EU deal puts Syriza’s unity to the test

Caught between the left and Europe: Alexis Tsipras in Moscow, 8 April. [The Kremlin]

A final deal between Athens and international lenders might be made by the end of June. But the terms may fracture the ruling Syriza party. EURACTIV Greece reports.

After three months of tough negotiations between the Greek coalition government and the country’s creditors, a deal that will put an end to the deadlock of the cash-strapped Greek economy is considered possible by the end of June, the expiration date of the bailout programme.

“As we have made clear in the past, we do not give deadlines. The only deadline for us is that at the end of June,” European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said on Monday (1 June).

Athens is being urged to complete negotiations on a 7.2 billion euro payment from the bailout plan. But the talks are stuck on creditor demands for politically sensitive labour and pension scheme reforms, as well as an acceleration of privatisation.

The leftist element

Syriza is leading the coalition government with the right-wing Independent Greeks. Within Syriza though, there is the so-called “far-left platform” which is uncomfortable with a deal that will not meet the party’s anti-austerity commitments.

>>Read: Greece says financing agreed to extend Russian gas pipeline

Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis is a leading member of the left-wing group, and recently stated that the new agreement between Athens and its lenders will be accepted by the government only on condition that it is compatible with Syriza’s agenda.

“Such an agreement will only be accepted by the government, not an agreement that will put our program in the fridge,” Lafazanis stressed, adding that all the election commitments will “definitely be implemented”.

Syriza MP Kostas Lapavitsas, also ideologically close to the platform, went even further, saying that a clash with the lenders and a possible Grexit “could also be a solution”.

“On 25 January, (the) Greek people gave us the mandate to reject the memorandum […] our lenders make things difficult due to Syriza’s political beliefs,” commented Lapavitsas.

>>Read: Europe’s well of sympathy for Greece runs dry

Echoing his colleague, Syriza MEP Kostas Chrysogonos said, “I do not see who would be willing to accept the requirements of lenders that will bring him face to face with his voters.”

The “moderates” and the day after

MPs close to the Greek premier, Alexis Tsipras, are more moderate, claiming that a solution should be found within the Eurozone.

“The vast majority of the Greek society calls for a fair compromise within the eurozone,” said Syriza MEP, and Vice-President of the European Parliament, Dimitris Papadimoulis.

In a sign of intense divisions within the party, Nikos Pappas, the minister of state and a close ally of the Greek premier, opined that “party discipline should be imposed” on the deal, triggering strong reactions.

“If the agreement contains the old memorandum, party discipline cannot be raised. Punishment and party discipline have nothing to do with the values of the Left,“ said Alexis Mitropoulos, Vice President of the Greek parliament.

>>Read: Syriza MP: 5 June is Greece’s ‘moment of truth’

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently stated that he trusted Tsipras, but not his party, “as it is not a normal party”. In an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung (1 June), Juncker warned about the severe consequences of Greece leaving the eurozone.

“I don’t share the idea that we will have fewer worries and restraints if Greece gives up the euro,” he said, adding that if a country leaves eurozone, “it would fix the idea in heads that the euro is not irreversible”.

The opposition parties

Opposition parties in Athens are open to voting in favour of the final deal.

“Our goal is to strengthen the government […] if Mr Tsipras feels insecure about the votes of his own MPs, he should not feel the same for the votes of Potami. We are pro-Europeans and will try to keep Greece in Europe,” said the leader of the centre-left Potami [S&D affiliated], Stavros Theodorakis.

The main opposition party, centre-right New Democracy, seems to be divided.

The majority of the party claims that the official party bodies will decide whether the final deal will be voted by them.

But Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is said to be eyeing the leadership of the party, stated that New Democracy should vote in favour of the deal, even if it’s mediocre.

"We had expected the Greek government to propose a serious reform plan to dismantle the Greek clientelistic political system, open up the Greek economy, reinvigorate the labour market and to fight entrenched corruption in Greek society,” said ALDE President Guy Verhofstadt.

"Unfortunately, so far we have only seen attempts to raise taxes and proposals to scrape together the last euros they can find, to reimburse their creditors. This is a quick-fix short term policy instead of a badly needed sustainable reform plan to give the Greek society the means to emerge stronger from this crisis”, he continued.

"We will need progress at the working group level, in order that we can agree on a reform agenda, perhaps even by the end of the week, which would trigger the payment of the last tranche of aid from the current aid programme," Commissioner Guenter Oettinger told Die Welt.

>>Read: Oettinger says Greece deal still possible this week

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