Opinions - 16.06.2015 - 00:00 

Greece in a “family squabble”

Negotiations with Greece occasionally look like a family squabble. If it came to Greece getting kicked out, this would not only be the child’s fault but also the parents’, writes HSG lecturer Markus Will in his column. To come to an amicable agreement, there must be understanding on both sides.


16 June 2015. A possible Grexit can be compared with a violent family squabble. Ever since his election, Alexis Tsipras has behaved like an ill-mannered brat who during a row says to Mummy Merkel: “You’re not really going to do that anyway, kick me out.” Indeed, in most cases children aren’t thrown out of the house. But sometimes things are different. The parents are no longer able to say: “As long as you’re sitting at my table…” We all know them, such expressions which are about the rules of family coexistence, about rights and obligations.

Rules of family coexistence
Let’s see how things will pan out by the end of June: will Greece be kicked out because it absolutely refuses the Euro countries’ obligations? Will the Greek Prime Minister Tsipras thus live up to his poisoned election promise, remain tough, and relax and postpone the reforms, i.e. do things differently from what the European family expects? Young Alexis would leave with mountainous debts (which his parents would have to shoulder willy-nilly), he would leave without a goal and, in the figurative sense, without a sound education and training. Alexis would sit by the roadside destitute (and would again depend on support from his family or the mutually supportive community).

If a child is kicked out, however, it is not only the child’s fault as a rule but also the parents’. And in their hearts they also know that they made the wrong concessions to their child too often for too long. The child has not learnt to be careful with money, but the European parents have tolerated the Greeks getting too much too easily. The child is not really industrious, at least from the perspective of the parents’ expectations. The child hasn’t learnt well enough to prevail over others, but the parents haven’t really insisted on it either. Now that it is as good as too late, the parents want to compel him to do so with brute force, with the help of family therapist Christine Lagarde from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

This can’t work out, at least not in this way. Although the Greeks’ easy life must have an end, some of the old encumbrances must be written off: this is what we do with children who change tack and seriously want to go through life under their own steam with a clearer view of their future. When the child finally returns to the path of virtue, the parents waive part of the debt (the first haircut was paid for by the rich uncles and aunts from the banks). Otherwise, the money has gone anyway – child gone, money gone, everything gone. Who can want this? Neither young Alexis nor Mummy Merkel nor the European family clan do – if only in order to prevent themselves from serving as a bad role model for other children from Portugal, Spain, Italy and France.

Understanding must grow on all sides

As mentioned earlier: usually, family squabbles end without the child being kicked out. This requires understanding on all sides. But whilst the parents have already grown up and become experienced, pubescent youngsters have to become adults in the process! Will Alexis Tsipras understand that? Or will he want to return from Brussels as a martyr – according to the motto of “We’ve tried everything!”? In this case, it will only take a few weeks before the Greek people tire of the yobbish teenager and kick him out of office. Then the metaphors of martyr and yob will converge: they meet on the streets, destitute and without a future!

Greece’s Alexis Tsipras should (be able to) continue to sit at the European table, Mummy Merkel and her men should inform him about the consequences and reveal their concessions. Then the young man will have to decide for or against the family.

Bild: Photocase/ HessenJense

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