Sunday 31st of May 2020

greece's bleak future...

greece�s bleak future...

Endgame for the IMF-EU Feud over Greece's Debt

Greece hasn't been saved just yet - and the conflict between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Europe is sharpening. Greece's former Minister of Finance Yanis Varoufakis expects a showdown between IMF and Germany.

Even though talks now happen mostly behind the scenes: Negotiations about another bailout program for Greece have not come to an end. On Saturday, Wikileaks published the transcript of an internal International Monetary Fund (IMF) phone conference.

A discussion between high-ranking IMF officials reveals the bitter divide between the lenders - and how they're still far from reaching a sustainable solution for the financial crisis in Greece. Yanis Varoufakis, Greece's former Minister of Finance, sees parallels to the situation one year ago, when he was negotiating for credits with IMF, EU commission and Eurozone countries. In an op-ed for SPIEGEL ONLINE, he describes his fears of a showdown between Greece and its lenders this summer.

The feud between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European side of Greece's troika of creditors is old news. However, Wikileaks' publication of a dialogue between key IMF players suggests that we are approaching something of a hazardous endgame.

Ever since the first Greek 'bailout' program was signed, in May 2010, the IMF has been violating its own "primary directive": the obligation not to fund insolvent governments. As a result, the IMF's leadership has been facing a revolt from its staff members who demand an exit strategy arguing that, if the EU continues to obstruct the debt relief necessary to restore the solvency of the Greek government, the IMF should leave the Greek program.

Five years on, this IMF-EU impasse continues, causing a one-third collapse of Greek GDP and fuelling hopelessness to a degree that has made real reform harder than ever.

Back in February 2015, when I first met Poul Thomsen (the IMF's European chief) in a Paris hotel, a fortnight after assuming Greece's finance ministry, he appeared even keener than I was to press for a debt write off: "At a minimum", he told me "€54 billion of Greece's debt left over from the first 'bailout' should be written off immediately in exchange for serious reforms."

This was music to my ears, and made me keen to discuss what he meant by "serious reforms". It was a discussion that never got formally off the ground as Germany's finance minister vetoed all discussion on debt relief, debt swaps (which were my compromise proposal), indeed any significant change to the failed program.

What new light does the leaked dialogue between Thomsen and Delia Velculescu (the IMF's Greek mission chief) throw on this saga? It reveals the following state-of-play, as assessed by the IMF:


  • The EU Commission seeks another fudge to be agreed during the IMF's mid-April Spring Meetings that will allow European leaders to celebrate (again!) the end of the Greek crisis
  • The IMF will block this, unwilling to go along with yet another fudge that violates its no-lending-to-insolvent-governments directive
  • The Greek government is ready to capitulate on new austerity measures demanded by the IMF and amounting to between 2.5 percent and 3 percent of GDP, involving: (a) pension cuts, (b) reduction in income tax credits for the poor, (c) a shift of basic foodstuffs from the 11% to the 23% VAT band, and (d) salary cuts for many public sector workers
  • The Greek government is still holding out on these concessions because the Commission is offering Athens false promises of a 'softer' austerity package
  • The IMF is furious with the Commission, not for being 'kinder' to Greece but because the Commission's own "numbers" are pointing to even harsher future measures than the IMF's
  • The IMF regrets not having negotiated a common position with the Commission first, before the Commission started misleading the Greeks
  • To concentrate the Europeans' mind sufficiently to force them to come to a 'decision point', Greece 'must' come close to another catastrophic 'Event' (default to one of the troika lenders)
  • Because of the sensitive UK referendum, on 23rd June, the IMF predicts that its "hostilities" with the Commission will be suspended until July when, just like last July, the Greek "Event" will loom
  • At that point, in July, the IMF plans to corner Chancellor Merkel into choosing what costs her less politically: Continuing with the Greek program without the IMF? Or granting the Greek state substantial debt relief?
  • As long as Mrs Merkel chooses one of these two options, the IMF will be out of the woods: Either it will exit or the debt write-off will have rendered its Greek program consistent with its "primary directive".

To the uninitiated it looks as if the IMF-EU tussle is about some botched numbers. But the real issue behind them is deeply political and has ramifications well beyond Greece.

The IMF is right that the Commission's numbers do not add up and, thus, engender the insufferable hypocrisy of a Commission pretending to prefer "lighter" austerity when its denial of debt relief translates into a primary budget surplus target (total tax revenues minus government expenditure, exempting debt repayments) of 3.5 percent of Greek GDP which, in turn, requires measures even harsher than the IMF's.

The Commission's commitment to bad arithmetic is politically motivated: Making the numbers "add up" requires Mrs Merkel's admission that, in 2010, to gain her parliamentarians' consent to bailout funds that the insolvent Greek government would then pass onto the German and French banks, she made them a promise that could not be kept: that bankrupt Athens would pay every cent back and with interest! Such an admission today would be political poison for an already weakened Chancellor.

Are the IMF's numbers any better? Regarding the primary budget surplus target (a crucial number that must be kept under 1.5 percent of GDP to give Greece any chance of recovery) Thomsen and Velculescu embrace precisely the number that I was proposing to the troika last year.

Why then did the IMF not back me in 2015 but are adopting the same 1.5 percent surplus target now? Because they also wanted something that I would never grant: crushing new austerity which is inhuman and unnecessary but which, today, the Tsipras government (according to Velculescu) seems ready to accept, having already surrendered once in July 2015.

The IMF's austerity package is inhuman because it will destroy hundreds of thousands of small businesses, defund society's weakest, and turbocharge the humanitarian crisis. And it is unnecessary because meaningful growth is much more likely to return to Greece under our policy proposals to end austerity, target the oligarchy, and reform public administration (rather than attacking, again, the weak).

To give a monstrously exaggerated but terribly instructive parallel of the IMF's logic, if Greece is nuked tomorrow the economic crisis ends and its macroeconomic numbers are "fixed" as long as creditors accept a 100 percent haircut. But, if I am right that our numbers added up just as well, while allowing Greece to recover without further social decline, why did the IMF join Berlin to crush us in 2015?

For decades, whenever the IMF "visited" a struggling country, it promoted "reforms" that led to the demolition of small businesses and the proletarisation of middle-class professionals. Abandoning the template in Greece would be to confess to the possibility that decades of anti-social programs imposed globally might have been inhuman and unnecessary.

To recap, the Wikileaks revelations unveil an attrition war between a reasonably numerate villain (the IMF) and a chronic procrastinator (Berlin). We also know that the IMF is seriously considering bringing things to a head next July by dangling Greece once more over the abyss, exactly as in July 2015. Except that this time the purpose is to force the hand not of Alexis Tsipras, whose fresh acquiescence the IMF considers in the bag, but of the German Chancellor.

Will Christine Lagarde (the IMF's Managing Director with ambitions of a European political comeback) toe the line of her underlings? How will Chancellor Merkel react to the publication of these conversations? Might the protagonists' strategies change now that we have had a glimpse of them?

While pondering these questions, I cannot stem the torrent of sadness from the thought that last year, during our Athens Spring, Greece had weapons against the troika's organised incompetence that I was, alas, not allowed to use. The result is a Europe more deeply immersed in disrepute and a Greek people watching from the sidelines an ugly brawl darkening their already bleak future.


the greasy greece pole...

by Julian Assange

Today, 2nd April 2016, WikiLeaks publishes the records of a 19 March 2016 teleconference between the top two IMF officials in charge of managing the Greek debt crisis - Poul Thomsen, the head of the IMF's European Department, and Delia Velkouleskou, the IMF Mission Chief for Greece.  The IMF anticipates a possible Greek default co-inciding with the United Kingdom's referendum on whether it should leave the European Union ('Brexit').

"This is going to be a disaster" remarks Velkouleskou in the meeting.

According to the internal discussion, the IMF is planning to tell Germany that it will abandon the Troika (composed of the IMF, European Commission and the European Central Bank) if the IMF and the Commission fail to reach an agreement on Greek debt relief.

Thomsen: "Look you, Mrs. Merkel, you face a question: you have to think about what is more costly, to go ahead without the IMF--would the Bundestag say 'The IMF is not on board?', or [to] pick the debt relief that we think that Greece needs in order to keep us on board?"

Remaining in the Troika seems an increasingly hard sell internally for the IMF, because non-European IMF creditor countries view the IMF's position on Greece as a violation of its policies elsewhere of not making loans to countries with unsustainable debts.

In August the IMF announced it would not participate in last year's €86 billion Greek bailout, which was covered by EU member states. IMF Chief Christine Lagarde stated at the time that the IMF's future participation was contingent on Greece receiving "significant debt relief" from creditors. Lagarde announced that a team would be sent to Greece, headed by Velkouleskou.

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Greece has demanded an explanation from the IMF

Greece has demanded an explanation from the IMF over a leaked conversation in which top officials allegedly discuss the Greek bailout.

A transcript, published by Wikileaks, shows the officials discussing ways of putting pressure on Greece, Germany and the EU to get them to wrap up talks.

One of those quoted suggests a crisis "event" may be needed to force a conclusion.

Further negotiations between Athens and its lenders are due next week.

Last year Greece agreed a multi-billion dollar bailout with the EU and IMF that was needed for the country to avoid bankruptcy and stay in the eurozone.

Greek debt: What's the deal?

Debt jargon explained

The conversation on 19 March purportedly involves Poul Thomsen, head of the IMF's Europe department, and Delia Velculescu, leader of the IMF team in Greece, the senior officials in charge of Greece's debt crisis.

Mr Thomsen is quoted as complaining about the pace of talks on reforms Greece has agreed to carry out in exchange for the bailout.

"What is going to bring it all to a decision point?" he asks.

The cruel screws of austerity...

Greece, Still Paying for Europe’s Spite

ATHENS — After last summer, when the clash between Greece’s Syriza government and the insolvent state’s creditors ended, the world’s media moved on. Greece’s rebellion against the austerity measures imposed on it was snuffed out in July 2015 when Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras folded.

Greece’s disappearance from the financial headlines since then has been seen as a sign that its economy has stabilized. Sadly, it has not.

Lest we forget, Greece had by 2015 already endured years of austerity. By 2013, more than a third of Greeks were living below the poverty line. By 2014, government wages and pensions had been cut 12 times in four years.

In comparative terms, by the proportion of national income diverted to reducing budget deficits, Greece had absorbed austerity measures almost nine times the magnitude of those imposed in Italy and about three times Portugal’s. The result? Between 2009 and 2014, Italy’s economy grew by a paltry 2 percent and Portugal’s contracted by 1 percent; in the same period, Greece’s national income dwindled by a catastrophic 26.6 percent — about the same as for America in the depths of the Great Depression. The result was a humanitarian disaster only a 21st-century John Steinbeck could adequately describe.

Against this background, Greek voters elected my then party, Syriza, in January 2015 to negotiate an end to self-defeating austerity in exchange for serious reforms. With the state now living within its means, I strove, as the country’s new finance minister, to convince our European and institutional lenders that their interest and ours would best be served by reducing tax rates and avoiding further cuts to already much reduced pensions. As a compromise, I even promised a “deficit brake” — automatic tax hikes that would kick in if government revenues did not pick up within an agreed period.

My pleas fell on deaf ears, and I resigned. Greece’s creditors insisted instead on even higher sales taxes, as well as new cuts in pensions and wages. The Greek government’s capitulation to the creditors even involved a preposterous obligation that all Greek companies should pay, immediately and in full, their estimated tax for the next year. The cruel screw of austerity turned again.

Once the new measures were implemented, incomes in Greece, which had picked up slightly while we put austerity on hold, began to fall again. The bank closures that were forced by Greece’s creditors to make our government yield, and the new austerity that followed, revived the recession. This increased the number of nonperforming loans on banks’ balance sheets — an astounding 45 percent of all loans — with the effect of denying credit to potentially profitable export-oriented firms. In 2014, close to half of Greek families had no adult in employment, while the cuts in public spending mean that for the past two years less than 10 percent of the jobless receive any unemployment benefit.

Behind the grim numbers, an ugly reality looms, one that gets uglier by the day. Small businesses have been crushed by punitive taxes, and a wave of home foreclosures is on the horizon. Greece’s hospitals are running out of basic necessities, while our universities cannot even afford to provide toilet paper in their restrooms. In Athens these days, only the soup kitchens are flourishing.

Amid this endless suffering, have any lessons been learned? It seems not.

Greece’s economic misery seemed set to provoke a new standoff recently — except that, this time, it was between the International Monetary Fund and the European Union’s Brussels-Berlin nexus. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany is reluctant to confess to the Bundestag that Greece’s bailout loans were always unsustainable. To maintain the fantasy that they will be repaid as planned under the terms of last year’s deal, Berlin has insisted on setting a ludicrous target for Greece’s budget surplus. (That target is 3.5 percent of gross domestic product every year starting in 2018 — roughly equivalent, as a percentage of G.D.P., to America’s military budget, but in Greece’s case, purely to service its foreign debt.)

The German condition amounts to imposing permanently escalating austerity on Greece. The I.M.F. protested, correctly, that there was no level of austerity that could achieve this target.

In past weeks, there were indications that the fund was ready to insist on debt relief for Greece, allowing a lower budget surplus target and therefore less austerity. Unfortunately, last week’s meeting of the so-called Eurogroup — an informal body of eurozone finance ministers together with officials from the European Central Bank and the I.M.F. — dashed these hopes. With the I.M.F.’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, notably absent, her stand-in capitulated to the Brussels-Berlin axis, postponing any debt relief until 2018 at the earliest.

Earlier this month, Athens had obediently introduced a fresh round of tax increases and pension cuts — the sales tax in Greece now stands at 24 percent. The I.M.F.’s view is that these measures will fail to attain the impossible surplus target. The fund is right about that, but the new solution it has condoned is as bizarre as it is counterproductive.

Instead of reducing the surplus target, the I.M.F.’s representative at the Eurogroup meeting, Poul M. Thomsen, consented to the extraordinary decision to retrieve from the trash basket of last year’s negotiations the deficit brake that I had proposed in exchange for an end to austerity. The idea is that if the 3.5 percent surplus target is missed — and it will be — then new tax increases and spending cuts will kick in automatically. So, the very instrument that I had proposed as a substitute for austerity will now become its supplement. The mechanism will merely intensify Greece’s austerity-driven recession.

Reason demands an end to this loop of doom. What Greece needs is a realistic restructuring of its debt and a primary surplus target of no more than 1.5 percent of national income. The government should also continue with reforms that target oligopolies in areas of the economy like supermarkets and the energy sector, as well as inefficiency and corruption in public administration.

Instead, the odd principle of imposing the greatest austerity for Europe’s most depressed economy lives on, spreading new misery through Greece and needlessly holding back recovery in Europe’s monetary union.

Yanis Varoufakis, a former finance minister of Greece, is a professor of economics at the University of Athens.

why do a bad job when you can do a worse one?...

Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has described the measures taken by the EU to settle the economic crisis in Greece as a “terrible job.” The comment comes as Greece agrees to new reforms that are set to help the country qualify for cheaper loans.

“Isn’t it yet another piece of evidence that the European Union is particularly good at doing a terrible job, but handling what should be a very manageable crisis,” Varoufakis told CNN on Tuesday.

He noted that, in fact, the goals set for Athens are nearly impossible to reach. “The people at the IMF [International Monetary Fund]… told us that the Greek debt is unsustainable and the austerity that is being [imposed] upon Greece is catastrophic for the program itself.”

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left fantasies down the S-bend of capitalism...

Yanis Varoufakis once bought me a gin and tonic. His wife once gave me a cup of tea. While dodging my questions, as finance ministers are obliged to, he never once told me an outright lie. And I’ve hosted him at two all-ticketed events. I list these transactions because of what I am about to say: that Varoufakis has written one of the greatest political memoirs of all time. It stands alongside Alan Clark’s for frankness, Denis Healey’s for attacks on former allies, and – as a manual for exploring the perils of statecraft – will probably gain the same stature as Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon B Johnson.

Yet Varoufakis’s account of the crisis that has scarred Greece between 2010 and today also stands in a category of its own: it is the inside story of high politics told by an outsider. Varoufakis began on the outside – both of elite politics and the Greek far left – swerved to the inside, and then abruptly abandoned it, after he was sacked by his former ally, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras, in July 2015. He dramatises his intent throughout the crisis with a telling anecdote. He’s in Washington for a meeting with Larry Summers, the former US treasury secretary and Obama confidant. Summers asks him point blank: do you want to be on the inside or the outside? “Outsiders prioritise their freedom to speak their version of the truth. The price is that they are ignored by the insiders, who make the important decisions,” Summers warns.

Elected politicians have little power; Wall Street and a network of hedge funds, billionaires and media owners have the real power, and the art of being in politics is to recognise this as a fact of life and achieve what you can without disrupting the system. That was the offer. Varoufakis not only rejected it – by describing it in frank detail now, he is arming us against the stupidity of the left’s occasional fantasies that the system built by neoliberalism can somehow bend or compromise to our desire for social justice.

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a new deal for the 21st century ...



Yanis Varoufakis



ATHENS — The recent elections in France and Britain have confirmed the political establishment’s simultaneous vulnerability and vigor in the face of a nationalist insurgency. This contradiction is the motif of the moment — personified by the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, whose résumé made him a darling of the elites but who rode a wave of anti-establishment enthusiasm to power.

A similar paradox is visible in Britain in the surprising electoral success of the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, in depriving Theresa May’s Conservatives of an outright governing majority — not least because the resulting hung Parliament seemingly gives the establishment some hope of a change in approach from Mrs. May’s initial recalcitrant stance toward theEuropean Union on the Brexit negotiations that have just begun.

Outsiders are having a field day almost everywhere in the West — not necessarily in a manner that weakens the insiders, but neither also in a way that helps consolidate the insiders’ position. The result is a situation in which the political establishment’s once unassailable authority has died, but before any credible replacement has been born. The cloud of uncertainty and volatility that envelops us today is the product of this gap.

For too long, the political establishment in the West saw no threat on the horizon to its political monopoly. Just as with asset markets, in which price stability begets instability by encouraging excessive risk-taking, so, too, in Western politics the insiders took absurd risks, convinced that outsiders were never a real threat.

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Continue reading the main story

One example of the establishment’s recklessness was releasing the financial sector from the restrictions that the New Deal and the postwar Bretton Woods agreement had imposed upon financiers to prevent them from repeating the damage seen with the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. Another was building a system of world trade and credit that depended on the booming United States trade deficit to stabilize global aggregate demand. It is a measure of the sheer hubris of the Western establishment that it portrayed these steps as “riskless.”


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When the ensuing financialization of Western economies led to the great financial crisis of 2007-8, leaders on both sides of the Atlantic showed no compunction about practicing welfare socialism for bankers. Meanwhile, more vulnerable citizens were abandoned to the mercy of unfettered markets, which saw them as too expensive to hire at a decent wage and too indebted to court otherwise.

When the insiders’ rescue schemes — including quantitative easing, the buying up of toxic assets, the eurozone’s bailouts and temporary nationalizations of banks — succeeded in refloating banks and asset prices, they also left whole regions in the United States, and whole countries on Europe’s periphery, stagnant. It was not rising inequality that provoked undying anger among these discarded people. It was the loss of dignity, of the dream of social mobility, as well as the experience of living in communities that were leveled down, so that a majority of people were increasingly equal but equally miserable.

As more and more voters became mad as hell, governing parties lost elections between 2008 and 2012 in the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece and elsewhere. The problem was that the incoming administrations were as much part of the establishment as the outgoing ones. And so they made bipartisan the very approach that had caused the wave of anger that carried them into office.


That approach was doomed, not least because economic forces were already working against the new governments. After the 2008 crash, the monetary easing by central bank institutions like the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England fended off a global repeat of the Great Depression. China’s unleashing of a huge credit-fueled construction boom, which saw investment rise to 48 percent of national income in 2010, from 42 percent in 2007, and total credit climb to 220 percent of national income by 2014, from 130 percent in 2007, also softened the financial market failures of the West.

Unsurprisingly, though, these central bank money-creation schemes and the Chinese credit bubble proved unable to prevent severe regional depressions, which struck from Detroit to Athens. Nor could they prevent sharp global deflation from 2012 to 2015.

By 2014, voters had begun to give up on the new administrations they had voted for after 2008 in the false hope that the establishment’s loyal opposition could provide new solutions. Thus, 2015 saw the first challenges to the insiders’ authority start to surface.

In Greece — a small country, yet one that has proved to be a bellwether thanks to its gargantuan and systemically significant debt — protests against the debt bondage imposed on the population evolved into a progressive, internationalist coalition led by the Syriza party that came from nowhere to win government. In Spain, a similar movement, Podemos, began to rise in the polls, threatening to do the same.

In Britain, a left-wing internationalist tendency that had been marginal in the Labour Party coalesced around the leadership campaign of Jeremy Corbyn — and surprised itself by winning. Soon after, the independent socialist senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, carried the same spirit into the Democratic Party primaries.

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still fighting the deep states...




My Battle With the European and American Deep Establishment 

By Yanis Varoufakis 

550 pp. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $28.

In 2010, Greece was insolvent. The profligacy of Greek governments and the staggering laxity of lenders after the country joined the European common currency in 2001 had left it with huge debts that, in the aftermath of a global recession, it could no longer afford to service. Countries in such straits usually go through ad hoc bankruptcies known as sovereign debt crises, in which the currency is devalued and debts defaulted upon and/or written down. These can be messy, but they do at least allow for fresh starts.

Short of leaving the euro, a move with no precedent or procedure and a high risk of cascading chaos, this was not an option for Greece. So in May 2010, the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund stepped in with what was characterized as a 110 billion euro ($146 billion at the time) bailout.

It wasn’t so much a bailout of Greece, though, as of its lenders, notably the struggling big banks of France and Germany. Greece still owed an impossible amount of money, only now its main creditors were the “troika” of E.C., E.C.B. and I.M.F., which went on to impose harsh austerity measures. That austerity accelerated Greece’s economic decline, making repayment of its debts even less likely. More bailouts that weren’t exactly bailouts followed.

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the european-realistic-disobedience-front launch...

Yanis Varoufakis is back. He, of course, would say he never went away, but in Greece’s hurly-burly world of politics his is a name prone to triggering toxic reaction.

Abroad, the shaven-headed economist is feted as the man who took on Europe’s establishment. At home, the former finance minister is seen, on both left and right, as a reckless incarnation of all that was wrong with Greece at the height of its struggle to remain in the eurozone. In Athens and Brussels, his confrontational style is still blamed for the price the debt-stricken country had to pay to be bailed out in the summer of 2015.

Although his resignation now seems a long time ago, the sight of Varoufakis launching his own party in Greece has unleashed emotions that have run the gamut from enthusiasm to anger and disdain. Media reaction has been cool; so, too, has that of politicians. None of which seems to bother him in the least.

“Nobody believes the systemic media in Greece, and they’re all bankrupt,” he told the Observer with typical defiance, days after announcing his new venture in a packed Athens theatre. “To those who say I cost the country, and I’ve heard €30bn, €86bn, €100bn and even €200bn… I say I cost exactly zero. The troika [of creditors] cost Greece two generations and continue to impose cost.”


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yanis and bernie united...

Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he and US Senator Bernie Sanders will in a month formally launch a left-wing counterpart to the nationalist movement being forged by Steve Bannon.

A Sanders-Varoufakis team-up was suggested in an recent op-ed by the Greek economist published by the Guardian. The formal creation of Progressives International is to happen in Sanders’ home state of Vemont on November 30, Varoufakis announced during a press conference in Rome on Friday.


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inspecting the desert she made...

Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis slammed German Chancellor Angela Merkel, ahead of a two-day visit by Merkel to the austerity-stricken country.

“Mrs Merkel is in Greece to inspect the desert she made and to call it... recovery,” Varoufakis tweeted on Thursday. “Ironically, her Greek triumph unleashed deflationary forces that hit Germany (eg -ve interest rates) and wrecked her career. Never before has a German Chancellor wasted so much political capital.”

Merkel’s visit to Greece is her first since 2014, and the first since left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took office in 2015. Before arriving on Thursday, Merkel said that Greece can “continue to count on its partnership and friendship with Germany.”

For many Greeks, the feeling is not mutual. With the country’s economy in tatters after the 2008 financial crisis, German-led austerity measures saw the country’s GDP shrink by a third, left one in three Greeks in danger of living in poverty, and saw unemployment rise to 18.6 percent – the highest in the Eurozone.

Meanwhile, German banks made €2.9 billion in profit from purchasing Greek government bonds through the European Central Bank. Greece exited the European assistance program last year, but will face another decade at least of austerity budgets and onerous economic reforms.

Merkel is expected to congratulate Tsipras’ government on exiting the bailout program, and urge his government to stay the course with the reforms when the pair meet on Thursday. The two leaders are also expected to discuss a deal between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that would change the country’s name to the Republic of North Macedonia.

The issue of reparations for Greek victims of Nazi occupation may also be discussed, according to reports.

Left-wing groups have planned street protests to greet Merkel. The police presence in Athens has been stepped up and public gatherings in the city center have been banned.


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Yánis Varoufákis, la fin de l'Europe et de l'Euro ? [EN DIRECT]


In English:

lack of compromise...

One of the problems seen by some people with Yanis Varoufakis is his lack of "diplomacy". We are often reminded that politics is the art of compromise... This "art of compromise" is the slowly exploding grenade that is destroying the Labour Party in the UK. Those of the Party who speak clearly and frankly about issues, get ousted and shot for saying what should be considered as the "sensible" truth or position. 

The success of Trump is his lack of compromise though he will compromise with himself to muddy the waters and confuse the punters. It's a tactic not a deficiency. He's still President, isn't he? And according to Michael Cohen, he won't leave quietly should he lose the 2020 elections. Some people on the "left", believe what Cohen says on this issue and already start to talk of a US Civil War. This won't happen. Should he lose, Trump will collect his pens and pencils from the White House, and leave the smouldering remains of GOP for the Republican to fix, while booking himself for a few games of golf overseas with professional ball pushers... 

In regard to Yanis Varoufakis, compromise is not an option because your opponents have a gun to your head and whatever you do, compromise or not, they will shoot. This what he had to deal with, when trying to rescue the Greek economy from the clutches of the Europeans, after Greece had been shafted by illegal American loans. 

The art of politics in this situation is complicated... Yanis did not have the time to unravel the messy knots. His position was very similar to our own Whitlam, the good old revolutionary who gave us Medicare and free University education. I still blame him for this latter policy as it lead to the rise and power of the imbecilic but determined Tony Abbott

the troika records leaked....

The former finance minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, has released a cache of audio files, secretly recorded in 2015 during the bailout talks with the Eurogroup – a powerful group of eurozone’s finance chiefs.

The recordings and their transcripts were released by Varoufakis on the website of his ‘pan-European’ DiEM25 party on Saturday. The files –dubbed ‘Euroleaks’– were recorded between February and July 2015, when cash-strapped Athens was entangled in painful talks with its creditors.

In 2015, Varoufakis was the chief negotiator for then-ruling Syriza party, dealing with the Eurogroup and those behind it – the so-called ‘troika.’ It comprises the three main lenders of the eurozone nations – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

While the Eurogroup is de-jure an informal group, it is actually a powerful decision-making institute that lacks accountability and transparency – and does not keep any records. The main goal in releasing the recordings is to shed light on its secretive activities, Varoufakis said in a video announcing the Euroleaks.

The Eurogroup’s three does not keep minutes, the European Union Council is still shrouded in total opacity. It’s about time we change that.

The lenders took a tough, ‘take it or leave it’ stance on Greece, effectively presenting it with an ultimatum. At the same time, they blamed Greek negotiators for stalled talks – and no records were available to prove them wrong.

“You will hear the [then-]president of the Eurogroup [Jeroen Dijsselbloem] and other ministers warn me that if I dare table written proposals within the Eurogroup meetings, that would be the end of the negotiations,” Varoufakis said. “At the very same time they were leaking to the press that I was arriving at Eurogroup meetings without any proposals.”


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