Justine Frangouli-Argyris – Greece, France and Germany: Three Losers in One Negotiation
The 17 hours that unfolded during last Sunday’s marathon European summit in Brussels proved dramatic, with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras drawing fire from the German axis, led by Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, but finding support from the French axis, under the leadership of President Francois Hollande.
The Germans had come prepared, with from the eurozone and its return to the drachma in hand, in exchange for some debt relief and humanitarian aid. However, Hollande, in reverence to France’s inspirational founding father of the European Union, Jean Monnet, would have none of it, throwing his weight behind Tsipras and preventing a dramatic “Grexit” at the penultimate moment.
Of course, no winners would emerge from this titanic battle. Not even the concept of a unified Europe, as we have come to know it, with the idea of a democratic, united continent shattered by the overwhelming dominance of conservative German hegemony.
In the end, the Greek Prime Minister was forced to accept a dreadfully painful agreement in return for a new, multi-billion euro loan over three years, destroying the dreams of a Greek electorate that voted overwhelmingly for Tsipras’ “Syriza” party in the hope of better days ahead. After a surreal, five-month struggle to secure a deal with less austerity, Tsipras suddenly found himself saddled with a new “memorandum” with much harsher terms than any before and, along with it, the added humiliation of ongoing audits by the lenders’ institutions, or prior “troika,” which he had vowed to never allow on Greek soil again.
Alexis Tsipras, after a tormentingly long negotiation process which eventually led to the shuttering of Greece’s banks and the country’s descent into economic chaos, failed the expectations of the leftist forces of Europe that envisioned a possibility for change through his challenge of Germany’s domination.
For his part, and irrespective of his dynamic intervention, Francois Hollande showed that there is no player strong enough to withstand the conservative forces in Europe. The French President may have managed to salvage Greece’s eurozone membership but his valiant efforts were not nearly enough to prevent its subjugation.
It was apparent at the summit that, even though France may be Germany’s equal with respect to the founding of the Union, Hollande remains helpless when confronting Germany’s rigid austerity plans, not only for Greece, but for the whole of Europe, even with regards to his own country.
Hollande showed supportive and protective towards Greece, arguing, emotionally and successfully, that Europe should not be broken apart. However, he missed an opportunity to become a leading player in the game by presenting his own platform for political, ideological and monetary reform in the EU, especially for those nations crumbling under the weight of severe deficits and debts.
Of course, from this whole process, the most appalling loser was Germany, not only in the minds of the Hellenes, but amongst all of Europe and the entire world. Social media went viral with, among others, #ThisIsACoup creating waves of protest against Schäuble and Merkel and their pre-meditated decision to expel the Greeks for daring to challenge their authority and ask for relief from their plight of the past five years.
Germany, through its humiliating ultimatum to Alexis Tsipras, showed that, far from being a helpful partner in the eurozone, it is a vindictive enforcer, ready to punish in a manner unsuited to the democracy and equality of Europe’s people. With its vengeful stance, it exposed its authoritarian agenda that is at the root of much of the continent’s travails.
Yes, Alexis Tsipras made major mistakes and he will be judged for them. But, nevertheless, his brave negotiating stance, in the face of economic Armageddon, exposed significant flaws in the European Union: the inequality amongst its member states, the ruthlessness of its dominant power and the meek co-existence of its co-founding nation.
In light of the developments, a united Europe should aim to reign in its bully and become a true alliance, embracing and abetting its members to overcome their challenges. After all, an alliance is one that stands and fights together, not one that ousts and humiliates its partners!