There's 'no plan B' for Greece

Yanis VaroufakisREUTERS/Eric VidalGreece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis looks up during an extraordinary euro zone finance ministers meeting (Eurogroup) to discuss Athens’ plans to reverse austerity measures agreed as part of its bailout, in Brussels February 20, 2015.

After the excitement around Greece’s bailout extension deal last week (and the week before that), onlookers would be forgiven for thinking that was the main event. After three eurogroup meetings, the Eurogroup of European finance ministers finally struck a deal with Greece.

In reality what we’ve already seen is barely more than the weigh-in. The main event is still unrolling: And there’s more to come today.

Today Athens has to make a series of promises on reforms, without which the extension won’t be granted.

So Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is stuck between a rock (the Eurogroup) and a hard place (his own party’s hardliners). He has to spell out his proposal in much more detail, which could sour relations with either side.

That may prove an impossible gap to bridge, but Pierre Moscovici, the EU Commissioner with responsibility for the negotiations with Greece, said this morning that there’s “no plan B” for the country outside of the euro, according to Le Figaro.

Here’s Rabobank analyst Michael Every with a note out overnight:

Today, Greek PM Tsipras has to bridge the gap between everything he promised his electorate, i.e., an end to government austerity against the backdrop of a Greek economy in a Great Depression, and the demands of Troika, i.e., lots more austerity regardless. It should go without saying that this may prove very tricky…

Overall in Europe it looks to be a case of ‘the operation was a success but the patient died’: today will confirm whether it is economic logic and national sovereignty, or the current structure and membership of the Eurozone, that was the patient. We shall see, and markets will move accordingly.

Tsipras is reportedly about to unveil a €7.3 billion ($US8.3 billion) package aimed at tax-avoiding oligarchs and smugglers, according to the German media.

Energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, an influential figure on Syriza’s left, was limiting the government’s negotiation space over the weekend too. He said that there would be no more privatisations and that the government “will not agree to a deal which will aim at cancelling the core of our radical, progressive programme“.

That’s contrary to some moves already which seem to have reversed the leftist party’s stance on privatisation. That’s likely to be a sticking point with Europe, as the privatisation programme has been part of the wider bailout deal.

Yesterday at least one Syriza lawmaker hit out at Tsipras and Varoufakis over the deal. Manolis Glezos, a 92-year old member of the European parliament and lifelong communist, apologised for “contributing to this illusion” (that Syriza would end Greece’s bailout).

For now, Syriza and Tsipras seem to be enjoying enormous support for their stance, with 81% viewing the negotiating position as positive and 73% believing Tsipras is the best man for the job. Whether that can last is an open question.

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