In a taste of what lies ahead, Yanis Varoufakis, the flamboyant new finance minister, said on his way to the government’s swearing-in ceremony that negotiations would not continue with the hated troika of officials representing foreign lenders.
“They have already begun but not with the troika,” said Varoufakis, an economist who has disseminated his anti-orthodox views through blogs and tweets almost daily since the debt crisis exploded in Athens in late 2009 – something he promised on Tuesday to continue to do. “The time to put up or shut up has, I have been told, arrived,” he wrote on his blog. “My plan is to defy such advice.”
And he’s not alone in his determination to set a new tone for Greece going forward.
Greece’s prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has lined up a formidable coterie of academics, human rights advocates, mavericks and visionaries to participate in Europe’s first anti-austerity government.
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[But, after] falling two seats short of attaining a 151-seat majority in Greece’s 300-seat parliament, Syriza was forced into a coalition with the populist rightwing Independent Greeks party.
The junior partner is openly Eurosceptic and withering of the way international creditors have turned Greece into an “occupied zone, a debt colony”. Its leader, Panos Kammenos, who has declared that Europe is governed by “German neo-Nazis”, assumes the helm of the defence ministry.
That seems appropriate. Four other cabinet members are sure to turn heads as Syriza gears up for what promises to be the fight of the century.
Syriza says its priorities will be to cancel austerity and renegotiate the country’s “unsustainable” €320bn (£238bn)debt load. With time now of the essence – Athens’s rescue funds expire at the end of February – reaction ranged from trepidation to applause.
Not in Europe, where the tone is clear and unwavering: Greeks are responsible for their debt and have only themselves to blame for their prior decisions.
“The people of Greece are suffering more than people elsewhere in Europe,” he said. “Not because of demands from Brussels or the ECB, but because of the failure of Greek political elites over decades.” The pressure on the Tsipras government to honour the terms of the bailout deals struck by the previous two Greek governments – terms the new prime minister in Athens has threatened to repudiate – was quite correct, Schäuble declared.
“The demands on Greece are in line with the ECB’s mandate. They are fully legitimate.”
Like in January 2011, when the world stood in awe and admiration as Egyptians threw off the yoke of a 30 year dictator, all eyes are on Greece to see whether Syriza will be able to deliver on its promises, or will stumble and falter like Egypt. I for one pin my hopes on victory for the Greeks. Unlike Egyptians, who were forced to hastily cobble together a government that didn’t know what it was doing, Syriza is a force to contend with. Not only are they highly qualified, if they emerge victorious, they will have set a precedent that could transform the entire global financial edifice.