Greeks are Europeans

Comment: Europeans beg the Greeks

Seldom has the heads of the European Union been seen so close to the verge of a nervous breakdown. With the President of the Parliament Martin Schulz, the frustration was expressed in the offer to go to Greece himself and to campaign for a "yes" in the referendum there. And now the Social Democrat is helplessly looking for a bridge between the expiry of the aid program on Tuesday night and Wednesday night and the referendum on Sunday.

Alexis Tsipras has apparently called Brussels in the meantime and asked for help. But how will that work? Do you want to stop the clock, do you just want to override rules and contract law? It doesn't look like the Eurozone would like to dance sirtaki to Greek music one more time. Tsipras could have held a referendum four weeks ago if he had wanted to. There was still enough time back then.

Greek understanding in the end

Martin Schulz has been one of Alexis Tsipras' preferred interlocutors over the past few months. Until the very end, he sought understanding for Greek concerns, always had time for the Greek prime minister and tried to take the newcomer by the hand on his way through the political labyrinth of Europe. But he didn't want that at all, as it now shows. The same applies in the EU: No good deed that is not punished.

Barbara Wesel, DW correspondent in Brussels

It is even more difficult for the highest understanding of Greece, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Hadn't he patted Tsipras, rolled out the red carpet for him, and finally negotiated days and nights with him and his people? Wasn't he a champion of ever softer lines and more flexible compromises in the Greek reform program? Now Juncker stands there like a betrayed lover.

Some of the finance ministers seemed almost relieved over the weekend that the psychodrama was over. Juncker, however, was offended. He too finally had to realize that the government in Athens simply did not want an agreement. Some in Brussels had suspected that for a long time. At the end of last week they had come so close that it was difficult to explain why Tsipras had not finally accepted the offer. He could only save himself from it through the referendum.

Tsipras deceives EU and Greeks

The President of the Commission is now standing in the rain with his goodwill and his appeals for community. He leaned far out of the window, also in the hope that in the end, as the savior of Europe, he would consolidate his own power. Now you can see him exhausted, sad and somehow defeated. You cannot help people who, for ideological reasons, do not want to be helped. And you cannot force a government to honestly explain to its citizens what was on the table as a compromise in the end. On the ballot paper for the referendum, reference is only made without explanation to the aid program from last week, which is as incomprehensible for Greek voters as a foreign language. The box next to it stands for a "No". The government clearly shows what result it wants.

Eurozone will survive

Now Paris, Rome and Berlin have no choice but to appeal to the Greeks to the best of their ability to decide on a future in the euro on Sunday. It is perhaps not strategically smart to stylize the referendum as such a question of fate. Nevertheless, if the answer is "no", returning to the negotiating table will be extremely difficult. The future of Greece is at stake above all. Because the euro zone will survive the drama, the reactions in the financial markets were clear, but not extreme.

On the other hand, the Greek state is in danger. How does Athens intend to finance itself in the future, how will it stabilize the banks that have in fact been bankrupt for a long time? How is the economy supposed to get going again after weeks of stagnation? What does the country want to live on anyway? Syriza has not yet found an answer to any of these questions. In any case, Athens can count on disaster relief from Brussels. But should that be the future of the proud Greeks to receive care packages from the euro zone? As Martin Schulz rightly says: euros or not euros, that is the question on Sunday. It would be good and sensible for the Greeks to say "yes". But the decision is up to them, and it is uncertain whether they will see the implications.