Monday, June 18, 2012

Greece gains some breathing space

Financial Times
June 18, 2012

It is a measure of the shaky foundations of eurozone policy towards Greece that Antonis Samaras, who was until recently seen as the biggest saboteur of the country’s financial rescue, is being greeted as its saviour after winning Sunday’s parliamentary election.

After an inconclusive May poll, the new result offers some hope. The campaign clarified that a vast majority of Greeks wish to stay in the euro, but disagree whether this is compatible with unilaterally rejecting policies imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the eurozone. Still, half those who voted backed parties largely supportive of the memorandum that commits Greece to the conditions. Mr Samaras seems in a position to form a government that can finally drag Athens out of paralysis.

But the election by itself solves nothing, and the current course of unending economic depression in Greece and deep distrust between Athens and its euro partners cannot be sustained much longer. Mr Samaras’ political support is precarious. Many held their noses voting for him, linked as he is with the dysfunctional system that created Greece’s mess. Without a sense of improvement soon, even more Greeks may heed the siren calls of extremist movements.

It is vital that Europe and Mr Samaras reach an understanding swiftly. His New Democracy party wants to amend the memorandum. Some eurozone politicians (including the German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle) have hinted at flexibility. They must together put Greece’s adjustment programme back on track – but on a track that is more likely to lead to success.


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