12 Jul 2015

Greek crisis: an issue of “conditionality” (trust)

It is every bit as much about trust as about economics now.

Of course, this being Brussels and this being the EU, nobody would ever use a word as straightforward and comprehensible as “trust”.

Greek Finance Minister Tsakalotos and IMF Managing Director Lagarde attend an euro zone finance ministers meeting in Brussels

Above: Greek finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos (right) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde (centre) attend an euro zone finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium.

Or at least not until very recently when things got truly scratchy.

Non, non!

So here the word has been “conditionality”.¬† A horrid Eurocratese neologism that means, er, trust.

And like I said – it’s all about trust.

Take the bespectacled Finnish minister Alexander Stubb who looks about nine and emerges from the stymied talks of finance ministers to say there might, just , possibly be a deal at some distant point but it comes down to “conditionality”: the Greeks have to prove that they really will impose 23 per cent VAT.

The Greeks have to show they will make taxation changes.

The Greeks have to prove they will alter the taxation system into something gruelling and unpleasant after all the years of treating tax as a vague lifestyle choice.

And you know what – things are now so bad here that some in the talks are even – whisper it – talking about “trust” both on-camera and off it.

They just do not believe the Greeks are serious – and that, for many, is the sticking point.

Matters are not helped by 19 finance ministers with at least 19 agendas and personal careers on the line for at least some.

And how much can your really do when you know the real bosses at head of state level have to roll into Brussels to deal with whatever deal has been dealt?

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