Dorothea Lange Water supply in squatter camp near Calipatria CA 1937
It was already present over the past two weeks, for example in Yanis Varoufakis’ meetings with Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem and German FinMin Schäuble, awkwardly obvious in facial expressions and body language. A touch of personal discomfort. A touch of a threat that required chest-thumping and hubris to be brushed off. ‘You better do what we say or else’. Back then, perhaps it was still experienced from a political, deal-making, perspective. But in the course of yesterday it became clear something has changed.
It has become personal, you could feel it in the air, and that raises the danger level considerably. It’s not personal from the Greek side; Alexis Tsipras and Varoufakis merely act according to – their interpretation of – the mandate handed them by their voters. It’s the other side(s) that have started making it personal. They see themselves, their positions, as being under attack. And they blame Greece’s new Syriza government for that. Which may seem logical at first blush, but that doesn’t make it true. The people sitting on the other side from Varoufakis have dug themselves into these positions.
Which, as they rightfully fear, are now threatened. Not because Syriza means to do so, but because they come to the table with that mandate, to put an end to what has caused Greece to sink as deep as it has. There’s nothing personal about that, it’s democracy at work, it’s politics. Still, it’s perceived as personal, because it makes the ‘old’ leadership uncomfortable. They haven’t seen it coming, they were convinced, all the way, that they would prevail. They mostly still are, but in a now much more nervous fashion.
It’s started to dawn on them that perhaps Syriza will not back down on its demands, that yet another – mostly superficial – political deal is not in the cards. CNBC reported last night that a deal on an extension of the existing bailout was near, and markets reacted quite strongly. It would appear, therefore, that both media and investors have been as deaf as the EU to what Syriza has been consistently saying, that it’s not interested in such an extension. It was never on the table, not from the Greek point of view.
Perhaps a headline such as yesterday’s ‘Greece Warned To Expect No Favors’ sums it up best. The EU side sees – or at least publicly presents – any negotiation with Greece as handing out favors, while Syriza says it doesn’t want any favors, it wants something that will give the Greek people back a future. And there is nothing that will make them not want that.