The sidelining of Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was inevitable. We would even argue it was long overdue, its delay unnecessarily burdening the country’s interests.
That is what happens with certainty when a minister himself becomes the news.
In any event, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in two days made two serious but contradictory moves: first, he satisfied those who were calling for Varoufakis’ head on a platter, Germany’s Angela Merkel most of all, and significantly improved – at least for the moment – the climate.
It was revealing that the Athens Stock Exchange rose significantly and that there was an impressive drop in bond yields.
Second, however, he announced that he might consider it necessary to resort to a referendum, not to an election.
The difference between the two – referendum versus elections – is important and reveals Tsipras’ general intentions.
The prevailing view until now has been that in order for Tsipras to pass the reforms through Parliament that Brussels is insisting upon, he had to call for elections to be released from the grip of Panagiotis Lazafanis and his far-left comrades.
That cannot be accomplished by a referendum, but only with elections, which is mentioned probably as a mistaken leverage against Brussels more so than for any other purpose.
So, we observe two conflicting decisions rather than the much-needed clarification of policy.
So, what is the gain from all this? It had to take three months to reach the point where Tsipras could disarm Varoufakis and begin the effort of restoring relations with Brussels and start negotiations?
And there is another issue whose seriousness Athens seems not to fully appreciate: moving the terrorist Savvas Xiros from prison to house arrest.
Tsipras’ statements during a TV show indicate that he does not seem to understand the importance the U.S. attaches to this issue.
Tsipras claimed on the Nikos Hatzinikolaou broadcast that relations with the U.S. have not been spoiled by the Xiros matter, choosing to ignore two things that everybody knows: first, the statement of the American ambassador, David Pearce, that “the release of Savvas Xiros is a profoundly unfriendly act.”
And second, the chilly atmosphere that prevailed in the meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, during which the former implored that Xiros must remain in prison.
Someone needs to explain all of this to Tsipras. And soon.