This piece was first published in Greek by Press Project (26 February, 2015)
It seems that the SYRIZA government is having a difficult time gaining support for the deal signed between Varoufakis and the Eurogroup.
At a twelve hour-long meeting of the SYRIZA Parliamentary Group held on Wednesday 25th February, parliamentarians criticised the deal signed between the Greek government and the Eurogroup. The meeting culminated with an indicative vote for or against the deal. Panagiotis Lafazanis, the leader of the Left Platform and current minister for productive reconstruction and energy, requested that the votes be counted, but this was rejected. Nonetheless, with about thirty MPs having left the room when the vote took place, a third of the MPs present rejected the deal either with a ‘no’ or a ‘blank’ vote.
All deputies of the Left Platform and several others – amongst them Zoe Konstantopoulou, the President of Parliament; Nina Kasimati and others – voted ‘no’ or blank. Government ministers such as Panagiotis Lafazanis, Nikos Chountis, Dimitris Stratoulis, Kostas Isichos, Nadia Valavani and Thodoris Dritsas voted blank. Many of those deputies who voted blank expressed disapproval of Varoufakis’s manoeuvres.
Deputies took their positions based mainly on briefings from Varoufakis and prime minister Alexis Tsipras, since they have not received full documentation of what was agreed at the Eurogroup. In the briefings, the agreement was presented as a success for the government. Tsipras claimed that the deal ensures 'the separation of the loan agreement from the Memorandum, the disengagement from the Memorandum policy of austerity, and the stabilisations of the financial system'. Other senior government figures supported the view that financial liquidity was secured.
However, most of these claims were not supported by any documents of the agreement signed by Varoufakis. The separation of the loan agreement from the Memorandum, which the government claims it has achieved, is not recognised by any other party. All other partners merely speak of a change in the wording of the agreement, requested by Varoufakis.
Moreover, the loan agreement that the Minister of Finance sent along with the request for its extension mentions clearly that the Memorandum constitutes a condition of that agreement and that the two go together. As for financial liquidity, there are no guarantees for Greece in the agreement. The only firm commitment is the reiteration of the creditors’ position that the country will receive funds 'only if it concludes the current programme (memorandum) successfully' and if it is reviewed positively by the Troika, now dubbed ‘the Institutions’.
What has not been discussed at all, so far, are the legal consequences for Greece that follow from the agreement signed by Varoufakis, as the document seems to recognize fully the laws and the terms of the Memorandum. It is worth noting that the Minister of Finance was not accompanied by any experienced staff and that during the Eurogroup meeting there wasn’t a single legal expert in the Greek delegation to examine the formulations of the document.
Concerns are already being voiced after yesterday’s leaks by the German government, reported by Nikos Heilas, the Berlin correspondent of the newspaper To Vima, that the November 2012 agreement, and more particularly its clauses stipulating an alleviation of the Greek debt through a possible future rescheduling and the lowering of the interest rate, is no longer valid. According to the Germans, in the agreement signed by Varoufakis 'it is clearly stated that Greece will repay its debts completely and in a timely manner to all of its lenders'. If this is indeed the case, then it will be extremely embarrassing for Greece.
As such, no proper discussion of the real content of the agreement took place at the meeting of the Parliamentary Group. Nevertheless, nearly all MPs insisted that the government should immediately begin implementing its own programme – as it had promised to do before the elections – by bringing its first legislative programme to parliament as a matter of urgency. Alexis Tsipras agreed to this, and assured them that the implementation of the programme will start normally in the next few days.
It is, however, still unclear how this can happen. Almost every commitment of Syriza’s ‘Thessaloniki programme’ will be considered a 'unilateral action' if it does not gain the approval of the Troika/Institutions. And such actions are strictly prohibited by the text of the Eurogroup agreement.
Vasiliki Siouti is a Greek journalist and former editor of the newspaper Ependytis.
Translated by Aspassia Daskalopoulou.
Top image: Michalis Famelis, via Wikimedia.