‘Austerity Has Won’: Greece Submits to Divisive Reforms
After 31 hours of tense weekend talks—and five years of crippling austerity—Greece and its foreign creditors have struck a deal: an €86 billion bailout that will keep Greece in the Eurozone in exchange for controversial economic reforms that include tax hikes, pension overhauls, and severe budget cuts if the nation misses fiscal targets imposed and monitored by the so-called Troika.
European Council president Donald Tusk made the announcement of what he referred to as an “agreekment” early Monday morning following a 17-hour round of negotiations in Brussels.
The deal was immediately blasted as a “humiliating” surrender of national sovereignty.
An editorial on the Iskra website, which reflects the views of anti-austerity Syriza hardliners, charges that the agreement reestablishes and extends the guardianship of the Troika and solidifies “social enslavement.”
“The Greek people must not become disappointed, on the contrary it must remain stubborn, as it did in the referendum and the countrywide protests for a ‘No’ to the very end,” read the editorial. “A ‘No’ to clash with the bailout, neo-liberalism and austerity which are institutionalized in the Eurozone.”
In a statement on Monday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras admitted the deal “calls for tough measures.”
“However,” he continued, “we prevented the transfer of public property abroad, we prevented the financial asphyxiation and the collapse of the financial system.” And, he added, it calls for debt restructuring, if not relief.
As a result, Tsipras concluded, “I believe that a large majority of the Greek people will support the effort to return to growth; they acknowledge that we fought for a just cause, we fought until the end, we have been negotiating through the night, and no matter what the burdens will be, they will be allocated—we guarantee this—with social justice.”
But selling this agreement to the Greek people, who overwhelmingly voted against further austerity in a popular referendum earlier this month, will be a challenge. On Sunday into Monday, the Twitter hashtag #ThisIsACoup was attached to tens of thousands of angry comments denouncing the Troika’s aggressive demands.
“Clearly the Europe of austerity has won,” Greece’s Reform Minister George Katrougalossaid. “Either we are going to accept these draconian measures or it is the sudden death of our economy through the continuation of the closure of the banks. So it is an agreement that is practically forced upon us.”
Bloomberg reports that Tsipras “will return to face a mutiny within his coalition after he surrendered to European demands.”
With the threat of defections rippling through the Syriza party, Tsipras will “have to change his administration and clear out hardliners and radicals from his party,” as well as rely on opposition support to pass the necessary measures, Eurasia Group analysts Mujtaba Rahman and Federico Santi told Bloomberg. “But it is a tough call to determine how Tsipras will go about doing this.”
The global anti-austerity movement was also quick to criticize the deal’s harsh terms.
“This is not an agreement but an outrageous imposition on the Greek people,” said Tim Jones, economist at the Jubilee Debt Campaign, which advocates for debt cancellation worldwide. “If implemented, it will continue the five-year long crisis in the Greek economy since the first disastrous bailout of European banks in 2010 for another decade or more.”
And Nick Dearden, of Global Justice Now, said the circumstances surrounding the negotiations “rather resemble the imperial politics of the 19th century.”
“Is it so unthinkable to put the rights and livelihoods of ordinary people ahead of threatening the interests of the banks?” Dearden asked. “The European governments and institutions seem to think so. The lives and rights of millions of Greeks, and now the very existence of the EU as a democratic union, come a poor second to the economic fundamentalism of Merkel and the Troika.”