The mood has appreciably soured in negotiations with Greece after European creditors dismissed Monday’s offer from Athens as insufficient. Talk of an imminent deal had disappeared, replaced by worries that a miscalculation could force Greece off of the euro. Officials from Brussels and the creditor nations have not been shy in sharing their opinions with The Financial Times:
“They do not want a deal with us; they just want debt relief,” a senior official with one of Athens’ bailout monitors said after reviewing Greece’s latest offer.“I don’t think they will move. I think they’re waiting for us to blink, and we won’t,” the official added. “They don’t understand we’re not back in 2012 where the Europeans were willing to just throw money at the problem.” […]“My take is that [the Greeks] are marking time until the drop dead moment has arrived, and then [they believe] we should blink,” said another senior eurozone official involved in the talks. “I am worried that they have still not understood [when] the real drop dead moment is.”
That’s a problem you face when you repeatedly proclaim you’re not bluffing, and then quietly fold—as Greece’s creditors have done throughout the process. Unfortunately, it’s not the creditors but Greece who is likely to pay most dearly for this pattern; as the official suggests, Greece may not know when the Europeans are finally being real. And recent reports have all trended in one direction—leaders including Angela Merkel busted heads among the eurocrats to get the last deal to the Greeks last week, and they’ve had enough.Meanwhile, if you’re detecting a pronounced note of snippiness in both the tone and process of the negotiations, you’re not alone:
In one sign of the pessimism surrounding the negotiations, several officials suggested that a meeting due to be held on Wednesday between Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, and his German and French counterparts — all of whom are scheduled to be in Brussels for a gathering of EU and Latin American leaders — might not take place.Mr Juncker told the commission he would not attend if Mr Tsipras “came with the same kind of attitude as he had last week”, officials said, and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who heads Greek negotiations on behalf of his fellow eurozone finance ministers, also suggested the meeting might be scrapped.
Both sides of the Greek/euro crisis have legitimate grievances on various issues. Some of these disagreements are arguably fundamental, perhaps even insoluble under current circumstances. But, as many warned since the election of Syriza, personality clashes and each side’s inability to read the other’s breaking points, rather than more high-minded disagreements, could ultimately be the cause of a final breach.