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Christina Vasilaki: The latest developments

In the Euro Summit on Tuesday, July 7, the 18 leaders gave Greece the final ultimatum. The Greek government is called upon to choose between a third memorandum -possibly harsher than the previous two- on the one hand, and the exit of Greece from the Eurozone, on the other. On Wednesday, the Greek government submitted a request concerning the programme in question, whereas it has to table a credible and specific proposal on the implementation of this programme by Thursday midnight, i.e. proposals for stringent measures and structural reforms that will extend in the long term and be subject to close supervision, in exchange for a third major financial package. Moreover, in the framework of this agreement -assuming that it is reached- a short-term solution will also be provided in order to address the country’s immediate financial problems – a solution that the government expects within the next 30-40 days. On Saturday, the Finance Ministers of the Eurozone shall meet in Brussels to assess whether the basis for such an agreement exists, i.e. credible and specific proposals, while on Sunday, July 12, the 28 leaders of the European Union will ratify the decision of Greece’s stay or exit from the Euro.

“We cannot exclude this gloomy scenario if no agreement has been reached by Sunday,” said Donald Tusk on Tuesday in the press conference after the meeting in Brussels.“I have to clearly say tonight that the final deadline is this week,” stressed the President of the European Council, adding that “we are going through the most difficult period in our history”.

Even the head of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, who had so far refused to talk about a Grexit, confessed that “no possibility” can now be excluded, as well as that the European leaders have prepared “a detailed plan” for this scenario.“The Greek side will continue its efforts, with the clear verdict of the Greek people as its powerful weapon, (with) the will of the vast majority for a sustainable agreement that will end the discussion about Grexit once and for all and offer a definite way out of the crisis,” said the Greek Prime Minister for his part.

The Greek government adopts an entirely different reading of the situation, against a background where it is clear that particular member-states are now openly questioning Greece’s participation in the Eurozone – if they have not already made the decision to force the country into an exit. The Greek government suggests that its choice to lead the situation exactly to this breaking point, where the European perspective of Greece is only a matter of a few days, and with the complete collapse of the financial system lurking at the same time, has hit its target: namely, to pursue a comprehensive agreement with common prerequisite actions, with debt restructuring, a development package and the funding of the programme.

After harsh statements regarding a possible Grexit and the breakdown of the argument that the Eurozone is unable to bear the cost of an exit, this point of view of the government would be unsubstantiated, were it not accompanied by the belief that the European Union does not wish to or even is afraid of isolating Greece, primarily for geopolitical reasons. This argument was clearly expressed on Tuesday by the President of the European Council himself, Donald Tusk, who nevertheless hinted that this was not the unanimous position of the Council. He even went so far as to put the blame on all those who “are naïve enough” as to “have the illusion” that a Grexit would not affect Europe as a whole “from a geopolitical perspective”.

As far as the balance of power in the Euro Summit of Tuesday is concerned, it became clear from the outset that the French President, Francois Hollande, wished to support the stay of Greece in the Eurozone, as did the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, against countries however that appeared determined and ready for all possibilities, and in the hope that Greece will demonstrate its tangible intention to take measures so that there is room for an agreement.

President Hollande reiterated that all member-states of the Eurozone must respect the common rules. Nevertheless, he added that the fact that not all member-states are equally developed and wealthy should be taken into consideration.

For her part, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that she is “not overly optimistic” regarding a solution for Greece on Sunday, adding that it is essential that all 28 leaders of the EU will meet -and not only the 19 Eurozone leaders- given that the Greek issue is critical and all countries are interlinked. “We believe that the situation is dangerous,” she said emphatically.