It may not be an historic first – there have been worse episodes– but undoubtedly the statement of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that he has been “deceived” by his interlocutors comes close to being a blunder of major proportions.
“Our mistake,” said Mr. Tsipras, “was that we accepted verbal instead of written assurances,” referring to a decision of the European Central Bank (ECB), a decision which, he said, “does not stand morally and politically.”
According to Bloomberg News, the allegation involves Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, whom Tsipras said “reneged on his pledge to Greece of access to ECB financing in return for an extension of the country’s bailout agreement.”
Tsipras’ statement worries us not only for its content, but also because he does not understand that even if something like that had happened, one does not talk about it publicly. It does not do one honor as the leader of a country.
A Prime Minister should not allow himself to be “misled.” He is supposed to possess the wisdom and experience needed to avoid such traps, or at least to surround himself with people who can warn and protect him.
How can you not have in writing something so serious?
If such a thing had happened, for example, in ordinary negotiations between corporations, surely the official who allowed himself to be deceived would be looking for a new job.
Moreover, a verbal commitment –μπέσα – is a good and sacred thing, but as the late Ronald Reagan said regarding Soviet missiles, “Trust, but verify.”
The inexperience of the government officials involved in the negotiations, and the ensuing consequences, have been revealed in all their glory, and of course, at the expense of the country’s interests.
It is for these reasons that I have insisted for years that academics without meaningful experience in the real world should not be appointed to such positions.
The classroom is one thing, and Wall Street another. And, of course, who replaces Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis as negotiator, but another academic!
Similar problems are occurring in the Foreign Ministry. Nikos Kotzias is another omniscient professor who might know the theory but when it comes to practice is another story as his recent trip to the United States proved. But at least he owns a tie.
And while this is happening, the economy continues along the path of ruin.
For example, the budget office of the Greek Parliament just noted: “From late November 2014 to today, deposits have fallen by 26 billion euro, companies are facing enormous financial difficulties, past due loans have increased by 3.7 billion euro and the current situation threatens businesses that survived the years of crisis, that have invested, restrained wages, paid taxes, and avoided layoffs. It thus threatens healthy entrepreneurship.”