Any Renegotiating You Can Do, I Can Do Better.

Greek politicians appear to have come up with a cute little game. It may as well be called “Any Renegotiating You Can Do, I Can Do Better.”

When he was leader of the conservative opposition, Antonis Samaras liked to attack then Prime Minister George Papandreou and his Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos for being cowardly and shoddy negotiators. As chief of PASOK, Venizelos is now attacking Samaras and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras for failing to renegotiate Greece’s bailout deal. Venizelos is effectively reversing his stance on all that he has argued for over the past year.

Also, we should not forget the time while Greece was led by technocrat Premier Lucas Papademos. Any success was back then credited to the parties involved in the power-sharing administration, while any failures were blamed on the former banker. In other words,there is a lot of tough-guy posturing, but always from a position of safety.

This is far from the responsible attitude the country needs right now. If Greek politicians continue to act like this, we are in for serious trouble. In the eyes of many of our European peers and foreign lenders, Greece is a hopeless case; it’s very unlikely they will put up with another round of Byzantine politicking and antagonism. They naturally find it hard to understand the way Greek politicians shift from one role to the next.

This self-destructing game plays into the hands of the left-wing SYRIZA party. Ahead of the June election, the parties which are currently coalition partners cultivated too many expectations over the chances of renegotiating the memorandum. If they now start swapping accusations about who is to blame for a failure to do so, the only clear winner will be Alexis Tsipras, who will be able to turn around and say: “Only I can take on the Europeans.”

Samaras and Stournaras now find themselves where other politicians did after staring at the empty coffers and the Eurogroup officials. They know that if they want to get something from the Europeans — more time, more liquidity, more debt write-offs — they will first have to show some progress with structural reforms, privatizations and spending cuts.

Venizelos knows what it means to have to negotiate with our lenders. He knows, for instance, the risks associated with asking for more time for fiscal adaptation while fearing that Germans and others will use it as a pretext to pull the plug on Greece. Instead of indulging in tough-guy posturing, our politicians should demonstrate their caliber by putting the good of the nation before their own personal interests.

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