OP/ED: It’s time for the experts to take over the negotiation process

OP/ED: It’s time for the experts to take over the negotiation process

Two and a half years is a long period of time to be engaging in ongoing negotiations that, not only concern one person but a whole nation. It goes without saying that this negotiation process, is both demanding and stressful, which means that professionals are needed that could manage it as well as carry it out.

The closing of the second evaluation could sweep the problems of  the negotiating process under the carpet, but that would be disastrous for the continuation of the process, which will be more demanding and much more difficult towards the end.

The Greek government has, since January 2015 when it assumed power, been making the same mistakes as far as the negotiation is concerned and I am not referring to those elements that it’s negotiating and for which it is seeking the best possible result. I am referring to the way which it is trying to succeed, but also to its communication policy. We have mentioned the issue of the Greek government’s communication policy countless times.

A basic principle of the negotiations is the process of resolving a problem, in cooperation and conciliation with the other side. The good negotiator guides the debate around common interests and avoids controversy that might stem from opposing views. He then concentrates on tackling the problem, knowing that this requires mutual compromises.

The SYRIZA – ANEL coalition government has done anything but during its term in power so far. Instead Yiannis Varoufakis, a man who was ready to do anything but compromise, took over.

Although seven months were practically lost , and while there were proposals for a change of negotiating tactics, the government continued to use people who had neither negotiating skills nor the education to go with it. Nevertheless, right or wrong, a Finance Minister is not a negotiator.

What options did the Greek government have? It should have addressed the Ministry which has certified negotiators who would advise and direct the negotiations. The only Ministry that has people which have spent their lives negotiating is the Foreign Ministry.

Unfortunately, even during the negotiations on the closure of the evaluation phases, diplomats and negotiating experts were not used, resulting not only in the extension of the negotiation time but also  in results that were unacceptable on a communication level.

Of course it’s never too late and with the conclusion of the second evaluation perhaps the time has come for a change and for experts in the Foreign Ministry’s negotiations team to help guide and complete the end of the assistance program ending in August 2018.

If the government wants to escape the creditors often unnecessary requirements, it should for the first time let professional negotiators get involved who will have the experience, the ability to communicate, who will be well versed, able to perceive the mood of their interlocutors and who will possess empathy./ΙΒΝΑ