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Opinion

Opinion: Alexis Tsipras as tactician on Greece's financial problems

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is pushing for a special EU summit, while in Athens, people are speculating about fresh elections. No reason to panic, says Yannis Papadimitriou - it’s likely all just tactics.

"Don't show your face here in the village": That's the warning Greek parliamentarians often hear from rural voters in the run up to Easter or Christmas. The reason: MPs tend to spend important holidays in their local constituencies. It gives them a chance to mix with people and promote their policies in more remote locations. Since the start of the debt crisis, however, they haven't had much good news to bring home and are instead met with mistrust and, in some cases, physical violence.

According to the Orthodox calendar, Greeks celebrate Easter this Sunday, and all the government representatives have gone home. That's because, true to form, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is waving the flag of resistance in the face of the country's creditors. Because there's no other rational explanation as to why the government in Athens would blow off a planned special meeting of EU finance ministers, even though according to its own admission, it's 90 percent in agreement with creditors about the way forward on the Greek debt crisis.

Keeping all options open

Yannis Papadimitriou

DW's Yannis Papadimitriou

Instead, the Greek head of state is calling for another special EU summit. It's the same old pattern. From the very beginning, Tsipras wanted the EU partners to confer about his country at the highest political level - as if the functionaries of the EU, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund barely have a say in these negotiations. He didn't get very far with this strategy last year, but he's willing to give it another go.

It's probably all just tactics. Despite all the zig-zagging Tsipras has done in recent months, there's one considerable constant: The left-wing premier wants to keep all his options open as long as possible so that he can make a last-minute decision that will benefit him at home.

Just like in the early summer of 2015, everything still seems possible: Agreement with the creditors, as well as a final break with them. Speculation about fresh elections and even a new referendum on Greece's austerity program is once again making the rounds in Athens. But if Tsipras was mainly looking to create a conflict with the creditors, he could have done so much earlier, with the applause of the opposition from within his own party - a sector to which his smart Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos also belongs. Since Tsipras hasn't pursued this option, it can only be assumed that he is interested in an agreement with the creditors.

Seeking a worthy enemy

However, Tsipras - under fire from all sides - also wants to avoid the impression that he's prepared to compromise at any price. That's why he's always trying to create enemies that are worth fighting. Particularly useful in this respect are the IMF experts, the "conservative circles in Europe," or all the Greeks who don't wish to fight the creditors. The governing Syriza party has already won a lot of support in Greece with this tactic, particularly during the election campaign. And it will likely hold fast to this strategy.

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