Officials from Greece’s hated “Troika” of creditors returned to Athens on Tuesday of this week, six months after the new left government kicked them out.
The European Union (EU), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed on 13 July to a third £60 billion “bailout” of Greece’s debt.
In return the Greek government signed up to a bruising new austerity package—with £9.2 billion worth of cuts and tax hikes, £36 billion of privatisations, and a seemingly endless list of “reforms”.
They are extorting more measures in “technical” talks to “finalise” the bailout. They want to stamp out the early retirement that softened the blow from job cuts.
MPs voted for a second set of measures on Wednesday of last week, as workers protested outside.
Troika officials’ demands for access to government ministries—and posh hotels—saw talks delayed by three days.
But MPs were given just hours to read a 900-page bill before voting it into law.
A tightening of mortgage law could lead to banks seizing people’s homes—though prime minister Alexis Tsipras denied this. But for the Troika it’s not enough.
The ECB has eased its stranglehold on Greek banks, releasing £900 million in emergency funding. But the clock is ticking again, with the ECB demanding £2.1 billion in debt repayments by 20 August.
A “bridging loan” has already been given almost entirely back to the Troika in debt repayments.
The deal has divided Tsipras’ radical left Syriza party. The party’s Left Platform faction and other influential MPs oppose it. Some call for leaving the eurozone and defaulting on the debt.
But Tsipras has blackmailed the rebels, accusing them of lining up with German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble who wants to kick Greece out of the euro.
Tsipras also argued it was better to have Syriza implement the deal than a government of the right.
The measures passed with the support of right wing opposition MPs. Some MPs who voted no to the first round of measures voted yes this time—including former finance minister Yannis Varoufakis.
Rebels’ determination not to split the party has held back their ability to oppose the deal.
Like Tsipras and Varoufakis up against the Troika, they have the better programme but no plan to make it happen if the other side don’t agree.
Left Platform leader Panagiotis Lafazanis told journalists after last week’s vote, “I have no statement to make. Everything went fine. Syriza is united with its differences.” A possible election in autumn could see many rebels replaced with Tsipras loyalists.
But the workers whose struggles brought down the old government are furious. Dockers and hospital workers are already in dispute.
Few strikes or protests are expected over the coming weeks as Greek political life winds down for summer—but autumn could bring a new wave of resistance.
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