Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras returns to reality on Sept. 23, when he will have an awkward meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
And it is awkward from both a personal and from a national perspective, because he returns to ask, if not hat in hand, then just to ask for something more. He may not ask for more new loans, at this time.
He will definitely ask for understanding.
Political understanding. Along the lines of: “If you don’t deal with me you will have to deal with the other guy – Alexis Tsipras, head of the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA.) Whom do you prefer?”
But this recipe has been tested several times already. It’s probably sour by now.
However, Samaras still holds a few strong personal cards: he has worked very hard and fought hard. Fought to prevent the worst. He was able to prevent the ship from crashing.
“I need more time” he will tell her. “Things are improving.”
But these words are familiar to Merkel. She knows and reads the numbers very well. Both the economic statistics and, unfortunately, the polls.
The first might be starting to say encouraging things. The other, the polls, are bad … where did Samaras stumble?
His hand would be stronger had he done something bold, the unexpected, something definite. If he had done what the Prime Minister of Italy is doing he would have also won the applause of the IMF.
If he had focused his efforts on solving a big, important, major issue.
For example: reforming the labor markets, attacking corruption, etc. He has passed many laws in Parliament, but who remembers anything except ENFIA (the real estate tax law)?
But he is also a bit unlucky – the country also – at this time. The general economic climate in Europe in which he is operating is not favorable.
It was announced that consumer confidence in the 18 countries that make up the Eurozone fell for the fourth consecutive month, probably reflecting the frustration of people in the European recovery, and the events in Ukraine.
European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi warned that the Eurozone recovery is losing momentum, resulting in the decline of the euro to its lowest point in the last 18 months – ($1.2825).
I add to these the growing imbalance of power between Germany and France, which means Merkel will have her way in enforcing a policy of austerity in the Eurozone.
On top of that, public opinion polls suggest the Germans are not in a generous mood. It was not a coincidence that the German government spokesman on Sept. 22nd, for the second time in a week, reduced expectations for Samara’s visit.
Where does it leave Samaras if things are developing this way? At least he will not have any illusions about where he stands. And on that basis he can chart a more realistic course.