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Greek Prime Minister Tsipras

Merkel and Troika to Greece: This is EU, we have you surrounded, give up your fiscal sovereignty!

The finance ministers of the European Union member nations turned into mafia dons Sunday and wrangled a deal after 17 hours of browbeating and humiliating Greek Prime Minister Tsipras, who, frankly, never helped his own cause. “So Greece, nice little country you have there. It’d be a pity if anything bad happened to it…. no?”

The price of a new bailout was to give over financial control to the ‘Troika’ —the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission (EC), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), although the IMF role is, at this moment, unclear.

The EU got greedy. They needed to humiliate and break Greece.

In a scene reminiscent of the film ‘Draft Day,’ you could almost hear Merkel and Company saying behind closed doors in their best Kevin Costner voice: “…we live in a different world than we did 30 seconds ago. I want all my draft picks back and your kick returner, because, well… I want it.”

And there it is. Greece, already bloodied, had to be humiliated.

The hastily arranged summit to announce Greece was staying was just as hastily cancelled and today brings a 48-hour respite to widespread chaos in financial markets as Tsipras must now sell this ‘deal with the devil’ to his people. The EU got greedy. They needed to humiliate and break Greece. There was even talk yesterday about a ‘temporary Grexit’ from the Union so they can get their affairs in order (read: accept the deal or we will crush you).

The problem remains the impact of even more austerity on the already Depression-like economy in Greece will further erode confidence. It is working people, the elderly, and the poor who always suffer the most in times like these.

What, exactly, has the last month been about? Are we not back exactly where we started? Why were we treated to such a hand-wringing, speechifying, media spectacle? Many expected French Revolution barricades in Athens’ streets. Are they now disappointed at the government cave-in and even more so by the refusal of the EU to take ‘Yes’ for an answer? Talk about kicking a dog when it is down?

Further cuts to pensions and salaries will render life unliveable for so many Greeks that even the IMF revealed last week that it worries if Greece can even survive under such a mountainous debt load. The price for Greece to remain in the EU is 30 to 40 more years of crippling austerity. Why on earth do they want to stay? Tsipras caved to EU demands despite an overwhelming ‘No’ vote last week by the people of Greece to end austerity.

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In the end, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel seems not only to have won, but now is holding a boot to the throat of those who will continue to suffer even more, the people of Greece. The message has been well and truly sent: ‘Screw with the Troika and we will crush you.’ The only ‘white’ knights available to Greece for its admittedly long-term fiscal foolishness were Russia and China and, in the end, no matter how desperate, no one wanted to get in bed with Vladimir Putin or the Chinese government.

At times, Greece looked both courageous and foolish this past week. If you’re going to stand up to a bullying EU, then stand up and see where you end up. But Tsipras blinked and the country’s inner tumult will continue with zero respite. The new scenario is the Greek people toss him and his new government out and lurch to support the third-place anarchist far right Golden Dawn?

Why not instead clean your fiscal house? Instead of cracking down on those who cannot pay, you instead revamp your tax code, eliminate island tourism credits that keep the rich from paying no tax, and make sure the rich DO pay their taxes?

For five years the people have suffered. While Tsipras may be a complete tosser, he seemed poised to push the EU structure and framework to the brink. When he called their bluff and lost, the EU closed ranks and we will never know what the alternative might have been.

And for the Troika, while this looks like a case where neo-liberalism wins out yet again—it has had an amazing streak. But it nearly met its match. If anything, this will make the next confrontation and the one after that cost even dearer. The whole situation reminded one of the old African proverb, “when elephants fight, the ants are killed.” Greece was an ant that tried to roar.

Let us hope that Brussels arrogance is once and for all tempered with the reality that no matter how much you wish for a “United States of Europe,” the independent governments of nation states will always operate in their own best interest.

The people of Greece backed a government that seemingly would not yield and then, in the end, folded like a cheap suit. What will happen when Britain threatens its exit? They are one of the elephants. Will arrogance and intransigence mean every other state in the European Union is killed?

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Watch this space.

Denis Campbell
UK Progressive