The unending confrontation
The digital greetings card that the Greek Finance Ministry sent to all journalists - to celebrate Christmas and/or to wish for a Happy New Year - was inspired by the classic Dickensian tale starring Ebenezer Scrooge. A thinly-veiled parable for German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble's tough position over Greek debt relief: Schaeuble blocked even agreed-upon short-term debt reprofiling when the Greek Government decided (and the Greek Parliament voted at a 2/3 majority...) a Christmas pension supplement for lowest-income pensioners in recession-riden Greece. Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Tsipras went on-record deploring "those not well in their souls [who] cannot deal with Europe"; Schaeube answered back saying he "had no compassion for the plight" of Greek politicians when they accuse Germany.
Such confrontation seemed set to get derailed, when an exchange of position papers and letters between EU EuroWorking Group and Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos let some steam off and - for the time being - put a halt to such invective. The problem is, now, whether this uneasy truce will persist or renewed enmity will surface once the New Year gets started, since negotiations over the second review of Greece's current Adjustment Program are set to start again. It not only a matter of empathy long gone between Athens and Berlin; it is a matter of trust mutually lost and never sought back in earnest.
Greece insists on substantial debt relief - also championed by the IMF, but strongly opposed by German public opinion as well as by German politicians (with Schaeuble leading the nay-sayers) - to ensure that investment would pick up, leading to a reboot of the Greek economy. One is entitled to wonder, though, if the unending confrontation of Greek politicians with their German counterparts, supposedly within a "European solidarity" framework is not the best repellant to any investment idea whatsoever.