Commentary eu aid for greece: from drama to farce

The Eurogroup is incapable of reaching agreement on the debt crisis. Greece is threatening to degenerate into a debt colony.

No matter how meticulously the flags are straightened, the relationship between the EU and Greece is fundamentally skewed Photo: dpa

In history, everything happens twice: once as a tragedy, the other time as a farce. The debt dispute over Greece, which is now once again occupying the Eurogroup in Brussels, is reminiscent of this famous Marx quote. As was the case a year ago, the creditors are deeply divided. As then, they are stalling Greece to distract attention from their own incompetence. Instead of immediately releasing the next loan tranche, Athens was put off until May 24.

Actually, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras should now cry foul. Because he urgently needs fresh money – so urgently that he whipped the toughest pension cuts ever through parliament against massive protests. But instead, Tsipras is content. He says it’s a big step forward that the Eurogroup has finally talked about debt relief. Athens is now being rewarded for its efforts, the Syriza leader exults.

And this is where the farce begins: In reality, these debt relief measures will not come until 2018 – and then only in homeopathic doses. Before that, however, Tsipras is to adopt new, even tougher austerity measures – in advance. The cruelties are even to come automatically in the future: Tsipras is to sign a kind of enabling law for them. This is his biggest defeat since his turn from left-wing politician to austerity apostle. Now he not only has to implement last year’s tough austerity measures, but also generate surpluses.

Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) does not believe that this can succeed. But IMF chief Christine Lagarde is also part of this farce. A year ago, she already called for a debt cut for Greece. Back then, she would have had the power to get her way and help Tsipras. This time, however, the child has long since fallen into the well. The debt burden continues to rise inexorably; today it is greater than ever. In fact, the IMF should no longer even be involved under these circumstances.

But Lagarde only threatens to pull out of the aid program. She is barking instead of biting. The big question now is whether the IMF will stay on board, even though the Eurogroup does not want a real debt cut. If so, the farce can continue. Brussels wants to continue the austerity course until 2060 – under the guise of generous aid, of course. If that becomes reality, Greece will finally degenerate into a debt colony. And if no? If the IMF says "bye, bye"? Then the whole thing could end up as a tragedy after all. Because without the IMF, Germany no longer wants to help either. Then there would be a big bang, and the undignified theater would be over. Whether Greece would be better off afterwards is another matter.