Syriza's First 'Defeat' -- What Does It Mean?

02/24/2015 05:42 pm ET | Updated Apr 26, 2015

What has been deployed over the last few of weeks, since the new elected Greek government unleashed its efforts to convince some of its European partners to align with it against the austerity oriented and Germany driven policies in Europe, is a game of power directly connected with the question of who finally has the upper hand in dictating the decisions in the Union. I draw the conclusion that the fundamental reason that Europeans -- and particularly Germans -- were irritated by the sentimentally and ideologically unyielding negotiating strategy of the left wing Syriza government in Greece was not actually its logical purpose to alter the harmful parameters of the imposing fiscal policies in the country. It was the fact that the Greek officials' attitude towards Europeans in the negotiations in the Eurogroup meetings in Brussels was interpreted by Germans and others as a questioning of their hegemony in a Union that since 2010 has been transformed from a political to a corporate one within which the superiority of creditors over lenders is not posed under any kind of doubt. One month was enough time for Europe to roll the new leftist government in Greece back into the harsh European reality by destroying very quickly the illusions that Syriza had created as part of its electoral campaign, which rested on the belief that it could easily become the change that the Union needed towards a more socially prudent economic policy. Greece started participating in that "chicken game" by having high expectations for its capability to drag Europeans and Germans to its position, but also by being determined not to push things to a point that could not be rectifiable afterwards, like a potential Grexit.

The latest Eurogroup agreement means a defeat for the Syriza government because they were forced to accept the terms of the current bailout program that they had rejected before the elections and were left with very little room to maneuver. Under the agreed upon terms, Greece can convert some parts of the agreement only under very strict conditions of prior approval from Germany and other European creditors, with the Greek authorities having committed not to take unilateral actions during the implementation of the program. Is this the first step toward a complete transformation of Syriza from a leftist to a moderate centrist party in the political spectrum, much like New Democracy and even more like PASOK, both of which are facing the anger of the voters because of the same unpopular policies imposed on them by the lenders in previous years? It's a question for which the answer is not very clear at the moment, although ostensibly Syriza is making steps back from its pre-electoral promises. But that's not enough to make Greeks disappointed by their new government, though there is reason for them to be.

Until the 26th of January, when the new Syriza government was elected, Greek people felt that their previous governments (Papandreou, Papadimos, Samaras and Venizelos) since 2010 neither defended nor even tried to protect the country's interests in the negotiations with its creditors during the first and second bailout program. And I can say that this kind of feeling is not so far away from reality according to what we as journalists experienced through our coverage and reporting on the IMF in Washington, D.C. and European institutions in Brussels. Over the last five years the governmental executives of Greece were blindly adopting the orders from the EU, IMF and ECB bureaucrats. They never came out with any objection, which resulted in them being viewed by their voters as people whose duty was just to execute what the so called "Troika" was demanding from Greece. Perhaps many of the external observers trying to explain the Greek situation cannot understand how people in Greece may feel humiliated by their supervision from the Troika and not by their dependance from the money of Germans and other European nations. This is a misunderstanding which is at the core of the argument made by those who believe that Greeks are more emotionally than realistically driven.

For the moment what matters for the vast majority of Greek people is that for the first time they feel they have a government which, despite its compromises, has proved that it made its best effort to bring Europe back to the table for a fair and equal negotiation about the terms of the Greek bailout program. But whether their feeling or satisfaction will be viable over the long term is a question posed by many who expect a new period of political turmoil to come back in Greece the longer the country struggles to survive with its debts in the waters of uncertainty.