Eureporter 3 July 2015
EU Reporter Correspondent | July 3, 2015 | 0 Comments
Sitting in Athens airport the wifi access is fast, free for an hour and much less complicated than most other airports in Europe. Once again the paradox of Greece where so much is better than elsewhere and so much infinitely worse than the rest of the EU.
Clichés about Greek drama and tragedy abound and at times it is hard to keep up. Greece’s flamboyant Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, famed for his bling poses in Paris Match, and roaring up to his ministry on a motor-bike stunned Greece yesterday by announcing he would resign if the nation voted Yes in Sunday’s referendum.
Then the IMF dropped its own bombshell. It conceded 50 per cent of Greece’s case by saying that the nation’s debt was unsustainable and needed to be written off or pushed back for payment to the famous Greek Kalends – i.e. never.
That point has been made in recent years by every serious economist, right, left, with or without a Nobel prize. Read top UK economist Vicky Pryce’ Greekonomics (2013) or Greek journalist Yannis Paliaologos’s The 13th Labour of Hercules (2014) for all the arguments.
The only people to deny this self-evidence truth have been the finance ministers of the eurozone.
The IMF has now made clear they need to revisit their ideology. Through the IMF one can discern the hand of the White House as well as the personal ambitions of Christine Lagarde who is looking for a second term as IMF boss which requires US endorsement.
Washington looks at the southern Mediterranean flank of the EuroAtlantic world and sees its weakest link. There are Greek islands barely a drone’s fight from Islamic state militants and with the eastern and north African Mediterranean coastal states aflame with violence, terror, as well as a new Perso-Arab, Shia-Sunni war and through which scores of thousands of unwanted refugees and economic migrants flow to angry anti-migrant EU states the idea of expelling Greece is every geo-political planners nightmare.
Hence the new message from Washington via the IMF to dump the debt. But that does not avoid the need for serious deep reform in Greece, also outlined in the Pryce and Paliaologos books and something that the new Greek government refuses to embark on.
Instead it has reverted to the worst of the clientalism of its predecessors, roaring out pro-government propaganda via the resurrected ERT state TV channel which was closed down for sheer inefficiency and pay-roll padding.
Visitors to hospitals have been surprised to see notices up on the walls as they wait for appointments instructing them to vote Ohi – ‘No’.
This is the most shameless stunt referendum called in European history and the Council of Europe with its European Court of Human Rights has said it does not meet any of the criteria for a fair, democratic referendum.
If the Greek Supreme Court had integrity it would cancel the referendum which defies all democratic norms. In a week far from Athens in up-country Greece it was impossible to find no-one who really know what the referendum is about.
It belong to the kind of votes one sees at university students’ union gatherings and indeed it is in student politics that Syriza leader, Alexis Tsipras made his political name. The pro-‘Yes’ oligarch-owned TV stations are pumping out anti-Syriza propaganda and former Greek prime ministers are telling everyone should vote ‘Yes’.
If they had any self-awareness they might ask who was in charge when Greece lied, lied and lied again about its public finances and refused the most modest reforms, notably on tax collection, public sector payroll padding, bloated military budgets, or asking priests and oligarchs who pay nothing to their nation to match their prayers and profits with a little payment of taxes.
Being in Greek politics means never having to say sorry.
The rest of Europe is fed up with the insults from the Greek prime minister who treats his fellow EU leaders – each with as much democratic mandate as he claims – with a contempt like an angry Arab throwing his shoe at politicians he dislikes.
A No vote will grease the slipway to Grexit from the Eurozone and possibly the EU. A Yes vote and finding more able compromise-ready negotiators than Professor Varoufakis combined with a start point of the IMF debt write-off opens the possibility to Greece staying in Europe. Varoufakis has made every mistake in the Brussels playbook and the quality of his outside technical advice is lamentable. There are plenty of Brussels insiders ready to help Greece and a post-referendum negotiating strategy should use their abilities.
But it will require a new politics that is post-Pasok, post-New Democracy and post-Syriza to emerge before the corrupt clientalism and loud-mouthery of Greek traditional politics can be replaced by European modernity.