5 Jun 2015

Greece: will Alexis Tsipras wave a writ at Europe?

So few people know what Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is going to say at 1600 BST that those who do are being briefed face to face – avoiding cellphones.


The obvious options are: a snap election, with the result known at the same time Greece has to pay €1.5bn to the IMF; a referendum to validate Syriza’s defiant stance towards its lenders; or a vote of confidence in parliament.
But the wild card in all this will be the woman sitting behind Tsipras when he makes his speech. Zoe Konstantopoulou, the speaker of parliament, is technically there to chair proceedings.

But while Tsipras, Yanis Varoufakis and their negotiators have been trying to get the country’s debt reduced via the IMF and ECB, Ms Konstantopoulou has been working to get it declared invalid.

Ms Konstantopoulou’s debt truth committee, set to report on 18 June, is said to be on the point of finding some of Greece’s original bailout debt, from either 2010 or 2011, was unlawfully contracted. In addition, Ms Konstantopoulou is armed with a finding from experts that Germany owes Greece €350bn in war reparations – more than the whole of its debt to Europe.

As I’ve said before, those who think the debt truth and reparations processes in Greece are “for show” are mistaken. Ms Konstantopoulou is piling up, effectively, a mega legal claim amounting to hundreds of billions that would be lodged in Europe’s various international courts.

In recent days her efforts have been boosted by a finding by a United Nations expert on human rights that Greeks’ “economic and social rights” had been undermined by the IMF/EU imposed austerity.

“At stake are not only debt repayment obligations, but as well the very foundations on which the European Union is built,” said UN expert Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky on Tuesday.

“Human rights should not stop at the doors of international organisations and international financial institutions. They have to be respected when responsibilities are delegated by States to international bodies, such as the European Stability Mechanism.”

Since Greece is a signatory to both the European and UN conventions on human rights, a keen-eyed lawyer – and Ms Konstantopolou (interviewed below) is one – could on the back of this build a legal case to have the Troika-imposed conditions declared in breach of them.

On the streets people are nervous. The population is tired of uncertainty, and deeply divided over what should be done to end it. 50 per cent of Greeks polled yesterday said that, if the government does not win its “red line” conditions – debt relief, the defence of pensions and union rights – it should simply surrender. But 41 per cent said it should defy the EU.

And though 41 per cent is a minority, if a snap election is called they would be enough to put Syriza back in power with a comfortable majority, even once they’d been shared out between the other anti-bailout parties.

This tallies well with the most recent opinion poll of voting intent, which puts Syriza on 31 per cent, the communists on 4.5 per cent, the fascists on 4.8 per cent and the right wing nationalists on 3.2 per cent.

That same poll reveals the big problem for the lenders even if Tsipras should fall. The mainstream conservative and socialist parties are on 20 per cent and 3.5 per cent respectively. Support for a climbdown does not translate into support for the parties advocating it, who are in disarray borne of  five years of implementing the programme that has nearly destroyed a developed economy.

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