The 28 EU leaders will meet in Brussels on Sunday in a last chance saloon attempt to strike a deal with Greece.
Yes, I know we’ve heard this all before. Every week it appears to be the last chance. But the look on Donald Tusk’s face – the “Permanent President of the European Council” – said it all.
He looked really, really worried. And I’m not surprised because the Germans have simply run out of patience.
I do therefore believe something big is going to happen in Brussels on Sunday.
The Greek Prime Minister Mr. Tsipras accepted an invitation to come and address the European Parliament. For once quite a good decision by European Parliament President Martin Schulz, especially when you consider that he told Greek people that if they voted ‘no’, their power supplies would end.
Mr. Tsipras was fashionably late. He breezed in tieless having kept us all waiting for fifteen minutes.
I reported last week that the mood at the European Council summit was the least collegiate I had seen in my sixteen years in Brussels. The mood in much of this debate was darker still. The project of love and peace designed to “bring us all together” has now resulted in old enmity being resumed.
Germany’s Christian Democratic Union MEPs attacked Tsipras, and by implication Greece, either in formal speeches or in repeated heckling.
It is true to say that Tsipras had very very few friends in the room. He himself was a man who should have been on a high. He called a referendum and had won it handsomely. Readers please note the opinion pollsters got it hopelessly wrong again.
In this final week of Wimbledon I suppose we could say that the result was ‘advantage Tsipras’. But this rapidly moved to the position of deuce when the European Central Bank (ECB) started to squeeze Greek liquidity earlier this week. In his speech Tsipras looked somewhat downcast. There appeared to be little confidence, just a repeated plea that Greece needs a better deal.
I would say that it is now advantage EU and that they’ve got him where they want him. Tsipras is now in real trouble.
Despite the dark and gloomy atmosphere, there is one major player within the EU institutions who always brings a smile to my face: the irrepressible Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
I chatted briefly with him before the debate began and asked him what was going to happen next. “I have no idea,” he replied, with a disarming honesty.
On my desk I had a big “Oxi”, the Greek word for no, sign. When my attention was turned, Juncker stole it off my desk at which I was somewhat bewildered. So my colleague Ray Finch MEP passed down a backup. Whilst waiting for Tsipras I left my chair and Juncker pinched the second one. So I went over to his desk and stole it back.
His Vice President, Frans Timmermans then said: “We’ll take the flag off your desk next,” to which I said: “You’ve been trying to take our flag for years!”. These I think were the only light moments of the whole morning.
In my speech I commended Tsipras for being brave, for calling a referendum – an EU crime – for which his predecessor George Papandreou was shoved out of office by the EU bully boys after even daring to suggest.
But I said that he would get no concessions. That it is simply impossible for them. They really don’t want their banks to realise their Greek losses, preferring to keep them on paper. And if they cave into Greece, the Portuguese, the Spanish and perhaps even the Italians will look for a better deal.
I urged Mr. Tsipras to lead Greece out of the Euro with his head held high and prepare his country for a better future. From 2008, Iceland has proved that however bleak things look, if you are in control and have a good government things can get better.
So what will happen on Sunday? Either Greece give in, the others kick them out of the Euro or Tsipras resigns. I think one of those three things is bound to happen. My feeling is that the EU institutions will secure the match point and force Tsipras into resigning.