Published on 13 Apr 2015

Greece: why something has to give

I got an email this week predicting that Greece would enter a “rapture” with the ECB as early as 24 April. What my informant meant was “rupture” but the closer we get to the event, the more I think the word rapture actually describes what may be about to happen.

If the far-left government actually ends up in a stalemate with its lenders by the end of April, leading to a default and possible ejection from the eurozone, then the “rapture” as envisaged by Christian fundamentalists – a cataclysmic final day in which half the human race is suddenly swept up into the air – might be a good metaphor.

For one part of the ruling radical left party, Syriza, it would feel like vindication. For another damnation. And for the Greek people, 80 per cent of whom want to stay inside the euro at any cost, it might feel a bit like the end of the world as they know it.

But after three weeks of detailed negotiations, 24 April is beginning to look like a deadline: Nikos Theocharakis, head of fiscal policy at the Greek finance ministry, is reported to have told Eurogroup negotiators that Greece might run out of cash thereafter.

Let’s start by considering the raw numbers. Greece can’t borrow big money on the global markets, because its €320bn debt is – rightly, I think – seen as unpayable. No level of austerity bearable by Greek society could pay down the debt.

So Greece is currently trying to survive by running a small budget surplus: that is, each year the government is trying to save 1.5 per cent of GDP by spending less than it takes in tax.

FRANCE-GREECE-ECONOMY

Problem number one is, having “achieved” this just before the election, the conservative-led government’s numbers proved to be fictional.

Problem number two is, with capital fleeing the country after the ECB pulled Greece’s credit line, economic activity is suppressed and foreign trade collapsing. Tax receipts fell in January-February, and though it looks like they improved in March, this was mainly from one-offs: early settlement deals on tax arrears and a lump sum from the banks.

So week by week the Greek state is having to pay salaries and pensions out of a small pot of surplus cash – and is raiding the cash reserves of various public bodies to keep itself afloat.

Problem number three is, even if it makes a small surplus each month, the Greek state has to roll over around €15bn of debts this year, much of it in the form of short-term IOUs its banks would normally buy – but those banks’ ability to buy short-term debt has been capped by the ECB.

Grounds for agreement

Throughout the whole crisis, time has worked on the side of Greece’s creditors and Syriza’s opponents. When the ECB pulled normal credit lines and capped emergency lending in February, that was bound to accelerate the bank run that had begun during the last month of the old government. That then forced the hand of finance minister Yanis Varoufakis (pictured above) at the 20 February Eurogroup, into a substantial – but not total – climbdown on Syriza’s anti-austerity programme.

Since then Varoufakis’s aim has been to prove that there is a left-wing, anti-austerity version of structural reform acceptable to creditors, allowing them to release about €7bn of loans they’re withholding. Even then it would only be a prelude to discussions about how to reschedule the €320bn debts Greece owes.

The latest attempt, in the form of a 26-page document in English, was seen as providing a credible grounds for such an agreement – but the issue is no longer about fiscal credibility.

The pro-euro majority in Syriza has consistently miscalculated the opposition it will face inside the eurozone: it has the USA onside, France and Italy making sympathetic noises, but they are outweighed by a coalition of pro-austerity countries around Germany, which continually blocks any attempt by the European Commission to broker a compromise.

So each time it looks like there is a politically brokered settlement, Germany and a group of it historic allies going back to world war two block progress, either in the ECB or Eurogroup.

‘Dead end’

The depth of Syriza’s attachment to the euro was demonstrated when its economics guru Euclid Tsakalotos addressed MPs at Westminster last month. Faced with encouragement to leave the euro from left-wing Labour MPs, Tsakalotos pointed out the experience of the British and French left in the 1980s with what he called the “dead end” of national economic solutions.

So Syriza’s leadership is wedded to the eurozone but the eurozone is currently configured to smash Syriza.

With growth slowing, and regular tax receipts being bolstered by irregular one-offs, this can’t go on forever.

Big business in Greece is by no means as hostile to Syriza as you might think. Many mainstream businesspeople see the party’s “clean hands” as the only ones that can strangle nepotism and corruption that has ruined the Greek economy over decades. Added to that there is a wing of the Greek conservatives around the Karamanlis dynasty that is, I was told by one former MP aligned to them, “prepared to help” Syriza.

If you add in the small centre-left Potami party, and the new party formed by former PM George Papandreou, there is the clear basis for a “centre-left government” led by Syriza acting as a government of national unity around a programme essentially dictated by Berlin, but with some flexibility to assuage Syriza’s members and voters.

That, effectively, is the emerging strategy of the centre left and globally oriented business community in Greece – and their desire for it has sharpened as Syriza has been pushed towards economic collaboration  with Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan and China.

Forcing a split

But Syriza’s left is strong. The Left Platform, led by energy minister Lafazanis, is strongly anti-euro and feels vindicated by events. This is basically the remnants of Moscow-oriented communism and the far left inside Syriza – but it was joined in the last internal vote with more modernist and “horizontal” leftists, to deliver a 41 per cent vote against the deal done by Varoufakis in February.

So there is pressure growing, from within and without, to force a split in Syriza, with the Left Platform leaving the parliamentary group, and Tsipras now forced to rely on centre-left and Karamanlis-wing conservative votes to get any deal through the Hellenic parliament.

But there is a third force that the leader writers of financial newspapers tend to forget, as they watch Greece pinioned between Berlin and Moscow: the Greek people themselves.

Up to now they have been very quiet. The so-called “social movements” – the unions, anti-fascist groups, food banks, local assemblies and the like – were, as one veteran activist told me, “exhausted” by the time Syriza came to power. Thereafter they were mesmerised by the sudden appearance of a new kind of politics in the parliament: the promise of 100+ corruption cases, a committee to judge the legality of the 2011 bailout, the sudden disappearance of tear gas from the armoury of the riot police, the slow release of migrants from the army camps many were detained in.

Increasing frustration

Those I’ve spoken to this month speak of the increasing frustration of Syriza’s activists and supporters with the hidden drama being played out in Brussels. Meanwhile, in the various ministries Syriza’s leaders are still struggling to assert control and even get accurate information. The president of the parliament, left-wing lawyer Zoe Konstantopoulou, threw its door open to anti-racist activists during a recent demo. But the choreography outside the prime minister’s residence is of feverish crisis management.

Even if you’re on the inside, getting a text message every 10 minutes from somebody who knows what’s happening, the atmosphere of crisis can be exhausting. For those in the streets and cafes, watching it all happen beyond their control, it is becoming exhausting.

At such historic moments, sometimes it comes down to individuals. Varoufakis – US-oriented and western trained, and not even a member of Syriza – will, as his aide told me in February, be the “last one to leave the euro”: so if the moment comes when he has to switch from conciliation to survival, you can be sure all avenues were exhausted. But as he told me just before the election, he believes an unreformed euro will collapse within two years.

Publicly Varoufakis has adopted a tone not just of conciliation but of reconstruction with the eurozone. Privately, however, his advisers – and these are the some of the most centrist people in and around Syriza – are shocked by the level of hostility they met inside the eurozone.

That wing of Syriza that is basically left-social democratic was existentially attached to the euro. Now that existential belief in the euro is being shaken. And the danger for the eurozone is, such a process can be replicated among an entire people if the evidence is marshalled convincingly.

If pushed over the edge – either by the failure of a short-term debt auction or the simple shortfall of receipts – Varoufakis will have no trouble triggering capital controls, emergency taxation of big business and the inauguration of a second currency.

Economy in chaos

At this point it would be up to the eurozone to react. But if it upped the ante, there are powerful weapons in Greece’s armoury: the 80bn it owes the eurozone through the Target 2 system which, as Ambrose Evans Pritchard points out, is unprotected. Then the debts it owes the ECB.

Greece would attempt, at first, to default without leaving the eurozone. But the default would throw European politics and the economy into chaos. The already deflating, semi-stagnant eurozone would face another 12-18 months on the pause button until the banking system absorbed a Greek default.

So in the next two weeks there is an increased danger of “Graccident” – a partial default caused not by Syriza’s strategy but by the ECB miscalculating the meagre supply of financial oxygen it is allowing into the Greek banks, or by a week’s bad receipts at the finance ministry.

Greeks this weekend flocked to their churches to celebrate the Orthodox Easter. Alexis Tsipras, still riding a 71 per cent popularity rating, used the occasion to speak of rebirth and renewal. But among some, the response to the greeting “Christ is risen” was the joking “Send him to Brussels to negotiate!”

But with the Easter pause over, negotiations are approaching a critical stage.

If Greece is forced into an accidental default, damage to the euro project and to the EU’s image would be massive. A central bank seen to be colluding in the bankruptcy of banks it is supposed to supervise, and willing the breakup of a currency union it is supposed to be running, would tarnish the ECB’s reputation for a decade.

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25 reader comments

  1. leo says:
    1. Victor says:

      GREECE HAS TO LEAVE THE EURO. GREEK SOCIETY JUST DOES NOT HAVE THE CULTURAL AND SOCIAL VALUES INFRASTRUCTURE TO BE IN THE EURO. IT IS JUST IMPOSSIBLE FOR THEM TO BE EFFICIENT AT THE LEVEL OF NORTHERN EUROPE.

      Greece would be better off with the likes of Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Spain, Portugal, Italy.

      The sooner Greece leaves the Euro the better for everyone even taking into account all bad side efeccts.

      To get the Greeks to be efficient like Northern Europe is like trying to get the Germans, Dutch, etc. as disorganized as the Greeks. It is irrational to have Greece and the other Mediterraneans in the Euro as long as they do not evolve their unproductive habits. Just like even the British would have some difficulties too but to a much lesser scale. You only have to work in the same company in different countries for a fewedays to understand only the Germanic and Scandinavians can be together.

  2. Mike Harland says:

    Another fine analysis of the Greek situation that other MSM (e.g. Hugo Dixon at Reuters) and the EU’s unelected masters fail to appreciate the minutiae of! When 72% of Brits think that Greece is in this mess because of ‘lazy fat Greeks’ and corrupt officials, you have to weep at their lack of knowledge of how after the Dictatorship it was rich oligarchs who remained in power pocketing the money and avoiding taxes while the actual people worked their socks off. Syriza is the first “clean” government they have had who are actually trying to clean up this racket after 40 years of “democracy” and all their debts have in fact been heaped on them through German led austerity measures – the initial deficit was in the tens of billions and could easily have been forgiven in the present climate, but the Germans wanted to save their Euro at ClubMed expense – now the debt is in the hundreds of billions there is no way of ever paying, so it is clear that that is what the German plan is in any case.

    Could you perhaps confirm what I believe is true, i.e. that Greece can be made to leave the Euro, but there is no legal way for them to kick Greece completely out of the EU without a full renegotiation of the founding treaty?

    1. Esther says:

      Don’t let the facts get in the way of comforting story. Parties and political leaders in Greece calling themselves “Socialsts” have exercised plent of power over recent decades. As a result whole business sectors remain as nationalised as they would have been in pre-Thatcher’s UK. Also, as a further result, for example, they have allowed a very generously overstaffed the public sector, with unaffordable early-age pension arrangements to persist.
      The corruption in Greece seems to run right through it. The men working the docks, for example, would be taking back-handers and your taxi driver is quite likely to try to cheat you. If only it was just the rich that were corrupt.

      1. David says:

        Esther,
        The situation is so complicated that you can draw so many conclusions and they would all be true enough to stand.
        However, The corruption at all levels, the dockers the cabbies, the doctors was all allowed and nurtured. The cushy pensions and the tenured positions in the public sector. The teachers who have little obligation to teach, the layer apon layer of creaming off the top of public works. It was currency for the leading parties, driven by oligarchy of political and industrial dynasties. They needed everyone in collution, all hands dirty to retain their reign. Evangelos Venizelos, one-time leader of PASOK and minister of fat blokes famously said “We ate it together” the truth is that they traded crumbs for. Votes and a blind eye. You cannot govern innocents so you must dirty their hands too.
        What we are left with is an unholy mess and few equipped to clean it up and too many, too deeply invested in it remaining a mess while others on the outside use the simplified narrative to cover their own economic teenager’s bedroom.
        I hope that makes things clearer.

      2. David says:

        Paul, I’ve followed your coverage of this situation and caught your appearance on Greek TV. You have managed to capture what few have done; dealing with the big picture, while remaining sensitive to the little one.

        The situation is so complicated that you can draw so many conclusions and they would all be true enough to stand. I have lived here for 15 years and still have not fully understood them, my British outlook clouds my judgement as much as being friends with them biases my opinion. Are Greeks lazy, spoilt libertines? No, but they do zealously guard their right to live, yes. Do they avoid paying taxes? Yes, but they pay double for many public services.

        The corruption at all levels, the dockers the cabbies, the doctors was all allowed and nurtured. The cushy pensions and the tenured positions in the public sector. The teachers who have little obligation to teach, the layer upon layer of creaming off the top of public works. It was currency for the leading parties, driven by an oligarchy of political and industrial dynasties. They needed everyone in collusion, all hands dirty to retain their reign. Evangelos Venizelos, leader of PASOK and one-time minister of foreign affairs and finance famously said “We ate it together” the truth is that they traded crumbs for votes and a blind eye. You cannot govern innocents so you must dirty their hands too.

        What we are left with is an unholy mess and few equipped to clean it up and too many, too deeply invested in it remaining a mess while others on the outside use the simplified narrative to cover their own economic teenager’s bedroom.

        At the end of the day, this is a story of people and the buck cannot stop at the bottom. Tsipras has made some headway but there is still a long way to go. The Eurogroup needs to put its prejudices aside and help with the cleaning instead of sand-blasting a nation filled with people like you and me.

        For anyone interested here is my first impressions nearly 20 years ago http://www.acropof.com/2010/07/what-is-greece.html

  3. Pablo Prendergast says:

    Thank you Paul, that was a really cool explanation of events. I’ve been very interested in the Greek imbroglio for a while now and believe a forced Greek exit will have enormous economic effects not only on the EU but Britain too. It’s a relief to get an expert account of what’s happening

  4. mainman says:

    Id guess reason for not restructuring greek loans is to ensure that greece is modernised into a country that starts to pay its way rshter than the problem case.

    The EZ isnt interested in any ideas the Syriza may have to change how the EZ is structured, if Greece were a model example of hw to run an economy then maybe but you dont give control of household budget to the prodigal son; especially with the manifesto pledges of Syriza.

    How can anyone listen to Syriza and its advisors offer, when there detailed plans are little more than a collection of election slogans that fit on the back of a fag packet.

    I think Greece will be out the EZ, the greek people will be landed with the drachma which will devalue 50% or more on the first day and Greek people will be far worse off than if they had taken the troika medicine.

  5. Heim says:

    Incisive article, as always.

    But to my pair of Nordic eyes, a stereotypical Anglo Saxon pragmatism runs through it, which I expect most readers will think is a compliment.

    However, shall we have a Transfer Union of the honest to the dishonest, from the people’s who retire late to the ones that retire early? It will not happen.

    There is a moral hazard perspective which to my mind trumps the wish to minimise short term problems and undoubted suffering.

    Incidentally, I think your remark about the German WW2 allies was uncalled for and inaccurate. Do you mean Finland? They were co-belligerents of Germany after they suffered an unprovoked attack by the Soviet Union. Do you mean Spain? WW2 has nothing to do with this crisis.

    If a Greek government gets to within a few percentage points of a budget surplus, the electorate replaces that government.

    And, I am not sure the Greek economy actually has shrunk, since I believe that choosing a reference time point after protracted period of massive artificial stimuli of private and public debt is creates a false comparison. We should at least pay some attention to shape and size of the Greek economy back in the Drachma days.

    And those days look likely to return. And so they should.

  6. Tim Jones says:

    “Germany and a group of it historic allies going back to world war….” What does that mean?

  7. Dennis says:

    Great article, don’t really understand all the economics but if Greece are kicked out of the Euro can they use it as a currency & can they still trade within the Euro zone ?

  8. Lluis says:

    Thank you for a really interesting analysis of what’s going on.

    I am particularly interested in “Euclid Tsakalotos addressed MPs at Westminster last month” and the remarks about “the experience of the British and French left in the 1980s with what he called the “dead end” of national economic solutions”.

    Paul (or anybody else), are you aware if Tsakalotos’ speech is available online (written, audio, or video) ? (or at least some of his remarks)

    Thanks again.

  9. Henry Hall says:

    That is correct, there is no mechanism to eject a country from the Eurozone if it does not wish to leave.
    One country with two currencies is a real possibility. It is already the case in Donetsk Narodny Republic. For example, Euros and Rubles circulating side by side is very feasible.

  10. GlennB says:

    Superb article, sympathetic and understanding of the complexities of the situation. Thank you.

  11. humourme says:

    Syriza isnt clean. They are at this moment trying to rehire all the people fired by the last government. Syriza are in power because they inherited the block vote of the PASOK supporters who were given jobs in government. Tsipras promoted his own cousin to be SG at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They’ve made no attempt to go after the oligarchs. If they really wanted to go after corruption there would be a clean sweep of the various ministries, instead all we see are a few new Syriza placemen.

    The reason why the rest of Europe doesnt trust the rabble is that all the actions of Syriza have been in line with Varoufakis’ aim to spend money and ask for more from the rest of the EU. So far legislation has been passed on multiple bills that are against the spirit of the Feb 20th agreement –

    Free electricity + food for the poor (at a massively understated 200mn Euro), which Syriza hasnt even bothered to include in their 26 page reform proposal because they claim it has been paid for with spending cuts (undocumented)

    The tax amnesty which will bring in short term revenues and damage incentives to pay in the future.

    (Both actions that they were asked not to do by the EU)

    They are in the process of rehiring the 2,000 ERT workers (described as fiscally neutral on the flimsiest of numbers) and another 4,000 people fired by the last government

    They have proposed a bill to ban bank auctions of houses that has been denounced by the ECB (it isnt clear if Syriza will still go ahead with this)

    Proposals to bring back the 13th month for pensions (against the previous agreement)

    refusal to implement cuts in pensions, delay pensions

    The Labour minister claiming a rises in the minimum wage of 10.18% in October and a further 10% next year. New collective bargaining arrangements.

    A suspension of privatisations (and while Varoufakis has promised action, nothing has actually occurred).

    In return the EU has been given a series of vague promises to raise one off revenues, utterly unrealists revenues and claims of huge tax hauls from some future clampdown. Since Syriza has delivered nothing on this front, whilst spending money their promises are not exactly hard currency.

    The reality is that Varoufakis has negotiated in bad faith. He has made promises and failed to keep to them. (“no unilateral actions”). Because he thinks he has democracy on his side.

    Unfortunately for him, Scheuble and the other EU finance ministers have democracy on their side too.

    This isnt to say that the Europeans are not culpable – the EU forced the Greeks to stay in in 2011 and arranged matters so that the Euro would remain intact and so that German and French banks could disentangle themselves from the PIIGS. But, if Syriza were allowed to get away with their idiotic anti-reformist plans (eg increase labour immobility, welfare payments) and just spend money, the pressure on the Southern periphery to spend more would become overwhelming. If that happened, the next crisis would see the Germans on the hook for far more. Which is why they have said “nein danke”.

    1. Sim says:

      A very good commentary on the realities of the Armani left – no real solutions just economic posturing as they smile for the camera and surf on with the tide of citizens desperation. No ties and borrowed coats, how stupid do they think people are.It’s an old-fashioned, opportunistic power grab. For the people of course.
      What is needed is a government of national unity with some of the key influencers Paul mentions ignoring their differences and working hard together for a Greece in Europe. Blame the Turks not the Germans for the culture of factions . As for reforming a culture of friends,favors and placemen Syrizia could always lead the way.

  12. Mike says:

    A query and a point of macro economics reality….

    I thought it had been reported recently that following the (‘shocking’ to Syriza) unreasonable unwilingness toward a fair compromise solution from EZ authorities, Greek polls have suggested a notable fall in desire to stay with the Euro (‘at any price’) has dropped to way less than 80%, perhaps much nearer 60% ?

    The simple, but empirically solid, Sector Balances macro analysis (a la MMT and others) tells that absent some highly unlikely surge in net export revenue, running a Gov sector surplus will only at best result in economic stagnation. Producing neither the counter cycle to the deprivation of ordinary Greeks, or any ability to service or pay down their Gov debt. Unsustainable on both counts, and not deserving of credibilty as economic policy.

    In short, austerity-lite is still doomed to failure, just as vanilla austerity, in Greece and in the Eurozone generally, regardless of a slightly extended period before the inevitable (euro) political/economic crisis that will finish it off.

    Syriza are right to be shocked. But how often, and in so many of societies institutions, are we seeing such shocking incompetence, and or lack of care, from figures in postions of power and authority?

    I see a crisis in fundamental democratic legitimacy that suggests, in reality, little progress has been made in the underlying structures of societal administration since the 19th century (or earlier) times made far less ‘PR’ driven pretense of any actual fiduciary duty toward the masses of ordinary citizens (much anywhere).

  13. Optymystic says:

    Still running WW2 and creating yet more instability in a region which has plenty of that without adding to the difficulties of Greece. Angela needs to display more imagination.

  14. VN GELIS says:

    Greece has left the Euro so many times I have lost count. First it was 25th January with the election of Syriza, then in February, then in March then in April (twice), let alone throughout the last five years.
    When the Euro implodes it won’t happen with a date and an hour set by anyone. Media is playing up default for the hedge funds involved in currency trading… It will happen then we will hear about it.

    Syriza is a circus act in need of a game master. It says anything and does whatever. It gave the cleaners their jobs back but they were out demonstrating for not having received them. It was against illegal mining but sent the riot police out against protectors. It was going to house and feed all illegals arriving in Greece and issue them with travel permits to move into the rest of the Eurozone but now one immigration minister says what’s wrong with refugees sleeping in Athenian squares as they are all sunning themselves.

  15. K.Parlavantzas says:

    This concept of staying in the EURO at all costs is definitely not true. If the Greeks were prepared to take all cost for what is apparently not good for them would not have voted for SYRIZA but would have persisted with the previous government. The Greeks and I am one of them are definitely not in the EURO at “all costs”.

  16. Benjamin Zimmerfield says:

    Mr Mason you are mentioning a “second currency.” Who is talking of a “second currency”? To my knowledge, neither Varoufakis nor anyone has made any public announcement of the kind, except for the Telegraph two weeks ago and some Russian newspaper citing Goldman Saks. So whose plan is this? (This is a question to you, I remember quite clearly a report by the Fed re a parallel currency dating back to 2010). A second parallel currency would be the final disaster for Greece, and a vengeful solution on behalf of creditors. Unlike the 80% you mention which stems from unreliable commissioned polls within Greece, according to Gallup poll international (12/2014) 52% Greeks want “a return to the national currency”. It is indeed exhausting to hear or talk about Greece… But speaking of a “second currency” and not openly allow, even on a debate level the potentiality of a sovereign national currency which is indeed in most people’s movements debates which you otherwise mention, is even more exhausting. Having followed you, I consider your intentions to be good. But please do not contribute, even indirectly, to this suffocation, and TALK about it. This is ALL the movements talk about. Should we return to a sovereign national currency. Increasingly the answer is a sound YES.

  17. Simon says:

    “Germany and a group of it historic allies going back to world war two block progress, either in the ECB or Eurogroup” that is a truly disgusting thing to say Mr. Mason. What are you suggesting that Germany is being run by Nazis, you should be fired from Channel Four news for comments like that. Germany is trying to hold the Euro project together to avoid total chaos and you suggesting that they are all Nazis is borderline racism that Channel Four should not tolerate. Shame on you. What the hell has got into you? Articles in the Guardian comparing German and Greek contributions to western civilisation!! “I went to a music school and listened to Brahms” Articles that encourage people to link through to videos made by Greeks about the Nazi occupation in the 1940’s. These are cheap nationalistic pot shots, you should know better. This is an argument between creditor countries and debtor countries, you want to bring it down to national charactures. You have long since lost any sense of journalistic impartiality on this subject. May I remind you that Channel Four receives state money therefore you have a duty to be neutral. I partly pay your wages so I ask that you report the news fairly and show two sides to a story. Is that too much to ask? If you don’t mind me saying so you seem a very angry almost bitter person, would you not be better off writing for a newspaper or weekly magazine to vent your hatred? However until you head off into an angry corner somewhere, please stop plugging links to films you want to get made and books you want to sell. Staggeringly bad journalism flows from a bitter mind. “Germany and it’s war time allies” as my main example here … check your facts. The Netherlands for example is a key German partner now, was that a German partner in WW2? And lastly….take a minute, find some compassion and think of some other poorer countries other than Greece. Slovakia for example, you (yes… YOU Paul Mason) are asking the hard working people there to pay for Greek access. Why don’t you ever, ever think of the sheer unfairness of making ordinary hard working people in Northern Europe pay for the recklessness of Greece? You never mention it because you have an agenda. That’s fine but go and fine someone else to pay for your indulgences, not a public broadcaster.

  18. VN Gelis says:

    One of the biggest myths perpetrated by corporate banksters is that Greece with less than 2% of EU GDP was the most indebted and the most corrupt and that it’s debts were astronomic compared to EU debts as a whole (which are over €13trillion). The other myth is that the Greek bailout was about last feckless Greeks not corrupt French and German bankers who bought US property bonds that went belly up.

    However much they want to spin it Greece will bring down the Euro if forced into default or banksters bring down a Syriza govt by forcing it to act like the previous four parties that have governed since the 2010 bailout and IMF arrival. Syriza can only survive to the extent it delivers on its pre electoral policies.

  19. Michal Lipták says:

    RE: Simon

    Slovakia hasn’t paid anything to Greece. We gave guarantees through EFSF, but they will only be paid if Greece is unable to pay its debts. Pushing Greece to default – as ECB does right now – will ensure that we WILL pay Greek debts. Troika and German government, not SYRIZA, is currently doing everything it can to ensure that “hard-working people of Northern Europe” – and that, ironically, mainly includes German taxpayers – WILL repay the banks on behalf of Greece.

    And as Slovak I’m fed up with the constant use of Slovakia as kind of stick to beat Greeks. Yes, we are poorer than Greeks and we shut up nicely because that’s what we were taught to do. Rich countries may see this as virtue – that we go on with our 380 EUR of minimum wage and we don’t complain – and they may want to promote this virtue amongst other countries that could provide low-paid but qualified workforce. But that is as far as they would ever care about the well-being of Slovak working class – and that includes YOU, Simon. It’s extremely disgusting and offending that you even call this “compassion”. You don’t care in the slightest about poor and hard-working nations, you just have an agenda and you exploit the possibility of using Slovakia to further your argument.

    What Slovakia – and other poor countries – need is not that more countries in EU suffer so we don’t feel “out”. We need less suffering and more solidarity accross Europe if the union shall function.

  20. Mike Harland says:

    Simon obviously has an offensive nationalist rant to make in order to make the Germans appear holier than thou. He forgets that most of the rebuilding of Germany was done on the backs of migrant ‘ClubMed’ labour as I can vouch for, having been in Cuxhaven in 1973 and listened to all the voices coming out of the factories as Spanish Portuguese and Turkish.

    Journalistic opinions on blogs do not have to be ‘neutral’, merely fair, balanced and objective – few of the points raised by Simon offer anything of any real weight to undermine this or merit the bile that Simon hurls at him. No doubt, like me, it will all be water off a duck’s back. Talking like a troll does not make for a cogent argument that will be listened too, after all … not to mention misuse/mispelling of words.

    Thanks Simon for illustrating exactly what my original entry on ignorance was all about!

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