Published on 5 Jun 2015

Greece: will Alexis Tsipras wave a writ at Europe?

So few people know what Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is going to say at 1600 BST that those who do are being briefed face to face – avoiding cellphones.

 

The obvious options are: a snap election, with the result known at the same time Greece has to pay €1.5bn to the IMF; a referendum to validate Syriza’s defiant stance towards its lenders; or a vote of confidence in parliament.
But the wild card in all this will be the woman sitting behind Tsipras when he makes his speech. Zoe Konstantopoulou, the speaker of parliament, is technically there to chair proceedings.

But while Tsipras, Yanis Varoufakis and their negotiators have been trying to get the country’s debt reduced via the IMF and ECB, Ms Konstantopoulou has been working to get it declared invalid.

Ms Konstantopoulou’s debt truth committee, set to report on 18 June, is said to be on the point of finding some of Greece’s original bailout debt, from either 2010 or 2011, was unlawfully contracted. In addition, Ms Konstantopoulou is armed with a finding from experts that Germany owes Greece €350bn in war reparations – more than the whole of its debt to Europe.

As I’ve said before, those who think the debt truth and reparations processes in Greece are “for show” are mistaken. Ms Konstantopoulou is piling up, effectively, a mega legal claim amounting to hundreds of billions that would be lodged in Europe’s various international courts.

In recent days her efforts have been boosted by a finding by a United Nations expert on human rights that Greeks’ “economic and social rights” had been undermined by the IMF/EU imposed austerity.

“At stake are not only debt repayment obligations, but as well the very foundations on which the European Union is built,” said UN expert Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky on Tuesday.

“Human rights should not stop at the doors of international organisations and international financial institutions. They have to be respected when responsibilities are delegated by States to international bodies, such as the European Stability Mechanism.”

Since Greece is a signatory to both the European and UN conventions on human rights, a keen-eyed lawyer – and Ms Konstantopolou (interviewed below) is one – could on the back of this build a legal case to have the Troika-imposed conditions declared in breach of them.

On the streets people are nervous. The population is tired of uncertainty, and deeply divided over what should be done to end it. 50 per cent of Greeks polled yesterday said that, if the government does not win its “red line” conditions – debt relief, the defence of pensions and union rights – it should simply surrender. But 41 per cent said it should defy the EU.

And though 41 per cent is a minority, if a snap election is called they would be enough to put Syriza back in power with a comfortable majority, even once they’d been shared out between the other anti-bailout parties.

This tallies well with the most recent opinion poll of voting intent, which puts Syriza on 31 per cent, the communists on 4.5 per cent, the fascists on 4.8 per cent and the right wing nationalists on 3.2 per cent.

That same poll reveals the big problem for the lenders even if Tsipras should fall. The mainstream conservative and socialist parties are on 20 per cent and 3.5 per cent respectively. Support for a climbdown does not translate into support for the parties advocating it, who are in disarray borne of  five years of implementing the programme that has nearly destroyed a developed economy.

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12 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:

    “…Syriza on 31 per cent, the communists on 4.5 per cent, the fascists on 4.8 per cent and the right wing nationalists on 3.2 per cent.”

    And not one mention of “a hard right faction” or any “far right” group.

    Well I never.

    1. DZ says:

      I don’t think you were paying attention as they were mentioned. They have 3.2% and were the only party in parliament to support the tsipras coalition.

  2. Aidan Turner says:

    The Ghosts of World War 2 are still with us, not least in this appalling situation. I think Ms Konstantopoulou has a case. We should also remember that when Germany was on its knees after the Second World War, the Allies did not make the mistakes of Versailles, but rather supported German recovery, notably through the Marshall Plan, which was a massive financial grant and not a re-payable loan. No reparations were imposed. In contrast Keynes had to spend 6 months in the U.S. pleading for a loan to prevent Britains certain Bankruptcy. This was granted eventually but only at the cost of Keynes life. It was finally repaid by Gordon Brown. Germany should remember that it is only in good shape because of the generosity of others.

  3. Michael Michalis says:

    Greece will pay the money to the IMF by June 30. The IMF has agreed on this beforehand. Moreover, as Greece has paid all its obligations up to now, any accusation against it has no ground whatsoever. It will if Greece fails to pay by June 30. Now, let us come to the real issue. Why you think Greece has difficulties? Because Greeks do not pay their taxes you will say. Wrong! Greeks pay all their taxes. Yet, have you ever thought that Greece’s European partners might allow their own multinationals evading taxes of their Greek operations? You are invited first to have a look here and then you may like to post your objective and rightful comments: http://www.somo.nl/news-en/crisis-ridden-greece-hit-by-tax-avoidance-through-the-netherlands

  4. nmb says:

    Why eurocrats have chosen this moment to attack Greece

    http://goo.gl/JIjfPZ

  5. Ioannis Glinavos says:

    The advocates of ‘pride’, ‘resistance’, ‘honour’ and such like (even if it leads to ‘rupture’) know not what they do, nor what they speak of, Mr Tsipras (it seems after his performance yesterday in Parliament) included.
    A common response to my resistance to the “Kougki” rhetoric of the left in Greece (Kougki meaning blow it up in pride, rather than capitulate) is that I don’t understand how bad it is in Greece.
    I fully understand how it is in Greece and what a new ‘memorandum’ will bring. I have written about it aplenty. I have written a whole book on how undemocratic and shortsighted and damaging neoliberalism and austerity are.
    Yet there is something that sets me apart from the revolutionaries of Syriza. Revolutions are built on the corpses of existing people to benefit an abstract future generation. I care about the people living in Greece now, get it? The people who will need to survive the first post-euro year or two. I agree in a way with Lapavitsas when he says that the growth prospects of Greece would be better after Grexit. They will be, but the ‘better’ will be a long way off.
    Let’s talk then about what is to happen in June if Greece starts defaulting, first to the IMF and then more generally.
    If Greece does something that is classed as a default in ANY of its contracts this will trigger cross default clauses in all other agreements. This means that selective default is not possible on the kind of debt that Greece’s creditors now hold. Will failing to pay the IMF on 5.6.15 have this effect? Not immediately, but if the payment is not made within a month, then probably.
    What happens then? The key issue is liquidity and bank capitalisation. The advocates of default claim that if Greece doesn’t pay the Troika, then no problem, there will be money to spend internally. Wrong! Greece still has a primary surplus (it seems) but such surplus cannot be used to capitalise the banks, it isn’t enough! If support is lost from the ECB as may well happen post default, the banks will collapse due to lack of capital to fund outflows.
    People often ask whether Greece can default yet stay in the euro. If ECB turns off the ELA tap, then the banks close down. What will Tsipas do? Two options exist: 1) nationalise the banks and bail in depositors. All deposits gone, or a Cyprus style haircut. Anyone fancy that? It may not even be enough. Bye bye to everyone’s money. 2) print own money which means of course Grexit. And what’s wrong with that? Paying for your supermarket shopping 40-50% more after devaluation is what. Fancy paying for the baby formula (now €20 for what I pay £8.50 in London btw) the equivalent of €50?
    But the ECB might not stop ELA, it may wish to protect citizens even if the state has defaulted? This cannot happen as the inevitable bank run will render the banks insolvent and cut them off ELA anyway.
    To get to the chase. How does the left faction and all those prideful Greeks deal with all this? Come on Mr Lafazanis, let’s hear it. What will the government do with the banks? How will it buy essentials, how will it pay salaries and pensions post default? Time to cut the nonsense about Greece’s geopolitical significance and talk specifics. Do you have any clue what you are about to unleash?

  6. Uberto says:

    Please tell the Greece to stop this commedy. They entered the Euro by cooking the books, the borrowed without restraint and gave pensions to 50 year old people, tax evasion is massive industry non exixtent.
    The begged Europe for help …. so what else now?

    1. Mike says:

      1) “They entered the Euro by cooking the books”
      We did not want to joing the euro. Nobody has asked us if we want to become a member of the EZ. No Greek citizen acted towards this direction. In fact most of the Greeks would like to see the person who cooked the books behind the bars. Thus, by blaming the entire population for the actions of one or two technocrats (actions already condemned by the Greeks) shows nothing but passion for revenge and collective punishment. If this is what modern Europe has ended up, we Greeks found just another reason to pull out from the colonialist EU.

      2) “the borrowed without restraint”
      All countries borrow money. Greece is not an exception. Spain borrows, France borrows, Germany borrows… countries with serious economy are able to repay their loans, thanks to exports and profit (after having invested loans). Greece could not invest, since her entire production has been damaged once the borders opened and the euro demanded the destruction of local agricultural products.

      3) “gave pensions to 50 year old”
      Retirement age is 67. Spreading information without checking facts is what every hater does.

      4) ” tax evasion is massive industry”
      Yes this is a problem. The government is working towards this direction.

      In overall, be frank and say it loudly: “we hate you and we don’t want you”. Stop finding excuses to hide your hatred against the Greeks. All your words are myths that have been demolished thousands of times. Stop using euphemisms. Yes you hate us, we know it. And that’s why we demand Grexit. We have nothing in common with you, we know it. We are not Europeans, we have much more common with the Eastern populations. I hope at least SYRIZA will realize that we need to reconstruct a new identity and get rid of the EU, whose ideal has been imposed upon us.

    2. Michael Mixalis says:

      Tax evasion? By Greeks? It seems you are not so well informed. How about your multinationals evading tax in Greece with the blessings of the EU? Have a look here, and then we talk again about who is taxes: http://www.somo.nl/news-en/crisis-ridden-greece-hit-by-tax-avoidance-through-the-netherlands SHAME ON YOU !!!

    3. Michael Mixalis says:

      Tell the Greeks to stop this comedy? It seems you are not aware of what goes on around you. Do you know where is Greece in the map? Who is playing comedy, Greece or you? You may like to have a look here and then open again your big mouth – http://www.somo.nl/news-en/crisis-ridden-greece-hit-by-tax-avoidance-through-the-netherlands

  7. VN Gelis says:
  8. VN Gelis says:

    When the EU collectively owes €13.5trillion to talk about Greek debts which are a few hundred billion then this is just nonsense. But this is the EU. It chooses a target to hide a multitude of sins.
    Tax evasion, offshore banks, colonialism etc are the real history of the big powers that run the EU. This is a narrative which has to be concealed.

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