Tsakalotos sees prospect of limited improvements to new bailout memorandum

Syriza miscalculated EU power balances

In a no-holds barred interview, Greece's ex finance minister conceded the government was defeated in negotiations with creditors, miscalculated Grexit support

George Gilson
ΓΡΑΦΕΙ: GEORGE GILSON

Having gained widespread praise for clinching Greece's bailout package and averting Grexit, ex-finance minister Eucleidis Tsakalotos now believes that limited improvements in the deal can be achieved in the future.

In ongoing talks with creditors, Athens has room to to push for certain changes in the programme, as long as these are "targeted, in four of five areas", Tsakalotos told Syriza's Sto Kokkino radio station in an interview.

As deputy minister in the first five months of the Syriza government, Tsakalotos had largely been sidelined by the charismatic but controversial Yanis Varoufakis. But then prime minister Alexis Tsipras put Tsakalotos in charge of talks, bowing to demands by Greece's creditors, who claimed trust had been broken with Varoufakis.

Tsipras now says that without Tsakalotos' efforts there may have been no deal. In recognition of that, Tsipras has tapped him as Syriza's top candidate in Athens' second electoral district, by far the largest and most competitive in the country.

Tsakalotos openly admitted that the government suffered "defeat" in recent negotiations with creditors, and he attributes that, without mentioning Varoufakis by name, to fateful miscalculations.

"When we were thinking out out the planning of negotiations, we had not correctly assessed the fact that some of our opponents had made Grexit their top aim," Tsakalotos said. "[German Finance Minister] Schaeuble I believe truly thought that Greece had no place in the Eurozone."

Asked if Syriza has lost the moral high ground by capitulating and signing a memorandum that it had vowed to reject, Tsakalotos said, "One may charge that we were naive and did not calculate the political power balances properly, but no one can dispute our effort."

Asked to evaluate the content of the deal signed on July 13, he said it is too soon to judge. In a touch of humor, he resorted to a quip by the late Chou en Lai that it was too soon to judge the results of the French Revoution.

Despite the ongoing capital controls to which it led, the referendum conducted by Tsipras did not make matters worse, according to Tsakalotos, because Germany lost more from it. "If we think of what [German philosopher Jurgen) Habermas said, that Germany lost in one day what it had built for 50 years, we will see that could not have happened without the referendum, which led many in Europe to understand that such asymmetrical pressures could not continue."

As for his former Syriza comrades that fled to Panagiotis Lafazanis' anti-bailout Popular Unity party, Tsakalotos said they should consider the fact that the problems faced by the Greek left cannot be addressed by returning to a national currency.


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