“The boy who cried wolf” is a famous Aesop’s fable having a boy Shepherd calling the village for help too often just for the fun of his. Of course after many false alarms when the village came to help the boy for nothing, soon they just ignored his next calls. We also all remember the bitter end: at the crisis time when the wolf was actually present threatening the flock of his sheep, no one from the village bothered to answer the screaming calls of help by the shepherd, believing it is one of his games again. Finally, the wolf ate the flock and ever since then our children are taught not to become liars in their life.
Boys boys boys
All arguments regarding the influence that this story has in the nurture of our kids aside, it is quite hard to believe that in 2015 a European government is benchmarking the Aesop’s hero’s faulty behaviour as a sound negotiations strategy for the nation. Greece has been flirting with financial limbo for more than 5 years now. The groundbreaking evolution presently is that the sunny pretty south European country has fallen already inside the dark well.
For the past 5 months the new Greek government is crying “Wolf, Wolf”, seeking for Eurozone’s help to provide a sustainable solution to their awful debt crisis. It is for 12 months now that the country surprisingly lives without any financial loans, being outside the markets and facing an embargo from its troika creditors, and still it manages to survive paying its obligations.
During the first 6 months of this year, though, the whole world is repeatedly listening to the “boy who cried wolf”, speculating that the Greek banks will default yesterday, today, now, tomorrow, next week and so on. There is nothing that the world knows about the Greek problem than just that, a continuous, daily and hourly danger of default, bankruptcy, Grexit, Graccident or whatever you want to call it.
Varoufakis the boy
Not only the Greek government and citizen has literally fallen into the “wolf cry” trap but also its creditors. So many EU Summits, Eurogroups, Euroworking groups have taken place during these 6 months, trying to stop a Greek default, a Grexit. After the Eurogroup failed to come to an agreement between the two parties last week, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of IMF, basically called the superstar Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis a boy, begging to have next to her “adults” in the discussion rooms.
Previously Mr Varoufakis had blamed IMF harshly for their “criminal”, stringent stance in the negotiations, demanding blood shed in the Greek pensions and thus Mrs Lagarde called him a boy instead for a reason. Allegedly Mr Varoufakis is not able to discuss numbers with the creditors and comes unprepared to Eurogroups ready to have theoretical discussions, as if he had a 50 minute university lecture towards his students. Not to forget that following requests from Brussels, the Greek Finance Minister has been removed from his negotiation duties at Euroworking groups, but certainly his cosmetic presence at Eurogroups is necessary for now since he is still Finance Minister of Greece.
Greek citizens the village
At the same time the Greek citizens have heard this “Wolf, Wolf” cry for so many years now, particularly in the last months. The panic that the Greeks are being put into is unprecedented in the developed part of this world. The gradual escalation of the crisis in the negotiations with the creditors is constant and the citizen of the country is just not able to follow any more.
Continuous fears that the banks will close this Monday or next Monday or every Monday are forcing them to form long queues outside ATMs. Some are so panicked that they have withdrawn all their savings and secured them in their houses below the mattress. It is a war and terror climate that is prevailing in Athens these days, with the citizens being super ready for the Grexit. After so many negotiation deadlines set, it is likely now that the bomb will might as well explode when they least expect it.
Tusk the boy
After Donal Tusk called for an urgent EU Summit, Eurogroup and Euroworking group next Monday 22 June, exclusively for the Greek matter, negotiations seem to finally reach the end of the line permanently. The President of the European Council, certainly representing the European Union in the most official way, sent out a video taped, too blunt to grasp, message/ultimatum last Friday to the Greeks: “Agreement or Bankruptcy”. This is quite unusual, as previously we were used to Mr Schauble, German Finance Minister, playing well the role of the mean or some ministers here or some officials there throwing threats. However, having the EU President sending a blunt official ultimatum, of the kind you would expect the history books to include, means that there is no more sand inside the hourglass or that the hourglass is even broken.
It seems that it is now the time for Mr Tusk to play the role of the “the boy who cried wolf”; only that this time the wolf is next to him. It is not a warning message any more, or politics or bluffing like the EU was openly launching towards Athens during the past 6 months at least. Now the wolf has showed up very hungry and is drooling. Chances are that the Greeks are now taking the place of the village in Aesop’s fable. This means that for the Greeks even Mr Tusk’s ultimatum is only a “Wolf,Wolf” fun cry. Besides, the official response to that coming from the Greek government, saying that this message was highly anticipated and is not at all constructive, corroborates the distinct feeling that the Greeks at this time of the game are like the non believing villagers.
If one followed the statements of Greek prime minister Tsipras in Saint Petersburg yesterday, declaring that Greece is now “ready to sail the open ocean and find safer harbours to anchor”, blinking wide open the eye to Mr Putin’s promised financial help, he knows that the Greek government does not believe the boy who cried wolf, aka Donald Tusk. Further, if one follows the reportage from Athens and last week’s panel innuendos of the spokesperson of the Greek government, Gabriel Sakillaridis, he can clearly understand that this man and his government representing 11,000,000 people, do not even see as deadline the 30th of June (IMF Payment Deadline/end of Greek bailout programme)!
This young politician and his peer wholeheartedly believe that they will be able to negotiate with the creditors after the bailout programme expires (30 June), after a bankruptcy, after an economic devastation. Well, he is utterly wrong and the Greeks will have to pay dearly for the inexperience of their government. For one thing, the first trips to Europe for Tsipras in his life might as well be happening now, as Prime Minister. With no experience of working abroad, empathising with the fast paced West, it is understandable that Tsipras picked the wrong fight that he has never stood a chance to win.
All the European leaders put Greece as number one in their agenda, while you have very hot or hotter issues going on like Russia-Ukraine or ISIS or immigration or you name it. The world has certainly enough problems. The Greek one is unfortunately seen as an extra one at this point, one that should be taken out of the agenda with a pencil at once. The biggest mistake of Mr Tsipras’s government is that he never really empathised with his colleagues in Brussels, Frankfurt and Washington.
The Greek “negotiation” is turning to be a cacophony for the world today, when all the media for at least 6 months now play Grexit and the following doomsday. Mr Tsipras is feeding them even better than they would anticipate with “wolf cry” negotiation tactics, or with a “game of chicken” strategy. The Greek Prime Minister is today driving full speed ahead the ship towards the iceberg, believing that the ice will vanish once he closes his eyes. The ship is full of 11,000,000 souls and the iceberg is his troika “good and kind” partners/creditors. Whoever believes that this damn boat with that speed will not be sank or that the iceberg will start moving is more than naive.
All in all, whoever is a huge fan of Aesop’s fables and also studies the parameters of this negotiations model, would as well think Monday is the day that the wolf will be set loose. It will eat the entire Greece and maybe a leg of Europe and that is all about it. The Greek government gave all the reasons in the world to the “good kind hearted” Europeans to kick them out and they will hesitate no more apparently.
Bad for Europe, catastrophic for the birthplace of democracy, philosophy but also tragedy.