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One Year Since the Bailout: How Syriza Betrayed Greece

Why Grexit was perfectly possible and how Tsipras and Syriza blocked it.

Alexander Mercouris

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One year ago the Greek people voted in a referendum to reject the draconian proposals the EU demanded as its price for bailing out Greece. 

To everyone’s astonishment, having rejected the EU’s proposals and won the support of the Greek people in the referendum, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras immediately after the referendum carried out a complete U turn, and accepted on behalf of Greece bailout proposals which were even harsher than those he and the Greek people had previously rejected.

Greece has been saddled with this bailout plan ever since.  It is one the IMF thinks is unworkable and which no big name economist believes in.  Latest information suggests Greece is once again slipping back into recession.

How did this disaster come about?  Exactly a year ago I dissected the negotiations and showed that Tsipras and his Finance Minister Varoufakis (who does not deserve the cult status he has achieved) bear the main responsibility, and that Grexit (ie. Greece’s orderly negotiated withdrawal from the Eurozone) together with a debt restructuring was a fully viable option.  

Here is what I wrote then:    

———————————

Ever since the latest bailout agreement misinformation to justify it has been pouring out of Greece.  Much of this centres on the supposed impracticability of a Grexit and of the “revolutionary” nature of the plans certain individuals hatched to achieve it.  Varoufakis has claimed authorship of some of these plans. Others are attributed to the former Energy Minister and leader of Syriza’s Left Platform, Panagiotis Lafatzanis.

Varoufakis’s plan, which he claims to have presented to Tsipras at the last moment as the referendum results were coming in, was for the Greek government to start handing out electronic IOUs in place of a currency. This would have been accompanied by capital controls, the nationalisation of the banks and the seizure of the government’s revenue office and of the Bank of Greece.  Varoufakis claims that this plan was prepared by the five man group based within the Finance Ministry he set up back in February. Apparently this group carried out its work in total secrecy and – in a bizarre twist – even hacked into the Finance Ministry’s own computers in order to prepare its plans.

Meanwhile the Financial Times has published a lurid account of a semi-secret meeting arranged by Lafatzanis and Syriza’ s Left Platform in an Athens hotel, where there was supposedly wild talk of arresting the governor of the Bank of Greece and of seizing the hoard of euros supposedly stashed away in the Athens mint in order to keep the economy going and to pay for essential imports until a new currency was set up.

No doubt in the desperate situation caused by the Syriza government’s failure to undertake proper and timely preparations for a Grexit all sorts of wild ideas were in circulation.  Not all these ideas were however wild. It is constantly overlooked that because the Greek banks were bailed out by the Greek government in 2008 (a major reason why its debt burden became so catastrophically and insupportably high) they are already 80% state owned. “Nationalising” the banks would not therefore have been an act of revolutionary confiscation or appropriation of private property. It would have simply meant the state taking operational control of the banks by replacing their managements by new managements appointed by and accountable directly to the government.

Implementing extreme steps such as seizing the Bank of Greece and the mint and issuing IOUs would nonetheless have provoked a major crisis in Greece. The economy would have been thrown into turmoil, with much of the population and the business community refusing to accept the IOUs of a bankrupt government as a credible substitute for actual money.  Acting in such a way would also have completely antagonised the EU leaders, who would have been bound to construe such steps as a declaration of economic war.  They would undoubtedly have responded by suspending the Greek government’s participation in the EU’s central institutions on the grounds that it was in breach of the fundamental provisions of Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union.

Putting all that aside, what no one has explained is why any of these schemes were necessary.

Implicit in Varoufakis’s various “plans” and in the scheme the Financial Times attributes to Lafatzanis is the strange idea that preparing a new currency was something that needed to be done in secret and which would have had to be improvised at the last moment.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Far from the introduction of a new currency being something that would have been resisted across Greece and Europe, we know it would have had the backing of the Bundesbank, of the German Finance Ministry, of Wolfgang Schauble and of the IMF.

According to the British writer Tariq Ali, as long ago as February Schauble was offering Varoufakis 50 billion euros and help with an orderly Grexit. Tariq Ali describes the offer in this way:

“It is now known that Schäuble offered an amicable, organised Grexit and a cheque for 50 billion euros. This was refused on the grounds that it would seem to be a capitulation. This is bizarre logic. It would have preserved Greek sovereignty, and if Syriza had taken charge of the Greek banking system a recovery could have been planned on its terms. The offer was repeated later. ‘How much do you want to leave the Eurozone?’ Schäuble asked Varoufakis just before the referendum. Again Schäuble was snubbed. Of course the Germans made the offer for their own reasons, but a planned Grexit would have been far better for Greece than what has happened.”

No one in Greece is denying this story and in fact I am told it is true (NB: it has since been denied in Greece but I know it to be true – AM).

Even as late as the latest EU summit the option of an orderly Grexit was on the table. Schauble – with Merkel’s (alas temporary) backing – actually proposed it. If the Greeks had agreed to it, it would have happened. The IMF, which has made known its complete lack of belief in the viability of the latest bailout, would have backed it.  Greece would have got its 50 billion euros to help it support the new currency, Schauble and the Germans would have ensured that the ECB provided the necessary liquidity to the banks to keep the banks operating until the new currency was ready, the banks could have been nationalised by mutual agreement – there being as I have said nothing revolutionary about this – capital controls would have been imposed until the new currency was ready (the Germans agreed to this when Cyprus imposed them, so why would they refuse it if sought by Greece?) and control of the Bank of Greece, the mint and the revenue service would have been transferred back to the Greek government as an indispensable element in an orderly and agreed Grexit. Meanwhile the Russians had already said that they were prepared to help with essential imports of energy and (probably) food, if that was needed.

The Financial Times says the process of introducing a new currency would have taken 6-8 months, much less than the 18 months Varoufakis is claiming (NB: he still – wrongly – claims it – AM).  Actually that is far too pessimistic. The former British cabinet minister John Redwood has guesstimated it would take no more than 3 months. In my opinion, given financial help and technical support from the EU and the IMF the whole process could have been carried out from beginning to end in the space of a few weeks (NB: I have since learnt that the Russians offered technical help including printing the bank notes – AM).

Once Greece was out of the Eurozone it could have agreed a formal restructuring of its debt as part of a package negotiated with the IMF (the alternative of a default on the entire debt might have done irreparable damage to relations with the creditor countries). The conditions would doubtless have been tough but they would hardly have amounted to the psychopathic agreement we have now. With Greece outside the eurozone and able to regain competitiveness through a devaluation there would have been a real chance that whatever was agreed would succeed.

However one spins the ball, the reality has to be faced: a Grexit did not happen not because it was difficult to do but because the Syriza government didn’t want it.

All claims to the contrary are fairy tales, whilst the malicious spreading of stories about the various plans that were hatched in the desperate final hours before Greece’s final capitulation is being done purposefully in order to discredit the idea of a Grexit and those who support it.  As for the perennial claim that the Greek people want to cling on to the euro no matter what, since the referendum I no longer believe that claim despite what the opinion polls are alleged to say.

In my opinion far too many people go on giving Tsipras, Varoufakis and Syriza the benefit of the doubt even though the extent of their incompetence and of their double-dealing is becoming simply impossible to deny.

Varoufakis has in fact now admitted that the real Plan B if the negotiations for a debt write-off failed was not a Grexit – his claims to have prepared for one is so much smoke and mirrors – but a resignation of the government and the formation of a “government of national unity” consisting of the old oligarchic pro-EU parties to sign a bailout package in place of Syriza. In Varoufakis’s own words

“We are going to do all it takes to bring home a financially viable agreement. We will compromise but not be compromised. We will step back just as much as is needed to secure an agreement-solution within the Eurozone. However, if we are defeated by the catastrophic policies of the memorandum we shall step down and pass on the power to those who believe in such means; let them enforce those measures while we return to the streets.”

No word here of any plan for a Grexit.

This comment of Varoufakis by the way provides final confirmation for my previous statement – doubted by some – that the Ambrose Evans-Pritchard story is true: Tsipras called the referendum in the expectation of a Yes vote so as to give himself political cover to resign.  That way a “government of national unity” without him and Syriza would be formed.  It would sign-up to the bailout plan.  He would thereby be able to evade responsibility and campaign against it.

In my opinion plotting the resignation of his own government – elected just a few months before to bring an end to austerity – to save his own reputation was an extraordinary act of irresponsibility.  Regardless – because to his surprise and horror the Greek people instead of voting Yes voted No – it is not what Tsipras eventually did.  Instead of resigning he remained in power, obliged (since he remained adamantly opposed to a Grexit) to agree to an even worse deal than the one he had previously rejected.

Instead of admitting that Schauble offered him a dignified way out, Varoufakis is now also busy spreading a fantastic story that Schauble was throughout plotting to expel Greece from the Eurozone so that he could terrorise France to accept the economic medicine he supposedly wants to impose on it. Varoufakis is actually claiming that Schauble told him as much.  Varoufakis’s precise words are:

“Schauble believes that the eurozone is not sustainable as it is. He believes there has to be some fiscal transfers, some degree of political union. He believes that for that political union to work without federation, without the legitimacy that a properly elected federal parliament can render, can bestow upon an executive, it will have to be done in a very disciplinary way.  And he said explicitly to me that a Grexit is going to equip him with sufficient terrorising power in order to impose upon the French, that which Paris has been resisting: a degree of transfer of budget making powers from Paris to Brussels.”

Does anybody seriously believe that if Schauble really has such a plan he would have shared it with Varoufakis of all people?

The reality is that Schauble adamantly opposes a debt write-off for Greece whilst it remains part of the Eurozone not because he wants to terrorise France into submission but because of the disastrous precedent such a write-off might provide to other heavily indebted and bailed out eurozone states like Portugal, Spain, Cyprus and Ireland.  Obviously that is not sinister enough for Varoufakis – who has never shown the slightest understanding of Schauble’s position – which is why he attributes this bizarre plan to him.

Sad to say Varoufakis was already spreading his fable about Schauble’s wicked plan to use Greece in order to terrorise France whilst the negotiations were actually underway – one reason surely why Schauble came to dislike him so much.  It could be that Varoufakis misunderstood something Schauble said to him. However I have to say that it looks to me more like an attempt by Varoufakis to play the French and the Germans off against each other, in much the same way that Tsipras at the same time was trying to play the Russians and the Europeans (and the Americans) off against each other. Needless to say, if that was the ploy then it failed.

In fairness to Tsipras, Varoufakis and Syriza, though their tactics were manipulative and disastrous, their objective was always what they said it was: to keep Greece in the Eurozone whilst securing an end to austerity and a debt write-off.  Most people – including me – assumed that as it became clear this was impossible that they would take Greece out of the Eurozone in order to end austerity and secure the debt write-off.  That was the position Varoufakis eventually decided on when all else failed, though the plan he came up with is testament to his failure to prepare for a Grexit properly, as it was his responsibility as Finance Minister to do. 

In Tsipras’s case however it is now clear he always intended the opposite – to drop the plan to end austerity and get a write-off, so as to keep Greece in the Eurozone irrespective of the cost.

The result is that Greece’s relations with the rest of the EU have been poisoned, the cause of anti-austerity across Europe has been discredited, and the Greek people are left paying a fearsome price.

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

RT

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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