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Opinion

Opinion: Appearance and reality in Greece

Greece's euro crisis has disappeared from the headlines, but the problem has still not been resolved. And since nothing much is changing in Athens, it will soon be a hot topic once again, says Spiros Moskovou.

"I hereby declare the nonprivatization of the state electricity company DEI to be one of Syriza's key political concerns," Energy Minister Panos Skourletis announced at the governing party's conference in Athens last weekend. Yet last May, the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, together with the Greek parliament, approved an initial list of state-owned businesses for privatization.

An important point here is the sale of a quantity of shares in DEI. The whole privatization package is intended to bring in revenue of 2.5 billion euros ($2.7 billion) for the Greek treasury by the end of the year.

A minister as leader of the opposition

But this will all come to naught if - of all people - the minister responsible is publicly calling on people to oppose the plan. Yet Skourletis' campaign against official government policy has secured him sixth place on Syriza's new central committee.

Moskovou Spiros Kommentarbild App

Spiros Moskovou heads DW's Greek department

With Syriza, the reverse is also possible: At the party conference, the supposedly radical left-winger Tsipras made Greece's continued membership in the eurozone something akin to a new state doctrine. However, even this metamorphosis from Saul to Paul did not stop him being re-elected party leader with no less than 95 percent of the vote.

The Skourletis case and Tsipras' conversion to the value of the euro are an indication of the contradictory policies of the populist government in Athens. Officially, it is adhering to agreements made with international lenders within the framework of what is now Greece's third bailout package. Unofficially, it takes every opportunity to thwart this package.

It presents this dangerous balancing act to the electorate as a fight against the nation's torturers. Admittedly, Greece is not the only European country where domestic political rhetoric is more strident than the tone taken by the same government at the international level. But in Greece this discrepancy is so great that it can only be described as an infantile political culture.

No party fulfills its responsibilities

Unfortunately, this is true not only of supposedly radical Syriza, which had to be tamed overnight from a noisy opposition splinter group to the governing party of a bankrupt state, but of the rest of the Greek parties as well.

In the summer of 2015, the conservative Nea Dimokratia and the social-democratic PASOK gave parliamentary approval to the third bailout package aimed at saving Greece. Yet ever since, they have relentlessly opposed every concrete measure and every reform that Syriza has, out of necessity, attempted to pass.

Public debate has descended into a confusion of mutual recrimination, accusation and slander. The parties' inability to achieve even a minimum of consensus is hampering the country's much-needed recovery. Parts of society are turning away from politics altogether, while many have begun supporting ultra-right parties.

What are needed in a period of upheaval like the one Greek society is currently experiencing are responsible parties. Parties that agree on the necessity of the long-overdue reforms, and fight only over how best to go about them.

Syriza has formally announced that it has broken with a past that is no longer relevant, and has declared itself ready to implement reforms. Yet in its day-to-day practice it is committing the old sins of the Greek political establishment all over again.

Already Syriza is responsible for Greeks having to go to the polls three times in 2015, with their utterly contradictory outcomes. What are the odds that the party will soon call fresh elections yet again, if the lender countries don't promise a clear debt cut before the end of the year? And their justification for taking this step will sound as heroic as ever: "We must defy the torturers of our nation once again!"

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