By Luke Ming Flanagan
There has been huge speculation on Irish media over the weekend – mainstream and social alike – on the tense negotiations between the new government of Greece and the Eurogroup, all treated as though it’s just another game, something to replace the Premiership or the Six Nations rugby between the weekends.
REAL LIFE, REAL LIVES
This isn’t a game, this is a battle, a major battle in a major war being waged right now by the privileged few against the rest of us. It is a nation fighting not just for its own life but fighting for the life of the EU itself, fighting to put this massive project on the track of democracy, a track which many of us would argue that it has never been on.
For those of us then who support this new Greek government in its effort, far from deriding Tsipras, Varoufakis and Syriza itself for any perceived setbacks, we should be fully and whole-heartedly behind everything they are doing and we should be readying ourselves to fight alongside them, offer them every support we can.
DAVID AND GOLIATH
We should also be understanding of who we’re supporting. This is a new government, inexperienced in politics and in these kind of negotiations.
Aligned against them, the combined forces of the old EU, the likes of our own discredited Fine Gael and Labour governing coalition which – according to every opinion poll of recent months and years – has lost the confidence of the Irish people, similarly in Spain where Podemos are set to do what Syriza has just done in Greece and sweep into power later this year.
And of course Germany, or at least Merkel and Schauble’s Germany, the Germany of short memory of its own fiscally irresponsible past (defaulted three times in the last century, got its last massive bailout – a true bailout – in 1953; broke every rule in the Economic & Growth Pact at the start of this century, without penalty), the Germany of still myopically selfish ambition of imposing its ideals on everyone else.
Make no mistake about it, those are considerable forces, the Merkel/Schauble caucus especially, and any concession won by Greece will be hard won. The odd thing here though; those who think that we saw last week from Schauble and from the Eurogroup he obviously controls was a show of strength – it was the opposite, a show of weakness, policy dictated by fear, fear by all these austerity hawks who have imposed misery on entire nations that if they do what Greece is asking here, they will be proved wrong.
FIGHTING THE FEARFUL
The greatest fear would have come from the likes of the governments of Portugal, Spain, Italy and of course Ireland, who have imposed that austerity on their own people.
Those who – like me – want to see an end to all these austerity measures but who are now losing faith in Syriza, I ask you: Did this happen when Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan came to Brussels in March 2011? Any of it?
My memory of Enda’s ‘negotiations’ with Markel and Sarkozy (as the controlling duopoly was then) was an initial small bark by our small dog, instantly slapped down and brought to heel by Angela, and that’s where Kenny, Noonan – and Ireland – have remained ever since.
THE FIRST REAL BATTLE
Please give Greece some space here. I would especially ask those who are already talking about a Syriza sell-out, comparing them to our own government back in 2011, to look again, to think again. I’m walking the corridors of the European Parliament here, corridors we share with the Syriza MEPs and their teams and I can tell you, there’s a hell of a lot of fight left in Greece. What’s happening now isn’t the end-game; this is the first democratically-elected government bringing the battle to the EU. It won’t be the last.