Alexis Tsipras pledged to end austerity. And now he is asked to sign up for more

Faced with lending conditions so severe that one wonders if Germany intends it to leave the euro of its own accord, Greece and its PM are facing a terrible choice.

It comes down to this: Greece has until Wednesday to pass into law draconian new austerity measures or leave the single currency. Months of fruitless talks, all the midnight oil burned in the seemingly never-ending cycle of summits, have ended with a simple message to Alexis Tsipras and his leftwing government: stay on our terms or walk. You decide.

It’s a terrible choice for Tsipras. The conditions being attached to a third Greek bailout are beyond harsh. There will have to be tax increases, pension reforms, privatisation and spending cuts previously rejected by Athens, all overseen by the troika of the European Central Bank, the European commission and the International Monetary Fund.

Tsipras came into power pledging to end austerity. Instead, he is being asked to sign up to an intensification of fiscal pain. Another €13bn (£9bn) will be sucked out of an economy that is already in a slump. The centre-right and centre-left governments that have run Greece since the crisis began at the end of 2009 have been asked to swallow a lot, but never as much as this.

The alternative, though, is to see his country descend into chaos. No preparations have been made for exit from the euro and it will take months for an alternative currency to be in circulation. And with the banks days away from collapse, that is time Greece doesn’t have.

Lees deze column van Larry Elliott verder op The Guardian