will support the agreement and vote for it to pass through the parliament.”
In a similar vein, Adonis Georgiadis, New Democracy MP, said later the same day at Skai:
“now that the memorandum comes from a leftist party, it is prime time to reconcile and create the Greece we dream of.”
Apparently, main opposition New Democracy will back the reform proposal, just like the centrist Potami and the social-democratic PASOK.
However, the new package has proven much more difficult to accept for some members of the governing coalition. Panos Kammenos, leader of the junior coalition party ANEL (The Independent Greeks or Ανεξάρτητοι Έλληνες, Anexartitoi Ellines which won 13 seats in Greece’s January 2015 election) made the following statement to reporters after meeting Tsipras in which he both supported acceptance of the agreement while attacking it at the same time:
“Although I disagree with the package, I respect the fact that the Prime Minister gave a good fight. We disagree with the package, but we will support the government.”
Others were much less generous. Indeed, on the website of Iskra—the left-wing faction of SYRIZA represented by Panagiotis Lafazanis, Minister of Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy – we find the following:
“The agreement is a disaster for the country. Following 17 hours of negotiations, the Eurozone leaders agreed on a humiliating deal for the country and its people.”
Rachel Makri, SYRIZA MP, was more critical still, even comparing the agreement with events in the bloody Greek civil war. She tweeted:
“Varkiza No.2. July 2015. Meet you at gounaradika.”
This was an historical reference to the Treaty of Varkiza between the Greek Government and the left-wing National Liberation Front (EAM) in February 1945 to try and end the civil war – a war which in fact went on for another four years. Symbolically she uploaded an evocative picture showing members of ELAS, the military arm of EAM, crying while surrendering their weapons. “Meet you at gounaradika” was of course the favorite expression of Aris Velouchiotis, chief of ELAS.
Manolis Glezos, SYRIZA Member of the European Parliament, best known for bringing down the Nazi flag from Acropolis in May 1941, was equally hostile to an agreement he equated with surrender:
“The white smoke at the summit was from the ashes of Greece. It was an agreement that cannot be implemented. It was a shameful agreement. It was a coup. Trust is lost. Trust in Europe is lost. In German Europe, in Europe of markets, coups, hard currencies, (and) non-democratic institutions. History started. And smiles ironically at today’s winners…”
Yet in spite of these bitter words the feeling among most Greeks is one of genuine relief for escaping a catastrophic Grexit. But what comes next? It is not at all clear.
Of one thing we can be certain however: the new agreement marks the beginning of a new experimental phase in Greek politics and a major realignment of forces. And at some point down the line, there will be fresh elections.
The Prime Minister made a bold, and what many feel was a correct, decision to put country before party. Indeed, has he lost a party but gained a nation?
Meantime, the ‘Greekment’ will now probably pass through Parliament with an overwhelming majority, though without the support of many SYRIZA MPs. To that degree, and for the time being at least, there is now a rough and ready consensus – of sorts.
The polarization caused by the Greferendum has now given way to some degree of concord. The crucial question for Greece and Greeks now is how long can this last?