Greek crisis: as bailout deadline nears, is anyone in control?

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Greeks are experts in drama but amid uncertainty over a deal between debt-stricken country and its creditors, Graccident could be the act no one foresaw

helenaBy Helena Smith who is the Guardian’s correspondent in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus


This article is posted in the British newspaper Guardian. Go to

Thirteen days before its access to vital bailout funds end, Greece is in a defiant mood.

In the corridors of parliament this morning – where the debt truth committee will announce its findings in the presence of the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras – almost everyone agrees: a deal to keep Athens solvent and in the eurozone has never been “as near or as far away”.

It is there, almost within reach – and behind all the bluster a deal is certainly what Tsipras and most of his radical left Syriza party wants – and yet one day before eurozone finance ministers gather for what may well be their most crucial meeting since the crisis erupted five years ago, it is still far from being sealed.

Greeks are experts in drama, and in their modern incarnation tragedy in particular. What seems like insanity abroad – the tactics of a suicide bomber on a grand scale – are being brushed off here as the crescendoing of a drama now reaching its climax.

“I would say that now the real negotiation is beginning,” Tsipras told Syriza MPs on Tuesday. The anti-austerity government is drawing a line in the sand not because it believes it has nothing to lose but, say insiders, because it believes it has everything to gain.

On Wednesday morning, the tone is conciliatory – with the minister in charge of revenues, Dimitris Mardas, saying Greece will do its best to meet its debt obligations, starting with the €1.6bn (£1.1bn) it owes at the end of the month to the IMF (a far cry from what Tsipras had insinuated on Tuesday).

But later in the afternoon, it could well turn ugly again. Brinkmanship has no rules. It’s very hot in Athens . Out on the streets people walk around semi-dazed and in slow motion – partly to conserve their energy in this, the summer’s first mini heatwave.

The government’s negotiating tactics are playing well: thousands will descend on squares around the country in a display of support tonight. Those who gather in Syntagma Square, outside the Greek parliament, at 7.30pm will do so under the banner “We take negotiations in our hands – we demolish austerity”. And those who gather, a little later at 8pm, will do so under the slogan “We are staying in Europe”. Both will take place against a backdrop of fears that Grexit could come by Graccident – an act in the drama that no one has foreseen. Is anyone in control? No one, not even the protagonists, really know.

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